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Retired General Explains Why the 'Extraordinary Number of Contacts' Between Trump's Campaign and Russia Needs an Explanation

May 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Gen. Michael Hayden gets to the heart of why special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is so important.


Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, who has served under Republican and Democratic administrations as CIA director and NSA director, explained Thursday why special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation remains a vital investigation for the United States.

Many — particularly those in right-wing media — have insisted that Mueller's investigation has gone on too long, that there's been of evidence of collusion, and that it would be better if the special counsel's team were simply disbanded. But Hayden insists that there is good reason that Mueller's investigation should be allowed to continue. 

“The Mueller investigation has gotten pretty broad now, but it's origins are in a counterintelligence investigation. It is: What were the Russians trying to do, and did anyone over here engage in helping them?” he said to PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff. “So we do have, I think, an extraordinary number of contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian security services.”

He continued: “And we know for a fact what the Russians were trying to do. Now the question becomes for director Mueller: In those connections, is that born out of naivete, out of ignorance, or out of something darker?”

Watch a clip of the interview below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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House Chaplain to Remain at Work After Issuing a Scathing Letter to Paul Ryan

May 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Patrick Conroy said that when he was asked for his resignation, he was told, “Maybe it's time we had a chaplain that wasn't a Catholic.”


House Speaker Paul Ryan has accepted the un-resignation of House Chaplain Patrick Conroy, who issued the speaker a scathing letter withdrawing his previously tendered resignation.

Conroy says that he never spoke to Ryan about his resignation or termination but that his chief of staff Jonathan Burks requested that the chaplain step down. Asked why, Burks reportedly responded, “Maybe it's time we had a chaplain that wasn't a Catholic.” Burks also reportedly mentioned a prayer Conroy led in November 2017 ahead of the tax reform vote. 

The chaplain had prayed for “balanced” tax reform that helps ameliorate income inequality. The tax bill that Republicans eventually passed added more than an estimated $1 trillion to the deficit while delivering the largest gains to wealthy people and corporations. 

Conroy writes that he initially felt that he had “little choice” but to resign, but he now says that he would like to return to work unless fired “for cause.” He notes that though Ryan said Conroy's “pastoral services” had been insufficient as the reason for his departure, the chaplain says he was never given any indication that he wasn't living up to his duties. If he had been instructed on how he was failing or where he could improve, he says, he would have worked to correct his conduct.

In a statement, Ryan said he has accepted the letter and that Conroy will remain as Chaplain. He said, “My original decision was made in what I believe to be the best interest of the institution. To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services it deserves.”

Read the full letter here:

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Outlandish GOP Senate Candidate Launches Racist Attack on Mitch McConnell's 'China Family'

May 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Much of the GOP leadership has expressed worries about Don Blankenship's West Virginian candidacy.


A racist Republican Senate candidate released a repugnant attack on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday, calling the GOP leader “cocaine Mitch” and lambasting his “China family.”

The 30-second video ad continues Don Blankenship's racist attacks on McConnell, who is married to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan. Blankenship, running in the West Virgina Republican primary on May 8, attacked Chao's father as a “Chinaperson,” despite that fact that, as McConnell points out, her father is an American. 

Blankenship continues to use the derogatory word to refer to people from China in his new ad. He says: “Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for Chinapeople. While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.”

The absurd and ridiculous attacks are a sign of the continuing struggle for power within the Republican party, in which fringe candidates have gained far more support and momentum than the leadership would have hoped or predicted. Some fear that Blankenship may become the Roy Moore of West Virginia and tank the party's chances of winning the Senate seat in the 2018 midterms.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Legal Marijuana Runs Right Over Maine's Obstructionist Tea Party Governor

May 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Phillip Smith, Independent Media Institute

The legislature voted to override the veto.


Paul LePage, Maine's irascible Tea Party Republican governor, is no friend of marijuana. He opposed the state's successful 2016 marijuana legalization initiative, and, once it won, vetoed the legislature's bill to implement the will of the voters. That was last year.

That left the state with pot possession and personal cultivation legal, but no way to buy or sell legal marijuana. This year, the legislature once again passed a bill to implement the initiative's taxed and regulated sales provisions, LD 1719. It even incorporated some of LePage's previous criticisms, resulting in a bill more restrictive than what voters approved.

