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Apr 22, 2018, 07:11 AM
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 11 
 on: Apr 21, 2018, 05:27 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
How NASA plans to look inside Mars with its next lander

A heat probe, a tungsten hammer, and a seismograph will give astronomers a good look inside the red planet.

Immanuel Jotham
Apr 21, 2018 11:23 IST
IBT

NASA has a Mars mission that is set to launch in about a month from now where it will, for the first time look inside the planet, called the InSight, it will be the first time that humans get a look inside the planet. So far all Mars missions have only studied the surface with rovers and atmosphere using orbiters. InSight will look down into the ground.

The inner composition of the red planet is still completely unknown. "We've got a black hole that starts 5 meters below the surface and goes all the way down to the center," says Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator and a geophysicist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), reports ScienceMag. The InSight's mission is to measure thickness and composition of Mars' crust, mantle, and core.

Data collected by InSight will pave the way for better understanding of how Mars lost its magnetic field and if the planet once had plate tectonics –a crust made of large plates that glide over the inner mantle. The lander will also have a seismograph to measure marsquakes, notes the report.

The InSight mission was actually planned to be launched two years back, notes the report. A leak was found in the seismometer's vacuum, almost forced the cancellation of the project, but after years of work, a fix was found and the project is back on track. The InSight mission also marks the return of NASA to planetary seismology after nearly 40 years. The last time was when Apollo astronauts delivered five seismographs to the Moon where lunar quakes helped identify the internal makeup of the satellite.

InSight is based on the same platform as 2008's Phoenix lander, notes the report. Built by JPL in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and other European partners, it is set to land on what Banerdt says is, "the most geologically boring site on the planet". A smooth lava plain near the Martian Equator is where InSight will land, using parachutes and retrorockets to safely reach the surface. While InSight could work just as well in pretty much any spot on the planet, a boring, smooth, tropical place was chosen because there are little to no landing hazards in this location, and there is also enough sunlight to keep the solar panels active.

InSight's seismograph will be about the size of a volleyball, notes the report. There will also be a heat probe that will be driven 5 meters into the ground. A robotic arm equipped with a tungsten hammer will plant it deep into the surface of Mars with thousands of strikes.

The lander is expected to reach Mars and begin work by November.

 12 
 on: Apr 21, 2018, 05:24 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
The week in wildlife – in pictures

A newly hatched turtle, a roaming peacock and egrets in China are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

Compiled by Guy Lane
Guardian
Fri 20 Apr 2018 14.00 BST

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2018/apr/20/the-week-in-wildlife-in-pictures

 13 
 on: Apr 21, 2018, 05:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Exclusive: US official appeared to delay protections for endangered species at behest of oil group

The energy friendly agenda inside Trump’s interior department is revealed in records obtained by the Guardian and the watchdog groups Documented and the Western Values Project

Jimmy Tobias
Guardian
21 Apr 2018 11.00 BST

The Texas hornshell is a sleek green-grey mussel that once thrived in the Rio Grande watershed, its habitat stretching from southern New Mexico down into the arid Texas borderlands. Some of its habitat happens to overlap with rich deposits of oil and gas.

Amid a long-term decline in its range, the Obama administration in 2016 proposed to declare the mussel an endangered species. Upon taking office, however, the Trump administration changed tack.

A top interior department official, Vincent DeVito, appears to take credit for helping to delay federal protections for the species at the behest of fossil-fuel industry groups, one of several examples of his willingness to prioritize the needs of extractive industries with business before the government, according to public records obtained by the Guardian and Pacific Standard as well as Documented and the Western Values Project, both watchdog groups.

DeVito, a Boston energy lawyer and the former co-chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Massachusetts, is a little-known figure in the US government. He is one of a host of political appointees hired by Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary whose department oversees well over 400m acres of public land and can determine the fate of species that inhabit them.

Yet DeVito is now emerging as a critical player. At a speech last summer to Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers, DeVito described his role at the department as “the office of energy dominance”. Officially, there is no such office, though “energy dominance” has become a slogan for the interior department’s fossil-fuel-first policy agenda.

“The war on American energy is over,” DeVito told the activists, according to a recording of the speech obtained by the Guardian. “And, matter of fact, if there is a war, we’re going to win it and we’re going full bore,” he said, before adding that the administration’s approach would be a “responsible” one.

Matters for the Texas hornshell case came to a head in June 2017, when the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), an industry trade group, met with interior department officials, including Zinke and DeVito. Two weeks later an IPAA staffer emailed DeVito to ask that the species listing be delayed for six months, citing industry opposition.

“We really hope that you can intervene before this species gets listed next month,” Samantha McDonald, the IPAA’s government relations director, wrote to DeVito. In his reply, DeVito asked that McDonald keep him apprised of “what you may be hearing as this unfolds”.

Less than a month later, in August, the US Fish and Wildlife Service granted the delay that IPAA sought. McDonald again wrote DeVito, as well as the acting director of the fish and wildlife service, in an email with the subject line “THANK YOU!”

“On behalf of my members, I wanted to thank you for the 6-month delay on the Texas Hornshell,” she wrote, adding that it was “a good call”.

DeVito responded to McDonald that same day. “No problem,” he wrote.
Vincent DeVito has described his role as ‘the office of energy dominance’ and once said in a speech: ‘The war on American energy is over.’

Although the mussel was eventually granted protections in February 2018, former officials at the Department of the Interior (DoI) with knowledge of the department’s rules and procedures say DeVito’s apparent involvement in the listing process raises both ethical and legal questions.

“Listing decisions under the Endangered Species Act are meant to be entirely science-based decisions that result from – in some cases – years of review by experts in the field, not political appointees,” says Elizabeth Klein, a former associate deputy secretary at the DoI during the Obama years and now the deputy director of New York University’s state energy and environmental impact center.

“A delay in and of itself might not be the end of the world – but then again it very well could be for an imperiled species.”

Charles Randklev, a research scientist at Texas A&M’s Natural Resources Institute who has closely studied the hornshell, said the species is “standing on the brink”.

“We were all taken by surprise,” he said of the listing delay.

In a statement, the interior department press secretary, Heather Swift, said that DeVito “disagrees with The Guardian’sanalysis of the emails”.

    Mining is the single biggest factor that has eliminated this species from a lot of its range
    Roger Thoma, researcher

DeVito “maintains that he simply responded with an acknowledgement of receipt on the mussel email and maintains he had no role whatsoever in the listing”, Swift said.

Referencing comments by Zinke, she noted: “Political appointees are not at the department to manipulate data, they are here to make informed decisions and policy.”

