941: Shmoo

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

2h 59m
June 25th, 2017
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Executive Producers: Sir Onymous of Dogpatch, Sir David Attema, Edward Gartland, Sir Oystein Berge Knight of the Steel, Sir Phillip the Black, Sir Mark K Knight of Barron County

Associate Executive Producers: Dame Astrid Klein Duchess of Japan and all the disputed Islands, Black Knight Sir Steve Marchi Paladin of the Light, John Fletcher, Mark Lynds

Cover Artist: Scuba Steve

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Les Enragés
ITM gents, just downloaded today's episode and will listen but wanted to share a page of history from the French Revolution which appears relevant in light of recent discussions of PTSD and how it can effect the brain.
There was an entire group during the French Revolution know as "les Enragés," quite literally meaning "the Enraged Ones."
They were members of leftist elite circles who deliberately took advantage of latent anger within the Parisian Mob by stoking it and then directing it at the government, the church, whatever or whoever got in their way.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enragés
It makes me think about Madonna and all the various other rabble rousers out there on left and right.
Thank you for your courage!
- Colin Cunningham
Commie Sanders
Bernie and Jane Sanders, under FBI investigation for bank fraud, hire lawyers - CBS News
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:33
Jun 24, 2017 6:21 PM EDT Politics
By John Bat / CBS News
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and his wife, Jane Sanders have hired prominent defense attorneys amid an FBI investigation into a loan Jane Sanders obtained to expand Burlington College while she was its president, CBS News confirms.
Politico Magazine first reported the Sanders had hired lawyers to defend them in the probe. Sanders' top adviser Jeff Weaver told CBS News the couple has sought legal protection over federal agents' allegations from a January 2016 complaint accusing then-President of Burlington College, Ms. Sanders, of distorting donor levels in a 2010 loan application for $10 million from People's United Bank to purchase 33 acres of land for the institution.
According to Politico, prosecutors might also be looking into allegations that Sen. Sanders' office inappropriately urged the bank to approve the loan.
Burlington attorney and Sanders supporter Rich Cassidy has reportedly been hired to represent Sen. Sanders. And high-profile Washington defense attorney Larry Robbins, who counseled I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is protecting Jane Sanders.
Ms. Sanders' push for the liberal arts college's costly land acquisition was cited in a press release by the college when it shut down in 2016 .
Sanders criticizes inequality, corruption in commencement speech Brady Toensing of Burlington, the man responsible for the claims filed to the U.S. attorney for Vermont, was a chairman for the Trump campaign in his state.
"I filed a request for an investigation in January 2016 and an investigation appears to have been started right away," he said in an email to CBS News. "It was started under President Obama, his Attorney General, and his U.S. Attorney, all of whom are Democrats."
"My only hope is for a fair, impartial, and thorough investigation," Toensing added.
Weaver told CBS News that Toensing's claim that Sen. Sanders used his influence to lobby for the loan is a "political charge" that is "baseless" and "false."
And as for the claim that Ms. Sanders manipulated the loan application, Weaver said, "The loan was approved by the financial board at the college."
Sen. Sanders, formerly mayor of Burlington, Vermont's largest city, regards the claims as a political game levied against him after his run for president in the 2016 primary election, a platform which has transformed the small-state senator into an influential voice in American liberal politics.
(C) 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
(C) 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.
Jane Sanders Lawyers Up - POLITICO Magazine
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 01:11
Bernie Sanders was in the midst of an interview with a local TV reporter early last month when the senator fielded an unexpected question about an uncomfortable matter.
''There's an implication, and from at least one individual, an explicit argument that when they called for an investigation into Burlington College that you used your influence to secure a loan from People's United'--''
Story Continued Below
The senator cut him off.
Sanders is used to fielding softball questions from an adoring local press, but his inquisitor, Kyle Midura of Burlington TV station WCAX, had a rare opportunity to put him on the spot. Investigative reporters had been breaking stories about a federal investigation into allegations that the senator's wife, Jane Sanders, had committed fraud in obtaining bank loans for the now defunct Burlington College, and that Sanders's Senate office had weighed in.
Sanders had never responded to questions about the case, but he took the bait this time. Briefly.
''Well, as you know,'' he said, ''it would be improp'-- this implication came from Donald Trump's campaign manager in Vermont. Let me leave it at that, because it would be improper at this point for me to say anything more.''
Midura leaned in. ''You've previously said it was nonsense.''
''Yes,'' Sanders responded, ''it is nonsense. But now that there is a process going on, which was initiated by Trump's campaign manager, somebody who does this all of the time, has gone after a number of Democrats and progressives in this state. It would be improper at this point for me to add any more to that.''
End of conversation. But not the end of the investigation or the potential for damage to the senator from a small New England state who has rocketed to the top of the world of progressive politics nationwide.
Sanders and his wife have been trying to ignore the federal investigation since reporters for VTDigger, an online publication, confirmed the FBI's involvement in April. The original request for an investigation into the potential bank fraud did indeed come from Brady Toensing, an attorney who chaired Trump's Vermont campaign, and whose January 2016 letter to the U.S. attorney for Vermont put federal agents on the trail. (Toensing, in an email to Politico Magazine , notes, ''The investigation was started more than a year ago under President Obama, his Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and his United States Attorney, all of whom are Democrats.'')
Now, Senator Sanders and his wife are taking the case more seriously. Jeff Weaver, Sanders' longtime top political adviser who heads Sanders' political organization, Our Revolution, confirms to Politico Magazine that Bernie and Jane Sanders have lawyered up. The couple has retained Rich Cassidy, a well-connected Burlington attorney and Sanders devotee, and Larry Robbins, the renowned Washington-based defense attorney who has represented I. Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby and disgraced former Rep. Bill Jefferson, to represent Jane Sanders in the matter.
Now, President Donald Trump's Justice Department is handling an investigation that will proceed at the discretion of a U.S. attorney of Vermont that Trump has yet to appoint.
The facts of the case are complicated. They are steeped in Vermont's peculiar educational culture and the incestuous financial system in Burlington, Sanders' hometown and political base, where some Sanders backers worry that with Trump's Justice Department calling the shots, the facts'--intricate as they are'--may not determine the outcome.
***
As the presidential primary season gained momentum in early 2016, Bernie and Jane Sanders shared a sense of surprise, wonder and a touch of shock at their unexpected political potency.
No political prognosticators'--not even the candidate or his wife'--expected Sanders to be in the heat of a presidential campaign at that point, packing stadiums with 20,000 adoring fans and threatening Hillary Clinton's juggernaut. On the trail, Jane O'Meara Sanders, the senator's personal and political partner of nearly 30 years, held his hand, warmed up crowds and waved into the bright lights of jammed gymnasiums.
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''I made it clear I didn't want him to run,'' she told me at their campaign headquarters at the time, ''but if he decided to, I would be behind him 100 percent.''
On January 10, 2016, in the midst of Sanders' sudden stardom'--just weeks before the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire'--the U.S. attorney for Vermont was sent a ''Request for an Investigation into Apparent Federal Bank Fraud.''
Backed by six exhibits and a dozen documents, the four-page letter described how Jane Sanders had ''orchestrated'' the purchase of 33 acres along Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont's largest city, where her husband had minted his populist political brand as mayor. The deal closed in 2010, when the senator's wife was president of Burlington College, a tiny, obscure, nontraditional school that always seemed to be struggling for students and funds. The letter alleged that to secure a $10 million loan and execute her grand plan to expand the college, Jane Sanders had falsified and inflated nearly $2 million that she'd claimed donors had pledged to repay the loans.
Sanders had ''successfully and intentionally engaged in a fraudulent scheme to actively conceal and misrepresent material facts from a federal financial institution,'' the letter alleged. It pressed for a federal investigation into potential bank fraud.
Bernie and Jane Sanders shrugged off the charges. Reporters, mesmerized by the rumpled Vermont senator's razor-thin margin in Iowa and crushing defeat of Clinton in New Hampshire, ignored the letter. The allegations got no traction on the trail.
The FBI, it seems, is looking into exactly what Jane Sanders did or didn't do'--and whether her husband Bernie, hero of the progressive left, tried to ease along one of the loans.
Beyond the glare, federal investigators and FBI agents started to pull apart the $10 million financial arrangement. They showed up at Burlington College to sift through hard drives, audit reports and spreadsheets. They began to interview donors, board members and past president Carol Moore. ''I was contacted and spoke with an FBI agent numerous times last spring, again last summer,'' Moore told Vermont Public Radio in May 2017, ''and recently, maybe a month ago.''
A second letter to federal prosecutors in early 2016 alleged that Senator Sanders' office had pressured the bank to approve the loan application submitted by Jane Sanders. ''Improper pressure by a United States Senator is a serious ethical violation,'' the letter asserted.
Again, Sanders avoided publicly commenting on the charges.
That strategy seems to have run its course. The federal investigation has been going on for a year and a half. As recently as April, federal investigators were reviewing records and interviewing participants, according to email traffic and former Burlington College board members who have been contacted by FBI agents. The FBI, it seems, is looking into exactly what Jane Sanders did or didn't do'--and whether her husband Bernie, hero of the progressive left, tried to ease along one of the loans.
***
Jane O'Meara Sanders, 67, has always been an underappreciated force behind her husband's political rise.
The couple met and fell in love during Sanders' startling 10-vote victory in Burlington's 1980 mayoral race. His victory uprooted the Democratic machine in Vermont's largest city and elevated an unabashed socialist at a time when Republicans across the U.S. started using liberal as an epithet. At the time, she was 31. He was her first husband; she was his second wife. For the next 23 years, she worked as his professional sidekick, enforcer and strategist. While he was mayor, Jane Sanders directed Burlington's youth services division. When he ran for the House in 1990, she managed his campaign, then ran his congressional office as chief of staff. But when the chance came to step out and build her own legacy in 2004, she pounced and became president of Burlington College.
In 1972, the college had opened its doors, so to speak, as a school without walls. The first 14 students met in the living room of founder Steward LaCasce, a literature professor who wanted to create an institution of higher learning that pushed power away from administrators and into the hands of students on matters ranging from designing their own majors to evaluating classes. Designed as an alternative to a classic education, it would hold classes in community spaces and allow students to design their own majors. Vietnam veterans, single parents and hippies sought the school's alternative approach.
''[LaCasce] wanted to change the education model,'' says Greg Guma, a journalist and political activist who taught at the college, which was originally known as the Vermont Institute of Community Involvement. ''Having self-designed majors was a core of his philosophy.''
Renaming itself Burlington College, the school eventually converted a former grocery store on Burlington's North Avenue into offices and classrooms. It grew to around 200 students, many of whom raved about their small classes and hands-on contact with professors. But the school always struggled with finances and accreditation. It had no endowment.
Jane Sanders took over in 2004 as a self-described ''turnaround'' president. Steeped in alternative schooling, she had earned her undergraduate degree at Goddard College, a slightly larger alternative school in Plainfield, Vermont, that offers a ''holistic'' approach to higher education. She got a doctorate in leadership studies in politics and education at Union Institute and University, an accredited nontraditional school based in Ohio that specializes in distance learning.
Sanders had big plans for Burlington College. As president, she immediately wanted to grow the student body and campus. ''In 2005 she said that increasing numbers was vital because tuition dollars would help pay for the overall plan she was developing,'' Guma wrote in his deeply researched 2016 essay, Paradise Lost: The Fall of Burlington College. ''As it turned out tuition dollars rose, but the number of students didn't.''
In 2006, Sanders announced a $6 million plan to expand the campus. That plan never materialized. At the same time, faculty and students began to bridle at Sanders' leadership style. In the four years since she had taken over, two dozen faculty and staff had left the tiny college. The Student Government Association in late 2008 described a ''toxic and disruptive environment on campus.'' Nearly half of the students and faculty members signed a petition demanding a meeting about the ''crisis in leadership.'' Even so, Sanders' salary rose to $150,000 in 2009, according to college records, as tuition increased by $5,000, to $22,407 in 2011, and enrollment dropped to 156 students.
Sanders' 2008 dismissal of Genese Grill, a popular literature professor, exposed more of the college's inner turmoil. In a letter to the school's academic affairs committee, Grill described what she termed Sanders' ''harassment and unethical treatment of other faculty and staff members, many of whom have since left the college disgruntled and angry.'' The American Association of University Professors noted the school's lack of a formal grievance policy for faculty and offered to help create one. Sanders declined. She told reporters at the time that the guidelines would have been for tenured faculty and ''would be extremely difficult to do at such a small college.''
Nevertheless, the board of trustees stuck by Sanders.
Then in 2010, she put forward a plan to move the underfunded, minuscule school to 33 acres of valuable real estate along Lake Champlain, north of Burlington's downtown. ''It was the last piece of undeveloped, prime property on the lake shore,'' says Guma.
For Sanders, it was a chance to secure her legacy.
The local Roman Catholic Diocese owned the acreage and was looking to sell. It had recently settled more than two dozen sexual abuse lawsuits for $17.76 million and needed cash. The property went on the market for $12.5 million. The Diocese took Burlington College's offer of $10 million, which seemed to be a bargain.
But the college was nearly broke. Its annual budget hovered just below $4 million. Even at a discounted rate, the land would be an extravagant purchase. Yet Sanders was able to craft a complex set of deals to finance the acquisition.
The state's Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency voted to issue $6.5 million in tax exempt bonds. People's United Bank loaned Burlington College $6.5 million to buy the bonds. The Catholic church loaned the school $3.65 million in a second mortgage. To secure the loans, Sanders assured the bank and the church that the college had $5 million in likely pledges and $2.4 million in confirmed pledges, which she would be able to use to pay off the debt. And finally, the college received a $500,000 bridge loan from Anthony Pomerleau, a wealthy Burlington developer close with Bernie and Jane Sanders.
The loans secured, Sanders envisioned turning the diocese's old buildings, which had served as an orphanage and rectory, into a campus with tree-lined boulevards, green space, athletic fields, brick lecture halls and walkways. But that would require a further $6 million in a capital campaign she called ''The Sky Is the Limit.''
To many locals, it didn't add up.
''I probably thought it was overreach,'' recalls veteran Burlington College professor Sandy Baird. ''But Jane was ambitious. She had vision. She had a plan. I guess I hoped for the best.''
***
Burlington College ran into trouble almost immediately after the loan repayments were due. For the first fiscal year after the deal was signed, Jane Sanders signed documents that confirmed pledges of $1.2 million. But according to Burlington College financial records obtained by VTDigger, the college received only $279,000. Sanders and the trustees hoped that they could expand the student body and increase alumni donations. Instead, enrollment remained steady and the school didn't come close to meeting fundraising goals.
As classes were about to begin in September 2011, President Sanders led reporters on a tour of the school's new campus, which opened that semester. ''It's fabulous,'' she told bi-monthly newspaper Vermont Woman. ''We are leaving a 16,000-square-foot building on two acres to [move to] a 77,000-square-foot building on 34 acres. Instead of a lake view, we have lakefront.''
Weeks later, the board engineered Jane Sanders' resignation. The school offered no official reason for her departure. Sanders was out October 14, 2011, with a parting package worth $200,000 in salary, retirement payments and deferred bonus, paid out over two years.
''The financing problems were important,'' says Robin Lloyd, a Burlington College donor who served on the board of trustees from 2000 to 2013. ''But they were not the most important.'' Three vice presidents who served directly under Sanders had told the board they could not continue to work with her. ''According to the staff and administration, she had become very difficult to deal with,'' Lloyd says. ''And she was not attending to fundraising.'' In an emailed response to questions for Jane Sanders from Politico Magazine , Jeff Weaver attributed the split to ''different visions for the school.''
Burlington's free fall accelerated after the board forced out Sanders. The school had moved into the old buildings on its new campus, and though Sanders had budgeted for more than $3 million in renovations, the structures were in need of rehabilitation that would cost substantially more. Unable to increase enrollment to pay for the added costs, the school lost students.
The chair of Burlington College's board of trustees called the debt load ''crushing.''
