You are browsing the archive for 2018 September 07.

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Trump Organization Executives Are Now in the Sights of Manhattan Prosecutors: Report

September 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The president's former lawyer already pleaded guilty to the crime.

Top executives at the Trump Organization, the umbrella entity of all the bodies that comprise President Donald Trump's business empire, are being scrutinized by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for potential involvement in campaign finance violations, according to a new report in Bloomberg

The inquiry arose, according to the report, out of the charges Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to last month. Cohen acknowledged that he help make two hush money payments regarding women who say they had affairs with Trump in the days before the election, amounting to an illegal campaign contribution. He also said he was paid back by the Trump Organization, which raises additional legal questions.

The report notes that the prosecutors are working on a “parallel track” from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, which initially drudged up the case against Cohen. That case also involved bank and tax fraud.

Bloomberg reports:

The Trump Organization is a stable of private companies heavily invested in real estate that’s been run by the president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, since he took office.

Central to the inquiry will be longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who has already provided narrow cooperation with authorities over Cohen’s activities and hush agreements, according to the person. It’s not clear whether Weisselberg is a focus of the continuing inquiry.

Weisselberg didn’t respond to emails and phones calls seeking comment.

Last month, prosecutors said in indicting Cohen that two Trump company executives — one of whom is believed to be Weisselberg — approved the improper payments to Cohen in violation of campaign-finance laws. Investigators are looking at those people and others who may have been aware of the activities, according to the person.

This investigation is only one of many surrounding the president, his aides and his family. The New York attorney general has brought a civil case against the family's charity, the Trump Foundation, which may lead to criminal charges. Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has already been charged on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, and he is set to go to …read more


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'I Can't Guarantee It': George Papadopoulos Admits He Might Have Told Trump Campaign Russia Had Dirt On Hillary Clinton

September 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Trump's former foreign policy adviser just made a startling admission to Jake Tapper.

On Friday, CNN is airing an exclusive interview between George Papadopoulos and Jake Tapper. And during the course of that interview, Papadopoulos has made an astonishing confession: despite his repeated denials that he informed anyone on the campaign that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, he “can't guarantee” he did not tell someone.

“There are going to be people out there who think, 'there's no way George Papadopoulos didn't tell anyone on the campaign,'” Tapper said. “Did you tell anyone on the campaign?”

“As far as I remember, I absolutely did not,” said Papadopoulos.

“You didn't tell Corey Lewandowski?” Tapper pressed him.

“As far as I remember, I absolutely did not share this information with anyone on the campaign.”

“Not Sam Clovis?”






“Waleed Faris? None of them?”

Finally, Papadopoulos broke. “I might have,” he said, “but I have no recollection of doing so. I can't guarantee it. All I can say is that my memory is telling me that I never shared it with anyone on the campaign.”

Papadopoulos, who served as an adviser on President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, was sentenced to 14 days in prison on Friday for lying to the FBI in the investigation of the campaign's potential ties to Russia. He allegedly was offered stolen information on Hillary Clinton by Russian intermediaries.

Trump has since tried to dismiss him as a “coffee boy” who was barely involved in the campaign, but in fact he was a key part of the foreign policy team, and communicated extensively with major Trump allies like Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn. Emails also show that campaign officials encouraged him to pursue contacts with Russia.

If Papadopoulos had not in fact communicated to the campaign that Russia had ill-gotten information on Clinton, that would be extraordinarily ironic, given that one …read more


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Watch Kavanaugh Refuse to Say if He Personally Believes Gay People Shouldn’t Be Fired for Their Identity

September 7, 2018 in Blogs

By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

Multiple attempts resulted in the stubborn nominee declining to answer the question.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is refusing to say whether or not he personally believes it is wrong to fire someone for being gay. The U.S. Supreme Court nominee was asked the very direct question Thursday evening by Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey.

“Senator, in my workplace I hire people because of their talents and abilities,” Kavanaugh, who sits on the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, told Booker.

Sen. Booker tried to give Kavanaugh the space to answer the question, which the judge clearly had not done with his seemingly-rehearsed first response.

“Now we shift to the law,” Booker proposed, “do they have a legal right to fire somebody just because they're gay?”

Kavanaugh stepped up his refusal to answer.

“Senator, the question, as I'm sure you're aware, of the scope of employment law is being litigated right now,” Kavanaugh said, refusing to answer on the law.

Explaining that same-sex couples “really have a fear that they will not be able to continue those marital bonds,” Booker reminded Kavanaugh that in a majority of states across the country gay people can still be fired for being gay.

