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Feb 23, 2019, 01:44 PM
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 on: Feb 19, 2019, 04:52 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
‘Killer’ cells raise hope of universal flu vaccine

Agence France-Presse
19 Feb 2019 at 16:43 ET                   

Scientists said Monday they had discovered immune cells that can fight all known flu viruses in what was hailed as an “extraordinary breakthrough” that could lead to a universal, one-shot vaccine against the killer disease.

Influenza epidemics, largely seasonal, kill hundreds of thousands of people each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Due to its mutating strains, vaccine formulas must be regularly updated and only offer limited protection currently.

Researchers in Australia said that “killer T cells” — found in over half the world’s population — had shown in testing to be effective in fighting all common flu varieties.

This means the cells could potentially be used to develop an all-encompassing flu shot that did not need to be changed annually, and even be effective in people who don’t naturally possess them.

“Influenza viruses continuously mutate to evade recognition by our immune system, and they are vastly diverse, making it nearly impossible to predict and vaccinate against the strain that will cause the next influenza pandemic,” said Marios Koutsakos, a researcher at the University of Melbourne’s Doherty Institute.

T cells are a type of white blood cell that roams the body scanning for abnormalities and infections. They are essential for human immunity against a host of invading bacteria and viruses.

So-called “killer” T cells are unique in that they can directly target and kill other infected cells.

Koutsakos and his colleagues used mass spectrometry — a scanning technique that helps separate molecules based on their mass — to identify parts of the virus that are shared across all flu strains, and realised that killer T cells could effectively fight variations of influenza A, B and C.

Flu is especially dangerous for elderly people, children and those with compromised immune systems, as well as certain ethnic groups who never developed immune responses to the disease.

The team behind the research has patented their discovery, and researchers said they hoped it would enable them to develop a universal influenza vaccine “to reduce the impact of pandemic and seasonal influenza around the world”.

 on: Feb 18, 2019, 03:30 PM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Helena
Hi Kristin, All,

Once again it took me a bit longer to be able to post.
Thank you for your patience,



In the light of our current pace, i was thinking to go back to the time the thread was first restarted a few months ago, try to approach the distorted expressions of Lilith in Cancer under the current transits and hope it will all make sense, specially now Lilith turned retrograde squaring the nodal axis.

I will post bellow the chart for Lilith turning retrograde just a few days ago and the chart for thread restart with Lilith back in November, leaving it open to more thoughts if anyone wants to jump in. It seems important to get a perspective based on the evolution of our studies and what the asteroid Goddesses and communicating to us.
Just some things i would like to focus:
- Lilith/Pallas have been in tight conjunction, Pallas, the Messenger, will also go retrograde at 29 Libra;
- Both charts have Uranus at 29 Aries, squaring the nodal axis; Venus/Ceres and then Lilith/Pallas on the other side of the square, creating a grand cross;
- Lilith is retrograde on the exact same degree Venus went direct last November, Venus has been current Lilith’s ruler.

With this thread we’ve been noticing how Lilith herself, the root, now in Libra conjunct Pallas is always in company of other Deities. With Juno in Gemini trine to Pluto/SN in Capricorn maybe She is suggesting we open our minds and observe what’s going on. To listen/share our different views on what we considerer equality in relationships without compromising our truth, as well as healing, recovering and keeping alive an ancient flame from the past - Vesta, the sacred inner fire of the feminine root - Juno opposing Ceres in Sag., Ceres trine Chiron at 29 Pisces, square Vesta/Mercury/Neptune in Pisces, Mercury is the ruler of Juno in Gemini, Jupiter Sag. ruler of Ceres trines Mars/Uranus in Aries. We might have time to approach Vesta more closely later in the thread (curiously Vesta was conjunct Pluto at the time we re-started with Lilith), but in these days the t-square of Vesta with Ceres and Juno can refer to need to keep inner fire alive no matter how difficult the fight for equality gets or how hard it is to let go of past grief.

Demetra George also mentions Vesta’s ancient close relationship to the moon, “The women priestesses of this time fostered the fertilizing power of the moon through caring for the water supply and tending a sacred flame which could never be allowed to die. Aside from representing the light of the moon, the sacred flame symbolized the kundalini fires of Indian yogic practice and the secret powers of sexual transmutation. The women who tended the perpetual fires were known as virgins, not because they were sexually chaste, but because they remained unmarried and belonged to no man.”*

In the light of current transits i tend to see Goddesses appeal for women to dare to be free and dare to love from place of freedom, whatever that means for each soul, now with the opportunity to heal and leave old hurts behind, as chiron crosses the last Pisces degree. Leaving behind old beliefs, Neptune in square to Jupiter, structured on man made and not natural laws, most the times relative to religious and spiritual distortions and conditioning. This meaning that we are invited to let go what still surrounds us constricting and distorting the expression of the feminine, making room for our vulnerabilities as true source of strength, accepting them, moon’s NN in Cancer, SN Lilith in Cancer, keeping in mind and heart that responsibility in self-care and self-love is maturing and tending the inner fire.
Since the square correlates to skipped steps in the making, or their resolution, we are living very exciting times with good opportunity for big leaps forward in our Spiritual Journeys. But as we learn in EA, is mostly our choice wether we leap forward or step back, or manage to do both when cardinal energy presses strongly.
My point in this segment will be that the Goddesses are calling us and They will back every single soul who will make the effort to give it a try.

From a personal perspective, it was very important what Kristin taught since we started, relative to asteroid Lilith and how we can view all the aspects of Her Story in a single asteroid, putting a light in a very confuse approach of many Lilith’s and their meanings. I do agree with Kristin that the asteroid having its own nodes, would naturally correlate to a journey from past to present to future by itself, simply understood as part of the same story, other then looking primarily at fragmented parts of Women’s souls as their whole story.

The feminine has always been full of mystery, there are always things unseen, to discover, find out, it will not end because its essence is creative and always giving birth to new life and new meaning. Nonetheless, patriarchal need for control seemed to pick up on this natural characteristic and turn it into the major flaw, something utterly wrong, to be condemned and boxed in, with a tape in the background playing endlessly. From the demon, to the bad girl and good girl, to the wife, to the saint, every woman was very easy to understand (read judge) if put in the box.
It is also possible, that astrology absorbed this distortions in some way coming out as a confusing theme with many roads to follow. In my case, until Kristin opened it this way, i tended to stay away from the subject because in my mind it was very confusing, and at some point even shameful (not that this was a conscious though). In essence, with this thread we’ve been discovering through the application of natural astrology, that women desiring to live from the depths of their roots will know there is no caged place they could ever fit in, the more they tap into who they really are the more others artificial confinements will tend to fall down, even when they take a larger scope in our lives as within a social or political context.
With asteroid Lilith there is a natural integration of all women’s aspects and stories around the absolute need for recovery of the same root, and it seems to make sense when we observe it in our lives and feel it in the depths of our souls.
We've all also been agreeing on how difficult it is to actually know what the Original form of the archetypes refer to, as there are very few souls alive today living a true natural existence, in harmony with themselves and everything/everyone around them, making it much easier to know the distortions and unnatural expressions in comparison to the way for resolution. So our only possible exercise has been so much a desire to know, discover and recover, finding a way to solve a conflict whose resolution has origins much yet unknown but definitely alive. It is a creative act indeed!


With Lilith/Pallas conjunction, we’ve been graced by Pallas Athena wisdom to move our lives forward recovering true understanding of women's needs. This would be particular to each women but in general SN Lilith in Cancer meeting NN of the Moon is the return to Matriarchal teachings and ways of living. With the square, we are kind of being asked, do you really know what you need?
One of the aspects of the Libra archetype correlates to projected needs, what we see in the other as lacking in ourselves and the desire to form relationship based on this perception. Resolution node in Cancer opposing Saturn, Pluto, and we can easily confuse our ability to give ourselves what we need with lacking the capacity to do so, hence insecurity. Relationship not as a way to share ourselves and evolve in the process but as a way to guarantee our needs would be met externally, or that others are dependent on us if we continuously meet their needs. The over-protecting mother as one example.
We can say security and structure, Pluto, Moon, Saturn, also come closely linked. Whenever we can build a structure that can sustain our lives we tend to feel emotionally, psychologically and physically secure, it’s only natural. The question becomes when one of the main aspects supporting distortions with women with SN Lilith in Cancer is that these women were made to believe in a false sense of structure, again physical, emotional and psychological structure, from where to build their lives.This can take countless forms, but mostly will involve issues of codependency, lack of self-esteem or the need to be needed to feel secure. Meaning, that the structure they have known from Matriarchal times, in which giving, sharing and including sustained the lives of their communities assuring mutual trust and fulfilment of everyone’s needs, have been replaced by a tape that says take as much as you can, keep it to yourself and be better than anyone, so you can feel safe. This inner conflict, to intuitively follow inner truth or maintain security and stability following the rules, exposes a distortion in which women give away their own sovereignty and knowledge for the love of their families, partners, friends and community stability. They have sacrificed their beliefs, authority and truth to keep going, Cancer trine to Pisces, also an expression of women’s unconditional love and hope in the future of humanity.

Going back to the question Lilith is asking all of us, square to Pluto nodes, it’s probably important we don’t stress too much with the answer and trust more in the mysteries of the Moon and the answers she brings. In a sense that distorted SN Lilith in Cancer can be just that doubt. As well as depression, which can severely affect women with this south node in their origins. Depression can correlate to the natural need to stop and evaluate what’s happening, how we feel, what we need, what needs change, the same way winter comes every year to restore balance and restart spring. The right time to tune in and withdraw, astrologically the sextile from Scorpio to Capricorn. But in its severe expression, can seriously compromise the ability to function in the world, a world by itself in a very unhealthy state, a never ending cycle. Could be significant for these women not to recover in isolation but find a community of other women in similar situations, who can mutually help each other rebuilt their balance and emotional trust within themselves, others and the world around them, and also remember how they were able to heal according to their Origin and more natural times.