For her part, Jane Sanders has maintained that when she left, the school ''was in excellent financial condition.''
To stave off bankruptcy, the college sold off pieces of its prime lake shore land to a local developer. Proceeds from the sales allowed the school to pay down some of the debt Jane Sanders had brought on in 2010. Yves Bradley, chairman of the board at the time, called the debt load ''crushing.'' (For her part, Sanders told Vermont Public Radio in August 2015 that the school ''had a development plan in place when I left'--it was in excellent financial condition.'')
In April 2016, the bank called the loan. Buffeted by the financial distress, changes to its academics and incomplete renovations of the new campus, the college turned belly up. On May 28, 2016, as Bernie and Jane Sanders marked their 28th wedding anniversary with campaign rallies in California, Burlington College closed its doors after 44 years in operation.
***
Brady Toensing was never one to miss an opportunity.
While Berniemania consumed most Vermonters'--starting during his decade as Burlington mayor and continuing through his statewide campaigns for the House and Senate and 2016 presidential run'--Toensing appreciated Sanders' political skills but balked at his positions. The 49-year-old lawyer has conservative politics in his blood.
His mother, Victoria Toensing, is one of the most committed conservative lawyers in Washington, D.C. She was Barry Goldwater's chief counsel from 1981 to 1984, and served in Ronald Reagan's Justice Department. She later married Joseph diGenova, a storied lawyer who investigated Mayor Marion Barry while serving as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia during the Reagan administration. The two now run diGenova & Toensing, a law firm active in conservative causes (both had cameos on Fox News when they represented the whistleblowers in the Benghazi attacks). Though he lives and pays taxes in Vermont, Brady Toensing is a partner at his mother's Washington-based law firm.
For more than a decade, Brady Toensing has been vice chair of the Vermont Republican Party. He chaired Donald Trump's campaign in the Green Mountain State and remained loyal even as more moderate elected Republicans vowed not to vote for Trump. Known in Vermont political circles as a jocular, entertaining activist, he's constantly on alert for cases where he can slip the knife into Democratic politicians. In 2013, when news broke that then-Governor Peter Shumlin might have taken advantage of a neighbor in acquiring land, Toensing took the neighbor's case. But the rise of Bernie Sanders clearly stuck in his craw'--especially given what he considered to be the lack of scrutiny Sanders enjoyed.
So it was no surprise that Toensing scrutinized Jane Sanders' rise and fall at Burlington College.
On July 7, 2014, Seven Days, a Vermont alternative weekly newspaper, published a deeply reported piece by Alicia Freese about Burlington College's plummeting fortunes. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges had put it on probation because of the school's shaky finances. The college was about to sell off land to defray its mounting debt.
Two weeks after Freese's piece appeared, Toensing requested loan documents from the Vermont Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency that had issued the $6.5 million bonds for the land. The August 1 response from the bonding agency produced a trove of documents that detailed how Jane Sanders convinced the bank and the church that Burlington College could pay back its millions of dollars in loans.
Toensing started receiving documents from VEHBFA on August 1, 2014, and began sharing them with reporters at Seven Days and VTDigger, a nonprofit website that aggressively covers Vermont news and politics. They began digging into the details, but the Daily Caller, a conservative D.C.-based web outlet, broke the story on March 26, 2015, under the headline: ''Exclusive: Bernie Sanders' Wife May Have Defrauded State Agency, Bank.'' The Daily Caller based its story on reporting from the bonding agency that Toensing had contacted. Morgan True, reporting for VTDigger, went deeper. Examining the pledges Sanders had listed on documents she signed for the loan, True and other reporters found discrepancies and overstatements.
The records showed that Sanders had assured People's United Bank and the state bonding agency that the college had $2.6 million in pledges to secure the loan. Internal college audits showed that only $676,000 in actual donations came in from 2010 to 2014. Sanders listed two people as having confirmed pledges for more money than they had offered; neither knew their pledges had been used to support the loan. A third donor had offered a $1 million bequest, to be paid upon her death. Instead, the college's loan application counted it in funds to be paid out over the next few years.
The donor, Corinne Bove Maietta, told VTDigger she had made the bequest contingent on her death, but was surprised the college counted the $1 million toward paying off the land loan. ''They had me in increments?'' Maietta asked, from her home in Florida. ''No, never.'' She and her accountant said Sanders asked Maietta to sign documents confirming the donations, but they declined. Maietta said investigators with the Federal Deposit Insurance Agency had interviewed her about the loan details. At the time, Sanders declined to comment.
Brady Toensing wrapped these figures and facts into the January 2016 letter to the U.S. attorney and the FDIC, requesting an investigation into what he termed ''apparent federal bank fraud.'' In March 2016, Toensing doubled down in another letter to federal officials. This time, he made an allegation that struck to the core of Bernie Sanders' clean-government image. ''As a result of my [initial] complaint,'' Toensing wrote, ''I was recently approached and informed that Senator Bernard Sanders's office improperly pressured People's United Bank to approve the loan application submitted by the Senator's wife, Ms. Sanders.''
The evidence for that charge seems to be thin, at best. According to sources familiar with the matter, the alleged ''pressure'' may have simply been a casual suggestion'--perhaps chatter by a Sanders staffer over lunch, instead of a written document or email'--and though such a suggestion might still be improper, it would be difficult to prove a direct connection to the senator.
In response to a question from Politico Magazine about the allegation, Sanders adviser Jeff Weaver dismissed any claim that the senator or his office intervened in the loan request, calling it ''ridiculous'' and ''false.''
***
In hindsight, it's hard to avoid blaming Jane Sanders for the Burlington College fiasco. She took over a struggling-but-functioning institution and set it on a course that led to its demise. But in a state where Bernie Sanders is sacrosanct, no one was'--or is'--eager to unload on his wife.
Carol Moore, a veteran Vermont educator, lowered the boom in an essay published by the Chronicle of Higher Education in September 2016. ''BC's fate was set when its former board members hired an inexperienced president and, six years later, approved the imprudent purchase of a $10 million piece of property for campus expansion,'' Moore wrote. ''Enrollment that year was about 195 and the budget just over $4 million, less than half of this ill-advised investment. What were they thinking?''
She then suggests an answer: ''Who is to blame for this appallingly inappropriate business deal? Perhaps a board that steered clear of the tough questions which needed to be asked. Or a bank in the state of an influential senator'--a senator, as it turned out, with bigger ambitions?''
On June 7, 2017, Jane Sanders announced the creation of the Sanders Institute, a new liberal think tank to advance ''progressive ideas and values.'' In her official bio on the organization's website, Sanders, a co-founder and fellow at the institute, mentions her time at Burlington College in glowing terms: ''When Dr. Sanders left Burlington College in 2011, the College bestowed upon her the title of President Emerita, until then a distinction only given to the college's founder.''
Around the same time that the Sanders Institute went public, former Burlington College board member Robin Lloyd got a phone call from Rich Cassidy, a lawyer representing Jane Sanders, inquiring about the bank loan matter. Lloyd referred him to her lawyer.
Hiring a lawyer is no admission of guilt, but it does speak to the potential seriousness of the federal investigation. ''It would be negligent for anyone involved in the matter to not retain counsel,'' Weaver tells Politico Magazine .
Charges of bank fraud, say legal experts, are not easy to prove. ''It requires that the act be performed knowingly,'' says William Lawler, a former federal prosecutor now with the law firm Vinson & Elkins. ''Not every mistake is going to rise to the level of a crime.''
As yet, the investigation has not concluded. Once FBI or other federal agents present the results of their investigation to federal prosecutors, the top lawyers will have discretion on whether or not to bring charges.
Once the federal investigation concludes, the Justice Department will decide whether or not to bring charges'--which some worry will give Donald Trump a chance to affect the course of action.
That gives President Donald Trump a chance to affect the course of the investigation and potential for prosecution, as Trump's Department of Justice'--led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime senatorial colleague of Bernie Sanders'--will make the call on whether to prosecute the wife of a senator who has been deeply critical of this president and once called him a ''pathological liar.''
Trump's largest potential impact on the case, though, could come in his choice of U.S. attorney for Vermont'--a post that has been awaiting a nominee since the resignation of Obama appointee Eric Miller in February. This week, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, and Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, recommended that Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan become the state's next U.S. attorney.
Trump has yet to make a nomination, but his firing of former FBI Director James Comey and his comments about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein may lead an observer to believe he expects political fealty, if not loyalty, from his top prosecutors.
Just who could Trump appoint that might fit that bill? Among the names mentioned as a potential nominee: Brady Toensing, the attorney who proved his dedication as Trump's Vermont campaign chairman.
At the moment, the matter is in the hands of criminal justice professionals. Neither the FBI nor the U.S. attorney's office would comment on the case, but emails obtained by VTDigger show that Paul Van de Graaf, an assistant U.S. attorney for Vermont and chief of the office's criminal division, is deeply involved in the investigation, which has deployed FBI agents in Vermont and FDIC investigators in Florida to interview Burlington College donors and accountants.
For the past year and a half, Bernie and Jane Sanders have been able to brush aside questions about the matter. It has not gone away. With all sides lawyering up, the case is gaining momentum just as Jane Sanders is acquiring new power and prominence in the national progressive movement. It may all be nonsense, as the senator likes to say. But it can no longer be ignored.
Harry Jaffe, editor at large for Washingtonian Magazine, is the author of Why Bernie Sanders Matters, the only unauthorized biography of the former presidential candidate. He first covered Sanders in the 1970s for the Rutland Herald in Vermont.
More from POLITICO Magazine
Hillary's HitList
Bill Clinton Won't Face Charges For 14 Bodies Buried On His Property '' Freedom Crossroads
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:49
14 human beings, hacked up and in different stages of preservation or decay, came out of the ground in steel barrels from Bill Clinton's back yard. Two of them went to high school with Clinton, 1500 miles away, and even shared a yearbook photo.
Yet somehow, some way, Bill Clinton is not the killer. Once again, William Mason, the man who owned the Chappaqua residence, was linked directly to each and every victim, bringing his total body count to 24. Investigators, after seeing how far Mason was willing to go to spread his victims out, are doing an overhead search with ground penetrating radar covering a 2-mile radius from his underground kill room.
During the excavation process, the Clintons were seen sitting on the porch sipping iced tea or coffee at various times through the day, laughing and waving to investigators and reporters. When the dig was over, Hillary approached an agent with a sealed envelope:
''She said to give it to my boss. It was an estimate from her landscaper for $340K to fix her yard.''
As the lead investigator was leaving the smiling and waving continued and ultimately ended with both Clintons flipping the FBI the bird as they pulled away.
Clinton spokesman Christopher Blair spoke on their behalf:
''We told you idiots days ago that these were more of Masons kills. You're just too dead set on convicting the Clintons of murders they haven't committed to see that you look like complete morons.
The Clintons' official statement to those who refuse to stop pestering them about their alleged criminal syndicate is simple: Get a life.''
You just know those 2 girls from his high school were no coincidence. Mason and Slick Willie were neighbors for a while. Maybe they'...bonded.
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PUTIN!
Obama's secret struggle to retaliate against Putin's election interference - Washington Post
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:34
The White House debated various options to punish Russia, but facing obstacles and potential risks, it ultimately failed to exact a heavy toll on the Kremlin for its election meddling.
Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried ''eyes only'' instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.
Hacking DemocracyThe White House debated various options to punish Russia, but facing obstacles and potential risks, it ultimately failed to exact a heavy toll on the Kremlin for its election interference.
' Graphic: The main findings, highlighted
Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin's direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.
But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin's specific instructions on the operation's audacious objectives '-- defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.
At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks.
SECRET CIA REPORT ARRIVES AT THE WHITE HOUSE
CIA Director John Brennan first alerts the White House in early August that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an operation to defeat or at least damage Hillary Clinton and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.
The president instructs aides to assess vulnerabilities in the election system and get agencies to agree on the intelligence that Putin was seeking to influence the election.
Brennan calls Alexander Bortnikov, the director of Russia's main security agency, and warns him about interfering in the U.S. presidential election.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's efforts to secure the U.S. voting systems run aground when some state officials reject his plan, calling it a federal takeover.
SECRET CIA REPORT ARRIVES AT THE WHITE HOUSE
CIA Director John Brennan first alerts the White House in early August that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an operation to defeat or at least damage Hillary Clinton and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.
The president instructs aides to assess vulnerabilities in the election system and get agencies to agree on the intelligence that Putin was seeking to influence the election.
Brennan calls Alexander Bortnikov, the director of Russia's main security agency, and warns him about interfering in the U.S. presidential election.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's efforts to secure the U.S. voting systems run aground when some state officials reject his plan, calling it a federal takeover.
[Graphic: The main findings, highlighted]
But at the highest levels of government, among those responsible for managing the crisis, the first moment of true foreboding about Russia's intentions arrived with that CIA intelligence.
The material was so sensitive that CIA Director John Brennan kept it out of the President's Daily Brief, concerned that even that restricted report's distribution was too broad. The CIA package came with instructions that it be returned immediately after it was read. To guard against leaks, subsequent meetings in the Situation Room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid.
It took time for other parts of the intelligence community to endorse the CIA's view. Only in the administration's final weeks in office did it tell the public, in a declassified report, what officials had learned from Brennan in August '-- that Putin was working to elect Trump.
[Putin 'ordered' effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump, report says]
Over that five-month interval, the Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could ''crater'' the Russian economy.
(Whitney Leaming,Osman Malik/The Washington Post)
But in the end, in late December, Obama approved a modest package combining measures that had been drawn up to punish Russia for other issues '-- expulsions of 35 diplomats and the closure of two Russian compounds '-- with economic sanctions so narrowly targeted that even those who helped design them describe their impact as largely symbolic.
Obama also approved a previously undisclosed covert measure that authorized planting cyber weapons in Russia's infrastructure, the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the United States found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow. The project, which Obama approved in a covert-action finding, was still in its planning stages when Obama left office. It would be up to President Trump to decide whether to use the capability.
In political terms, Russia's interference was the crime of the century, an unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American democracy. It was a case that took almost no time to solve, traced to the Kremlin through cyber-forensics and intelligence on Putin's involvement. And yet, because of the divergent ways Obama and Trump have handled the matter, Moscow appears unlikely to face proportionate consequences.
Those closest to Obama defend the administration's response to Russia's meddling. They note that by August it was too late to prevent the transfer to WikiLeaks and other groups of the troves of emails that would spill out in the ensuing months. They believe that a series of warnings '-- including one that Obama delivered to Putin in September '-- prompted Moscow to abandon any plans of further aggression, such as sabotage of U.S. voting systems.
Denis McDonough Denis McDonough White House chief of staff. McDonough was one of the first few officials to discuss details of the intelligence. , who served as Obama's chief of staff, said that the administration regarded Russia's interference as an attack on the ''heart of our system.''
''We set out from a first-order principle that required us to defend the integrity of the vote,'' McDonough said in an interview. ''Importantly, we did that. It's also important to establish what happened and what they attempted to do so as to ensure that we take the steps necessary to stop it from happening again.''
But other administration officials look back on the Russia period with remorse.
''It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,'' said a former senior Obama administration official involved in White House deliberations on Russia. ''I feel like we sort of choked.''
The post-election period has been dominated by the overlapping investigations into whether Trump associates colluded with Russia before the election and whether the president sought to obstruct the FBI probe afterward. That spectacle has obscured the magnitude of Moscow's attempt to hijack a precious and now vulnerable-seeming American democratic process.
Beset by allegations of hidden ties between his campaign and Russia, Trump has shown no inclination to revisit the matter and has denied any collusion or obstruction on his part. As a result, the expulsions and modest sanctions announced by Obama on Dec. 29 continue to stand as the United States' most forceful response.
''The punishment did not fit the crime,'' said Michael McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia for the Obama administration from 2012 to 2014. ''Russia violated our sovereignty, meddling in one of our most sacred acts as a democracy '-- electing our president. The Kremlin should have paid a much higher price for that attack. And U.S. policymakers now '-- both in the White House and Congress '-- should consider new actions to deter future Russian interventions.''