“I guess,” Sen. Booker continued, “you're not willing to tell me whether you, personally, morally, think that that's right or wrong.”

Kavanaugh reminded Booker that he is a judge, and repeated that he would not comment.

Judge Kavanaugh could have said that he has never fired someone because they are LGBT, if true, which he did not. He could have said he would never take that action. He could have made any one of a number of claims to signal that he feels at the very least it is morally wrong, but he did not.

Some were disturbed by his remarks, which were compounded by his earlier statements Thursday, during which he refused to say if he believed the historic Obergefell Supreme Court case, which found same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marriage.

Here's Kavanaugh on firing people because they're gay:

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'The President of the United States Hindered This Investigation': George Papadopoulos' Lawyer Lays into Trump at Sentencing

September 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The former Trump aide's lawyer essentially accused the president of obstructing justice.

George Papadopoulos, a former campaign aide to President Donald Trump, was sentenced to 14 in prison Friday for lying to federal investigators as a part of the ongoing Russia investigation carried out by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Having previously pleaded guilty to misleading the FBI about his contacts with Russia agents offering dirt on Hillary Clinton to the campaign, Papadopoulos expressed remorse for his actions and received a more lenient sentence as a result.

At one point, Thomas Breen, Papadopoulos' lawyer, presented a curious line of argument for leniency during the sentencing. While his client had misled the FBI, he argued, he did so in an environment where Trump himself was casting doubt on the investigation.

“The president of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could,” Breen said.

It's stunning enough to have a former campaign aide to the president of the United States sentenced as part of a foreign counterintelligence investigation. For the aide's own lawyer to essentially accuse the president of a greater effort to obstruct justice was astounding.

Papadopoulos has said that it was his loyalty to Trump, his career ambitions and his efforts to distance the campaign from any Russian associations that led him to lie to the FBI.

“He was seeking to assist himself in a way that placed his own personal interest above the interest of the United States,” the judge said at the sentencing, as quoted by lawyer and reporter Luppe Luppen. “He was riding very high, as Mr. Papadopoulos said to me himself, he had just come from the inauguration of the president of the United States.”

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Here Are 7 of the Most Absurd Conservative Reactions to Obama's Provocative Speech

September 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Obama finally went on the attack against Trump and the Republicans.

Barack Obama has generally been keeping a low profile in the Donald Trump era, although the former president resurfaced in South Africa in July with a speech commemorating Nelson Mandel’s birthday. The former U.S. president didn’t mention President Trump by name in South Africa, but he most certainly did during a September 7 speech at the University of Illinois—asserting that Trump has been “capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years, a fear and anger that’s rooted in our past.”  

The U.S., Obama stressed, is experiencing “dangerous times,” and the November midterms offer voters “the chance to restore some semblance of sanity to our politics.” Far-right wingnuts, not surprisingly, are furious—although some anti-Trump voices on the right (including Republican Party strategist Rick Wilson) seem to be taking great pleasure in Obama’s ability to get under Trump’s skin.

Here is what seven right-wingers have said in response to Obama’s speech.

1. Sen. Lindsey Graham

On Twitter, Sen. Lindsey Graham asserted that Trump’s speech made it more likely that Trump would be reelected in 2020. The South Carolina senator tweeted, “The more President @BarackObama speaks about the ‘good ole years’ of his presidency, the more likely President @realDonaldTrump is to get re-elected. In fact, the best explanation of President Trump’s victory are the ‘results’ of the Obama Presidency!”

2. President Donald Trump  

Speaking in North Dakota, Trump didn’t have a substantial rebuttal to Obama’s speech—only juvenile insults. The president said of Obama’s speech, “I’m sorry, I watched it, but I fell asleep. I’ve found he’s very good, very good for sleeping.”

3. Mercedes Schlapp    

Appearing on Fox News after Obama’s speech,  Mercedes Schlapp (White House senior advisor for strategic communications) claimed that Obama was falsely taking credit for Trump’s economic accomplishments. Obama, according to Schlapp, “spent billions of dollars in stimulus money while creating a stagnant economy. On the other hand: President Trump. Clear contrast. We’re seeing a booming economy because of President Trump’s vision.”

4. Joel B. Pollak contributor Joel B. Pollak not only attacked Obama in a September …read more


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Star Trek and Vietnam: When Klingons Were Stand-Ins for the Soviets

September 7, 2018 in History

By Roy Wenzl

In one unsubtle episode, warring factions are called the Yangs and the Kohms.

