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McConnell Says He Won't Consider Calling Racist Ads Against His Own Family 'Racist' Until Election Is Over

May 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Hunter, Daily Kos

The senator isn't even hiding his priorities.


If you're looking to pin the utter ethical collapse of the Republican Party on a single person, you could make a solid case that Sen. Mitch McConnell is patient zero.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to fire back at ex-coal CEO Don Blankenship on Tuesday, refusing to say if the GOP Senate candidate's ads targeting his family are racist.

“Well, we're going to find out what happens in West Virginia tonight, and I may have more to say about that tomorrow,” McConnell told reporters when asked if Blankenship's ads are “racist.”

Translation: It depends on whether he wins. If the employee-killing, just-out-of-prison Don Blankenship loses the Republican primary in West Virginia, Mitch McConnell will pipe up with a condemnation of his overtly racist ads against McConnell's own family. If Don wins, Mitch will keep his mouth shut and help Don get elected to be a fellow senator, because Mitch McConnell is exactly that sort of person. Mitch is not a subtle man; Mitch would harvest his family's organs and sell them on the black market if he thought it would help push through another Supreme Court pick or two.

And this is indeed what is wrong with the entire rotten party: anything and everything is tolerated, from reporter punching to child molestation to selling political influence at your Florida club to being openly racist in political ads, so long as the one doing the punching or molestation or cash-pocketing or hollering about that “Chinaperson” over there can be counted on to vote the right way on the Republican Party agenda.

It's not only Mitch, of course. We wish it was only Mitch. But the man relishes his role like few others.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Bush Official Who Endorsed Haspel Once Said He's Not Sure If President Could Order Children's Testicles Be Crushed

May 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Joan McCarter, Daily Kos

He defended her role in the torture program too.


You remember John Yoo, the Justice Department attorney in the second Bush administration who wrote the legal memorandums justifying the use of torture. In a totally not surprising development, Yoo is on board with Gina Haspel becoming director the CIA. That would be the Gina Haspel who ran one of the Bush/Cheney black prisons where torture was conducted and who also oversaw the destruction of the evidence of that torture.

The crux of Yoo’s defense of Haspel is that the CIA “followed all the rules” because it sought the Justice Department’s advice on whether it could torture.

“The statute says you can’t inflict ‘severe pain and suffering,'” Yoo said of the legal advice he offered to the Bush administration while he was a Justice Department attorney, “and we tried our best to figure out what that was.” […]

As Yoo alludes to, the United Nations Convention Against Torture—which the United States Senate ratified in 1994—defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” for reasons including “obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.”

This is what Yoo believes the law allows, something he thinks the CIA could do, from a debate in 2005 with Notre Dame professor and international human rights expert Doug Cassel:

Cassel: If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty…

Cassel: Also no law by Congress—that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo…

Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.

And Trump and Haspel are the two to make it happen.

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Watergate Prosecutor Says New Documents on Trump Lawyer Could Prove 'Conspiracy' With the Russians

May 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

New allegations against Cohen and came from Stormy Daniels' lawyer Tuesday evening.


Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman said Tuesday night the latest allegations against President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen could be the key to proving a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

The allegations came from Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stephanie Clifford (better known as Stormy Daniels) in her lawsuit against the president and his attorney. Avenatti released documents Tuesday evening alleging that Cohen received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a company controlled by a powerful Russian oligarch in the months after the 2016 election, potentially as repayment for the $130,000 hush money payment Cohen made to Clifford.

The report was quickly confirmed by the Daily Beast, and CNN reported that special counsel Robert Mueller had questioned the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg about payments to Cohen. 

“The crimes involved here are numerous,” Akerman said, referring to Avenatti's allegations, on MSNBC with host Ari Melber. “This could prove the conspiracy between the campaign and the Russians.”

“You see this as potential collusion evidence?” Melber said.

“Oh, I think it's conspiracy evidence for both the conspiracy to steal the emails and distribute them to help Trump get elected president, as well as the conspiracy relating to Facebook and the use of social media to suppress the Clinton vote,” Akerman said.

