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« Reply #4335 on: Sep 13, 2018, 05:20 AM »

Trump had a white-hot meltdown the day Mueller was appointed: Woodward

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
13 Sep 2018 at 23:33 ET                  

The day special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed, President Donald Trump flew into a rage the likes of which no one in the White House has ever seen, according to Bob Woodward’s new book Fear.

The evening of Tuesday, May 16, 2017, The New York Times published a massive story about the president and former FBI Director James Comey “had written contemporaneous memos of his conversations with Trump,” Woodward described.

Trump reportedly “hovered around the TV, glued to coverage” of the stories.

On CNN, conservative commentator David Gergen warned that Trump was “in impeachment territory. What we see is a presidency that’s starting to come apart.”

Almost like Gergen cued the president, Trump began to fume.

A former aide Robert Porter could see that the president was “about to lose it” at the mere mention of impeachment.

“The president voiced outrage that Comey seemed to have turned the tables on him,” the book claims.

The following day was when Trump learned Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller.

“Trump’s mood deteriorated overnight and the next day, May 18, was the worst,” the book continues. “The president erupted into uncontrollable anger, visibly agitated to a degree that no one in his inner circle had witnessed before. It was a harrowing experience.”

“We barely got by,” Porter told the aide.

The president usually stays in the Oval Office or his private dining room, but on that day, he was storming back and forth between the two places. He turned to cable news to try and distract him and “raged” as aides came in and out.

“He was just in here, and I didn’t hire him for the FBI,” Trump erupted. “Of course he’s got an axe to grind with me.”

“Everybody’s trying to get me,” the president continued. “It’s unfair. Now everybody’s saying I’m going to be impeached.”

He then began asking Porter about the powers a special counsel has. The aide explained that Mueller would have “virtually unlimited” ability to look into whatever he wanted under the scope of the investigation.

“Now I have this person,” Woodward cited Trump saying bitterly, “who has no accountability who can look into anything, however unrelated it is? They’re going to spend years digging through my whole life and finances.”

Meetings were ultimately canceled that day because the president couldn’t focus. According to the book, the ragegasm reminded Porter of what former President Richard Nixon final days were like.

“They’re out to get me,” Trump said. “This is an injustice. This is unfair. How could this have happened? It’s all Jeff Sessions’ fault. This is all politically motivated. Rod Rosenstein doesn’t know what the hell he is doing. He’s a Democrat. He’s from Maryland.”

“I’m getting punched,” Trump said. “I have to punch back. In order for it to be a fair fight, I have to be fighting.”

He continued to pace between the rooms for the remainder of the day, ranting that he’d lost control of the investigation into Russia.

“I am the president,” Trump said. “I can fire anybody that I want. They can’t be investigating me for firing Comey. And Comey deserved to be fired! Everybody hated him. He was awful.”


Here are 5 insane things about Trump you haven’t heard about yet from Bob Woodward’s book

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
13 Sep 2018 at 01:16 ET                  

Bob Woodward’s new book Fear might have details about the insider gossip and policy decisions during President Donald Trump’s first year, but it also features some weird details.

Trump’s proclivity to rage and emotional meltdowns are legendary, as is his fetish for fast food and inability to be unsupervised with his Twitter account. But there are a few other things generally unknown about him.

1. Trump wears reading glasses — but not in public.

One story recalls Rudy Giuliani boarding Trump’s plane. “He took a seat next to Trump, who was at his table in his reading glasses.”

The president is notorious for diverting from prepared remarks and making up his own speeches as he goes along. When announcing people, he often gets their names wrong and, at times, reading teleprompters seems to be a struggle. Perhaps it’s because he’s not wearing his reading glasses.

2. Trump is a backseat driver

As far as we know, the president has never been one to drive. New Yorkers often don’t and presidents are prohibited from doing so. One incident when Trump was being driven proved to be an experience in humility for one top aide.

One Sunday, “Steve Bannon arrived at Trump Tower in Manhattan and told security he had a meeting with Mr. Trump,” the guard said that Trump never works on weekends. So, Bannon picked up the phone to Trump, who revealed he was in Bedminster at the Golf Club.

“Since you’re not here, I’ll go play golf. Come out here, we’re having lunch. Be here, like, one o’clock,” Trump said, according to Woodward’s book.

“He proceeded to give detailed instructions for the drive 40 miles west of New York City,” the book revealed. “‘I’ll find it,’ Bannon said. No, turn right on Rattlesnake Bridge Road, then take a right for about a mile. ‘I’ll find it. It’s your Trump National.’ No, Trump persisted, you’ve got to understand. Trump provided full driving instructions with more detail than Bannon had ever heard him give on anything.”

3. Trump really wanted Lindsey Graham to be his BFF.

When Trump came into office, he summoned Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to the White House. While Graham had attacked the president multiple times during the 2016 campaign, the president seemed to forget.

“When he walked into the Oval Office, Trump was sitting behind the Resolute Desk. He jumped up, moved swiftly toward Graham, and gave him a big hug. ‘We’ve got to be friends,’ Trump said. ‘You’re going to be my friend.’”

At some point in the meeting, Trump asked Graham for his personal cell phone number. “He wrote it down, laughed and asked how their rift had occurred.”

4. Trump basically hated Rob Porter.

When senior aide Rob Porter met Trump for the first time, son-in-law Jared Kushner tried to introduce the two but the president wasn’t interested.

“’I’m Rob Porter, Mr. President. I’m your staff secretary,'” the book reads “It was clear Trump had no clue what that was or who Porter was. Jared told Trump that Porter was going to structure and order Trump’s life.”

So, “The president walked away without saying anything to find a TV screen.” On another occasion, later in the book, Trump was even worse, telling Porter, “I don’t want to talk to you.” Adding, “Get away from me.”

It’s unknown the degree to which Porter was a source for Woodward’s book, if at all.

“You’re going to have to learn how to handle him. How to relate to him,” Kushner reportedly told Porter. Clearly, that never worked out.

5. Trump likes to try and convince people they didn’t hear what he just said.

Political pundits marvel at Trump’s demand for “people not to believe your lying eyes.” However, he once did it to Lindsey Graham, but the senator wouldn’t play ball.

The notorious “sh*thole” meeting that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) leaked was one such incident.

Graham had met with the president about the plan he’d hammered out with Durbin and Trump seemed to be on board. He organized a meeting with himself, the president and Durbin, but by the time it happened, it was as if Trump completely flipped on his commitment. The meeting that was supposed to be between the three of them turned into a firing squad of aides along with chief of staff John Kelly, an “immigration hard-liner.”

When Trump dropped the “sh*thole countries” line, Durbin was “sickened” and Graham was “floored.”

“’Time out,’ Graham said, signaling for a halt with his hands. ‘I don’t like where this thing’s going.’ America is an ideal, he said. ‘I want merit-based immigration from every corner of the globe, not just Europeans. A lot of us come from sh*tholes,’” the book revealed.

Durbin leaked the meeting and Graham backed him up. Two days later, Trump called Graham before playing golf at his Florida club.

“’I didn’t say some of the things that he said I said,’ Trump said, referring to Durbin.

‘Yeah, you did,’ Graham insisted.

‘Well, some people like what I said.’

‘I’m not one of them,’ Graham said. ‘I want to help you. I like playing golf with you. But if that’s the price of admission, count me out. Good luck. Hit ’em good.’”

There will be more findings from the Woodward book as Raw Story staff continues to comb through it. Thus far, we can report there are 108 mentions of the F-word, 64 of the economy, 75 times immigration appears, 16 mentions of the first lady, Fox News is mentioned 47 times, there are 7 mentions of the word “rage” and Betsy DeVos is only noted once, but only in relation to her brother Erik Prince.


Donald Trump is working to suppress the vote in North Carolina using monstrous new methods

Steven Rosenfeld, Independent Media Institute
13 Sep 2018 at 19:16 ET                  

As the recent Labor Day weekend approached, the voting police at President Trump’s Justice Department and ICE—Immigration and Customs Enforcement—picked up where his disgraced Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity left off after they disbanded.

The U.S. Attorney in North Carolina, a Trump appointee, sent a storm of faxes at 5 p.m. on Friday on behalf of ICE and the DOJ seeking every record about voters and voting from 2010 to this year to 44 county Boards of Election, the statewide Board of Election and Ethics, and state Department of Motor Vehicles, which registers voters.

The move drew wide shock—some officials even thought the request was a hoax, due to its breadth (as many as 20 million documents), timing (as they were scrambling to finalize ballot preparation and printing after a summer of voting litigation and special legislative sessions) and the blatant partisan overtones (from a White House hell-bent on over-policing immigrants and Democratic voting strongholds).

Indeed, as Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who became a dissident member of Trump’s voting reform panel, noted in an August letter to co-chairs Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, “Kobach stated that ‘the mission of the commission was being handed off to [the Department of] Homeland Security’ and that he would ‘be working closely with the White House and DHS to ensure that the investigation will continue… more efficiently and more effectively.’”

Trump’s commission imploded after states flatly rejected Kobach’s demand that they turn over a similarly large amount of their voter files to a sloppy data-mining operation that he ran from his Kansas office—known for inaccurately flagging millions of registered voters as suspicious, which has become a GOP pretext to more aggressively police the process. However, these national contours of the Trump administration’s anti-voting effort, now resurfacing over Labor Day, barely scratch the surface of how corrupt and cynical the latest North Carolina voting power play actually is.

According to two now-retired senior North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement (BOE) officials—Gary Bartlett, its former executive director who served for 20 years in that post, and Marshall Tutor, his top investigator—the federal prosecutors office and top federal prosecutor seeking those millions of records in North Carolina’s most heavily Latino counties on behalf of the DOJ and ICE refused to prosecute an elaborate ballot box stuffing case involving registering non-citizens a decade ago. That case, which the two North Carolina BOE officials referred to federal prosecutors, centered around an early campaign by one of North Carolina’s most powerful current leaders—its Senate Republican Majority Whip.

Protecting Republican Illegal Voting

“I would lead you in the direction of current state senator Wesley Meredith from Cumberland County,” said Marshall Tutor, who retired in March 2018 after many years as lead investigator for the North Carolina state BOE. “He ran for City Council in Fayetteville and he lost the first election and then he was elected. There are a lot of problems with that case. I spent a lot of time on fraudulent absentee ballot requests and non-citizens requesting absentee ballots.”

“And it was federal crimes involved because there were absentee ballot requests made for Fayetteville citizens who knew nothing about it, that were mailed over state lines into a drop box in Virginia,” Tutor continued. “We carried all the documentation, and there was an awful lot of it, to the U.S. Attorney’s office [for the Eastern District of North Carolina]… evidence showing that non-citizens tried to, and did register and vote, and vote early. We had enough [evidence] that, had it been thoroughly investigated, there would have had to have been charges on somebody.”

Meredith, North Carolina’s State Senate Majority Whip, did not respond to requests to comment about this history or the Justice Department’s new illegal voting expedition.

The ballot fraud accusations surrounding Meredith are not new. Democrats who have run against him have raised them to little avail. But the same U.S. Attorney’s office that took no action a dozen years ago, the Eastern District of North Carolina, is today headed by the very prosecutor to whom Bartlett and Tutor took their non-citizen voting and ballot stuffing investigation. This prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr., and his U.S. Attorney’s office is now leading the latest federal illegal voter witch hunt in North Carolina.

“We had an investigation from Cumberland County that we went to the Eastern Office and he [Higdon] was the representative of the Eastern office; I think it would be best for you to get first-hand information about that case,” said Bartlett, who said to call Tutor.

“The U.S. Attorney’s office told us they would get back to us after they had time to go over the documentation,” Tutor said, picking up the story. “About 13 months later they sent an e-mail saying they didn’t have enough evidence to go forward with any kind of investigation. Keep in mind Meredith was a huge fundraiser for state Republican candidates during this time.”

A Bigger Nefarious Pattern

This mix of apparent corruption, partisan favoritism and disregard for enforcing the law from Republican-connected federal prosecutors is only one dimension of one of the strangest and most potentially far-reaching voter suppression gambits to recently surface.

After an outcry from state and local election officials—who said complying would upend preparations for the midterms—Higdon’s office delayed the deadline for the documents to be submitted to January 2019. The assistant U.S. Attorney, Sebastian Kielmanovich, addressed voting privacy issues, telling the state BOE by letter that county election officials should redact voters’ names “to the greatest extent possible.” That updated massive make-work directive suggested the administration was not backing down.

What appears to be going on is the simultaneous surfacing of voter suppression tactics that are not entirely new, but whose implications reach beyond North Carolina’s borders as two federal agencies are involved. To start, the Trump regime is demonizing voters in North Carolina’s most heavily Latino eastern counties, which is a continuation of its domestic war on aggressive random policing of immigrant communities.

“DOJ threats about checking the citizenship of voters are nothing more than pure scare tactics aimed at suppressing and diluting the Latino vote,” said Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions, a polling firm and UCLA professor of Chicano Studies and Political Science. “If Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act were still around [and not gutted by the Supreme Court], these sorts of policies would be struck down as voter intimidation.”

“This [North Carolina voter data grab] is nothing but to discourage voting going into the 2018 election,” Tutor said. “Higdon has already backed down and said officials could wait… but the damage has been done. This was to throw ice water on the attempt to get Hispanics and even other minorities to vote. It is a fear tactic. It couldn’t have come at a more orchestrated time.”

“I truly believe that what they are doing is having a chilling effect on the voters, thinking there might be something terribly wrong, and they have not provided any insight—nor will they because they label it an investigation; so it’s supposed to be top secret until they come out with something,” Bartlett said. “That’s a chilling effect on the voters.”

Don Connelly, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of North Carolina, declined to comment on its latest subpoenas or related cases.

Sloppy Data and Over-Policing

But that’s not all that’s going on. It also appears the Trump regime is resurrecting a tactic used by Republicans in Florida in 2012 and 2014, and by Republicans in North Carolina in 2016. In both states, incomplete data and shoddy analysis was cited to fabricate an illusory claim that illegal voting was rampant—which became a pretext to crack down on the GOP’s perceived opponents.