DeVito’s penchant for “energy dominance” has played out in other ways as well. As chairman of the interior department’s royalty policy committee, he helps determine the royalty rates that energy companies must pay to drill and mine on federal lands and waters, effectively encouraging or disincentivizing them.

At his Americans for Prosperity speech, Devito described how he consulted closely with fossil fuel groups before recommending to Zinke in February that the interior department reduce royalty rates on offshore oil and gas drillers by a third, from 18.75% to 12.5%.

Ultimately, Zinke rejected that proposed reduction, but DeVito’s committee and its affiliated working groups labored to deliver on other industry desires as well, including drafting proposals to roll back regulations.

DeVito’s energy agenda also took him to West Virginia last year, where he helped coal interests obtain federal approval for a new mine near the habitat of Appalachia’s imperiled Big Sandy crayfish.

“Mining is the single biggest factor that has eliminated this species from a lot of its range,” said Roger Thoma, a senior research associate at the Midwest Biodiversity Institute who has surveyed the crayfish extensively.

In 2016, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listed the Big Sandy crayfish as threatened, meaning new coalmines are required to consult with FWS before initiating projects that might prove harmful. One such project was the Berwind mine, an underground coal operation in the southern West Virginia owned by the company Ramaco Resources, several of whose board members are major Trump campaign contributors.

As the Fish and Wildlife Service deliberated through 2016 and early 2017 over how best Berwind and other mines might mitigate potential harm to the crayfish, the industry chafed at the wait. “That is a long time to have multimillion-dollar mine project investments that would employ hundreds pending” due to uncertainty around crayfish protection standards, said the West Virginia Coal Association vice-president, Jason Bostic.

On 14 and 15 June last year, DeVito traveled to West Virginia and came to the industry’s aid. According to records, his trip was planned in part by the West Virginia Coal Association itself, which submitted a trip schedule to one of DeVito’s colleagues. The schedule included meetings with the coal association as well as state and FWS regulators overseeing crayfish conservation in the region.

Four days after DeVito’s trip, the Fish and Wildlife service approved the Berwind mine’s protection plan for the crayfish. In his speech to Americans for Prosperity, DeVito highlighted his role in enabling the mine’s approval.

He loved fixing “small problems the best”, he told the crowd, “because if I go out to West Virginia and I rescue a coal project from bureaucratic entanglement, and then you see two days later the company in the field with guys going back to work, that is pretty rewarding.”

Conservationists, however, say the DoI’s decision to approve the Berwind mine’s crayfish protection plan was deeply flawed.

Such plans “are supposed to be these very thorough documents … about how mining operators will protect the species,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which sued in 2012 to have the Big Sandy crayfish listed under the Endangered Species Act. “This one is short, and doesn’t go into detail. It is woefully inadequate.”

Later DeVito went even further, and added his signature in red pen to a plan that guides regulatory scrutiny of future mines operating in or near crayfish habitat. Former interior department officials familiar with FWS rules and regulations say that a lawyer and political appointee like DeVito has neither the scientific expertise nor the authority to approve such science-based guidance.

“It is a scientific integrity violation for a political appointee to essentially leapfrog the Fish and Wildlife Service’s process when you have an Endangered Species Act listing involved,” says Joel Clement, a longtime interior department scientist and now whistleblower who left the department after being pushed out of his post.

“It is absolutely inappropriate. As a senior advisor [DeVito] has no authority of position – so essentially that guidance was not worth the paper it was written on.” Nevertheless, the guidance DeVito signed appeared to remain in effect for nine months, until state and federal regulators updated and approved a more stringent version in late March.

 14 
 on: Apr 21, 2018, 05:13 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

More than 95% of world's population breathe dangerous air, major study finds

Poorest are hardest hit with many developing countries falling behind on cleaning up toxic air pollution

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Guardian
21 Apr 2018 05.00 BST

Children walking to school wearing smog pollution masks in Britain. Residents in many developing countries are exposed to toxic air both outdoors and inside their homes.

More than 95% of the world’s population breathe unsafe air and the burden is falling hardest on the poorest communities, with the gap between the most polluted and least polluted countries rising rapidly, a comprehensive study of global air pollution has found.

Cities are home to an increasing majority of the world’s people, exposing billions to unsafe air, particularly in developing countries, but in rural areas the risk of indoor air pollution is often caused by burning solid fuels. One in three people worldwide faces the double whammy of unsafe air both indoors and out.

The report by the Health Effects Institute used new findings such as satellite data and better monitoring to estimate the numbers of people exposed to air polluted above the levels deemed safe by the World Health Organisation. This exposure has made air pollution the fourth highest cause of death globally, after high blood pressure, diet and smoking, and the greatest environmental health risk.

Experts estimate that exposure to air pollution contributed to more than 6m deaths worldwide last year, playing a role in increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, lung cancer and chronic lung disease. China and India accounted for more than half of the death toll.

Burning solid fuel such as coal or biomass in their homes for cooking or heating exposed 2.6 billion people to indoor air pollution in 2016, the report found. Indoor air pollution can also affect air quality in the surrounding area, with this effect contributing to one in four pollution deaths in India and nearly one in five in China.

Bob O’Keefe, vice-president of the institute, said the gap between the most polluted air on the planet and the least polluted was striking. While developed countries have made moves to clean up, many developing countries have fallen further behind while seeking economic growth.

He said there was now an 11-fold gap between the most polluted and least polluted areas, compared with a six-fold gap in 1990. “Air pollution control systems still lag behind economic development [in poorer nations],” he said.

But he added: “There are reasons for optimism, though there is a long way to go. China seems to be now moving pretty aggressively, for instance in cutting coal and on stronger controls. India has really begun to step up on indoor air pollution, for instance through the provision of LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] as a cooking fuel, and through electrification.”

The number of people exposed to indoor air pollution from burning solid fuels has fallen from an estimated 3.6 billion around the world in 1990 to about 2.4 billion today, despite a rising population.

Emissions from transport are a growing concern, however, as road traffic increases. Diesel fuel is a leading cause of air pollution in some rich countries, including the UK, but in poorer countries the often decrepit state of many vehicles means petrol-driven engines can be just as bad in their outputs, especially of the fine particulate matter blamed for millions of deaths a year.

O’Keefe said governments were under increasing pressure to deal with the problems through regulation and controls, and hailed internet access as having a significant impact.

“Social media has been very important, as a growing number of people have access to it and to data and discussions [on air pollution]. People now have the ability to worry about not just the food they eat and a roof over the head, but they have the means to discuss [issues] in public,” he said.

