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New Emails Show Russian Lawyer Who Secretly Met with Trump Jr. Has Even Deeper Ties to the Kremlin than She Let On: Report

July 26, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The infamous Trump Tower meeting has become a key event in the discussion of Russian collusion with the president's campaign.


Donald Trump Jr. met with a lawyer who was much more closely connected to the Russian government than she had previously revealed, according to a new report from the Associated Press citing newly uncovered emails.

Natalia Veselnitskaya was described as a government attorney in emails to Trump Jr. ahead of a crucial Trump Tower meeting he held in June 2016 with Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. Trump Jr. arranged the meeting after being told she could provide dirt on Hillary Clinton, who was then his father's opponent int he 2016 election.

investigators have reportedly been examining the meeting as a part of the probe into potential collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election. Veselnitskaya has downplayed her links to the Russian government since the meeting was revealed.

But the AP now reports: “The documents paint a portrait of Natalia Veselnitskaya as a well-connected attorney who served as a ghostwriter for top Russian government lawyers and received assistance from senior Interior Ministry personnel.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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'US Person 2' in Russian Spy Case Is Revealed to Be Conservative Columnist George O’Neill

July 26, 2018 in Blogs

By Mark Sumner, Daily Kos

He's been a known advocate of closer ties between Republicans and Russia.


The Wall Street Journal has identified the contact known only as “US Person 2” in the charges against accused Russian spy Maria Butina as conservative columnist, and heir to the Rockefeller fortune, George O’Neill. The contact listed as “US Person 1” had already been identified as South Dakota conservative Paul Erickson. Between the two men, Butina had access to a broad range of Republican organizations, contributors, and power brokers across the country. And it appears that O’Neill worked with Butina in attempting to set up a back channel between Russia and the Republican Party.

O’Neill has been an advocate of closer ties between Republicans and Russia, arguing that Russia could be a “good partner” for the United States and painting himself as a member of the “non-interventionist right.” In a 2017 article, O’Neill complained about the “Russophobia” and “Neo-McCarthyism” behind media articles on ties between the right and the Kremlin. At the same time, O’Neill was exchanging notes with Butina with the apparent goal of making more ties between the right and Russia.

These ties included such meetings around the National Prayer Breakfast, where according to Bloomberg, O’Neill hosted a Russian delegation. That dinner also appears in the charges against Butina, as an event where she acted as a Russian agent to advance Kremlin objectives.

With Erickson helping secure Butina’s connections with the NRA, and O’Neill working with her to bring Russians in contact with Republican leadership and strategists, the accused spy had direct access to a broad swath of the GOP. O’Neill described the dinner as one between the Russian delegation and “American intellectuals” and denied that his conservative guests were either “useful idiots” or “Putin stooges.”

He also maintained that “any clear thinking person” would see the benefits of a close relationship with Russia, though the did admit that Putin’s actions, “can sometimes be problematic.” Though if that problematic action includes removing any rights for gays, shooting journalists, or simply killing off his opposition was not clear. In any case, there was someone who did appreciate everything O’Neill …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here Are 5 Vitally Important Issues That Are on the Line in the November Midterms

July 26, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

If Democrats win a chamber of Congress, it will a political game-changer.


It remains to be seen whether or not Democrats will be able to recapture the U.S. House of Representatives and/or the U.S. Senate in the November midterms, but if they do, it will a political game-changer. Donald Trump, whatever happens in November, will still be president until January 2021—or perhaps even January 2025 if, God forbid, he wins a second term. But with Democrats dominant in either or both houses of Congress, they would be able to limit or curtail some of the abuses of the Trump administration.

Some prominent right-wingers are predicting that Democrats will perform well in November. Bill Kristol, founder of the Weekly Standard and one of the president’s vocal critics on the right, has asserted that “the chances of Democrats winning both houses are pretty good now.” And even if Democrats only pick up one of the two, it “changes the dynamics for the next two years,” Kristol noted. 

Of course, Kristol has very different reasons for opposing Trump than liberals and progressives. Kristol views Trump as someone who is damaging the Republican brand and the conservative movement, and he would no doubt be delighted if former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio were president instead—whereas liberals and progressives are concerned about issues like reproductive freedom, universal health care, the national minimum wage and climate change. And they will have a lot on their minds as November approaches.

Here are five vitally important things that are on the line in the November midterms. 

1. Health Care Reform 

The outcome in November could very well determine whether or not the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, survives in 2019. If Republicans maintain the House and pick up some seats in the Senate, they would likely vote to overturn the ACA. But if Democrats recapture either the House or the Senate, the ACA is safe for now—assuming the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t declare that the ACA is unconstitutional and rule that insurance companies should be able to conduct …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'Ultimate Nightmare Scenario for Trump': CNN's Jake Tapper Explains Why Investigators' Latest Move Terrifies the President

July 26, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Allen Weisselberg is the top finance officer at the Trump organization.


A new development first reported on Thursday in the ongoing investigations into President Donald Trump and his closest allies could be a devastating blow for the president's defense against legal peril.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, Allen Weisselberg, one of the most senior members of the Trump Organization that isn't a member of the Trump family, was called to testify as a part of the Southern District of New York's investigation into Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen.

