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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

The only thing I’d be impartial about is what prison this guy goes to. -- Prospective Juror, Martin Shkreli trial ...

... Harper's republishes some of the jury selection proceedings in the Martin Shkreli case.

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America."

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody."

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings."

Click on the picture to see larger image.... AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress."

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco."

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers."

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends."

Constant Comments

Tuesday
Mar072017

The Commentariat -- March 8, 2017

Happy International Women's Day. The Guardian has a live blog keeping you updated on today's events. --safari

Afternoon Update:

Mark Maremont & James Grimaldi of the Wall Street Journal: "President Donald Trump's daughter [Ivanka] and her husband, White House adviser Jared Kushner, are renting a Washington, D.C., home from a Chilean billionaire, Andrónico Luksic, who bought it after the November election and whose company is embroiled in a dispute with the U.S. government over a mine potentially worth billions of dollars. The Obama administration ... blocked [the] plan to build [the] giant copper-and-nickel mine adjacent to a Minnesota wilderness area, citing environmental concerns." -- LT

Greg Sargent: "... little by little, as Trump seeks to make good on his promises, Trumpism -- as sold by the man himself -- is being revealed as fraudulent to its core. NBC News reports that health-care experts across the political spectrum agree that the new House GOP health-care plan, which Trump has now endorsed, falls short of his promises.... Trump's only play is to fall back on the GOP trick of conflating 'health-care access' with coverage and robotically describing the plan as 'good health care,' in hopes that his magical Twitter feed and powers of salesmanship can envelop the specifics in impenetrable fog. And the fraudulence doesn't stop there." -- CW

Abby Goodnough & Reed Abelson of the New York Times: "Millions of people who get private health coverage through the Affordable Care Act would be at risk of losing it under the replacement legislation proposed by House Republicans, analysts said Tuesday, with Americans in their 50s and 60s especially likely to find coverage unaffordable. Starting in 2020, the plan would do away with the current system of providing premium subsidies based on people's income and the cost of insurance where they live. Instead, it would provide tax credits of $2,000 to $4,000 per year based on their age. But the credits would not cover nearly as much of the cost of premiums as the current subsidies do...." -- CW ...

... Kevin Queally & Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "The biggest losers under the [GOP] change [to ObamaCare subsidies] would be older Americans with low incomes who live in high-cost areas. Those are the people who benefited most from Obamacare. For some people, the new tax credit system will be more generous. The winners are likely to be younger, earn higher incomes and live in areas where the cost of health insurance is low." ...

     ... CW: So, thanks, GOP voters. We're screwing you first! ...

... Elise Viebeck, et al., of the Washington Post: "House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) sought to quell a revolt on the right against the Republican proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, describing the plan as a 'conservative wish list' that would deliver on years of GOP campaign promises to reform the nation's health-care system.... At the same time, Ryan's effort faced another blow when a powerful lobbying group for physicians rejected the legislation, known as the American Health Care Act [on as Mrs. Unwashed would more appropriately call it, CAHCA, the Confederate American Health Care ACT -- see today's Comments], on the grounds that it could lead many Americans to lose their health insurance." -- CW ...

... GOP Launches Preemptory Strike against Healthcare Facts. Jennfier Haberkorn of Politico: "Republicans have railed for seven years against the 'budget gimmicks' and lack of transparency they say Democrats used to help pass Obamacare. But now as they start debate on their repeal bill, Republicans say the plan's price tag and estimates of how many people it will cover aren't really important. Anticipating that their plan will leave fewer Americans insured than Obamacare and potentially cost the federal government more, Republican leaders on Tuesday launched a preemptory strike against forthcoming predictions from Congress's independent scorekeeper, the Congressional Budget Office." -- CW

Isn't He Supposed to Be a Business Genius? Phillip Bump of the Washington Post: "Among the 38 trademarks approved for the Trump Organization by the Chinese government over the past few weeks is one that seems likely to raise a few eyebrows: As of now, it is the only company that can legally operate Trump-branded escort services in China." ...

     ... Akhilleus: You read that right. Trump Escort Services. The situation in China is this, apparently: if you apply for a trademark, they will issue licenese extensions of that mark on a first come, first served basis. Businesses looking for trademarks are urged to act defensively to protect their brand. Otherwise, others could jump on your back and use your name to...well, to advertise hookers. Guess who ignorned that advice? But he's a genius. This guy is more embarrassing by the day. Oh yeah ... Trump Escorts ... Love you long time.

Our Horror Story for Today. Coral Davenport of the New York Times: Scott "Pruitt, [the new EPA chief], has moved to stock the top offices of the agency with like-minded conservatives -- many of them skeptics of climate change and all of them intent on rolling back environmental regulations that they see as overly intrusive and harmful to business. Mr. Pruitt has drawn heavily from the staff of his friend and fellow Oklahoma Republican, Senator James Inhofe, long known as Congress's most prominent skeptic of climate science." -- CW

...AND Hundreds More Horrors. Justin Elliott, et al. of Pro Publica: "While President Trump has not moved to fill many jobs that require Senate confirmation, he has quietly installed hundreds of officials to serve as his eyes and ears at every major federal agency, from the Pentagon to the Department of Interior. Unlike appointees exposed to the scrutiny of the Senate, members of these so-called 'beachhead teams' have operated largely in the shadows, with the White House declining to publicly reveal their identities." The list includes former lobbyists, conservative think tank members and contributors to Breitbart and others who have embraced conspiracy theories, as well as dozens of Washington insiders who could be reasonably characterized as part of the 'swamp' Trump pledged to drain. -- LT

Kevin Drum: According to a new consumer survey analysis, "James Comey Elected Donald Trump President.... We'll never know for sure if James Comey did this because he's terminally stupid and didn't realize what impact it would have, or if he did it knowing full well what impact it would have. But he did it. And that's why Donald Trump is president." -- CW: Thanks again, Comey! P.S. How are things working out for ya?

*****

Sabrina Siddiqui & David Smith of the Guardian: "While the White House on Tuesday stood by Donald Trump's assertion that he was wiretapped by Barack Obama during the 2016 presidential campaign, top Republicans on Capitol Hill provided little support to bolster his explosive and unsubstantiated claim. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said he had not seen any evidence to back up a series of tweets by Trump on Saturday that accused Obama of wiretapping his phones at Trump Tower...Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, also could not offer any proof of Trump's allegations while speaking at a separate press conference.... Nunes chastised the media for taking Trump's words at face value. The president had merely posed a question about being wiretapped, Nunes argued, even as reporters said Trump's statement had been far more definitive." --safari

**Jonathan Chait of New York: "The Republican Party in its modern incarnation is incapable of writing a decent health-care bill, if we define 'decent' to mean both some level of technical competence as well as morally decent.... Republicans have fervently denied this, and probably believed their own denials...The best indication of the quality of the plan is that it has drawn almost universal scorn from the health-care-policy community...Eventually they had told the lie so long it became impossible for them to abandon it. And so Republicans have found themselves frantically scrawling out a hopelessly inadequate solution in order to meet a self-imposed deadline driven by their overarching desire to cut taxes for the rich." --safari ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "There are at least two ways to look at the American Health Care Act, the Obamacare-replacement proposal that House Republicans released on Monday. Looked at up close, it perhaps isn't quite as extreme, in some respects, as previous G.O.P. proposals. But if you step back and consider what enacting this bill would mean for the health-care system as a whole, and for American society as a whole, it is far from moderate and reasonable...Much of the initial coverage of the bill has focussed on how much of the 2010 Affordable Care Act this Republican proposal would retain, rather than what it would demolish.... [But] This 'shameful Republican assault on Medicaid,' as I referred to it a couple of weeks ago, isn't a bit part of the House G.O.P. proposal, or an addendum: it's a central component. 'Indeed,' Timothy Jost commented, 'the bill is not so much an ACA repeal bill as it is an attempt to change dramatically the Medicaid program.'"--safari ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Following the unveiling of the House Republican plan to shrink Obamacare dramatically, two surprising things happened. The first is that the conservative-movement apparatus has lined up rapidly against the bill...The second surprising thing is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch MicConnell announced his intention to jam the House bill through the Senate quickly. Rather than develop its own bills through committees and the normal debate process, McConnell declared he plans to bring it directly to the Senate floor. Neither of these decisions makes a great deal of sense on their own, and they make even less sense in conjunction with each other." --safari ...

... Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress: "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. And an historic health care initiative providing health care to millions of low-income Americans actually takes away their access to care. Confused? So, apparently, is the Secretary of Health and Human Services. At a press conference on Tuesday, HHS Secretary Tom Price claimed that 'Medicaid is a program that by and large has decreased the ability for folks to gain access to care.' In fact, nearly 70 million people receive health coverage through Medicaid. An Obamacare provision that expanded eligibility for the program extended coverage to 11 million people. A 2016 poll shows that 87 percent of these beneficiaries are 'satisfied with their Medicaid coverage and benefits.'" --safari

Craig Timberg of The Washington Post: "The latest revelations about the U.S. government's powerful hacking tools potentially takes surveillance right into the homes and hip pockets of billions of users worldwide, showing how a remarkable variety of everyday devices can be turned to spy on their owners. Televisions, smartphones and even anti-virus software are all vulnerable to CIA hacking, according to the WikiLeaks documents released Tuesday.... While many of the attack technologies had been previously discussed at cybersecurity conferences, experts were startled to see evidence that the CIA had turned so many theoretical vulnerabilities into functioning attack tools against staples of modern life." --safari

David Sanger, et al., of The New York Times: "When the United States began deploying a missile defense system in South Korea this week, it was to protect an ally long threatened by North Korean provocations. But it was instantly met by angry Chinese warnings that the United States is setting off a new arms race in a region already on edge over the North's drive to build a nuclear arsenal. China condemned the new antimissile system as a dangerous opening move in what it called America's grand strategy to set up similar defenses across Asia, threatening to tilt the balance of power there against Beijing. The tensions are testing the new Trump administration and its uneasy allies South Korea and Japan." --safari ...

... safari: The idea of Kim Jong-Un vs. Donald Trump should scare the shit out of everybody.

Dan Lamothe, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration, searching for money to build the president's planned multibillion-dollar border wall and crack down on illegal immigration, is weighing significant cuts to the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies focused on national security threats, according to a draft plan." --safari ...

     ... Akhilleus: So, to be clear, Trumpado is yanking funding from essential, real world services that actually help to keep Americans safe and alive, and pouring that money into a fantasy project designed to protect no one from made up bullshit, but a project, the primary intent of which, is to satisfy his own racist fantasies. What will his excuse be when FEMA, the TSA, and the Coast Guard are taxed with responding to some natural disaster and Americans die because he swiped their funding to stick it to brown people? It'll be Obama's fault. This is some unconscionable bullshit. It's like saying let's defund public school programs that teach literacy, math, and science so we can fund a national program to educate students about jackalopes and unicorns.

Bryce Covert of ThinkProgress: "On Tuesday, Exxon announced that it will spend $20 billion over the course of a decade at 11 proposed and existing refining and chemical manufacturing sites. In the process, the company anticipates adding more than 45,000 jobs. President Trump wasted no time in taking credit, even releasing a statement the same hour that copied many of Exxon's own sentences and an entire paragraph word for word...In a Facebook video, Trump went further to take credit for the announcement. 'This is something that was done to a large extent because of our policies and the policies of this new administration,' he said. 'I said we're bringing back jobs, this is one big example of that.' But Exxon itself said in its release that this isn't really new...Many of them were announced and even in process before the election: one in 2012, two in 2014, and one last year; the most recent one in Corpus Christi, TX, was announced in July. At least one of them, a lubricant plant in Baton Rouge, LA, is already completed." --safari

The Russian Connection, Ctd. Judd Legum of ThinkProgress: "Donald Trump has claimed repeatedly that he has had no contact with Russian officials as a presidential candidate. He was lying. Trump personally met with the Russian ambassador [Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak] on April 27, 2016, prior to a major foreign policy speech. The Wall Street Journal, in a report that was little-noticed at the time but was recently picked up by AMERICABlog News, reported the meeting last year.... Kislyak, according to multiple contemporaneous news reports, was seated in the front row. It was an invitation-only event." --safari...

...The Russian Connection, Ctd. Rachel Maddow connects more webs. --safari

... The Russian Connection, Ctd. Josh Meyer & Ken Vogel of Politico: "Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski approved foreign policy adviser Carter Page's now-infamous trip to Moscow last summer on the condition that he would not be an official representative of the campaign, according to a former campaign adviser.... The trip is now a focus of congressional and FBI investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. Lewandowski told Politico he did not recall the email exchange with Page, but he did not deny that it occurred." --safari...

... The Russian Connection, Ctd. Tim Mak of The Daily Beast: "In March 2014, the U.S. government sanctioned Dmitry Rogozin -- a hardline deputy to Vladimir Putin, the head of Russia's defense industry and longtime opponent of American power -- in retaliation for the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Eighteen months later, the National Rifle Association, Donald Trump's most powerful outside ally during the 2016 election, sent a delegation to Moscow that met with him. The meeting, which hasn't been previously reported in the American press, is one strand in a web of connections between the Russian government and Team Trump.... Meeting with Rogozin, a target of U.S. sanctions, is not itself illegal -- as long as the two sides did no business together -- explained Boris Zilberman, an expert on Russian sanctions.... In retrospect, the second week of December 2015 is notable: In Moscow's Metropol Hotel, now-disgraced Trump national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn dined with Putin at a dinner held by Russia Today, a state-sponsored propaganda outlet. The NRA delegation's 2015 trip to Russia took place the same week, lasting from Dec. 8-13 ... and included not only the people who met with Rogozin but a number of other NRA dignitaries...." --safari

Beyond the Beltway

Mary Ellen Kustin of ThinkProgress: "The Senate voted Tuesday to block a rule that would have given Westerners more say in the use of public lands near their communities. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM)'s 'Planning 2.0' rule   meant to update a decades-old process that had been criticized for leaving out stakeholders during the early stages of planning --  is no more.... The Senate vote came a month after the House passed its version of the CRA, and the repeal will now go to President Trump's desk." --safari

AP: "A new lawmaker in Rhode Island has condemned the 'insane amount of drinking' that goes on in the legislature as its members conduct the state's affairs. Moira Walsh, a Democrat from Providence, said lawmakers had 'file cabinets full of booze' and described how they recently took shots on the floor of the House of Representatives to celebrate the Dominican Republic's independence day.... 'It is the drinking that blows my mind,' she told talk show host Matt Allen on radio WPRO-AM. 'You cannot operate a motor vehicle when you've had two beers but you can make laws that affect people's lives forever when you're half in the bag? That's outrageous.'... Nor are Rhode Island lawmakers alone in drinking on the job, though some other states have sought to curb the practice." --safari

No Words. David Edwards of RawStory: "A Virginia man is running for House of Delegates after spending 16 months in jail for threatening to kill then-President Barack Obama in 2009. Nathan Daniel Larson told WUSA that he is running for Virginia's 31st House District. Election officials confirmed that Larson had collected the required number of signatures to appear on the ballot.... Larson, however, believes that women should not have the right to vote, and he is running on a platform of suppressing the rights of women. He also believes that fathers should be able to marry their daughters.... The Libertarian Party of Virginia has said that it will try to expel Larson, leaving the ex-convict to run as an independent." --safari

Monday
Mar062017

The Commentariat -- March 7, 2017

CW: Many thanks to Akhilleus & safari for keeping up the good fight. By accident (literally -- a tire on the trailer I'm pulling blew, which forced me to stay in the South an extra day), I've been able to catch up with Reality Chex. But I've not really had the time to update the news in any significant way.

Afternoon Update:

Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti, and Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times: "WikiLeaks on Tuesday released thousands of documents that it said described sophisticated software tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions. If the documents are authentic, as appeared likely at first review, the release would be the latest coup for the anti-secrecy organization and a serious blow to the C.I.A., which maintains its own hacking capabilities to be used for espionage. The initial release, which WikiLeaks said was only the first part of the document collection, included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, the group said. The entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, it said. Among other disclosures that, if confirmed, would rock the technology world, the WikiLeaks release said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect 'audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.'" -- Akhilleus

Another Possibility. Paul Wagenseil of Tom's Guide. "Worried about the hacking secrets revealed in the latest Wikileaks data dump? Here's what you need to know. The WikiLeaks revelation is likely part of a Russian disinformation campaign meant to undermine the U.S. intelligence agencies in general, and to more immediately lend credence to Donald Trump's allegations that former President Barack Obama spied on him.

Some of the CIA hacking tools mentioned in the WikiLeaks dump are real. Some of them probably are not. We may never truly know which is which. (But we are intrigued by the one about turning a Samsung Smart TV into a listening device.) WikiLeak says the cache of information, reportedly "8,761 documents and files," came from "a former U.S. government hacker [or] contractor." That's possible. It's also possible that it came straight from the Russian intelligence services, which is how WikiLeaks apparently obtained emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee."

...Akhilleus. This article comes from a tech blog but given the recent toxic connection between WikiLeaks and Russian intelligence, the possibility of Putin throwing a monkey wrench into things (again) in order to help Trump with a smoke screen of sorts is not an entirely unreasonable assumption.