Again, LePage vetoed the bill. But this time, the legislature had had enough. On Wednesday, the House voted 109-39 and the Senate voted 28-6 to override LePage's veto, poking a thumb in the governor's eye and setting the state on a path to the legal sale and production of recreational marijuana some 18 months after voters approved it.

The bill creates the rules for licensing and regulating marijuana producers, processors, and retail establishments and sets the tax rates for adult-use marijuana. But as a sop to LePage and other foes, it does not allow for social use, meaning buyers will be limited to using it at home (if the landlord agrees), and lawmakers also halved the number of plants people can grow, from six to three.

While the bill doesn't cap the number of cultivation licenses or the amount of weed that can be grown in the state, creating fears that a glut of pot will drive out all but the most deep-pocketed growers, it does contain a provision granting business licenses only to Maine residents for the first three years.

Pot shops aren't going to pop up overnight, either. Now that the bill has become law, state regulators will have to develop rules and regulations for the industry, which in turn will have to be approved by the legislature. It may be the spring of 2019 before Mainers can finally walk into a shop and buy their legal weed.

Still, the veto override is a major …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'Lordy, There Are Tapes!': MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace Explains Why the Cohen Wiretap Report Looks So Bad for Trump

May 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Things are going from bad to worse for the White House this week.


President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen was reportedly wiretapped by federal investigators, and that may be terrible news for the White House.

“Lordy, there are tapes,” said MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace of the news, echoing fired FBI Director James Comey's phrasing after Trump implied he had recordings of their conversations. “It's not clear when the surveillance began, but we've learned it was in place in the weeks prior to the raids on Cohen's offices, hotel room, and home in early April.”

She continued: “We've also learned that at least one phone call between Cohen's phone line and the White House was intercepted. We don't know for sure if that call came from the president, but we do know that Trump placed a call to Cohen days after the raid.”

If Cohen was acting as Trump's lawyer in any conversations intercepted by a federal wiretap, such discussions would be off-limits for prosecutors to examine. But if the president and Cohen discussed criminal activity or other topics outside of the scope of the lawyer-client relationship, it could potentially be used against either in an investigation or indictment. 

Watch the clip below:

 UPDATE: NBC News has issued a correction after this report was published saying that federal investigators have “monitored” Cohen's calls, but they have not been listening to or recording the content of those calls. 

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Source: ALTERNET

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The Mystery of Nikola’s Tesla’s Missing Files

May 3, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

John Trump, head of research at MIT, in high voltage research lab of MIT, 1949. (Credit: Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

After Nikola Tesla was found dead in January 1943 in his hotel room in New York City, representatives of the U.S. government’s Office of Alien Property seized many documents relating to the brilliant and prolific 86-year-old inventor’s work.

It was the height of World War II, and Tesla had claimed to have invented a powerful particle-beam weapon, known as the “Death Ray,” that could have proved invaluable in the ongoing conflict. So rather than risk Tesla’s technology falling into the hands of America’s enemies, the government swooped in and took possession of all the property and documents from his room at the New Yorker Hotel.

What happened to Tesla’s files from there, as well as what exactly was in those files, remains shrouded in mystery—and ripe for conspiracy theories. After years of fielding questions about possible cover-ups, the FBI finally declassified some 250 pages of Tesla-related documents under the Freedom of Information Act in 2016. The bureau followed up with two additional releases, the latest in March 2018. But even with the publication of these documents, many questions still remain unanswered—and some of Tesla’s files are still missing.

Three weeks after the Serbian-American inventor’s death, an electrical engineer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was tasked with evaluating his papers to determine whether they contained “any ideas of significant value.” According to the declassified files, Dr. John G. Trump reported that his analysis showed Tesla’s efforts to be “primarily of a speculative, philosophical and promotional character” and said the papers did “not include new sound, workable principles or methods for realizing such results.”