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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The Tense History of U.S.-Iran Sanctions, from the Hostage Crisis to the Nuclear Deal

May 8, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Iran's Revolutionary Guards preparing to burn an American flag on the al-Fao Peninsula after it was recaptured by Iranian forces from the Iraqi army during the Iran-Iraq War, 1986. The combatants hold up photographs of Ayatollah Khomeini, along with green flags reading 'Allah Akbar'  which translates to 'God is Great'. (Credit: Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

In what is being called the most momentous foreign policy move of Donald Trump’s presidency, the president announced on May 8, 2018 that he’s withdrawing the United States from its historic 2015 nuclear accord with Iran. The end of the nuclear deal means a new beginning for economic sanctions against the country—sanctions that, over the decades, have cratered Iran’s economy and destabilized relations throughout the Middle East.

Technically, the United States and Iran have never been at war. But by imposing unilateral sanctions, the U.S. has long wielded money as a weapon in a shadow war that’s been raging since 1979. Here’s how sanctions went from punitive measure to status quo:

The Iran hostage crisis led Jimmy Carter to mount the first U.S. sanctions against Iran

The history of American sanctions against Iran began with a bang when a group of Iranian students stormed the American embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, taking more than 60 United States citizens hostage and sparking an international crisis. The 444-day-long hostage crisis tanked Jimmy Carter’s presidency, ushered in a new political era for Iran, and helped skyrocket Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a revolutionary cleric who objected to United States interference, to international significance.

It also created a state of permanent deadlock between the U.S. and Iran—a tense standoff characterized by a pattern of sanctions over direct negotiations.

VIDEO: Iran Hostage Crisis Explore the chain of events that set off the Iran hostage crisis – an diplomatic standoff that would keep Americans on edge and shape the course of Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

President Carter swiftly imposed sanctions on Iran after the hostage crisis began, cutting off sales of Iranian oil and freezing Iranian assets. These measures did nothing to help along diplomatic negotiations for the release of the prisoners, so on April 7, 1980, 212 days after the crisis began, he announced even more drastic measures. The U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Iran, imposed economic sanctions including cutting off food aid, closed Iranian institutions within the U.S., and embargoed all imports from Iran.

“I am committed to the safe return of the hostages,” Carter told the nation. “The steps that I have ordered today are those that are necessary now. Other action may become necessary if these steps …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Michael Avenatti Says Trump's Lawyer Michael Cohen May Have Been Repaid By a Russian Oligarch After the Election

May 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The lawyer for Stormy Daniels first made the allegations on Twitter.


Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stephanie Clifford in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, said Tuesday evening that the president's lawyer Michael Cohen may have been reimbursed by a Russian oligarch for hush money payments. Avenatti was not explicit, however, about how he obtained this information.

After Avenatti first made the claims on Twitter, the Daily Beast reported that it had confirmed his findings.

Clifford, a porn star who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, is suing the president and Cohen over a non-disclosure agreement she was paid to sign days before the 2016 election. Cohen has said that he took a home equity loan to make the $130,000 payment. He initially said he was not reimbursed for the expense, but Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani later said that the president had refunded Cohen.

Now, Avenatti claims that he has discovered that Russian Oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who is close to President Vladimir Putin and has reportedly been interviewed as a part of the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, “caused substantial funds to be deposited into the bank account from which Mr. Cohen made the payment.”

Avenatti says that the payment directed by Vekselberg came 75 days after the payment to his client, adding, “It appears that these funds may have replenished the account following the payment to Ms. Clifford.”

Natasha Bertrand, a reporter for the Atlantic, reached out to Cohen's attorney about the “payment,” who reportedly said, “I understand the shorthand you’re using, but it wasn’t a payment,” before hanging up.

The New York Times reported on May 4 that Mueller's team interviewed Vekselberg two months ago. It was not clear, however, whether Vekselberg was a target of an investigation or a suspect in a crime.

Cohen also reportedly reached out to people in Moscow during the presidential campaign in an attempt to reach a deal for the president to build a Trump Tower in Russia. 

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FCPA: An Act of Punitive Moralism

May 8, 2018 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

Scenario: All of this was bad enough before the FCPA enforcement
drive of the past decade. But then it dawned on the feds that
ever-tougher enforcement (1) was a lucrative business and (2) could
be turned disproportionately against foreign actors with few
friends in U.S. politics.

Then followed efforts to stretch the law. To find a nexus for
U.S. jurisdiction, enforcers could look not only at, say, a foreign
company’s listing of ADRs on a U.S. exchange, but even to the
routing of conspiratorial messages between persons abroad through
e-mail servers in the United States, as happens all the time on the
Internet. Conduct that had taken place 15 or 18 years earlier was
sifted through. The U.S. Department of Justice took an aggressive
stance in interpreting unclear language in the law—and there
is a lot of it.

