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May 20, 2019, 09:04 AM
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 1 
 on: Today at 08:02 AM 
Started by Sunya - Last post by Helena
Hi Sunya,

don't know if this helps but i was reading your post and some analogy came up...
For me, balsamic is a pisces phase... So everything shows up very much diffused, loosing (the old) definition.
The analogy that came up for me is the person that is running the marathon and right at the end of it, say 2 or 3 kilometres before the finishing line, a sudden fog shows up in the race track, the person can't even see/recognize the track anymore. It's not that the person is going to stop right there, no it has sufficient road before to know it can finish!, but will have to slow down, pay more attention to the path it's taking, deal with doubt (is this the right way? is that the right way?), but above all trust it will get to the finishing line, and it will be worth it, make and overall sense in the end. Maybe things, won't turn out to end like it was planned, or it has to stop somewhere to help a fellow athlete, and not about wining anymore, or the path that was lively and full of other runners, turns into a (most times lone) soul searching walk...It is also about resting amidst the doubting, that no matter how long it takes, it will end, and the most of it has already passed...

Hope it makes some sense :-)
Helena

 2 
 on: Today at 05:37 AM 
Started by Sunya - Last post by Sunya
Reading about balsamic phases I find that is a moment for letting go and finishing with it.

But with my observations I find that could be a very stressful stage. To illustrate it i will talk about two cases that I deeply know one is the case of a girl, and the other is my own case.

In the case of the girl she has pluto and South node in intercepted scorpio, so they are ruled by venus {libra in 5th cusp} North node in taurus intercepted, so ruled by Mars { aries in 11th cusp}

Venus Mars in balsamic

She manifested that with intimate relationships, she lose her center, became jealous, needy, demanding and total dependent. She get frustrated because he feels that she reduce the whole world to his partner. Despite this knowledge she always finish in relationships where she demands the other person to be perfect and cover all her needs... A perfect blue prince partner that solve all her needs and problems.

In my case venus mercury balsamic conjunction ruling a lot of things. In 11th cancer. I'm looking always for a perfect theory that resolve all my needs and problems. A theory for everything. And like a drug addict I'm consuming one theory after another.... Like the smoker saying this is the last cigarrete!!!! I have some intuition this perfect theory doesn't exist, this are only naive idealizations, but despite this I continue in the search looking and looking. It's a kind of student stress.... Tomorrow is the final balsamic exam and I haven't study enough!!!

So in both cases is very very hard to let go and stressful. It's a kind of feeling of something is missing I can't let go yet.

Is this only my observations on balsamic or is a general pattorn in EA?

In balsamic phase what is the resolution? ... Continue the striving to find a situation that more or less works, match and satisfy oneself and then surrender. Or directly surrender and letting go without the Soul arriving to that point of saying.... OK I got it!


 3 
 on: Today at 05:32 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
MSNBC’s Morning Joe busts GOP hypocrisy on impeachment: ‘They all trash Trump behind closed doors’

Travis Gettys
20 May 2019 at 07:13 ET                   

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough busted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for “lying” about fellow Republican Rep. Justin Amash — who became the first GOP lawmaker to describe President Donald Trump’s behavior as impeachable.

Amash tweeted out his conclusions over the weekend after reading special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, and he believes Trump committed multiple impeachable offenses — but McCarthy dismissed those concerns as a cry for attention and accused the Michigan Republican of siding more with Democrats in his voting record.

“He’s just lying,” Scarborough said. “Hey, Republicans, your leader is lying about a fellow member who spoke his mind.”

Amash has voted with Trump more than 60 percent of the time, including 91.7 percent in this congressional term, and the “Morning Joe” host exposed McCarthy’s hypocrisy on the president — whom he privately worried was compromised by Russia.

“It’s very interesting, Kevin McCarthy behind closed doors — remember this?” Scarborough said. “What’s so interesting is that Kevin McCarthy … I think you’ll remember this, just like so many other republicans who trashed Donald Trump by the day behind closed doors, wasn’t it Kevin McCarthy that was talking about Donald Trump’s connection with Vladimir Putin and he was curious about Dana Rohrabacher.”

“He’s the hypocrite that goes on TV and says, ‘I don’t think (Amash) ever supported Donald Trump,'” he added. “(McCarthy) said Donald Trump might be guilty of treason.”

The “Morning Joe” host said Republicans privately agree with Amash, but refuse to say so publicly.

“They all trash Donald Trump behind closed doors, they all know that these offenses are impeachable,” Scarborough said. “They all say it behind closed doors but, turn on the cameras, and they become cowards. Justin isn’t, and he’s getting trashed by his leader.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLgGNcNUMDk

 4 
 on: Today at 05:16 AM 
Started by Sunya - Last post by Rad
Hi Sunya,

With the N.Node balsamic to Pluto the Soul has begun a process of culmination of an entire evolutionary cycle of development. In essence, the Soul progressively becomes aware of what it no longer needs in order to evolve, and, at the same time, is becoming aware of what it does need in order to do so.

When the conjunction takes place, balsamic, the Soul is is seeding itself in terms of what new experiences/ dynamics, desires it has in order for this culmination leading to a new beginning, a new evolutionary cycle to take place. With the new phase conjunction of Pluto and the N.Node the Soul is setting in motion all that which is has been seeded into itself.

In essence, the N.Node and Pluto in these symbols correlates to PULLING everything the Soul has done, and will be doing, forwards through them.

God Bless, Rad

 5 
 on: Today at 04:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
‘Unfathomable evil’: Trump’s proposed plan to pardon war criminals provokes massive backlash

Common Dreams
20 May 2019 at 07:40 ET                  

Progressives, human rights advocates, and journalists responded with outrage on Saturday to a New York Times report that President Donald Trump “has requested the immediate preparation of paperwork needed to pardon several American military members accused or convicted of war crimes.”

Unnamed U.S. government officials told the Times that on or around Memorial Day, Trump may pardon multiple servicemembers involved with “high-profile cases of murder, attempted murder, and desecration of a corpse.”

As the newspaper reported:

    The requests are for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who is scheduled to stand trial in the coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.

    They are also believed to include the case of a former Blackwater security contractor recently found guilty in the deadly 2007 shooting of dozens of unarmed Iraqis; the case of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, the Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; and the case of a group of Marine Corps snipers charged with urinating on the corpse of a dead Taliban fighter.

“These are all extremely complicated cases that have gone through a careful system of consideration,” Gary Solis, a retired military judge and armor officer who served in Vietnam, told the Times. “A freewheeling pardon undermines that whole system.”

Solis warned that pardoning servicemembers accused or convicted of war crimes “raises the prospect in the minds of the troops that says, ‘Whatever we do, if we can get the folks back home behind us, maybe we can get let off.'”

The news on Saturday came after Trump, earlier this month, pardoned former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, who was convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner in 2008. As Common Dreams reported at the time, human rights advocates decried that decision as “a presidential endorsement of a murder that violated the military’s own code of justice.”

The Times report—on which the White House and Justice Department declined to comment—was met with similar condemnation.

The Atlantic‘s Adam Serwer, who spoke out against Trump’s pardon of Behenna, tweeted, “This incentivizes the commission of war crimes by our opponents and allies, and in doing so puts U.S. servicemembers at greater risk.”

    Gonna say this again—this incentivizes the commission of war crimes by our opponents and allies, and in doing so puts US servicemembers at greater risk. https://t.co/jsEmw7UHn8

    — Adam Serwer🍝 (@AdamSerwer) May 18, 2019

Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth said, “Think of the horrible message that sends to would-be war criminals around the world.”

    Trump is threatening to pardon US military members accused or convicted of killing civilians and other war crimes. Think of the horrible message that sends to would-be war criminals around the world. https://t.co/yEsDAfR8lX

    — Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) May 18, 2019

Murtaza Mohammad Hussain, a reporter at The Intercept, denounced Trump’s expected move as “a huge injustice to those whose lives they destroyed and a message that America will tolerate war crimes.”

    Trump is getting ready to pardon some of America’s most horrifying recent war criminals. A huge injustice to those whose lives they destroyed and a message that America will tolerate war crimes: https://t.co/2uBwqa6sDy pic.twitter.com/5TloLVJgXH

    — Murtaza Mohammad Hussain (@MazMHussain) May 18, 2019

Their criticism was echoed by others, including journalist Ryan Devereaux, who suggested that “if you were to make a list of ‘top notorious U.S. war crimes of the post-9/11 era’ it would look a lot like the president’s pardoning plans.”