Lack of trust will also be a very unnatural state for this Lilith. Originally, with the trine to Scorpio, this is a powerful woman who knows and trusts herself even if that means to trust her insecurity, so others instinctively trust and feel safe around her.  She could be the mother, the matriarch of the family, the one everyone respects for her example and greatness of Spirit.
Taking this away with unhealthy and abusive relationships, either from family of origin, intimate partners, friendships or toxic workplace, the soul can weaken its light. The place where she could natural go to ground herself turns blocked and heavy, an emotional landscape she won’t even wish to get close to. Fears of all kinds can take over the soul and be projected onto others, including the fear of real intimacy, and the world around them may be seen as a very hostile place.
With the grand water trine they could be naive and trust others without the necessary discrimination of who to trust and who not to, letting in their lives abusive people. Although there is one thing these women should never be ashamed of and that is their natural sensitivity and empathy. Astrologers, phychologists, therapists or close friends usually in the best of their intentions would say to these women that they need to set up boundaries. But would also be crucial that these women are not made to believe that they need to do something impossible to their natural selves which is to block the channels from which they experience the world. That setting up boundaries would be to know who they really are and what they really want so they can make clear choices and break free, stay away, from any external source of conflict undermining their happiness and the free flowing of energy and empathy. This would take great significance in the choice of intimate partners, be conscious of the reality of sexual karma, and clearly see abuse for what it is - not trying to rescue the other, but rescue themselves.

*Demetra George & Douglas Bloch, Asteroid Goddesses: The Mythology, Phsychology and Astrology of the Re-Emerging Feminine

 on: Feb 18, 2019, 06:44 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Bill Maher reveals ‘Melania’s Rules’ for President Donald Trump

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
18 Feb 2019 at 23:58 ET                   

The host of HBO’s “Real Time” on Friday mocked the marriage between President Donald Trump and his third wife, Melania Trump.

Host Bill Maher explained how a guy buying a used car found a shocking list of twenty-two relationship rules that he found inside the vehicle.

The rules included, “you’re not to look at a single girl” and “you are not to get mad at me about a single thing ever again.”

“Apparently this is catching on and a lot of women are doing this now, we got a hold of Melania’s list,” Maher said.

“You are not to leave your girdle on the bathroom floor,” was one of Melania’s rules.

“You are not allowed to eat Wendy’s in bed,” was a rule.

“Tell Wendy I can hear her,” was another rule.

“You are not to ever again mention the bride catalog’s ‘return policy,'” was a rule.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxm-wU-z4Fo

 on: Feb 18, 2019, 06:42 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Alec Baldwin tweets back as Donald Trump talks of 'retribution' for SNL

Parody about ‘faking’ national emergency hits nerve while actor who plays him asks if his safety is threatened

Kate Lyons
Mon 18 Feb 2019 11.47 GMT

Donald Trump has savaged Saturday Night Live as a “total Republican hit job” while calling for “retribution” and an investigation of the show after another unflattering portrayal of the president by Alec Baldwin.

The actor responded by questioning whether the president’s words represented “a threat to my safety and that of my family”.

Baldwin reprised his role as Donald Trump with blonde wig, characteristic pout and exaggerated imitation of the president’s speech-making style, for the show’s cold open on Saturday. This time the sketch parodied the president’s press conference in which he announced a national emergency over his plans to build a border wall with Mexico.

“We need wall. We have a tremendous amount of drugs coming in through the southern border, or the ‘brown line’ as many people have asked me not to call it,” said Baldwin.

“You all see why I gotta fake this emergency, right? I have to because I want to. It’s really simple. We have a problem. Drugs are coming into this country through no wall.

“Wall works, wall makes safe. You don’t have to be smart to understand that – in fact it’s even easier to understand if you’re not that smart.”

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!
    February 17, 2019

The president, who has proven very sensitive to the way he is covered in the media, was clearly unimpressed with Baldwin’s characterisation, saying on Twitter there was “nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC!” The president asked how the networks got away with shows like this “without retribution … very unfair and should be looked into”.

In characteristic capitals, he added: “THE RIGGED AND CORRUPT MEDIA IS THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

Trump’s national emergency declaration is expected to face challenges – a topic also seized on by Baldwin.

“I’ll immediately be sued and the ruling will not go in my favour and then it will end up in the supreme court and then I’ll call my buddy Kavanaugh and I’ll say ‘It’s time to repay the Donny’ and he’ll say, ‘New phone, who dis?’ And by then the Mueller report will be released, crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months in the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over.”

Trump’s talk of “retribution” drew criticism, with lawmakers and journalists suggesting the threats violated core democratic principles. The Democrat Congressman Ted Lieu tweeted: “One thing that makes America great is that people can laugh at you without retribution.”

Peter Baker, the chief White House correspondent for the New York Times, said that while such language had become commonplace “it’s worth remembering that no other president in decades publicly threatened ‘retribution’ against a television network because it satirized him”.

The American Civil Liberties Union tweeted a short reminder about free speech: “It’s called the First Amendment.”

Baldwin tweeted later on Sunday, writing: “I wonder if a sitting President exhorting his followers that my role in a TV comedy qualifies me as an enemy of the people constitutes a threat to my safety and that of my family?”

Trump has lashed out in the past over Saturday Night Live sketches mocking him and his administration, but has largely refrained from criticising the show in recent months. In October, Trump tweeted his support for Kanye West, who appeared on the show wearing a Make America Great Again hat.

In that tweet Trump reminded readers he once hosted SNL – during the 2016 election, controversially – but said it was “no longer funny, no talent or charm. It is just a political ad for the Dems.”

 on: Feb 18, 2019, 06:12 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Of Course .........

'I believe Putin': Trump dismissed US advice on North Korea threat, says McCabe

Former FBI chief says president believed Russian leader over US security agencies and ‘a crime may have been committed’ over Comey firing

Kate Lyons and agencies
Mon 18 Feb 2019 03.47 GMT

A former FBI acting director has alleged Donald Trump dismissed advice from his own security agencies on the threat posed by North Korea’s missiles, saying “I don’t care. I believe Putin.”

Andrew McCabe made the claims in an interview with 60 Minutes, in which he discussed his tenure at the FBI after James Comey was fired by the president in 2017.

McCabe said Trump made the comments in a meeting about the weapons capability of North Korea. McCabe was not in the meeting with Trump and said his FBI colleague told him about it later.

“The president launched into several unrelated diatribes. One of those was commenting on the recent missile launches by the government of North Korea. And, essentially, the president said he did not believe that the North Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States. And he did not believe that because President Putin had told him they did not. President Putin had told him that the North Koreans don’t actually have those missiles,” said McCabe.

    60 Minutes (@60Minutes)

    “I don’t care. I believe Putin,” Pres Trump allegedly said, rejecting U.S. intelligence regarding North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile capability. McCabe says he heard this from an FBI official who was at the meeting with POTUS. https://t.co/9zmoxrYNjm pic.twitter.com/lo0g9VOMAG
    February 18, 2019

“Intelligence officials in the briefing responded that that was not consistent with any of the intelligence our government possesses,” said McCabe in the interview. “To which the president replied, ‘I don’t care. I believe Putin.’”

McCabe said he was shocked when he found about the president’s alleged comments. “It’s just an astounding thing to say,” said McCabe, who added he was surprised at the dismissal of the work of his intelligence community.

“To be confronted with an absolute disbelief in those efforts and an unwillingness to learn the true state of affairs that he has to deal with every day was just shocking,” said McCabe.

McCabe also alleged a “crime may have been committed” when Trump fired the head of the FBI and tried to publicly undermine an investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.

Trump responded furiously on Twitter after parts of the episode were trailed late last week.

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    Disgraced FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe pretends to be a “poor little Angel” when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax - a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey. I.G. report on McCabe was devastating. Part of “insurance policy” in case I won....
    February 14, 2019

“Disgraced FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe pretends to be a “poor little Angel” when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax - a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey. I.G. report on McCabe was devastating,” he wrote on Twitter. “McCabe is a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our Country. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Trump retweeted the tweets on Sunday night after the 60 Minutes episode was aired.

McCabe also told 60 Minutes the FBI had good reason to open a counter-intelligence investigation into whether Trump was in league with Russia, and therefore a possible national security threat, following Comey’s dismissal in May 2017.

“And the idea is, if the president committed obstruction of justice, fired the director of the of the FBI to negatively impact or to shut down our investigation of Russia’s malign activity and possibly in support of his campaign, as a counterintelligence investigator you have to ask yourself, ‘Why would a president of the United States do that?’” McCabe said.

He added: “So all those same sorts of facts cause us to wonder is there an inappropriate relationship, a connection between this president and our most fearsome enemy, the government of Russia?”

Asked whether deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein was onboard with the obstruction and counterintelligence investigations, McCabe replied: “Absolutely.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment Sunday night.

McCabe also said that when Trump told Rosenstein to put in writing his concerns about Comey – a document the White House initially held up as justification for his firing – the president explicitly asked him to refer to Russia.

Rosenstein did not want to, McCabe said, and the memo that was made public upon Comey’s dismissal did not mention Russia and focused instead on Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email server investigation.

Those actions, including a separate request by Trump that the FBI end an investigation into his first national adviser, Michael Flynn, made the FBI concerned the president was illegally trying to obstruct the Russia investigation.

“Put together, these circumstances were articulable facts that indicated that a crime may have been committed,” McCabe said. “The president may have been engaged in obstruction of justice in the firing of Jim Comey.”

McCabe was fired in March 2018 by Jeff Sessions after McCabe released information to the media without authorisation, saying he had “lacked candour” when discussing it. His case was referred to the US attorney’s office for possible prosecution, but no charges have been brought. McCabe has denied having intentionally lied and said Sunday that he believes his firing was politically motivated.

“I believe I was fired because I opened a case against the president of the United States,” he said.

McCabe’s appearance on 60 Minutes was to promote his new book, “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.”

Associated Press contributed to this report


The FBI and Justice Department was filled with ‘panic’ after James Comey firing: MSNBC panel cites McCabe book


In a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday, former Deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe described the panic at the FBI and the Justice Department following President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey.