Another Twitter eruption, methinks? Lisa Rein of the Washington Post "The National Park Service on Monday released hundreds of ground and aerial photographs that its staff shot of President Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration. The agency also released photos of the swearing-ins of former president Barack Obama four and eight years ago. And it's pretty clear that the crowd size at the 45th president's inaugural was smaller than at the swearing-in of the 44th. The discrepancy is clear in the two photos displayed here,...

...Akhilleus. Oops. Some National Park Service people will be looking for a new job when the Glorious Leader sets his beady eyeballs on these snaps.

More Lies. Charlie Savage of the New York Times. "President Trump said on Tuesday on Twitter that '122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!"

Is that true? No, what Mr. Trump wrote is false. What is true? According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, of the 693 former Guantánamo Bay detainees who were transferred to other countries by July 2016 -- dating back to when the Bush administration opened the prison in Cuba in January 2002 -- 122 are 'confirmed' to have engaged in militant activity after their release. However, the overwhelming majority of those 122 men, 113 of them, were transferred under President George W. Bush, not President Barack Obama. -- Akhilleus

Seany, We Hardly Knew Ye. Martha Nussbaum and Hadas Gold of Politico. "After two flayings on Saturday Night Live, sustained mockings on late-night shows, and a series of televised confrontations with reporters, White House press secretary Sean Spicer is retreating from the harsh glare of the daily televised briefing. The White House has not held a televised briefing in seven days, after regularly holding the traditional on-camera event in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room on weekdays when President Donald Trump was not travelling. Instead, Spicer and the press shop is increasingly turning to off-camera 'gaggles' that shield the embattled press secretary from scrutiny -- both from a fascinated national audience and a certain regular viewer in the Oval Office. There is a concern in the White House that a combative briefing can take away from the administration's attempt at orchestrated news, and the president prefers controlling the message himself, one White House official said."

...Akhilleus. Like all authoritarian regimes, the Trump gang is leaning quite quickly toward replacing one of the traditional staples of a democratic government, the opportunity for a free press to question those in power, with Soviet style bullet point declarations handed down from the Glorious Leader, keeping the hated media at bay. Can a Trumpy version of Pravda be far off? Oh, wait. He already has one: Tweetda.

Is Trump That Smart? Peter Beinart of the Atlantic. "So why did Trump do it [charge former president Obama with surveilling him]? The [New York] Times ignored another, more plausible, theory: Trump isn't distracting from the investigation; he's seeking to discredit it. By alleging that Obama personally ordered his wiretapping, Trump is claiming that partisanship motivates the investigation into his campaign's Russian ties. The law enforcement agencies conducting that investigation, therefore, aren't independent and apolitical; they're Democratic plants. And by sowing doubt about their motives, Trump's lays the groundwork for discounting their findings, particularly if they ultimately implicate Trump or any of his associates.... By placing Obama at the center of the Russia investigations, Trump undermines the notion that the Justice Department and FBI are independent bodies seeking to enforce the law. Instead, they become Democratic front groups. The strategy resembles the one Trump has been employing against the press."

...Akhilleus. I doubt that Trump is that smart, but Bannon could be, especially given the outlines of the plot -- Obama and Democrats out to destroy the Glorious Leader -- as laid out in Breitbart. Hey, they're desperate. They'll try anything at this point to avoid the truth, whatever that might be, and they're counting on Trump's racist supporters to hate Obama enough to believe the most crackpot story.

Making America Less Great! Devon Haynie of US News and World Report. "The whole world was watching the U.S. election. And for the most part, it didn't like what it saw. More than 70 percent of survey respondents lost respect for U.S. leadership as a result of the toxic nature of the U.S. election, according to a poll conducted for the 2017 U.S. News Best Countries Rankings. That sentiment, combined with global distaste for Donald Trump, played a role in the U.S. falling from the No. 4 Best Country to No. 7." Akhilleus: Thanks, Donnie! Good job. And in only 6 weeks!

And now a word from the President of the...United, er, Exxon Mobil, um....States. Allan Smith of Business Insider. "President Donald Trump raised eyebrows after he posted five congratulatory tweets promoting a Monday announcement from the energy giant Exxon Mobil.... The company said earlier in the day that it was expanding its manufacturing operation along the Gulf Coast, creating more than 45,000 jobs in the region. Initially, the White House posted a press release reiterating the Exxon Mobil news. That press release contained a paragraph that appeared to be copied, almost word-for-word, from the Exxon announcement. Trump, who also wrote that the move from Exxon showed that 'we are already winning again,' posted a roughly minute-long video praising the company soon after the administration's release.... Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, made his objection to Trump's promotion of Exxon's move clear in a statement to Business Insider. 'The White House has now become the mouthpiece of the oil industry -- literally'... Adding to the appearance of an ethical conflict is the fact that Trump's secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was the CEO of Exxon Mobil until he was tapped to lead the State Department.

...Akhilleus: As usual, Trumpty Dumpty tries to take credit for Exxon Mobil's investment plan, and as usual, he lies. The plan was in the works back when the Glorious Leader was still firing people on his fake reality show.

*****

Amy Goldstein, et al. of The Washington Post: "House Republicans on Monday released long-anticipated legislation to supplant the Affordable Care Act with a more conservative vision for the nation's health-care system, replacing federal insurance subsidies with a new form of individual tax credits and grants to help states shape their own policies.... The debate, starting in House committees this week, is a remarkable moment in government health-care policymaking.... There is no precedent for Congress to reverse a major program of social benefits once it has taken effect and reached millions of Americans.... Even so, signs emerged on Monday that Republicans in Congress's upper chamber could balk either at the cost of the proposal or if it leaves swaths of the country without insurance coverage.... And four key Republican senators, all from states that opted to expand Medicaid under the ACA, said they would oppose any new plan that would leave millions of Americans uninsured." --safari...

... Robert Pear & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "House Republicans unveiled on Monday their long-awaited plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, scrapping the mandate for most Americans to have health insurance in favor of a new system of tax credits to induce people to buy insurance on the open market.The bill sets the stage for a bitter debate over the possible dismantling of the most significant health care law in a half-century. In its place would be a health law that would be far more oriented to the free market and would make far-reaching changes to a vast part of the American economy." -- CW ...

...Sarah Kliff of Vox: "Two big questions -- how many people it will cover and how much it will cost -- are still unresolved: It will likely cover fewer people than the Affordable Care Act currently does, but we don't know how many. And the Congressional Budget Office has not yet scored the legislation, so its price tag is unknown." Sarah Kliff runs down the known details. --safari

Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani of ThinkProgress: "On Monday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning nationals from six Muslim-majority countries and halting all refugee resettlement...Under the new order, nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen will not be able to obtain visas to the United States for 90 days.... The order also suspends all refugee resettlement for 120 days, while the DHS reviews 'screening procedures to ensure refugees admitted in the future do not pose a security risk to the United States.' The United States will not take in more than 50,000 refugees for the 2017 fiscal year   60,000 less than planned under the Obama administration. " --safari...

...Nahal Toosi of Politico: "It's not just a few countries. It's not just about Muslims. And in some cases, it's probably won't be temporary, either. President Donald Trump's newly revised travel ban may at first seem to be more limited in its reach than his sweeping earlier order suspending refugee admissions and barring entry for citizens of several predominantly Muslim countries. But the new order, signed Monday, still contains provisions that could ultimately slow travel and immigration to the United States from every corner of the globe. The order could ultimately backfire on Americans wishing to travel abroad, and, for some countries, what appear to be temporary bans could effectively prove permanent." --safari...

...Drumpf's Spite. Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "Gold Star father Khizr Khan's 'freedom to travel abroad' is reportedly under review, and he says he doesn't know why. Khan was scheduled to speak at a luncheon in Toronto on Tuesday 'on what we can do about the appalling turn of events in Washington -- so that we don't all end up sacrificing everything.' But Khan was told late Sunday that his traveling privileges were under review, according to Ramsay Talks, which organized the luncheon. 'As a consequence, Mr. Khan will not be traveling to Toronto on March 7th to speak about tolerance, understanding, unity and the rule of law,' it said in a statement." --safari...