    If you were to make a list of “top notorious U.S. war crimes of the post-9/11 era” it would look a lot like the president’s pardoning plans — literal murderers’ row https://t.co/ykuftZh8EU

    — Ryan Devereaux (@rdevro) May 18, 2019

    Who pardons war criminals? DICTATORS. What is the signal you give by doing this? No amount of violence whether at home or abroad will be punished; no one will be held accountable. https://t.co/qU6kvQUZNZ

    — Jodi Jacobson (@jljacobson) May 18, 2019

    Fuck this. Unfathomable evil recognizing unfathomable evil. https://t.co/cwfryocl9t

    — Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) May 18, 2019

*************

No holds Barred: Trump and his troops push for imperial presidency

With his compliant attorney general, the man in the White House is taking aim at the constitutional balance of powers

David Smith in Washington
Guardian
20 May 2019 06.00 BST

William Barr, the attorney general, came face to face this week with Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, at the Capitol in Washington. Shaking her hand, Barr was said to have joked: “Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs?”

The remark, at a ceremony honouring fallen law enforcement officers, was a riposte to Pelosi’s quip a week earlier that if all members of the Trump administration were arrested, the jail in the Capitol basement would be overcrowded. (There is in fact no such jail.)

But it was also indicative of how Barr, and his paymaster in the White House, are perceived to be laughing in the face of congressional oversight and the rule of law. Indeed, following the sporting maxim that attack is the best form of defence, Trump had adopted the language of a tinpot dictator, denouncing the Russia investigation as a failed “coup”, branding his pursuers as traitors and threatening to lock them up.

“My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on,” he tweeted at 7.11am on Friday. “Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!”

    He’s attempting to create a counter-narrative based on conspiracy theories in which the FBI is cast as the villain
    Sidney Blumenthal

The intention, critics argue, is to turn the tables and delegitimise the case laid out against him in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference, or at least crank up a giant fog machine that leaves the electorate weary and confused. But one side-effect could be a slide into an imperial presidency.

“Investigate the investigators!” has been the battle cry of Trump, Republicans and media allies ever since Barr produced a four-page summary of Mueller’s report that misleadingly implied Trump had been completely cleared of collusion and obstruction of justice. In fact the report documented numerous contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials and identified 11 instances in which Trump or his campaign attempted to illegally impede the investigation.

On 25 March, the day after Barr’s letter was released, the Fox News host Sean Hannity bristled with self-righteous indignation and thirsted for vengeance.

“This must be a day of reckoning for the media, for the deep state, for people who abuse power, and they did it so blatantly in this country,” he told viewers in a furious 25-minute monologue. “If we do not get this right, if we do not hold these people accountable, I promise you, with all the love I can muster for this country and our future for our kids and grandkids, we will lose the greatest country God has ever given man. We will lose it.”

That set the template for Trump, a regular viewer. Having spent two years trying to discredit Mueller’s work as a witch-hunt and hoax, he stepped up demands for an investigation into its origins and pushed the claim that the FBI spied on his 2016 campaign.

Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, said: “He’s attempting to create a counter-narrative based on conspiracy theories in which the FBI chiefly is cast as the villain of the deep state. It’s what is known as chaff. It’s to throw people off of the actual object itself and distract them from his well-documented crimes of obstruction of justice in the Mueller report.”

Trump is backed by Republicans, eager to grab ammunition that comes to hand. They have falsely claimed the investigation was triggered by a dossier from the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, which included reference to a so-called “pee tape” in Moscow, and cited anti-Trump text messages between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to allege inherent bias.

But it is Barr who has emerged as the president’s most indispensable ally, his improbable Darth Vader. Testifying on Capitol Hill earlier this month, the attorney general used the incendiary word “spying” to describe FBI surveillance of the Trump campaign, a term later rejected by the FBI director, Christopher Wray.

Barr has asked John Durham, the US attorney in Connecticut, to examine whether the FBI erred in seeking a special federal court warrant to conduct surveillance on the former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. An investigation into the legality of the warrant is already under way, led by the justice department inspector general, Michael Horowitz, who is due to release his findings in coming weeks.

Barr is also working with Wray, the CIA director, Gina Haspel, and the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, to review intelligence-gathering techniques used to investigate the Trump campaign. In the meantime, ever loyal to Trump, Barr continues to defy Congress’s demands for the release of the unredacted Mueller report and underlying materials.

Democrats sense a crude ploy by Trump to deflect and distract, parry and prevaricate. Congressman Jared Huffman of California said: “It’s a smokescreen, obviously an attempt to change the subject like everything else he does. I almost don’t want to dignify it because it’s so preposterous that any time someone investigates Donald Trump or disagrees with Donald Trump they are being treasonous or they need to be locked up.

“This is a slippery slope to a banana republic if this is where we’re heading. And I think most Americans get that. You just don’t call for your political enemies to be investigated and jailed in the United States.”

Huffman called for an impeachment process and hearings.

“If Richard Nixon was the imperial presidency, this is the imperial presidency on steroids without any sideboards or adult supervision of any kind,” he said. “It’s a real crisis. I still believe we’re going to get through it because I think the institutions and the fabric of this country are still rooted in the rule of law and democracy and checks and balances, but we’re being tested like never before and I would be lying if I said I didn’t worry about it.”

‘Trumpification of the DoJ’

One of the rich ironies of Republican claims of bias in the FBI is that during the election the agency kept its Trump investigation secret but talked openly about its scrutiny of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. The then director, James Comey, held an extraordinary press conference in which he branded Clinton’s handling of emails as secretary of state as “extremely careless”. Eleven days before the election, Comey announced the FBI was reviewing more Clinton messages. Many Democrats have still not forgiven him.

    Barr says Trump’s campaign was ‘spied’ upon. Trump claims treason. Both are incendiary. Neither is true
    Adam Schiff

Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, tweeted on Friday: “Barr says Trump’s campaign was ‘spied’ upon. Trump claims treason. Both are incendiary. Neither is true. Barr suggests a finger was put on the scale to affect the election. But the Trump probe was kept secret; the Clinton one wasn’t. It’s the Trumpification of the DoJ.”

Matthew Miller, former director of the office of public affairs for the justice department, said: “There are a few galling things. First, it would have been crazy for the FBI not to investigate [Trump’s] campaign given what Mueller found. Second, it would have been very easy for the FBI to stop Trump becoming president if that was their intention by leaking what they found. Third, the FBI publicly criticised his opponent: the FBI did have an impact but it was to hurt Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump!”

Miller, now a partner at Vianovo and justice and security analyst for MSNBC, added: “It’s a brazenly cynical strategy by the president and his allies. He hasn’t had a great explanation for what he did so what he’s done for two years is attack the investigation.

“The notion has existed since Watergate that there should be a separation between the White House and Department of Justice. It’s been erased. It’s just gone. It will probably come back when there’s a Democratic president, because they tend to be more sensitive to elite opinion, but the next Republican president will [not] see any reason to restore it.”

Just as the justice department is succumbing to Trump, so Congress is also struggling to maintain its status as a co-equal branch of government. The White House continues to stonewall House subpoenas for documents and hearings, not only regarding the Mueller report but Trump’s tax returns and other matters. The Democratic-led House judiciary committee has voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress but the party is divided over whether to impeach his boss.

Max Bergmann, a former state department official, said: “We’re seeing an effort by the president to neutralise this as an issue for the 2020 election. He sees a gap because the Democrats have shown reticence in their willingness to prosecute the case against him. We have a situation where there is a vacuum and Trump sees an opportunity to attack the investigation, partly because Democrats aren’t using the results of it to attack him.

“The problem with not using the levers of congressional power is that it lends credence to the arguments Trump has been making. In the public’s mind, it might seem that because Trump is not being impeached, maybe he was exonerated. What is amazing about the Republican side is the ability to manufacture outrage over nothing; they eat, sleep and breathe scandal politics. Democrats are terrified of it and and run from it, even when it’s the biggest political scandal in American history. The inaction over the last four weeks has been unconscionable.”

‘We’ve crossed a Rubicon’

It was perhaps no coincidence that Trump hosted Viktor Orbán, strongman leader of Hungary, at the White House this week.

Bergmann, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress thinktank in Washington, and director of the Moscow Project, charting Trump’s involvement in Russian attacks on US democracy, said: “We’ve crossed a Rubicon. For the past two years, Trump has not been able to use the justice department to seek revenge against his opponents and as a political tool.

“Now he and his team have learned, and Trump has appointed someone in Barr who is a Washington insider, knows the justice department and is able to operate as the president’s hatchet man. For the past two years, we’ve said the institutions have held. Now we’re at a critical pivot where Trump has learned how to use the institutions to his advantage.