In an MSNBC panel discussion, veteran reporter Susan Page said that those portions of McCabe’s book struck her as not only outside the norm but shocking.

Some were dismissive of McCabe’s book for trying to paint himself as the hero who wanted to stand up for the law. Between the attempt were distressing details about what happened after Comey was fired.

“One thing that struck me is not that McCabe comes out as a big hero, even in his own book, one of the things that struck me was how panicked people inside the FBI and Justice Department were at this point,” Page told host Kasie Hunt. “How perplexed they were about what was going on with the president of the United States and how unsure they were of what to do.”

She noted that the way McCabe paints Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was remarkable and it sounded as if he was ready to put on a wire to help expose the president’s instability. It was only until the general counsel stepped in did the conversations cease.

Rosenstein refuted the claims by McCabe about the wire and passed them off as nothing more than a joke. Trump seems to have accepted the excuse as Rosenstein hasn’t yet been fired.



The Steele Papers: Dossier at Heart of Trump Scandal Still Dogs President

By Christoph Scheuermann and Jörg Schmitt

At the heart of Donald Trump's Russia scandal is a mysterious dossier prepared by a former British intelligence agent. Many of the suspicions in the papers have been confirmed and have hounded his presidency for two years now.

The story of the intelligence report that has dogged, threatened and angered Donald Trump since the beginning of his term in office began in a sparsely furnished office in central London, just a stone's throw away from Buckingham Palace. The room has gray carpeting, bare walls and, at its center, a conference table made of dark wood. Displayed on a sideboard are matryoshka dolls with painted portraits of Russian authors -- Tolstoy, Gogol and Dostoyevsky -- as souvenirs from Moscow. The noise of people typing on a keyboard emanates from the adjacent room. This is the home of Orbis Business Intelligence, a kind of miniature intelligence agency for the private sector. The firm is run by two British men, Christopher Steele and Christopher Burrows.

Steele and Burrows have more in common than just the same first name. Both have gray hair, an inconspicuous appearance and a posh middle-class accent. Steele is 54 and lives in the county of Surrey, Burrows is 60 and lives in York. They're about as English as it gets. Before they established their company 10 years ago, they worked for the British foreign intelligence service, MI6. Steele was an undercover agent in Moscow for a number of years, and later headed the agency's Russia desk; Burrows was stationed in India, Greece and Brussels. Both served as spies for Her Majesty's government.

The difference between the two is that Steele won't talk, at least not publicly. Burrows spoke one year ago to The New Yorker -- and now he's agreed to be interviewed by DER SPIEGEL.

Steele is the author of the dossier on Donald Trump and his entourage that was leaked to the public two years ago, shortly before the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States. In the report, the former spook cites high-ranking sources from Russia who make scandalous allegations. They say that Trump was wooed and backed by Putin's regime for years, and they accuse his election team of colluding with the Russians in the summer of 2016 in a bid to tarnish Hillary Clinton's reputation and win the election.

For over two years now, the Russia affair has been hanging like a dark cloud over Trump's presidency. In a report published on Jan. 26, The New York Times listed more than 100 contacts that Trump and his allies had with Russia, such as meetings, emails and text messages, just in the period of time between the launching of his candidacy and the day of his inauguration.

Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 34 suspects, including Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who is mentioned in the Steele dossier along with many other Trump allies. The most recent indictment was filed by Mueller on Jan. 24 against Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser. Stone is accused of witnesses tampering and making false statements to a congressional committee about his communications with WikiLeaks, which published emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee during the presidential election campaign. Stone denies the allegations.

Steele's Russia dossier lies at the heart of the scandal. It reads today like a preview of everything that has happened since then. Many of the names that dominate the Trump-Russia affair appeared for the first time in the report, like Aras Agalarov, for example, a Russian property mogul. There's also Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen, former campaign adviser Carter Page, Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Rosneft Chairman Igor Ivanovich Sechin. They all appear in Steele's report -- and they've all become important for Robert Mueller's investigation.

The 35-page dossier consists of 17 individual reports that Steele wrote between June and December 2016. The report was commissioned by a Washington-based political research and intelligence firm called Fusion GPS. The investigation was initially ordered by a major Republican donor to gather material against Trump, but it was later funded by the Democrats.

Steele alerted the FBI to his suspicions back in July 2016. Together with the findings of the FBI, the dossier blew open the scandal. Steele is ultimately responsible for a good deal of the investigative work that led to the appointment of a special investigator. Aspects of Steele's report that seemed incredible and inconceivable over two years ago now sound far more plausible.

The most vulgar and still unconfirmed allegation is listed right at the beginning of the dossier, on Page 2. According to Steele's sources, Trump stayed in the presidential suite of the Moscow Ritz-Carlton Hotel and reportedly looked on as prostitutes gave each other golden showers on a bed in which Barack Obama had once slept. One informant said that the Russian authorities had collected "enough embarrassing material" to blackmail Trump.

Trump denies the allegations. Last week, he took to Twitter again to denounce Steele's dossier, which he claims was paid for by Clinton, as "fake and unverified." The paper continues to hound him.

The story of the Trump-Russia dossier vacillates between an espionage thriller and a mafia movie set in London, Berlin, Prague, Moscow, New York and Washington. Key figures include former British agents Steele and Burrows; Trump's former associate Michael Cohen; journalist Ben Smith, the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, which decided two years ago to publish the dossier; and Carter Page, a pro-Russian consultant who has received death threats.

I. The Spies

Christopher Burrows is the kind of intelligence agent who quickly charms people. He's cultured, well-read, has a penchant for the fine arts and can fluently converse in Greek, German and French. He's sitting in a café in Berlin, not far from Savignyplatz, and he's here on a rather unpleasant business matter. Burrows' firm is engaged in a legal battle with the German company Bilfinger over 150,000 euros in outstanding fees for an investigation commissioned by the company.

Burrows knows Berlin from previous stays. He came to the city as a student in the late 1970s and served as a member of the British Embassy staff in the mid-1980s. Speaking in German, he orders calf's liver, Berlin style. Then he says: "We didn't expect the findings on Russia to reach the public."

This is the second time that he has spoken publicly on the matter, the first time being last year in an interview with a journalist from The New Yorker. Burrows says it annoys him that the report is referred to as a "dossier" when "it's actually information that is referred to as 'raw intelligence' in intelligence circles." He says the reports are in large part a summary of tips from sources that Steele knew from his time in Russia -- a mixture of knowledge, rumor and hearsay, not a "dossier."

He goes on to say that an intelligence agency would enrich the findings with data, test probabilities and write analyses. It's an elaborate process. But Steele is not an intelligence agency. His company employs eight people. Steele is a man with good contacts.

His job was to investigate whether and -- if they actually did it -- how Trump's people colluded with the Russians. When he found information that confirmed this theory, he informed the U.S. authorities. "We were concerned about national security," says Burrows. After all, as he points out, it concerned a presidential candidate who may have been manipulated by Russia.

Steele and Burrows are convinced that spies from friendly powers should assist each other if they suspect foul play. Both men move in a world of people who work in the shadows, deal with sensitive information and go to the office in the morning with the knowledge that they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They see themselves as indispensable, but, as with Christopher Steele, are not prepared to speak openly about it. They're not really spies - they're more like business people.

Burrows says: "We also informed the German authorities when we received information that terrorists were mingling with Syrian refugees."

Steele's first report to his client was submitted on June 20, 2016, and the second dates from July 26. In early August both of these reports were handed over to FBI agents in Rome. Steele's findings made their way into the ongoing U.S. investigations into Trump's election campaign team.

II. The Witness

For years, Michael Cohen was the self-proclaimed "fixer" in the Trump organization, sort of like a crime-scene cleanup man who shows up when the boss has messed up again. He has the compact and pugnacious strut of an amateur boxer who expects somebody to take a swing at him at any moment. Only 17 months ago, he said that he would take a bullet for Trump. Now he's cooperating with Mueller and has become the key witness in the affair.

Cohen's story shows to what extent the dossier anticipated developments that did not come to the attention of the public until months and, in some cases, years later. Steele's suspicions were staggering. During the election campaign, Cohen allegedly took part in a clandestine meeting with envoys dispatched by the Russian president. According to Steele's source -- who is the friend of a "Kremlin insider," -- the meeting with the Russians took place in Prague, sometime in August or September 2016. Cohen maintains to this day that he has never been to Prague.

Cohen is also an interesting minor character in this saga because he has sparked so many new scandals. First his name appeared in the Trump-Russia dossier, then last year he said that, acting on orders from Trump, he paid $130,000 in hush money to a porn star to cover up their alleged affair.

According to the dossier, Cohen and three other Trump emissaries met with people in Prague, including a man named Oleg Solodukhin. The meeting allegedly had to do with paying off Romanian hackers who, under the direction of the Kremlin, had been working to undermine the Clinton campaign. Cohen and Solodukhin reportedly discussed how they could funnel the money to the hackers and how the cooperation between Trump and Putin's people could be covered up.

Steele wrote that Trump's people and the Russians agreed at the meeting that the Romanian hackers should go into hiding and "other operatives should head for a bolt-hole in Plovdiv, Bulgaria where they should 'lay low.'"

What a story! -- that is, if it's true. Trump's lawyer allegedly conspired with the Kremlin. If this can be proved, it would amount to treason, but so far there is no concrete proof.

Late last year, the U.S. newspaper publishing group McClatchy reported that one of Cohen's mobile phones had logged on to a cell phone tower near Prague at the time in question. The journalists referred to four anonymous sources. But Cohen has repeatedly stated that he has never been to Prague or anywhere else in the Czech Republic.

Oleg Solodukhin, the alleged contact from Russia, works for a Russian government agency in Prague. Western agencies have reason to believe that the agency has close ties to the Russian intelligence service. In a written statement to DER SPIEGEL, Solodukhin denies having met Cohen or anyone else from Trump's entourage. He also says that he has never worked for intelligence agencies.