There are telltale signs of this ruse in the DOJ and ICE subpoenas. To start, the feds are seeking data that does not exist—state voter files and ballots going back to 2010. Those records most likely do not exist anymore in all 44 North Carolina counties because federal law allows election officials to shred records 22 months after the election they’re from. But the purported evidence trail pursuing illegal voting gets even weirder. The porous voter information sought from counties and the state would be matched against federal ICE data that’s also incomplete, because there is no authoritative nationwide citizenship database. (These flawed information sources get even murkier, because North Carolina ballots cast on Election Day are anonymous; only absentee, early voting, overseas and military, and provisional ballots issued at polling places have voters’ names attached.)

“They will have nothing to connect,” said Bartlett, surveying this uneven and incomplete information landscape. “There isn’t a federal citizenship database.”

So what is going on when the feds are demanding data that doesn’t exist, to be matched to other data that’s incomplete—all to purportedly verify voters’ citizenship?

The answer is Republicans are setting up an intentionally flawed analysis that will create a multitude of inconclusive analyses about otherwise registered and perfectly legal voters. Those open questions serve a partisan purpose, because it allows the GOP to proclaim that the voting process is threatened and needs more policing. This framework and architecture is the crux of their voter suppression strategy.

This playbook based on missing data and sloppy analytics is not new to North Carolina.

In 2016, Kim Strach, the GOP-friendly executive director of state BOE, gave legislative testimony in support of a proposed stricter state voter ID law (which is back on the fall 2018 ballot) that cited an analysis from the voter data operation run by Kansas Secretary of State Kobach, the white nationalist who co-chaired Trump’s disgraced election commission.

Strach testified before her legislature’s House elections committee (where her husband was the chair’s personal counsel on voting issues), stating that 36,000 people had voted in North Carolina in 2012 and in another state. That figure came from Kobach’s operation that compared the names, partial Social Security numbers (last four digits) and birthdays of registered voters. That is a sloppy process because it yields big volumes of suspicious matches without further authentication, implying a vast problem where none exists.

“It was just bullshit,” Bartlett said. “I said at the time that was ridiculous, and in the end it was maybe eight or 10 people” voting more than once. “It is problematic nationally to do such things. There’s no telling how many Bill Smiths, or Paul Jones, there are—with the same birthday, and other things that come up erroneously in nationwide searches.”

This same cynical bad data ploy was also seen in Florida in 2012, where Ken Detzer, the Secretary of State appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, claimed there were 180,000 possible non-citizen voters based on drivers’ license records. After pushback by voting rights activists, that number shrank to 2,600, and then to 200, and finally 85 voters were removed from Florida’s rolls. In 2014, Detzer tried again. This time, he wanted to use a federal Department of Homeland Security database to identify non-citizens, even though the agency said it was incomplete. (This was during the Obama administration.) While Detzer and DHS argued in court, Florida’s county election supervisors refused to accept purge lists from Florida’s state election director. Detzer finally backed off.

The GOP War on Voters

For years, the GOP has been painting false pictures of illegal voting by likely Democratic constituencies to block their partisan rivals. Before Florida’s 2000 president election, the Republican Secretary of State used intentionally sloppy data mining by a contactor as the basis to purge tens of thousands of voters—who were misidentified as former felons. In the past decade, Kobach’s operation has waved the fake flag of people registering and voting in more than one state. And in recent years and especially under Trump, the GOP focus has shifted to a more race-based phantom: illegal voting by non-citizens.

In all these cases, the real occurrence of illegal voting is less than minuscule. The right-wing Heritage Foundation’s post-2016 report of all national examples of false registrations, ineligible voting, fraudulent use of absentee ballots, and duplicate voting cited 492 cases and 733 convictions from 1982 through 2016. That is one case for every 2 million presidential election voters from 1984 to 2016 (roughly 980 million votes). If you count by convictions, where some people pleaded to more than one charge, that total was still less than one in a million illegal voters.

Needless to say, the Heritage Foundation’s 390-page report does not mention the apparent illegal registration of North Carolina voters and non-citizens, and apparent ballot box stuffing by current state senator and Republican Whip Wesley Meredith. However, the larger point is the GOP is abusing and misusing political power and law enforcement to discredit the voting process and to suppress likely Democratic voters.

“The now disbanded and discredited [Trump] voter fraud commission is proof that this entire right-wing effort has no factual basis,” Barreto said. “There is no illegal voting crisis and dozens of academic and government-commissioned studies have proven this time and again. Rather than try to conduct outreach and convince people to support their cause, it appears that [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, Kobach and Trump are more interested in suppressing and reducing voter turnout in Latino communities, which is antithetical to the practice of democracy that these three men took an oath to protect.”

But back on the ground in North Carolina, it’s clear the GOP has signaled to Latino voters—some of whom may have extended family members without visas—that they should not vote in 2018 or 2020 if they want to escape federal scrutiny.

“All of these things, we feel, have a collective impact,” said Karina Martinez, spokeswoman for Mi Familia Vota, which is holding a national conference this week in Washington with the goal of increasing Latino voting in November 2018. “Every little extra additional thing does matter. Even if it’s in North Carolina, the fact that we hear it and it feels targeted, all of that impacts everyone… It doesn’t matter if it is North Carolina or Florida. The impact sticks with you regardless of the location.”

But in the twisted world of Republican voter suppression, there’s another twist to the North Carolina fishing expedition, according to former state BOE investigator Tutor.

“They absolutely never expected to get that information,” he said. “This is all to suppress the vote. Here’s the other thing to keep in mind. We have six state constitutional amendments that the right-wing Republican legislature has put on the ballot. And one of them is to require photo ID [to get a polling place ballot]… This will drive the right wing to turn out their people and vote for that ID amendment. That I can guarantee you is in play with all of this charade.”


The Urgent Question of Trump and Money Laundering

How Bruce Ohr, President Trump’s latest Twitter target, fits a suspicious pattern of behavior on Russia.
David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist
NY Times
Sept. 13, 2018

Donald Trump has a long history of doing what he thinks is best for Donald Trump. If he needs to discard friends, allies or wives along the way, so be it. “I’m a greedy person,” he has explained.

It’s important to keep this trait in mind when trying to make sense of the Russia story. Trump’s affinity for Russia, after all, is causing problems for him. It has created tensions with his own staff and his Republican allies in Congress. Most voters now believe he has something to hide. And the constant talk of Russia on television clearly enrages Trump.

He could make his life easier if only he treated Vladimir Putin the way he treats most people who cause problems — and cast Putin aside. Yet Trump can’t bring himself to do so.

This odd refusal is arguably the biggest reason to believe that Putin really does have leverage over Trump. Maybe it’s something shocking, like a sex tape or evidence of campaign collusion by Trump himself. Or maybe it’s the scandal that’s been staring us in the face all along: Illicit financial dealings — money laundering — between Trump’s business and Russia.

The latest reason to be suspicious is Trump’s attacks on a formerly obscure Justice Department official named Bruce Ohr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Ohr and called for him to be fired. Ohr’s sin is that he appears to have been marginally involved in inquiries into Trump’s Russian links. But Ohr fits a larger pattern. In his highly respected three-decade career in law enforcement, he has specialized in going after Russian organized crime.

It just so happens that most of the once-obscure bureaucrats whom Trump has tried to discredit also are experts in some combination of Russia, organized crime and money laundering.

It’s true of Andrew McCabe (the former deputy F.B.I. director whose firing Trump successfully lobbied for), Andrew Weissmann (the only official working for Robert Mueller whom Trump singles out publicly) and others. They are all Trump bogeymen — and all among “the Kremlin’s biggest adversaries in the U.S. government,” as Natasha Bertrand wrote in The Atlantic. Trump, she explained, seems to be trying to rid the government of experts in Russian organized crime.

I realize that this evidence is only circumstantial and well short of proof. But it’s one of many suspicious patterns about Trump and Russia. When you look at them together, it’s hard to come away thinking that the most likely explanation is coincidence.

Consider: The financially rickety Trump Organization, shunned by most mainstream banks, long relied on less scrupulous Russian investors. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. said a decade ago. “We have all the funding we need out of Russia,” Eric Trump reportedly said in 2013. And what was the rare major bank to work with Trump? Deutsche Bank, which has a history of illegal Russian money laundering.

Trump also had a habit of selling real estate to Russians in all-cash deals. Money launderers like such deals, because they can turn illegally earned cash into a legitimate asset, usually at an inflated price that rewards the seller for the risk. One especially dubious deal was Trump’s $95 million sale of a Palm Beach house to a Russian magnate in 2008 — during the housing bust, only four years after Trump had bought the house for $41 million.

Then there is Trump’s paranoia about scrutiny of his businesses. He has refused to release his tax returns. He said that Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line by looking into his finances. When word leaked (incorrectly) that Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank’s records on Trump, he moved to fire Mueller (only to be dissuaded by aides). Trump is certainly acting as if his business history contains damaging information.

For months, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has been trying to get Congress to pay attention to the possibility of money laundering. He points out that Mueller’s mandate does not necessarily include a full investigation of Trump’s businesses. But those businesses could still have behaved in ways that give Putin, a hostile foreign leader, leverage over the president of the United States.

“We need to find out whether that is the case and say so. Or we need to find out that is not the case and say so,” Schiff told me. “But to leave it as an unanswered question, I just think would be negligent to our national security.” So far, congressional Republicans have chosen negligence.

Which means that the November elections may determine whether we ever get answers. If Democrats win House control, Schiff will gain subpoena power. If Republicans keep control, just imagine how emboldened Trump will feel. He could mount a full-on assault on the rule of law by shutting down Mueller’s investigation and any other official scrutiny of the Trump Organization.

At this point, who can doubt that Trump wants to do so? Presumably, he has a good reason.


Where Will the Trump Investigations Go Next?

By Adam Davidson
New Yorker
September 13, 2018

Keith Schiller was Donald Trump’s bodyguard from 1999 until Trump became President; after working at the White House for several months, he was hired to advise the Trump 2020 campaign.
Photograph by Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Like countless other journalists these days, I have been desperately trying to predict where the various investigations into President Trump may turn next. I called a man I know who worked with the Trump Organization during the years before Trump ran for President. I asked him who investigators and reporters should be focussing on—who in Trump’s inner circle would know if the President had violated the law in his business dealings.

This man told me about the door to Trump’s office in Trump Tower. The door was always open, with people streaming in and out. “Every schmo in the Trump Organization would run in with the newest and stupidest of information,” the man told me. He said that people would sometimes show up at Trump Tower, take an elevator to the organization’s main office, on the twenty-sixth floor, and tell a receptionist that they had an idea for Donald Trump; now and again, they’d find themselves sitting with the Donald himself, sharing their pitch.

At times, though, the door would be closed. This was an anomaly at the Trump Organization. It meant that Trump was doing something that didn’t come naturally. He was cutting off the flow of constant distraction; he was choosing to focus on something important. If Trump was discussing a deal, he liked to be able to call someone into his office and share how great the deal was. If he was meeting with someone especially rich or famous, he would make introductions. So closing the door meant that he was not to be disturbed; he was negotiating something so important and secretive that Trump allowed his door to be shut.

The people allowed inside the room when the door was closed were the ones who would know Trump’s secrets, this man told me. And those people were always the same: Ivanka, Donald, Jr., and Allen Weisselberg. It’s possible to reconstruct what at least some of those closed-door conversations might have covered by examining what has been made public through legal action and investigative reporting.

Weisselberg, who has been granted partial immunity by federal prosecutors and testified before a grand jury in the investigation of Michael Cohen, knows the most: “He’s keeper of the books, keeper of the secrets,” my source told me. Weisselberg handled the money when Trump was doing business with Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno, the public face of the Genovese crime family, for example. Weisselberg also ran Trump’s finances when the Trump Taj Mahal received a ten-million-dollar fine for violating laws meant to prevent money laundering.

The one person who likely knew as much or more than Weisselberg about recent business, aside from Trump himself, is Ivanka—“she knows a million times more than Don, Jr.,” my source said. Ivanka personally handled many of the most problematic deals. She was the point person, for example, on the Trump project in Azerbaijan and worked closely with the Mammadov family when they were suspected of laundering money for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. She oversaw a licensing deal in Vancouver with a prominent Malaysian whose father was convicted of financial fraud—a deal that government-watchdog groups say may violate the foreign-emoluments clause. The partner in Ivanka’s own jewelry business is now being sued by the Department of Justice for more than sixty million dollars in unpaid tax liabilities.

Some have argued that Trump didn’t knowingly break the law—that he was just impulsive and unfocussed and would, accidentally and without proper due diligence, end up working with crooks. My source told me that this was nonsense: of course Trump knew when he was breaking the law. “Come on. He was trained by fucking Roy Cohn. Seriously.”

I explained to my source that we already know about Weisselberg and, of course, the Trump children, and asked who else might know Trump’s secrets. He then named Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime executive assistant. She was the interface between Trump and the rest of the world: she answered and made his phone calls, read and wrote his e-mails, ushered people into his office, and scheduled his out-of-office interactions. Graff may not know the details of any particular deal, but she—more than anyone else—could reconstruct Trump’s social, business, and political network.

I spoke with several longtime lawyers for the Trump Organization and was surprised to learn that most of Trump’s legal staff may not know all that much. They each independently described a similar vetting process. Early on, Trump would test new lawyers’ ethics by asking them to do something a bit questionable; perhaps he’d ask them to file a legal document with the city containing misleading information. If the lawyer pushed back at all, Trump would categorize the person as a stickler and never ask them to do anything untoward again. Most of the dozen or so lawyers who work at Trump headquarters spend most of their time doing routine legal work: writing contracts, filing documents with government offices, handling countless lawsuits.

Jason Greenblatt, who became the organization’s head lawyer in 2009, may be an exception; he may know a fair bit about Trump’s more troubling deals. Greenblatt’s rise came just as the Trump Organization was in the early stages of its frenzy of overseas dealmaking with people who were convicted of crimes or whose past deals showed potential signs of money laundering, sanctions violations, and other financial crimes. Greenblatt, several Trump Organization lawyers told me, was responsible for conducting due diligence on partners. He either conducted none or did such a meagre job that it is hard not to conclude that he deliberately avoided having any documentation regarding the company’s most dubious partners. Trump brought Greenblatt to the White House, where he is now a senior adviser to the President on Israel.