The Senate this month passed a bill that would impose additional election- and Ukraine-related sanctions on Moscow and limit Trump's ability to lift them. The measure requires House approval, however, and Trump's signature.
This account of the Obama administration's response to Russia's interference is based on interviews with more than three dozen current and former U.S. officials in senior positions in government, including at the White House, the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments, and U.S. intelligence services. Most agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue.
The White House, the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.
'Deeply concerned'The CIA breakthrough came at a stage of the presidential campaign when Trump had secured the GOP nomination but was still regarded as a distant long shot. Clinton held comfortable leads in major polls, and Obama expected that he would be transferring power to someone who had served in his Cabinet.
The intelligence on Putin was extraordinary on multiple levels, including as a feat of espionage.
For spy agencies, gaining insights into the intentions of foreign leaders is among the highest priorities. But Putin is a remarkably elusive target. A former KGB officer, he takes extreme precautions to guard against surveillance, rarely communicating by phone or computer, always running sensitive state business from deep within the confines of the Kremlin.
[Vladimir Putin: From the KGB to president of Russia]
The Washington Post is withholding some details of the intelligence at the request of the U.S. government.
In early August, Brennan John Brennan CIA director. Brennan first alerts the White House to the Putin intelligence and later briefs Obama in the Oval Office. alerted senior White House officials to the Putin intelligence, making a call to deputy national security adviser Avril Haines Avril Haines Deputy national security adviser and former deputy director of the CIA under Brennan. and pulling national security adviser Susan E. Rice Susan Rice National security adviser. Rice orders the National Security Council to finalize a list of options to use against Moscow. aside after a meeting before briefing Obama along with Rice, Haines and McDonough Denis McDonough White House chief of staff. McDonough was one of the first few officials to discuss details of the intelligence. in the Oval Office.
Officials described the president's reaction as grave. Obama ''was deeply concerned and wanted as much information as fast as possible,'' a former official said. ''He wanted the entire intelligence community all over this.''
Then-CIA Director John Brennan testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2016. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP; photo illustration by Nick Kirkpatrick/The Washington Post)
Concerns about Russian interference had gathered throughout the summer.
Russia experts had begun to see a troubling pattern of propaganda in which fictitious news stories, assumed to be generated by Moscow, proliferated across social-media platforms.
Officials at the State Department and FBI became alarmed by an unusual spike in requests from Russia for temporary visas for officials with technical skills seeking permission to enter the United States for short-term assignments at Russian facilities. At the FBI's behest, the State Department delayed approving the visas until after the election.
Meanwhile, the FBI was tracking a flurry of hacking activity against U.S. political parties, think tanks and other targets. Russia had gained entry to DNC systems in the summer of 2015 and spring of 2016, but the breaches did not become public until they were disclosed in a June 2016 report by The Post.
[Russian government hackers penetrated DNC]
Even after the late-July WikiLeaks dump, which came on the eve of the Democratic convention and led to the resignation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as the DNC's chairwoman, U.S. intelligence officials continued to express uncertainty about who was behind the hacks or why they were carried out.
At a public security conference in Aspen, Colo., in late July, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. noted that Russia had a long history of meddling in American elections but that U.S. spy agencies were not ready to ''make the call on attribution'' for what was happening in 2016.
''We don't know enough .'‰.'‰. to ascribe motivation,'' Clapper said. ''Was this just to stir up trouble or was this ultimately to try to influence an election?''
RUSSIA AND THE CONVENTIONS
GOP convention, July 18 to 21
Democratic convention, July 25 to 28
Trump staffers alter
GOP platform on Ukraine
During the Republican National Convention, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak speaks with Trump advisers J.D. Gordon and Carter Page. Gordon would later say he was part of the push to soften the GOP's national security platform regarding U.S. support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists. Kislyak meets with Jeff Sessions at a panel at the convention hosted by the Heritage Foundation.
WikiLeaks publishes about 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, days before the party's national convention. Julian Assange tells NBC there is "no proof" that the information his anti-secrecy group received came from Russia. U.S. officials say WikiLeaks received the data from Russia.
RUSSIA AND THE CONVENTIONS
GOP convention, July 18 to 21
Democratic convention, July 25 to 28
DNC information
exposed
Trump staffers alter GOP
platform on Ukraine
WikiLeaks publishes about 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, days before the party's national convention. Julian Assange tells NBC there is "no proof" that the information his anti-secrecy group received came from Russia. U.S. officials say WikiLeaks received the data from Russia.
During the Republican National Convention, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak speaks with Trump advisers J.D. Gordon and Carter Page. Gordon would later say he was part of the push to soften the GOP's national security platform regarding U.S. support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists. Kislyak meets with Jeff Sessions at a panel at the convention hosted by the Heritage Foundation.
[Graphic: The main findings, highlighted]
Brennan John Brennan CIA director. Brennan first alerts the White House to the Putin intelligence and later briefs Obama in the Oval Office. convened a secret task force at CIA headquarters composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI.
The unit functioned as a sealed compartment, its work hidden from the rest of the intelligence community. Those brought in signed new non-disclosure agreements to be granted access to intelligence from all three participating agencies.
They worked exclusively for two groups of ''customers,'' officials said. The first was Obama and fewer than 14 senior officials in government. The second was a team of operations specialists at the CIA, NSA and FBI who took direction from the task force on where to aim their subsequent efforts to collect more intelligence on Russia.
Don't make things worseThe secrecy extended into the White House.
Rice Susan Rice National security adviser. Rice orders the National Security Council to finalize a list of options to use against Moscow. , Haines Avril Haines Deputy national security adviser and former deputy director of the CIA under Brennan. and White House homeland-security adviser Lisa Monaco convened meetings in the Situation Room to weigh the mounting evidence of Russian interference and generate options for how to respond. At first, only four senior security officials were allowed to attend: Brennan John Brennan CIA director. Brennan first alerts the White House to the Putin intelligence and later briefs Obama in the Oval Office. , Clapper James R. Clapper Director of national intelligence and one of four senior administration officials to participate in meetings in of the Situation Room on how to retaliate against Russia. Clapper would eventually release the Obama administration's first statement concluding Russia interfered in the election. , Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and FBI Director James B. Comey. Aides ordinarily allowed entry as ''plus-ones'' were barred.
Gradually, the circle widened to include Vice President Biden and others. Agendas sent to Cabinet secretaries '-- including John F. Kerry at the State Department and Ashton B. Carter at the Pentagon '-- arrived in envelopes that subordinates were not supposed to open. Sometimes the agendas were withheld until participants had taken their seats in the Situation Room.
Throughout his presidency, Obama's approach to national security challenges was deliberate and cautious. He came into office seeking to end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was loath to act without support from allies overseas and firm political footing at home. He was drawn only reluctantly into foreign crises, such as the civil war in Syria, that presented no clear exit for the United States.
Obama's approach often seemed reducible to a single imperative: Don't make things worse. As brazen as the Russian attacks on the election seemed, Obama and his top advisers feared that things could get far worse.
They were concerned that any pre-election response could provoke an escalation from Putin. Moscow's meddling to that point was seen as deeply concerning but unlikely to materially affect the outcome of the election. Far more worrisome to the Obama team was the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day.
They also worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign. By August, Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged. Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia's efforts to discredit the outcome and potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph.
Before departing for an August vacation to Martha's Vineyard, Obama instructed aides to pursue ways to deter Moscow and proceed along three main paths: Get a high-confidence assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies on Russia's role and intent; shore up any vulnerabilities in state-run election systems; and seek bipartisan support from congressional leaders for a statement condemning Moscow and urging states to accept federal help.
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the White House in December. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP; photo illustration by Nick Kirkpatrick/The Washington Post)
The administration encountered obstacles at every turn.
Despite the intelligence the CIA had produced, other agencies were slower to endorse a conclusion that Putin was personally directing the operation and wanted to help Trump. ''It was definitely compelling, but it was not definitive,'' said one senior administration official. ''We needed more.''
Some of the most critical technical intelligence on Russia came from another country, officials said. Because of the source of the material, the NSA was reluctant to view it with high confidence.
Brennan John Brennan CIA director. Brennan first alerts the White House to the Putin intelligence and later briefs Obama in the Oval Office. moved swiftly to schedule private briefings with congressional leaders. But getting appointments with certain Republicans proved difficult, officials said, and it was not until after Labor Day that Brennan had reached all members of the ''Gang of Eight'' '-- the majority and minority leaders of both houses and the chairmen and ranking Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees.
Jeh Johnson, the homeland-security secretary, was responsible for finding out whether the government could quickly shore up the security of the nation's archaic patchwork of voting systems. He floated the idea of designating state mechanisms ''critical infrastructure,'' a label that would have entitled states to receive priority in federal cybersecurity assistance, putting them on a par with U.S. defense contractors and financial networks.
On Aug. 15, Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance.
The reaction ''ranged from neutral to negative,'' Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday.
Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson's proposal as an assault on state rights. ''I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,'' Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. ''I don't necessarily believe that,'' he said.
Stung by the reaction, the White House turned to Congress for help, hoping that a bipartisan appeal to states would be more effective.
In early September, Johnson Jeh Johnson Homeland security secretary. Johnson is tasked with securing voting systems and arranges meetings with dozens of state officials. , Comey James B. Comey FBI director appointed by Obama. Comey was one of four senior officials to participate in meetings in the Situation Room on how to respond to Russia's interference. Comey particpates in a briefing for members of Congress on Russia's activities, but the meeting disolves into partisan bickering. and Monaco Lisa Monaco Homeland security adviser. Monaco briefs key members of Congress on the intelligence. arrived on Capitol Hill in a caravan of black SUVs for a meeting with 12 key members of Congress, including the leadership of both parties.
The meeting devolved into a partisan squabble.
''The Dems were, 'Hey, we have to tell the public,''‰'' recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia's aim of sapping confidence in the system.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House's claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.
Key Democrats were stunned by the GOP response and exasperated that the White House seemed willing to let Republican opposition block any pre-election move.
On Sept. 22, two California Democrats '-- Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam B. Schiff '-- did what they couldn't get the White House to do. They issued a statement making clear that they had learned from intelligence briefings that Russia was directing a campaign to undermine the election, but they stopped short of saying to what end.
A week later, McConnell and other congressional leaders issued a cautious statement that encouraged state election officials to ensure their networks were ''secure from attack.'' The release made no mention of Russia and emphasized that the lawmakers ''would oppose any effort by the federal government'' to encroach on the states' authorities.
When U.S. spy agencies reached unanimous agreement in late September that the interference was a Russian operation directed by Putin, Obama directed spy chiefs to prepare a public statement summarizing the intelligence in broad strokes.
With Obama still determined to avoid any appearance of politics, the statement would not carry his signature.
On Oct. 7, the administration offered its first public comment on Russia's ''active measures,'' in a three-paragraph statement issued by Johnson Jeh Johnson Homeland security secretary. Johnson is tasked with securing voting systems and arranges meetings with dozens of state officials. and Clapper James R. Clapper Director of national intelligence and one of four senior administration officials to participate in meetings in of the Situation Room on how to retaliate against Russia. Clapper would eventually release the Obama administration's first statement concluding Russia interfered in the election. . Comey James B. Comey FBI director appointed by Obama. Comey was one of four senior officials to participate in meetings in the Situation Room on how to respond to Russia's interference. Comey particpates in a briefing for members of Congress on Russia's activities, but the meeting disolves into partisan bickering. had initially agreed to attach his name, as well, officials said, but changed his mind at the last minute, saying that it was too close to the election for the bureau to be involved.
''The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations,'' the statement said. ''We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.''
Early drafts accused Putin by name, but the reference was removed out of concern that it might endanger intelligence sources and methods.
The statement was issued around 3:30 p.m., timed for maximum media coverage. Instead, it was quickly drowned out. At 4 p.m., The Post published a story about crude comments Trump had made about women that were captured on an ''Access Hollywood'' tape. Half an hour later, WikiLeaks published its first batch of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
To some, Obama's determination to avoid politicizing the Russia issue had the opposite effect: It meant that he allowed politics to shape his administration's response to what some believed should have been treated purely as a national security threat.
Schiff said that the administration's justifications for inaction often left him with a sense of ''cognitive dissonance.''
''The administration doesn't need congressional support to issue a statement of attribution or impose sanctions,'' Schiff said in a recent interview. He said many groups inadvertently abetted Russia's campaign, including Republicans who refused to confront Moscow and media organizations that eagerly mined the troves of hacked emails.
''Where Democrats need to take responsibility,'' Schiff said, ''is that we failed to persuade the country why they should care that a foreign power is meddling in our affairs.''
'Ample time' after electionThe Situation Room is actually a complex of secure spaces in the basement level of the West Wing. A video feed from the main room courses through some National Security Council offices, allowing senior aides sitting at their desks to see '-- but not hear '-- when meetings are underway.
As the Russia-related sessions with Cabinet members began in August, the video feed was shut off. The last time that had happened on a sustained basis, officials said, was in the spring of 2011 during the run-up to the U.S. Special Operations raid on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.
The blacked-out screens were seen as an ominous sign among lower-level White House officials who were largely kept in the dark about the Russia deliberations even as they were tasked with generating options for retaliation against Moscow.
Much of that work was led by the Cyber Response Group, an NSC unit with representatives from the CIA, NSA, State Department and Pentagon.
The early options they discussed were ambitious. They looked at sectorwide economic sanctions and cyberattacks that would take Russian networks temporarily offline. One official informally suggested '-- though never formally proposed '-- moving a U.S. naval carrier group into the Baltic Sea as a symbol of resolve.
What those lower-level officials did not know was that the principals and their deputies had by late September all but ruled out any pre-election retaliation against Moscow. They feared that any action would be seen as political and that Putin, motivated by a seething resentment of Clinton, was prepared to go beyond fake news and email dumps.
[The roots of the hostility between Putin and Clinton]
The FBI had detected suspected Russian attempts to penetrate election systems in 21 states, and at least one senior White House official assumed that Moscow would try all 50, officials said. Some officials believed the attempts were meant to be detected to unnerve the Americans. The patchwork nature of the United States' 3,000 or so voting jurisdictions would make it hard for Russia to swing the outcome, but Moscow could still sow chaos.
''We turned to other scenarios'' the Russians might attempt, said Michael Daniel, who was cybersecurity coordinator at the White House, ''such as disrupting the voter rolls, deleting every 10th voter [from registries] or flipping two digits in everybody's address.''
The Moscow International Business Center in Moscow. (Photo by Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg News; photo illustration by Nick Kirkpatrick/The Washington Post)
The White House also worried that they had not yet seen the worst of Russia's campaign. WikiLeaks and DCLeaks, a website set up in June 2016 by hackers believed to be Russian operatives, already had troves of emails. But U.S. officials feared that Russia had more explosive material or was willing to fabricate it.
''Our primary interest in August, September and October was to prevent them from doing the max they could do,'' said a senior administration official. ''We made the judgment that we had ample time after the election, regardless of outcome, for punitive measures.''
The assumption that Clinton would win contributed to the lack of urgency.
Instead, the administration issued a series of warnings.
Brennan John Brennan CIA director. Brennan first alerts the White House to the Putin intelligence and later briefs Obama in the Oval Office. delivered the first on Aug. 4 in a blunt phone call with Alexander Bortnikov Alexander Bortnikov Director of the FSB, the post-Soviet successor to the KGB. CIA Director John Brennan is one of the first to warn Bortnikov over Russia's election interference in a telephone call. Brennan said Bortnikov denied it but told him he would pass on his message to Russian President Vladimir Putin. , the director of the FSB, Russia's powerful security service.
A month later, Obama confronted Putin directly during a meeting of world leaders in Hangzhou, China. Accompanied only by interpreters, Obama told Putin that ''we knew what he was doing and [he] better stop or else,'' according to a senior aide who subsequently spoke with Obama. Putin responded by demanding proof and accusing the United States of interfering in Russia's internal affairs.