Neither Steele nor Burrows are willing to comment on the individual allegations in the dossier. Close associates of theirs, though, say that the two men are fairly certain that Cohen was in Prague in late summer. There is no proof, they admit, but there are indications that a meeting may have taken place. Cohen could have flown to Germany in a private jet and landed at an airfield in Bavaria, from where he could have crossed the Czech border without being checked. Cohen's lawyer declined to comment on this and instead made reference to Cohen's statement from August 2017, in which he denies all allegations.

This fits with a story currently circulating among intelligence officials in Europe. Acting "on behalf of an affiliated agency," the Czech intelligence agency purportedly planned to observe a meeting between Solodukhin and another individual. But the surveillance was reportedly called off "because the matter was too sensitive and the security precautions surrounding the meeting were too tight." The Russians had "taken countermeasures." The Czechs were allegedly not informed by their foreign partners of the reason behind the operation or who might possibly attend the meeting.

The Prague story was so important to Steele that he wrote an update on Cohen five weeks after Trump's election victory. This was the last of his 17 reports, dated Dec. 13, 2016. His previous reports were already on the desk of then-FBI Director James Comey. The Steele dossier started to make the rounds in Washington.

III. The Journalist

The headquarters of BuzzFeed News is located on the fifth floor of an office building not far from the East Village in New York. An assistant leads the way along rows of workstations, all occupied by journalists, and motions toward a conference room with glass walls. Slips of paper, books and notes lie scattered on the table, and a half-empty bottle of whiskey stands on a shelf.

Ben Smith apologizes for being late -- he just gave a TV interview. The previous evening, BuzzFeed reported that Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller he had been instructed by Trump to lie to Congress about a real estate project in Moscow. The news sent shockwaves through Washington, even though the special counsel quickly denied the story. Cohen, as usual, was making headlines.

Smith says he learned about the existence of the dossier before Christmas 2016. He was not the first journalist to hear about Steele's investigations. At the time, Steele had traveled to Washington and informed a select group of reporters. In late October, Mother Jones magazine published an article outlining Steele's findings. Smith was determined to get his hands on the dossier.

BuzzFeed News can't be compared with The New York Times. The website is colorful, plastered with photos, and it occasionally tips into gaudiness. It's immediately apparent that much of the workforce here is under 50. At the same time, Smith endeavors to publish investigative reporting. "We've been reporting aggressively on the Russia scandal for more than two years," he says.

In late December 2016, Smith dispatched a reporter to Washington to find Steele's dossier. Parts of it had made their way into the hands of members of Congress. The journalist hit pay dirt with a staff member at the think tank of the now deceased Senator John McCain. Shortly thereafter, Smith had the dossier in his hands and set out to verify the information.

"We put a lot of reporters on it," says Smith. A team tackled the fact-checking, but it wasn't easy. Many claims were difficult to verify working under pressure and with limited resources, especially without a direct line to Trump or Putin. A BuzzFeed reporter flew to Prague with a photo of Michael Cohen and asked hotel staff if they recognized the man. Then, while their reporting efforts were in full swing, a CNN report broke that was the first to mention "memos" by a former intelligence agent.

This was on Jan. 10, 2017. Smith said: Let's post the dossier online.

It was one of the most momentous journalistic decisions of recent years. A secret report alleging that a newly elected president had won the election with the help of the Kremlin was suddenly revealed to the eyes of the world. The big difference here was that these sensational findings originated not from a government or an intelligence agency, but instead from the interview notes of a former spook with friends in Russia.

"It was a big deal for us to release the dossier," says Smith, adding that the American public had a right to see the original document. When Steele wrote his reports, says Smith, the Americans knew hardly anything about Russian attempts to influence the election. "In the summer of 2016, these were explosive accusations."

This sparked a race among American journalists to land exclusive stories. It looked as if Trump's presidency was hanging by a thread even before he was sworn into office. Less than two weeks after taking office, Trump fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn because he had lied about his contacts to the Russian ambassador -- and in May, the president dismissed FBI Director James Comey, presumably in the hope of burying the investigation. Then came Mueller.

BuzzFeed continues to benefit from the dossier, and Smith's reporters are still getting mileage out of Steele's findings today.

IV. The Adviser

Carter Page was at the airport in Boston, waiting for a flight to the Middle East, when Smith published the Steele dossier. Page is a wiry, baldheaded man who gets red in the face when he's nervous. He was in the U.S. Navy, worked at an investment bank and finally joined the Trump team as a foreign policy adviser specializing in the energy sector and Russia.

Looking back, Page says: "I was just a minor player -- an unpaid volunteer."

Steele wrote on Page 9 of the dossier that Page secretly met with the head of Russian oil and gas giant Rosneft during the summer of 2016. The two men allegedly discussed the possibility of easing sanctions that the U.S. Treasury had imposed against the Rosneft CEO and other associates of Putin. On Page 30 of the dossier, it says that Page was offered Rosneft shares if Trump lifted the sanctions.

Page denies everything: the meeting with the Rosneft boss, the financial offer and the discussion about a more favorable U.S. foreign policy toward Moscow. His theory: "Mr. Steele was hired to influence an election." In other words, not to benefit Trump, but to help Hillary Clinton.

Early last week, he agreed to a short phone call, which ended up lasting a half-hour. He also sent text messages and emails to DER SPIEGEL with links to websites and documents as evidence of his innocence. Page says that Steele was fed false information by European intelligence agents to pave the way for a war against Russia. He says that he lived in Russia for three years, adding: "I know the truth."

It was a meandering interview. Page has the ability to dodge a question with such a profusion of words that you forget what it was you were asking. He refused to say from where he was making the call, citing the death threats that he has received. "I'm in the United States," was all he could say.

Has he ever met the head of Rosneft?

"Never," he said.

Has he spoken to others at Rosneft?

"Let me mention someone who I've met. He works for Gazprom and his name is Gerhard Schröder."

He never had anything to do with the people at Rosneft?

"OK, on July 6, 2016, I was in Moscow at a party thrown by an American bank. There were dozens of people there. By coincidence, I struck up a conversation with a guy from Rosneft. It was a real big deal." He means this ironically.

What remains certain is that Page was one of the campaign team members with connections to Moscow. Steele has documented this. Page's proximity to Putin's people is another piece in the Russia puzzle because it reveals how close the contacts to Moscow were within Trump's entourage.

Page is still dealing with the aftershocks of the dossier and he's embroiled in legal skirmishes. Among Russian experts in Washington he has a reputation for being a hopeless Putin apologist. Six years ago, two Russian undercover agents in New York tried to recruit him as an informant -- that's documented because the FBI had wiretapped the phone call at the time.

What did the Russians have to say about page? He's an "idiot."

V. The Consequences

Chris Burrows, the former spy and Steele partner, orders a cup of coffee after his meal. He says that the weeks following the publication of the dossier were the worst of his life. Photographers and camera teams camped out in front of his office, and eventually also at the door to his house in York. "My wife took the children and headed north to stay with friends for a few days. I spent a night at my eldest daughter's place in London."

Steele was harder hit. His picture was all over the newspapers, TV and internet. He went into hiding for two months, slept at friends' houses and grew a full beard so he wouldn't be recognized. "What worried him the most was his three cats," says Burrows. "We were under siege and didn't know if a maniac wanted to get at our throats." They suspected that an Israeli detective agency run by former Mossad agents had been hired to track them down.

The excitement has since died down. The two former spooks are able to resume their work, even though the publication of the dossier has meant that they have been called to testify in lawsuits involving the Russian Alfa Bank and entrepreneur Aleksey Gubarev. The number of requests for their services has risen, says Burrows. Ultimately, the dossier has been good for business.

Michael Cohen, Trump's former associate, was sentenced last December to three years in jail. He'll start serving his term in March. Cohen says that he and his family felt "threatened" by Trump and, in a surprise move, he decided to cancel a planned public congressional testimony. It sounded like something out of The Sopranos. This Friday, he is expected to testify in a closed-door session before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Steele's reports on Russia remain astonishingly newsworthy two years after they were released. It seems that every week there is a yet another breaking news story that stems from something in the dossier. Now it's up to Robert Mueller to separate truth from fiction.

Friends of Steele say that the former agent believes that "80 to 90 percent" of the contents of the dossier are true. Perhaps a source here and there has made a mistake or exaggerated, but they argue that the main points of his findings have been confirmed. This is especially true when it comes to the extent that Russia exerted influence on the presidential election. They point out that Trump allowed himself to be compromised by his business dealings in Russia, as confirmed by countless revelations that have surfaced since the dossier was published.

And what about the allegation that Trump hired prostitutes to urinate on a hotel bed in Moscow where the Obamas once slept? Even people close to Steele doubt that proof of this will ever be found. Steele always gives the same response to this question: "The sources for this were good."

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen


Trump’s Russian mafia ties linked to Manafort silence by Putin biographer

Raw Story

Trump biographer Craig Unger detailed Saturday morning the links between the president’s ties to the Russian mob and the silence of his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Unger, author of House of Trump, House of Putin, explained on MSNBC’s AM Joy that unlike the Italian mafia, Russia mobsters report to Vladimir Putin — essentially making them “state actors” for the Kremlin.

“I found 13 people who have had been in Trump Tower, associated with the Russian mafia,” the author explained, adding that the organized criminals “on and off for 35 years” used the president’s flagship Manhattan building “as a base of operations.”

When Donald Trump “overexpanded” in Atlantic City and went bankrupt to the tune of $4 billion, “Russian money played a huge, huge role” in his financial bounce-back.

Host Joy Reid asked Unger if he believed Manafort, whose ties to Russia through the pro-Kremlin Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych are well-documented, was afraid of the Russian mob — and the author said it was likely for two reasons.

Along with the often-speculated motive that Manafort is “playing for a pardon,” Unger noted that he might also fear for his safety.

“The Russian mafia is serious,” the author said. “People have been dying over this, there have been a lot of unexplained deaths. It wouldn’t surprise me if Manafort was afraid of that.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yrTRfR1FjE


Paul Manafort is keeping one big secret — and that’s a ticket out of jail for both him and Donald Trump

Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon
18 Feb 2019 at 08:51 ET                   

One thing you have to remember about these guys: it’s always worse than you think it is. So it goes with Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, current resident of the solitary confinement wing of a cellblock in a federal lock-up in Washington, D.C.