FCPA oversteps the proper
bounds of federal lawmaking in at least four ways: it is
extraterritorial, vicarious, punitive, and vague.

The courts pushed back, with federal judges throwing out a
series of high-profile cases. Targets pushed back too: A probe of
drugmaker Eli Lilly and Company was dropped with no charges after
pending for a mere 11 years. A much-ballyhooed probe of WalMart
Mexico mostly fizzled, but not until it had destroyed $12 billion
in stock market value in one day.

Now the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups want
Congress to clarify the law’s provisions and also formalize a
compliance defense that at the moment consists of non-binding
Justice Department guidance. Fine. But why not go further to
consider deeper reform or even repeal?

Chicago-Kent law professor Andy Spalding argues that in
practice, for all its fine intentions, the law hobbles developments
like road projects that would lift rural populations out of
poverty. By its nature, the law confers competitive advantage on
companies that stay beyond the reach of the U.S. Department of
Justice. While it is true that other advanced democracies have
enacted anti-corruption laws, principles of mutualism and comity
might go further to smooth feelings and coordinate the actions of
national competitors than the current unilateral,
America-makes-the-rules, one-size-fits-all approach. Making us feel
better isn’t a good enough reason for a law.

cenario: an American city hires an Asian-based bank to float a
bond deal. Scandal! Turns out the bank wined and dined the mayor
and council and treated them to sports events. After an
investigation, the Asian bank agrees to put things right by paying
millions of dollars to the government of France.

That’s crazy, right? What does any of this have to do with
the government of France? But it’s certainly no crazier than
the workings …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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'Giving the Middle Finger to Our Closest Allies': MSNBC Guest Has a Chilling Prediction for Trump's Withdrawal from Iran Deal

May 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Trump announced the unilateral withdrawal from the deal against the wishes of U.S. allies.


MSNBC political analyst Elise Jordan offered a dour prediction for the future of President Donald Trump's decision on Tuesday to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

Fulfilling a deeply contentious campaign promise, Trump made the announcement from the White House that the United States will no longer be a party to the multilateral agreement that was designed to keep the Iran regime from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Aside from Israel, the United States' allies almost universally opposed the withdrawal, and many feared that China or Russia will step in to lead the way forward with Iran.

“I think that we're going to look back on today as the most isolationist move made by a U.S. president in the … post World War II era,” Jordan said. “I think this is a very huge move in terms of the United States literally going at it alone.”

She continued: “We are truly just giving the middle finger to our closest allies.”

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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Meghan Markle Might Not Be the First Mixed-Race British Royal

May 8, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Queen Charlotte with two of her sons. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

When Prince Harry announced his engagement to actress Meghan Markle, the world rejoiced—and immediately began to analyze what it will mean for a biracial woman to take a prominent place as a British royal. Markle, whose mother is African-American and whose father is white, was celebrated by some as Britain’s first “black princess,” a milestone for a royal family that had presided over centuries of slavery and colonialism.

But the residents of Buckingham Palace may not be as white as is commonly assumed. According to some historians, mixed-race marriages among European royalty often went unacknowledged due to racism within both the royal family and European society at large. Indeed, Markle may not actually be the first black member of the British monarchy.

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who married Britain’s George III in 1761, was also black, claims historian Mario Valdes. He says Charlotte was related to Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a black member of the Portuguese royal family.

However, much of the supposed evidence of Charlotte’s race is based on accounts of her face: she was widely considered to have the features of a person of African descent. During her reign as Queen Consort, Charlotte was mocked for her looks and described as having “a true Mulatto face.” Sir Walter Scott wrote that Charlotte’s family was filled with “ill-colored, orang-outang looking figures,” and during her coronation ceremony her relationship to “the warlike Vandal race”—an ancient Germanic tribe that lived in North Africa—was said to be preserved in her appearance.

Queen Charlotte with two of her sons. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

It’s possible that those who found Charlotte ugly simply used racial stereotypes to insult her. But Valdes maintains she was actually black and had dark skin and features consistent with someone of African descent. However, this doesn’t show up in contemporary portraits or even caricatures of the queen. To Valdes, that’s proof of the literal whitewashing of history.

But other historians “argue the generational distance between Charlotte and her presumed African forebear is so great as to make the suggestion ridiculous,” writes The Guardian’s Stuart Jeffries. “Furthermore, they say even the evidence that [her Portuguese relative] was black is thin.”