John Trump, head of research at MIT, in high voltage research lab of MIT, 1949. (Credit: Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

The scientist’s name undoubtedly rings a bell, as John G. Trump was the uncle of the 45th U.S. president, Donald J. Trump. The younger brother of Trump’s father, Fred, he helped design X-ray machines that greatly helped cancer patients and worked on radar research for the Allies during World War II. Donald Trump himself cited his uncle’s credentials often during his presidential campaign. “My uncle used to tell me about nuclear before nuclear was nuclear,” he once told an interviewer.

At the time, the FBI pointed …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Why the Royal Family Used to Forbid Marriage After Divorce

May 3, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Catherine of Aragon pleading her case against divorce from King Henry VIII. (Credit: The Print Collector/Getty Images)

When Prince Harry weds Meghan Markle, he won’t just be breaking the mold by marrying an American actress. Markle is also divorced—her two-year-long marriage to producer Trevor Engelson ended in 2013.

That’s a big deal: Marrying a divorced person was taboo among the British monarchy for hundreds of years. By signing off on the match, Queen Elizabeth, who must be consulted before people within the line of succession marry, has reinforced the family’s recent about-face on divorce. But why was it such a divisive issue in the past?

“Historically the Church of England’s position was that divorce was okay, but remarriage was not,” says Arianne Chernock, an associate professor of history at Boston University whose research focuses on gender and the British monarchy.

Ironically, the roots of that position—and the Church of England itself—lie in the inability of Henry VIII to annul his marriage with the blessing of the Catholic Church. In the 1530s, Henry decided he wanted an annulment after Catherine of Aragon failed to give birth to a male heir. When the pope repeatedly refused to grant his request, Henry first limited the Church’s influence in England, then formally severed ties to Catholicism in 1534.

This break from the Roman Catholic Church meant that the British monarch, not the pope, was the official head of the church in Britain. Henry and the monarchs that followed took on the role of “defender of the faith.” Since then, monarchs have pledged to uphold the religious tenets of the Church of England at their coronations. Within the royal family, it became nearly impossible to divorce or marry someone whose previous marriage had ended.

Catherine of Aragon pleading her case against divorce from King Henry VIII. (Credit: The Print Collector/Getty Images)

Like most other Christian religions of the time, the Church of England mirrored societal stigmas against divorce. England’s monarchs reflected the laws of their church, even as divorce laws became more liberal. At first, though it was possible to legally divorce, Parliament had to grant the dissolution of the marriage. As a result, writes legal analyst Henry Kha, only 131 divorces were legally granted in England during the entire 18th century.

Over the years, divorce …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The Last Slave Ship Survivor Gave an Interview in the 1930s. It Just Surfaced

May 3, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Author Zora Neale Hurston (1903-1960). (Credit: Corbis/Getty Images)

Roughly 60 years after the abolition of slavery, anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston made an incredible connection: She located the last surviving captive of the last slave ship to bring Africans to the United States.

Hurston, a known figure of the Harlem Renaissance who would later write the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, conducted interviews with the survivor but struggled to publish them as a book in the early 1930s. In fact, they are only now being released to the public in a book called Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” that comes out on May 8, 2018.

Author Zora Neale Hurston (1903-1960). (Credit: Corbis/Getty Images)

Hurston’s book tells the story of Cudjo Lewis, who was born in what is now the West African country of Benin. Originally named Kossula, he was only 19 years old when members of the neighboring Dahomian tribe captured him and took him to the coast. There, he and about 120 others were sold into slavery and crammed onto the Clotilda, the last slave ship to reach the continental United States.

The Clotilda brought its captives to Alabama in 1860, just a year before the outbreak of the Civil War. Even though slavery was legal at that time in the U.S., the international slave trade was not, and hadn’t been for over 50 years. Along with many European nations, the U.S. had outlawed the practice in the early 18th century, but Lewis’ journey is an example of how slave traders went around the law to continue bringing over human cargo.

To avoid detection, Lewis’ captors snuck him and the other survivors into Alabama at night and made them hide in a swamp for several days. To hide the evidence of their crime, the 86-foot sailboat was then set ablaze on the banks of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta (its remains may have been uncovered in January 2018).