Tuesday’s report reinforces an increasing volume of data in recent years that has shown how air pollution is increasing and causing deaths. More data has become available in the past decade from satellites and on-the-ground monitoring, while large-scale studies have revealed more of the health risks arising from breathing dirty air, which rarely kills people directly but is now known to contribute to other causes of death.

 15 
 on: Apr 21, 2018, 05:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Japan's renewable energy puzzle: solar push threatens environment

As the country rushes to cut carbon emissions by 26%, campaigners worry that forests and wildlife are being trampled

Justin McCurry in Ichihara
Guardian
21 Apr 2018 05.08 BST

The tens of thousands of solar panels resting on the surface of the Yamakura dam reservoir have finally begun to earn their keep.

This floating solar farm in Chiba prefecture is the biggest of its kind in Japan – and one of the largest in the world – covering 180,000 square metres, or roughly equivalent to 25 Wembley stadium pitches.

Over the next two decades its 51,000 solar panels will generate an estimated 16,170 megawatt hours annually — enough to power thousands of local households.

In the post-Fukushima era, local authorities around Japan are courting private investment in renewables as part of a push to dramatically increase their share of the national energy mix.

The project, along with dozens of other large-scale solar farms, is also supposed to help Japan – the world’s fifth-biggest carbon emitter – honour its Paris climate agreement vow to cut carbon emissions by 26% by 2030 from 2013 levels.

But while most residents support the Yamakura plant’s construction, in other parts of Chiba prefecture campaigners say the rush to blanket large areas with solar panels has the potential to unleash environmental catastrophes, even as they lower CO2 emissions.

Pressure on Japan to increase renewables’ share of the energy mix means the number of large-scale solar farms is expected to rise. But, far from welcoming the dawn of a new age of clean energy on their doorstep, residents near the proposed site of a huge solar farm in the city of Kamogawa are mounting a last-ditch effort to prevent its construction.

To make the Kamogawa mega solar plant, developers will destroy 300 hectares of pristine forest.

The irony of chopping down trees, which absorb CO2 in the air as they grow, to replace them with a solar plant has not been lost on campaigners, who claim the facility will destroy the natural environment and put the area at the mercy of the elements.

Of all of the countries investing in renewables, few are as in need of a fundamental rethink on energy policy as Japan. The country recently marked the seventh anniversary of the tsunami disaster and Fukushima meltdown – which resulted in the closure of dozens of nuclear reactors – yet it still lags behind other countries in clean energy development.

China is by far the biggest investor in renewables, according to a 2017 report by the International Energy Agency. By 2022, the report said, solar and wind capacity in China could reach twice Japan’s current total power capacity. Over the next four years, the growth in renewable energy capacity in the US, India and the European Union are forecast to outstrip that in Japan.

According to the ministry of economy, trade and industry, renewable energy accounts for almost 15% of Japan’ energy mix but is dwarfed by coal at 30% and liquefied natural gas at almost 40%.

In response, the government is aiming to increase renewables’ share to between 22% and 24% by 2030 – a target described as “ambitious” by the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, but criticised by his foreign minister, Taro Kono.

“For too long, Japan has turned a blind eye to global trends, such as the dramatic decrease in the price of renewables and the inevitable shift to decarbonisation in the face of climate change,” Kono told a meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.

He said Japan’s 2030 pledge was woefully inadequate given that renewable energy already accounts for 24% of total global energy generation. “As Japanese foreign minister, I consider these circumstances lamentable.”

The company behind the Kamogawa mega solar plant has vowed to spare trees on half of the site but that gesture will not be enough to save local wildlife, according to Noriyuki Imanishi, who heads a local group opposing the Kamogawa plant.

“Under Japan’s renewable drive there is no need to conduct environmental impact assessments, but we are certain that the plant will have a negative impact on local animals,” Imanishi said. “There are lots of deer and wild boar in the area, and this will threaten their environment.”

A Chiba prefectural official said solar plants were part of the central government’s drive to promote renewables. “We’re aware that there is opposition and we now take a more holistic approach to building new facilities so that we can gain the understanding of the local community,” he said.

Chiba prefecture, which is served by the electricity company Tepco, is one of several local regions that are courting private renewable investors, offering public land for the construction of ever-larger solar farms on land and water.

Developers, meanwhile, are seeking bigger, more economical, sites – which come at a premium in a mountainous country with a large coastal population, and where large tracts of flat land are hard to come by.

“After the Fukushima disaster we identified the need to diversify our energy supply to include solar, wind and micro-hydroelectric, and at the same time stimulate the local economy,” said Kouichi Ishige, a deputy director in the prefecture’s industrial waterworks bureau.

In its 2017 report on the industry, the Japan Renewable Energy Institute noted mounting concern about the impact mega plants were having on areas of natural and historical importance, echoing campaigners’ fears that the destruction of heavily wooded, mountainous land could increase the risk posed by floods and landslides.

Mega solar projects are under construction in other parts of the country, including in areas of natural beauty such as the Izu peninsula and Nikko, a national park.

But as long as local authorities see mega solar plants as a source of tax revenue – as well as cheap electricity – opponents appear powerless to halt their construction.

“This isn’t about pitting renewable energy against nuclear power,” said Yasufumi Horie, an opponent of the Kamogawa plant, who believes Fukushima has proved nuclear power is no longer a viable source of energy in Japan. “I’m in favour of renewables – the issue is the solar plants’ size and location.”

 16 
 on: Apr 21, 2018, 05:05 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Humans as old as 79 still generate new neurons, stirring new debate

ZME
4/21/2018

A new study seems to suggest that humans are capable of growing new neurons well into old age, contradicting previous research that found neurogenesis stops altogether after childhood.

The team at the Columbia University in New York carefully scrutinized the autopsied brain samples sourced from 28 individuals who had died abruptly at ages 14-79. Researchers zoomed in on the hippocampus, which is the seat of learning and memory formation in the brain, looking for newly formed neurons and the state of blood vessels.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that older people had a similar ability to make thousands of new neurons in the hippocampus, from progenitor cells (stem cells), as younger people had. The idea that both young and old humans alike produce new neurons was reinforced by the fact that the hippocampus had equivalent volumes across all ages.

To identify neurogenesis, the researchers had to look for specific clues like proteins produced by neurons at particular stages of their development. For instance, proteins like GFAP and SOX2 are released by stem cells when these turn into neurons, while proteins like Ki-67 are generated by the development of newborn neurons. Across all ages, the researchers found proteins linked with newborn neurons in the dentate gyrus, which is an area of the hippocampus where neurons are born.