There are two other categories of Trump associates who may be helpful to investigators: dealmakers and body men. There were a large group of people who brought potential deals to Trump and then managed the deal-making process. Some were longtime employees; others, as noted above, simply walked in the door and proposed some scheme or another. There are many dozens of people—perhaps it’s in the hundreds—who did business in this way with Trump or one of his senior lieutenants. We know many of their names, but not all of them. And, since shell companies obscured the identities of the participants in most Trump deals, only those with subpoena power can unearth the entire list. This large group of dealmakers includes people who live in other countries, and a number with ties to the Kremlin. It is hard to imagine that diligent investigators wouldn’t seek to speak with as many of these people as possible. George Sorial, a Trump Organization executive vice-president, might be first among these dealmakers as a person of interest who, like Cohen, is also a lawyer. He handled the Trump International Golf Links development, in Scotland, and was involved with the fraudulent Trump University.

The last category is body men. Long before he ran for President, Trump travelled with men who served as bodyguards and sometimes also handled unpleasant tasks. Keith Schiller was Trump’s bodyguard from 1999 until Trump became President. After working at the White House for several months, he was hired to advise the Trump 2020 campaign with a fifteen-thousand-dollar-per-month contract. In her recent book, “Unhinged,” the former Trump associate Omarosa Manigault Newman described a pattern in which the campaign would pay precisely fifteen thousand dollars a month to people whom it wanted to silence and prevent from revealing disturbing information about the President. We know that Schiller has handled some sensitive business, including turning down an offer of prostitutes for Trump when he was in Moscow and personally delivering the letter to fire the former F.B.I. head James Comey.

One name that has come up frequently in talking with Trump insiders is a second bodyguard, Matthew Calamari. According to the Times, Trump hired Calamari in 1981, after seeing him kick out a group of hecklers when he worked as a security guard at the U.S. Open. Calamari is now the chief operating officer of the Trump Organization; his son is a director of security. Several Trump insiders told me that Calamari was never involved in deals, but he was often the person physically closest to Trump and was considered someone who would do anything Trump asked of him.

Over time, I have come to see the Trump operation as something like a bike’s wheel. Trump, his eldest children, and Weisselberg are in the center. Together, they know and actively participated in almost everything. They are likely the central focus of any investigation. Then there are spokes—dozens or hundreds of them—each representing some specific line of business. Many of the people and deals represented by these spokes are, surely, innocent of any crime and know nothing. Others have crucial bits of information that, taken together, would help investigators to understand the entire operation, and any laws it may have broken.

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« Reply #4336 on: Sep 13, 2018, 05:44 AM »

Colbert knocks ‘scared’ Ted Cruz for buying ads during Beto O’Rourke’s appearance on the ‘Late Show’

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
13 Sep 2018 at 01:51 ET                   

“Late Show” host Stephen Colbert nailed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for running scared from Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke. His example was that Cruz purchased ads to air during Colbert’s Wednesday evening interview with O’Rourke.

Before O’Rourke stepped out on stage, Colbert ridiculed Cruz in his opening monologue.

“Beto is running in Texas against incumbent senator, and man whose campaign staff is definitely watching this show right now, Ted Cruz,” Colbert said. The CBS host mocked the GOP for begging President Donald Trump to help Cruz after the two engaging in a public feud for years.

“You know it’s bad when you need backup from a man with a 36% approval rating,” Colbert joked. “Their backup plan is a celebrity endorsement from the herpes virus.”

“Here’s how scared Ted Cruz is of Beto O’Rourke,” Colbert explained. “He bought ads on my show tonight to counter his interview.”

Cruz has tried to attack O’Rourke by releasing an old photo of the Democrat’s rocker days in a band. It not only made Cruz look old and out of touch but childish and petty. Colbert showed the photo with the caption, “Maybe Beto can’t debate Ted Cruz because he already had plans”

“Yes, his plans were being smoking hot in a naughty but approachable sort of way, like your best friend’s older brother who smells like weed and listens to Radiohead,” Colbert said. “Read us your poems, Beto!”

Another Cruz ad attacking O’Rourke attacks the candidate for using the F-word, which Colbert found hilarious.

“Beto is a dirty-minded potty mouth,” he quipped. “You must protect the values of Texas, and vote for the man who likes threesome porn on Twitter.”

Cruz’s Twitter account liked a pornographic clip of the film “Moms Bang Teens 20″ posted on Twitter. Cruz tried to make jokes about it and ultimately claimed it was a “staffing issue.”

When Colbert brought O’Rourke out, he attacked Trump’s border wall.

O’Rourke, who hails from El Paso, said his hometown is one of the safest cities in America because it is a city of the immigrants.

“We greet one another with respect and dignity,” he told Colbert.

O’Rourke then noted he hoped he and Trump could “join forces” against their mutual enemy: Cruz.

“The people of Texas are more than a match for President Trump or for politics as usual,” O’Rourke said.

“People are coming out at this moment of truth,” he continued. “They’re going to help us decide as a country, are we a nation of walls? Will we ban all Muslims or all people of one religion? Will we describe the press as the ‘enemy of the people’? Will we take kids away from their parents when they’re trying to claim asylum, fleeing from the most brutal countries in this hemisphere, if not the planet?”

Watch the videos below:

    "We don't need a wall" says Texas Senate candidate @BetoORourke in his conversation with @StephenAtHome on tonight's #LSSC. Tune in at 11:35/10:35c for the full interview! pic.twitter.com/lBmK46g1L3

    — The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) September 13, 2018

Watch: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6tji1v

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« Reply #4337 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:01 AM »

A lung-healing protein could be the reason why men recover from flu faster than women


In the United States, during the 1957 H2N2 pandemic, the number of deaths was higher among females than males. During the first and second wave of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, a significant portion of patients hospitalized with severe 2009 H1N1 disease was comprised of young adult women. Data from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, as well as from 2005, which was a bad year for seasonal influenza in Japan, reveal significant differences in morbidity rates between males and females. In 2010, the WHO published a report concluding that the outcome of pandemic influenza, as well as avian (bird flu) H5N1, is generally worse for young adult females.

Pregnancy is an obvious female-specific risk factor associated with worse outcomes from seasonal and pandemic influenza infection, and likely contributes to the overall higher mortality in women compared to men. However, it does not appear to explain all of the differences between the sexes. Some researchers have postulated that the slower recovery by women from flu was linked to their greater levels of lung inflammation during flu infections. What else could be the reason?

According to a new study of mice and human cells, increased amounts of a lung-healing protein called amphiregulin (AREG) could be the reason why men recover from influenza more quickly than women. AREG, an Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)-like molecule, has been shown to play a critical role in wound and tissue healing following infection or injury.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose findings were published in the journal Biology of Sex Differences, infected live mice and human cells derived from male humans with a non-lethal dose of H1N1 — an Influenza A strain that caused over 18,500 laboratory-confirmed deaths worldwide in 2009 and 2010. Male and female mice had the same virus levels and cleared the virus in about the same amount of time.

Nevertheless, female mice had greater loss of body mass and more lung inflammation during the early phase of infection and were slower to return to normal lung function. Male mice genetically engineered to lack AREG had the same flu results as females. In a study of flu infections of mice and human lung epithelial cells in vitro, the investigators found significant increases in the production of AREG only when the cells were from males.

    “The novel finding here is that females also have slower tissue-repair during recovery, due to relatively low production of amphiregulin,” study author Dr. Sabra Klein, an associate professor at Hopkins, said in a press release.

Scientists found that AREG, which has been known to promote the growth of epithelial cells in the skin, lung, and other surfaces in the body during wound healing, was the key factor, including during recovery from lung infections. Male mice produced significantly more AREG than females during the recovery phase of their infections.

It is not clear which factors drive the increased rise in AREG production in males during flu infection. Earlier in 2016, Professor Klein and colleagues showed that the sex hormone progesterone stimulates AREG production in female mice. They theorized that males evolved with greater wound-healing ability because they participated in more battles for territories, mates, and resources. The researchers initially thought the production of AREG increased in males during influenza infection because of testosterone. However, they found that the sex hormone, independently of AREG, does help protect male mice, which fared worse in flu infections without it.

Professor Klein’s group is now investigating the mechanisms of testosterone’s protective effect, as well as the factors that control AREG production during flu infection – a better understanding of these mechanisms could lead to new flu treatments that boost AREG production, particularly in women.

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« Reply #4338 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:09 AM »

As 1.5 Million Flee Hurricane Florence, Worries Grow Over Half Dozen Nuclear Power Plants in Storm's Path

By Julia Conley

With 1.5 million residents now under orders to evacuate their homes in preparation for Hurricane Florence's landfall in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, the region faces the possibility of catastrophe should the storm damage one or more of the nuclear power plants which lie in its potential path.

As the Associated Press reported on Monday, "The storm's potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous eastern hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons."

The plants thought to lie in the path of the hurricane, which is expected to make landfall on the Southeastern U.S. coast on Thursday, include North Carolina's Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant in Southport, Duke Energy Sutton Steam Plant in Wilmington, and South Carolina's V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville.

"Florence will approach the Carolina coast Thursday night into Friday with winds in excess of 100mph along with flooding rains. This system will approach the Brunswick Nuclear Plant as well as the Duke-Sutton Steam Plant," Ed Vallee, a North Carolina-based meteorologist, told Zero Hedge. "Dangerous wind gusts and flooding will be the largest threats to these operations with inland plants being susceptible to inland flooding."

In 2015, the Huffington Post and Weather.com identified Brunswick as one of the East Coast's most at-risk nuclear power plants in the event of rising sea levels and the storm surges that come with them.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Hurricane Florence was thought to have the potential to cause "massive damage to our country" according to Jeff Byard, associate administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The storm was labeled a Category 4 tropical storm with the potential to become a Category 5 as it nears the coast, with 130 mile-per-hour winds blowing about 900 miles off the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Meteorologists warned of hurricane-force winds in the region by mid-day Thursday, with storm surges reaching up to 12 feet or higher.

The 2011 Fukushima disaster remains the highest-profile nuclear catastrophe caused by a natural disaster. The tsunami that hit Japan in March of that year disabled three of the plant's reactors, causing a radioactive release which forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

In 2014, Shane Shifflett and Kate Sheppard at the Huffington Post reported on the risk storms like Florence pose to nuclear plants:

    Most nuclear power facilities were built well before scientists understood just how high sea levels might rise in the future. And for power plants, the most serious threat is likely to come from surges during storms. Higher sea levels mean that flooding will travel farther inland, creating potential hazards in areas that may have previously been considered safe.

During hurricanes, many nuclear facilities will power down—but this is not a sure-fire way to avoid disaster, wrote Sheppard and Shifflett.

"Even when a plant is not operating, the spent fuel stored on-site, typically uranium, will continue to emit heat and must be cooled using equipment that relies on the plant's own power," they wrote. "Flooding can cause a loss of power, and in serious conditions it can damage backup generators. Without a cooling system, reactors can overheat and damage the facility to the point of releasing radioactive material."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams

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« Reply #4339 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:11 AM »

Limiting Warming to 2°C Would Prevent ‘Worldwide Increases’ in Heat-Related Deaths

By Daisy Dunne

Restricting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels would prevent large increases in temperature-related deaths across much of the globe, a new study finds.

And keeping warming to 1.5°C—the aspirational target of the Paris agreement—would further limit the number of people dying from temperature extremes in some parts of the world, including in southeast Asia and southern Europe.

However, in some countries with a cooler climate, such as the UK, Ireland and Japan, overall temperature-related deaths would be higher at 1.5°C of warming than 2°C. This is because the additional 0.5°C of warming is expected to bring a bigger drop in winter deaths than the increase in deaths in hot summers, the researchers say.

The findings—which draw on data taken from 451 locations in 23 countries—show that, overall, taking steps to meet the 1.5°C limit could prevent "a hell of a lot of people" from dying as a result of temperature extremes in tropical countries, a study author tells Carbon Brief.

Heating Up

Climate change is likely to increase both the frequency and severity of heatwaves—such as this summer's record-breaking run of hot weather, research shows.

During a heatwave, the number of "heat-related deaths"—whereby exposure to heat either causes or significantly contributes to a death—tends to increase. For example, research shows that, during a heatwave, the risk of death from a heart attack is higher. Heatwaves are also associated with increased rates of suicide.

However, research also suggests that, as temperatures warm, numbers of "cold-related" deaths—which are caused by exposure to cold weather and winter illnesses—could decrease in some regions. Whether or not this "cold effect" could partially offset the expected rise in heat-related deaths has long been debated by scientists.

The new study, published in Climatic Change Letters, seeks to solve this conundrum by comparing the expected number of heat- and cold-related deaths in 23 countries under different levels of global warming.

To do this, they subtracted the expected fall in cold-related deaths from the expected rise in heat-related deaths for each country. This gave them an overall measure of how warming is likely to affect the number of "temperature-related" deaths.

The results show that, in many world regions, the number of temperature-related deaths is expected to "significantly increase"—despite decreases in cold-related deaths—if warming is not limited to 2°C. In their research paper, the authors say:

    "Our results suggest that limiting warming below 2C could prevent large increases in temperature-related mortality in most regions worldwide."

For some regions, limiting warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C would further prevent a rise in temperature-related deaths, says study author Dr. Dann Mitchell, a researcher in climate change and health from the University of Bristol. He told Carbon Brief:

    "One major point from the study is that southeast Asia is the region that will be most severely hit by a net increase in deaths under higher levels of warming. Vietnam, in particular, is expected to experience a 2% increase in net deaths under 2C of warming, rather than 1.5C. That 2% is going to be a hell of a lot of people."

Divided World

For the study, the researchers used data from the Multi-Country Multi-City Collaborative Research Network—which details the historical relationship between temperature and mortality in 451 locations across 23 countries.

This information was used to inform a set of global climate models—which produced projections of temperature-related mortality under 1.5°C, 2°C, 3°C and 4°C of global warming.

The models assumed that the current wealth and population of each country remained the same under future levels of global warming.

Under high levels of global warming, temperature-related mortality is likely to increase overall in many regions, the authors say:

    "Under more extreme scenarios, most regions could experience considerably larger heat-mortality risks that would not be balanced by the projected decreases in cold-related excess mortality."

For example, under 4°C of warming, populations in southern parts of Europe and east Asia are projected to experience a 4-9 percent increase in heat-related deaths when compared to 1.5°C.

However, when looking at the difference in temperature-related deaths between 1.5 and 2°C, the picture is more "mixed," the researchers say.