“It’s a dark turn. With the decline of our institutions, the decline of our moral authority, Trump is trying to turn the the moniker of an ‘imperial presidency’ into an autocratic presidency along the lines of Viktor Orbán or Vladimir Putin.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher for the future of American democracy in 2020.”

**************

Trump lashes out at Justin Amash after Republican talks of impeachment

    Mitt Romney declines to join calls for Congress to act
    No holds Barred: Trump pushes for imperial presidency

Ed Pilkington in New York
Guardian
20 May 2019 20.03 BST

As Donald Trump opened fire on Justin Amash, the Michigan representative who became the first Republican in Congress say he had engaged in “impeachable conduct”, Mitt Romney declined to join the fight.

The former presidential nominee and Republican senator from Utah accused Trump of lacking humility, honesty and integrity – but stopped short of calling for his removal from power.

Romney was scathing about the picture of the president that emerges from the Mueller report into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the redacted version of which he said he had spent two days reading in full. He said on Sunday its findings were “troubling, unfortunate and distressing”.

But he said he did not think it was time for Congress to call for impeachment.

“I don’t think there is the full element which you need to prove the obstruction of justice case,” he told CNN’s State of the Union.

Mueller did not find that Trump or his aides conspired with Russia but he did lay out 11 instances of possible obstruction of justice by Trump or his campaign and indicated Congress should decide how to proceed. Controversially, attorney general William Barr said in his own summary of the then unseen Mueller report that Trump had not obstructed justice.

    I don’t think there is the full element which you need to prove the obstruction of justice case
    Mitt Romney

Romney’s sharp but qualified criticism of Trump came a day after Amash became the first Republican to break ranks and call for impeachment. In a stream of tweets, Amash said the Mueller report showed “President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment”.

Amash and Romney are significant figures within their party, as they stand virtually alone in having the temerity to challenge Trump in public. But the fact that Romney would not join Amash on impeachment is an indication of the impenetrable wall of opposition the party is likely to erect should Democrats initiate proceedings.

Just why became clear later on Sunday, when Trump aimed his Twitter account at Amash.

Saying he was “never a fan”, he called Amash “a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy”.

Trump also accused Amash of not having read the Mueller report – the congressman made much of saying he had in fact read all 448 pages – and, while repeating familiar complaints about Mueller, wrote: “Justin is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents [sic] hands!”

In fact, Amash’s sole call for impeachment on the Republican side may not do much to move the political dial. Democrats are edging closer to launching proceedings, but not for the reasons the congressman outlined.

Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee, told CBS’s Face the Nation there were no signs of the Republican-controlled Senate moving towards impeachment. Nonetheless, Democrats were becoming more minded to take it on, he said, as a tool to increase pressure on the Trump administration to hand over key documents, including the unredacted Mueller report, that it is refusing to submit to congressional oversight.

“What may be pushing towards impeachment has less to do with Justin Amash and more to do with the administration engaging in a maximum obsctructionism campaign against Congress,” Schiff said.

Romney, who ran unsuccessfully against Barack Obama in 2012, said impeachment was not just a legal matter. It must also, he said, “consider the practicality of politics, and the American people are just not there”.

He added: “The Senate is not there either.”

Democratic leadership has also considered public opinion, and what impeachment might do to motivate Trump’s base, when weighing up whether to make the move.

Despite his reluctance to go all the way into impeachment, Romney has showed himself willing to take on Trump. In April he issued a statement saying: “I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president.”

He told CNN the Mueller report distressed him.

“The number of times there were items of dishonesty, misleading the American public and media – those are not things you would want to see from the highest office in the land.”

He said that in terms of three crucial features of a president – humility, honesty and integrity – Trump has “distanced himself from some of the best qualities of the human character”.

Such was his disgust with Trump as a presidential candidate in 2016, Romney wrote in his wife Ann on to the presidential election ballot, thereby voting for her instead. He told CNN he had not yet decided if he would do the same next year.

*************

Democratic leaders put on the spot after GOP lawmaker makes powerful case for Trump impeachment

Cody Fenwick, AlterNet - COMMENTARY
20 May 2019 at 11:52 ET                  

Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan posted an incisive tirade against President Donald Trump and his administration on Saturday afternoon, becoming the first Republican lawmaker to call for impeaching the commander in chief as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

And in the process, he displayed a more cogent, compelling and thoughtful grasp on the findings laid out in the Mueller report and the requirements for impeachment than most top Democrats have shown. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who called for impeachment shortly after reading the report, has been one of the most influential and outspoken Democrats on the topic.

And to be sure, Amash is not a typical Republican. He has been strongly critical of Trump in the past, and if anyone were to make a list of GOP lawmakers who’d be most likely to support impeaching Trump, Amash would certainly be at the top of the list. His decisive turn against the president isn’t a sign that the rest of his party will soon come to the same conclusion. Still, it was notable how forcefully and emphatically he made his case.

He began by announcing his forceful “principal conclusions” from the report, echoing the language Attorney General Bill Barr used to shape public opinion about Mueller’s findings:

    1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report.

    2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.

    3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.

    4. Few members of Congress have read the report.

“I offer these conclusions only after having read Mueller’s redacted report carefully and completely, having read or watched pertinent statements and testimony, and having discussed this matter with my staff, who thoroughly reviewed materials and provided me with further analysis,” he said.

It was interesting, but effective, that Amash focused first on Barr’s deceptions. It was important because of how the Mueller report has been so grossly misrepresented by Republicans, the media, and even some Democrats — all led by Barr’s initial spin.

“Barr’s misrepresentations are significant but often subtle, frequently taking the form of sleight-of-hand qualifications or logical fallacies, which he hopes people will not notice,” wrote Amash.

Impeachment, he said, is warranted when an official commits “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a phrase which he reads to imply “conduct that violates the public trust.” By this standard, the Mueller report shows Trump’s behavior was impeachable — despite Barr’s attempts to convince the public otherwise.

He noted, too, that he agrees with the hundreds of former federal prosecutors who have said that Trump’s actions outlined under the analysis of obstruction of justice in the report would have resulted in the indictment of any other person. And the standard of proof, he argued, is not even as high for impeachable offenses as it would be for a criminal showing. Congress only needs to conclude that the official carried out “careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.”

In one of his most compelling and important points, Amash emphasized the dangers of not impeaching the president, something top Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler seem to have ignored:

    Impeachment, which is a special form of indictment, does not even require probable cause that a crime (e.g., obstruction of justice) has been committed; it simply requires a finding that an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.

    — Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 18, 2019

He also included a mild critique of some Democrats calling for impeachment now, saying, “We’ve witnessed members of Congress from both parties shift their views 180 degrees—on the importance of character, on the principles of obstruction of justice—depending on whether they’re discussing Bill Clinton or Donald Trump.”

But the most scathing critique was his argument — which is practically undeniable — that on this matter, most lawmakers aren’t actually well informed.

“Few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report; their minds were made up based on partisan affiliation—and it showed, with representatives and senators from both parties issuing definitive statements on the 448-page report’s conclusions within just hours of its release,” he concluded. “America’s institutions depend on officials to uphold both the rules and spirit of our constitutional system even when to do so is personally inconvenient or yields a politically unfavorable outcome. Our Constitution is brilliant and awesome; it deserves a government to match it.”

****************

Deutsche Bank staff saw suspicious Trump and Kushner activity – report

    New York Times releases explosive report on Russia-linked bank
    Employee says ‘nothing happened’ after she raised concerns

Ed Pilkington in New York
Guardian
20 May 2019 19.59 BST

Several financial moves by legal entities controlled by Donald Trump and Jared Kushner between 2016 and 2017 triggered suspicious activity alerts inside Deutsche Bank, a major lender to the Trump family, according to a report in the New York Times.

The newspaper said it had been in touch with five existing or former Deutsche Bank employees, one of whom spoke on the record. They said they had been alerted to possible illicit activity when they were working in the team responsible for combating money laundering, and had recommended the federal government be notified.

Suspicious activity reports were prepared for filing with the US treasury for investigation as possible federal financial crimes. According to the Times, bank executives overruled the employees and did not alert the government.

The Times pointed out that the “red flags raised by employees do not necessarily mean the transactions were improper”.

Deutsche Bank has become a lightning rod for concerns about the financial propriety of real-estate deals pursued by Trump and his wider family, including his son-in-law Kushner, a key adviser, before and after the billionaire entered the White House. Trump is thought to have borrowed at least $2bn from the German bank – some $300m still outstanding.