In a subsequent news conference, Obama alluded to the exchange and issued a veiled threat. ''We're moving into a new era here where a number of countries have significant capacities,'' he said. ''Frankly, we've got more capacity than anybody both offensively and defensively.''
There were at least two other warnings.
On Oct. 7, the day that the Clapper-Johnson statement was released, Rice Susan Rice National security adviser. Rice orders the National Security Council to finalize a list of options to use against Moscow. summoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak Sergey Kislyak Russian ambassador to the United States since 2008, a career diplomat not considered especially close to Putin. to the White House and handed him a message to relay to Putin.
Then, on Oct. 31, the administration delivered a final pre-election message via a secure channel to Moscow originally created to avert a nuclear exchange. The message noted that the United States had detected malicious activity, originating from servers in Russia, targeting U.S. election systems and warned that meddling would be regarded as unacceptable interference. Russia confirmed the next day that it had received the message but replied only after the election through the same channel, denying the accusation.
As Election Day approached, proponents of taking action against Russia made final, futile appeals to Obama's top aides: McDonough Denis McDonough White House chief of staff. McDonough was one of the first few officials to discuss details of the intelligence. , Rice Susan Rice National security adviser. Rice orders the National Security Council to finalize a list of options to use against Moscow. and Haines Avril Haines Deputy national security adviser and former deputy director of the CIA under Brennan. . Because their offices were part of a suite of spaces in the West Wing, securing their support on any national security issue came to be known as ''moving the suite.''
One of the last to try before the election was Kerry. Often perceived as reluctant to confront Russia, in part to preserve his attempts to negotiate a Syria peace deal, Kerry was at critical moments one of the leading hawks.
In October, Kerry's top aides had produced an ''action memo'' that included a package of retaliatory measures including economic sanctions. Knowing the White House was not willing to act before the election, the plan called for the measures to be announced almost immediately after votes had been securely cast and counted.
Kerry signed the memo and urged the White House to convene a principals meeting to discuss the plan, officials said. ''The response was basically, 'Not now,''‰'' one official said.
Election Day arrived without penalty for Moscow.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in 2014. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images; photo illustration by Nick Kirkpatrick/The Washington Post)
The 'tabledrop'Despite the dire warnings, there were no meltdowns in the United States' voting infrastructure on Nov. 8, no evidence of hacking-related fraud, crashing of electronic ballots or ma­nipu­la­tion of vote counts.
The outcome itself, however, was a shock.
Suddenly, Obama faced a successor who had praised WikiLeaks and prodded Moscow to steal even more Clinton emails, while dismissing the idea that Russia was any more responsible for the election assault than ''somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.''
''The White House was mortified and shocked,'' said a former administration official. ''From national security people there was a sense of immediate introspection, of, 'Wow, did we mishandle this.''‰''
At first, there was no outward sign of new resolve.
After his failed pre-election bid, Kerry returned with a fallback proposal, calling for the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate Russian interference and make recommendations on how to protect future elections.
The panel would be modeled on the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, producing a definitive report and making recommendations that led to the overhaul of U.S. intelligence agencies.
''The idea was that if you think doing something aggressive is too inflammatory, then we shouldn't have a problem getting to the truth about what happened,'' said an administration official familiar with the Kerry plan. Trump was expected to oppose such a plan, but setting it in motion before he was sworn in would make it ''harder and uglier politically'' for him to block.
Supporters' confidence was buoyed when McDonough Denis McDonough White House chief of staff. McDonough was one of the first few officials to discuss details of the intelligence. signaled that he planned to ''tabledrop'' the proposal at the next NSC meeting, one that would be chaired by Obama. Kerry was overseas and participated by videoconference.
To some, the ''tabledrop'' term has a tactical connotation beyond the obvious. It is sometimes used as a means of securing approval of an idea by introducing it before opponents have a chance to form counterarguments.
''We thought this was a good sign,'' a former State Department official said.
But as soon as McDonough introduced the proposal for a commission, he began criticizing it, arguing that it would be perceived as partisan and almost certainly blocked by Congress.
Obama then echoed McDonough's critique, effectively killing any chance that a Russia commission would be formed.
McDonough declined to comment on the principals' committee meeting on the commission or any other sensitive matters but acknowledged that he opposed the idea, in part because he believed it would be premature to do so before U.S. intelligence agencies and Congress had conducted their investigations.
White House staffers listen as President Barack Obama speaks about the election results on Nov. 9, 2016, in the Rose Garden. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP; photo illustration by Nick Kirkpatrick/The Washington Post)
'Demoralized'Several officials described the post-election atmosphere at the White House as somber. ''It was like a funeral parlor,'' according to one official who said that work on Russia and other subjects slowed as officials began to anticipate the damage to Obama's policies and legacy.
Others disputed that characterization, saying that the NSC carried on with no interruption or diminution of focus. ''Nobody got paralyzed by grief,'' a high-ranking official said. ''We all did our jobs.''
Rice Susan Rice National security adviser. Rice orders the National Security Council to finalize a list of options to use against Moscow. declined to comment on White House deliberations or other sensitive matters but said that the administration always planned to respond to Russia, regardless of the outcome of the election. ''We felt it was on our watch and that we had to do something about it. It was our responsibility,'' Rice said.
Whatever the case, work on Russia did not resume in earnest until after Thanksgiving, in part because Obama made his last foreign trip.
Rice again ordered NSC staffers to finalize a ''menu'' of punitive measures to use against Moscow. The list that took shape was a distillation of ideas that had been circulating for months across three main categories: cyber, economic and diplomatic.
Again, the discussion ran into roadblocks.
Spy agencies wanted to maintain their penetrations of Russian networks, not expose them in a cyber-fusillade.
Treasury Department officials devised plans that would hit entire sectors of Russia's economy. One preliminary suggestion called for targeting technology companies including Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based cybersecurity firm. But skeptics worried that the harm could spill into Europe and pointed out that U.S. companies used Kaspersky systems and software.
Several senior administration officials called for imposing sanctions on Putin personally or releasing financial records or other information that would embarrass him. Some objected that the latter proposal would send the wrong message '-- the United States would be engaging in the same behavior it was condemning. In any case, it was not clear how long it would take U.S. spy agencies to assemble such a Putin dossier.
''By December, those of us working on this for a long time were demoralized,'' said an administration official involved in the developing punitive options.
Then the tenor began to shift.
On Dec. 9, Obama ordered a comprehensive review by U.S. intelligence agencies of Russian interference in U.S. elections going back to 2008, with a plan to make some of the findings public.
A week later, in one of Obama's final news briefings, he expressed irritation that such a consequential election ''came to be dominated by a bunch of these leaks.'' He scolded news organizations for an ''obsession'' with titillating material about the Democrats that had dominated coverage.
Then he unloaded on Moscow. ''The Russians can't change us or significantly weaken us,'' he said. ''They are a smaller country. They are a weaker country. Their economy doesn't produce anything that anybody wants to buy, except oil and gas and arms.''
It was a rare outburst for Obama, one that came amid a wave of internal second-guessing, finger-pointing from members of the defeated Clinton campaign, and the post-election posturing of Putin and Trump.
There was another factor at work, however.
Obama's decision to order a comprehensive report on Moscow's interference from U.S. spy agencies had prompted analysts to go back through their agencies' files, scouring for previously overlooked clues.
The effort led to a flurry of new, disturbing reports '-- many of them presented in the President's Daily Brief '-- about Russia's subversion of the 2016 race. The emerging picture enabled policymakers to begin seeing the Russian campaign in broader terms, as a comprehensive plot sweeping in its scope.
Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser, said that the DNC email penetrations were initially thought to be in the same vein as previous Russian hacking efforts against targets including the State Department and White House.
''In many ways .'‰.'‰. we dealt with this as a cyberthreat and focused on protecting our cyber infrastructure,'' Rhodes said in an interview. ''Meanwhile, the Russians were playing this much bigger game, which included elements like released hacked materials, political propaganda and propagating fake news, which they'd pursued in other countries.''
''We weren't able to put all of those pieces together in real time,'' Rhodes said, ''and in many ways that complete picture is still being filled in.'' Rhodes declined to discuss any sensitive information.
National security adviser Susan E. Rice looks over documents in the Oval Office in October. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; photo illustration by Nick Kirkpatrick/The Washington Post)
Obama's darkened mood, the intelligence findings and the approaching transfer of power gave new urgency to NSC deliberations. In mid-December, as Cabinet members took turns citing drawbacks to various proposals for retaliating against Russia, Rice Susan Rice National security adviser. Rice orders the National Security Council to finalize a list of options to use against Moscow. grew impatient and began cutting them off.
''We're not talking anymore. We're acting,'' she said, according to one participant.
Rice moved swiftly through a list of proposals that had survived months of debate, a menu that allowed principals to vote for what one participant described as ''heavy, medium and light'' options.
Among those in the Situation Room were Clapper James R. Clapper Director of national intelligence and one of four senior administration officials to participate in meetings in of the Situation Room on how to retaliate against Russia. Clapper would eventually release the Obama administration's first statement concluding Russia interfered in the election. , Brennan John Brennan CIA director. Brennan first alerts the White House to the Putin intelligence and later briefs Obama in the Oval Office. , Kerry John Kerry Secretary of state. Kerry tries to get the administration to confront Russia several times. and Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. Rice challenged them go to the ''max of their comfort zones,'' a second participant said.
Economic sanctions, originally aimed only at Russia's military intelligence service, were expanded to include the FSB, a domestic successor to the KGB. Four Russian intelligence officials and three companies with links to those services were also named as targets.
The FBI had long lobbied to close two Russian compounds in the United States '-- one in Maryland and another in New York '-- on the grounds that both were used for espionage and placed an enormous surveillance burden on the bureau.
[On the Eastern Shore, a 45-acre Russian compound kept its secrets close]
The FBI was also responsible for generating the list of Russian operatives working under diplomatic cover to expel, drawn from a roster the bureau maintains of suspected Russian intelligence agents in the United States.
Cabinet officials were prompted to vote on whether to close one Russian compound or two, whether to kick out around 10 suspected Russian agents, 20 or 35.
Kerry laid out his department's concerns. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Tefft, had sent a cable warning that Moscow would inevitably expel the same number of Americans from Moscow and that departures of that magnitude would impair the embassy's ability to function.
The objections were dismissed, and Rice Susan Rice National security adviser. Rice orders the National Security Council to finalize a list of options to use against Moscow. submitted a plan to Obama calling for the seizure of both Russian facilities and the expulsion of 35 suspected spies. Obama signed off on the package and announced the punitive measures on Dec. 29, while on vacation in Hawaii.
By then, the still-forming Trump administration was becoming entangled by questions about contacts with Moscow. On or around that same day that Obama imposed sanctions, Trump's designated national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, told the Russian ambassador by phone that the sanctions would soon be revisited. Flynn's false statements about that conversation later cost him his job.
The report that Obama had commissioned was released a week later, on Jan. 6. It was based largely on the work done by the task force Brennan John Brennan CIA director. Brennan first alerts the White House to the Putin intelligence and later briefs Obama in the Oval Office. had established and made public what the CIA had concluded in August, that ''Putin and the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump's election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton.''
It also carried a note of warning: ''We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the U.S. election to future influence efforts worldwide.''
Sanctions' 'minimal' impactThe punitive measures got several days of media attention before the spotlight returned to Trump, his still-forming administration and, later, the initial rumblings of the Russia crisis that has become a consuming issue for the Trump White House.
But the package of measures approved by Obama, and the process by which they were selected and implemented, were more complex than initially understood.
The expulsions and compound seizures were originally devised as ways to retaliate against Moscow not for election interference but for an escalating campaign of harassment of American diplomats and intelligence operatives. U.S. officials often endured hostile treatment, but the episodes had become increasingly menacing and violent.
In one previously undisclosed incident on July 6, a Russian military helicopter dropped from the sky to make multiple passes just feet over the hood of a vehicle being driven by the U.S. defense attache, who was accompanied by colleagues, on a stretch of road between Murmansk and Pechenga in northern Russia. The attempt at intimidation was captured on photos the Americans took through the windshield.
An even more harrowing encounter took place the prior month, when a CIA operative returning by taxi to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was tackled and thrown to the ground by a uniformed FSB guard. In a video aired on Russian television, the U.S. operative can be seen struggling to drag himself across the embassy threshold and onto U.S. sovereign territory. He sustained a broken shoulder in the attack.
Though conceived as retaliation for those incidents, the expulsions were adapted and included in the election-related package. The roster of expelled spies included several operatives who were suspected of playing a role in Russia's election interference from within the United States, officials said. They declined to elaborate.
More broadly, the list of 35 names focused heavily on Russians known to have technical skills. Their names and bios were laid out on a dossier delivered to senior White House officials and Cabinet secretaries, although the list was modified at the last minute to reduce the number of expulsions from Russia's U.N. mission in New York and add more names from its facilities in Washington and San Francisco.
A compound near Centreville, Md., that was being used by Russian diplomats is seen in a 2015 satellite photo. The compound was closed in December as part of a U.S. sanctions package. (Photo obtained by The Washington Post; photo illustration by Nick Kirkpatrick/The Washington Post)
The compounds were even higher on the FBI's wish list.
At one point in the White House deliberations, intelligence analysts used aerial images of the facilities to show how they had been modified to enhance their espionage capabilities. Slides displayed in the Situation Room showed new chimneys and other features, all presumed to allow for the installation of more-sophisticated eavesdropping equipment aimed at U.S. naval facilities and the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland.
Rice Susan Rice National security adviser. Rice orders the National Security Council to finalize a list of options to use against Moscow. pointed to the FBI's McCabe Andrew McCabe Deputy FBI director. McCabe was among others in the Situation Room challenged by Rice to go to the ''max of their comfort zones" in deciding retaliatory measures. and said: ''You guys have been begging to do this for years. Now is your chance.''
The administration gave Russia 24 hours to evacuate the sites, and FBI agents watched as fleets of trucks loaded with cargo passed through the compounds' gates.
When FBI agents entered the sites, they found them stripped of antennas, electronics, computers, file cabinets and other gear, officials said, their hasty removal leaving visible markings on floors, tables and walls.
Economic sanctions are widely seen as the United States' most potent lever, short of military force. Russia's economy is dwarfed by that of the United States, and nearly every major Russian institution and oligarch depends to some degree on access to U.S. and Western financial institutions, networks and credit.
Sanctions that the United States and Europe imposed on Russia in 2014 for its actions in Ukraine were damaging. Coinciding with a sharp drop in oil prices, those measures contributed to a 4 percent contraction in the Russian economy and sent its reserves plunging.
The election-related sanctions, by contrast, have had no such impact.
Officials involved in designing them said that the main targets '-- Russia's foreign and military intelligence services, the GRU and FSB, and senior officials at those agencies '-- have few known holdings abroad or vulnerable assets to freeze.
''I don't think any of us thought of sanctions as being a primary way of expressing our disapproval'' for the election interference, said a senior administration official involved in the decision. ''Going after their intelligence services was not about economic impact. It was symbolic.''
More than any other measure, that decision has become a source of regret to senior administration officials directly involved in the Russia debate. The outcome has left the impression that Obama saw Russia's military meddling in Ukraine as more deserving of severe punishment than its subversion of a U.S. presidential race.
''What is the greater threat to our system of government?'' said a former high-ranking administration official, noting that Obama and his advisers knew from projections formulated by the Treasury Department that the impact of the election-related economic sanctions would be ''minimal.''
A U.S. cyber-weaponThe most difficult measure to evaluate is one that Obama alluded to in only the most oblique fashion when announcing the U.S. response.
''We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized,'' he said in a statement released by the White House.
He was referring, in part, to a cyber operation that was designed to be detected by Moscow but not cause significant damage, officials said. The operation, which entailed implanting computer code in sensitive computer systems that Russia was bound to find, served only as a reminder to Moscow of the United States' cyber reach.