The number of neural stem cells was a bit lower in people in their 70s compared to individuals in their 20s. However, the older brains still possessed thousands of these cells and the number of neurons in an intermediate to an advanced stage of development was found to be the same across all age groups.

In today’s context of an aging populace, the findings are particularly important with the threat of widespread dementia looming. The findings suggest that the elderly may retain more of their cognitive and emotional abilities longer into old age than previously thought possible.
Dots represent new nerve cells. Roughly the same number of dots exist in the hippocampus of both people in their 20s (top) and in their 70s (bottom). Credit: Columbia University.

Dots represent new nerve cells. Roughly the same number of dots exist in the hippocampus of both people in their 20s (top) and in their 70s (bottom). Credit: Columbia University.

Maura Boldrini, associate professor of neurobiology at Columbia University and lead author of the new study, cautions, however, that the newly formed neurons in old age may be less capable of forming new connections, partly due to aging blood vessels.

However, it was only last month that a study performed at the University of California in San Francisco came to the opposite conclusion. After analyzing brain samples from 59 adults and children, the researchers wrote: “we found no evidence of young neurons or the dividing progenitors of new neurons” in the hippocampi of people older than 18. They found some evidence of new neural growth in children younger than one year and some signs of this happening in children aged 7 to 13. This study, which some have called ‘sobering’, suggested that the very vast majority of the human hippocampus is generated during fetal development.

Referring to the new findings, Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, who is a researcher at the University of California in San Francisco, said that “the cells they [scientists at Columbia] call new neurons in the adult hippocampus are very different in shape and appearance from what would be considered a young neuron in other species, or what we have observed in humans in young children.”

Hopefully, more research will shed light on the matter. Neither of the two studies has the last word — but this is a good debate to be had.

 17 
 on: Apr 20, 2018, 05:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
German neo-Nazis mass for festival on Hitler’s birthday

Agence France-Presse
20 Apr 2018 at 07:08 ET                   

Hundreds of neo-Nazis were expected to congregate Friday, which marks Adolf Hitler’s birthday, for a two-day festival in a small eastern German town where anti-fascist groups have vowed counter-protests.

A major police deployment aims to prevent violence during the “Schild und Schwert” (Shield and Sword, or SS) festival near the Polish and Czech borders that is expected to also attract eastern European extremists.

“You will see police on every corner,” the local police chief told a regional newspaper, with hundreds of officers to brought in from other states, while Polish authorities across the Neisse river border also said they would step up patrols.

Organisers argue that the “Reconquista Europa” festival — featuring far-right music, speeches, martial arts, a tattoo convention and merchandise stalls — is a political event, granting it legal protection under the German constitution.

It comes as Germany, after a mass influx of asylum seekers, is witnessing a revival of a far-right and ultra-nationalist groups and has seen the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) enter parliament.

The Shield and Sword festival organiser is Thorsten Heise of the far-right fringe party NPD, which is openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic but last year avoided a legal ban because of its small membership and limited influence.

Organisers say they expect some 800 guests at the festival in Ostritz, population 2,300, in a remote region of the ex-communist eastern state of Saxony where the AfD scored some of its strongest results nationwide in 2017 elections.

But anti-fascist or “antifa” activists warn that 2,500-3,500 neo-Nazis from across Europe may show up, with many due to stay just across the nearby Polish border.

“We will not stand and watch when neo-Nazis from Germany and the rest of Europe come for a party to celebrate the Fuehrer’s birthday,” the initiative “Rechts Rockt Nicht” said online, vowing to “stand together and resist them”.

– ‘Defend tribe’ –

A separate “Peace Festival” has been organised by local politicians, civic groups and church leaders, with conservative Saxony state premier Michael Kretschmer due to give the opening speech.

The event in the town centre will feature speeches, a circus and an Arabic cafe, to show that the town values “cosmopolitanism, tolerance, democracy and peaceful coexistence”.

“An inhumane ideology that glorifies Hitler and his deeds has no place in our society,” say its organisers.

While neo-Nazis have long staged underground concerts for recruiting and fund-raising, a major two-day music festival with a tent city and tickets selling at up to 45 euros ($55) is seen as an escalation of an emboldened far-right movement.

It is being staged just across the border from Poland’s Dolny Slask (Lower Silesia) region, which was invaded by Nazi Germany and whose return to Poland after World War II continues to anger neo-Nazis.

Sascha Elser, spokeswoman of the counter-protest “Rechts Rockt Nicht”, said that, ironically, Polish extremists are expected to flock to the festival, where she said German and eastern European neo-Nazis hope to “strengthen relations”.

“If this is really to happen, that you can gather and celebrate Hitler’s birthday without any problems or consequences, it is a clear sign that our law and society are sick.”

The Shield and Sword lineup features bands linked to the far-right and hooligan scene.

Also on the programme is a “fight night” event called “Kampf der Nibelungen”, a reference from Germanic and Norse mythology, featuring boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts.

“To live is to fight,” declares the event website. “At all times it was fighters who defended their clan, their tribe, their homeland.”

 18 
 on: Apr 20, 2018, 05:33 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Here are 13 transformational bills in Congress that could completely change America as we know it

AlterNet
20 Apr 2018 at 23:59 ET                   

We are so focused on political parties, and also on the personalities of candidates, that we almost always ignore some of the really important, and sometimes transformational things that are also “on the ballot” in congressional elections.
 And when there is a Special Election in the middle of a Congressional Session, this is even more the case, as brand-new lawmakers can change the dynamic on Capitol Hill, helping to sway the outcome of numerous bills awaiting votes in Congress.

So, here are just a few of the bills that currently exist and are waiting to be voted on (or not) that a Congresswoman Debbie Lesko or a Congresswoman Hiral Tipirneni—currently in a battle to fill the seat left vacant by incumbent Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)—will be able to co-sponsor and vote for. Or not.

Arizona’s 8th District voters aren’t the only American voters who have a say in who’s getting a seat in the 115th Congress. Voters in Ohio’s 12th and Michigan’s 13th are also tasked with filling vacancies in upcoming special elections. Also, voters from Minnesota and Mississippi will vote to fill vacant Senate seats.

The following bills have the power of enacting transformational change across the nation on issues that should concern everyone.