Leonard Nimoy as Spock in the original ‘Star Trek’ television series, 1967.

When the ’60s TV show “Star Trek” was canceled in 1969, and the Starship Enterprise ceased going boldly into the final frontier, the program was nowhere near the blockbuster money machine of syndication and sequels that it later became. Ratings were low. Only the sci-fi geeks cared.

“The series was a big flop at the time it ran, with only a small, cult audience,” says cultural historian and author H. Bruce Franklin, who served as guest curator for the Smithsonian Institute’s “Star Trek in the Sixties” blockbuster ’90s exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum. “It was only years later, thanks to the fans, that [movie and television executives] revived it.” He says those fans, watching reruns in the 1970s, helped breathe life into the franchise—at least in part because they fell in love with how the show took risks, sometimes wading into the most divisive issues of the day.

Like the war in Vietnam.

“It seemed to me that perhaps if I wanted to talk about sex, religion, politics, make some comments against Vietnam, and so on—that if I had similar situations involving these subjects happening on other planets to little green people—indeed it might get by, and it did,” said Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creator.

On the set of the TV series ‘Star Trek’ in 1966.

‘City on the Edge of Forever’: Killing off the pacifist

In early episodes, Roddenberry and the show’s other creators appeared to be more or less supporting the U.S. government, says Franklin, history professor emeritus at Rutgers University and author of four books on the Vietnam war.

On April 6, 1967, for example, they aired “City on the Edge of Forever,” in which Enterprise captain James T. Kirk stops his medical officer Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy from saving the life of Edith, a prominent peace activist—because if she lives, she will prevent the United States from getting into World War II in time to stop the Nazis. It’s a time-travel episode where Kirk goes back in time to try and correct the timeline—while also falling in love with the woman who needs to die to correct it.

The episode’s Vietnam War subtext came to the fore in the script-revision process, says Franklin. While the original …read more


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Government Is to Blame for America’s Cost of Living Crisis

September 7, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

In a recent extract of her book Squeezed,
Guardian columnist Alissa Quart documented in detail the
insecurities faced by many ordinary American families. Student loan
debt, housing costs, and healthcare bills can be crippling even for
those on decent enough incomes. For the struggling poor with job
insecurities, the situation can be worse still.

Even with the US labour market tightening, concern about
working- and middle-class living standards has left politicians
reaching for radical solutions. In the past year, mainstream
politicians have advocated federal job guarantees, universal basic
income, huge minimum wage hikes, attempts to boost union power and
membership, expanding tax credits, co-determination laws, universal
single-payer healthcare and much else besides.

Putting aside the legion risks of such policies, these proposals
have one major thing in common: they could be described as
“income-based approaches” to trying to raise living
standards. They all assume that markets, left to their own devices,
cannot provide adequate living standards, necessitating
interventions to raise households’ disposable incomes
(through affecting income via pay or transfers directly, or
reducing household payments for certain goods or services).

With the federal budget
deficit already large, and most of the ideas floating around all
coming with risky unintended consequences, now seems an opportune
time for a cost-of-living agenda which examines and undoes these
cost-inflating interventions at all levels of

For sure, some policies in this mould can help to alleviate
financial hardship. But Quart highlighting out-of-control costs of
different goods or services surely suggests a better first step is
surely to ask why certain things are expensive in the first place,
before reaching for compensatory interventions or transfers.

a recent research paper for the Cato Institute
, I did precisely
that for basic goods and services which poor households spend
disproportionately on. And I found that nine types of intervention
alone in housing, food, child-care, transport, clothing and sectors
governed by occupational licensing combine to raise the cost of
typical poor households directly by anywhere between $830 and
$3,500 per year. All these “income-based approach”
things we do, in other words, are compensating households for
cost-inflating government policies elsewhere.

The average household in the bottom income quintile puts 25.2
per cent of total spending per year towards direct housing costs,
for example. Yet land use planning and zoning laws imposed at local
levels of government, particularly in desirable metropolitan areas,
impose a significant regulatory tax. This costs households anywhere
up to around $2,000 per year, depending on location. This not only
has direct financial consequences but makes it more difficult for
poor households to move to good job opportunities.

The best evidence suggests too that state-level child-care
regulation, including staff-child …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Economics of Calorie Labelling Suggests the Policy Won't Work

September 7, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Another day, another brain-wave emanates from our public health
overlords in government. This week we learn the Conservatives are
planning to mandate that all restaurants, cafes and fast-food
outlets publish calorie counts for menus to help combat

Theory and evidence suggests this latest fad will barely dent
calorie intake or obesity levels. It will though impose
disproportionate costs on independent, local, small and micro
businesses with regularly changing or seasonal menus. But who cares
about pesky economics or business activity when nannying is the
order of the day?