But Obama also signed the secret finding, officials said, authorizing a new covert program involving the NSA, CIA and U.S. Cyber Command.
Obama declined to comment for this article, but a spokesman issued a statement: ''This situation was taken extremely seriously, as is evident by President Obama raising this issue directly with President Putin; 17 intelligence agencies issuing an extraordinary public statement; our homeland security officials working relentlessly to bolster the cyber defenses of voting infrastructure around the country; the President directing a comprehensive intelligence review, and ultimately issuing a robust response including shutting down two Russian compounds, sanctioning nine Russian entities and individuals, and ejecting 35 Russian diplomats from the country.''
The cyber operation is still in its early stages and involves deploying ''implants'' in Russian networks deemed ''important to the adversary and that would cause them pain and discomfort if they were disrupted,'' a former U.S. official said.
The implants were developed by the NSA and designed so that they could be triggered remotely as part of retaliatory cyber-strike in the face of Russian aggression, whether an attack on a power grid or interference in a future presidential race.
Officials familiar with the measures said that there was concern among some in the administration that the damage caused by the implants could be difficult to contain.
As a result, the administration requested a legal review, which concluded that the devices could be controlled well enough that their deployment would be considered ''proportional'' in varying scenarios of Russian provocation, a requirement under international law.
The operation was described as long-term, taking months to position the implants and requiring maintenance thereafter. Under the rules of covert action, Obama's signature was all that was necessary to set the operation in motion.
U.S. intelligence agencies do not need further approval from Trump, and officials said that he would have to issue a countermanding order to stop it. The officials said that they have seen no indication that Trump has done so.
Karen DeYoung and Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Read more:
Trump administration moves to return Russian compounds in Maryland and New York
Every Russia story Trump said was a hoax by Democrats: A timeline
More stories
Trump campaign's Russia ties: Who's involvedCongress and U.S. intelligence agencies are scrutinizing connections between Russia and the Trump campaign as they investigate evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Here's what we know so far about Team Trump's ties to Russian interests.
SJW
Christians battle GuideStar on 'hate group' tag - Washington Times
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:34
ANALYSIS/OPINION:
Conservative and Christian organizations dinged by GuideStar as ''hate groups'' have risen up and launched a counterattack, asking the supposed nonpartisan watchdog of the nonprofit world to reverse course and remove the labels.
And well GuideStar should. The organization's recent move gave off the distinct odor of an anti-Christian, anti-conservative attack.
How so?
GuideStar, in recent weeks, had affixed a ''hate'' tag to 46 different conservative and Christian groups, using data from the '-- get this '-- Southern Poverty Law Center, a far-left leaning outlet if ever there was one.
Among the groups that had been corralled under that ''hate'' heading were the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the Jewish Institute for Global Awareness and the American College of Pediatricians.
Forty-one of the groups banded to pen a critical letter to GuideStar, saying: ''We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, write to express our strong disagreement with GuideStar's newly implemented policy that labels 46 American organizations as 'hate groups.' Your designations are based on determinations made by the [SPLC], a hard-left activist organization. As such, SPLC's aggressive political agenda pervades the construction of its 'hate group' listings.''
What's even more interesting about GuideStar's recent labelling is that it had been perpetrated under the leadership of CEO Jacob Harold '-- a guy described in the organization's bio section as a ''social change strategist'' whose background included work as a ''climate change campaigner'' for Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace USA.
Harold, as LifeSite found, also took part in the January Women's March '-- a gathering in Washington, D.C., that was supposed to be about equality between the genders but was actually an excuse to proclaim loud and public hatred for President Donald Trump.
''I think that what GuideStar is doing [with the hate labels] is another attack on conservative Christian organizations and individuals,'' said William ''Jerry'' Boykin, a retired Army general now serving as executive vice president of the FRC, the Daily Signal reported.
Quite right. What's next, a declaration of the Bible as a hate manual?
It's bad enough the SPLC is a go-to organization for the left, whenever the media or Democrats need an outside source that labels a conservative outlet as discriminatory, hateful or intolerant. But et tu GuideStar?
A spokesperson for GuideStar, in response to the backlash, said the organization is considering some changes to its website, in terms of how the labels and descriptions are presented.
But really, GuideStar doesn't need to include any ''hate group'' label at all in its data and reports. Let the readers and researchers, the potential donors and contributors, make that determination themselves.
No need for GuideStar to wade into this political quagmire at all '-- particularly when those of traditional values are so very often skewed by those of weak moral compass and shaky virtuous standing as hate-filled.
Really, let's just stop with all this mudslinging of Christians, of traditionalists, of the conservatives of America as the haters. At this point in the Trump presidency, it's quite apparent where all the violence, all the hate, all the intolerance is coming from '-- and it's not from the Christian crowd, but rather the left. If GuideStar wants to maintain any semblance of nonpartisanship, and salvage any bit of respect for its watchdog work of nonprofits, organizational leaders will outright remove the hate tag from these 40-plus groups, and pronto.
FBI
Hillary Clinton: Loretta Lynch Investigated in Email Probe | Time.com
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 01:13
Senate Judiciary Committee leaders on Friday said they are seeking information about former Attorney General Loretta Lynch's alleged interference in Hillary Clinton's private email investigation.
The bipartisan group is inquiring about Lynch's communication with Clinton campaign aide Amanda Renteria '-- whom Lynch reportedly assured that the FBI's investigation wouldn't "go too far" '-- as well as documents and information indicating whether the agency probed that alleged conversation.
Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), along with other lawmakers including 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham, sent letters to Lynch earlier this week with the request.
A spokesman for Lynch said the former attorney general "will cooperate fully with this inquiry and respond directly to the Senate Judiciary Committee."
"Ms. Lynch is a committed public servant who has dedicated much of her career to the Department of Justice and led the department as attorney general in the fair and impartial administration of justice," a spokesman said in a statement Friday.
The inquiries about Lynch's communication are part of a larger examination of President Donald Trump's dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the Clinton probe at the time.
In a testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month, Comey said that Lynch during the Clinton probe told him: "Don't call it [an investigation]. Call it a matter. Just call it a matter."'
"It gave me a queasy feeling," Comey said in the testimony.
TrumpCare
'Trumpcare' could kill an extra 50,000 people a year
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 14:57
W
hen President Trump tweeted last week about ''our wonderful new Healthcare Bill,'' it was clear to us what he meant by ''our.'' The American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA) will weaken health care for millions and give tax breaks to the wealthy.
The bill (we'll call it Trumpcare in keeping with what Republicans called the current Affordable Care Act) will force many older Americans a few years shy of Medicare eligibility to pay substantially more for insurance. While the ACA limits insurers to charging older individuals no more than three times as much for coverage as younger ones, the AHCA will let them charge five times as much. The AHCA's proposed age-based tax credits, which will replace the ACA's federal income-based premium subsidies, won't make up the difference. Only young, healthy individuals who can tolerate bare-bones health care plans could benefit. Older Americans who rely on Medicare and need health care the most will be out of luck.
Children, elders, low-income adults, and people with disabilities who depend on Medicaid also stand to lose. By converting the structure of Medicaid to a per capita cap, the AHCA would slash federal funding for state programs. Faced with the burden of providing care with skeletal support, states would need to restrict eligibility, cut benefits, and increase costs of premiums, deductibles, and copayments.
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Trumpcare would defund Planned Parenthood, the largest network provider for women's health. Each year nearly 5 million women, men, and adolescents rely on Planned Parenthood for screening and treatment of cancer and sexually transmitted infections, as well as for perinatal care.
Read MoreMedical groups voice opposition to Republican plan to replace Obamacare
An ACA mandate currently requires insurers to offer coverage for so-called essential benefits that include emergency, pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care, as well as care for mental illness and substance use disorders. Americans covered by the AHCA could lose some of these essential benefits.
A new report by the Congressional Budget Office estimates that under the AHCA, 24 million Americans would lose coverage over the next decade. That translates to 52,747 extra deaths a year, according to the most definitive study on death rates and Medicaid coverage expansion conducted by researchers at Harvard University and the City University of New York.
There is, however, a silver lining to the AHCA '-- for the wealthy, that is. It would repeal the current 3.8 percent tax on investment income and the 0.9 percent tax on upper income earners, giving a $600 billion tax cut to the rich over the next 10 years.
This isn't about some vague notion of ''care'' or ''coverage'' that few Americans will lose. If passed, the AHCA will affect millions of Americans, their family members, and their communities. As people forgo primary care or lose access to doctors, many people will miss opportunities to identify curable conditions before it's too late, and emergency rooms will become more crowded. Hospitals will be forced to increase charges for the insured in order to make up for financial losses elsewhere. The nation as a whole will become sicker and health care will become more expensive.
Passage of this ''dumpster fire of a bill,'' as Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut called it, would be a catastrophe. But we can still prevent its passage if we act now. The American Medical Association, American Hospitals Association, American Nurses Association, American Association of Retired Persons, and other organizations have already released statements opposing the AHCA. But statements and lobbying alone may not be enough.
Thousands of health professionals are organizing grassroots efforts to fight this menace. A new generation of politically engaged doctors has been using social media, strengthening professional societies and unions, working with other health care providers, and building a collective voice. The recent nationwide Health Professionals Protest rallied 2,000 participants in white coats and scrubs to protest in front of local representatives' offices. Many doctors organized the protest; one of us (A.G.) created the Facebook page for them.
With frontline experience and an ethical obligation to our patients, doctors are resoundingly saying, ''don't take away care from our patients.''
But this work is not enough. We need all Americans' vigilance, dialogue, and protest to keep our government accountable. Together, we must defend health care for those who need it most.
Christy Duan, MD,is a resident physician training in psychiatry at Northwell Health. Andrew Goldstein, MD, is a primary care physician at Bellevue Hospital and a public health researcher at Columbia University. The views expressed by the authors are their own and do not represent the views of the institutions with which they are affiliated.
Follow Christy on Twitter @christyduan
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMakeTweet
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Barack Obama says health care law has led to 50,000 fewer preventable hospital deaths | PolitiFact
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 14:57
The Affordable Care Act is "a major reason why we've seen 50,000 fewer preventable patient deaths in hospitals."
'-- Barack Obama on Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 in a speech
When President Barack Obama marked the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, he specifically touted advances in curbing preventable deaths in hospitals. Was his claim accurate?
A waiting room at Pasco Regional Medical Center in Florida. (Stephen J. Coddington/Tampa Bay Times)In a recent speech marking the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama touted a number of accomplishments he credited to the law.
"The work that we've been able to do is already spurring the kinds of changes that we had hoped for," Obama said. "It's helped reduce hospital readmission rates dramatically. It's a major reason why we've seen 50,000 fewer preventable patient deaths in hospitals."
We hadn't heard the claim about preventable deaths, so we took a closer look.
When we asked the White House for its evidence, they pointed us to a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Prepare yourself for its very wonky title: "Interim Update on 2013 Annual Hospital-Acquired Condition Rate and Estimates of Cost Savings and Deaths Averted From 2010 to 2013."
The agency is a part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, and its report takes a preliminary look at a program called Partnership for Patients that was created by the health care law. The program aims to get 3,700 hospitals -- along with physicians, nurses, employers, patients, government officials and others -- to work together to cut preventable hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent between 2010 and 2014 and to reduce hospital readmissions by 20 percent over the same period.
The report found that "approximately 50,000 fewer patients died in the hospital as a result of the reduction in HACs (hospital-acquired conditions), and approximately $12 billion in health care costs were saved from 2010 to 2013." This occurred "during a period of concerted attention by hospitals throughout the country to reduce adverse events," the report said.
Independent experts said the report is credible.
Lucian Leape, an adjunct professor of health policy at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told PolitiFact, "I think these data are reliable, and the ACA (Affordable Care Act) deserves credit."
Leape, who has been studying preventable hospital deaths since the early 1990s, credited improved data collection and the work of Partnership for Patients, "which has been a serious '' and successful '' effort to engage hospitals in achieving specific goals, such as reducing infections." He said it's the kind of effort he and others called for a decade and a half ago but "never got before the ACA. Hospitals were improving their safety slowly on their own, and this gave it a big boost. It's the first time we have seen measurable, significant decreases in any of the harms that we cause by treatment failures."
David Nash, dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health in Philadelphia, agreed that the numbers are credible. "This is in part due to a huge amount of work on the part of hospitals," Nash said.
We do see two fairly minor caveats.
' These numbers are estimates. Obviously, it's not possible to literally count the number of deaths prevented in the same way you can count actual deaths. So the authors of the report had to use a complicated set of estimating techniques to come up with the 50,000 figure.
The authors of the report made a point of including some caveats, including that "the estimate of deaths averted is less precise than the estimate of the size of the reduction" in hospital-acquired conditions." The report also notes "uncertainty inherent in our statistical extrapolations" and says that it's "clear" that "tens of thousands of deaths" have been averted, which is less specific than the 50,000 figure Obama focused on.
' Preventable deaths had already begun falling even before the health care law was enacted. Periodically, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection has analyzed data on inpatient hospital deaths, with its most recent analysis covering data through 2010. That analysis found that the number of inpatient hospital deaths (not just preventable ones) decreased from 776,000 in 2000 to 715,000 in 2010 -- a drop of 61,000 over a decade.
In other words, hospital deaths in general were already on a downward slope prior to the health care law's passage; it's just accelerated since then. The authors of the report that Obama cited also hedged a bit on the causes for the decline, writing that "the precise causes of the decline in patient harm are not fully understood."
Our ruling
Obama said the Affordable Care Act is "a major reason why we've seen 50,000 fewer preventable patient deaths in hospitals."
Independent experts said the report Obama was using as evidence represents a credible attempt to quantify recent improvements in preventing hospital-patient deaths, even if the numbers are estimates rather than hard figures. They added that it's reasonable to credit the health care law's Partnership for Patients program with accelerating the gains, even if the improvements were already under way at the time the law was passed.
The statement is accurate but needs clarification, so we rate it Mostly True.
DPRK
[News Focus] Moon proposes inter-Korean team for PyeongChang Olympics
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 14:05
President Moon Jae-in on Saturday proposed that the two Koreas form a unified team to take part in the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, pinning high hopes on sports as a driver to kick-start cross-border exchanges that have for years been at a standstill.He made the overture at the opening ceremony of the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships in Muju, North Jeolla Province, to which the North sent a rare demonstration team.
The liberal president, who envisions a restart of dialogue for a thaw with the isolated neighbor, recalled the instance of 1991, when the two Koreas competed for the first time as one team for the World Table Tennis Championships and FIFA World Youth Championship. In 2000, athletes from the two countries marched together behind a unification flag as the Summer Games in Sydney kicked off.
President Moon Jae-in (fourth from left, back row) pose with taekwondo demonstrators from South Korea and North Korea after the opening ceremony of the World Taekwondo Federation World Taekwondo Championships at T1 Arena in Muju, North Jeolla Province, on June 24, 2017. (Yonhap)
''I hope our achievement in taekwondo will lead to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. I believe that if a North Korean delegation participates, it will greatly contribute to realizing the Olympic values of mankind's harmony and world peace,'' Moon said in a congratulatory address.
''I wish to see the glory of 1991 again. I would like to feel the sensation of 2000 again. I hope North Korea's cheering squad will also come along so that we could set a milestone for inter-Korean reconciliation.''
The speech was closely watched by Chang Ung, the North's sole member of the International Olympic Committee. Jang arrived here Friday, leading the 32-strong International Taekwondo Federation demonstration team, and joined by three other Pyongyang officials.
Moon also requested Chang's cooperation, stressing the significance of the ongoing event as the venue for the first cross-border sports exchange since he took office on May 10.
''Once adversaries, the US, China, and Vietnam achieved peace through Ping-Pong diplomacy,'' the president said. ''I believe in the strength of sports that has been establishing peace.''