...Vivian Yee et al., of The New York Times breaks down who the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants are, and how they got here. --safari

MORE Conflicts. Trump's worst deal?. Adam Davidson of the New Yorker. "After Donald Trump became a candidate for President, in 2015, [several] publications ran articles that raised questions about his involvement in the Baku [Trump Tower] project. These reports cited a series of cables sent from the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan in 2009 and 2010, which were made public by WikiLeaks. In one of the cables, a U.S. diplomat described [Trump partner] Ziya Mammadov as 'notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.' The Trump Organization's chief legal officer, Alan Garten, told reporters that the Baku hotel project raised no ethical issues for Donald Trump, because his company had never engaged directly with Mammadov...it [became] clear that the Trump Organization's story of the hotel was incomplete and inaccurate...the Mammadov family, in addition to its reputation for corruption, has a troubling connection that any proper risk assessment should have unearthed: for years, it has been financially entangled with an Iranian family tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps..." (Also linked yesterday)

...Akhilleus: Oops. Trump doing business with a family connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard? Just another example of how Trump greed promotes sloppy research. The Trumps see dollar signs and everything else disappears. Does anyone believe that Uday and Qusay, now the overlords of Trump Business World, are exercising due diligence in their business dealings? (Thanks to Lisa for the story tip)...

Adam Liptak of The New York Times: "The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that courts must make an exception to the usual rule that jury deliberations are secret when evidence emerges that those discussions were marred by racial or ethnic bias. 'Racial bias implicates unique historical, constitutional and institutional concerns,' Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the 5-to-3 decision.... Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the majority opinion." --safari...

...safari: Tough place to be in for Chief Justice John Roberts since he already declared racism to be over in America. ...

...Hot Potato, Hot Potato...you take it! Robert Barnes of the Washington Post. "The Supreme Court on Monday vacated a lower court's ruling in favor of a Virginia transgender student after the Trump administration withdrew the federal government's guidance to public schools about a controversial bathroom policy. The justices were scheduled to hear the case later this month. But after the government's position changed, the court said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit should reconsider the dispute between the Gloucester County school board and 17-year-old Gavin Grimm. The 4th Circuit had relied on the government's guidance that schools should let transgender students use the bathroom that corresponds with the student's gender identity. The Trump administration withdrew that guidance, which was issued by the Obama administration. (Also linked yesterday)

...Akhilleus. Jesus, this poor kid. But I give him high marks for fortitude in the face of an entire administration that hates him and anyone like him. The Supremes don't want their name on it either. Now his fate will be in the hands of the 4th Circuit which has been freed by Trump from having to do the right thing. We'll see now how this plan of leaving it to the states will work out.

Eric Levitz of New York: "Early Saturday morning, President Trump found something alarming in his Daily Conspiracy Brief (a.k.a. Breitbart): Barack Obama had tapped the phone lines of Trump Tower...Notably, Breitbart's account does not claim that Obama, personally, ordered the FISA warrant.... Nor does the site describe an illegal procedure.... Which is to say: The administration amassed sufficient evidence to convince a FISA judge that there was reason to suspect illicit collaboration between Trump's associates and the Russian government.... The bureau's director, James Comey, pushed for the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump's claim over the weekend...But on Monday, the White House suggested that Trump trusts his own misreadings of Breitbart articles over the word of the FBI director... Meanwhile, Trump has ordered his chief counsel, Donald F. McGahn, to secure access to the alleged FISA order that would vindicate Trump's story -- a move that the Justice Department would view as a 'stunning case of interference,' according to the New York Times. So, perhaps the president genuinely believes he's calling Comey's bluff." --safari...

...Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post: "President Trump's explosive allegation that former president Barack Obama wiretapped him is based on -- what? That has been the question ever since Trump sent provocative early-morning tweets over the weekend, because he and his staff have provided no evidence. At The Fact Checker, we require the accuser to provide the evidence for a dramatic claim. We asked Saturday and received no answer.... However, a White House spokesman told The Fact Checker that the White House instead is relying on reports 'from BBC, Heat Street, New York Times, Fox News, among others.' He provided a list of five articles...Even if these media reports are accepted as accurate, neither back up Trump's claims that Obama ordered the tapping of his phone calls. Moreover, they also do not back up the administration's revised claim of politically motivated investigations.... We're still waiting for the evidence. In the meantime, Trump earns Four Pinocchios." --safari...

... Aides Admire Emperor's New Clothes. Ashley Parker & Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "The White House on Monday attempted to defend President Trump's unfounded claim that former president Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower near the end of the presidential campaign, sending out several administration officials -- both on and off camera -- to reiterate the assertion without providing supporting evidence." -- CW ...

...Circle the Wacko Wagons. Mike Allen of Axios: "I have learned that some -- though definitely not all -- members of President Trump's inner circle share his belief that the Obama administration tapped his Trump Tower phones in October. And a White House official told me President Trump not only doesn't regret this weekend's fracas despite the lack of evidence for his astonishing claim, he is 'absolutely convinced' he'll be vindicated.... Towergate is a fascinating test of Trump's great gamble that he can do the job of president in a totally new way: largely improvisational, driven by whims, moods and obsessions; thinly staffed, like his campaign." --safari...

...Jamelle Bouie of Slate: "[T]he presidency has supercharged [Drumpf's] paranoia and conspiratorial instincts...This is another example of what should be a terrifying fact about the president: There is no independent truth for Trump. There are only assertions which, through force of will, he thinks he can make 'true' fantasies with a patina of truthiness that hold an unbreakable grip on his mind.... In a farcical turn in an already farcical year, we don't just have a conspiracy-minded president advised by a former purveyor of conspiracies. We now also have a conspiracy-minded White House, bolstered by an echo chamber of far-right media, aided and abetted by Republicans too afraid or too craven to break from an unhinged chief executive, even as his actions fuel more scrutiny and suspicion of his administration and its ties with Russia." --safari...

...Tom Boggioni of RawStory: "A former NSA intelligence analyst poured cold water on President Donald Trump's statements that former President Barack Obama has his phone lined taped, saying the intelligence community considers Trump's charges to be a 'kooky fantasy.'.... Writing for the Observer, ex-analyst John Schindler said that there are already enough questions about the Trump administration's ties to the Russians to warrant a full investigation, but that the president's foray into a massive conspiracy involving Obama and the highest levels of the intel community is absurd." --safari...

...Lawrence Douglas of the Guardian: "Perhaps what is so striking about the tweets is not their desperation, but their cynicism. In exclaiming 'This is McCarthyism!', Trump said something deeply revealing -- only about himself. McCarthyism was never in the first instance about wiretapping. It was about defaming public officials with charges of treason without a shred of evidence. Equally revealing was Trump's tweet: 'I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!' As Trump well knows, a good lawyer can make a case out of anything.... If there is something extraordinary about Trump it is how low he is willing to go." --safari...

...Drumpf's Bumpkins: Conway Again Brings Bullshit to New Heights. Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "In a tweetstorm he posted on Saturday, President Trumpaccused former President Obama of wiretapping him ahead of the election last year.... In response to the ensuing uproar, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggested on Sunday that Trump's claim is based on 'reports' that are 'very troubling' to the president.... But on Monday, White House officials changed their story. During a Fox & Friends interview, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was asked about Trump's evidence. Instead of citing reports from right-wing media, she cited classified intelligence." --safari...

...Drumpf's Bumpkins, Ctd. Erin Corbett of RawStory: "Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas attempted to have Trump's back on the matter on Monday tweeting an article with the headline, 'Former Bush attorney general: Trump likely right about surveillance.' Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey spoke with ABC's This Week on Sunday and agreed he believed there was likely surveillance at Trump Tower...However, Mukasey added that if there was a wiretap at Trump Tower, it's because there was suspicion of a Russian agent." --safari

Drumpf's Bumpkins, Ctd. Betsy DeVos Approved. Daily Beast: "While speaking with his employees on Monday, Ben Carson made a baffling claim that seemingly likened slaves to immigrants. Calling the United States a 'land of dreams and opportunity,' the newly confirmed housing and urban development secretary said, 'There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less.'" --safari

Drumpf's Bumpkins, Ctd. Annie Karni of Politico: "President Donald Trump has brought on Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to work in the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs, two sources familiar with the hire told POLITICO...In his new post, Andrew Giuliani...helped organize the Patriots' upcoming visit to the White House after their come-from-behind Super Bowl victory, and also assisted First Lady Melania Trump's staff during Trump's speech before a joint session of Congress last week. The younger Giuliani has known the Trump family for years." --safari

Drumpf's Bumpkins, Ctd. Mattahias Schwartz of The Intercept: "The history of the 2016 election is up for grabs. Vying for posterity are two competing myths. One is the Russian conspiracy that elevated Donald Trump into the White House. The other is the 'deep state' conspiracy that is laboring to bring him down. The first relies on secret evidence; the second on naked speculation and paranoid hand waving...Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative and bon vivant, has dealt in this epistemological netherworld for decades.... Stone and I spoke by phone twice, on February 26 and March 2. This interview is compiled from both conversations." Stone further proves his subhuman status.--safari