In the House of Representatives, Democrats have been drilling into the link between the Trump Organization and Deutsche Bank. Last month two committees – financial services and intelligence – issued subpoenas for documents from the bank.

Trump counter-attacked by launching a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank in an attempt to stop it complying with the subpoenas. The lawsuit claimed the demand for documents amounted to harassment of the president and his family.

The former Deutsche Bank employee who spoke openly to the Times, Tammy McFadden, said she prepared suspicious activity reports and recommended they be sent to federal watchdogs.

“You present them with everything, and you give them a recommendation, and nothing happens,” she said.

McFadden told the Times she was fired after raising concerns about transactions, among them contacts between Kushner Companies and Russian individuals in the summer of 2016. Deutsche Bank has been fined for laundering billions of dollars for Russians.

Deutsche Bank told the Times “the suggestion that anyone was reassigned or fired in an effort to quash concerns relating to any client is categorically false”. The bank also told the Times it had increased its scrutiny of potential money laundering.

The Trump Organization said it had “no knowledge of any ‘flagged’ transactions with Deutsche Bank”.

Kushner Companies said any allegation involving its links with Deutsche and money laundering were “totally false”.

Among Trump's claims of a “fake news” conspiracy against him, the Times is a prominent target. In a statement to Reuters about the Deutsche Bank report, a Kushner Companies spokeswoman sounded a familiar note, saying the paper “tries to create scandalous stories which are totally false when they run out of things to write about”.

*************

NYT Deutsche Bank money-laundering bombshell will make ‘serious problems’ for president: Trump biographer

Raw Story
5/20/2019

The New York Times broke a story Sunday that revealed staff of Deutsche Bank were hired especially for their expertise of money-laundering.

The bank staff recommended that they contact federal investigators about possible criminal activity in the accounts of President Donald Trump and his senior aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

“The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees,” the Times reported. “Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes.”

The bank rejected the recommendation, and it appears now it might spark another investigation, according to Trump biographer David Cay Johnston.

“We know for a fact that Donald Trump has been involved in money laundering in the past, fined for it,” Johnston said. “We know that Deutsche Bank is fined over $600 million just for laundering money for Russian oligarchs and are nondenial denials. The Trump Organization said we never heard of this. Why would you? It was locked up in the bank. The bank said we didn’t stop anyone. The story makes it clear.”

He noted that former Deutsche Bank employee Tammy McFadden pushed it up the chain of command, but then the career began to go badly after that.

“So in addition, The Times has a pregnant line in it. It says that is there are other, ‘politically connected people’ who also were swept up,” Johnston said. “It’s clear that David Enrich, a very good reporter at The New York Times has seen these documents and other people whose money laundering suspicion of money laundering activities were also apparently quashed by the people at the private banking unit of Deutsche Bank in New York. This is for Donald Trump a really serious problem.”

Daily Beast reporter Betsy Woodruff also noted that this was quite a shock to those closely watching the Russia investigation. Most commentators found it strange that special counsel Robert Mueller didn’t know about this. She said that they “expected that Mueller would try to pull threads in terms of whether Trump had engaged in financial transactions or developed business relationships that could affect the way he thought about American foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia.”

That’s one reason why Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) plan to focus on that part of the investigation to pull “additional threads,” she explained.

“What this story suggests and indicates is that there is more to the story of Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank than we already know, even given all the investigating that’s already happened,” Woodruff said.

************

House Democrats could penalize those who won’t comply with subpoena by cutting their department’s funding

Raw Story
5/20/2019

President Donald Trump has ordered his top aides and department chiefs to refuse to comply with any subpoenas from House members seeking to do additional investigations in wake of the special counsel’s report. The Democrats are thinking of issuing a penalty for Trump team members who defy the law.

An Axios report said that Democrats are thinking of withholding funding to departments of subpoenaed witnesses who refuse to cooperate.

Congress’ greatest power is using the budget to do the people’s business.

“Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee are writing the bills that will fund the federal government for the next fiscal year — including the ones that will fund the Justice Department and the Treasury Department, two of the departments that have been resisting subpoenas,” wrote Axios.

A different House committee could ask for the Appropriations Committee to include a clause that would exclude funding to departments that are refusing to comply with subpoenas.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) blasted Democratic chairmen Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) for refusing to impeach when it could “help him have access to all kinds of documents.” Indeed a Congressional subpoena is also supposed to give you access to all kinds of documents. It’s that Trump is refusing to comply with the subpoenas. If Trump were to be impeached, it can be assumed that he would continue to comply with subpoenas.

Discussions for the plot are preliminary according to officials and their staff, but it’s part of the conversation.

“We look at it as, ‘Okay, what’s our recourse?’ This is one of them. We also have contempt orders and fines,” one aide to a senior Democrat said.

Given how long it takes to approve appropriations bills, the budget plan might not work for a quick option, one House appropriations aide said.

****************

‘Eric the Slack-jawed and Princess Ivanka’: Rick Wilson hilariously pummels the entire Trump family –and the GOPers who worship them

Raw Story
5/20/2019

In a brutally funny and sarcastic column for the Daily Beast, GOP consultant Rick Wilson called upon Republicans to give up even trying to appear to be anything other than Trump yes-men and, while he was at it, Wilson also mocked the faux-royal family of the president.

Under a Game of Thrones-inspired headline “Trump Is on the Iron Throne, and American Democracy Is Dead,” Wilson wrote, “For Republicans eager for the next, inevitable step of Trumpism and tired of some musty 240-year-old Constitution getting in the way of rallies, rage-tweeting and lib-owning, I’ve got a modest proposal: Why not end this republic, and launch a glorious new era of royals and royalty, where a man who behaves like a king can actually be one and govern as he desires?”

“After all, he’s surrounded not by coequal members of a representative legislature and independent judiciary, but by lackeys and lickspittles groveling at his gouty feet. Inside this Trump kingdom, advisers rise and fall not based on merit, performance, or ideas but instead on fealty, servility, and an ability to abase themselves to the king’s many whims. Let’s just cut to the chase,” he acidly continued.

According to Wilson, the author of “Everything Trump Touches Dies,” among those deaths can be found the Republican Party.

“Be honest with yourselves; how far is the leap from President Trump to King Trump in your minds? How many Trump supporters have wondered unironically about a third term for the Donald, or of replacing one Trump with another when this girthy beast finally strokes out?” he wrote. “You weaponized the Republican caucus to support His Majesty in the House so egregiously you took an ass-beating from the politically incompetent Democrats, losing 40 seats in 2018. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell holds the line for Trump and former Tea Party super-constitutionalist stalwarts like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have gone full royalist, along with Lindsey Graham.”

He then turned his eye on the “royal” House of Trump.

“Princess Ivanka and royal consort Jared of the House of Kushner hold government jobs of no discernible function but of enormous consequence. Why? The walls of Castle Trump keep that secret, thank the gods,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, the two have the ear of the King and are literally above the law when it comes to security clearance laws, ethics rules, and the use of federal offices to enrich themselves. Those things aren’t wrong in the new world. They’re just part of Trumpian droit du douchebag.”

“While Trump treats Princess Tiffany as if she were the daughter of a chambermaid and Eric the Slack-jawed as if he should be sent as a hostage to some other royal house, it’s Don Jr. who is the current heir apparent, already emulating the King in every tangible way,” he continued before noting the senior Trump history of multiple wives and multiple infidelities with, “He’s behind on wives and mistresses, but he’s got time.”

Wilson then finished with a bitter and damning flourish.

“And so, my Republican friends, it’s time to embrace monarchy. Let your id be your guide, your past be a memory, and Trump be your King. Bend the knee. You’ve gotten quite good at it.”

*************

Conservative rains holy hell on ‘Republican grovelers and quivering sycophants’ who are fleeing Amash to defend Trump

Raw Story
5/20/2019

Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin — as big a “never-Trumper” as there is — was quick to call out the colleagues of Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) who turned on him or remained silent after the GOP lawmaker made the irrefutable case that special counsel Robert Mueller’s report showed Donald Trump committed impeachable crimes.

In a quickly put-together column for the Washington Post, Rubin ripped into representatives of the party she once belonged to, calling them both “grovelers” and “quivering sycophants” — neither a term of endearment.

According to Rubin, “Why are Republicans such quivering sycophants, willing to lie and debase themselves in support of an unpopular president who is repudiating many of the principles they have spent their lives advancing?”

There are, she notes, three types of Republicans populating Congress right now.

“First are the cynics who know Trump is unfit, if not dangerous; however, they’ll get what they can (e.g., judges, tax cuts) and bolster their resumes (e.g., working for the administration, getting fawning Fox News coverage). When Trump bottoms out, they’ll move on, probably insisting they were secretly against Trump all along,” she began.