The offer for the joint team reflects his bid to revive ties with Pyongyang starting with nonpolitical areas while floating a nuclear freeze agreement.
Over the past month, the Moon administration has also granted approval for civic groups' plans to provide humanitarian assistance and resume religious exchanges. Marking the 17th anniversary for a watershed inter-Korean peace declaration in 2000 on June 15, he said he would pursue talks with Pyongyang if it halts nuclear and missile tests.
With North Korean leader Kim Jong-un having promoted sports at home as an avid fan himself, the PyeongChang Olympics to be held in Gangwon Province could mean a chance for the nascent leadership to engage the regime with relatively less political burden, analysts say.
Choi Jong-kun, a professor in political science and international studies at Yonsei University who has been advising Moon since long before the campaign period, has said his administration wants to use the event as a platform to reinitiate inter-Korean talks designed to induce a moratorium on the North's nuclear and missile tests in return for economic incentives such as a reopening of the Kaesong industrial park and Geumgangsan tours.
''If we could manage to perk up the mood through the Olympics and then expand interactions, we will be able to send a meaningful signal about our intention,'' Choi told The Korea Herald last month. ''And if the North takes explicit steps on denuclearization, we may take our own corresponding measures, such as on Kaesong and Geumgangsan.''
Given heightened tensions and the absence of communication channels, the event could ''set the mood'' for cross-border dialogue, said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor in North Korean studies of Dongguk University in Seoul.
''The proposal was apparently intended to pursue sports exchanges regardless of, or rather to improve, the political situation, and the PyeongChang Olympics would be a key occasion,'' Koh said Sunday.
''Just like the Muju case, North Korean officials would come here together with the athletes' delegation. Then there will most likely be direct and indirect talks with the South's government during which the sides may sound out each other's stances and explore what to do to improve the relationship going forward.''
By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com) and Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)
Plan voor 'Costa del Noord-Korea'|Buitenland| Telegraaf.nl
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 14:05
De Noord-Koreanen zijn ook op een camping geweest, waar ze volgens hun Spaanse metgezel Mat­as P(C)rez gedetailleerde vragen stelden over alles wat met het kampeerbedrijf te maken heeft. Maar ze waren vooral onder de indruk van 'žde dimensies van de torenflats en vakantieparken'' in Benidorm.
De delegatie vergaapte zich ook aan het pretpark Terra M­tica in dezelfde plaats. Maar het noordelijker gelegen vakantieoord Marina d'Or, bij Orpesa, sloeg alles in de Noord-Koreaanse ogen. Dit complex kwam het meest overeen met wat de Noord-Koreanen in Wonsan zouden willen.
GOP Shooting
Bizarre: FBI Calls Scalise Shooting 'Spontaneous,' Gunman 'Had No Target In Mind,' Motive Unclear - Guy Benson
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:38
Totally baffling. This Associated Press write-up of yesterday's FBI press conference makes clear that everyone involved agrees that deceased shooter James Hodgkinson detested Republicans with a fiery passion, yet investigators seem unwilling to call his attack premeditated or specifically targeted -- nor will they comment on his motive at this point. Why? Am I missing something here? This is what they're telling us right now:
The gunman who shot a top House Republican and four other people on a Virginia baseball field didn't have any concrete plans to inflict violence on the Republicans he loathed, FBI officials said Wednesday...They said he acted alone and had no connections to terror groups. But they said they had not yet clarified who, if anyone, he planned to target, or why, beyond his animus toward President Donald Trump and the Republicans he felt were ruining the country...''At this point in the investigation, it appears more spontaneous,'' Slater said. Hodgkinson had a piece of paper with the names of six members of Congress written on it, Slater said, but the note lacked any further context and there was no evidence from his computer, phone or other belongings that indicated he planned to target those officials...He also took pictures of the baseball field where he would later fire more than 60 shots. ''The FBI does not believe that these photographs represented surveillance of intended targets,'' the FBI said in a statement.
The quoted officials paint a picture of a down-on-his-luck vagrant whose marriage and personal finances were under strain -- so who can say, really, if his unhinged attitudes about conservative leaders played any decisive role here? The video of the press conference does not suggest that the AP distorted the content provided, with one special agent explicitly declining to speculate about "what [Hodgkinson] was thinking, or his motive." Let's consider some known, publicly-available facts:
(1) Mr. Hodgkinson hated Republicans with unusual ferocity, as evidenced by his letters to the editor and social media footprint. The man belonged to a Facebook group called "Terminate the Republican Party," for goodness sake. The night before his spree, he conducted an internet search for a 2017 GOP convention.
(2) He was in possession of photographs he had taken of the ball field where Republicans held their practices, a loose description of which had been publicly reported. I've been to that park. It is not picturesque or a tourist attraction in any way. The FBI says it has determined that the pictures were not evidence of prior surveillance. How and why?
(3) The would-be assassin had a list of six members of Congress' names on his person at the time of the shooting, all of whom were reportedly Republicans, though the FBI has not confirmed that detail. The note "lacked further context," we're told, so we ought not leap to any conclusions about the significance of those names. Might his subsequent action of shooting at Republican members of Congress count as relevant context?
(4) Hodgkinson arrived at the scene of the attempted massacre with two guns, including a rifle, and a large supply of ammunition. He was able to fire more than 60 shots. That's a lot of fire power for a "spontaneous" event. He'd rented a storage locker, at which he kept an even bigger cache of bullets. He was also visited by police in Illinois when neighbors complained that he was conducting target practice in the woods near his home. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Washington, DC.
(5) Before starting the bloodletting, Hodgkinson inquired as to the partisan affiliation of the members of Congress practicing on the field. After confirming that they were Republicans and not Democrats, he stuck around to open fire.
I am not a law enforcement professional, let alone a member of the US government's foremost domestic investigatory agency. But I am a rational human being with a functioning brain that is capable of synthesizing basic information. For the life of me, I cannot understand how this fact pattern could possibly render FBI investigators unable or unwilling to state the obvious: This was a politically-motivated shooting that deliberately targeted members of the political party openly despised by the shooter. The agent who briefed the media on Wednesday acknowledged Hodgkinson's numerous online anti-Republican rants, but quickly added that they all appeared to be constitutionally-protected speech, in retrospect. Okay, so what? Nobody's claiming that the guy should have been investigated or charged for his hateful diatribes. But they do seem to highly relevant to determining his motive, no? He went from banging out angry postings about GOP lawmakers to, you know, literally trying to kill GOP lawmakers. His last-minute question about the targets' party membership seems to erase any lingering doubt on this point, does it not? There's no reasonable doubt here. The FBI's hedging and hesitancy makes absolutely no sense to me.
Here's what I don't want to believe: I don't want to believe that the FBI is so politicized that they're reticent to clearly state what is directly in front of their noses, due to potentially uncomfortable partisan implications. That explanation doesn't really make much sense either, if you think about it: Even if the Bureau were totally in the tank for Democrats, what practical good would it do to downplay Hodgkinson's unavoidable and already widely-disseminated political beliefs? Everybody sees this for what it is, regardless of how law enforcement tries to soften the edges a week later. My hope is that the FBI is acting out of an abundance of caution, as evidence is still being gathered and analyzed -- and what they really meant yesterday was that they aren't yet prepared to conclusively state various specifics with full certainty. But that's not how it felt. It felt like they were feigning inconclusive puzzlement about how or why this man chose those victims. The "spontaneous" line (maybe they meant that he hadn't mapped out every last detail of his atrocity in advance?) harkens back to another unfortunate episodes in which a nonsense government story was foisted upon the public for political reasons. And the FBI's ambiguity about the motive at play is reminiscent of the last US Attorney General musing that perhaps the motives of the Pulse nightclub terrorist would never truly be known -- even as her department sought to censor 9-1-1 transcripts in which the perpetrator spelled out his pro-ISIS motives quite clearly.
The American people are in the midst of a crisis of confidence in our societal and governmental institutions, and the FBI has regrettably found itself at the epicenter of the partisan churn over the past year. Whether it was the briefing agents' intent or not, their press conference yesterday looked like a sanitized, deliberately obtuse performance that runs the risk of insulting Americans' intelligence. Caution is one thing, but this feels more like willful blindness. Skirting around glaring truths does not help build public confidence in the FBI's credibility and professionalism as an institution, even as most citizens -- myself included -- harbor great respect for both the Bureau's workforce and the law enforcement community writ large. Here's hoping that we will get more clarity on these questions soon, especially if this is merely a miscommunication.
Parting thought: The FBI says this matter is being pursued as an assault on members of Congress and federal officers. Why isn't it being investigated as an act of terrorism? The dictionary definition of terrorism is, "violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes." Hodgkinson's acts surely appear to fit that bill -- as did the 2012 plot by another left-wing extremist who was convicted on domestic terrorism charges after his plan to massacre social conservatives was thwarted by a security guard. Are the feds at least keeping the terrorism angle open as a possibility here? If not, why not?
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The FBI's Briefing On GOP Baseball Shooting Couldn't Be More Bizarre
Thu, 22 Jun 2017 21:02
The FBI gave an utterly bizarre update on its investigation into an attempt to assassinate Republican members of Congress. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) remains in the hospital from the attempt on his life in which two police officers and a congressional staffer were also shot. The hospital upgraded his condition to ''fair'' and said he faces a long recovery.
Americans may know, thanks to public social media profiles, that attempted murderer James Hodgkinson was an active Democratic activist and Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer who hated Republican members of Congress. He held membership in multiple social media groups strongly opposed to Republicans, such as ''The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans,'' ''Join the Resistance Worldwide,'' ''Donald Trump is not my President,'' ''Terminate the Republican Party,'' ''Boycott the Republican Party,'' and ''Expose Republican Fraud,'' among dozens of other groups. He was a voracious consumer of liberal media and believed the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to secure the White House.
The FBI admits that Hodgkinson:
vociferously raged against Republicans in online forums,had a piece of paper bearing the names of six members of Congress,was reported for doing target practice outside his home in recent months before moving to Alexandria,had mapped out a trip to the DC area,took multiple photos of the baseball field he would later shoot up, three days after the New York Times mentioned that Republicans practiced baseball at an Alexandria baseball field with little security,lived out of his van at the YMCA directly next door to the baseball field he shot up,legally purchased a rifle in March 2003 and 9 mm handgun ''in November 2016,''modified the rifle at some point to accept a detachable magazine and replaced the original stock with a folding stock,rented a storage facility to hide hundreds of rounds of ammunition and additional rifle components,asked ''Is this the Republican or Democrat baseball team?'' before firing on the Republicans,ran a Google search for information on the ''2017 Republican Convention'' hours before the shooting,and took photos at high-profile Washington locations, including the east front plaza of the U.S. Capitol and the Dirksen Senate Office.We know from other reporting that the list was of six Republican Freedom Caucus members, including Rep. Mo Brooks, who was present at the practice.
So what does the FBI decide this information means? Well, the takeaway of the briefing was characterized well by the Associated Press headline about it: ''FBI: Gunman who shot congressman had no target in mind.'' The Associated Press reported the FBI:
believes the gunman ''had no concrete plan to inflict violence'' against Republicans,''had not yet clarified who, if anyone, he planned to target, or why,''believes he may have just ''happened upon'' the baseball game the morning of June 14, and that the attack appeared ''spontaneous,''are unclear on the ''context'' of Hodgkinson's note with six names of members of Congress,does not believe that photographs of the baseball field or other sites ''represented surveillance of intended targets,'' and''painted a picture of a down-on-his-luck man with few future prospects.''In fact, USA Today went with ''FBI offers portrait of troubled Alexandria shooter with 'anger management problem''' for their headline, since that's what the FBI emphasized in the briefing.
The FBI also said there was no ''nexus to terrorism'' in the attempted mass assassination of Republican leadership by a Democratic activist. The claim that tourists take pictures of a a completely unremarkable baseball field in a tiny neighborhood also seems odd, particularly when the pictures were taken a few days after The New York Times reported that Republican members of Congress practice baseball there with little security. Someone going by the moniker ''Yoenis Cespedes'' wrote, ''As a guy who could arguably be called a reconnaissance manager when he was in the Army, this is reconnaissance.''
Oh, and here's a little tidbit that didn't interest many people in the media beyond a brief mention in the last paragraphs:
Hodgkinson also visited the office of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose campaign he had worked on as a volunteer, and was in email contact with the two Democratic senators from his home state.
As one Twitter wag put it, ''You'd think ''Congressional Shooter Visited Actual Capitol Hill Offices'' would be kinda a big deal and you'd be wrong.''
I wrote last week that the media's big problem right now is that everyone in the country knows how they'd be covering the shooting if the parties were reversed. Can you imagine if a shooter had visited the office of Sen. Ted Cruz and corresponded with two Republican senators? Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) gave emails to investigators last week but it was treated mostly as local news.
With trust in institutions at historic lows, and the bureaucracy beset by fears of politicization, the FBI made a poor decision to gaslight Americans by claiming that the assassination attempt wasn't premeditated terrorism but a spontaneous ''anger management'' problem. Or, as Jason Beale put it:
The FBI's briefing appears so contrary to the facts as to be insulting. When a man with a history of hating Republicans cases a location, takes pictures, verifies the targets are Republicans before opening fire, has a list of Republican politicians in his pocket, and shoots and nearly kills Republicans, it's hard to swallow the FBI's contention that the shooting was ''spontaneous'' with ''no target.'' The agency should reconsider whether it wants to troll Americans about something this serious.
Poppies$
Narcan-Alert
Chiner$
Ex-CIA officer charged with spying for China - POLITICO
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:42
The case would represent one of the most brazen acts of espionage for China carried out by a veteran of the CIA and other government agencies. | Getty
Prosecutors allege a brazen effort to trade U.S. secrets for cash.
By Josh Gerstein
06/22/2017 08:10 PM EDT
A former Central Intelligence Agency officer is facing charges that he sold top-secret U.S. government documents to China.
Kevin Mallory, 60, was arrested by the FBI at his home in Leesburg, Virginia, on Thursday and brought to federal court in Alexandria to face preliminary charges of espionage and lying to federal officers.
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While the sensitivity of the information disclosed remains unclear, if the government can prove the charges, the case would represent one of the most brazen acts of espionage for China carried out by a veteran of the CIA and other government agencies.
Court filings claim that during a trip to China in March and April, Mallory accepted some kind of secure communication device from a Chinese national. Mallory later told the FBI that he was ''trained to use it specifically for private communications'' with the Chinese citizen, court papers say.
Mallory allegedly acknowledged to the FBI in an interview last month that he had provided unclassified ''white papers'' to the Chinese person in exchange for about $25,000 in cash, but he denied providing any classified information.
An affidavit from FBI agent Stephen Green says that as Mallory demonstrated the device to the FBI, he ''expressed surprise'' when the secure message history began to appear. One message said: ''I can also come in the middle of June I can bring the remainder of the documents I have at that time.''
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Green said the FBI later found incriminating messages on the device. One allegedly said: ''Your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid for.'' Another exchange cited by Green said: ''The black was to cross out the security classification (TOP SECRET//ORCON??...I had to get it out without the chance of discovery ... You can send the funds broken into 4 equal payments over 4 consecutive days....If they we [sic] looking for me in terms of State Secrets, and found the SD card..., we would not be talking today. I am taking the real risk as you...and higher up bosses know.''
The FBI said the same device, which was not described in detail, contained three classified U.S. government documents: one top secret and the other classified as secret.
The court papers do not mention the CIA but say Mallory worked as a diplomatic security agent for the State Department from 1987 to 1990 and then for ''various government agencies, for U.S. cleared defense contractors, and on U.S. Army active duty deployments.'' He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, the FBI says.
A U.S. official confirmed Mallory's CIA link to POLITICO. The connection was first reported by The Washington Post.
A CIA spokesman referred comment to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alexandria. Officials there did not respond to messages Thursday.
Data from resumes for Mallory posted online indicate that he served for a time as an economic officer at the American Institute in Taiwan, which represents U.S. government interests there. Economic officer posts abroad are often populated by CIA personnel.