CNN's Jake Tapper explained Thursday why this is such a major development in the investigation.

“The longtime chief financial officer of the Trump [Organization], Allen Weisselberg — linked to payments to women who claimed to have had sex with President Trump — Weisselberg has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury,” Tapper said. “The 'ultimate nightmare scenario for Trump,' according to a Trump organization employee who says that Weisselberg knows 'anything and everything about Mr. Trump's finances.”

Weisselberg was also mentioned this week in a recording released of a conversation between Trump and Cohen from before the election discussing a hush money payment to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump. Cohen says on the recording that he talked to “Allen” about setting up a shell company to handle the relevant payments.

Weisselberg's being subpoenaed “seems a clear sign officials are moving closer to the president's closest inner circle from his old company,” Tappe said.

As CFO of the Trump Organization, Weisselberg has broad and deep knowledge of the president's financial dealings. 

Watch the CNN clip below:

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Bernie Sanders' Progressive Movement Is Influencing Democratic Political Campaigns All Over the US

July 26, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

His 2016 presidential run turned out to be much more than a political campaign.


Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential run turned out to be much more than a political campaign—it became a movement. When the self-described “democratic socialist” entered the Democratic primary and challenged presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, he never pretended to be a centrist. Sanders, now 76, ran as a hardcore, unapologetic liberal/progressive, calling for an aggressive return to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and bringing in millions of dollars in campaign contributions. And two years later, with the 2018 midterms approaching, Sanders’ influence is asserting itself all over the U.S. 

The biggest Sanders-influenced upset of the year occurred in Queens and the Bronx, where 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—a member of the Democratic Socialists of America—challenged the high-ranking Rep. Joe Crowley in a Democratic congressional primary and defeated him by a landslide on June 26. Ocasio-Cortez ran to the left of Crowley, campaigning on single-payer healthcare, a national minimum wage of $15 per hour, and other issues Sanders had brought to the forefront in 2016. And in November, she will be running against Republican Anthony Pappas for the House of Representatives seat that Crowley will be vacating.

Given her ability to defeat Crowley—a ten-term incumbent who was by no means a lightweight in Democratic Party politics—Ocasio-Cortez is obviously a very aggressive campaigner. And Sanders has been making use of her energy. This month in Wichita, Kansas, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez both campaigned for James Thompson, a civil rights lawyer who will be running against far-right Republican Rep. Ron Estes for a seat in the House of Representatives.

In Missouri, Ocasio-Cortez has campaigned for nurse Cori Bush, who issued a Democratic congressional primary challenge to Rep. Lacy Clay and has been running to the left of him politically. Clay is a political veteran: he has been representing Missouri in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2001—and his father, 87-year-old William L. Clay, held the same seat in the House from 1969-2001. For Bush, taking on a member of the Clay family is as bold …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Corbyn's Manufacturing Fetish Parallels Trump's Obsessions

July 26, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

This week’s George Orwell award for doublespeak goes to
Jeremy Corbyn.

The Labour leader has repeated ad nauseam that he’s
“for the many, not the few”. But this apparently does
not apply to business policy. His economic speech this week —
trailed misleadingly as about opportunities from Brexit —
focused on the small 10pc of the economy
and 8pc of employment in manufacturing.
The growing service
sector which dwarfs it was largely ignored.

Corbyn’s certainly not the first politician to hold a
manufacturing fetish. Whereas economists are usually indifferent
towards industrial structure, many MPs seem to prefer physical
“stuff”. But Corbyn’s romanticism is more deep
set.

Though he pays lip service to Britain being a hub for future
industries, his proposals prioritise propping up domestic
shipbuilding, train production, and passport producers
through tilting public procurement in favour of domestic firms.
The very title of his speech — “Build it in Britain
again,” an echo of Donald Trump’s “Make America
Great Again” slogan — is a paean to reviving
traditional manufacturing jobs.

Corbyn didn’t advocate new post-Brexit tariffs thankfully,
although he would maintain a UK-EU protectionist customs union.

But the parallels with Trump do not stop with desired reshoring
of manufacturing. Corbyn wants to water down World Trade
Organisation rules, sung the virtues of a cheaper pound, wishes to
relax restrictions on state aid and riffed off a “Buy
British” mentality. Like Trump, underpinning it all was an
assumption that malign forces were to blame for hollowing out
industry. Whereas Trump’s villains are weak former presidents
and cunning foreign governments, Corbyn blames the traditional
bogeymen of the hard Left: the Tories, in hock to dastardly
bankers.

So convinced of his ideology of economic planning, Corbyn
thinks the growing economic
share of services
was somehow designed by financiers and their
Conservative mates in Parliament.

True, policy can be important. Tax and environmental laws may
well have raised manufacturing costs and could be re-examined.

But broadly, global trends show Corbyn is badly mistaken. The
decline in manufacturing employment owes everything to changing
demands and resources flowing according to comparative
advantages.