Drumpf's Bumpkins, Ctd. Alex Isenstadt & Josh Dawsey of Politico: "As the White House struggles to gain its footing almost two months into Donald Trump's presidency, administration officials increasingly put the blame on one person:Reince Priebus. In interviews, more than a dozen Trump aides, allies, and others close to the White House said Priebus, the 44-year-old chief of staff, was becoming a singular target of criticism within the White House.... The White House vigorously disputes the notion that Priebus is losing the confidence of senior West Wing staff. Senior officials say the president respects the chief of staff for his deep relationships on Capitol Hill and that no staff shake-up is expected in the immediate future." --safari

Drumpf's Bumpkins, Ctd. Steve M. : "I think the craziness, of this weekend has done more to shore up the Trump base than a speech was seen as successful. You and I see Trump as a half-mad king making wild accusations with no evidence. The base thinks he's going on offense against the most hated enemy of all. To the base, he's not vulnerable to a new cycle of bad news; instead, he's seizing bad news and jiujitsuing it to his advantage.... In the long run, I suppose this is still a mess for Trump. In the short run, in the Trump bubble, the president looks like a winner. He's the tough guy they wanted. Going after Obama is 'draining the swamp.' The chants are going to change to 'Lock him up' soon. To make base voters happy, Trump doesn't have to bring back manufacturing jobs or build the wall or defeat ISIS. He just has to give them their own facts, angrily and at the top of his lungs. " [Emphasis original] --safari

They have HAD IT with these undeserving poors getting heathcare! Jeremy W. Peters of the New York Times: "Saying their patience is at an end, conservative activist groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers and other powerful interests on the right are mobilizing to pressure Republicans to fulfill their promise to swiftly repeal the Affordable Care Act. Their message is blunt and unforgiving, with the goal of reawakening some of the most extensive conservative grass-roots networks in the country.... With angry constituents storming town hall-style meetings across the country and demanding that Congress not repeal the law, these new campaigns are a sign of a growing concern on the right that lawmakers might buckle to the pressure. 'We've been patient this year, but it is past time to act and to act decisively,' said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, which is coordinating the push with other groups across the Kochs' political network. 'Our network has spent more money, more time and more years fighting Obamacare than anything else. And now with the finish line in sight, we cannot allow some folks to pull up and give up.' (Also linked yesterday)

...Akhilleus: In other words, "We've spent too much money making sure those poor and brown people have no healthcare to let the American public have anything to say about it now!" says the guy from Americans for Prosperity (for the rich). Same 'ol, same 'ol, from the Kochs. "If it ain't for me, it ain't gonna be."

The Russian Connection, Ctd. Evan Osnos et al., of the New Yorker: "Earlier this month, The New Yorker published 'Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War,' an examination of what lay behind Russia's interference in the 2016 election -- and what lies ahead. On Facebook and Twitter, we asked readers to submit questions they had after reading the article. Below are some of our responses." --safari

Juan Cole: "Trump actually is changing the United States in a major way, with a massive assault on the environment." Prof. Cole lists some of the main ways Drumpf is destroying our environment. --safari

Beyond the Beltway

Bye-Bye, Bibi? Luke Baker of Reuters. "Police questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a fourth time on Monday in a corruption investigation that has prompted political rivals to start looking to a 'post-Bibi' Israel. Netanyahu, 67, is a suspect in two cases, one involving the receipt of gifts from businessmen and the other related to conversations he held with an Israeli newspaper publisher about limiting competition in the news sector in exchange for more positive coverage. No charges have been brought against Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009. A spokesman for the prime minister, who has denied wrongdoing, did not respond to a request for comment. 'We will finish soon, we are in the final stages,' Police chief Roni Elsheich told reporters earlier about the investigation. Once it is complete, police will decide whether to drop the case or recommend the attorney general bring charges. As speculation bubbles, politicians from across the spectrum have begun maneuvering, believing early elections will probably have to be called if Netanyahu is indicted. Such a move would most likely lead to his resignation - in 1993 the Supreme Court set a precedent for ministers to step down if they are charged with corruption. -- Akhilleus (Also linked yesterday)

Nukes for Everyone! Max Fisher of the New York Times. "An idea, once unthinkable, is gaining attention in European policy circles: a European Union nuclear weapons program. Under such a plan, France's arsenal would be repurposed to protect the rest of Europe and would be put under a common European command, funding plan, defense doctrine, or some combination of the three. It would be enacted only if the Continent could no longer count on American protection. Though no new countries would join the nuclear club under this scheme, it would amount to an unprecedented escalation in Europe's collective military power and a drastic break with American leadership. Analysts say that the talk, even if it never translates into action, demonstrates the growing sense in Europe that drastic steps may be necessary to protect the postwar order in the era of a Trump presidency, a resurgent Russia and the possibility of an alignment between the two." (Also linked yesterday)

...Akhilleus. A "European Nuclear Weapons Program." What a great idea! And when Le Pen and her far-right nationalists in France take over it'll be Katie bar the door. Like an ignorant, bratty little kid, Trump waddles onto the international stage and starts kicking the blocks out here and there from a delicate structure, threatening to bring the whole thing down, just because he can. Now Europeans, scared shitless of a Trump-Putin alliance, with Putin pulling the strings, are considering what could become a tactical nuclear arms race. How long before Trump revisits the idea, once popular with Reagan he-man hacks, of a "winnable nuclear war"?

Reuters: "Arctic sea ice could vanish in summers this century even if governments achieve a core target for limiting global warming set by almost 200 countries, scientists have said...'The 2C target may be insufficient to prevent an ice-free Arctic,' James Screen and Daniel Williamson of Exeter University wrote in the Nature Climate Change journal after a review of ice projections." --safari...

... AFP: "One of Africa's oldest and largest elephants has been killed by poachers in Kenya, according to a conservation group that protects a dwindling group of 'big tuskers' estimated to be as few as 25. Richard Moller of the Tsavo Trust said Satao II, about 50 years old, was found dead on Monday and was believed to have been shot with a poisoned arrow. Two poachers believed to be responsible for the killing were apprehended not long after his carcass was spotted in routine aerial reconnaissance of the Tsavo national park. 'Luckily, through the work we do with the Kenyan Wildlife Service, we were able to find the carcass before the poachers could recover the ivory,' said Moller." --safari

Monday
Mar062017

The Commentariat -- March 6, 2017

Late Morning Update:

If at First You Don't Succeed at Religious Profiling ... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Trump is preparing to sign a new executive order Monday that White House officials hope can withstand legal scrutiny in imposing a 90-day ban on U.S. entry for new visa seekers from six majority-Muslim nations, according to a fact sheet the administration sent to Congress. In addition, the nation's refugee program will be suspended for 120 days, and it will not accept more than 50,000 refugees in a year, down from the 110,000 cap set by the Obama administration. The new guidelines name six of the seven countries included in the first executive order, but it leaves out Iraq. That nation will increase cooperation with the United States on additional security vetting under separate negotiations and its citizens are not subject to the new order, the fact sheet states." -- Akhilleus ...

     ... Story has been UPDATED. New Lede: "President Trump signed a new travel ban Monday that administration officials said they hope will end legal challenges over the matter by imposing a 90-day ban on the issuance of new visas for citizens of six majority-Muslim nations." -- CW

Hot Potato, Hot Potato ... You Take It! Robert Barnes of the Washington Post. "The Supreme Court on Monday vacated a lower court's ruling in favor of a Virginia transgender student after the Trump administration withdrew the federal government's guidance to public schools about a controversial bathroom policy. The justices were scheduled to hear the case later this month. But after the government's position changed, the court said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit should reconsider the dispute between the Gloucester County school board and 17-year-old Gavin Grimm. The 4th Circuit had relied on the government's guidance that schools should let transgender students use the bathroom that corresponds with the student's gender identity. The Trump administration withdrew that guidance, which was issued by the Obama administration." ...

     ... Akhilleus. Jesus, this poor kid. But I give him high marks for fortitude in the face of an entire administration that hates him and anyone like him. The Supremes don't want their name on it either. Now his fate will be in the hands of the 4th Circuit which has been freed by Trump from having to do the right thing. We'll see now how this plan of leaving it to the states will work out.