The resume data on the internet also indicate Mallory claimed to have worked for the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration. Those affiliations could not immediately be confirmed.
At a brief court hearing Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan ordered Mallory be held in custody pending a detention hearing Friday afternoon.
FBI and Justice Department officials said in statements that the charges should serve as a reminder of the consequences for what they called ''unauthorized disclosures,'' a category of offenses that includes both espionage and leaking to the media.
''Kevin Mallory was previously entrusted with Top Secret clearance and therefore had access to classified information, which he allegedly shared and planned to continue sharing with representatives of a foreign government,'' said Andrew Vale, the head of the FBI's Washington field office, in a news release. ''Furthermore, he allegedly misled investigators in a voluntary interview about sharing of this classified information. The FBI will continue to investigate those individuals who put our national security at risk through unauthorized disclosures of information.''
Dana Boente, who is the U.S. attorney in Alexandria and the acting head of Justice's National Security Division, also underscored the gravity of the charges.
''The conduct alleged in this complaint is serious, and these charges should send a message to anyone who would consider violating the public's trust and compromising our national security by disclosing classified information,'' Boente said in a news release.
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Shut Up Slave!
Sydney CEOs slammed for VR goggles simulating homelessness | Daily Mail Online
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:45
The head honchos of Australia's most profitable businesses gathered together to raise money for homeless people by partaking in the 'CEO Sleepout'.
But the wealthy bosses were slammed after it emerged the men and women were given virtual reality headsets to simulate homelessness instead of actually sleeping rough on the streets.
Footage of a row of CEOs wearing the expensive headsets as they experienced 'what it was like to be homeless' through futuristic software sparked fury from dozens of critics who slammed them as 'out of touch' with reality.
Scroll down for video
The wealthy men and women were filmed wearing virtual reality goggles as part of the CEO Sleepout
Footage of a row of CEOs wearing the expensive headsets as they experienced 'what it was like to be homeless' through futuristic software sparked fury from dozens of critics who slammed them as 'out of touch' with reality
Dozens of Twitter users quickly slammed the charity for spending money on VR goggles
One sarcastic user implied the virtual world is no where near as awful as the reality for homeless people
The caption of the video, posted to Twitter, read: 'Our Sydney CEOs using virtual reality to get a glimpse of the realities faced by the people who experience this everyday.'
But despite the noble intentions behind the cause, the charity was instantly condemned online by users who were unimpressed by the philanthropists wearing VR goggles instead of taking to the streets.
'When you want to be woke but don't actually want to mingle with the dirty poors,' one Twitter user joked.
'Lord forbid they go anywhere near a real homeless person,' another wrote.
Others encouraged the wealthy business leaders to live in the 'real' world where people are forced to sleep nightly on Sydney's cold streets.
'Lord forbid they go anywhere near a real homeless person,' one person wrote
This Twitter user pointed out the money spent on expensive software could have been used to help homeless people
The St Vincent De Paul charity aims to raise money and awareness for homeless people in Australia
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (pictured) attended the CEO Sleepout in 2016
'Um, maybe with what you paid for the VR headsets you could have fed, bathed and housed ACTUAL homeless people,' one woman said.
Another sarcastically wrote: 'Yes! Dealing with the virtual cold, the virtual violence, the virtual hunger, the virtual untreated illness, the virtual despair...'
The businessmen and women involved in the annual CEO Sleepout includes John O'Sullivan, CEO of Tourism Australia, Annabel Spring, Group Executive for Wealth Management at Commonwealth Bank, Tobi Pearce, partner of Kayla Istines and CEO of the Bikini Body Training Company and even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
During the event CEOs from across Australia 'sleep rough' on cardboard and in sleeping bags on the streets of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Gold Coast, Launceston, Canberra, Newcastle and Wollongong.
Organised by St Vincent De Paul, it aims to raise millions of dollars to help solve the homelessness crisis.
So far in 2017 the initiative has raised well over $5 million from donations.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted the organisers of the CEO Sleepout for comment.
During the event CEOs from across Australia 'sleep rough' on cardboard and in sleeping bags on the streets of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Gold Coast, Launceston, Canberra, Newcastle and Wollongong
Hundreds of wealthy businessmen and women attend the CEO Sleepout annually and raise millions towards the cause
EuroLand
Twelve Islamic militants used sledgehammers and crowbars to smash graves of British war heroes in a mindless rampage in Aden, Yemen
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:25
St Joseph Church was also set on fire and ransacked
GRAVES and monuments to fallen British servicemen were smashed in a mindless rampage by Islamic militants.
The graves of children were also targeted as the al-Qaeda thugs left a trail of destruction in the former British colony of Aden, Yemen.
Graves and monuments to fallen British servicemen smashed up in mindless rampage
Shattered headstone after attack at the Hafoon Cemetery in Maala
Twelve al-Qaeda thugs left a trail of destruction in Yemen
The rampage in the port city of Aden took place in December 2015, but nothing has been done to repair the damageThe attack at the Hafoon Cemetery in Maala was launched by 12 balaclava-clad, gun-toting extremists who used sledgehammers and crowbars to destroy 1,927 graves.
St Joseph Church, which overlooks the graveyard, was also set on fire and ransacked.
The rampage in the port city of Aden took place on December 12, 2015 but, 18 months on, nothing has been done to repair the damage.
Nearly 2,000 graves and monuments to war heroes and children were smashed up with crowbars and sledgehammers
Rampage on the tragic site took place as civil war raged in the region in Yemen
Australian peace negotiator Dominic Ryan took these dramatic pictures in Yemen
Knocked over headstone to British war hero who died in conflict overseas
The balaclava-clad, gun-toting extremists destroyed nearly 2,000 gravesIt took place as civil war raged, allowing al-Qaeda and ISIS factions to launch strikes amid the chaos.
The graves include those of military personnel who served with Britain's forces in the colony from 1839 to 1967.
The graves included those of military personnel who served in the colony from 1839 to 1967
Commonwealth War Graves Commission have been unable to repair damage to the monuments
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DEADLY POOL SHOCKFirst pictures of Turkey Water park victims who were electrocuted at popular tourist resort - including dad and son owners who jumped in to try to save teens
Dominic Ryan, 46, hopes the pictures will encourage a restoration project
Dramatic pictures show the aftermath of the mindless attack in a graveyard
Sledgehammers and crowbars were used to destroy the monumentsOur images of the destruction were taken by Australian peace negotiator Dominic Ryan, 46.
He said: ''I would hope that these pictures might initiate a response to get people to come here and restore the cemetery.''
St Joseph Church was also set on fire and ransacked
Inside the church after Islamic thugs ransack graveyard with guns and other dangerous weapons
Aerial footage of the devastation in Yemen
Tory MP Johnny Mercer slams militants after attack on the graveyard
Painstaking work needs to be done to repair the damage in the graveyardThe Commonwealth War Graves Commission said it was unable to get in and repair the damage because of the ongoing turmoil in Yemen.
Tory MP Johnny Mercer said: ''The people who did it will never know the sort of qualities and principles that those men fought for and died for.''
'An insult to us all'
ONE of the desecrated graves is that of Royal Navy Reserve Francis Fantham, who died at just 22 in June 1941.
The granite headstone, with an engraved naval anchor and a cross, lies smashed amid the rubble.
It shows that the Ordinary Seaman, who died from an unspecified illness, served on HMS Carlisle.
His nephew, Derek Forrester, 68, of Swanley, Kent, said: ''It's an appalling act of vandalism and shows complete disregard for all those buried there.''
Heart-stopping moment hero aid worker runs through a hail of ISIS gunfire to save girl
Government - Ministry of Defence - News RU central say no more immigrants
Fri, 23 Jun 2017 00:55
On Monday, 19 June, a discussion took place in Prague on the role of the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC) in managing mass illegal migration.
The management of mass illegal migration '' with special regard to the status of the Western Balkans route '' topped the agenda at the defence ministerial meeting organized by the Czech presidency of the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC). The Hungarian delegation was headed by Deputy Minister of Defence Tams Vargha, Parliamentary State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence.
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The Czech, Austrian, Croatian, Slovak, Slovenian and Hungarian delegations discussed the Joint Action Plan that had been prepared in accordance with a decision taken at the joint meeting of the ''Forum Salzburg'' and CEDC interior and defence ministers in Vienna in February 2017. Among other things, the plan is aimed at establishing a crisis management coordination mechanism based on a joint situation analysis evaluating the migration pressure and the assessment of measures for preventing potential crisis situations in the framework of civil-military cooperation.
At the meeting, the participants issued a short declaration which welcomes the Joint Action Plan and calls on the interior ministers of the involved countries to finalize it in the shortest time possible. The declaration takes note of the unified situation assessment, which facilitates the quick and joint mobilization of civilian, police and military capabilities, and states that the most important task is the protection of the external borders of the EU and the elimination of the root causes of migration in the sending countries. It underlines that the CEDC member countries are willing to further enhance their cooperation and, if needed, to provide mutual assistance in the interest of managing the migration crisis. The declaration also emphasizes the importance of preserving stability in the Western Balkans.
Finally, the participants of the meeting talked about the wider context of Europe's security situation and the next steps in strengthening the European common security and defence policy.
(Ministry of Defence)
NA-Tech News
Google to stop scanning users' Gmail inboxes to send ads - Business Insider
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:40
Jens Meyer/AP Images Google's not going to be peeking in your inbox anymore.
The search giant announced Friday it will stop scanning user's Gmail inboxes for ad personalization purposes. Instead the company will show users ads based on their activities on other Google sites and those of its partners '-- unless they opt out of such targeted marketing.
Google didn't explain what prompted the change. But the company noted that it doesn't scan the inboxes of people who get Gmail through its corporate-targeted G Suite service. And the change to Gmail will make ads on the service " in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products," the company said.
Google didn't say when it will make the change, only that it will happen "later this year." Company representatives did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Currently, Google scans Gmail users' email for information that can be used to target them with particular ads. For example, if Google sees you've been getting a lot of messages about shoes, it might hit you with a deal from the Nordstrom on your block.
The company will continue to display such targeted ads in the future. They just won't be based on your activities on Gmail, but instead on things like your Google searches, the YouTube videos you watch, the apps you use, and the websites you visit. You can opt out of those targeted ads '-- but not Google's data collecting '-- by turning off "ad personalization" in your personal Google settings.
Google's practice of scanning users' email messages has long been controversial, and consumer advocates have long raised privacy concerns about it. Google's change comes amid heightened concerns about the amount of personal data companies and businesses are collecting on consumers and the security of that data.
In addition to announcing the change to Gmail, Google crowed about G Suite's recent performance. Usage of the service by large business has more than doubled over the past year, the company said. More than 3 million companies are now paying to use the service.
Get the latest Google stock price here.
CLIPS AND DOCS
VIDEO - Leaked Police Report Exposes 23 Muslim-Controlled "No Go Zones" In Sweden: Plagued With Violence, Sexual Assaults,
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:17
Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,
Though European leaders and their US-based counterparts have vehemently denied their existence, a leaked report from the Swedish police confirms that there are at least 23 Muslim-controlled ''No-Go Zones'' and some 60 ''vulnerable areas'' where non-muslim citizens of the country can no longer visit safely.
As noted in the RT video below, the areas are plagued with violence, sexual assaults and gun crimes, and things have gotten so bad that police and emergency services personnel refuse to enter.
According to the Swedish National Police Commissioner:
We see developments in our country which are not always going in the right direction'... We have more than 60 vulnerable areas in and around major cities in Sweden.. and we see criminality there and we need to turn around these developments in those areas'... and we need the assistance of other parts of our society.
Call us crazy, but maybe not allowing mass migration from countries with ideals, morals and laws that run nearly 100% counter to those of your country would be a good start?
While that may be considered racist, xenophobic and nationalistic by many ''progressives'' around the world, one simply can't deny that such no-go zones are the result of forced cultural assimilation. Of course, the assimilation requirement appears to only involve the natural citizens of the countries in question, because apparently migrants can engage in any sort of activities they wish without consequence.
As one angry foreigner from Sweden previously explained, it is now taboo in Sweden (and all civilized Western countries) to take pride in one's country and culture, noting that by doing so you are considered ''racist.''
The fact is that Western and Islamic culture sit on two completely different sides of the spectrum, and while the West has welcomed millions of refugees over the last several years, the same doesn't appear to be true for the migrants.
In Britain, for example, followers of Islam are feverishly working to build a nation within a nation, ruled by Sharia law with no regard to Britain's legal system.
The same has been true across America. In fact, the issue is so serious that the Texas State legislature recently passed a bill that would force State courts to ignore any foreign law when deciding cases.
''My colleagues and I here at the Texas Legislature want to make sure Texas judges never apply foreign law in Texas courts in violation of constitutional rights and the public policy of our state,'' said Flynn.
Under HB 45, Texas and U.S. law supersede all other laws. It prevents state judges from applying any foreign law because, in doing so, it infringes upon U.S. and Texas constitutional rights. The bill shields litigants in family law cases ''against violations of constitutional rights and public policy in the application of foreign law'' under the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, federal and judicial precedent, the Texas Family Code, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, among other protections.
You'd think such a law wouldn't be necessary in America, but the last few years show that the Islamization, and thus the push for Sharia Law, is happening right here and now.
VIDEO - Krauthammer: Desperation Leading Democrats Down 'A Rabbit Hole'
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:15
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Democrats' desperation is showing, commentator Charles Krauthammer said Friday, noting that Democrats are straying farther and farther from common sense with each new round of allegations against President Donald Trump.
Democrats are now claiming that Trump committed witness intimidation by raising the subject of ''tapes'' in a tweet aimed at former FBI Director James Comey.
''The idea that this is intimidation of a witness is pure rubbish. If you say to somebody, 'You've got a great family, hate to see anything happen to your kids, watch what you say,' that's intimidation of a witness,'' Krauthammer said.
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What Trump did, Krauthammer said, was very different.
''If you say, 'There may be a way to actually '-- to figure out exactly what was said, there could be a mechanism, thus you ought to watch what you say.' That's not intimidation at all,'' he said.
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''We're now at sort of the tertiary level of accusation,'' Krauthammer said as he recounted the Democrats' lack of success in getting any of their claims against Trump to be born out by the facts.
''You can't get anywhere on collusion. We have yet in almost a year to have any evidence of collusion. So they're on to obstruction. Obstruction is really kind of shaky. There isn't really that much there. So now you want to go to intimidation of a witness,'' he said.
Krauthammer said the need for something to use against Trump is making the Democrats leave good sense behind.
''They're getting a bit desperate. This is going to happen. This will go on for months and years perhaps, but it's getting more and more absurd,'' he said.
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However, if Democrats want to send the time between now and the mid-term elections making claims that never stick, it is their problem, Krauthammer said.
''It's tail chasing, and if the Democrats want to spend the next year, year-and-a-half in a rabbit hole, be our guest,'' he said.
Writing on Young Conservatives, Mary Kate Knorr seconded Krauthammer's comments.
''Democrats' obsession with incriminating and impeaching Trump is a diversion that distracts from the fact they have no momentum, no agenda, and no realistic or scalable goals for the foreseeable future,'' she wrote.
''Their clinging to the 'resistance' '-- even if only in their actions and not necessarily in their messaging '-- is a showcase of their total lack of direction or vision for a future Democratic party of the United States of America,'' she added.
What do you think? Scroll down to comment below.
VIDEO - CIA Director Mike Pompeo: Trump's "An Avid Consumer" Of Intel, Will "Punish Leakers"
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:14
In his first interview since becoming the head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo pushed back against accusations that President Donald Trump doesn't read his daily intelligence briefings, claiming that the president is ''very interested'' in what's happening at the intelligence communities and that his daily in-person briefings with the president typically run longer than their allotted time.
Pompeo tells MSNBC that Trump is a demanding boss who asks ''great questions'' and is trying to enable the CIA to take a more active ''operational'' role in countering threats posed by the US's enemies.
