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Former FBI Official Explains How Robert Mueller Will Be Prepared for the Firing of Rod Rosenstein

September 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

For more than a year, Rod Rosenstein has been protecting Robert Mueller.


While many observers asked how Congress could or would respond to multiple reports about the potential firing or resignation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Monday, Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director at the FBI, took another perspective on the issue.

Instead of asking what Congress could do, he raised another pertinent question: What will Rober Mueller do in reaction to the news?

Rosenstein appointed and has overseen Mueller as special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign. If Trump fires Rosenstein or appoints his successor, it could be part of an attempt to undermine that investigation.

“If you're on the Mueller team, which is what I'm thinking about right now, you're essentially doing that embassy consulate drill where the embassy is about to be taken and you start assuming you're about to be compromised,” Figliuzzi said on MSNBC's “Deadline: What House.”

“So what does that look like?” asked host Nicolle Wallace. “You start moving cases out to SDNY, you start moving cases out to other U.S. attorneys' offices?

“Yeah, you press 'send,'” he said. “You press 'send' on those packages — that prosecutorial parachute goes to various state attorneys general and various U.S. attorneys' offices.”

In other words, in preparation for potentially getting fired or being managed by someone hostile to his aims, Mueller is probably working to collect whatever information and work he has collected on any of his pending investigatory leads. He can decentralize this information by sending it to other offices in the Justice Department and to any state attorneys general that could have jurisdiction over the relevant cases. In that way, Mueller may be able to protect the investigation itself and the cases he's pursued, even if Trump does his best to intervene.

Watch the clip below:

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'My Fear Will Not Hold Me Back': Kavanaugh Accuser Warns Senate Republicans They Can't Silence Her

September 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

In a new letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christine Blasey Ford told Republicans that she's still standing.


Even after everything that has happened, Senate Republicans are still determined to ram through Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, despite the mounting scandals.

But one woman refuses to surrender in her fight for the truth: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault at a house party while they were in high school.

On Monday, POLITICO obtained a letter sent by Ford to the Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), warning him on no uncertain terms that whether he likes it or not, she will be heard.

“Mr. Kavanaugh's actions, while many years ago, were serious and have had a lasting impact on my life,” wrote Ford. “I thought that knowledge of his actions could be useful for you and those in charge of choosing among the various candidates. My original intent was first and foremost to be a helpful citizen — in a confidential way that would minimize collateral damage to all families and friends involved.”

Senate Republicans have been relentlessly hostile to Ford, with some members calling her confused or a liar. While they have gone through the motions of extending Ford an invitation to testify, they have tried to make the process as hellish and difficult for her as possible, refusing to allow her to call witnesses and potentially forcing her to submit to a partisan outside counsel for questioning. They also tried to force her to accept an expedited timeline for testimony, but ultimately capitulated and let her set the date.

Since Ford sent the letter, another woman, Deborah Ramirez, has also come forward with allegations against Kavanaugh, and there are potentially others.

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Trump's Accusers Were Silenced When He Became President – And It's Happening All Over Again With Kavanaugh

September 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Brave New Films

Trump got away with it, and if we don’t do something now, Kavanaugh will get away with it too.


Trump’s support of Kavanaugh is, yet again, another example of men in power getting away with abusing women. How can we expect a man with a history of abusing women to defend the rights of women in the highest court?

Trump got away with it, and if we don’t do something now, Kavanaugh will get away with it too. For more on the sexual assault allegations against Trump, watch our video.

 

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Source: ALTERNET

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The Evolution of Donald J. Trump: How the President Went From Quasi-Democrat to Far-Right Republican and White Nationalist

September 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

It's a bizarre and twisted story.


Although Donald Trump has governed from the far right since being sworn in as president of the U.S. in January 2017, the word “ideologue” doesn’t apply to him. Many Republicans can be characterized as extreme ideologues, whether it’s House Speaker Paul Ryan’s obsession with Ayn Rand economics or Sen. Ted Cruz’ severe social conservatism and theocratic views. But Trump, truth be told, has no core political ideology. The Donald has always been about self-aggrandizement, often saying or doing whatever it takes to promote his own brand. And that has resulted in lot of flip-flops. Trump often sounded like a Blue Dog Democrat or a northeastern Rockefeller Republican back in the 1990s and 2000s, but that was before he evolved into the Tea Party wingnut, white nationalist and Christian Right ally he is today.

The Donald Trump of the 1990s and 2000s never sounded like a hardcore dyed-in-the-wool liberal or progressive, but he was at least centrist or center-right and was on fairly friendly terms with Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as northeastern Rockefeller Republicans. In a 1999 interview with NBC’s Tim Russert, Trump expressed views on abortion that were similar to those of Republican Rudy Giuliani—who was mayor of New York City at the time and said, more than once, that while he personally hated abortion, he was pro-choice and believe that government shouldn’t interfere with women’s reproductive rights.