    The Clean Energy for America Act: To incentivize additional renewable energy and more renewable energy jobs, potentially helping to turn Arizona into a solar power “powerhouse.”
    The Paycheck Fairness Act: To ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work. The bill already has 199 sponsors and co-sponsors and only needs 19 more supporters to have enough votes to pass the House. Will any of the candidates seeking congressional seats this year be that 200th vote?
    The Citizen Sovereignty Act: To help reduce the influence of big money lobbyists in Washington. The bill will be introduced on April 25, the day after the April 24th special elections.
    The Safe and Affordable Prescription Drug Importation Act: To allow Americans to purchase prescription drugs from Canada at lower rates than available in the United States and “The SPIKE Act” to prevent large spikes in the cost of currently available drugs.
    The Save Net Neutrality Act: To return net neutrality as the law in the U.S.
    The Fair Representation Act: To end political gerrymandering, the practice of states choosing political districts for political benefit.
    The Student Loan Fairness Act: To allow college students to benefit from the same interest rates as big banks do.
    The Marijuana Justice Act: To eliminate federal penalties for the possession or use of marijuana for recreational purposes.
    The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act: One of many bills that affect animals that almost never receive public attention, this would overrule laws in many states allowing for the killing of dogs and cats and help NGOs end the Yulin Dog Meat Festival (currently stuck in committee).
    The PAST Act: Also stuck in Congress, this would outlaw the torture of Tennessee Walker horses, reversing a law that animal rights advocates consider to be one of the cruelest in American history.
    The Dream Act: To cancel the removal and grant lawful permanent resident status on a conditional basis to an alien who is inadmissible or deportable.
    The Medicare for All Act: To expand Medicare to all ages and allow every American to receive medical services from the government if they so desired.
    The Background Check Expansion Act: To create comprehensive background checks for gun purchases.

Also, in March of 2017, Congress passed H.J.Res 69 to allow hunters in Alaska to shoot baby bears and their parents hibernating in their dens, overturning a key Obama-era animal rights law. Will Lesko or Tiperneni—or other candidates seeking congressional seats this year in Ohio and Michigan—support a bill to overturn this cruel resolution if they are elected?

Legislators legislate. That is their responsibility. Their main job is to sponsor or co-sponsor and vote for pieces of legislation that will solve the challenges of the American people and move our country forward.

If you are eligible to vote for candidates seeking a legislative seat, ask them specifically whether they will co-sponsor and vote for bills that you care about.

And, then, it is your responsibility to go to the polls and “hire” a proxy who will go to Washington and vote for these bills.

So, let’s move beyond political parties and talk about—and hold our political candidates responsible for—voting for the specific things that matter to us, our families, animals and the environment, and the direction of our country.

Tell your elected lawmakers in Washington how they should vote on these important bills. Click here to contact your representative. Click here to contact your senator.

Editor’s note: As of April 2018, there are three special elections for U.S. House seats and two special elections for U.S. Senate seats upcoming in 2018. Click here for a full list. Also, as of April, 68 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 23 states. Click here for an updated list.

 19 
 on: Apr 20, 2018, 05:27 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Here are the 8 most shocking revelations from the release of the Comey memos

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
19 Apr 2018 at 22:29 ET                  

It was well known about the conversation between former FBI director James Comey and President Donald Trump about former national security advisor Michael Flynn. However, the release of the Comey memos passed to Congress from the Justice Department revealed some previously unknown details about their conversations.

Here are the most shocking:

1. Trump brought up Russian prostitutes on three separate occasions.

Out of the five meetings between the two, Trump brought up Russian prostitutes on three occasions. One of those was in context of the Christopher Steele dossier and the salacious accusations that Trump hired prostitutes to urinate in the bed that former President Barack Obama once slept in while in Moscow.

    This is the second time, per Comey's memos, that Trump told him he did not stay overnight in Moscow in 2013. Schiller testified that he did. https://t.co/QIkhLOpIzT pic.twitter.com/rMRlANziW9

    — Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) April 20, 2018

2. Trump wanted to jail journalists to entice them to give up anonymous sources.

It was known that Trump wanted to throw journalists in jail, but the comments he made about it went even further.

sic] it has been very painful). is [sic] bringing a personal lawsuit against Christopher Steele. always [sic] advised people to assume they were being recorded in Russia. has [sic] accounts now from those who travelled [sic] with him to Miss Universe pageant that he didn’t do anything, etc.”

6. Reince Priebus demanded to know if Flynn was under a FISA warrant.

    Per Comey Memo, during meeting at the WH, then Chief of Staff @Reince asked him: “Do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn?” pic.twitter.com/Qgpi5qwIS4

    — Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) April 20, 2018

Interestingly, the question from Priebus came just 13 days after acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn could be subject to blackmail.

According to the timing of the memos, it was a week later when Trump asked Comey to let Flynn go.

7. Trump wasn’t sure about Flynn.

While the president tried to urge Comey to “let it go” with Flynn, he also wasn’t sure about the man he tasked with national security issues.

According to Comey, Trump said that he had “serious reservations about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s judgment.

8. Trump couldn’t stop bringing up Russia.

In the five meetings, Trump couldn’t stop talking about Russia. In one instance Comey revealed the two were talking about the argument Trump made that the United States is just as bad as Russia one some things.

“There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly

“You think my answer was good, right?” Trump reportedly asked Comey.

Comey said that he thought it was fine except for the “killers” remark, noting that the U.S. is not the kind of “killers” that Putin is. Trump didn’t like the answer, according to Comey.

“The president paused noticeably,” the memos reveal. “I don’t know what to make of it but he clearly noticed I had clearly criticized him.”

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

‘NO COLLUSION’: Trump proclaims his innocence after release of Comey memos that make him look bad

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
19 Apr 2018 at 23:48 ET                  

After the House Republicans released the memos from former FBI director James Comey, President Donald Trump declared victory on Twitter.

“James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?” he tweeted.

    James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018

The memos don’t prove there was no collusion, rather they quote the president saying that there is no collusion.

Similarly, the memos don’t prove there was no obstruction of justice. The allegation against Trump is that the firing of Comey was the example of obstruction, because Trump told NBC News Lester Holt the firing was as a result of the Russia investigation.

A leak is defined as an unauthorized release of confidential government information. Thus, the release of the memo was not technically considered a leak.

Many commentators have noted that the release of the memos ultimately makes Trump look worse. Whether it was the constant need to bring up Russia, yet another story of Trump and Russian prostitutes and the concerning timeline about conversations regarding former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

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

Morning Joe panel mocks GOP over Comey memos: ‘It takes a special kind of genius’ to get ‘checkmated by the facts’

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
20 Apr 2018 at 07:30 ET                   

MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace mocked House Republicans after their attempt to discredit FBI director James Comey quickly backfired and confirmed his salacious claims about President Donald Trump.