Bye-Bye, Bibi? Luke Baker of Reuters: "Police questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a fourth time on Monday in a corruption investigation that has prompted political rivals to start looking to a 'post-Bibi' Israel. Netanyahu, 67, is a suspect in two cases, one involving the receipt of gifts from businessmen and the other related to conversations he held with an Israeli newspaper publisher about limiting competition in the news sector in exchange for more positive coverage. No charges have been brought against Netanyahu. A spokesman for the prime minister, who has denied wrongdoing, did not respond to a request for comment. 'We will finish soon, we are in the final stages,' Police chief Roni Elsheich told reporters earlier about the investigation. Once it is complete, police will decide whether to drop the case or recommend the attorney general bring charges. As speculation bubbles, politicians from across the spectrum have begun maneuvering, believing early elections will probably have to be called if Netanyahu is indicted. Such a move would most likely lead to his resignation - in 1993 the Supreme Court set a precedent for ministers to step down if they are charged with corruption. -- Akhilleus

They Have HAD IT with These Undeserving Poors Getting Heathcare! Jeremy W. Peters of the New York Times: "Saying their patience is at an end, conservative activist groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers and other powerful interests on the right are mobilizing to pressure Republicans to fulfill their promise to swiftly repeal the Affordable Care Act. Their message is blunt and unforgiving, with the goal of reawakening some of the most extensive conservative grass-roots networks in the country.... With angry constituents storming town hall-style meetings across the country and demanding that Congress not repeal the law, these new campaigns are a sign of a growing concern on the right that lawmakers might buckle to the pressure.'We've been patient this year, but it is past time to act and to act decisively,' said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, which is coordinating the push with other groups across the Kochs' political network. 'Our network has spent more money, more time and more years fighting Obamacare than anything else. And now with the finish line in sight, we cannot allow some folks to pull up and give up.'" ...

     ... Akhilleus: In other words, "We've spent too much money making sure those poor and brown people have no healthcare to let the American public have anything to say about it now!" says the guy from Americans for Prosperity (for the rich). Same 'ol, same 'ol, from the Kochs. "If it ain't for me, it ain't gonna be."

Conflict? What Conflict? Gernot Heller & Georgina Prodhan of Reuters: "Deutsche Bank's (DBKGn.DE) request for shareholders to sign an 8 billion euro ($8.5 billion) check to back its new strategy got a lukewarm reception on Monday from investors who want more detail on its plans. Germany's biggest bank had previously said it would wait until global bank capital rules were finalised before setting out how it intends to turn its business around and chief executive John Cryan had said a cash call was a last resort.... Germany's biggest lender, weighed down by litigation costs and writedowns, has fallen behind Wall Street rivals. It has spent the last 18 months trimming its portfolio, jettisoning unwanted clients and trying to get its technology in shape." ...

     ... Akhilleus: The liquidity issues of a foreign bank may seem a somewhat obscure topic for most Americans until they recall that one of the DB's biggest deadbeats is Donald Trump, who owes them hundreds of millions of dollars and is refusing to pay. An even more obscure, but far more important question, is what's going on behind the scenes? What kind of "deal" is Trump willing to make to rid himself of this debt? It may seem that an American president has limited juice where a European banking problem is concerned, but then, there it is. He IS the American president, and American presidents have a lot of juice everywhere. In addition to Trump, his daughter Ivanka, son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Kushner's mother are all recipients of loans from Deutsche Bank. The question now is, will Trump use the power of the presidency for the American public, or for himself and his family? Rhetorical question?

MORE Conflicts. Trump's Worst Deal? Adam Davidson of the New Yorker: "After Donald Trump became a candidate for President, in 2015, [several] publications ran articles that raised questions about his involvement in the Baku [Trump Tower] project. These reports cited a series of cables sent from the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan in 2009 and 2010, which were made public by WikiLeaks. In one of the cables, a U.S. diplomat described [Trump partner] Ziya Mammadov as 'notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.' The Trump Organization's chief legal officer, Alan Garten, told reporters that the Baku hotel project raised no ethical issues for Donald Trump, because his company had never engaged directly with Mammadov...it [became] clear that the Trump Organization's story of the hotel was incomplete and inaccurate...the Mammadov family, in addition to its reputation for corruption, has a troubling connection that any proper risk assessment should have unearthed: for years, it has been financially entangled with an Iranian family tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps..." ...

...Akhilleus: Oops. Trump doing business with a family connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard? Just another example of how Trump greed promotes sloppy research. The Trumps see dollar signs and everything else disappears. Does anyone believe that Uday and Qusay, now the overlords of Trump Business World, are exercising due diligence in their business dealings? (Thanks to Lisa for the story tip)

Nukes for Everyone! Max Fisher of the New York Times: "An idea, once unthinkable, is gaining attention in European policy circles: a European Union nuclear weapons program. Under such a plan, France's arsenal would be repurposed to protect the rest of Europe and would be put under a common European command, funding plan, defense doctrine, or some combination of the three. It would be enacted only if the Continent could no longer count on American protection. Though no new countries would join the nuclear club under this scheme, it would amount to an unprecedented escalation in Europe's collective military power and a drastic break with American leadership. Analysts say that the talk, even if it never translates into action, demonstrates the growing sense in Europe that drastic steps may be necessary to protect the postwar order in the era of a Trump presidency, a resurgent Russia and the possibility of an alignment between the two." ...

     ... Akhilleus. A "European Nuclear Weapons Program." What a great idea! And when Le Pen and her far-right nationalists in France take over it'll be Katie bar the door. Like an ignorant, bratty little kid, Trump waddles onto the international stage and starts kicking the blocks out here and there from a delicate structure, threatening to bring the whole thing down, just because he can. Now Europeans, scared shitless of a Trump-Putin alliance, with Putin pulling the strings, are considering what could become a tactical nuclear arms race. How long before Trump revisits the idea, once popular with Reagan he-man hacks, of a "winnable nuclear war"?

*****

CW: Many thanks to safari & LT for their contributions yesterday.On the road again, so this is as barebones as it gets (except for tomorrow, when I won't be able to stop at all).

Michael Schmidt & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump's assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump's phones, senior American officials said on Sunday. Mr. Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement. Mr. Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump leveled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said.... It is not clear why Mr. Comey did not issue a statement himself.... The White House showed no indication that it would back down from Mr. Trump's claims. On Sunday, the president demanded a congressional inquiry into whether Mr. Obama had abused the power of federal law enforcement agencies before the 2016 presidential election." ...

     ... CW: Looks like Jimbo is beginning to figure out what he hath wrought. But yet. How is it that the cat suddenly got his tongue? Maybe he finds it easier to gossip about girls. And yeah, looking forward to that Congressional investigation. ...

... To wit. ... New York Times Editors: "Just contemplate the recklessness -- the sheer indifference to truth and the moral authority of the American presidency -- revealed here: one president baselessly charging criminality by another, all in a childish Twitter rampage.... This is a dangerous moment, which requires Congress and members of this administration to look beyond partisan maneuvering and tend to the health of the democracy itself.... By alleging potential criminality in the nation's highest office, Mr. Trump has tweeted himself into a corner. His accusation is so sensational -- so explosive if it turned out to have some basis in fact and so corrosive if not -- that Congress has no credible option but to convene a bipartisan select committee to investigate all questions related to Russian interference in the election. And if Mr. Trump has confidence in his claim, he should have no reluctance about the appointment of an independent counsel to get to the bottom of the Russia affair." -- CW ...

... Unhinged. This account -- the WashPo's lede story -- by Philip Rucker & others suggests Trump is an angry, crazy man who believes the conspiracy theories he spouts. CW: Think about how remarkable that is. ...

We have as president a man who is erratic, vindictive, volatile, obsessive, a chronic liar, and prone to believe in conspiracy theories. And you can count on the fact that there will be more to come, since when people like Donald Trump gain power they become less, not more, restrained. -- Peter Wehner, top policy strategist in George W. Bush's White House

...David Ferguson of RawStory: "One of Pres.Donald Trump's top confidants and close White House advisers said on Sunday that he hasn't seen the president 'this p*ssed off in a long time' and that Trump is vowing, 'I will be proven right' about accusations that former Pres. Barack Obama wiretapped the phones at Trump Tower in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election...TheHill.com reported that Newsmax.com CEO Christopher Ruddy published an essay on Sunday attacking Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer(NY) and praising his boss' performance...Ruddy said, 'I spoke with the President twice yesterday about the wiretap story. I haven't seen him this p*ssed off in a long time. When I mentioned Obama 'denials' about the wiretaps, he shot back: "This will be investigated, it will all come out. I will be proven right."'" --safari...

... Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump's presidency has veered onto a road with no centerlines or guardrails.... Trump's tweetstorm early Saturday made his disciplined, well-received speech to Congress four days before seem less a turning point than an aberration.... The charge [against President Obama] was reminiscent of the early days of his political ascendancy, when he built a political base by pandering to the fringes with false stories about Obama's birthplace.... Trump's detractors say the way he uses that platform has worrisome implications that go far beyond the sensation he creates on social media and his ability to dominate the news." -- CW ...