As Manafort stews behind bars, pundits have spent all week wondering why he would make the seemingly insane move of lying to Mueller’s investigators after he had signed an agreement to cooperate with them “fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly” concerning what he knew about the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Russian government. If you look back with me for a moment at what we have learned about Manafort over the last three years, maybe it’s not such a mystery at all.

Right from the start, Manafort was a dirty political rat-fucker and fixer in Republican politics. After working on a couple of campaigns, he started a political consulting business with his scuzzy compatriots, Roger Stone and Lee Atwater. He went on to virtually invent the now lucrative practice of lobbying for right-wing foreign dictators and murderers like Angolan dictator Jonas Savimbi and dictator of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, among others. In 2004, he went to work in the Ukraine for right-wing Putin-puppet Viktor Yanukovych, where he made friends with many of Yanukovych’s Russian oligarch patrons.

During Manafort’s trial on charges of money laundering and tax evasion, prosecutors produced evidence that between 2010 and 2014, Manafort was paid more than $60 million by Russia-friendly Ukrainian sponsors, including Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine.

But after Yanukovych was deposed by a popular uprising in 2014, Manafort was out of work and scrambling around looking for work in the United States. He found a political life-raft in the campaign of Donald Trump. In March of 2016, he was hired as a consultant on Trump’s campaign. By May Trump had vanquished his primary opponents and was on his way to the nomination, Manafort was promoted to campaign chairman and charged with wrangling delegates at the Republican National Convention. He remained as Trump’s campaign chairman until August, when he was ousted following revelations of his receiving cash payoffs from Russia-friendly figures in the Ukraine during his time working for Yanukovych.

What you find in the career of Paul Manafort then is a peculiar, pungent mix of all the distasteful elements in the contemporary Republican Party. He had real political skills; he was a master fixer and image doctor; and over the years, he developed a big-time love of big bucks. Keep this in mind as we move forward.

What we knew of Manafort from the public record, however, had very little relation to what was really going on behind the scenes of the Trump campaign. After the revelations of his indictments by Mueller and the Eastern District of Virginia, and especially after this week’s order by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C., we know far more about what Manafort was up to on the Trump campaign.

Manafort was put in control of the Republican National Convention to insure that the anti-Russia plank critical of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and seizure of Crimea was taken out of the Republican platform. Back in New York, he wasn’t sitting around Trump Tower making calls to Republican county chairmen. No, he was busy attending the infamous meeting on June 9 at the Trump campaign headquarters with Jared Kushner and Don Jr. when the three of them met with six Russians with ties to Kremlin intelligence agencies.

As we now know from Judge Jackson’s order, Manafort was also meeting with his main Russian contact in the “Havana Room,” a cigar bar conveniently located in a building owned by the Kushner family at 666 Fifth Avenue. The Russian contact was Konstantin Kilimnik, a man with whom Manafort had partnered in the Ukraine when he worked for Yanukovych. Kilimnik had ties to Russian intelligence and was close to Oleg Deripaska, a prominent Russian oligarch and friend of Putin, with whom Manafort had a $10 million contract to promote his interests in the United States and elsewhere. A witness as his trial in Washington D.C. testified that Deripaska had loaned Manafort another $10 million, which he had never repaid.

What did Manafort do as soon as he moved into his offices in the Trump campaign in Trump Tower in the spring of 2016? Why, he sent a message to his Russian pal Kilimnik, who was now living in Moscow and working for Deripaska, asking what they could do together to “get whole” with Deripaska now that he was working for Trump.

Mueller’s prosecutors appeared before Judge Jackson seeking to prove that Manafort had lied to them after he had copped a plea on the second set of federal charges he was facing. The judge found that one of the major things Manafort had lied about was his meeting with Kilimnik in the “Havana Room,” where he was alleged to have passed polling data from the Trump campaign to his Russian contact. Prosecutors apparently knew Manafort had lied to them because his partner Rick Gates was at the meeting with Kilimnik, and he had been truthful when told them what had transpired between Manafort and Kilimnik.

To give you an idea of how seriously Mueller’s investigators took Manafort’s contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, one of his prosecutors told Judge Jackson that his contacts with the Russian went “very much to the heart of” the Special Counsel’s broader mandate to investigate Russian influence in the Trump campaign during 2016.

Now we have to ask ourselves, why would Donald Trump’s campaign chairman be passing political polling data to a known Russian intelligence operative during the campaign? Well, the obvious answer is that Donald Trump knew exactly what he was doing when he hired Paul Manafort as his campaign chairman. He knew he was getting a guy who had the political skills to fix the anti-Russian plank in the Republican platform at the convention, and he knew that Manafort had extensive contacts with Ukrainian and Russian intelligence that went back more than a decade, and that Manafort could tap those contacts and pass information back and forth between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

The other thing to notice when you look back at the service Manafort provided to the Trump campaign is the timing of his involvement. He went to work on the campaign during the time Russian GRU intelligence agents were hacking the servers of the Democratic Party and stealing their emails and political secrets. He met with Russian intelligence operatives in Trump Tower in advance of the Russians releasing those stolen emails, and he was running the campaign when the Russians began leaking the emails via WikiLeaks. He was there throughout the convention when Trump got the nomination for president on the Republican ticket, and he wasn’t ousted until Trump was well on his way as a candidate who was on the stump day after day talking about how much “I love WikiLeaks” and taking advantage of the Russian hacking.

The key figure who apparently tipped off Muller’s prosecutors that Manafort was lying to them during his agreement to cooperate was his former partner, Rick Gates. He was the deputy campaign chairman under Manafort and remained with the campaign after Manafort left. He was in constant contact with Manafort during the campaign and was present for the meeting with Kilimnik at the “Havana Room.”

But Gates clearly wasn’t inside the room every time Manafort as campaign chairman met with candidate Trump. That’s the big secret Manafort is keeping for Trump. The only two men who know what transpired between campaign chairman and candidate during the campaign are Manafort and Trump. Manafort was Trump’s cut-out to Putin’s intelligence operatives who were hacking the Democrats’ emails and releasing them through WikiLeaks. They obviously used the campaign polling data Manafort passed to Kilimnik in determining when to release information damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta. Only Manafort knows what instructions Trump gave him when he was dealing with the Russians during the campaign, and so far, he is keeping this very, very big secret.

Most pundits think Manafort is counting on a pardon from Trump before he is impeached or leaves office by losing the election of 2020. Trump can certainly do this. He has a real interest in keeping Manafort’s mouth shut because Trump has created the fiction that he beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 fair and square without the help of the Russian government, and he’s not going to easily let this fiction be credibly challenged. It would be too much of a blow to his ego, even after he has left office. Manafort could blow up Trump’s lies about the 2016 campaign. Trump will do anything to keep him quiet. Dangling a pardon insured Manafort would lie to Mueller even under a plea agreement.

A pardon might not be enough to insure Manafort’s loyalty over the long term, but money will. Remember the revelations during his trial about the millions he laundered through banks in Cyprus and how he spent it? Six hundred grand for landscaping his house in Bridgehampton! Five hundred grand for fancy suits from men’s clothing stores! Hundreds of thousands on Persian rugs! He owned houses in the Hamptons, Florida, Brooklyn, and a condo in Trump Tower!

Manafort isn’t sitting there in jail in Washington D.C. just waiting on a pardon. He still faces heavy fines for tax evasion. Nearly every asset he ever owned has been seized. He’s not going to walk out of jail with a pardon and move into a walk-up in Queens. The other party to Trump’s fiction about how he beat Hillary is the Russians, and they don’t want the truth to come out any more than Trump does. Whoever beats Trump in 2020 (if he’s still around to beat) will double or triple sanctions on Russia if the secrets behind Russia’s involvement in Trump’s campaign are ever told. Somebody over there loyal to Putin — Deripaska or Akhmetov or another oligarch — has made promises to Manafort to “make him whole” financially.

Trump will pay off Manafort for his silence with a pardon, and the Russians will pay him off with millions of dollars. That’s why Paul Manafort is sitting in jail in Washington D.C. lying to Robert Mueller’s investigators. He’s always been a dirty-trickster and a fixer, and just because he’s wearing an orange jumpsuit and going gray in the absence of his bottle of black hair dye doesn’t mean he’s stopped trickstering and fixing. Look out, Bridgehampton and Manhattan! Paul Manafort has a big secret and even bigger plans to use it to make his comeback!


Trump’s private chats with Putin to be investigated by Democratic House committees

Raw Story

Key chairmen of oversight committees in the House of Representatives are preparing to force Donald Trump to disclose his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin — and are seeking the best legal way to do so.

Politico reported Saturday that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel (D-NY) have been consulting with Douglas Letter, the House’s general counsel, on the most effective legal maneuvers to get the president to turn over the information.

“I had a meeting with the general counsel to discuss this and determine the best way to find out what took place in those private meetings — whether it’s by seeking the interpreter’s testimony, the interpreter’s notes, or other means,” Schiff told Politico.

As the report noted, majority discussion with the House’s general counsel often is a precursor to issues “that could end up playing out in court.”

“In particular,” Politico added, “Democrats say they want to find out what Trump and Putin discussed during their private meeting in Helsinki last July, where Trump put himself at odds with the U.S. intelligence community and declared — while standing next to the Russian president — that the Kremlin did not interfere in the 2016 elections..”

The Democratic chairmen are specifically looking to have Marina Gross, the State Department translator who was the only American present during the talks, to turn over her notes about the clandestine meeting — and to testify publicly before Congress.

“I’m not saying that I’m in favor of interpreters turning over all their notes,” Engel said, “but I do think that it shouldn’t be up to the president to hide the notes.”

 on: Feb 18, 2019, 05:57 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Trump policies unite allies against him at European security forum

18 Feb 2019 at 14:14 ET

In 2009, then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden came to Munich to “press the reset button” with Russia. A decade later he came again to offer the world better relations, this time with his own country.

Promising that “America will be back” once Donald Trump leaves office, Biden won a standing ovation at the Munich Security Conference from delegates who find the president’s brusque foreign policy stance hard to like.