“In the second category are Republicans convinced that they’ll never find work if they speak out against Trump,” she continued. ” They’ll lose their offices and/or offend Republican officialdom, including think tanks, right-wing media, donors, party activists, and elected officials. (They are part of a right-wing ecosystem; some might call it a racket.) No plum lobbying gigs or Fox contributorships for them. They fear ostracism would ruin them financially and personally, leaving them in a political wilderness from which they fear they’d never return.”

Lastly, “there are the cranks, the zealots, the racists and the haters — a group, it turns out, much larger than many ex-Republicans could ever fathom. This includes not just the overt white nationalists and the tea party crowd but also those who have been simmering with personal resentment against ‘liberal elites.'”

“Vice President Pence insists he and his fellow evangelical Christians are hapless victims; the children and grandchildren of Dixiecrats fume that everything went downhill in the 1960s. Some of these people will insist they are not racists nor misogynists — but yet they sure seem to have an extraordinarily high tolerance for those who are,” she added.

“I’d love to think Amash’s statements free and embolden many more Republicans in the House and Senate to step forward,” she lamented before conceding, “Is that likely? No.”

 6 
 on: Today at 04:32 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Venezuela’s Collapse Is the Worst Outside of War in Decades, Economists Say

Butchers have stopped selling meat cuts in favor of offal, fat shavings and cow hooves, the only animal protein many of their customers can afford.

By Anatoly Kurmanaev
NY Times
May 20, 2019

MARACAIBO, Venezuela — Zimbabwe’s collapse under Robert Mugabe. The fall of the Soviet Union. Cuba’s disastrous unraveling in the 1990s.

The crumbling of Venezuela’s economy has now outpaced them all.

Venezuela’s fall is the single largest economic collapse outside of war in at least 45 years, economists say.

“It’s really hard to think of a human tragedy of this scale outside civil war,” said Kenneth Rogoff, an economics professor at Harvard University and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. “This will be a touchstone of disastrous policies for decades to come.”

To find similar levels of economic devastation, economists at the I.M.F. pointed to countries that were ripped apart by war, like Libya earlier this decade or Lebanon in the 1970s.

But Venezuela, at one point Latin America’s wealthiest country, has not been shattered by armed conflict. Instead, economists say, the poor governance, corruption and misguided policies of President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, have fueled runaway inflation, shuttered businesses and brought the country to its knees. And in recent months, the Trump administration has imposed stiff sanctions to try to cripple it further.

As the country’s economy plummeted, armed gangs took control of entire towns, public services collapsed and the purchasing power of most Venezuelans has been reduced to a couple of kilograms of flour a month.

In markets, butchers hit by regular blackouts jostle to sell decomposing stock by sunset. Former laborers scavenge through garbage piles for leftovers and recyclable plastic. Dejected retailers make dozens of trips to the bank in hopes of depositing several pounds’ worth of bills made worthless by hyperinflation.

Here in Maracaibo, a city of two million on the border with Colombia, nearly all of the butchers in the main market have stopped selling meat cuts in favor of offal and leftovers like fat shavings and cow hooves, the only animal protein many of their customers can still afford.

The crisis has been compounded by American sanctions intended to force Mr. Maduro to cede power to the nation’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó. The Trump administration’s recent sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company have made it difficult for the government to sell its main commodity, oil. Together with the American ban on trading Venezuelan bonds, the administration has made it harder for Venezuela to import any goods, including food and medication.

Mr. Maduro blames the widespread hunger and lack of medical supplies on the United States and its opposition allies — but most independent economists say the recession began years before the sanctions, which at most accelerated the collapse.

“We are fighting a savage battle against international sanctions that have made Venezuela lose at least $20 billion in 2018,” Mr. Maduro told supporters in a recent speech. “They are pursuing our bank accounts, our purchases abroad of any products. It’s more than a blockade, it’s persecution.”

Shortages have sunk much of the population in a deepening humanitarian crisis, though a core group of military top brass and high-level officials who remain loyal to Mr. Maduro are able to tap into the remaining resources to survive — or even enrich themselves through illicit means.

Subscribe for original insights, commentary and discussions on the major news stories of the week, from columnists Max Fisher and Amanda Taub.

Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves. But its oil output, once Latin America’s largest, has fallen faster in the past year than Iraq’s after the American invasion in 2003, according to data from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Venezuela has lost a tenth of its population in the past two years as people fled, even trekking across mountains, setting off Latin America’s biggest ever refugee crisis.

Venezuela’s hyperinflation, expected to reach 10 million percent this year according to the I.M.F., is on track to become the longest period of runaway price rises since that in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1990s.

“This is essentially a total collapse in consumption,” said Sergi Lanau, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, a financial trade association.

The institute estimates that the drop in Venezuela’s economic output under Mr. Maduro has undergone the steepest decline by any country not at war since at least 1975.

By year’s end, Venezuela’s gross domestic product will have shrunk by 62 percent since the beginning of the recession in 2013, which coincided with Mr. Maduro coming to power, according to the finance institute’s estimates. (Venezuela’s government hasn’t released official macroeconomic statistics since 2014, forcing economists to rely on indicators like imports to estimate economic activity.)

By contrast, the median economic decline in the former Soviet republics was about 30 percent during the peak of the crisis in the mid-1990s, the institute calculates.

For now, the government is concentrating its scarce resources in the capital, Caracas. But the state’s presence is melting in the hinterlands, an absence that has been particularly glaring in Zulia, Venezuela’s most populous state.

Caribbean Sea

TOAS I.

Maracaibo

Caracas

Machiques

ZULIA

venezuela

colombia

brazil

200 MILES

By The New York Times

Its capital, Maracaibo, was once Venezuela’s oil powerhouse. A blackout in March plunged the state into a week of darkness and chaos that left about 500 businesses ransacked.

Power has been sporadic ever since, exacerbating longstanding water and gasoline shortages and leaving towns without functional banking systems and cellphone coverage for days on end.

The flea market, a once-bustling maze of stalls from which vendors hawked food and household goods, has become the face of this crisis.

Juan Carlos Valles arrives at his tiny canteen in a corner of the market by 5 a.m. and begins making a broth out of beef bones and frying corn pastries in the darkness. He says his stall has been without power since March, his sales are down 80 percent since last year and each day is a struggle against soldiers who force him to accept nearly worthless low-denomination bills.

Whatever money he makes he immediately invests in more bones and corn flour, because prices go up daily.

“If you take a rest, you lose,” said Mr. Valles, who has run his canteen since 1998. “The money has become worthless. By the time you take it to the bank, you have already lost some of it.”

Real incomes in Venezuela have fallen to levels last seen in the country in 1979, according to the international finance institute, leaving many to survive by collecting firewood, gathering fruit and fetching water in streams.

“The government is talking about solutions in the long and medium term, but the hunger is now,” said Miguel González, the head of the community council at Maracaibo’s Arco Iris shantytown.

He said he lost his job at a hotel when looters ransacked it in March, ripping out even window frames and cable wiring. He now collects wild plums to sell for a few cents in the city’s parks. Most of his community’s diet now consists of wild fruits, fried corn pastries and bone broth, residents said.

Farther from the state capital, conditions are worse.

Toas Island, once a touristic idyll of about 12,000 residents spread over fishing hamlets, has been largely abandoned.

“There’s no local, regional or national government here,” said José Espina, a motorbike taxi driver there. “We’re on our own.”

Electricity and running water are available for only a few hours a day. The boat that provided regular service to the mainland broke down last month. An oil barge lent by the state oil company occasionally tugs a rusty ferry carrying meager supplies of subsidized food — a precarious lifeline for the island’s poorer residents.

Hyperinflation has reduced the island’s entire budget to the equivalent of $400 a month, or just 3 cents per estimated resident, according to the mayor, Hector Nava.

The hospital has no medication and no patients. The last person to be hospitalized died in agony a day later without treatment for her kidney disease, doctors at the hospital said.

As Toas hospital’s beds stand empty, 2-year-old Anailin Nava is wasting away in a nearby hut from malnutrition and treatable muscular paralysis. Her mother, Maibeli Nava, does not have money to take her to Colombia for treatment, she said.

The four stone quarries that are the island’s only industry have been idle since robbers stole all power cables connecting them to the grid last year. Local opposition activists estimate up to a third of the residents have emigrated from the island in the past two years.

“It used to be a paradise,” said Arturo Flores, the local municipality’s security coordinator, who sells a fermented corn drink from a bucket to local fishermen to round up his salary, which is equivalent to $4 a month. “Now, everyone is fleeing.”