... Kevin Drum: "... the president's chief of staff spent a full hour of his time on Friday lying to reporters off the record. Why? To cover up for the fact that Trump routinely melts down when he gets bad press. The only thing that cheered him up was all the attention he got when he told an outrageous lie about Barack Obama." -- CW ...

... D.R. Tucker in the Washington Monthly: "Like a vandal who sprays graffiti over works of art, Donald Trump is attempting to desecrate all of Obama's formidable achievements -- from health care to human rights, from equal justice to the environment. The motive is so obviously racial: it turns the stomachs of Trump and Steve Bannon that someone they regard as a social inferior performed in a manner that was objectively superior." -- CW ...

...Jonathan Chait: "Donald Trump's splenetic Saturday morning tweets, alleging that Barack Obama wiretapped his phones came as a surprise to his advisers. Accusing the former president of serious crimes, and threatening legal action against him, is the sort of step that most presidents would not take without some advance planning.... Still, elements of a long-term strategy, accidental or otherwise, could be gleaned from the rant. The president may well have previewed the line of argument that may emerge as his primary defense. Before this morning, Trump's message on the Russia scandal has emphasized his innocence.... His new line of argument ignores the question of his own guilt or innocence and turns the accusation against his predecessor, who -- Trump alleges -- ordered Trump's phones to be wiretapped." --safari

** Susan Glasser of Politico: "America's most senior diplomat just hit the exits from President Trump's melting-down State Department after 40 years of being the man in the room when Russia was involved. And now Daniel Fried, a career Foreign Service pro who spent decades holding his tongue publicly while serving six presidents of both parties, is speaking out forcefully for the first time amid an escalating scandal here in Washington over the new administration's Russia entanglements, warning about the threats posed by President Vladimir Putin's aggression -- and Trump's 'America First' foreign policy.'Russia despises the West. And it is doing what it can to weaken the West,' Fried says in a new interview for The Global Politico podcast. Fried, known to his colleagues as an indefatigable negotiator and history buff, warned that the Russians are intent upon reconquering more former Soviet territory and won't stop unless strongly countered by the U.S. 'They are rapacious, because they want back as much of their empire as they can grab. And we need to resist that.'" --safari...

...Jana Winter of The Daily Beast: "The day Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak mingled with Trump campaign advisers including then-Sen. Jeff Sessions -- at a conference near the Republican National Convention, the Department of Homeland Security began preparing a nationwide warning about foreign intelligence officials attempting to elicit information from U.S. government personnel at conferences, events, and other functions.... This article is based on DHS and other counterintelligence documents and interviews with five current or former law enforcement, intelligence, and government officials with deep knowledge of aspects of the overarching investigation into Russian influence of American politics.... The bulletin is unusual in several ways. It is rare for DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis to produce such a warning about foreign intelligence; that's typically the purview of FBI counterintelligence. And while the document is unclassified, it contains a warning prohibiting it from being shared with foreign governments, which 'makes zero sense, isn't enforceable, and is entirely against policy,' said a current government official." --safari

Where's Rex? Nahal Toosi of Politico: "America's chief diplomat so far appears allergic to the spotlight. His aloof approach to his job is eroding confidence in him at the State Department, multiple sources told Politico, where staffers are upset about President Donald Trump's mixed foreign policy messages and his plans to significantly cut the agency's budget." -- CW

The Party of Incompetence. Paul Krugman: "It goes without saying that Donald Trump is the least qualified individual, temperamentally or intellectually, ever installed in the White House. As he veers from wild accusations against President Obama to snide remarks about Arnold Schwarzenegger, he's doing a very good imitation of someone experiencing a personal breakdown -- even though he has yet to confront a crisis not of his own making. Thanks, Comey. But the broader Republican quagmire -- the party's failure so far to make significant progress toward any of its policy promises -- isn't just about Mr. Trump's inadequacies.... Now there's apparently a[n ObamaCare 'replacement'] plan hidden somewhere in the Capitol basement.... Sure enough, the new plan reportedly does look like a sort of half-baked version of the Affordable Care Act. Politically, it seems to embody the worst of both worlds: It's enough like Obamacare to infuriate hard-line conservatives, but it weakens key aspects of the law enough to deprive millions of Americans -- many of them white working-class voters who backed Donald Trump -- of essential health care." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

The Resistance, Gender Edition. Kira Cochrane of the Guardian: "Before the Women's Marches took place, the day after Trump's inauguration, there were suggestions they would be pointless and ineffective -- nothing more than a nice day out. On 21 January, women and men marched on all seven continents (in Antarctica, a placard proclaimed 'Penguins march for peace'). With almost 700 marches across the world, and an estimated 4.5 million marchers in all, this was among the biggest human-rights demonstrations in history.... The march has inspired a wave of action around the world...Signs of resistance are arising everywhere." --safari

Damian Carrington of the Guardian: "Pollution is responsible for one in four deaths among all children under five, according to new World Health Organisation reports, with toxic air, unsafe water and and lack of sanitation the leading causes.The reports found polluted environments cause the deaths of 1.7 million children every year, but that many of the deaths could be prevented by interventions already known to work, such as providing cleaner cooking fuels to prevent indoor air pollution." --safari

Sunday
Mar052017

The Commentariat -- March 5, 2017

CW: Just Cannot Get Over This. Philip Rucker, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Saturday angrily accused former president Barack Obama of orchestrating a 'Nixon/Watergate' plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters in the run-up to last fall's election, providing no evidence to support his explosive claim and drawing a flat denial from Obama's office.... Senior U.S. officials with knowledge of a wide-ranging federal investigation into Russian interference in the election, who spoke on the condition of anonymity..., said Saturday that there had been no wiretap of Trump." Linked yesterday, before updates. ...

     ... Contributor Jonster had an excellent suggestion: Democrats should demand an investigation, complete with special prosecutor, to delve into Trump's charges. Assuming Obama was not running a felony wiretapping enterprise out of the Oval, it's a no-lose situation. ...

I'd be very worried if in fact the Obama administration was able to obtain a warrant lawfully about Trump campaign activity with foreign governments. It's my job as United States senator to get to the bottom of this. -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), at a public meeting Saturday ...

This allegation has serious implications. @POTUS should provide more info to Congress immediately to assess constitutionality and legality. --Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), in a tweet, Saturday ...

... Andrew Prokop of Vox: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) discussed the two-sided nature of this situation during an event held on Saturday morning, not long after Trump's tweetstorm. If Trump's claims are true and the taps were illegal, Graham said, 'it would be the biggest political scandal since Watergate.' But, he continued, if Obama 'was able to obtain a warrant lawfully to monitor Trump's campaign for violating the law, that would be the biggest scandal since Watergate.' (The implication being that the government would probably have some pretty damning stuff on the Trump campaign to convince a judge to give them a legal warrant.)" -- CW ...

... Darlene Superville & Julie Pace of the AP: "Trump's claims drew bipartisan rebukes from Democrats and Republicans alike who find his habit of venting on social media to be beneath the office of the president.... Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called on Trump to explain what he knows about the wiretapping allegations 'ideally to the full public, and at a bare minimum to the U.S. Senate.'... The president has in the past tweeted about unsubstantiated and provocative reports he reads on blogs or conservative websites. Still, the morning tweets stand out, even for the perpetually piqued Trump, given the gravity of the charge and the strikingly personal attack on the former president." -- CW ...

     ... The AP report, on account of its accuracy & all, upset some wingers for rushing into print "a defense of the former president." -- CW ...

... Anonymous Aides Confirm that Trump Is Just a Crazy Old Man. Alex Isenstadt, et al., of Politico: "One White House official said he woke up Saturday morning to Trump's tweets and grimaced. It was unclear, this person said, where the president had gotten the idea, but that it likely wasn't from an official source.... Several other people close to Trump said they weren't sure where he got his information for the posts. One of these people said most of Trump's aides were back in Washington and woke up exasperated at the posts. After making the explosive claims -- and trashing Arnold Schwarzenegger's TV ratings -- in the Twitter rant, the president headed to the golf course near his Mar-a-Lago resort." -- CW ...

... Bradley Moss in Politico Magazine: "In [any] context, the president's remarks alleging his phones were 'tapped' are simply preposterous and reflect his complete ignorance of how the various surveillance authorities retained by the government over which he now presides actually work. The president cannot, on his own, authorize surveillance of a U.S. citizen.... It would be in [Trump's] best interests -- and in the best interests of the country -- for him to start educating himself on the laws and procedures that apply to the government he now runs." -- CW ...

... Cleve Wootson of the Washington Post traces Trump's real-life connection with McCarthyism, in the person of Joe McCarthy's long-time sidekick Roy Cohn, who became a mentor to young Donnie. ...