But their elation also exposed the weakened state of Western diplomacy in the face of Trump’s assertiveness, according to European diplomats and politicians who were present.

Biden’s successor, Mike Pence, was met with silence at a reception in the palatial Bavarian parliament on Friday evening after he delivered his signature line: “I bring you greetings from the 45th president of the United States, President Donald Trump.”

His four-day trip to Europe succeeded only in deepening divisions with traditional allies over questions such as Iran and Venezuela and offered little hope in how to deal with threats ranging from nuclear arms to climate change, diplomats and officials said.

Misgivings about Washington’s role in the world are being felt by ordinary people as well as foreign policy specialists. In Germany and France, half the population see U.S. power as a threat, up sharply from 2013 and a view shared by 37 percent of Britons, the Washington-based Pew Research Center said in a report before the Munich foreign policy gathering.

Asked about European anxiety over Trump’s leadership style, a senior U.S. official on Pence’s Air Force Two plane said the vice president’s Munich conference speech on Saturday at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof would “help give them a different perspective”.


But if the Europeans did not like the “America First” message, there was no concerted response to it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was on her own after a last-minute cancellation by French President Emmanuel Macron.

That caused some to lament the failure of the West to uphold the rules-based international order that Washington itself championed in the 70 years that preceded the arrival of Trump in the White House.

“The tit-for-tat logic is unfortunately prevailing … I think that takes us back to the question of enlightened leadership,” said Thomas Greminger, secretary general of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a security and human rights watchdog.

“We need leaders again who do not believe exclusively in short-termism,” he told Reuters.

It fell to China to aid Merkel in her defense of the post-World War Two order, as the country’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, spoke in flawless English for over 20 minutes about the virtues of open trade and global cooperation.

Pence’s message was, in fact, that the pillars of U.S. foreign policy were being rebuilt on a different foundation: isolating Iran, containing China, bringing American troops home and requiring European powers to fall into line.


After using a speech in Warsaw on Thursday to accuse Britain, France and Germany of trying to undermine U.S. sanctions on Iran, Pence called in Munich for the European Union to recognize Venezuelan congressional leader Juan Guaido as president over Nicolas Maduro, whom he called a dictator.

That drew an angry response from Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who said the European Union could acknowledge Guaido as interim president until new elections, in line with the Venezuelan constitution.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves LeDrian said he was mystified by U.S. policy on Syria after Trump’s decision to withdraw troops because it would only benefit Iran, which Washington wants to be tough on.

European diplomats and officials also took issue with Pence’s insistence that EU governments stay away from Chinese telecoms companies as they build the latest generation of mobile networks, preferring first to have an internal discussion about the potential risks and U.S. claims of Chinese espionage.

“U.S. pressure has a tendency to make us do the opposite. U.S. pressure is counterproductive. It’s best that they don’t try and pressure us,” a senior French diplomat said.

Whatever the threats, officials seemed to be mainly talking past each other.

Kumi Naidoo, global head of Amnesty International, said security was often defined too narrowly, failing to address the wider dangers of climate change.

“The narrative here at the Munich Security Conference is broken. They are talking about the right topics but in the wrong language. The mentality here is that security is only a national issue,” Naidoo told Reuters.

Leaving for Washington, Pence was unfazed, telling reporters his trip had been very successful. “We’re advancing the interests of the free world, and we’ve made great progress.”


Mike Pence ‘visibly shook’ as nobody claps at his applause lines during disastrous European trip

Raw Story

Vice President Mike Pence received a cold welcoming from world leaders as he attempted to convince other countries to follow President Donald Trump.

Speaking to the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Pence told the audience he brought greetings from Trump.

Not a single person clapped.

    Speaking to a security conference in Munich, Pence tells his audience he brings greetings from President Trump… and not a single person claps. #awkward pic.twitter.com/JkFpsKqfgk

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 16, 2019

Pence was also embarrassed while speaking to the Peace and Security in the Middle East conference in Warsaw, Poland.

Pence’s speech had an expected applause line, but it followed the Vice President demanding that the other countries follow the United States and withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

The crowd, who had assembled to discuss bringing peace to the Middle East, refused to clap.

    OMG — Pence was visibly shook in Poland when he received absolutely no reaction to what was clearly supposed to be an applause line about how "the time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal." pic.twitter.com/biRxARZkcM

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 16, 2019


Trump foreign policy under attack from all sides at European security conference

Pence, Merkel give back-to-back speeches in Germany

By Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum
WA Post
February 18 2019

MUNICH — An annual security conference where Western allies have long forged united fronts erupted Saturday into a full-scale assault on the Trump administration’s foreign policy. European leaders, would-be Democratic challengers and even the president’s Republican backers took the floor to rebuke the president’s go-it-alone approach.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel — habitually cautious about provoking Trump — led the charge, unleashing a stinging, point-by-point takedown of the administration’s tendency to treat its allies as adversaries.

The speech appeared to provide much-needed catharsis. Trump’s antagonistic behavior has bred two years of accumulated grievance in much of Europe but has been met with few substantive answers on how to effectively challenge it.

Merkel accused the United States of strengthening Iran and Russia with its plans for a speedy military pullout from Syria. She expressed shock that the Trump administration would deem BMWs made in South Carolina a threat to national security.

And she lamented that the U.S.-led global order “has collapsed into many tiny parts.”

The crowd gave the German chancellor an extended standing ovation — a rare display at the normally button-down Munich Security Conference. The customarily reserved Merkel beamed as she took her seat. Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a top adviser, looked on from the crowd, stone-faced.

Vice President Pence speaks during the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich on Feb. 16, 2019. (Michael Dalder/Reuters)

The speech, and the response, underscored just how far apart the United States has drifted from its traditional allies during Trump’s term — and how little Europeans care about concealing their contempt.

At last year’s conference, U.S. allies in Europe were reluctant to voice out loud the depths of their concerns with the state of the transatlantic relationship, said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group.

“Now there’s a lot more openly displayed anger about the fact that the relationship is broken,” Bremmer said. “The Trump administration doesn’t understand that it’s not just about how much people pay. It’s about a relationship, trust, how you communicate, shared values. That all matters.”

Merkel was followed to the podium Saturday by Vice President Pence, who was met with only tepid applause — and some incredulous looks — when he proclaimed Trump “the leader of the free world.”

“We came here to reaffirm our commitment that ‘America First’ does not mean America alone and tell leaders, allies and countries around the world that America is stronger than ever before and America’s leading on the world stage once again,” Pence said.

While the vice president extended some reassurances to allies — asserting the country’s commitment to NATO, and celebrating shared victories against terrorist groups — he also offered barbs.

Pence credited Trump with spurring NATO allies to spend more on defense but insisted that they are still not spending enough. He also reiterated a demand he first made on Thursday in Warsaw for European allies to follow the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal.

“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw,” Pence said.

Pence later said he had had “frank discussions” with European allies about the issue. Merkel said she found the dispute between Europe and the United States on Iran “depressing.”

The vice president’s speech was met with disdain by some European officials who say they have no intention of abandoning the Iran nuclear deal and felt his aggressive tone would only stir up more opposition.

Gathered shortly after, a group of senior European military officers observed with surprise that Pence made relatively little mention of Russia, the major security concern for many of the conference’s attendees.

Other officials joked that Europe’s eagerness to have more U.S. troops on their soil was increasing — to defend against the whims of the White House.

The transatlantic tension came at a high-profile conference with a decades-long pedigree. The gathering in Munich has traditionally been a chance for the United States and its allies to work out their differences with the rest of the world.

But since Trump’s election, the focus has shifted to the schisms within the West.

“We need to get used to this. It’s not going to be like the good old times, when everyone comes, gives speeches, everyone applauds, and everyone goes home,” said Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, whose nation is on the front lines of the conflict with Russia and whose security depends on Europe and the United States getting along well enough to defend the Baltics. “It’s getting crazier and crazier. I don’t know what next year’s Munich will bring.”

Beyond the gap between America and Europe, the divides within the United States were also on vivid display Saturday.

Hours after Pence left the stage, his predecessor, Joe Biden, took to the podium to deliver a speech full of praise for multilateralism, allies and cooperative decision-making — the very rhetoric that Europe had been accustomed to hearing from presidents of both parties before Trump’s election.

“The America I see does not wish to turn our back on the world or our closest allies,” Biden said, citing a commitment to both NATO and the European Union that has often been in doubt under Trump. “The America I see cherishes a free press, democracy, the rule of law. It stands up to the aggression of dictators and against strongmen.”

Biden emphasized that he was speaking as a private citizen, not a candidate. But the possibility that he will challenge Trump in 2020 hung over his remarks.

He was introduced by R. Nicholas Burns, a former top State Department official under both Democrats and Republicans who favorably contrasted Biden’s approach to the world with Trump’s, then asked the crowd to “imagine a different sort of American leader.”

Biden himself offered the crowd a warmly received assurance that Trumpism won’t last and that a more familiar strand of American leadership will return: “As my mother would say: This too shall pass. We will be back. We will be back. Don’t have any doubt about that.”

At a subsequent news conference, he confirmed that he was considering a presidential run and would make a decision “in the near term.”

Democrats and Europeans were not the only ones offering criticism of Trump.

The president’s fellow Republican, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), praised the president for trying to shake up the foreign policy status quo. But he also left little doubt that he sharply disagrees with Trump’s moves to get out of Syria and Afghanistan without consulting allies.

Appearing at a women’s empowerment forum Saturday morning alongside Ivanka Trump, Graham slammed cuts in foreign aid and preemptive military withdrawals.

“The first people who suffer are going to be women,” he said.

Europe’s calculus in deciding how to handle Trump is bound up in the question of whether he will serve one term or two, and whether his “America First” approach will survive beyond his presidency.

Some in Europe have argued that Trump is more symptom than cause of a changed America and that the continent needs to urgently ease its dependence on the United States for protection.

Merkel herself has called for Europe to “take our destiny into our own hands.”

But her actions have not been nearly as dramatic as her words. Europe has struggled to unify or to take the steps needed to stand apart from the United States.Meanwhile, Merkel has studiously avoided taking the bait when Trump has provoked her with jibes on the campaign trail or on Twitter.