Inspired by insights from behavioural economics, the case for
action may seem innocuous. Many of us desire to lose weight. Yet we
have what economists call “time-inconsistent
preferences”. We value the immediate satisfaction of a meal,
discounting too heavily our “real” preference for good
lifetime health.

Providing information about what we eat then is surely a
harmless means of improving understanding of calories and
increasing our sensitivity to ordering calorie-heavy meals. We can
be simultaneously educated and shamed, opting for low-calorie
options to facilitate weight loss. If restaurants respond to this
adjusted demand by making meals less calorific generally, these
benefits will be larger still.

A simple illustrative model analysing how calorie count
labelling translates into weight loss shows why this effect will be
tiny. For calorie menu labels to make a difference, four things
must happen. First, consumers must see and read them. Second, they
must understand the implications in relation to how much they
“should” be eating, given exercise habits. Third, they
must adjust their meal choices to reduce calories. Fourth, they
must not adjust any of their other food intake or exercise choices
to compensate.

It’s difficult not to
conclude the whole idea will cause a lot of fuss for little overall

Even if we assume, totally unrealistically, that the probability
of each stage occurring were independent and as large as 50pc, this
implies just 6.25pc of people who eat at restaurants, cafes or fast
food outlets would lower their overall calorie intake. At a 25pc
probability for each stage, this would fall to just 0.39pc of
customers. Given people say they average eating out only around
twice per week, the overall fall in calories resulting even from
this small number of people adjusting would be a tiny proportion of
total intake.

Indicative evidence suggests as much. Obesity has risen in an
age where nutrition information is more broadly available than
ever, especially on supermarket-bought goods. Either consumers
ignore it, or else other lifestyle factors are clearly more
important. Evidence shows that when eating out customers care
mostly about convenience, price and taste. In New York, where
labelling was introduced in 2008, academic …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Beijing’s Hardline Tactics Are Backfiring and Motivating Taiwan’s American Partisans

September 7, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Since the 2016 election of Tsai Ing-wen as president of the
Republic of China (commonly known as Taiwan), Beijing has resumed
and even intensified its policy of trying to isolate Taipei
diplomatically; inducing the island’s remaining friends to
recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC) instead.
During the previous eight years when the conciliatory Ma Ying-jeou
led Taiwan and pursued a cooperative policy toward the mainland,
the PRC eased its campaign. But Chinese leaders immediately
regarded Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as the
vanguard of pro-independence aspirations on the island, and they
moved to adopt an aggressive strategy of diplomatic strangulation.
During her tenure, five of the 22 countries (mostly small, poor
nations in Africa and Latin America) that still recognized the ROC
when she took office have switched ties to Beijing.

Although the PRC’s strategy appears to be achieving its
primary objective, it may ultimately come at an unacceptably high
price. American supporters of Taiwan are pushing back firmly, and
they are moving to increase Washington’s support of the
island’s de facto independence. Two incidents that
accompanied Beijing’s “success” in inducing El
Salvador, the latest target, to sever diplomatic ties with Taipei,
should alert PRC leaders to the danger.

One was the response of the U.S. ambassador to El
Salvador, Jean Manes, who stated in a Twitter post that the United
States was concerned about El Salvador’s “worrisome” decision to
break ties with Taiwan. “Without a doubt, this will impact our
relationship with the (Salvadoran) government,” she wrote.
That is a surprising and troubling comment containing an implicit
threat of adverse repercussions for El Salvador because its
government dared to terminate diplomatic relations with an entity
that even the United States does not recognize formally. Granted,
Manes is a relatively low-level figure, and her staunchly
pro-Taiwan comment may not accurately convey Washington’s
official stance; although a later State Department statement did
say that the United States was “deeply disappointed” by El
Salvador’s decision. In any case, such sentiments did not
indicate U.S. enthusiasm for the one-China policy.

Potentially more troubling for Beijing was the growing evidence
that Mane’s attitude is widely shared within the American
political and policy communities. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO),
chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Asia
subcommittee, indicated that he planned to introduce a measure encouraging countries to stick with
Taipei. Among other things, he stated that his legislation would
authorize the State Department to take actions such as downgrading
relations or altering foreign assistance programs to discourage
countries from making decisions seen as adverse to Taiwan. The
threat to dilute aid programs is more than a little menacing to
poor …read more

Source: OP-EDS