The chart below shows the expected difference in temperature-related deaths between the 1.5 and 2°C scenarios. On the chart, red shows the expected increase in heat-related deaths for each country, blue shows the expected decrease in cold-related deaths and black diamonds mark the overall "net" number of deaths.

(If a diamond is on the right-hand side of the chart, it means the net number of deaths is expected to be lower under 1.5 than 2°C. However, if it is on the left-hand side, it shows that the net number of deaths is expected to be higher under 1.5 than 2°C for that country.)

Expected difference in temperature-related deaths between scenarios of 1.5 and 2°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels for 23 countries

The results show how the number of temperature-related deaths in southeast Asia, such as the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, and in southern Europe, such as Italy and Spain, would be smaller under 1.5 than 2°C.

For Vietnam, the number of heat-related deaths is expected to be around 2 percent lower under 1.5°C in comparison to 2°C. For Italy and Spain, the number of heat-related deaths is expected to be around 1 percent lower.

However, in some cooler regions, including in the UK, Ireland and Japan, the net number of deaths is expected to be higher under 1.5 than 2°C. This is because, in these regions, the additional 0.5°C of warming reduces more cold-related deaths than it increases heat-related ones.

In the UK, the net number of deaths is expected to be around 0.25 percent higher under 1.5°C than 2°C. In Ireland, the net number of deaths could be around 0.5 percent higher under 1.5°C.

The amount of regional warming is also important. For example, in Australia, the number of heat-related deaths is expected to be smaller than in other parts of Asia because temperature increases are expected to be milder, the researchers say.

In their research paper, however, the researchers caution that many of their results come with a large degree of statistical uncertainty (shown with black lines on the chart). The authors said:

    "We also observe a large uncertainty in our estimates, particularly those for the next impacts and more extreme scenarios."

This uncertainty stems from variability in the climate models and a lack of data availability in some regions, they say.

Vulnerable Hotspots

Although not all regions would see fewer temperature-related deaths under 1.5°C than 2°C, this does not mean than 2°C should be considered a "safe" temperature limit, the researchers say.

One reason for this is that some regions that are expected to be the most vulnerable to heat-related deaths, such as southeast Asia, are also the least likely to be able to adapt to climate change, the researchers said:

    "These regions include the most populated areas worldwide and, in general, the most vulnerable to climate change, with a limited capacity for adaptation due to lack of infrastructural, financial and technological resources."

In addition, comparing cold- and heat-related deaths may not give "the full picture" of how climate change will impact mortality, Mitchell said:

    "Heat-related deaths tend to be very fast, caused by factors such as heart failure, or linked to social factors, such as suicide. On the other hand, cold-snaps lead to a very different sort of mortality. People who die from cold-related deaths can spend two to three weeks in hospital."

The differences between cold- and heat-related deaths mean they require different types of healthcare, Mitchell says. Because of this, the costs incurred from heat-related deaths may not be offset by a reduction in cold-related deaths. He said:

    "The next stage of our research will be to look at the two metrics separately."

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« Reply #4340 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:14 AM »

BBC Issues First Climate Change Reporting Guidelines


After a summer full of extreme weather headlines, The BBC is making a concerted effort to improve its coverage of climate change.

In a "crib sheet" sent to BBC journalists via email last Thursday and obtained by Carbon Brief, the major news source provided reporters with a climate "editorial policy" and "position" and invited them to attend an hour-long "training course on reporting climate change."

"After a summer of heatwaves, floods and extreme weather, environment stories have become front of mind for our audiences. There are a number of important related news events in the coming months—including the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Green Great Britain Week in October—so there will be many more stories to cover. Younger audiences, in particular, have told us they'd like to see more journalism on the issue," the email, written and sent by BBC Director of News and Current Affairs Fran Unsworth, began.

The course and new policy and position document, which Carbon Brief said were the first formal climate reporting guidelines in BBC history, came after the BBC apologized last year for breaking its editorial guidelines for "not sufficiently challenging" former Conservative chancellor and climate denier Lord Nigel Lawson in an interview on Radio 4's Today program in 2017.

The BBC was also censured by regulator Ofcom for the interview, in which it failed to challenge Lawson's claim that temperatures had not risen in the past decade, The Guardian reported.

Another interview with Lawson in 2014 saw the Today program censured by the BBC complaints unit.

The new editorial policy began by addressing past mistakes.

"Climate change has been a difficult subject for the BBC, and we get coverage of it wrong too often," the document obtained by Carbon Brief said.

The BBC climate position also warned journalists to "be aware of false balance."

'To achieve impartiality, you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday. The referee has spoken," The BBC said.

The policy document went on to state that it was sometimes appropriate to include skeptical voices when talking about the pace of climate change or debating policy responses, but that a speakers' affiliations and scientific expertise should be stated to the audience.

"This set of BBC guidelines is long overdue. There have been too many occasions when the BBC's audience has been misled over the realities of climate change," University of Reading climate science Prof. Ed Hawkins told Carbon Brief, though he thought the policy could have been clearer in its definition of "false balance."

Hawkins clarified that the IPCC report was not being updated this year, but rather that the body was publishing a special report on the impacts of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

Former BBC environment correspondent and current Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit Director Richard Black also welcomed the news.

"The course will be criticised by some—words like 'stifling the debate'—but those voices are decreasingly important in the country. I think the real takeaway from this is that the BBC has decided it no longer cares about evidence-free allegations of 'bias'. It's to be commended for putting its mojo on display," he told The Guardian.

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« Reply #4341 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:16 AM »

Investment firms controlling £23tn launch campaign to combat climate change

Group piles pressure on US to stick to terms of Paris agreement

Harry Cockburn
A group of almost 400 of the world’s leading investors, controlling over $30tn (£23tn) in assets, have agreed to work together to back initiatives to combat climate change and help meet the objectives of the Paris agreement.

The group aims to lobby and put pressure on governments around the world to accelerate action to tackle global greenhouse gas emissions.

Investors including the BBC Pensions Trust, Transport for London pensions fund, Aviva, the Environment Agency pension fund, Legal and General, and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust are calling on the companies in their portfolios to reduce their carbon footprint, support clean energy, and strengthen climate-related financial disclosures.

The campaign, announced as part of the Global Action Climate Summit in San Francisco, also aims to put pressure on the US to stick to the terms of the Paris agreement after Donald Trump announced America was pulling out of the accord.

The “draconian” measures of the agreement would cause a “very diminished quality of life” for Americans, the US president said, announcing his decision in June 2017.

The list of organisations who are part of the newly launched “Investor Agenda” includes 279 investors controlling $31tn who had already signed up to the aims of the Climate Action 100+ in agreement with this statement: “We, the institutional investors that are signatories to this statement, are aware of the risks climate change presents to our portfolios and asset values in the short, medium and long term.

“We therefore support the Paris Agreement and the need for the world to transition to a lower carbon economy consistent with a goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
Fear over climate change ‘hits highest level in a decade’

Welcoming the launch, Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “Investors are showing great leadership to promote climate action in multiple fronts. Their efforts to meet the shortfall in the financial resources required to deliver the Paris Agreement goals, and further building on engagement with high-emitting sectors are a valuable contribution.”

She added: “Yet we believe many more opportunities exist. The Investor Agenda offers a clear path to scale-up investor action, which is essential to meet the needs in every region of the world to address climate change. It gives investors multiple opportunities to continue to demonstrate their willingness to become part of the transformation that will lead us to a more cleaner, greener, sustainable future for all.”

The group totalling 392 investors, include a core group of 120 firms who claim to be pursuing new investments in low-carbon and “climate resilient” portfolios and strategies.

This will include “investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, phasing out investments in coal, and integrating climate change into portfolio analysis and decision-making”, a statement from the Investor Agenda said.

This also puts the group in conflict with the Trump administration. The US president, who donned a coal miner’s helmet during his 2016 campaign, has claimed he has “ended the war on beautiful, clean coal”.

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« Reply #4342 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:19 AM »

Rice farming up to twice as bad for climate change as previously thought, study reveals

Levels of overlooked greenhouse gas are up to 45 times higher in fields that are only flooded intermittently

Josh Gabbatiss Science Correspondent

Rice farming is known to be a major contributor to climate change, but new research suggests it is far bigger a problem than previously thought.

Techniques intended to reduce emissions while also cutting water use may in fact be boosting some greenhouse gases, meaning the impact of rice cultivation may be up to twice as bad as previous estimates suggest.

Scientists at the US-based advocacy group the Environmental Defense Fund suggest the short-term warming impact of these additional gases in the atmosphere could be equivalent to 1,200 coal power plants.   

Considering the importance of rice as a staple food crop, providing more calories to the global population than any other food, the researchers have recommended ways to adapt farming practices and make its cultivation more climate-friendly.

Past estimates have suggested that 2.5 per cent of human-induced climate warming can be attributed to rice farming.

The main culprit is methane, a potent greenhouse gas emitted from flooded rice fields as bacteria in the waterlogged soil produce it in large quantities.

However, there is another gas produced by rice fields that can have a harmful climate effect. Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is also produced by soil microbes in rice fields.

Partly in a bid to reduce methane emissions, several international organisations have promoted intermittent flooding of rice fields, but this practice comes with problems of its own.

“The full climate impact of rice farming has been significantly underestimated because up to this point, nitrous dioxide emissions from intermittently flooded farms have not been included,” said Dr Kritee Kritee from the Environmental Defense Fund, who led the research.

Analysis by the team showed that process of alternately wetting and drying rice fields – while reducing methane levels – is producing up to 45 times more nitrous oxide than constantly flooded fields.

The intermittent flooding and airing of the fields results in pulses of microbial activity that in turn leads to increased nitrous oxide levels.   

India must ditch rice to feed growing population, scientists warn

These results, obtained by working with farms in southern India, were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Increasing pressure on limited water resources under a changing climate could make additional rice farming regions look to intermittent flooding to address water limitations and concerns about methane emissions,” said Dr Kritee.

“Water management on rice farms needs to be calibrated to balance water use concerns with the climate impacts of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions.”

Despite being a powerful greenhouse gas in its own right that traps even more heat in the atmosphere than methane over long time periods, most rice producing countries do not report their nitrous oxide emissions.

Dr Kritee said it was essential that scientists began investigating this overlooked threat so that nations can tackle it effectively.

“We now know nitrous oxide emissions from rice farming can be large and impactful,” said Richie Ahuja, a co-author of this study.

By considering each farm individually and taking into account their methane, nitrous oxide and water use, the scientists suggest that specific strategies can be used that can minimise emissions of climate harming gases.

“We now also know how to manage the problem. Major rice producing nations in Asia are investing to improve the agriculture sector and could benefit from the suggested dual mitigation strategies that lead to water savings, better yields, and less climate pollution,” said Mr Ahuja.

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« Reply #4343 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:36 AM »

Indie rockers Side Effect channel the resilient spirit of Myanmar's youth

For years, one of Myanmar’s most popular bands worked in fear of an authoritarian military government, using metaphor and symbolism to convey their subtly subversive message. Now they are pushing ever harder for freedom of expression

Fran McElhone
Fri 14 Sep 2018 07.00 BST

The lead singer of one of Myanmar’s most popular bands has spent his life songwriting in code.

Having formed indie/post-punk group Side Effect with three friends in 2004, under a military dictatorship, Darko C had to be scrupulously careful not to offend the generals. Every form of popular culture was vetted and controlled at the time, and dissident artists of all kinds featured among the pariah state’s vast cohort of political prisoners.

Taboo subjects included sex, politics and any expression of disdain for life in general. The country’s strict censorship programme meant all songs destined for the recording studio first had to be checked and approved by officials, a process Darko describes bluntly as a “pain in the arse”.

This oppressive protocol officially ended in 2012, when the Ministry of Information relaxed Myanmar’s censorship programme following the establishment of a semi-civilian government the previous year. Such is the ingrained fear in musicians like Darko, however, it is taking time for the effect to filter through – an obvious irony, given that the forefathers of punk built an enduring sub-culture on anti-establishment principles.

“For a long time we were an underground band and we didn’t push ourselves to release any songs because we didn’t want to deal with the authorities,” says Darko, 37, who lives in now up-and-coming Yangon. “But a good thing came out of this – it pushed me as a songwriter to think of ways to express my thoughts and feelings in an indirect way, so I would use a lot of metaphors and symbolism. This made our songs more interesting and thought-provoking. We found freedom this way.”

In 2015, the National League of Democracy (NDL), with Aung San Suu Kyi as leader, won the elections with enough seats to form a government, ending 54 years of military rule. Darko’s answer is “yes and no” when pressed on whether things became any better for musicians under Aung San Suu Kyi, whose inaction over the persecution of Rohingya Muslims has made her a controversial figure.

    Do you think you could joke about Aung San Suu Kyi? No. You would definitely be put in jail. So can I say I’m free? No
    Darko C

“There’s a song by the British punk band the Notsensibles which goes: ‘I’m in love with Margaret Thatcher … she’s so sexy,’” says Darko. “Do you think you could joke about Aung San Suu Kyi? No. You would definitely be put in jail. So can I say I’m free? No.

“But freedom is something you have to fight for in Myanmar and now is the time to question how democratic the government really is. We need to keep pushing for our rights. Our job as musicians is to point out the problems and make them listen to us.”

Darko taught himself how to play guitar by borrowing his father’s “hollow” (acoustic) guitar and watching his older friends play, while the band’s drummer Tser Htoo learned how to play drums on stacks of books.

“I started writing songs, not giving a shit about what people would think,” recalls Darko, who is the Myanmar director for Turning Tables, a global not-for-profit organisation that works to empower marginalised youth in the developing world through music and film. “It wasn’t until I was a teenager when I realised how fucked up things were in my country compared to the rest of the world.”

In 2011, the band attracted the attention of the international press when $2,800 (£2,135) raised through the US crowdfunding site Indiegogo for the release of their debut album was frozen by the US due to its economic sanctions against Myanmar. A year after that demoralising setback, the group played in Berlin, their first gig outside Asia; in 2014, they became the first band from Myanmar to play at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

Their high-energy songs are catchy, positive, and embody the resilience of Myanmar’s youth while challenging widespread public perception formed by decades of oppression. Underpinning most are rousing political, albeit codified, messages: Meikhtila decries violence against the Rohingya Muslims, New Outfit speaks out about the new government making no significant difference, and Rejection is about Darko C’s meeting with a young Rohingya man in northern Rakhine who told him: “I wish I wasn’t born in this place. I just want to die.”