Pompeo began by responding to criticism that some say Trump is "uninterested in facts":
''I cannot imagine a statement that is any more false than one that would attribute President Trump of not being interested in the intelligence community. He is an avid consumer of the products the CIA provides he thinks about them and comes back and asks great questions and perhaps most importantly relies on them.''
As the Hill pointed out, Pompeo acknowledged that the CIA has been harmed by information leaks in recent years, but said that he and Trump are focused on shutting down the leakers.
''There have been failures,'' he said. ''You have not only nation states trying to steal our stuff but ... folks like Wikileaks.''
He went on to say that he believes under Trump, the intelligence community will be able to both stop and punish leaking.
''We and all of President Trump's government are focused on stopping leaks," he said, "and I think we'll have some successes both on the deterrence side, that is stopping them from happening, as well as on punishing those who we catch who have done it."
When asked about cooperation within the intelligence community, Pompeo said he suspects it has improved since the pre-9/11 era, though imperfections remain.
''I think we're in a much better place today whether we've connected them all or not I suspect perfection cannot be achieved. The intelligence community have taken answers to today's problems and applied them in really interesting ways.''
As Pompeo's interviewer, NBC's Hugh Hewitt, noted, the intelligence community almost universally assumed that Clinton was going to win November's election.
But now that Trump is in power, how is the administration triaging the US's enemies? Pompeo says he and the president spend the most time discussing the threat posed by North Korea. Trump scored a major foreign policy victory this week after Chinese state media reported that the Communist Party has agreedwith the US that the Korean peninsula needs to undergo ''complete, verifiable and irreversible'' denuclearization.
Chinese state media described the talks, the first of their kind with the Trump administration, as an upgrade in dialogue mechanisms between China and the United States, following on from President Xi Jinping's meeting with Trump in Florida in April.
''North Korea is a very real danger. I hardly escape a day at the White House without the president asking me about North Korea and how the US is responding to that threat. For the past 20 years, the US has whistled past the graveyard hoping on hope that North Korea would see a change of color."
"They have the capacity to put America at risk with a nuclear weapon.''
Countering Iran, ISIS and Hezbollah also rank highly on the president's list of priorities. When comparing Hezbollah to Iran, Pompeo said that the latter's resources increase its capability to threaten the US.
''Iran is a powerful nation state with wealth and resources an organized government and an established piece of real estate of which they have complete control'...I would say Iran poses the larger challenge, though I hesitate to rank them. ISIS is an enormous risk to the US today and we need to do everything to defeat them.''
In a sudden, unexpected turn, Hewitt asked Pompeo about Saudi Arabia and the allegations that radical elements within the kingdom's government helped aid and abet the 9/11 hijackers. While Pompeo wouldn't comment on these claims, he offered something almost as telling.
Pompeo said he believes the Saudi Arabian government values the cooperation and friendship of the US, and that the kingdom has made ''a fundamental decision'' not to condone acts of terror, or terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.
''They welcomed an American who wasn't on the side of the Iranians for coming to visit with them. They've come to understand that America will support them when pushing back against enemies that we share and support them to expand their economies as well."
"The Saudis have made a fundamental decision not to engage in that kind of activity that has led to all kinds of trouble in past decades'...I think they understand that it's not in Saudi Arabia's best interest to not support terrorism.''
Of course, Pompeo's response carefully sidestepped any acknowledgment of whether Saudi Arabia once collaborated with Al Qaeda to launch acts of terror against the US. Maybe Pompeo was trying to reassure executives at Saudi Aramco, who have argued against bringing the impending IPO of a 5% stake in the state-owned oil giant to New York City, fearing a lawsuit. Don't worry, he seemed to suggest: All has been forgiven.
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VIDEO - Divers bump into a creature so big it could inhale a human being - AOL News
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 11:00
Close up of bull shark.
(Getty Images/Flickr RF)
This massive whale shark slowly swam right at me just below the surface in crystal clear water just off of Molokini Crater, Maui, Hawaii.
A whale shark, nearly six meters (20 feet) long, swims with its huge mouth open near the surface of the plankton-rich water of Donsol town, 24 May 2007. The whale sharks (scientific name: Rhinchodon typus) have been slaughtered in some other parts of the country before, but environmentalist came to the rescue of the endangered giant fish and developed an eco tourism program for Donsol, turning what was once a backward fishing town in the eastern Philippines into a prime tourist spot offering visitors a swim with the whale sharks and transforming local fishermen into whale spotters, dive guides and whale protectors.
(SCOTT TUASON/AFP/Getty Images)
Tiburon prehistorico filmado vivo en Japan(kainita/Flickr)
Basking shark or Cetorhinus maximus (Getty Images)
In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.
(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)
This picture taken on August 1, 2014 shows a dead whale shark being carried on a tractor in a seafood wholesale market in Xiangzhi township in Quanzhou, east China's Fujian province. Local fishermen caught the whale shark which they thought was a 'sea monster' and reported to local police after returning from the sea, local media reported.
(STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on August 1, 2014 shows a dead whale shark being carried on a tractor in a seafood wholesale market in Xiangzhi township in Quanzhou, east China's Fujian province. Local fishermen caught the whale shark which they thought was a 'sea monster' and reported to local police after returning from the sea, local media reported.
(STR/AFP/Getty Images)
In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.
(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)
In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.
(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)
Common Thresher Shark (Alopias vulpinus) swimming above a coral reef, Big Brother Island, Egypt.
((C) imagebroker / Alamy)
Thresher shark
(Raven_Denmark/Flickr)
Greenland shark
(Photoshot Holdings Ltd / Alamy)
Greenland Sleeper Shark, Somniosus microcephalus, and diver. St. Lawrence River estuary, Canada. Wild & unrestrained shark.
(Doug Perrine via Getty Images)
Greenland Sleeper Shark, Somniosus microcephalus, swimming over field of plumose anemones, Metridium senile. Parasitic Copepod, Ommatokoita elongata, attached to eye. St. Lawrence River estuary, Canada.
(Doug Perrine via Getty Images)
Cornish fisherman Chris Bean's crewmate Mario 'Chino' Rios brings aboard a monkfish (which was later sold directly to the exclusive Paternoster Chop House in the heart of the City of London) caught using overnight nets, a few miles out to sea near Helford on February 25 2009 in Cornwall, England. The Cornish-born 61-year-old skipper of the vessel, the Lady Hamilton - which he had built a year after he started fishing professionally in 1972 - fishes most days, catching fish such as monkfish, sole and red mullet, as well as crab, using traditional, sustainable and environmentally friendly methods, which he then sells directly to local and national customers - including well known sushi eateries and exclusive restaurants in the heart of London. After being caught, the fish is brought ashore at Helford - which was at the centre of a planning row with local fishermen and second home-owners about the construction of a new jetty - is boxed in ice and sent by courier directly to national buyers, often leading to the fish being presented on the plates of restaurant customers in the capital less than 24 hours after being caught of the coast of Cornwall.
(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
In this handout picture released by Awashima Marine Park, a 1.6 meter long Frill shark swims in a tank after being found by a fisherman at a bay in Numazu, on January 21, 2007 in Numazu, Japan. The frill shark, also known as a Frilled shark usually lives in waters of a depth of 600 meters and so it is very rare that this shark is found alive at sea-level. It's body shape and the number of gill are similar to fossils of sharks which lived 350,000,000 years ago.
(Photo by Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images)
A 130-centimetre long goblin shark swims in a tank at the Tokyo Sea Life Park's aquarium in this handout photo taken on January 25, 2007 by the park in Tokyo. The Goblin Shark, a deep sea "living fossil" shark, was caught off the shallows of Tokyo Bay and survived barely a week in its new environment. The shark was the second deep sea shark to have been found in the same month.
(REUTERS/Tokyo Sea Life Park/Handout)
VIDEO - Canada Ponders an Unusual Drug Problem: a Shortage of Marijuana - Bloomberg
Sun, 25 Jun 2017 10:56
The biggest challenge for Justin Trudeau's forthcoming legal recreational marijuana market is a shortage of pot, the finance minister of Canada's most-populous province says.
Ontario's Charles Sousa said a supply crunch was discussed during a meeting with provincial and federal counterparts this week. Canada is aiming to legalize recreational pot in the next 12 months, the first major economy to do so. One analyst said he's concerned the government could use a supply shortage as an excuse to delay rolling out the program.
''Ultimately the biggest problem that appears after today's discussion is one of supply,'' Sousa said in an interview this week. Finance ministers were told demand is ''quite high'' for marijuana already in Canada, he said. ''So we want to make certain that, when we do proceed, there is sufficient supply to accommodate the activity because what we're trying to do is curb the illicit use and organized crime that now exists around it.''
Trudeau's framework for legalization, unveiled in April, will rely on Canada's provinces to set up sale and distribution regimes, while at minimum selling recreational pot by mail beginning some time before July 2018. Key details including taxation remain up in the air. Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said he favors a tax rate that will starve out the black market, one of the government's key objectives. ''That as a conclusion would lead us to say taxation rates have to be low,'' Morneau told reporters after the June 19 meeting, where he said they discussed the need for a ''coordinated'' approach.
Initial ShortageCanada's burgeoning marijuana industry has ballooned in value amid optimism over Trudeau's plan for recreational sales, which Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. said in November could reach C$6 billion ($4.5 billion) annually by 2021. Combined demand for recreational and medical marijuana may reach 575,000 kilograms by 2021, according to the report.
The government says a key aim is to shrink or altogether kill the black market, and any shortage of legal weed would hinder that effort. Trudeau's plans also allow people to grow up to four plants in a home.
Companies are still in the midst of trying to build and expand their facilities and everything would have to go ''perfectly'' in order to have enough supply, PI Financial analyst Jason Zandberg said. Initial sales will probably be online and by mail as it wouldn't be possible for the market to stock enough inventory in government dispensaries across the country.
Expanding patient lists are creating a shortage in Canada's medical marijuana market as some producers stop taking new clients or sell out of certain strains, Zandberg said.
Erik Hertzberg/Bloomberg
''There will be a shortage initially,'' the analyst said by telephone. ''My concerns are that if that is used as an excuse to push the date of recreational legalization back, there's a danger that it slips into the next election cycle and doesn't actually happen.''
Canada had 167,754 registered medicinal marijuana users as of March 31, triple the amount from a year earlier. Supply shortages are already a problem for Canada's existing legalized medicinal market, said Greg Engel, chief executive officer of Organigram Holdings Inc., a Moncton-based producer.
Companies ''are building out additional capacity very actively and aggressively'' for both the medicinal and recreational markets, Engel said. Organigram's capacity is 6,000 kilograms annually and will reach 26,000 kilograms annually by the end of 2018, he said, though companies still don't know exactly what they can sell. ''We do need clarity very soon from the federal government.''
Production CycleHealth Canada pledged last month to speed up its approval process for applicants seeking a license to grow marijuana. The agency has been more responsive but it still takes up to a year for a new producer to ramp up production and get product to market, said Cam Mingay, a senior partner at Cassels Brock who follows the industry.
''I don't know what anyone can do about it -- you can't force the plants to grow faster,'' he said when asked about a shortage. Approving more companies wouldn't be a silver bullet. ''You could approve 50 more tomorrow, and realistically they could probably be in production by the end of 2018 in any meaningful capacity.''
While the government has issued a number of new licenses, it may still take 12 months or more for new companies to start ramping up production, said Beacon Securities analyst Vahan Ajamian. The available supply hasn't kept pace with the growth in medical marijuana patients and it's unclear what type of products will be available on the legal market next year and the level of taxation, he said.
Rushed Timeline''On July 1, are millions of people going to go online and start buying legally or will there be a slow transition over the next five years from the black market to the legal regulated market?'' Ajamian said.
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Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen has expressed concern about the timeline, saying it is too rushed to implement a legal market for recreational marijuana by July 2018. Sousa said his government has no problem with the implementation date -- which sets up the pot regime to kick in sometime around an election next year in the province. Ontario is eyeing a number of options for setting up retail sales, Sousa said, though he acknowledged other provinces are at different stages.
''What we want is to basically be sure that all of Canada is able to implement and distribute at the same time,'' he said. ''I think some provinces are still trying to come to grips with how to get it done.''
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VIDEO - John Oliver sued by coal CEO over cause of mine disaster and a squirrel - Jun. 22, 2017
Thu, 22 Jun 2017 21:00
Robert Murray, the CEO of one of America's largest coal companies, filed a defamation lawsuit against Oliver on Wednesday. The lawsuit claims the HBO comedian executed a "meticulously planned" and "ruthless character assassination" designed to boost TV ratings and hurt his mining company.
The lawsuit named Oliver, the show's production company, his senior news producer Charles Wilson, HBO and Time Warner (TWX ) (which owns CNN). The complaint alleges that Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" episode on Sunday "incited" viewers to "do harm to Mr. Murray and his companies." It also claims the miner's website was hacked as a result of the segment, and that Oliver's statements constitute "false light invasion of privacy" and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
During his June 18 show, Oliver lambasted President Trump over his promises to bring back thousands of coal mining jobs, a pledge the comedian says is a false promise to an industry that's been in a steep decline for decades.
The segment, which has been viewed 4.5 million times on YouTube, devoted several minutes to Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, and a vocal champion of the coal industry. Oliver told the audience that Murray had warned him he would sue and bring the case all the way to the Supreme Court if he failed to "cease and desist" any effort to "defame, harass, or otherwise injure Mr. Murray or Murray Energy."
Oliver said on air that he would "proceed with caution," and then he launched into a monologue comparing the 77-year-old coal exec to a "geriatric Dr. Evil." The segment chronicled Murray's career in mining and his handling of a 2007 mine collapse in Utah that left six miners and three rescuers dead.
"An honest conversation about coal and its miners needs to be had," Oliver said, "and we should neither cease nor desist from having it."
But the complaint alleges that Oliver and the show "intentionally, falsely, and outrageously" suggested that Murray had no evidence to support statements that the mine collapse was caused by an earthquake. The lawsuit claims Oliver ignored studies supporting Murray and quoted others out of context.
Related: Coal king: It's 'wonderful' Trump ditched Paris deal
Oliver later recounted a story -- that Murray has denied happened -- that the CEO told workers the idea for starting a mine company came to him from a squirrel.
At the end of the show, the HBO host trotted a man dressed in a giant squirrel costume onto stage to address Murray directly. "Bob, I just wanted to say if you plan on suing, I do not have a billion dollars, but I do have a check for three acorns and 18 cents," the squirrel said.
"It's made out to 'Eat sh*t Bob!," the squirrel said, while holding up a giant fake check with "kiss my ass!" scrawled in the memo field.
Oliver acknowledged during the show that Murray is "probably going to sue me." He added, "You know what? I stand by everything I said."
In a statement, HBO said: "We have confidence in the staff of Last Week Tonight and do not believe anything in the show this week violated Mr. Murray's or Murray Energy's rights."
Related: Coal country's message to Trump: We want jobs of the future
Murray Energy's complaint referred to Oliver, who is British, as a "foreign national residing in New York." The company, in a separate statement, called Murray a "patriotic American."
The lawsuit also described Murray as seriously ill, saying he depends on an oxygen tank, needs a lung transplant and "does not expect to live to see the end of this case."
"Nothing has ever stressed him more than this vicious and untruthful attack," the complaint said, adding it has caused "significant emotional and physical distress."
Murray Energy said that after the Oliver show, its website was attacked three different times by hackers who attempted to crash it. On the third attempt, Murray Energy said it had to take down its website to implement new security measures.
Murray Energy also said it received "numerous harassing telephone calls," including from callers who simply said: "Eat Sh*t, Bob."
The coal magnate has spoken out publicly to criticize environmental restrictions on the coal industry and has described former President Barack Obama's agenda as "evil."
Murray also filed a libel suit against the New York Times earlier this year for statements it made about the Utah mine collapse. The Times said it has moved to dismiss the suit.
CNNMoney (New York) First published June 22, 2017: 3:58 PM ET
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