The president’s congressional allies pressured the Department of Justice to release contemporaneous memos written by Comey, which match up with accounts in his new book describing events from the early months of the Trump administration.

“Every conversation that Jim Comey testified to is proven out by the memos that the Republicans trying to prosecute Jim Comey wanted released,” said Wallace, who was filling in as guest host of “Morning Joe.” “This is really a case where the Republicans were checkmated by the facts.”

House Republicans threatened to hold deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein in contempt if he did not authorize release of the memos, which were promptly leaked to reporters.

“It takes a certain special kind of genius on the part of the Republicans to think that having these memos and then leaking them would somehow be — would work out well for the president,” said MSNBC’s John Heilemann, “that this would somehow exonerate him, knowing what the substance of the memos were. There may be a few new details, but these memos were never going to be good for President Trump, and none of them are devastating. There’s no huge material fact here that’s going to move the investigation.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipYghBlLB1Y

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

‘The stink of guilt is all over this guy’: Rick Wilson nails House GOP for thinking public Comey memos would help Trump

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
19 Apr 2018 at 23:45 ET                  

The calls of stupidity aimed at the House Republicans grew louder Thursday evening after they released the memos from former FBI director James Comey.

During a panel discussion with CNN’s Don Lemon, Republican Rick Wilson was astonished that the House Republicans would be so stupid to release memos that not only made the president look worse but made Comey look better.

“I don’t think his congressional allies did him any favors tonight by revealing these memos,” Wilson said, agreeing with many commentators speaking out on Twitter Thursday. “If they thought this was going to make Comey and had investigation look bad, this is once again reminding people of the concept of Trump, hookers and Russia all in one big package. It’s astounding how they released these tonight.”

Wilson was also shocked at how guilty President Donald Trump comes off in the memos.

“This is one more example of Donald Trump either having a relationship with Vladimir Putin that he hasn’t been honest about it, or trying to impress people with an imaginary relationship with Vladimir Putin,” Wilson also said. “This is guy whose behavior — I mean the stink of guilt is all over this guy.”

Watch: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6i3xh4

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

‘How does any evangelical stay’: Ex-Republican Congressman rails against Trump’s morality on display in Comey memos

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
19 Apr 2018 at 23:30 ET                  

During a Thursday panel discussion with CNN’s Don Lemon, former Republican Congressman David Jolly (R-FL) said that the takeaway from the release of the memos from former FBI director James Comey is the morality of the president should be more of a concern.

“I think the take away from this is the fact that Vladimir Putin told Donald Trump that they have beautiful Russian hookers,” Jolly said. “And the question tonight is how does any evangelical stay with Donald Trump in this moment? And this is one of the phenomenas of Donald Trump’s presidency to be honest, that someone who pledges family values is burdened by this extra-curricular, extra-marital activities.”

The reference Jolly made to the prostitutes goes back to a comment in the Comey memos about a conversation Trump said he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The President said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense,” Comey wrote, referencing the salacious “golden showers” dossier written by former British spy Christopher Steele. “Putin had told him ‘we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.’”

“He did not say when Putin had told him this,” Comey wrote.

“And tonight we learn, this memo comes out, that suggests there are beautiful Russian hookers that Donald Trump is somehow entranced by,” Jolly continued. “You can’t get away from that. And Don, look, fine it’s not a legal issue. Maybe it’s a political issue. But at the end of the day this is 2018, and we’re living through an environment in the United States of America where the president is compromised likely criminal but also morally.”

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

GOP leadership scrambles to spin Comey memo release as bad for former FBI director and not for Trump

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
19 Apr 2018 at 23:05 ET                  

The cable news shows were quick to seize on the release of the memos by former FBI director James Comey. However, everything discussed seemed to be about issues that weren’t entirely flattering to the president. Still, the Republican Congressional leadership tried to spin that the memos made Comey look bad.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) released a statement attacking the former FBI director.

“We have long argued former Director Comey’s self-styled memos should be in the public domain, subject to any classification redactions. These memos are significant for both what is in them and what is not,” their statement began. “Former Director Comey’s memos show the President made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated. The memos also made clear the ‘cloud’ President Trump wanted lifted was not the Russian interference in the 2016 election cloud, rather it was the salacious, unsubstantiated allegations related to personal conduct leveled in the dossier.”

As a fact-check, the memos reveal that the president said over and over again that there was no collusion. They provided no proof, evidence or information one way or the other.

“The memos also show former Director Comey never wrote that he felt obstructed or threatened,” the statement also said.

That is correct, instead, the memos illustrate the frequent requests by the president about Russia. The obstruction case has more to do with the president’s interview with NBC News reporter Lester Holt in which Trump admits he fired Comey as a result of the Russia investigation.

The Republicans then move to call out Comey for not taking contemporaneous notes about his conversations with President Barack Obama. It’s unclear if he did or did not take notes of conversations with Obama, though in his book, Comey details conversations with the former president, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other leaders.

Those commenting about the release of the memos on Twitter noted that the president has spent the past year assailing those who “leak.” In this case, it was the GOP leadership that provided the unflattering leak.

    So, they are the leakers? I thought leaking was bad🤔

    — Marc R. Bennett (@thegoodfello) April 20, 2018

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd wondered what the House GOP was hoping to accomplish by releasing the memos.

“Nothing I’ve read seems to change Comey’s story and if anything, these memos give more, not less, credence to the dossier,” he tweeted.

    What exactly were House Republicans hoping to accomplish by demanding the full release of these memos? Nothing I’ve read seems to change Comey’s story and if anything, these memos give more, not less, credence to the dossier.

    — Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) April 20, 2018

University of Texas School of Law Professor Steve Vladeck noted that the bluff by the House GOP “may have backfired spectacularly.” Unless it was their goal “to dramatically bolster Comey’s credibility.”

    If demanding that DOJ turn over the #ComeyMemos was a bluff on House Republicans’ part (to create an excuse to fire Rosenstein), it may have backfired spectacularly.

    (Unless their goal was to dramatically bolster Comey’s credibility.)

    — Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) April 20, 2018

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

Comey describes to MSNBC’s Maddow his ‘unusual’ Oval Office meeting with Trump where they discussed ‘Russian hookers’

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
19 Apr 2018 at 22:16 ET                  

While being interviewed by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, former FBI Director James Comey made a stunning revelation — that President Donald Trump discussed “the golden shower thing” and Russian “hookers” with him in the Oval Office.