“Growing up, there were a few bars and clubs which were expensive to hire, but no music venues as such,” explains Darko. “You could organise your own gig in a public place, but for a fee, which we couldn’t afford at first, so our gigs were very DIY.

“When we played concerts, it was always a risk; there would be many plain-clothed policemen around and military informers who might not like something you did. So I was scared, because I didn’t want to go to prison.

“Fear was everywhere under the military government,” Darko reflects. “But we were born into that. Everyone was scared of getting in trouble with the authorities. If someone knocked on your door in the middle of the night and wanted to take you away for interrogation, then they could just grab you, do what they wanted to you, and give no reason.

“Whenever you spoke about Aung San Suu Kyi you had to make sure no one was listening; you didn’t want to say the word ‘democracy’ out loud.”

Musicians still require permission to perform publicly from six different authorities, including the police department – a process that takes at least two weeks. But in recent years there has been an influx of new bars, although for many people karaoke takes precedence over live bands.

“We appreciate our freedom now,” says Darko. “But I think a lot of people want to push things and get more rights and more freedom, and fix the problems we have in our country.

“But the NDL is still a very young government. So far, I’m not impressed by the Aung San Suu Kyi government when it comes to how they deal with freedom of expression and ethnic minorities, especially the Rohingya. I expect them to stand up for all citizens, for all minorities.”

While western punk rockers continue to challenge the authorities with the sort of blatant confidence only possible in the free world, their counterparts in Myanmar have to embody a far more subtle version of the sub-culture – albeit a more authentic one. Maybe that’s the real irony.

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« Reply #4344 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:41 AM »

Overlooked No More: Marthe McKenna, Nurse Who Spied for the British in World War I

Her nursing skills gave her the perfect cover for espionage. She later produced a thrilling memoir that Winston Churchill couldn’t put down.

Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. With Overlooked, we’re adding the stories of remarkable people whose deaths went unreported in The Times.

By Jillian Rayfield
NY Times

As a nurse in a German military hospital in occupied Belgium during World War I, Marthe McKenna spent her days saving the lives of German soldiers. All the while, she secretly helped the British plot attacks against them.

McKenna, who was Belgian, spied on the Germans for almost two years starting in early 1915, using her position to observe them and gain their trust.

“Because I am a woman I could not serve my country as a soldier,” she said in her memoir, “I Was a Spy!” (1932). “I took the only course open to me.”

Some 6,000 women were part of Britain’s intelligence apparatus, both as military officers and as civilians, from 1909 to 1919, the historian Tammy M. Proctor wrote in her book “Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War” (2003).

“I Was a Spy!” told of harrowing missions and narrow escapes. Much of the account was later determined to be invented, but the book captivated Britons. “Her tale is a thrilling one,” Winston Churchill wrote in the introduction. “Having begun it, I could not put out my light till four o’clock in the morning.”

McKenna described passing coded messages about the movements of German troops, helping Allied prisoners escape when they were brought to the hospital, and even disguising herself as an injured German soldier to gather information about intelligence leaks.

Sometimes, McKenna wrote, she would pass information to other Allied spies known to her, and sometimes she would simply slip messages through a window as “a hand — white against the darkness — came out.”

At the same time, McKenna’s multilingualism and nursing skills became so indispensable to the Germans that they awarded her the Iron Cross, a military decoration that, she said, ultimately saved her life.

Marthe Mathilde Cnockaert was born in October 1892 in Westrozebeke, Belgium, one of five children of  Félix and Marie-Louise Cnockaert, who were farmers before the war.

The German invasion of Belgium in 1914 interrupted McKenna’s medical studies at Ghent University. She began working at a makeshift hospital in Westrozebeke set up by nuns, treating both German and Allied soldiers. In early 1915, she and her family relocated to Roeselare, a small city in Flanders, Belgium, where she began working in the German military hospital.

It was there that the British called on her. She described in her memoir how a family friend, whom she identified as Lucelle, recruited her. But according to Gilbert Coghe, an author and historian from Westrozebeke,  “Lucelle” was the codename for her aunt, Maria Deroo, who was already working for British intelligence.

McKenna agreed to become a spy out of patriotism, she wrote, “to defeat such an abhorrent machine which is attempting to overrun our beloved land.”

But the nature of the work often horrified her. In one mission, as she described it, she flirted  with an officer who worked at the train station so that she could  learn when munitions would be delivered to the German front. She was successful, and the British sent planes to destroy the station.

When it dawned on McKenna that the officer would be in danger, she wrote, “for a moment ghastly terror shook me in every limb.”

“Was I — quiet, harmless Martha Cnockaert — really about to do this terrible thing?” (The book used the English spelling of her first name.)

McKenna said she was caught after she had aided in the explosion of a weapons stockpile. There she lost a wristwatch engraved with her initials, and the Germans, suspecting its  owner to be the culprit behind the explosions, put up a notice saying they had found it. She claimed it, falling into their trap.

The Germans then searched her home, found hidden coded messages and  arrested her on espionage charges in November 1916. Though the penalty for spying was usually execution, McKenna was imprisoned instead because, she said,  of her work as a nurse and the Iron Cross she had received.

She later received honors from France and Belgium and was hailed in dispatches  by Field Marshal Douglas Haig of Britain, who included her on  a list of Belgians who had provided “distinguished and gallant services.”

After the war she married John McKenna, a British officer, and they moved to England. Historians believe her husband was probably the ghostwriter for “I Was a Spy!” though publicly the couple claimed that Marthe McKenna had written it. The book initially sold about 200,000 copies and received rave reviews.

“From first page to last it is a thrilling, breathtaking book,” The New York Times wrote. The Sunday Dispatch in England printed excerpts, describing the book as the “greatest of all war stories” and comparing McKenna to Joan of Arc.

But how much of it is true remains a question.

Coghe, the historian, said many parts of the book were fictionalized and that some events combined McKenna’s experiences with those of her aunt.

Churchill wrote in the introduction, “I cannot, of course, vouch for the accuracy of every incident; but the main description of her life, intrigues, and adventures is undoubtedly authentic.”

The memoir was adapted into a well-received movie of the same title  in 1933.

In the following two decades, McKenna and her husband released more than a dozen other books, mostly spy novels. One inspired the film “Lancer Spy” in 1937. The books and movies made McKenna a celebrity in the United Kingdom, where she attended movie premieres and toured to promote her books.

McKenna and her husband moved back to Westrozebeke around 1947. He left her for another woman some time in the early 1950s, Coghe said, about the time the spy novels stopped being published. McKenna lived largely in isolation until her death, around 1966. She had no children.

Despite her fame in England, McKenna had largely been forgotten in Belgium until recently. In 2000, a biography about her led to the first Dutch translation of “I Was a Spy!” In 2016, as part of ceremonies commemorating the war, an interactive exhibition held throughout the city of Roeselare featured McKenna as a character. In it, she helped guide participants pretending to be spies.

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« Reply #4345 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:43 AM »

Interview: Bob Woodward: 'Too many people are emotionally unhinged about Trump'

The journalist, who has now written about nine US presidents, discusses his new book, Fear, and how he believes the media should have responded to Trump

David Smith
Fri 14 Sep 2018 11.00 BST

It was, Bob Woodward recalls, “an almost Shakespearean moment”. He and a Washington Post colleague were interviewing Donald Trump in March 2016. They asked how Trump defines power. The then presidential candidate replied: “Real power is – I don’t even want to use the word – fear.”

Woodward recalls that it was like “Hamlet’s aside, turning to the audience to say: ‘This is what’s really going on, this is what it’s really about. I want it to be known but I don’t want it to be known.’ That great ambivalence of the politician speaking a dangerous truth.”

Two and a half years, one presidential election and hundreds of hours of interviews later, Trump’s telling choice of word – fear – was the natural choice of title for Woodward’s latest book, a singularly authoritative portrait of a White House teetering on the edge of a cliff. Whereas other accounts have offered soap opera, this is the presidency as Shakespearean tragedy.

Now 75, Woodward has written about nine US presidents, most famously Richard Nixon. His dogged reporting with Post colleague Carl Bernstein on the Watergate break-in and cover-up, and on Nixon’s dirty tricks and political espionage, played a central part in forcing him to resign – still the only US president to do so – and was immortalised in every journalist’s favourite journalism film, All the President’s Men, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

Woodward came of age in an era of clattering typewriters, cigarette smoke, hot metal, thundering presses and covert calls made from coin-hungry payphones. He still champions shoe-leather journalism and knocking on doors, sometimes late at night, and is not likely to be found dropping snarky comments on Twitter.

A newsman of the old school, he evidently likes to let his reporting do the talking. In an era when the line between news and opinion is increasingly blurred, when even Bernstein offers punditry on CNN, Woodward is perhaps not in his natural habitat touring the TV, radio and podcasting studios being asked to serve up polemical soundbites with viral potential.

Instead, in Fear, he meticulously builds a case against Trump’s fitness for office. He has no need to shout it from the rooftops because the facts are staring us in the face. His body of evidence, charting how decisions get made or don’t in a jaw-droppingly dysfunctional White House, is a welcome antidote to the daily blizzard of online agitprop, rumours and conspiracy theories.

Nearly all his interviews were taped; one ran to 820 pages of transcript; he interviewed one subject nine times. As the 20-month-old Trump presidency already becomes the stuff of history books, Woodward’s contribution carries more weight than the gossipy and sometimes sloppy Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff or the score-settling of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged.

Trump has dismissed the book, already in the top of Amazon’s bestsellers of 2018 list, as “a piece of fiction” and used Twitter to brand Woodward “a liar”.

Woodward reflected: “I look at my job as: let’s present the rock solid evidence of what happens. There’s documents, there’s notes, there’s not just the phrase but there’s they sat and they met and this is what happened. Let the political system respond.”

He added: “I just think too many people have lost their perspective and become emotionally unhinged about Trump. I can understand that but that’s not the way the media should respond. The media should respond with what really happened.”

Woodward is full of praise for the “high energy” of many newspapers and TV networks but acknowledges the record was mixed during the 2016 campaign and beyond. “Did we do enough to understand Trump before the election? No. Did I do enough? No. Did we get his tax returns? No. Have we got his tax returns? No. Should we have got his tax returns? Yes. Hard. Yes. The score card coverage of Trump is some real high points and good points by the media and some incomplete.”

Speaking to the Guardian in a glass-walled office at his publisher Simon & Schuster in Manhattan, Woodward speaks deliberately, choosing his words – and his silences – carefully. More guarded with his opinions than other Trump chroniclers, the lack of hyperbole tends to lend him more credence.

    It’s a picture of a White House administration that’s going through a nervous breakdown
    Bob Woodward

He says of the book: “It’s a picture of a White House administration that’s going through a nervous breakdown and, as we know in human terms, nervous breakdowns are not good things. And so it’s a very challenging moment … I would think the most ardent Trump supporter who might read it could not feel comforted.”

How worried should we be that an impulsive narcissist with a childlike understanding of world affairs is in possession of the nuclear codes? Would Trump push the button? “We don’t know the answer to that. There’s a memo which I quote from that the chief of staff – the current one, Gen [John] Kelly – puts out saying no more spur of the moment, seat of the pants decisions; they don’t count. There has to be a formal process and a formal sign-off. That’s the effort to contain some of these impulses.”

Woodward prefers to talk about Trump’s trade war than potential nuclear war, and that prospect is disturbing enough. “What a tariff war can do is substantial and something to worry about and he has those authorities, or he’s claimed those authorities. There’s lots of legal uncertainty about that but I get to talk to the economic gurus in the world at all kinds of levels and this is a real worry: the global order of trade is in jeopardy and things are being done to it that make no sense.”

The book begins with Gary Cohn, then the top economic adviser in the White House, whisking a draft letter that would have terminated the US-South Korea free trade agreement off the Resolute desk in the Oval Office before Trump has a chance to sign it. Later, Trump barks orders to “fucking kill” Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, but the defence secretary, Jim Mattis, quietly disobeys. Kelly is quoted as saying of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown.” Kelly has denied the comment.

Intriguingly, some prominent voices in the book scorn the theory that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Among them is the president’s former lawyer John Dowd, although even he came to regard Trump as “a fucking liar”, it records. Did Woodward himself find any explanation for the very strange relationship between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin?

“No, not really. I’ve obviously looked. But here’s the reporting lesson from this, from doing this for 47 years at the Post. You’ve got to go to the scene. You’ve got to show up and, if you’re really going to do the Russian investigation, I’d move to Moscow. You know, I’d probably be shot or arrested. But the answer is in Russia.

“I think that’s the hardest of targets but that’s that’s what you would do. If I were 30 and unmarried without children and had some way – I don’t know how you would do it. I’ve asked people and they’ve laughed and said you can’t. But ultimately the answer is in Moscow and St Petersburg.”

Even if special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation comes up with definitive proof of collusion, it is uncertain in the present hyperpartisan climate (“Polarisation is not the right word. It’s political war, unfortunately”) whether his findings will be accepted as the last word. Woodward continues: “It depends on the quality of the report. In Watergate, one of the great lessons for me personally was you need a storytelling witness; you can’t just say: ‘I overheard’ or ‘I speculated’.

“John Dean, Nixon’s counsel, testified before the Senate Watergate committee on live national television: it was on every network, gavel to gavel coverage for four days. ‘I met with Nixon. He said, how much do we need to pay to silence the burglars? What about this? What about that?’ And it was devastating. Then you had the second punch which was the tapes which validated it, made Nixon his own narrator. So I’m not sure whether that’s going to happen.”

Woodward will forever be associated with Watergate and, like Paul McCartney, seems to be at peace when asked to replay his greatest hits. The parallels with that drama have been inescapable and grown ever more acute since Trump took office. Mueller’s investigation was triggered by a break-in at the Democratic National Committee, this time in digital form. Trump fired his acting attorney general and FBI director, just as Nixon first ordered his attorney general, and then the deputy, to fire the Watergate special prosecutor; they refused and quit on what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre. Trump, like Nixon before him, has gone to war against the media and displayed paranoia about perceived enemies.

This may prove a rare instance where history does not merely rhyme but does in fact repeat itself. But for now there is at least one departure point, according to Woodward. “Nixon was a criminal and a well-documented criminal. In the Mueller investigation, we don’t know whether Trump was or is, and that’s a big difference.”