On the other side of Zulia state, in the ranching town of Machiques, the economic collapse has decimated the meat and dairy industries that had supplied the country.

Power cuts have idled the local slaughterhouse, once one of the largest in Latin America. Armed gangs extort and rustle cattle from the surviving ranchers.

“You can’t produce if there’s no law,” said Rómulo Romero, a local rancher.

Local shopkeepers have pulled together to repair power lines and keep telecom towers running, to feed public workers, and to procure diesel for backup generators.

“We have practically taken on the functions of the state,” said Juan Carlos Perrota, a butcher who runs Machiques’ chamber of commerce. “We can’t just put a lock on the door and call it quits. We have hope that this will improve.”

Anatoly Kurmanaev and Nataly Angulo reported from Maracaibo. Johandry Montiel contributed reporting from Machiques.

 7 
 on: Today at 04:28 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

European elections: how the six biggest countries will vote

French parties are increasingly adopting the p-word while Italy is concerned about taxes

Europa correspondents
Guardian
20 May 2019 15.26 BST

More than 370 million people will be eligible to vote in the European elections. But as they enter the polling booth they will have very different issues on their mind, as this survey of the six biggest countries conducted by the Europa group of newspapers reveals.

It used to be a dirty word in an open country that is part of the world’s biggest single market. But French parties are increasingly adopting the p-word in this campaign, even if they don’t always say it out loud.

On the far left, La France Insoumise supports “solidarity protectionism” and proposes the idea of a “kilometric carbon tax”: the further the product is shipped, the more it is taxed. The green fringe advocate something similar – a carbon tax at the border of the EU and restrictions on imports from countries that do not permit free union association.

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally advocates an “intelligent protectionism” that would support the national economy through the restoration of customs duties. The socialists too are revising their position on protectionism, a result of years of social dumping and market disruption. “We assume a form of protectionism and put trade policy at the service of ecology and the fight against inequality,” says Raphaël Glucksmann, leader of the influential Place Publique movement, who heads a common list with the PS.

Even Emmanuel Macron’s movement seems to be converted. Admittedly, the term “protectionism” is not used in the program of the presidential party. But “protection” is, with those of “progress” and “freedom”, the key words of the head of list Nathalie Loiseau. And the campaign slogan is: “A Europe that protects.”

Like the Macronists, the Republican party (LR) is reluctant to use the word “protectionism”. But their draft program defends customs protection, and recommends putting in place, in the face of foreign products, “a double preference, European and French, on the model of the ‘Buy American Act’ by assuming to give priority to our companies and our jobs”. LR wants to reserve 50% of public contracts for local companies.

If this idea, initially borne by the opponents of free trade, eventually became practically consensual, it is because the European construction is perceived as the establishment of a large market that would ultimately promote social insecurity, economic and ecological.

“Protectionism has been constantly associated since the 19th century with the idea of ​​increasing customs duties to protect oneself,” says Olivier Dard, professor of contemporary history at the Sorbonne. “But is this really protectionism that we are looking at today, or a broader idea of protection that goes way beyond simply ideas of tariffs?” Alexandre Lemarié, of Le Monde

“We pay too many taxes,” laments Klodian Qoshja, manager of a leather processing company near the northern city of Vicenza. “Here you have to work 16 hours a day to get an entrepreneur salary.”

Tax is a dirty word in Italy’s industrial north, which far outperforms the south in the wealth it generates. Northern provinces are determined to secure greater fiscal autonomy, but even though their great champion, the (formerly Northern) League party is now in government in Rome, their appeals have had little effect.

“Autonomy will be achieved,” Salvini continues to repeat at his speeches, although his coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, are less enthusiastic. Thus far the League has not suffered for not delivering on one of its core objectives.

In this part of Italy, support for the League runs at more than 40%, dipping to about 30% nationwide – still ahead of the other European election hopefuls.

“The current picture plays in the League’s favour because the topic is much discussed in the regions where autonomy is demanded, while there is a cloak of silence over the other regions,” says Gianfranco Viesti, professor of applied economics at the University of Bari.

“Votes can be maintained by promising autonomy in one part of Italy, but you can avoid losing them in other parts of Italy by not talking about it,” he adds. “It is a party that speaks two different languages ​​in two areas of the country.”

The village where Qoshja has his factory, San Pietro Mussolino, witnessed the highest turnout at a referendum on regional autonomy in 2017, and almost all voters voted in favour.

“We have always had the speech of autonomy in our blood, even before they talked about it,” says Graziano Rancan, a bar owner. “We have paid so many contributions, now we continue to pay contributions but there is not enough money left to develop what we have lacked”.

Paolo Negro Marcigaglia, who runs an organic food company just one block from Qoshja’s leather factory, sees no other options: “We make an appeal to (League leader Matteo) Salvini to keep this promise that the League has been making for decades now.”

“I feel a bit like a worker in a company,” says Marcigaglia, making a metaphor about the state and taxes. “A company in which the owner every year takes away his dividends without investing anything.”

Once it became clear that Britons would have to vote in the 2019 elections, despite having voted to leave Europe almost three years ago, the campaign very quickly became a mirror of the 2016 referendum, a microcosm of the exhausting battle for Brexit.

As the party overseeing the debacle which has seen the UK stumble through almost three years without a departure plan anyone can agree on, Theresa May’s Conservatives are expected to receive a solid kicking, with even many party activists saying they will vote for other parties.

At the last elections in 2014, when the Eurosceptic mood was also strong, the Conservatives won only 24% of the vote. Polling for this month’s equivalent has them on as little a 13%. They could easily place fourth – or worse.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is polling marginally better, but at little more than 20% – not the sort of level a would-be government should expect.

Labour go into the elections still trying to please both leave and remain supporters by promising only to back a second Brexit referendum as a possible option if no constructive deal can be reached. The party risks annoying voters on both sides of the divide.

Their campaign has so far been mainly marked by a bitter tussle over the wording on the second referendum pledge, which saw Corbyn emerge triumphant over his pro-People’s Vote deputy, Tom Watson, to the intense anguish of remain backers.

Amid this disquiet with the two main parties, who will benefit? The short answer is: the Brexit party. Nigel Farage’s brand new successor-to-Ukip has formally existed for only a few weeks, but is topping polls at about 30% or more, and has unveiled dozens of candidates ranging from former Conservatives to businesspeople and an ex-Marxist.

As ever, Farage is presenting a message to the public that is both coherent and vehement – Brexit is being betrayed – as well as being distinctly light on details.

Farage quit Ukip last year over the party’s hard right, anti-Islam stance under Gerard Batten, and his new venture seems to have well and truly stolen Ukip’s thunder – after intially strong poll results Ukip has slipped to below 5%, which if confirmed would usher in the party’s likely end as a mainstream force. And remember, under Farage Ukip topped the UK’s vote in 2014.

If, as some bill it, the European elections are seen as some sort of proxy second Brexit referendum, the coalescing of leave support around Farage’s group could be an advantage when contrasted with the splits among remainers.

Competing for this vote will be the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, as well as Change UK – the new party set up by 11 former Labour and Tory MPs. Each of them are polling at close to 10%.

What will it all mean come the results? No one really knows, beyond one thing – it’s very unlikely to heal any divisions.

The European elections are perceived in Germany mainly as a vote on national affairs, as a small Bundestag election, so to speak. This year, it is a litmus test of whether Angela Merkel’s grand coalition will be able to hang on through the full legislative period to 2021. Or whether it might collapse early.

For the first time in almost 20 years, Merkel will be absent from the campaign, airbrushed from posters and social media. The elections are the first big test for her successor as CDU leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who must prove she can lead her party into battle. Poll numbers are weak; the party is nervous.

For the SPD, grudging junior coalition partner, the vote is all about whether to stick it out in government – a role that since 2013 has given it some executive power, at the expense of popularity. If the SPD clearly loses its support, it will be harder for them to stay in government. The left wing is pushing for the opposition role to sharpen the profile of the party there. The bar for the European elections is quite high. In the last election, the well-known leading candidate Martin Schulz, then president of the European parliament, gained more than six percentage points for his party – and presented a respectable result at 27.3%.

The SPD is launching Katarina Barley as national top candidate this year. According to surveys, Barley is the best-known among the top candidates in Germany, ahead of leading AFD candidate Jörg Meuthen and Manfred Weber of the CSU-CDU, who wants to become president of the European commission. Only one in four knows him. It is a heavy burden for Weber that the rightwing populist AfD leaves the Union man behind in terms of popularity.