Her Saturday remarks were a striking departure, with the chancellor — who has said she is in her final term — appearing unburdened by the need to avoid offense.

Longtime observers of Merkel’s political evolution said they saw a chancellor who had decided — in her deliberate fashion — to take a clear shot at the Trump officials in the audience.

“She seemed liberated,” said Constanze Stelzenmüller, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Merkel devoted much of her speech to an item-by-item rundown of areas where the U.S. and Europe disagree, seeking to refute the Trump administration position on each one. She appeared particularly aggrieved by U.S. threats to raise tariffs on German cars — justified on the grounds that they endanger U.S. national security.

The idea, she noted dryly, was “a bit of a shock” given that BMW has a major manufacturing center in South Carolina.

Merkel concluded with a plea for the sort of multilateral decision-making that has been in short supply since Trump took office, arguing that it can be slow and difficult but is preferable to the alternative.

“Trying to forge win-win situations,” she asked rhetorically, “is this not better than trying to solve all of these issues alone?”

Anne Gearan and Missy Ryan contributed to this report.

 on: Feb 18, 2019, 05:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Spain’s Far-Right Vox Party Sees Breakout Moment in New Election

By Raphael Minder
NY Times
Feb. 18, 2019

EL EJIDO, Spain — Wedged between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, the Almería province of southern Spain was once a setting for the spaghetti westerns that turned Clint Eastwood into a star.

These days, shimmering miles of plastic greenhouses stretch to the horizon, incubating the tomatoes, peppers and other produce that have transformed this once impoverished region into a farming hub.

But the most important seed growing here along Spain’s southern coast may be that of Vox, Spain’s first far-right party since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.

With Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s decision on Friday to call for new elections, Vox, which got its election breakthrough in El Ejido, will now have a chance to test its appeal on a national stage. Its entry will break a taboo for Spain, which until now has resisted the pull of far-right nationalism alive in much of Europe.

In regional elections last December in Andalusia, where Almería is located, Vox won 11 percent of the vote. In El Ejido, a local municipality of about 90,000, it came out on top with almost 30 percent.

What animates Vox, its supporters say, is an urge to reclaim and defend Spanish nationalism in the face of perceived threats to the country’s integrity.

For Vox, that includes migration, though this region is heavily dependent on seasonal labor, and the independence drive in Catalonia, seen as an attempt by the affluent northeastern region to turn its back on poorer southern Spaniards.

“Illegal migration is a problem for the whole of Spain,” said Juan Francisco Rojas, the president of Vox in Almería, where about 14,000 migrants arrived from Africa last year as the populist government in Italy tightened its borders.

As for Catalan secessionism, he said, “Anything that affects one part of our territory also impacts the rest of Spain, which is why Vox wants to guarantee nobody can threaten our unity.”

While much of the country favors a hard line toward Catalonia, Spain has been relatively tolerant on the issue of migration.

Just how far Vox’s message will carry beyond the coastal south, then, is unclear. But the party’s emergence in a country with a long chapter of dictatorship under Francisco Franco has unsettled many.

Santiago Abascal, the founder of Vox, has quickly found like-minded company in Europe, joining the French nationalist Marine Le Pen on her presidential campaign in 2017. Vox has also sought advice from Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief strategist of President Trump.

In fact, the party also wants to follow Mr. Trump’s example and erect walls around two Spanish enclaves in North Africa, to block migrants.

“If you look at Trump in America or Bolsonaro in Brazil, you see that people now want politicians who are tough enough to do what they promise,” said Juan Carlos Perez Carreño, the owner of a fleet of refrigerated trucks that transport produce picked in the greenhouses, referring to Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing leader of Brazil.

“The problem with those who say horrible things about Vox is that they preach democracy, but only when their favorite candidates get elected,” he added.

Vox has not officially taken up the Fascist symbols often used by much smaller groups in Spain, which have become more visible as the Catalonia dispute simmers.

Instead, Vox has promised to abolish a 2007 “law of historical memory,” which calls for the removal of Francoist symbols from public places. The party considers itself a defender of Catholic values and says it would close mosques suspected of radical preaching.

So far, Spain’s established conservative parties, far from shunning Vox, have indicated they will partner with it if needed.

After Andalusia’s election, Vox helped form a regional right-wing coalition government — a role of kingmaker that it could repeat at a national level in Spain’s fractured politics.

This month, when tens of thousands of right-wing protesters gathered in Madrid to demand that the replacement of Mr. Sánchez, a Socialist, the Vox founder, Mr. Abascal, occupied the front row, alongside the leaders of the Popular Party and Ciudadanos.

In fact, Mr. Abascal is hoping to take votes away from the conservative Popular Party, which he abandoned in 2013 to form Vox.

Andalusia showcased the decline of mainstream parties, left and right, as the election ousted the Socialists from power for the first time in four decades.

Pepe Moreno, 67, who has turned his home into a museum for his collection of vintage automobiles, said he had always voted for the Popular Party, but considered switching to Vox, mainly over concerns about corruption. But migration was also on his mind.

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

“I’m fine with letting some migrants in,” he said, “but not with an open-door policy that means nobody even knows who gets into Spain.”

Elsewhere, at the Fuente Nueva secondary school, Javier Adolfo Iglesias, a teacher, started his class by arguing that “xenophobia cannot be the reason for Vox, because I’ve never seen it in my classroom, nor in my local bar.”

Still, when his 15 students were asked whether they would vote for Vox, five raised their hands, prompting a debate about the lack of integration among adolescents of different backgrounds.

Many migrants live apart, next door to the greenhouses, in smaller towns like Las Norias de Dazas, which has been “taken over by the Moors,” remarked Fernando Fuentes, a bar owner.

“I’ve got the last truly Spanish establishment,” along his street, claimed Mr. Fuentes, who keeps a Franco-era flag hanging in the back room and spoke with some patrons about how migrants bring infectious diseases.

In the early mornings, migrants gather at roundabouts to seek day-labor on farms. Ibrahim Hantar, 30, picks tomatoes and lives in a makeshift shelter with four other migrants from Morocco.

They share two mattresses and a set of dirty blankets, and cooked two pieces of chicken for their dinner on a portable gas stove.

Mr. Hantar said his problem was that local farmers wanted him to pay about 3,000 euros to help him get work documentation.

“I’ve got no problem with Spanish people, but if you don’t pay them, you get no papers,” he said.

El Ejido witnessed a rare episode of racial violence in Spain, in 2000, when residents launched attacks against migrants whom they blamed for a series of murders, forcing Spanish riot police to intervene.

But no such confrontation has occurred recently, according to officials, even as the migrant population has grown.

“Thanks probably to Catalonia, Vox has managed to tap into a moment of nationalist exaltation in which the most vulnerable also always become scapegoats,” said Juan Miralles, the president of Almería Acoge, a nongovernmental organization that helps migrants.

In the absence of solid official statistics, Mr. Miralles said far-right factions had used social media to spread false figures about rising crime and disease.

Sitting with other members of the local Muslim community over a couscous dinner in a mosque, Issam Mehdaj, who distributes water to local households, sounded unworried about Vox’s emergence.

“Whatever Vox or any other party says,” he shrugged, “people need us to come and work here.”

 on: Feb 18, 2019, 05:46 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Iran pressures Europe to do more to save the nuclear deal

New Europe

MUNICH  — Europeans need to do more than talk if they want to preserve a deal meant to keep Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States, Iran's foreign minister said Sunday, slamming Washington as the "biggest source of destabilization" in the Middle East.

Mohammad Javad Zarif told a gathering of world leaders, top defense officials and diplomats that a barter-type system known as INSTEX, which was set up last month by France, Germany and Britain to allow businesses to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran and thereby evade possible U.S. sanctions, is not enough.

"Many around the world, particularly on this continent, speak eloquently about multilateralism, but they also need to walk the walk," Zarif told the Munich Security Conference in an impassioned address. "INSTEX falls short of the commitments by (European countries) to save the nuclear deal. Europe needs to be willing to get wet if it wants to swim against a dangerous tide of U.S. unilateralism."

The three European nations, as well as Russia, China and the European Union as a whole, have been struggling to save the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran since President Donald Trump announced a unilateral American withdrawal from it last year and re-imposed sanctions on Iran.

The deal promises Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear program, and so far the International Atomic Energy Agency has said that Tehran has been living up to its obligations.

Those working to preserve the agreement have been trying to walk a fine line between mollifying Iran without angering Washington. Zarif's comments appeared directed at European assurances that INSTEX could concentrate on products not currently subject to U.S. sanctions, such as medicine, medical supplies and agricultural goods, rather than on broader trade.

On Saturday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence slammed INSTEX and urged others to abandon the nuclear deal entirely. "The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime," Pence said before leaving Germany. "The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal."

Before Pence spoke, German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the Iran deal, saying while she shared concerns about Iran's missile program and its regional ambitions, it was important to keep "the small anchor we have (with Iran) in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas."

Merkel's comments, and her defense of global diplomacy instead of a go-it-alone foreign policy, drew lengthy applause. Zarif told the conference that Pence had "arrogantly demanded that Europe must join the United States in undermining its own security and breaking its obligations" and urged them to push back against American pressure.

"If the United States were to come, in the course of their fight with China, and tell Europe to stop dealing with China, what would you do?" he asked. "Whatever you want to do then, do now, in order to prevent that eventuality."

He would not comment on whether the nuclear deal will survive without the U.S. but said Iran was not prepared to renegotiate it as Trump has suggested. "Nothing can be done that is better than this deal," he said. "It's not all we want and it's certainly not all the United States wants but it's the best that can be achieved."

Responding to Pence's comments that Iran was the "greatest threat to peace in the Middle East," Zarif said the U.S. had an "unhealthy fixation" with Iran and was itself the "single biggest source of destabilization in our neighborhood."

"The U.S. claims ... that it is Iran which is interfering in the region, but has it ever been asked whose region?" Zarif said. "Just glimpse at a map for a second — the U.S. military has traveled 10,000 kilometers to dot all our borders with its bases. There is a joke that it is Iran's fault that it put itself in the middle of all (the) U.S. bases."