In the 1970s there also was no social media, no presidential Twitter account and no Fox News working around the clock to discredit Trump’s critics. “Back in Watergate, Fox News was implanted in the White House,” Woodward continues. “One interesting continuity line here was Roger Ailes, who was a Nixon media adviser [and later chief executive of Fox News].

“I remember Ron Ziegler [Nixon’s press secretary] calling us ‘character assassins’. Trump and these people have said lots of things; I haven’t heard character assassin. That’s bracing. I was 29 when that happened. You see the leader of the free world’s spokesman up there saying you’re a character assassin. So you have to be deeply concerned because I’ve seen these things. The system can work in the end, whatever that end might be.”

Woodward ultimately retains faith that it will work. “I’m from the midwest and you can’t discard the kind of traditional optimism that you have.”

Nixon and Trump would be two extraordinary bookends to any journalistic career but Woodward shows no sign of letting up. He finds the energy in Washington reminiscent of when he first moved there at the start of the 1970s, serving in the navy, living in a one-bedroom apartment and subscribing to the Post. More than four decades later he is still knocking on doors, still seeking the next “Deep Throat”, his shadowy Watergate source later revealed to be Mark Felt, second in command of the FBI.

Are there Deep Throats out there in the Trump era? “Many,” he says confidently. “We’re looking for more. Never enough.”

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« Reply #4346 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:47 AM »

EU lawmakers move to punish Hungary over rule of law

New Europe

BRUSSELS (AP) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban suffered a rare political setback Wednesday as European Union lawmakers voted to pursue unprecedented action against his government for allegedly undermining the bloc's democratic values and rule of law. Hungary called the action fraudulent and vowed to challenge it.

Despite the official rebuke, Orban is showing no signs of compromise. While he seeks to keep his ruling Fidesz party within the conservative European People's Party, or EPP, the largest and most powerful group in the European assembly, its possible ouster may push him closer to other far-right groups in Europe, like the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) or France's National Rally led by Marine le Pen.

The lawmakers voted 448-197 in favor of a report recommending the launch of a so-called Article 7 procedure, which could lead to the suspension of Hungary's EU voting rights. Needing a two-thirds majority to pass, it was approved by 69.4 percent of the lawmakers.

For years, Orban had been able to deflect much of the international condemnation aimed at him. Critics say Hungary's electoral system favors the governing parties; media freedoms and judicial independence are dwindling; corruption and the enrichment of Orban allies with EU and state funds are on the rise; asylum-seekers and refugees are mistreated; and there are efforts to limit the activities of nongovernmental organizations.

While Orban occasionally made minor amendments to disputed laws and policies to appease the EU, the essence of his efforts to centralize power within his own ever-expanding office has not really changed since he returned to government in 2010 with a two-thirds majority. Hungary quickly adopted a new constitution following eight calamitous years of Socialist Party governments that led the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

"Orban will continue to represent the hard-line policies sliding toward an authoritarian regime, as until now," said Andras Biro-Nagy, co-director of Policy Solutions, a political research institute in Budapest. "Should he exit the EPP, he may believe that he has an even freer hand to bring increasingly restrictive policies which constrict the democratic environment."

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, echoing Orban's longtime position that allowed him to win a third consecutive term in April, called the vote "petty revenge" against Hungary for its tough anti-migrant policies.

"This decision condemning Hungary and the Hungarian people was made because we Hungarians have demonstrated that migration is not a necessary process and that migration can be stopped," Szijjarto said in Budapest.

On Orban's orders, fences were built in 2015 on Hungary's southern borders with Serbia and Croatia to divert the flow of migrants, and the country has adopted increasingly restrictive asylum rules. Orban has framed the migration issue, which he predicts will be the main theme of European elections next year, as one that goes beyond party lines. He met with Italian Interior Minister Mateo Salvini last month in Milan. He referred to Salvini, the leader of the right-wing League party and a staunch opponent of migration, as his "hero."

If Orban and his Fidesz party are ousted from the EPP, he is likely to look to strengthen his links to the far-right in Europe. For now, Orban says he does not want to leave the EPP but simply reform it into a party opposing migration.

"Orban will invest even more energies than until now to build a 'Plan B' with the extreme-right leaders in Europe, from Salvini to Le Pen to Germany's AfD," said Biro-Nagy. "Orban's true friends are no longer in the EPP; his true friends are in the European extreme-right."

Hungary claimed its defeat in the European Parliament involved "massive fraud" since 48 abstentions weren't counted in the final tally, which made it easier to reach the needed majority. Szijjarto said Hungary was considering legal options to appeal the result.

However, according to Article 354 of the Lisbon Treaty, reforms adopted in 2007 after the EU expanded from 15 to 27 members, "for the purposes of Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, the European Parliament shall act by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast." This would seemingly exclude abstentions from the tally.

Orban's critics and opponents were elated by the outcome. Judith Sargentini, who presented the report prepared by the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, called it "a historic result for Hungarian and for European citizens."

"Viktor Orban's government has been leading the charge against European values by silencing independent media, replacing critical judges, and putting academia on a leash," Sargentini said. "The Hungarian people deserve better. They deserve freedom of speech, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and equality, all of which are enshrined in the European treaties."

Several NGOs targeted by the Orban government with restrictive rules — including a special tax on activities considered as promoting immigration and the criminalization of the aiding of asylum-seekers and refugees — also hailed the vote.

"We welcome the European Parliament's decision to defend the rule of law and confront the Hungarian government's attempts to shut down civil society and independent voices in the media and academia," said Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute. "MEPs across the political spectrum have taken a historic stand in defending the EU's democratic values and the rights of its citizens."

Grabbe's organization is part of the Open Society Foundations set up by Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, an ideological opponent of Orban and blamed by the Hungarian leader for promoting mass immigration into Europe. Soros repeatedly has denied the allegations.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which offers legal aid to asylum seekers and refugees and has been a frequent target of Orban's criticism, said the EU vote "has made it clear that illiberal democracy is against the core values of the European Union."

Even EPP leader Manfred Weber, who earlier was supportive of Orban and is seeking to become the European Commission president next year, said he had voted for triggering Article 7. "I have always been in favor of building bridges and I want to continue to do so, but yesterday (Tuesday) I didn't see any readiness from the Hungarian PM to make a move towards his EU partners and address our concerns," Weber tweeted.

While Weber had urged him to show a willingness to compromise on some issues, Orban said his policies wouldn't change. "I have nothing to compromise about since the questions they objected to were decided by the Hungarian people," Orban said Tuesday in Strasbourg, France, after the debate on Hungary. "There is nothing to talk about."

Gorondi reported from Budapest, Hungary.

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« Reply #4347 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:49 AM »

Young Russians taking the lead in anti-Putin protests

New Europe

MOSCOW (AP) — When almost all the protesters at recent anti-government rallies across Russia went home, teenagers and young adults were the only ones left on the streets. "In my circle, more and more people are getting protest-minded," said 20-year-old theater student Andrei Zabara, one of about two dozen youths who ended up staying camped on the streets of Moscow on Sunday. "My parents are supporting the protest. The girl who was streaming it on Instagram last night — her mom was helping, she brought us food. But as far as the rallies go, (the parents) are afraid to come out."

Many born during President Vladimir Putin's 18-year-long rule, young Russians like Zabara have long been considered one of his most loyal constituents. But increasingly, the government's anti-Western agenda and reports of widespread corruption are turning young Russians against the leader.

In the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union, street protests were led by 50- and 60-year-olds, disenchanted by the free-wheeling capitalism while their children were busy reinventing themselves in a new market economy. In 2011, when Putin announced his return to the presidency, it was the budding middle-aged middle class that took to the streets to protest what they saw as an unfair and archaic political system. But the violent crackdown on a rally in May 2012 and ensuing criminal persecutions of a dozen protesters have scared off the 40-year-olds.

In the meantime, their teenage children have taken the lead. With Russia's rigid political system offering no other outlet for discontent, young people have turned to unsanctioned street protests, ignoring official bans and unafraid of police brutality.

"Young people are taking to the streets on behalf of their parents, not against them," said Moscow-based political analyst Ekaterina Schulmann. "Those kids enjoy the support of their parents who may be wary of the risks, may be afraid (of coming out)... but they share the same values."

Zabara says his parents are supportive of his activism but are too afraid to join him on the streets, fearing repercussions for their jobs. Some teenagers attended the protest with their parents. Yevgeny Roizman, who served as mayor of Russia's fourth-largest city Yekaterinburg and is considered one of the most popular opposition leaders in the regions, said he found Sunday's protest crowd in Yekaterinburg substantially younger than he expected.

"Young people are coming out for us and taking the hit," he said in a video blog earlier this week, adding that older people should "feel ashamed." More than 1,000 people were arrested at protest rallies across Russia last Sunday.

The most recent wave of anti-government protests erupted in spring 2017 when opposition leader Alexei Navalny released a YouTube expose of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's alleged wealth. The video got more than 27 million views, and Navalny's foray into social media and YouTube blogging brought to the streets a younger, more determined and angrier generation.

Emboldened by support from the youth, Navalny has been gathering supporters in central locations in Moscow and other cities, often resulting in run-ins with the police. Viktor, a 16-year old high school student who asked his last name not to be published for fear of trouble in school, said he started going to rallies last year. He believed the protest crowd is ready to go one step further.

"I can feel this transformation of the youth, of the minds. Before that the rallies were like you shout all you want and then everyone leaves," he said. "Now people are staying, organizing round-the-clock rallies, marching on to the Kremlin."

At the demonstration on Sunday, several dozen protesters charged at barriers across the road from the Kremlin and clashed with riot police. The rally fizzled out after some of them were beaten up by police and detained. In the end, some 20 protesters decided to camp out at the protest venue and spend the night there. In the morning, police officers showed up at what looked like an improvised picnic, and asked the young people to go to the police station with them.

Four days later, a dozen young protesters were still roaming the streets of Moscow. Talking about the protest's turn to violence is fraught with consequences in Russia, as law enforcement agencies have been using new draconian laws to bring criminal charges against opposition-minded youth for something as minor as a blog post or a tweet.

Zabara says the protesters are willing to consider "more radical methods" and go further than their parents, adding that many young people have been inspired by demonstrations in neighboring Armenia, where the country's long-serving president and government resigned in the face of massive street protests. He quickly added, however, that he supports a peaceful resistance.

Young Russians who grew up under Putin have traditionally been one of his most ardent supporters, enjoying the benefits of a booming consumer economy and relative freedoms that their parents could only dream of under Communism.

But urban youth is becoming gradually disenchanted with Putin as the state has been aggressively promoting anti-Western attitudes, patriotism and traditional Christian values — including lectures about Orthodox Christianity at schools and universities and officials assailing specific Western films or music.

Lev Gudkov, director of the independent polling agency Levada Center, says the pollsters are beginning to see Putin's popularity among young people wane. "Something began to change with young people last year," he said. "Young people don't like the anti-Western rhetoric and an embrace of traditional values as far as youth culture, fashion, sexual behavior and morals are concerned."

Gudhov said the youths who self-organize via messenger chats and get beaten up by riot police are getting a crash course in political activism — and will soon form a solid opposition when they're older.

"That protest-minded youth who get hit by batons... they will learn how to resist the pressure," he said. "And we can expect a consolidated resistance against the authoritarian regime before too long."

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« Reply #4348 on: Sep 14, 2018, 04:56 AM »

China claims Muslim internment camps provide 'professional training'

Beijing faces allegations of mass incarceration as more than one million people placed in re-education camps

Lily Kuo in Beijing
Fri 14 Sep 2018 10.48 BST

Chinese officials have pushed back against growing criticism of the detentions of Muslim minorities in internment camps, claiming authorities are merely providing “professional training” and education.

Beijing is facing allegations of mass incarceration and repression of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang in China’s northwest. An estimated 1.1 million people have been placed in internment camps, including re-education camps where ex-detainees and other witnesses say inmates are subjected to intense political indoctrination and abuse.

“It is not mistreatment,” Li Xiaojun, director for publicity at the Bureau of Human Rights Affairs of the state council information office, told reporters on Thursday, according to Reuters. “What China is doing is to establish professional training centres – educational centres.”

Li added: “If you do not say it’s the best way, maybe it’s the necessary way to deal with Islamic or religious extremism, because the west has failed in doing so. Look at Belgium, look at Paris, look at some other European countries. You have failed.”

China’s restrictive policies in Xinjiang, part of a “strike hard” campaign to counter terrorism after a series of ethnic riots in 2009, has come under increasing scrutiny as media reports, witness accounts, and documentation of the camps accumulate. China denies any camps are used for political indoctrination.

Two former detainees of a re-education camp told the Guardian they were forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, sing patriotic songs, and study Chinese communist party doctrine. Both said they were not taught any vocational skills.

Conditions in re-education camps and other internment camps have been described as inhumane. One former detainee said he was forced to wear a contraption called “iron clothes,” an outfit of metal claws and rods that left him immobile, for 12 hours as punishment for disobeying a guard. An ex-detainee of a women’s detention centre told the Guardian she witnessed a woman having her feet and hands chained together for four days.

According to a Human Rights Watch report on Monday, ex-detainees described being denied food, being shackled or forced to stand for 24 hours, and being subjected to solitary confinement and sleep deprivation.

The UN has called on China to release all those arbitrarily detained while the US government is reportedly considering sanctions against Chinese officials and companies involved in the construction of the camps.

As global attention to Xinjiang has grown, China’s response has shifted from blanket denial to justification. On Monday, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said in response to the Human Rights Watch report: “The series of measures implemented in Xinjiang are meant to improve stability, development, solidarity and ... crack down on ethnic separatist activities and violent and terrorist crimes.”

At a UN panel last month, Hu Lianhe, a representative for the Chinese delegation, said there was “no such thing as re-education centres in Xinjiang,” but went on to describe vocational centres.

“For those who are convicted of minor offences, we help and teach them in vocational skills in education and training centres, according to relevant laws. There is no arbitrary detention and torture,” he said.


'My soul, where are you?': families of Muslims missing in China meet wall of silence

An estimated 1 million Muslims are being held in re-education camps in Xinjiang. Across the border in Kazakhstan, there’s a desperate wait for news of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities

by Lily Kuo in Shelek, Kazakhstan
14 Sep 2018 14.51 BST

For more than a year, *Farkhad, 39, has lived with the uncertainty that his wife Mariam may be dead. *Mariam, 31, was visiting her hometown of Artush in Xinjiang, northwest China, in March 2017 when she sent a frantic message to Farkhad that police were taking her away.