For the Greens, it is important to convert good poll results into electoral success. The party has been on the up for months; a decent European result will boost the party as it fights regional elections that offer the promise of coalition power.

Big European issues are of little concern. Some voters tell campaigners they are concerned about dumping, about tax avoidance, copyright, security and the rise of rightwing populists. But most see this as just another national election, albeit one fought on a bigger stage.

Spain is well practised at heading to the polls. At the end of April, the country held its third general election in under four years, a landmark vote that saw the ruling socialist workers’ party (PSOE) win the most votes but fall short of a majority, the traditional People’s party (PP) humiliated and the breakthrough of the far-right Vox party.

Those results are likely to exert a significant influence on what happens on 26 May, when Spaniards vote in the European elections, but also in regional and municipal ones.

The PSOE will be hoping for a post-general election bounce that will see them win the vote and cement the party’s place as the resurgent party of the European centre-left.

Equally interesting will be what happens on the right. The advent of Vox, which won 24 seats in congress last month, pushed both the PP and the centre-right Citizens party further to the right as the three parties competed for voters.

But the move backfired – particularly for the PP. After his strategy of cosying up to Vox failed to pay off, the PP’s leader, Pablo Casado, is trying to reclaim the centre-ground and has begun denouncing the party as a far-right outfit.

Citizens, meanwhile, is doing its best to stake its claim to that centre-ground and to portray itself as the true party of opposition.

Vox is also recalibrating its approach. Although the party picked up 10.3% of the vote in April – wildly up on the 0.2% it took in the 2016 general election – it did not do as well as had been predicted.

The party, which has followed the populist tactic of favouring social media over traditional media, thinks the approach may have hurt its ability to reach older voters.

Mindful that the great majority of Spaniards are pro-European and still regard the country’s entry into the EU as a landmark moment in the country’s history, Vox is taking a different line to many of the continent’s far-right parties.

“We believe in Europe because we are Europe,” says its European election manifesto.

But it says the EU is in crisis because it is on hock to “certain ideologies and political commitments that have seen ‘the construction of a Europe’ outside the true Europe”. Sam Jones, the Guardian
Dr Jarosław Och is seen in Gdańsk, Poland on 9 May 2019 during the debate of the lead candidates in Pomeranian region.

“Hands off our children,” the leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jarosław Kaczyński, intoned in March as the campaign for European parliamentary elections started.

But the declaration is proving uncomfortable. Kaczyński’s intended target was the LGBT community. Awkwardly for Kaczyński, it is the Catholic church, a great ally to the PiS, which has been accused of being a far greater threat to children than the gay community.

Since it came to power in 2015, PiS has sought to rally its conservative base with sound and fury about attempts to introduce more liberal sexual education in Warsaw and other cities run by the opposition.

It seized on statements by the likes of Paweł Rabiej, vice-president of Warsaw, who does not hide the fact that he is gay, who has said he is in favour of the legalisation of gay marriage and gay adoption in Poland. One PiS politician running for election, Elżbieta Kruk, vowed that Poland should be an LGBT-free land.

In another episode, an activist was arrested for hanging posters with an image of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo in a church in Płock. She faces two years in prison for insulting religious feelings.

But the moral onslaught did not change the poll ratings. And a backlash was brewing. Last weekend, Tomasz Sekielski, broadcast a film with fresh revelations about paedophilia in the Polish Catholic church.

The film accused the church in Poland of covering up cases of child sexual abuse by priests, and transferring perpetrators to other parishes. Almost 8 million people have seen it.

The ruling party appear to be floundering, dismissing the paedophile-priests as isolated cases while at the same time raising penalties for paedophilia to up to 30 years in prison.

The opposition promised a new commission to investigate paedophilia in the Polish church.

All of this is a prelude to national elections in the autumn. Defeat for PiS in May will damage its chances of maintaining its hold on government later in the year. A sudden threat from a new constellation on the far right could erode its popularity further.

Poland waits with bated breath. Bartosz T. Wieliński of Gazeta Wyborcza

This article is part of a six-newspaper collaboration called Europa in which work is reported by one or more newspaper and shared for publication with all. The six papers are The Guardian, Le Monde, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, La Vanguardia, La Stampa and Gazeta Wyborcza

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 on: Today at 04:21 AM 
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Europe's centrists draw on Austrian scandal to issue far-right warning

Mainstream parties hope voters will shun populists in wake of ‘politicians for sale’ revelation

Jon Henley Europe correspondent
Guardian
Mon 20 May 2019 10.37 BST

Politicians from mainstream parties across Europe have called on voters to shun the far right in this week’s European elections after Austria’s vice-chancellor resigned over a video sting that showed him offering public contracts in exchange for financial and campaign backing.

Heinz-Christian Strache stepped down on Saturday after the footage emerged. Hours later, Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, announced snap elections, ending the 18-month ruling coalition between his centre-right Austrian People’s party (ÖVP) and Strache’s far-right Freedom party (FPÖ).

The video showed the vice-chancellor proposing to trade government contracts for party donations and favourable media coverage with a woman posing as the wealthy niece of a Russian energy billionaire. He acknowledged the video was “catastrophic” but denied doing anything illegal.

Centrist leaders across the continent made clear they hoped the repercussions of Strache’s downfall would make themselves felt beyond Austria in the European parliament elections, from 23-26 May, in which populist, nationalist and far-right parties are forecast to make gains.

The Freedom party is a key member of an alliance of European nationalist parties led by Matteo Salvini of Italy’s League, who held an inaugural mass rally in Milan on Saturday with the the French National Rally of Marine Le Pen and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).

“A few months ago, Marine Le Pen was singing the praises of Heinz-Christian Strache, saying how formidable he was,” France’s economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, said. “He has been forced to resign. We find out why: he was caught trying to sell his services to foreign forces. Behind this nationalist movement is a submission to foreign forces.”

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, sharply criticised “politicians for sale”, saying the EU was facing “populist movements that in many areas are contemptuous of European values, who want to destroy the Europe of our values. We have to stand up to this decisively.”

The scandal appeared to mark the end of Kurz’s widely-criticised experiment at dealing with a successful far-right party by bringing it into the fold and building an alliance, rather than trying to ostracise it at the risk of alienating its voters.

“It’s long been known that rightwing populists destabilise our democracy,” Germany’s Socialist justice minister, Katarina Barley, tweeted. “Sebastian Kurz and the ÖVP brought them into government … The Strache case is a warning to all conservatives: do not work with far-right populists.”

It could also prove a setback for Europe’s resurgent far right. Strache’s obvious eagerness to embrace corruption stands in stark contrast to the “drain the swamp” rhetoric populists routinely deploy in their attempts to portray politics as a battle by decent ordinary people against a venal elite.

The Austrian vice-chancellor’s evident failings could make it more difficult for far-right leaders such as Salvini and Le Pen to present their parties as respectable – just slightly more rightwing – alternatives to the established centre-right.

Initially, the far-right populists sought to downplay the incident. The AfD leader, Jörg Meuthen, dismissed it as an “internal issue”, while the spokesman for the German party’s parliamentary group, Christian Lueth, described it in a now-deleted tweet as a “pseudo-scandal”.

But while neither Salvini nor Le Pen addressed the Austrian scandal directly, it has at the very least given their opponents some much-needed ammunition days before elections in which they face a significant challenge from the far right.

Strache’s behaviour, said Michael Schickhofer of Austria’s Social Democrats, “is symbolic … We can be sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.” Istvan Ujhelyi, a Hungarian Socialist MEP, said Strache would be was “the first domino” to fall. “Next up are Salvini, Le Pen, Orban and the rest of Moscow’s far-right puppets.”

A German TV commentator, Christian Nitsche, said the scandal could show the populists were not invincible. If Austria rejected the far right it would “probably not yet be a turning point on Europe’s wrong path – but a sign of hope that a first country has the strength to turn away from anti-democratic politicians and parties”, he said.

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Horse dies at Pimlico after finishing race on the day before Preakness

By Dave Sheinin and Jacob Bogage
May 20 2019
WA Post

BALTIMORE — On the eve of the 144th Preakness Stakes, a filly collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack suffered during the eighth race at Pimlico Race Course, a tragedy that marred Friday’s traditional Black-Eyed Susan Day and comes just as the sport was emerging from a shocking series of equine deaths in California over the winter and early spring.

Congrats Gal, a 3-year-old filly, died on the track Friday afternoon just after completing the Miss Preakness Stakes race. No cause of death was given, but veterinarians suspect a heart attack.