Most poignantly, Lewis’ narrative provides a first-hand account of the disorienting trauma of slavery. After being abducted from his home, Lewis was forced onto a ship with …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Don't Trust Benjamin Netanyahu on Claims About Iran's Nuclear Program

May 3, 2018 in Economics

By John Glaser

John Glaser

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cynical
presentation revealed nothing new about Iran’s nuclear
activities and, contrary to his intention, further demonstrated the
necessity of the nuclear deal.

If Trump does scuttle the
Iran deal, it will be a rogue action with grave implications for
global peace and stability.

Virtually all of the material he reviewed has been known for
years. In 2007, the U.S. intelligence community concluded
with high confidence” that Iran halted
all active weaponization activities by 2003.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reviewed the past
military dimensions of Iran’s program and issued a statement this week reiterating that
there are “no credible indications of activities in Iran
relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after
2009.”

By reviewing this old news about Iran’s pre-Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action activities, Netanyahu was
fear-mongering in an attempt to undermine the deal.

Meanwhile, President Trump is expected to abrogate the Iran
nuclear deal later this month, despite the fact that the IAEA has
repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance. Trump’s own
military and intelligence officials concur that Iran is complying,
and that America should stay in this deal.

Trump’s hostility toward the deal isn’t based on its
specifics, nor is it based on a rational assessment of the Iranian
threat. Instead, Trump hates the nuclear deal because his
predecessor brought it to fruition and he has long been determined
to undo Barack Obama’s legacy.

If Trump does scuttle the Iran deal, it will be a rogue action
with grave implications for global peace and stability. Iran will
likely consider itself unburdened by the various restrictions on
its enrichment capabilities, which will then lend credence to
arguments, such as those of Trump’s top advisers John Bolton
and Mike Pompeo, that war is the only option.

The same voices that pushed for the disastrous war in Iraq are
now pushing for scrapping this successful non-proliferation
agreement with Iran. War with Iran would be an order of magnitude
worse than what we saw in Iraq. Unfortunately, it seems America has
not learned the lessons of history.

John Glaser is
the director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Most Damaging Myths About Slavery, Debunked

May 3, 2018 in History

By Yohuru Williams

Gordon, a freed slave in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, displays his whip-scarred back on April 2, 1863. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Were U.S. slaves in any way responsible for their own misery? Were there any silver linings to forced bondage? These questions surface from time to time in the American cultural conversation, rekindling a longstanding debate over whether the nation’s “peculiar institution” may have been something less than a horrific crime against humanity.

When rapper and clothing designer Kanye West commented on TMZ.com that slavery was a “choice,” and later attempted to clarify by tweeting that African Americans remained subservient for centuries because they were “mentally enslaved,” he set off a social-media firestorm of anger and incredulity. And after a charter-school teacher in San Antonio, Texas asked her 8th-grade American history students to provide a “balanced view” of slavery by listing both its pros and cons, a wide public outcry ensued. The homework assignment was drawn from a nationally distributed textbook.

Such controversies underscore a profound lack of understanding of slavery, the institution that, more than any other in the formation of the American republic, undergirded its very economic, social and political fabric. They overlook that slavery, which affected millions of blacks in America, was enforced by a system of sustained brutality, including acts—and constant threats—of torture, rape and murder. They ignore countless historic examples of resistance, rebellion and escape. And they disregard the long-tail legacy of slavery, where oppressive laws, overincarceration and violent acts of terrorism were all designed to keep people of color “in their place.”

The history is clear on this point: In no way did the enslaved, brought to this country in chains, choose this lot. But several damaging myths persist:

VIDEO: Slavery in America In 1619, the Dutch introduced the first captured Africans to America, planting the seeds of a slavery system that evolved into a nightmare of abuse and cruelty that would ultimately divide the nation.

Couldn’t They Have Just Resisted?

The fact is, they did. Starting with the slave-ship journeys across the Atlantic, and once in the New World, enslaved Africans found countless ways to resist. Slavery scholars have documented many of the mutinies and rebellions—if not the countless escapes and suicides, starting with African captives who jumped into the sea rather than face loss of liberty—that made the buying and selling of humans such a risky, if lucrative, enterprise. Beyond famed slave revolts such as that of Nat Turner were less well-known ones such as that of Denmark Vesey. The …read more

Source: HISTORY