Over the next month, she messaged sporadically on WeChat from inside what appeared to be a detention centre. In April she said she was being transferred to another facility. Farkhad, who calls his wife Jenim (My soul), wrote back: “My soul, what can I do?”

“Don’t do anything. Don’t come to China. Don’t look for me,” she said. Their last conversation was in June 2017, when Mariam messaged from a hospital. She had fainted twice in the new detention centre. Farkhad, now the sole carer of the couple’s three children, is desperate for news of her.

Mariam, an ethnic Uighur from China, is one of an estimated 1 million Muslim minorities – Uighurs, Kazakhs, Hui, Uzbeks and others – detained in a network of internment camps in the north-western Chinese territory of Xinjiang.

The camps are part of China’s “strike hard” campaign that is alleged to use extrajudicial detentions, surveillance, political indoctrination or “re-education”, torture and abuse to root out extremist elements, according to a growing body of evidence that includes witness accounts, media reports, government documents and satellite images. A US congressional commission on China called it the “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today”.

Beijing’s restrictive policies in Xinjiang, which began after a series of ethnic riots in 2009 and have increased since 2016, are coming under global scrutiny. The UN has called on China to release all those detained on the “pretext of countering terrorism”. The US is reportedly considering sanctions against Chinese officials involved in the campaign, while the Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim, has called for formal talks with China over the issue.

China denies allegations of persecution and claims all measures are to improve stability and solidarity in the country’s far west, home to about 12 million Muslim minorities. “China protects the religious freedoms of its people. All ethnic groups in China enjoy full religious freedom, according to the law,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

Outside of Xinjiang, the effects of the crackdown are felt most keenly in neighbouring Kazakhstan, home to large Uighur and Kazakh communities who have for years travelled back and forth between Xinjiang and Kazakhstan.

Here, families are reeling as they search for scraps of information about their loved ones missing in China. Others express a mixture of guilt and helplessness as they learn, from what little information comes out of Xinjiang, of the grim reality just across the border.

    The Chinese communist party wants to create ‘One people, one country, where there are no Uighurs, Kazakhs, or Uzbeks ... just Chinese
    Ilshat Iminov

Kazakhstan is also the site of a growing pocket of protest against what is seen as a state-sponsored campaign to erase minority cultures in China through mass detentions, intimidation, and forced assimilation with the dominant Han Chinese.

“The Chinese communist party wants to create ‘One people, one country, where there are no Uighurs, Kazakhs or Uzbeks … just Chinese,” said Ilshat Iminov, an activist in Almaty.

Others are collecting hundreds of testimonies from families whose relatives have disappeared in China and former detainees have begun to talk about their time in the camps.

‘There is no way out’

*Guli, 23, was picked up by police in a park in Urumqi in June and sentenced to 15 days in a detention centre for not having her ID with her. Local authorities had previously interrogated her, citing reports that she wore a hijab and prayed.

She describes to the Guardian a long, single-storey building that held about 230 women. Inside, the women were required to sing patriotic songs for two hours on most days, memorise a 10-point disciplinary code and undergo self-criticism sessions. At night, the inmates took turns monitoring each other to make sure no one covered their faces or turned their back to the cameras mounted on the wall.

Most of the women were Uighur or Kazahk, and a few were Han Chinese. One woman told Guli she was there because police had found a “happy Eid” message on her phone. Another had been there for 10 years.

Guli did not experience any physical abuse but the psychological pressure was intense. The guards regularly told her she would be imprisoned for another six months. They shouted at the inmates for speaking, approaching a window, or not speaking in Chinese. Guli remembers a woman in the cell across from hers whose hands were chained to her feet for four days.

Guli, who was released after serving eight days of her sentence and sent back to Kazakhstan, believes that what she witnessed was just the tip of the iceberg. “I have only seen a small part … there were a lot of people who had been there much longer and I hope telling my story will help end their suffering sooner,” she says.

Other former detainees tell of how they were sent to re-education camps where inmates were made to learn Chinese, pledge allegiance to the communist party, and follow a strict military-style regimen.

Kairat Samarkand, a Muslim Kazakh who was in a re-education camp outside of Karamagay in northern Xinjiang for almost four months this year, said he was forced to wear a contraption known as “iron clothes,” an outfit of iron claws and rods that left him immobile in a star position. One day, he was made to wear it for 12 hours after he refused to make his bed.

Samarkand said the inmates were not told outright to renounce their religion, but the meaning was clear. “They would say, there is no religion. The government and the party will take care of you,” he said.

Before each meal the detainees had to thank the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. They were required to learn the top Chinese leaders’ names by heart and recite patriotic songs. “If there were no party, if there were no Xi Jinping, there would be no country,” went one chant. Samarkand was allowed to leave the camp after he attempted suicide.

Another ex-detainee, who did not want to be named, said he was shocked by what he saw when he was sent to a re-education camp earlier this year. “I had heard and I knew, but I was stunned,” he said.

He recalls being locked in classrooms and monitored by guards during study sessions. Elderly detainees in his camp were told they had to learn more than 3,000 Chinese characters before they could leave. In the two months he was there, he did not see anyone released. Most inmates hoped to be freed in a year or two. As a Kazakh citizen, he was eventually allowed to leave.

“There is no way of getting out. You go into the camps, but there is no way out,” he said. Now in Kazakhstan, he still fears for his family in Xinjiang, and retribution for speaking out. “If I go to China, they will kill me,” he says.

Up to 1.1 million people, or about 10% of Xinjiang’s adult Muslim population, have been detained in re-education camps, according to estimates by the NGOs Chinese Human Rights Defenders and Equal Rights Initiative.

In a recent Human Rights Watch report, former detainees at the internment camps recounted being shackled to beds or chairs, subjected to sleep deprivation, as well as beaten and hung from ceilings and walls. Residents in Xinjiang described excessive security checks, mass surveillance, and the constant threat of being arrested or sent to a camp.

“The situation in Xinjiang is unprecedented because of the breathtaking range of human rights abuses that are taking place,” said Maya Wang, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch.
‘We can’t ask, and they can’t say’

In Kazakhstan, where many have family in China or grew up there before moving across the border as part of a repatriation programme, the situation in Xinjiang is nothing short of a crisis.

Atazhurt, a local organisation that advocates for ethnic Kazakhs detained in China, says it gets between 20-30 requests for help every day from people whose relatives have been detained, arrested, or barred from leaving China. The group is dealing with more than 1,000 cases.

During recent interviews with researchers from Amnesty International, more than 100 people showed up clutching documents and photos of their missing relatives. Those detained include parents, grandparents, siblings, children and partners. In one case, a family was searching for news of a 13- year-old girl believed to have been sent to a re-education camp.

Bota Kussaiyn, 26, is trying to find her 58-year-old father, Sagymubai, who was sent to a re-education camp last December while visiting his hometown in Emin county in Xinjiang, according to relatives. Right before he left, he suggested they get a family portrait done, their only one.

“My first feeling is regret. My father shouldn’t have gone to China. The second is fear … I’m afraid he may never return,” Kussaiyn said. She gave her and her father’s real names, despite the possibility of retribution, in hopes of drawing attention to his case.

Residents in Kazakhstan say they cannot contact relatives and friends in China because the simple act of talking on the phone is enough to land them in an internment camp. Kazakhstan is one of 26 countries, including Russia and Turkey, that have been flagged as “sensitive” by Chinese authorities, according to Human Rights Watch.

“What China is doing is the complete isolation of Xinjiang from ties abroad,” said Kakharman Kozhamberdi, an advisor for the World Uyghur Congress in Kazakhstan.

Still, families communicate how they can. A Kazakh woman living in Almaty recently learned her brother in Xinjiang had been detained. She asked not to be named for fear of making the situation worse for him. A friend, calling from China, told her: “I haven’t seen yours in a while. I think they may be at school,” code for detention in a re-education camp.

“We can’t ask, and they can’t say,” her daughter-in-law says, explaining why they do not use names or speak more specifically. “We can only say: ‘How are ours?’”

In response to questions about missing relatives in Xinjiang, a spokeswoman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs said: “Regarding the people you asked about, we do not know.”
‘My soul, where are you?’

Farkhad still messages his wife, even though she does not answer. “How are you, my soul? My battery died,” he wrote a few hours after his wife’s last message in June 2017. “Is everything all right? We miss you very much,” he messaged in December. Later that month: “My soul, where are you???” His last message was on 8 June, almost a year since they last spoke. “Please answer. We are worried about you … We will keep and remember you for ever.”

In August, Farkhad drove three hours to Khorgas, on the border of Kazakhstan and China, where Chinese shops have set up in a freetrade zone. He wants to borrow a phone with a Chinese SIM card to call his wife’s family in Xinjiang. They have stopped answering his calls, probably because they come from a Kazakh number.

Four Kazakh store clerks refused before a Chinese man agreed to lend his phone. Farkhad called his father-in-law and they spoke for a few minutes. He hung up and shook his head slightly.

The news was bittersweet. His father-in-law is ill and has not been able to speak with Mariam’s mother, also “at school”, for months. But he has been able to talk to Farkhad’s wife, his daughter, once a week. She is fine, he says.

On the drive home Farkhad is jubilant. “I always felt in my heart she was alive,” he says. “She left for what was supposed to be 10 days and disappeared for two years. When she comes back I’m never letting her leave.”

* Name has been changed to protect the identity of the interviewee

Additional reporting by Naubet Bisenov

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« Reply #4349 on: Sep 14, 2018, 05:21 AM »

‘Freaked out’ Trump is staying up all night obsessing over NYT op-ed’s mystery author: report

Brad Reed
Raw Story
14 Sep 2018 at 14:03 ET                  

President Donald Trump is reportedly obsessed with finding the person within his White House who wrote the mysterious New York Times editorial attacking him.

Sources tell Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman that, despite an obsessive search for the author over the last week, Trump and his allies are now no closer to finding the mystery author.

This has made Trump even more paranoid than usual, say Sherman’s sources, who describe the president’s mood as being “obsessed,” “lathered,” and “freaked out.”

In fact, Donald Trump Jr. has told friends that he fears his father isn’t sleeping because he’s so obsessed with finding the author of the editorial.

“If you look at him the wrong way, he’ll spend the next hour thinking you wrote it,” one Republican source tells Sherman.

Desperate to find the author but without any concrete leads, Trump has instead resorted to regularly shaming White House staff members until one of them admits to writing the editorial, Sherman’s sources say.

“He’s going to continue to shame this person,” a person described as “close to Trump” tells Sherman. “The author will break under pressure or will eventually say, ‘f*ck it, it’s me.'”

Sherman also reports that Trump now only trusts a select few people in his White House: His own family members and aide Stephen Miller.


Here are 6 stunning facts about White House staff revealed in Bob Woodward’s book ‘Fear’

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
14 Sep 2018 at 13:29 ET                  

Bob Woodward’s new book “Fear” is littered with bizarre stories of White House staffers fighting with each other, trying to undermine each other and clamoring to try and survive an irrational work environment. After eight years of “No-drama Obama,” President Donald Trump seems to enjoy watching the chaos as it flourishes around him.

Woodward describes conflicts with chief of staff John Kelly nearly getting into a fist fight in the Oval Office, Trump sending the Pentagon into a panic and general Trump rage and meltdowns. However, there are somehow more pandemonium than previously thought.

Here are a few of the top excerpts:

1. Steve Bannon is keenly aware people hate him.

When advocating for pollster Kellyanne Conway to be on television for Trump daily, Steve Bannon explained it was because she was a woman with a likable and friendly face.

“’We’re going to put her on television every day as the female-friendly face on the thing,’ Bannon proposed” according to Woodward’s book. “’Because Kellyanne is a warrior. And she’ll just take incoming. But people like her. And that’s what we need is likability.’ In a moment of self-awareness, he added, ‘I’ll never be on TV.’”

2. Sec. James Mattis feels America is fighting a half-assed war in Afghanistan and Trump is furious about it.

“I don’t care about you guys,” Trump reportedly told Mattis, Gen. James Dunford and Gen. H.R. McMaster.

“We’re losing big in Afghanistan. It’s a disaster. Our allies aren’t helping. Ghost soldiers—those paid but not serving—are ripping us off. NATO is a disaster and a waste, he said. The soldiers had told him that NATO staff were totally dysfunctional,” Woodward’s book claimed.

“The soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you,” Woodward cited the president telling the generals. “They could do a much better job. I don’t know what the hell we’re doing.”

He described it as a “25-minute dressing-down of the generals and senior officials” in the National Security Council.

“Look, you can’t think of Afghanistan in isolation,” former Sec. of State Rex Tillerson told Trump. “You’ve got to think about it in a regional context. We’ve never before taken this sort of multilateral approach to Afghanistan and the region.”

Then Trump began to sound like an anti-war Bob Dylan song.

“But how many more deaths?” he asked. “How many more lost limbs? How much longer are we going to be there?”

“The quickest way out is to lose,” Mattis said.

“Why can’t we pay mercenaries to do the work for us?” Trump demanded to know.

“We need to know if the commander in chief is fully with us or not,” Mattis finally said. “We can’t fight a half-assed war anymore.”

3. John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis “joked darkly” that Trump cared more about fighting allies than enemies.

Just shy of Trump’s first year in office, the president had a secure conversation with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.

In several secure phone conversations with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, Trump had intensified his criticism of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).

“Trump’s obsessive and unfiltered venting had brought him to the edge once again,” the book said.

Trump apparently told Moon he was going to destroy the trade relationship, ranting that the country was “ripping us off.” Moon, on the other hand, was shocked an ally would approach it from this perspective and said there was a misunderstanding.

Trump belittled their trade agreement and railed against the US paying for South Korea’s anti-ballistic system that would aid the world if North Korea decided to go nuclear.

“Kelly, McMaster, Tillerson and Mattis joked darkly that it was inexplicable that the president was voicing more ire at South Korea than our adversaries—China, Russia, Iran, Syria and North Korea,” Woodward wrote. “The senior White House staff and national security team were appalled. They didn’t know what the president might say or do.”

4. Mike Flynn admitted to talking to Trump about Russia as far back as 2015 — but not in a positive way.

After being canned by President Barack Obama, Woodward called Flynn to talk about Russia.