As the economist Robert Lawrence has shown, innovation and
productivity growth has been easier in manufacturing, as machines
have replaced workers. Over time, factories therefore produced more
for lower cost. But as we get richer due to this, we tend to spend
the additional income on services and not goods, and pocket the
savings from cheaper manufactured products for other spending.
Subsequently, manufacturing falls as a
share of the overall economy.

This trend can be seen both in the UK and around the developed
world. Manufacturing output was actually …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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No Truckers? Let's Try Ships

July 26, 2018 in Economics

By Colin Grabow

Colin Grabow

Although the economy continues to ride high, there is growing
concern that a dearth of truckers could soon drive it into a ditch.
Anecdotes suggest an increasingly frantic
scramble for drivers, with $70,000 salaries said to be insufficient
to lure new drivers to the field. The trucking industry faces a
shortage of 63,000 open positions this year — a number that
is only expected to increase — and companies are already said
to be turning down loads due to a lack of available trucks.

Some members of Congress have responded by introducing a bill that would allow drivers as
young as 18 to transport goods outside the state they’re licensed
in, down from the current age of 21. While a welcome step,
more-expansive thinking is needed. Additional drivers are one
solution, but there is another that should be considered: more
ships. Rather than tinkering at the policy margins, Congress should
pursue measures that would transfer freight from the nation’s roads
onto its waterways.

Repealing the Jones Act would be a good start.

Repeal the Jones Act. It
escalates the cost of shipping goods on America’s
waterways.

Passed in 1920, this law mandates that ships transporting cargo
between two points in the United States be domestically flagged,
owned, crewed, and built. Intended to bolster the U.S. maritime
sector, the Jones Act has instead been a case study in the failures
of protectionism. Absent foreign competition, U.S. shipbuilders
produce vessels whose price is as much as eight times higher than
those built abroad. This disincentive to the purchase of new
vessels means we have fewer ships and a fleet that is old and
inefficient.

High costs have inevitably followed and, along with them,
increased demand for transportation alternatives such as trucking
and rail.

The proof is in the numbers. From 1960 to 2014, the amount of
freight placed on railroads increased by 48 percent while intercity
trucks saw their loads grow by an impressive 217 percent. In sharp
contrast, the amount of cargo carried by ships sailing around the
coasts during this period decreased by 44 percent. And Great Lakes
shipping declined by 43 percent.

Even as Americans have shunned ships for domestic use, however,
they appear perfectly willing to employ them to conduct trade with
Canada and Mexico. Freed from the Jones Act’s restrictions, coastal
ships linking the United States with Canada and Mexico have seen
their freight tonnage more than double during the same time
period.

Given the decline of domestic shipping, Americans are now left
with a transportation system that is hugely dependent on trucks
— and on the drivers who operate them. According to the
Bureau …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump's Iran Regime Change Fantasies

July 26, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Candidate Donald Trump campaigned against Washington’s
foolish Middle East wars. President Donald Trump is threatening
Tehran with the equivalent of fire and fury. After decades of
American attacks on Iran, what Trump should be doing is changing
course.

The president erupted against Iran on Twitter earlier this week
in an outburst that was even more hysterical than his tirade
against North Korea last year. “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE
UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF
WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” he
tweeted. “WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT
WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE
CAUTIOUS!”

The president sounded like a high school dropout who had just
downed a six-pack and was now itching for a brawl. It’s he
who should be cautious before enthusiastically threatening to visit
death upon another nation and people. After all, as he once
acknowledged, the results of U.S. warmongering have been ugly.

America has been in conflict with Iran, or more accurately the
Iranian people, for decades. In 1953, Washington backed a coup that
overturned a democratically elected government. Five presidents
supported Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s shah, who governed as
an absolute monarch. His rule was highlighted by ostentatious
corruption, brutal repression, nuclear research, and plans to
become the Middle East’s dominant power.

His advisors apparently
believe that reliable actors are waiting in the wings. Haven’t we
heard that before?

A broad coalition overthrew the shah in 1979, but alas the worst
guys with the most guns, the Islamists, gained control. The U.S.
then backed Iraq’s aggressive war against Iran, started by
Saddam Hussein (yes, that Saddam Hussein). The Reagan
administration provided Baghdad with intelligence and dual-use
technology that Saddam used to create chemical weapons. Washington
also reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers as American vessels to protect
the small Gulf state, which was helping to fund Iraq’s
war.

In 1988, while that conflict raged, a U.S. ship shot down an
Iranian commercial airliner, killing 290 people. The Pentagon
initially misstated the facts to shift blame. Two years later, the
U.S. Navy awarded the captain who had given the orders to fire the
Legion of Merit for “outstanding service.”

In 2003, the Bush administration rejected Iran’s offer to
talk about all issues. As the neoconservative Greek Chorus urged
Washington on to Tehran, the administration’s John Bolton
reportedly said that such an attack was forthcoming. Even the Obama
administration threatened Tehran with war, routinely intoning that
“all options are on the table.” That threat was issued
not to deter an Iranian attack, but to dissuade Tehran from
building a deterrent to an American attack. In 2015,
then-commentator and …read more

Source: OP-EDS