Zarif also accused the U.S. administration of looking for regime change in Iran — something Washington denies — and said Israel was "looking for war" with "violations of Lebanon's air space and shooting into Syria."

"The risk (of war) is great, but the risk will be even greater if you continue to turn a blind eye to severe violations of international law," he said. Benny Gantz, a former Israeli military chief and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu's primary challenger in the upcoming April election, responded in a separate forum, slamming Iranian aggression in the region.

"On my watch, there will be no appeasement (of Iran). On my watch, Iran will not threaten Israel by taking over Syria, Lebanon or Gaza strip," he said. "On my watch, Iran will not have nuclear weapons."

Gantz told the audience, speaking of Zarif: "do not be deceived by his eloquence. Do not be fooled by his lies." The Munich Security Conference is an annual gathering of world leaders and defense and foreign policy officials.

Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

 on: Feb 18, 2019, 05:43 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Credibility of Catholic church at stake in sexual abuse summit

Vatican under pressure to show it is serious about dealing with crisis at Rome meeting

Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent
Mon 18 Feb 2019 05.00 GMT

More than 100 senior Roman Catholic bishops from around the world will gather in Rome this week for a summit Pope Francis has called to address clerical sexual abuse – the most serious crisis in the church since the Reformation, according to a Catholic historian.

The Vatican has sought to downplay expectations surrounding the four-day meeting, which begins on Thursday. But survivors and advocacy groups say it must deliver clear outcomes if it is to begin to restore the church’s damaged credibility on the issue and avoid being seen as a talking shop.

The removal from the priesthood of the former archbishop and cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the church’s most prominent figures, at the weekend sent a strong signal from the Vatican that sexual abuse will no longer be swept under the carpet. Francis on Sunday asked for prayers for the summit, calling abuse “an urgent challenge of our time”.

Although Francis, who will be present throughout the summit and will give a closing speech, has previously warned that expectations must be “deflated”, the senior Vatican figure moderating the conference said last week that the church’s credibility was “strongly at stake”.

Father Federico Lombardi said in Rome: “We must deal with this theme with depth and without fear.”

Conceding there had been “resistance” by some bishops, he added: “If we don’t commit ourselves to fight against these crimes, in society and in the church, then we are not fulfilling our duty.”

Massimo Faggioli, a church historian and professor of theology, has said: “In my opinion, [this is] the most serious crisis in the Catholic church since the Protestant Reformation.” The issue, he added, was being used to “radically delegitimise” Francis’s papacy.

The presidents of 115 bishops’ conferences from around the world have been invited to Rome, along with a dozen heads of eastern Orthodox churches and 10 representatives of women’s religious orders.

Bishops were urged to meet with survivors of sexual abuse in their countries ahead of the conference. Survivors will give testimonies at daily prayer services during the Rome meeting, and vigils and marches organised by advocacy groups are expected to take place outside.

The protection of minors in the church summit comes after a year in which the church was shaken by multiple scandals of sexual abuse and its cover-up by senior members of the church in North and South America, Europe and Australia.

The pope was accused of failing to grasp the seriousness and scale of the problem, and of disregarding widespread rumours of sexual abuse concerning McCarrick. Francis’s conservative enemies seized on the issue to attack his papacy.

But in December, the pope vowed the church would never again cover up sexual abuse, and would spare no effort to bring perpetrators of such “abominations” to justice. He warned abusers to “hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice”.

This month, he acknowledged for the first time the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops, saying some had been reduced to “sexual slavery”. In one case, an Indian bishop has been accused of repeatedly raping a nun over a two-year period.

The abuse scandals that have emerged over the past 20 years have been concentrated in western countries. Very little is known about the scale of abuse in the global south, where the Catholic church has undergone huge growth.

“Many bishops in the global south do not believe that sex abuse of minors is a problem in their countries. They see it as a first world problem,” Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and commentator on the church, wrote last month.

“This is in part because many global south bishops have no idea how bad the problem is. In their traditional cultures, victims of abuse are very reluctant to come forward to report the abuse to the church or civil authorities.

“As a result, too many bishops around the world ... deny the problem; they treat it as a sin, not a crime; they don’t listen to the victims; they believe the priest when he says he will never do it again; they keep him in ministry; they cover up.”

The Rome summit, Reese suggested, was primarily aimed at these bishops rather than at the American church.

Despite efforts to play down expectations of the conference, some survivors and church figures hope Francis will explicitly lay down the law to bishops – although they enjoy significant autonomy in their dioceses.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, a member of the committee preparing the meeting, said he was confident “we can expect decisive action to follow from the meeting … both in Rome and in dioceses worldwide”.

The summit would “advance a framework of protocols for responding to allegations of clergy sexual abuse”, including identifying “concrete steps required to implement practices that safeguard children and to bring justice to victims in a way that is responsible, accountable and transparent – even in cultures where law enforcement or the government may not be reliable partners,” he told America magazine.

Francis had “acknowledged and apologised for his mistakes, itself an important action, and a model for all bishops” and had made it clear that a bishop “can be legitimately removed from office if he has through negligence committed or through omission facilitated acts that have caused grave harm to others”, Cupich said.

He added: “The very fact that the pope has called this meeting indicates his resolve to make sure there is no doubt about what to do in such matters.”

Although Francis had come in for criticism over his handling of the sexual abuse issue, “it is not a question of what is at stake for the pontificate of Pope Francis, but what is at stake for the church,” Cupich said.

 on: Feb 18, 2019, 05:37 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

El Salvador supreme court overturns 30-year sentence for a teen rape victim

Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz, 19, was found guilty in July 2017 of aggravated homicide after having a stillbirth

Guardian staff and agencies in San Salvador
18 Feb 2019 21.31 GMT

El Salvador’s supreme court has overturned a 30-year sentence for a teenage rape victim who was convicted of aggravated homicide after having a stillbirth.

Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz, 19, was found guilty in July 2017 on the grounds that failing to seek antenatal care amounted to murder.

But on Friday the court ordered a new trial for Hernandez, who was released after almost three years in jail. She was greeted by activists chanting “Evelyn, you are not alone!”

During her trial, Hernandez said she had been repeatedly raped by a gang member and didn’t realize she was pregnant.

Hernandez, a high school student, gave birth into the toilet in April 2016 after falling ill with acute back and stomach pain.

Watch: <iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/global-development/video/2015/dec/17/el-salvador-miscarriage-judge-accused-me-murder-anti-abortion-law-video" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Medical experts were unable to ascertain whether the foetus died in utero or in the moments after delivery.

The female judge accepted the prosecutor’s claims that Hernandez failed to seek antenatal care because she did not want the baby, and threw him into the toilet intending to kill him.

Abortion is illegal in all situations in El Salvador.


El Salvador teen rape victim sentenced to 30 years in prison after stillbirth

A high school student was convicted on the grounds that failing to seek antenatal care amounted to murder, after giving birth in a bathroom in 2016

Nina Lakhani
Thu 6 Jul 2017 18.46 BST

A teenage rape victim in El Salvador has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder after having a stillbirth, the latest in a long line of failures of justice against pregnant women in the Central American country.

Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz, 19, from a small rural community in Cuscatlán, eastern El Salvador, was convicted on the grounds that failing to seek antenatal care amounted to murder.

Hernandez, a high school student, gave birth into the toilet in April 2016 after falling ill with acute back and stomach pain.

Hernandez, who at the time was 18, was in her third trimester, but hadn’t realised that she was pregnant. She had been repeatedly raped by a gang member over several months as part of a forced sexual relationship.

Medical experts were unable to ascertain whether the foetus died in utero or in the moments after delivery.

The female judge accepted the prosecutor’s claims that Hernandez failed to seek antenatal care because she did not want the baby, and threw him into the toilet intending to kill him.

In sentencing, the judge went further and suggested that Hernandez could not have acted alone and that her mother may also be criminally responsible.

According to Morena Herrera, executive director of the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion, the verdict was based on prejudices held by the prosecutor and judge.

“The judgment sentencing Evelyn to 30 years in prison shows how in El Salvador justice is applied without direct proof, without sufficient evidence that clarifies what a woman has done,” Herrera said.

El Salvador – one of five countries where abortion is illegal in all circumstances – has imprisoned dozens of mainly poor young women for murder after they suffered obstetric complications.

Abortion was criminalised in El Salvador 20 years ago, after legislators from across the political spectrum voted to strip women of their reproductive rights without any public debate or medical consultation about the consequences. The 1997 reform was passed after a shadowy campaign by a small group of powerful anti-choice groups linked to the Catholic church.

Hopes had been raised that the ban would be relaxed amid a groundswell of public and medical support for a parliamentary bill proposing to allow abortion in cases of rape or human trafficking; when the foetus is unviable; or to protect the pregnant woman’s health or life.

But four months after the parliamentary hearings ended, the bill remains in the hands of the legislative committee. The nine cross-party deputies have yet to decide whether the bill should be sent to the legislative assembly for a vote.

Hernandez insists that she only realised she had given birth after the fact, when her mother took her to hospital with severe abdominal pain.

The perils of pregnancy in a country where abortion is a crime - in pictures: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/gallery/2017/may/26/reproductive-rights-zika-women-el-salvador-in-pictures

Hernandez was arrested after police found the deceased foetus in the toilet. She spent a week handcuffed to a hospital bed while being treated for severe anaemia and a urinary tract infection, and has been detained ever since.

Her lawyer condemned Wednesday’s decision as unjust and unlawful.

“The judge’s verdict doesn’t reflect the evidence presented in court. It’s a decision based on morality, not the law or justice,” said Dennis Munoz.

Lawyers will appeal the verdict, but Hernandez faces a long road to justice.

In 2014 the Citizens’ Group launched a campaign to seek clemency for 17 women wrongly jailed for murder who had exhausted all other legal appeals. Three of the women known as Las 17 have so far been freed; another will be released next year after her sentence was reduced from 30 to 15 years. At least five other women including Hernandez have since been jailed.

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