“Several intelligence and Pentagon officials had told me that Russia had moved in recent years to modernize and improve their nuclear capability with a new Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile and two new ICBMs,” Woodward wrote. Flynn agreed with the assessment on the record. He called it “outsmarting” the US rather than outmatching.

When Flynn first met Trump he began talking to the candidate about Russia.

“My counsel to the boss, I said we are going to have to devote time, energy and resources to this,” Flynn told Woodward.

“He said Trump’s plan was to talk and act tough—send ‘a shot across the bow’ of Putin. He added, ‘We will be leaning on the Reagan playbook.’ Be aggressive and then negotiate. “’We have to make it clear at the same time that we’ll deal with Russia. You can’t just have one view of Russia.’”

5. Hope Hicks hates the media as much as Trump does.

President Donald Trump’s irrational war with the media is easy for many to understand, however misguided. But communications strategist Hope Hicks had her own theories about the press.

According to Woodward’s book, “Hicks was convinced the media had ‘oppositional defiance syndrome,’ which is a term from clinical psychology most often applied to rebellious children. ‘Oppositional defiance syndrome; is characterized by excessive anger against authority, vindictiveness and temper tantrums.”

She felt that term nailed the press.

6. Steve Bannon doesn’t think we’re ever going to “win” in Afghanistan.

When Trump gave a nationally televised address about the Afghanistan Strategy in Aug. 2017, it was the first time he’d broached the issue publicly.

“My original instinct was to pull out—and historically, I like following my instincts,” Trump said in his speech to “My original instinct was to pull out—and historically, I like following my instincts,” Trump said.

“Three times he said the goal was to ‘win’ and said, ‘We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military,'” the book said. “With that, Trump dodged Bush’s and Obama’s Achilles’ heel. His strategy had the effect of pushing the Afghanistan War debate away, off the front page and out of the news unless there was a major act of violence.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) actually praised the speech, saying it was a step in the right direction and even Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said it was a step in the right direction.

But Bannon was furious.

“What the f*ck was that speech about?” Bannon asked Stephen Miller. “First of all, it just went around in circles.”

While the speech didn’t exactly do that, it was more of the same Obama strategy, which Bannon felt lacked “realism.”

“You can’t have him sitting there talking about victory. There’s not going to be a victory,” Bannon said.

RawStory is continuing to go through the Woodward book and we’ll update you as we find more interesting tidbits of information.


Here are the 3 most unhinged Trump tirades about the Russia scandal in Woodward’s ‘Fear’

14 Sep 2018 at 16:15 ET  
Raw Story                

President Donald Trump’s Achilles’ heel seems to be the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that has resulted in so many indictments. According to Bob Woodward’s book Fear, over and over the president loses his mind over developments.

Wednesday Raw Story revealed the white-hot emotional meltdown Trump had when he heard special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to handle the Russia investigation. The alarming accounts detailed in the Woodward book expose sides of Trump the country has never before witnessed. It also uncovered shocking attitudes held by trusted White House aides and senior military, intelligence and senior staffers.

Here are some of the most scandalous and irrational reactions from the president related to the Russia scandal and Mueller himself.

1. Trump irrationally said he didn’t believe in human CIA sources or informants.

By Jan. 2017, the intelligence community had gathered enough information to create somewhat of a picture of what happened in 2016. Both former FBI Director James Comey and DNI James Clapper tried to do a limited briefing for Trump, but it didn’t go well.

“The CIA believed they had at least six human sources supporting these findings,” Woodward wrote. “One person with access to the full top secret report later told me he believed that only two were solid. Trump asked if there was anything more.”

“I don’t believe in human sources,” Trump told Clapper. “These are people who have sold their souls and sold out their country.” He wasn’t buying. “I don’t trust human intelligence and these spies.”

2. Trump’s anger about the Russia stories drove former chief of staff Reince Priebus “bananas.”

One of the first “bombs” to go off with the Russia scandal was a Valentine’s Day story on the front page of The New York Times. The allegations stated, “Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the elections, according to four current and former American officials.”

Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe told Priebus the report was “total bullsh*t” and “grossly overstated.”

Meanwhile, the Russia story was playing on cable news all day, every day.

“This is crazy,” Trump said to Priebus, according to Woodward. “We’ve got to stop it. We need to end the story.”

McCabe’s comment gave what Priebus believed to be a “Valentine’s Day present.” He assumed he’d be the hero of the West Wing.

“Can you help me?” Priebus asked. “Could this knockdown of the story be made public?”

“Call me in a couple of hours,” McCabe said. “I will ask around and I’ll let you know. I’ll see what I can do.”

Priebus told Trump McCabe was going to make it happen, but then something stopped him.

“I’m sorry, I can’t,” McCabe said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. I tried, but if we start issuing comments on individual stories, we’ll be doing statements every three days.”

He made an important point, this isn’t what the FBI did. They don’t debunk news stories on behalf of an elected leader. McCabe tried to make it happen to no avail. Priebus was furious, demanding to know what could be done, describing it as the president “bleeding out.”

McCabe was ultimately canned by Trump just days prior to scoring his federal pension and being able to retire.

3. When Mueller was officially appointed, Sessions was in the Oval Office and forced to confess he had no idea. Trump was furious because he’d just interviewed Mueller as a possible FBI director.

“Trump related how he learned on May 17 that Mueller had been appointed special counsel by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. It was absolutely outrageous,” wrote Woodward. “He had been in the Oval Office with Sessions when one of the White House lawyers brought the news.”

Sessions told the president, “I didn’t know about this.”

“Well, doesn’t he work for you?” Trump turned to the AG. Because Sessions had recused himself, he couldn’t have knowledge of the appointment.

“Worse, Trump said, he had interviewed Mueller just the day before to come back as FBI director and he had turned him down,” Woodward wrote. “Now Mueller was suddenly in charge.”

“So two times I’m f*cking bushwhacked by the Department of Justice,” Trump raged.

“Third, Trump said that after he fired Comey, the former FBI director had gone on a testifying and leaking crusade to state that Trump asked him to drop the Flynn investigation,” the book said.

“I didn’t do anything,” Trump told lawyer John Dowd. “It’s all bullsh*t. Comey’s a f*cking liar.”

Bonus: Because of the Access Hollywood tape, the Russia scandal completely fell off of the front pages.

In early October, information began to become public about Rusia’s involvement in the election, a series of Russian bots developing social media networks and other things cautioned by seasoned intelligence experts.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson were the two most anxious officials who tried to alert the public to the Russian interference. Together they authored a joint statement.

Clapper, Johnson and the Clinton campaign assumed it would be the major news story that dominated the news over the weekend and into the following week. But at 4:05 p.m. that Friday, David Fahrenthold at The Washington Post broke the story of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

“The Russia story essentially disappeared,” Woodward wrote.

Raw Story will continue to update you as more information from the Woodward book becomes available.


Trump denies official estimates of Hurricane Maria deaths in Puerto Rico: ‘3000 people did not die’

Brad Reed
Raw Story
14 Sep 2018 at 08:41 ET                  

President Donald Trump on Thursday issued a denial that 3,000 people in Puerto Rico died as a result of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…”

    3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018

The president went on to accuse the Democratic Party of fabricating higher death toll numbers in an effort to hurt him politically.

“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico,” he wrote. “If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

    …..This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018

The Puerto Rican government, after conducting a study with researchers at George Washington University, significantly revised its estimates of deaths related to Hurricane Maria upward over the summer. Although they initially said that just 64 people died from the hurricane, a more thorough examination led them to estimate that nearly 3,000 people died.

The Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria has been widely criticized, as it took several weeks after the hurricane hit to ensure that all Puerto Ricans had access to safe drinking water — and several months to restore electricity to the entire island.


MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace unloads on Trump for hurricane death conspiracy theory: ‘A new level of horror’

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
14 Sep 2018 at 17:13 ET                  

MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace unleashed fury on President Donald Trump on Thursday for claiming that the nearly 3,000-person death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was an inflated number promoted by Democrats.

As the first effects of the incoming Hurricane Florence were felt as it barreled into Carolinas, Trump first suggested on Twitter that the “really large numbers” of reported deaths were inflated before blaming it on the opposition party.

“Three thousand people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” he wrote. “When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.”

“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico,” the president continued. “If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

Wallace noted that she used to begin her show by joking that “the bottom was calling saying it wanted to know if we were there yet.” The host noted that she abandoned the practice, suggesting that “the bottom of our political discourse” during the Trump era is unreachable.

“What is wrong with the president, and truly, what is wrong with the White House staff that lets him deny the deaths of the people of Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria?” Wallace mused. “That seems to me to be a whole new level of horror from this West Wing.”


Trump Honors Only One Victim in Puerto Rico: Himself

The president sees the accepted death toll of nearly 3,000 as evidence of a political conspiracy against him.

By The Editorial Board
Sept. 14, 2018
NY Times

If you’ve stopped being surprised by the flagrancy of President Trump’s deceptions, you’re not alone. Yet the president’s effort on Thursday to deny the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last year — and to accuse Democrats of inflating the death toll for political gain — should amaze even the most jaundiced Trump-watcher.

Mr. Trump delivered his latest bit of mendacity with a one-two presidential Twitter punch:

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000 …”

“ … This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

For most presidents, thousands of dead Americans would be a cause for grief. For Mr. Trump, they are evidence only of his own victimhood.

On Wednesday, even as Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas, there he was, whining on Twitter that his team had done “an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan.”

Unsurprisingly, the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, took exception to the president’s boasting, tweeting: “This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr. Pres in the real world people died on your watch. YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING!”

    This is what denial following neglect looks like: Mr Pres in the real world people died on your watch. YOUR LACK OF RESPECT IS APPALLING! pic.twitter.com/OJEDqT74Sr
    — Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) September 13, 2018

Ms. Cruz was joined in her anguish by other Puerto Rican officials, Republicans in Florida and Democrats in Congress, none of whom share Mr. Trump’s rosy assessment of his disaster response. Nor, for that matter, do a majority of Puerto Ricans, more than half of whom recently rated Mr. Trump’s response “poor,” with a quarter more rating it only “fair.”

To be sure, the recovery effort, after a slow start, wound up being substantial, and Puerto Rico’s shoddy infrastructure was one of many extenuating challenges. Even so, there is little question that things could have been handled much better — Mr. Trump’s memorable chucking of paper towels at devastated islanders notwithstanding. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Government Accountability Office have found as much.

Certainly, it must have been vexing, perhaps even confusing, for Mr. Trump last month when the storm’s death toll was revised sharply upward, from 64 people to 2,975. This shift was not a result of partisan trickery, but of the preliminary findings of a study by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. The study is continuing, meaning that the numbers could shift again.

Mr. Trump seems incapable of processing new information or learning from mistakes. Instead, he did what he always does: reject inconvenient data in favor of a story in which he is the hero. In the president’s view, increases in the official death toll cannot possibly stem from a more comprehensive analysis. They must stem from yet another conspiracy by his political enemies. The 3,000 lives lost, in other words, are all about him.

Democrats don’t need to lift a finger to make him look bad. He is managing that all on his own.


Paul Manafort reportedly close to Mueller plea deal to avoid second trial

Reports say Manafort, who was convicted on eight counts of fraud last month, likely to enter guilty plea in court on Friday

Jon Swaine
Raw Story
Fri 14 Sep 2018 02.37 BST

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, is close to reaching a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a second trial on further criminal charges, according to reports.

Manafort was said to be nearing an agreement with Robert Mueller, the special counsel, who had been preparing to prosecute him in Washington DC this month on charges including conspiracy, money laundering and witness tampering.

Manafort, 69, was last month convicted of eight counts in a fraud case brought by Mueller’s office in Virginia. The veteran Republican operative could be sentenced to decades in prison for those crimes.

ABC News reported on Thursday evening that Manafort was likely to enter a guilty plea in court on Friday, bringing an end to several weeks of negotiations between his lawyers and Mueller’s team. The next hearing in the case was rescheduled to 11am on Friday, an entry in the court docket said.

Several other news outlets later reported that Manafort was close to reaching a deal. Attorneys for Manafort did not respond to requests for comment.

It was not clear whether Manafort would agree to cooperate with Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He was previously reported to be resisting Mueller’s demands for information relating to Trump in return for a deal.

Before joining Trump’s campaign, Manafort worked extensively for pro-Kremlin politicians and oligarchs in Ukraine. Mueller’s team has been investigating whether his connections in the region are linked to Russia’s attack on the 2016 US election. US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia worked to boost Trump’s campaign.

Following Manafort’s conviction in Virginia, Trump said he felt “very badly” for Manafort and praised him for refusing to become a cooperating witness for the government like the president’s former legal fixer, Michael Cohen, who separately pleaded guilty in New York to tax fraud, bank fraud and a campaign finance violation.

Trump’s attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, was quoted earlier on Thursday saying that the president’s team remained in “open communication” with Manafort’s as part of an agreement to share information, renewing speculation that Trump may pardon the former aide for his crimes.

“There’s no fear that Paul Manafort would cooperate against the president because there’s nothing to cooperate about and we long ago evaluated him as an honorable man,” Giuliani told Politico.

Manafort has been in jail for almost three months after his bail was revoked. Mueller’s team alleged that Manafort tried to tamper with witnesses in his case by contacting them and attempting to coordinate testimony. He was also charged with failing to register as a foreign agent.


CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin explains why Manafort appears to have flipped and told prosecutors what he knows

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
14 Sep 2018 at 19:22 ET                  

What would Paul Manafort guilty plea mean? After news broke that the prosecution was close to reaching a deal with Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, CNN’s chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin appeared with host Wolf Blitzer to discuss the development.

Manafort is looking at “a disaster scenario,” Toobin said, and that likely means he’d need to flip on Trump.

“Cooperation is usually the case,” said Toobin. “And, frankly, given Manafort’s lack of leverage, prosecutors would insist on it.”

Today’s meeting between Manafort and prosecutors, where a near-deal was apparently struck, may have been a “proffer session” where Manafort told the prosecution “what he would say” if he cooperated.

Toobin said Manafort’s first trial was a “slam dunk”and he was “puzzled” by why Manafort did not plea out sooner.

“It may be that he was hoping for a pardon, it may be that he’s afraid of what his Russian friends would think of him if he pleas guilty,” Toobin said.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck-5prrjF1I

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