...John Schwartz of The Intercept: "If in fact Trump Tower was wiretapped during the 2016 presidential campaign, as President Trump claimed in several tweets Saturday morning, he can do much more than say so on twitter: Presidents have the power to declassify anything at any time, so Trump could immediately make public any government records of such surveillance." --safari...

... Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "President Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on Saturday night added to Trump's baseless allegations earlier in the day of wiretapping on the part of the Obama administration. Lewandowski, who now has a lobbying firm, claimed on Fox News without offering evidence that the Obama administration also listened in on conversations between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak last year." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Karl & Chris Vlasto of ABC News: "Before heading off to his so-called 'winter White House' in Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday..., Donald Trump summoned some of his senior staff to the Oval Office and went 'ballistic,' senior White House sources told ABC News. The president erupted with anger over the latest slew of news reports connecting Russia with the new administration -- specifically the abrupt decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. Sources said the president felt Sessions' recusal was unnecessary and only served to embolden Trump's political opponents." -- CW ...

...Juan Cole: "Trump is developing an unhealthy and abnormal complex about Obama. He earlier blamed the former president for organizing town hall protests against Republican politicians who seek to abolish the Affordable Care Act, and of orchestrating embarrassing leaks from the Trump White House. That is, in Trump's paranoid mind, Michael Flynn was forced off the National Security Council by Obama smearing him as a Russian agent rather than by Flynn's discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, about which he repeatedly lied. And Little Marco Rubio can't have a town hall in Florida on health care legislation because . . . you guessed it, that busy, busy Obama. I am frankly worried for Obama. Trump has large numbers of white supremacist and Neo-Nazi supporters, and if the president repeatedly accuses Obama of attempting to bring him down, it could create extreme danger for the former president." --safari...

... What You Get for $200,000 Plus Chumpchange. Kristina Webb & Alexandra Clough of the Palm Beach Post: "... Donald Trump mingled with guests outside a charity ball at his Mar-a-Lago Club on Saturday night.... Earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions also took a few moments from high-level meetings to greet guests at the estate." ...

     CW: High-level meetings! Woo-woo! For Trump time travellers --and you do have to be in a time warp to cotton to Trump -- it's like being in the old 1950s Walter Cronkite TV series "You Are There." Only instead of being on the teevee, you're like totally in the teevee -- you are there while the So-Called President confers with a prominent foreign leader about an international crisis. You are there when the prez chews out his AG for getting caught with borscht on his face. Sign up now. You never know what will happen next week. No, really. You never know. ...

... Speaking of Time Warp. The SCROTUS as Dimwitted, Anachronistic Warmonger. Max Fisher in the New York Times: Donald Trump is "fascinated with raw military might, which he sees as synonymous with America's standing in the world and as a tool to coerce powerful rivals, such as China and Iran, which appear to be his primary concern. He also appears little-focused on the details of America's continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and globally against Al Qaeda. None of those missions will be resolved by the new aircraft carriers Mr. Trump has promised, and generals warn that they will be set back by his proposals to slash funding for diplomacy and aid.This may not necessarily be an oversight on Mr. Trump's part, analysts suggest, but rather flow from a nationalistic worldview that is unfamiliar today but dominated the geopolitics of the 19th and early 20th centuries." --CW

In Case You Forgot, Sneaky Mike Pence Is Still the Alternative Prez. Nikita Vladimirov of the Hill: "Vice President Pence on Saturday called on the Associated Press to apologize for publishing his wife's private email address in a story earlier this week. 'When we requested they take it down, they refused. The @AP owes my wife an apology,' Pence tweeted.... The AP published Karen Pence's email address on Friday in a story saying that her husband 'repeatedly stonewalled media requests to view public records when he was Indiana's governor, including emails about state business distributed from a private AOL account that was hacked last year.'The article listed both Mike Pence and Karen Pence's email addresses, saying they were used to conduct official business dating back to 2013.... AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton told The Hill that the 'AP removed the email address from subsequent stories after learning Mrs. Pence still used the account.'" According to a letter from Mark Paoletta, pence's counsel, to the AP, "The publication of Mrs. Pence's active private email address to millions of your readers has subjected her to vitriolic and malicious emails and raised serious security concerns." -- CW

The Russian Connection, Ctd. Josh Marshall of TPM: "There is a startling new development in the ongoing Trump/Russia story. Last week I wrote about Michael Cohen [Trump's lawyer] and his extensive network of personal and business relationships in the Ukrainian-American emigre community. One of those was a man named Alex Oronov, who runs a major agribusiness concern in Ukraine. Oronov was a partner in the ethanol business Cohen and Cohen's brother Bryan set up in Ukraine about a decade ago... Today we learned that Oronov apparently organized that 'peace plan' meeting that brought together Ukrainian MP [Andrii] Artemenko, Cohen and Felix Sater. About four hours ago Artemenko, the Ukrainian parliamentarian who came to New York with that 'peace plan', went on Facebook to announce that Alex Oronov has died...Artemenko describes himself as a pawn caught up in a war between the Times and Donald Trump and said the stress created by the article and the subsequent press attention was too much for Oronov to bear. A notable detail is that Artemenko says that it was Oronov who arranged the meeting described in that initial story by the Times." --safari...

...Charlotte England of The Independent will need to update her list of dead Russians: "Unexpected deaths of six Russian diplomats in four months triggers conspiracy theories. Several deaths have been described as 'heart attacks' or the result of a 'brief illness' by officials, in some cases despite evidence to the contrary." -- LT

...The Russian Connection, Ctd. Rachell Maddow points out, thanks to investigate reporter David Cay Johnston, the suspicious movements of Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev and the Trump campaign. Unraveling the web. --safari

Idiocracy. Joe Romm of ThinkProgress: "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced this week he has joined a bipartisan House caucus on climate change. But the news, first reported by Reuters, glossed over one major point: Issa has been a long-time climate science denier. He is now part of the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group looking at 'policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.' But in August 2013, Issa won a 'Climate Change Denier' award by the League of Conservation Voters for 'his extreme anti-science views, which put him at odds with 97 percent of scientists and a majority of the American people.'" --safari

Beyond the Beltway

He came to this country for us. -- Brenda Avelica, one of four daughters of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez ...

... Trump's Amerika. Andrea Castillo of the Los Angeles Times: "Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez had just dropped off his 12-year-old daughter Tuesday morning at her Lincoln Heights [L.A. neighborhood] school when two black, unmarked vehicles surrounded his car.... Avelica-Gonzalez, with his wife and 13-year-old daughter in the car, pulled over. Agents for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, wearing jackets that said 'POLICE' on the back, detained the 48-year-old father of four. ICE officials said the arrest was routine, citing a 2014 order for Avelica-Gonzalez's deportation. But amid growing fears of mass deportations under President Trump, the arrest has roiled the largely immigrant community north of downtown Los Angeles.... Avelica-Gonzalez, a citizen of Mexico, has lived in the U.S. for 25 years. His four daughters -- the other two ages 24 and 19 -- were all born in the U.S. He has two prior [misdemeanor] criminal convictions, said Emi MacLean, an attorney for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network." -- CW ...

... Trump's Amerika, Ctd. Matt Day of the Seattle Times: "Kent[, Washington,] police are looking for a gunman who allegedly walked onto a man's driveway and shot him, saying 'Go back to your own country.' The victim, a 39-year-old Sikh man, was working on his vehicle in his driveway in Kent's East Hill neighborhood about 8 p.m. Friday when he was approached by an unknown man, Kent police said, after talking with the victim.... The victim described the shooter as a 6-foot-tall white man with a stocky build. He was wearing a mask covering the lower half of his face, the victim said." -- CW

Mainstream confederate bigotry. Allegra Kirkland of TPM: "A group of Muslim high school students attempting to meet with a Republican Oklahoma lawmaker were asked to complete a survey about their adherence to Sharia law that included questions like, 'Do you beat your wife?” State Rep. John Bennett(R) confirmed to the Tulsa World in a Friday email that he asked three students who stopped by his office during an annual 'Muslim Day' event at the Capitol to complete the questionnaire." --safari

In the name of God. Tom Sykes of The Daily Beast: "On Friday morning, the Irish government's minister for children made a shocking announcement. Katherine Zappone stood in front of a hastily convened news conference in Dublin and confirmed a horrific, longstanding rumor that the bodies of several hundred babies and children had been illegally disposed of by an order of nuns in a sewage system hidden underneath a so-called 'mother and baby' home operated by the Bon Secours congregation of nuns -- the name is French for 'good help' and their motto is 'Good Help to Those in Need.'... But the news came as no surprise to the local amateur historian [Catherine Corless] who uncovered the scandal in the first place." Ms. Corless recounts the gory details. Not for the faint-hearted. --safari...

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