In the memo, Comey noted that Trump brought up “the golden showers thing” as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that his country has “the most beautiful hookers.” When Maddow asked Comey about the conversation that she presumed took place in the White House, he did her one better, explaining that they spoke, along with then-chief of staff Reince Priebus, in the Oval Office.

“He told you he’d had a personal conversation with President Putin about hookers?” Maddow asked Comey, to which he simply responded “yes,” later noting that he did not think Trump was “speaking hyperbolically.”

When Maddow noted that she didn’t know of any other “personal conferring” Trump had had with Putin, Comey said he wasn’t positive, but though there may have been reporting about a congratulatory call between the two leaders.

“That would be an unusual first call between two heads of state, a congratulatory phone call to brag about the relative value of each country’s hookers,” Maddow mused.

“I agree,” Comey said.

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

Michael Cohen knows where the bodies are buried’: Ex-Watergate prosecutor warns Trump has ‘a lot to be worried about’

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
19 Apr 2018 at 20:39 ET

A onetime member of the Watergate prosecutorial team on Thursday night said that President Donald Trump has reason to be worried about the prospect of his longtime personality attorney Michael Cohen “flipping” on him.

After another Trump lawyer, Jay Goldberg, claimed Cohen will “flip” if faced with criminal charges, Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Bank said it’s possible the fellow attorney knows something the public does not.

“This is a person who knows [Cohen], and I would possibly think that he has a reason to say that and that Donald Trump has a reason to be really worried because Michael Cohen knows a lot of the places where the bodies are buried,” Wine-Bank told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. “He did deals for him, he’s been with him a long time.”

“We’ll have to wait and see,” she concluded, “whether he talks or doesn’t talk.”

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

Trump friend and lawyer thinks Michael Cohen will flip because he’s fearful of being raped in prison

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
19 Apr 2018 at 21:00 ET                  

Jay Goldberg, a longtime lawyer for Donald Trump, told CNN’s Erin Burnett Thursday that he expects Michael Cohen will flip on the president because he’s afraid of what might happen in prison.

“He’s not suited to stand up to the rigors of jail life,” Goldberg said. “Michael doesn’t see himself walking down Broadway while people are clamoring, ‘you’re going to be my wife.’ And so, he is under pressure from his family to try to figure out what it would take to bring the government aboard as his sponsor.”

Burnett noted that it sounds as if Goldberg believes Cohen did do something wrong that could be considered criminal.

“I don’t say that the government has importuned him to say certain things that are not true,” he said. “But a witness in Michael’s position is able to glean what it would take to get a letter of cooperation from the government and thereby avoid a lengthy prison term. The record is clear. It corrupts the system, said one important federal judge that witnesses under a threat of going to jail for a long period of time generally try to conform their conduct in such a way that they can earn what’s known as a 5k-1 letter.”

Goldberg even said that he told Cohen this and that he said he understood.

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

Hhere are four very clear paths to the end of the Trump presidency

Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon
19 Apr 2018 at 13:21 ET  

The next time you walk out to your car, or head down the street to the subway, or cross the parking lot on your way to the grocery store, look up and squint your eyes, and you’ll be able to see the end of the Trump presidency. It’s still a moving target, kept out of reach and out of focus by Trump’s chaotic daily delivery of distractions and dissembling, but it’s out there, and at this point it’s coming toward us, rather than headed in the other direction.

The impending doom is all Trump’s fault, of course. The first mistake he made was running for the office. The second was winning. The third was thinking that being president would be just like running his business in New York. (“I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There’s never been a case like this,” Trump told The New York Times soon after he won the election.) The fourth was believing he could protect himself from the law because he thought as president, he would control the FBI and the Department of Justice.

If Trump had not ridden that escalator down to the lobby of Trump Tower and announced that he would seek the highest office in the land, if he had stayed up there on the 26th floor and continued to run the Trump Organization, none of this would be happening.

Trump himself would not be under criminal investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to steal the election of 2016.

His campaign would not be under a counterintelligence investigation by the FBI for conspiring with elements of Russian intelligence to subvert and violate the laws of the United States.

His former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, would not be under indictment for money laundering, bank fraud, and other crimes and be facing a sentence that would send him to federal prison for the rest of his life.

His former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, would not have pleaded guilty to perjury and conspiracy to defraud the United States and be looking at jail time.

His former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, would not have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States.

His former campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, would not have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians in London and be facing jail time. Alex van der Zwann, a London-based lawyer for the Skadden, Arps, Meagher and Flom law firm,  would not have pleaded guilty to lying about his meetings with Rick Gates and an email exchange with a Russian national by the name of Konstantin Kilimnik.

A citizen of California named Richard Pinedo would not have pleaded guilty to identity theft in a scheme to aid the Russians under indictment for engaging in a campaign of propaganda designed to interfere with and influence the 2016 election for president.

Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, would not be under a months-long investigation by the the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and his office and hotel room would not have been broken into  and all of the papers and electronic records of Cohen’s representation of Donald Trump would not have been seized by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney.

None of the people who have worked for Donald Trump on his campaign or in the White House, from Jared Kushner, to Donald Trump Jr., to Sean Spicer, to Reince Priebus, to Rob Porter, to Steve Bannon, to Hope Hicks, would have had to lawyer-up and be interrogated by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and by agents for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

None of that would have happened had not Donald J. Trump descended the escalator and ran for president and won.  Now his White House is surrounded by criminal and counter-intelligence investigations and prosecutions, and increasingly, those investigations have focused on Trump himself.

Last week, McClatchy reported that Mueller investigators have evidence that Michael Cohen traveled to Prague in 2016 in the late stages of the campaign, confirming one of the most explosive parts of the so-called Steele dossier, something that Cohen has repeatedly denied for months. () Mueller’s team is looking into reports that Cohen met with Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the Czech capital. The Steele dossier alleged that Cohen and the Russians and others discussed “how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.”

It has been reported that Mueller’s prosecutors are working on indictments of the Russian intelligence agents who hacked into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. At the time he allegedly traveled to Prague, Cohen had only one client: Donald Trump. So Mueller is investigating a direct connection during the campaign between Trump, through his lawyer, with Russians close to Putin. The evidence he is gathering is evidence of collusion, and the evidence leads straight to Trump.

So how might the end game play itself out? There are at least four possible scenarios.