Black royalty has always …read more

Source: HISTORY

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It’s Official: King Tut’s Tomb Doesn’t Contain Any Secret Chambers

May 8, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

The sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun in its burial chamber, 2007. (Credit: Cris Bouroncle/AFP/GettyImages)

When archaeologists uncovered King Tut’s nearly intact tomb in 1922, the boy king became one of Ancient Egypt’s most famous modern symbols. Photographed, visited, and meticulously studied, the tomb seems to have given up all of its secrets. Unless, archaeologists wondered, it hid another tomb—the long-lost resting place of Nefertiti.

Now, those hopes have been laid to rest. As the Associated Press reports, new studies show that there are no hidden rooms beyond the tomb.

It’s an anticlimactic end to a dramatic archaeological mystery. In 2016, archaeologists announced that organic material or metal could be hidden behind the walls of the tomb—a clue that more might lie beyond its walls.

The sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun in its burial chamber, 2007. (Credit: Cris Bouroncle/AFP/GettyImages)

Experts have long speculated that they might find the lost tomb of Nefertiti within. That might have been “the discovery of the century,” an Egyptian official said at a news conference in 2016. As the New York Times noted, the news was seen not only as an archaeological breakthrough, but a way to potentially bolster Egypt’s floundering tourism industry.

At the time, archaeologists said there was a 90 percent chance of a new chamber. But that chance seems to have dwindled to zero.

When a team of Italian archaeologists used ground-penetrating radar to study the site, reports the AP, they didn’t find any corridors or rooms next to King Tut’s tomb. “Unfortunately, our work is not supporting this theory,” Francisco Porcelli, the archaeologist who presented the team’s findings, said in a press conference.

VIDEO: Nefertiti Nefertiti means “the beautiful woman has come,” and according to 14th century BC rumors, she lived up to her name. Learn more about her legacy in this video.

Nefertiti was the principal wife of Akhenaten, Tutankhamen’s father. It’s thought that she ruled alongside her pharaoh husband at one point, and that she may have become pharaoh herself after his death. However, her existence in the historical record is scant and her tomb has never been found. In 1912, archaeologists discovered a regal bust representing the queen. It’s become one of the most recognizable …read more

Source: HISTORY

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‘America First’ Coming Soon?

May 8, 2018 in Economics

By A. Trevor Thrall, Erik Goepner

A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner

Although President Trump may lack a coherent strategic vision
for international affairs, his general disinterest in the rest of
the world and his strong feelings about “getting a good
deal” have led him to propose, on repeated occasions, the
withdrawal of American troops from abroad.

The puzzling question is that if Trump’s feelings on this
issue are so strong, why has he repeatedly deferred to his advisers
over Afghanistan, South Korea, and Syria? In each case Trump wanted
to bring U.S. troops home and in each case his advisers talked him
out of it.

Perhaps Trump’s advisers have convinced him to stay the
course, in particular by emphasizing the potential risks of
terrorism and destabilization that could arise should the United
States decrease its military footprint abroad.

The pattern of Trump’s opposition to intervention and
nation building while in office, however, contradicts the argument
that he has been convinced of the wisdom of these deployments.

In August of 2017, for example, even as he announced a new
Afghanistan policy that would keep American troops there without a
timeline, Trump telegraphed his discomfort: “I also share
their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much
time, energy, money — and, most importantly, lives —
trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing
our security interests above all other considerations.”

Then, in February of this year, Trump clashed with his chief of
staff John Kelly over the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from South
Korea ahead of the Winter Olympics. Kelly convinced Trump not to do so.

Nor was Trump unclear about his desire to withdraw American
troops from Syria when he announced at a news conference in late March
that “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon.
Let the other people take care of it now.” But again, his
advisers talked him out of an immediate withdrawal.

The argument that concerns about terror in the homeland
motivated Trump to maintain the status quo, rather than some grand
strategic ideas, is more persuasive. At one point during the
discussions about Afghanistan Trump complained, “You guys want me to send
troops everywhere. … What’s the justification?”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis answered, “Sir, we’re
doing it to prevent a bomb from going off in Times Square.”
With respect to Syria, Trump’s advisers argued that American
troops were necessary to take care of the last purported remnants
of the Islamic State. And after Trump conceded that he would not
put an “arbitrary timeline” on pulling troops out of
Syria, Mattis told a Senate committee that …read more

Source: OP-EDS