“Congrats Gal suffered sudden death after the eighth race today,” the Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico, and the Maryland Jockey Club said in a statement. “The incident occurred after the wire. Commission veterinarians attended to the horse immediately. Our thoughts go out to all of the owners, trainers and connections of Congrats Gal. The Stronach Group is committed to the welfare and safety of horses above all and we are saddened by what happened today. A full necropsy will be performed to try to determine the cause of death.”

The Canada-based Stronach Group is the same company that owns Santa Anita Park outside Los Angeles, where racing was abruptly halted for three weeks in March following 23 equine deaths in a three-month period. In its wake, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called for a suspension of all horse racing until the deaths could be investigated. A 24th horse died at Santa Anita on Friday, the first since racing resumed six weeks ago.

The occasional death of a racehorse is seen within the industry as an unfortunate but inescapable reality in a sport in which muscular, 2,000-pound animals race in all sorts of weather across distances of up to a mile and a half. In 2016, two horses died at Pimlico in separate incidents on Preakness Day.

“The sickening collapse and sudden death of Congrats Gal at Pimlico are proof that the Maryland racing industry has not done enough to protect horses,” Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in a statement. “. . . We will be contacting the district attorney’s office, as we did in California, where the D.A. has appointed a task force to investigate training and veterinary practices.”

Friday’s eighth race at Pimlico, the Adena Springs Miss Preakness Stakes, was a six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies with a $150,000 purse. The race appeared uneventful outside of Covfefe’s track-record time in winning by 8½ lengths.

But just after crossing the wire in ninth and last place, Congrats Gal — trained by Cathal Lynch for owner Charles Biggs — was quickly pulled up by her jockey, Trevor McCarthy, who dismounted just before the horse collapsed.

Libby Daniel, equine welfare and medical director for the Maryland Horse Racing Commission, attended to Congrats Gal on the track.

“I still thought this was a chance this was exhaustion-related,” Daniel said in a telephone interview. “The jockey was still there and saying: ‘Libby, she’s sound. She’s sound.’ ”

But after trying unsuccessfully to help Congrats Gal raise her chest — a common remedy for exhaustion-related issues — Daniel said she could no longer feel the horse’s heart beating.

“Her color was getting very pale,” Daniel said. “It was clear she was dying. . . . It’s something internal that just goes horribly wrong, and there’s no way to save them at that point.”

Daniel said Congrats Gal was given a standard examination before the race, and there were no problems detected then or during the post-parade or the early stages of the race, in which Congrats Gal ran as high as second.

“There’s no way to predict that anything like this is going to happen,” she said.

Congrats Gal’s death casts an even darker shadow over Saturday’s $1.5 million Preakness, the middle jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown. The race is already without Kentucky Derby winner Country House, the first Derby champion in 23 years to skip the Preakness, as well as Maximum Security, the horse that crossed the finish line first at Churchill Downs — only to be disqualified for veering across multiple lanes of traffic, with Country House declared the winner after a 22-minute review.

In the aftermath of the controversial finish, owners, trainers and jockeys traded barbs over the stewards’ decision, and Maximum Security’s owner, Gary West, sued the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to reverse the race’s official result. Jockey Luis Saez, who rode Maximum Security in the Derby, was suspended 15 racing days for failure to “control and guide his mount.”

The episode has left the sport worrying about attendance and television ratings for the Preakness — even as the race itself reaches a crossroads, with the Stronach Group pushing to move it from Pimlico to suburban Laurel Park, which it also owns, by 2021. Baltimore political leaders oppose the move and have threatened to take legal steps to stop it.

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 on: Today at 04:15 AM 
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Coyote-killing contests face growing outrage, state bans

By Karin Brulliard
May 20 2019
WA Post

In mid-December, a hunting contest was held in central Arizona for the 11th year in a row. The team that killed the most coyotes won. The event’s name emphasized the goal: It was called the “Santa Slay Coyote Tournament.”

It might have been the contest’s final year. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission is now considering banning Santa Slay and other privately run derbies that target predators and animals typically hunted for their fur. While coyote hunting would remain legal year-round and with no bag limits, a proposed rule would draw the line at doing it for competition.

“We’re not looking for controversial things to get into,” Jim Zieler, the commission’s chairman, said in an interview. “But this is something that we needed to evaluate a little bit closer and make sure we’re painting the right picture of what ethical hunting and fair chase in Arizona is all about.”

Arizona is among several states that are mulling or have enacted similar bans of private contests amid pressure from animal protection groups and growing public outcry. New Mexico prohibited coyote-hunting tournaments in the state last month, as did Vermont in 2018. California in 2014 outlawed all predator-hunting contests, and lawmakers in New Jersey, New York and Oregon are considering some form of ban.

Participants in such contests typically compete over a day or weekend to kill the largest animals, the most animals, or the heaviest cumulative weight of animals. Most center on predators including foxes and bobcats, and coyotes — adaptable Western canines that have rapidly spread across the nation and beyond — are a common target. Participants sometimes attract coyotes using “calls,” devices that simulate the sounds of prey or coyote cubs in distress. Winners get cash or prizes.

Advocates for the contests say they help keep predators like coyotes, which some view as a threat to livestock or a nuisance, in check. Opponents say science does not back that up, and they condemn the events as gruesome celebrations of slaughter.

The competitions are held in at least 45 states, said Jill Fritz, director of wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the United States, which for two years has worked with the California-based advocacy group Project Coyote to lead a push against the events. In a 2018 news release, the Humane Society said its undercover investigations at contests in New York and New Jersey documented “participants slinging the dead bodies of coyotes and foxes into piles” and joking about their deaths.

“Some of the foxes are so tiny,” Fritz said. “It boggles the mind what they are celebrating.”

Animal activist groups’ opposition to the events has been buoyed by support from some state wildlife officials and wildlife management scientists. The Wildlife Society, an organization that represents wildlife professionals and does not frown on hunting as a management tool, issued a statement in March that gently discouraged the contests, saying they “may undermine the public’s view of ethical hunting.”

Mike Finley, chair of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, urged a ban in a March letter to Oregon lawmakers. He called coyote-hunting contests “counterproductive” — citing research showing the animals step up reproduction when killing increases — as well as “revolting."

“As a hunter myself, I am proud of the key role the hunting community plays in conserving our state’s wildlife,” Finley wrote. “These killing contests, however, are not responsible hunting. They glorify killing for its own sake and cast Oregon’s entire hunting community in a bad light.”

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission proposed the prohibition on predator-hunting contests following widening opposition at the local level. Several Arizona municipalities and counties, including the city of Tucson and Yavapai County, where the Santa Slay was held, have passed resolutions condemning the events. If approved, a statewide ban would take effect by this fall, said Zieler, who estimated that 10 to 12 of the contests are staged each year in Arizona.

Zieler said the topic is an unusual one for the Arizona commission. It usually sticks to science-based questions, and the state wildlife department’s review of relevant research determined killing contests aren’t likely to dent Arizona’s robust coyote population or increase it, he said.

“So this is more of a social issue,” he said.

About 90 percent of speakers at public hearings on the rule over the past month were against the contests, Zieler said.

“There has been a lot of social outcry against this, and you can kind of understand why,” said Zieler, who added that he is a hunter. “It’s difficult to stand up and defend a practice like this. It’s just not enough to say, ‘Science will tell us it doesn’t have a significant impact on the predator population.’”

While many hunting contests target coyotes, some offer rewards for killing foxes, bobcats, or even crows.
The organizer of the Santa Slay, a predator-hunting group called Call-In The Country, did not respond to a request for comment. On Facebook, it encouraged its followers to oppose the change in public comments to the game and fish commission. “It is important that you are professional in your email and do not come across like a redneck against the humane society,” it wrote.

In Massachusetts, a gun shop that organizes a controversial coyote-killing contest on Cape Cod, Powder Horn Outfitters, defended the event in a recent opinion piece published by Cape Cod Today. It compared it to a fishing tournament, “a baseball game, or even Girl Scouts selling their cookies. They all promote sportsmanship, dedication, and [camaraderie] among like-minded individuals who participate in events which utilize their skill set in hopes to be the best at their hobby.”

Massachusetts has not yet proposed limiting or outlawing the contests, but debate over them prompted the state wildlife agency, known as MassWildlife, to schedule four public listening sessions. At the first, in the town of West Barnstable last month, an official emphasized that the tournament was not about moderating coyote populations, according to CapeCod.com.

“The contest is being offered by a private business, it has nothing to do with managing wildlife,” Marion Larson, MassWildlife’s chief of information and education, told the crowd, the site reported. "I do want to make it clear, coyote contests are not a management tool by any stretch of the imagination.”

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