The first scenario is that Mueller will come up with enough evidence that Trump has committed crimes, whether obstruction of justice or conspiracy with the Russians to steal the election, and will indict the president in office. This would lead to a constitutional showdown at the Supreme Court between Mueller and Trump. While a previous Supreme Court decision, Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681 (1997)  found unanimously that a president does not have immunity from a civil lawsuit, the court has not faced a decision as to whether a sitting president can be criminally indicted.

If the court took up the case, and found against Trump, Mueller’s charges against him would be in force, and Trump would face arrest and prosecution. It’s possible that the court could find that Trump can be indicted but not face trial until after he leaves office. In that case, Trump would be facing charges that could put him in prison sometime after he left office. The only way he could leave office and not face such criminal charges would be if he resigned and made a deal with the man who succeeds him for a pardon, similar to the way that Nixon resigned in 1974 and was pardoned by Gerald Ford for any and all crimes he committed against the United States while president.

The second scenario is that Mueller could issue a finding that Trump had committed crimes while in office without indicting him. In this case, Mueller’s report would be forwarded to the United States Congress and the House of Representatives would be faced with the decision whether or not to impeach him. In this scenario, much would depend on the 2018 elections. Democrats may retake the House, and many are predicting they will. In that case, a vote to impeach Trump would seem assured, although conviction in the Senate would be less than a sure thing. Trump could tough it out and win his trial in the Senate, like Clinton did in 1998 and 1999. He would then be able to run for re-election in 2020. A win by Trump would seem to be improbable, but then, strange things have happened before.

The third scenario is that Mueller’s investigation would lead to indictments of people close to Trump, such as Michael Cohen, or even Jared Kushner and/or Donald Trump Jr. Trump could preemptively pardon these individuals (or anyone else charged, for that matter) similar to the way President George H.W. Bush pardoned is former Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, days before he was to stand trial for charges brought against him by an independent prosecutor, Lawrence E. Walsh, in connection with the Iran-Contra scandal. The president’s pardon power is broad. The Constitution grants to the president, in Article II, Section 2, “Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”

A pardon of a man like Michael Cohen might save Trump from the possibility that Cohen would flip and testify against him rather than face trial. But an argument could be made that having been granted a pardon would relieve Cohen of his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, and he could still be compelled to testify against Trump. So Trump may not be able to pardon his way out of trouble in a showdown with Mueller after all.

The president’s pardon power is for “Offences against the United States,” which is to say in the cases of federal crimes. If charges were brought by the State of New York against Trump’s lawyer, or his son, or son-in-law, for example, Trump would not have the power to grant them pardons. The only way he could possibly save them would be to make a deal with the State of New York, which is unlikely, especially if he had already pardoned them on federal charges.

Which brings us to scenario number four. This one is based on the belief among many long-time Trump watchers that the only thing that really matters to Trump is his personal fortune. In this scenario, Trump will do anything to protect his business and his lifestyle once he leaves office. He may yet face charges that would follow him after he leaves the presidency. Federal and state charges could threaten not only to send him to prison, but lay siege to his empire.

His son and close associates may face state charges he can’t protect them from. If this were to come to pass, the only way out for Trump would be the Nixon way: make a deal to resign and be pardoned on the federal charges, and have the deal be contingent on the state charges being dropped against himself or those close to him as well. Nixon resigned from office with his fortune intact, including his homes in Key Biscayne and San Clemente. Trump may have to do the same if he wants to keep living at Trump Tower and visiting Mar-a-Lago.

This is what Trump faces every single day he remains in office. The Mueller investigation isn’t going away. Even if he fires Mueller, the convictions and indictments handed down already will stand, and Trump will be unable to end FBI investigations and pending prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys by executive fiat. The control over the FBI and the Justice Department he lusts for just isn’t there. Nor does he have control over courts and judges for whom he has often expressed contempt.

History books have always talked about men being “elevated” to the presidency, but when descended that escalator in Trump Tower in 2015, he dragged us into his pit of scandal, disgrace and criminality when he assumed office. But the end game is coming. Squint your eyes and tell me if you don’t see an escalator out there ahead of us. It’s going up.

 20 
 on: Apr 20, 2018, 05:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Time 100 list: New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern praised as 'political prodigy'

Ardern breaking boundaries ‘in a world that too often tells women to stay small, keep quiet’, says Sheryl Sandberg on list of most influential people

Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin
Guardian
Fri 20 Apr 2018 01.41 BST

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has been named by Time magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world.

At 37 Ardern is the world’s youngest female prime minister and was elected to govern the country in October last year, after leading the beleaguered Labour party for just two months.

In the magazine, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer and author of Lean In, described Ardern as a “political prodigy” who was “changing the game” and inspiring women and girls around the globe.

“Just 11 countries out of almost 200 are led by a woman. Let that number sink in. That’s how hard it is for a woman to rise to lead a nation,” Sandberg wrote. “At a time when conservative politicians are ascendant across Europe and the US, she’s proudly progressive – with a raft of plans to fight economic inequality, address climate change and decriminalise abortion.

“In a world that too often tells women to stay small, keep quiet – and that we can’t have both motherhood and a career – Jacinda Ardern proves how wrong and outdated those notions of womanhood are.”

In late January, Ardern announced she was four months pregnant with her first child, putting her on course to become only the second prime minister in history to give birth in office.

Jacinda Ardern on Trump, Brexit and how life has changed as PM – video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM2Cvgmp-nQ

In a short video accompanying Ardern’s Time post, the prime minister said she thought her humble upbringing, rather than her age, was what helped her connect with people. “I hope that when I am a 50-year-old woman, that I have still the same level of empathy and compassion that I have as a 37-year-old woman,” she said.

At the Commonwealth Summit this week, Ardern met her fellow political trailblazer, the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, who was also named by Time as one of the top 100 most influential people of 2018.

Asked by Time to write about Trudeau, with whom Ardern appears to have a warm friendship and shared political ideals, Ardern said Trudeau’s name would be etched in the history books for shifting the political landscape at such a young age. Trudeau is 46 and also made Time’s list in 2016.

    1 NEWS (@1NewsNZ)

    Selfie time: Jacinda Ardern takes time out for snap with Justin Trudeau and Sadiq Khan in London https://t.co/1IX2WUYtNB pic.twitter.com/CqzUkMnGMF
    April 18, 2018

“Youth alone is not remarkable, but winning over people with a message of hope and warmth, tolerance and inclusion, when other politicians the world over choose an easier route – that is remarkable,” Ardern wrote.

Other people to make the 2018 cut include Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, snowboarder Chloe Kim, actors Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman and musician Shawn Mendes.

Forty-five women were included in the list – a record for the magazine. It also included 45 people under 40.

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