During that interview 19 years ago, Trump told Russert, “I am very pro-choice. I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But….I just believe in choice.”

Trump, in fact, had co-sponsored a $500-per-plate dinner for the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) at the Plaza Hotel, an expensive Mid-Town Manhattan Hotel that he owed at the time. But these days, Trump claims to be very anti-abortion, insisting that he will only nominate Supreme Court nominees who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Both of Trump’s High Court nominees—first Justice Neil Gorsuch, now Judge Brett Kavanaugh—are …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The 1927 Murder That Became a Media Circus—And a Famous Movie

September 24, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

The bungled crime featured an affair, a murder and a planned insurance scam.


Ruth Snyder in the witness stand as her confession is read to the court. In one of the most sensational crimes of the period, Snyder and the man she was having an affair with were convicted and sentenced to death for killing her husband.

A housewife and salesman have an affair, then hatch a plot to kill her husband and claim insurance money on his death. If this sounds like a film noir plot, that’s because it is; it’s the plot of James Cain’s 1943 hardboiled crime novella Double Indemnity and the 1944 film adaptation. But it’s also what happened in the real-life crime that Double Indemnity was based on.

On March 20, 1927, Ruth Snyder claimed two “giant Italians” had broken into her house in Queens and knocked her unconscious. They tied her up and left her in the hallway, she said. Then, while her 9-year-old daughter was still asleep, they killed her husband and stole her jewelry.


Corset salesman and murderer, Henry Judd Gray (1892 – 1928).

Police were immediately suspicious because Snyder didn’t look like she’d been knocked out. They also found her “stolen” jewelry stuffed under her mattress. Within a few hours, she gave up the name of the married corset salesman she was sleeping with—Henry Judd Gray—and pinned the murder on him.

When the police got to Gray, he confessed but accused Snyder of seducing him and planning the murder of her husband, an art editor at Motorboat magazine. Police also discovered that just before her husband’s murder, Snyder forged a double-indemnity insurance policy in his name for nearly $100,000 in the event of his accidental death.

Besides the failed insurance fraud, one of the most notable aspects of the crime was how ineptly Snyder and Gray committed it. They killed Snyder’s husband by hitting him with a weight from a window sash, stuffing chloroform-soaked cotton up his nose and strangling him with picture frame wire. They tried to cover it up as a poorly staged “break-in,” and when that story fell through, the former lovebirds immediately turned on each other.

At the time, journalist Damon Runyon called it the “Dumbbell Murder” because it was just so dumb. Yet for almost a year, it received “press attention far out of proportion to how important the murder was to society as a whole,” …read more

Source: HISTORY

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'That's Pretty Rich!' CNN Host Blasts Mitch McConnell's Blatantly Hypocritical Complaints About Kavanaugh's Nomination

September 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The stakes of Supreme Court nominations are getting higher.


Republicans are up in arms about the sexual assault allegations now dogging Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and no one is more infuriated than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But in his defense of Kavanaugh and of the Supreme Court nomination process, McConnell's complaints are transparently hypocritical, as CNN host Brooke Baldwin pointed out Monday in response to a speech from the Senate majority leader. McConnell has no moral ground to stand on because of his radical decision in 2016 to refuse to hold any hearings or votes on President Barack Obama's nominee Judge Merrick Garland. 

“Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, just decided to lecture Democrats for their actions involving a Supreme Court nominee,” said Baldwin. “The same Mitch McConnell who would not give the person Obama wanted to be on his Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, a hearing, right? That's pretty rich!”

Gloria Borger, a CNN analyst, agreed: “Merrick Garland was waiting around for 400 days, and then never did get a hearing or a vote. And so it is pretty rich to hear McConnell say, 'This is the schedule, and we are going to stick to it.'”

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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The Surprising Role Mexico Played in World War II

September 24, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Most may not think of Mexico as contributing to the Allied effort, but it contributed key resources, as well as fighting power.


A Mexican family leaving to cross the border during World War II to help wartime labor shortages, 1944.

If you ask people to name the victorious Allied Powers in World War II, Mexico isn’t usually a name that comes to mind. But after declaring war against the Axis in mid-1942, Mexico did contribute to the Allied victory in important ways. Despite long standing tensions with the United States, Mexico would become a valuable ally to its northern neighbor, ramping up its industrial production and contributing vital resources to the Allied war effort.

In addition, thousands of Mexican nationals living in the United States registered for military service during World War II. Mexico’s own elite air squadron, known as the Aztec Eagles, flew dozens of missions alongside the U.S. Air Force during the liberation of the Philippines in 1945.

On the home front, hundreds of thousands of farm workers crossed the border to work for U.S. agricultural companies as part of the Bracero Program, which would outlast the war by nearly two decades and have a lasting impact on the relations between the two North American nations.


Mexican artillery men in the field during WWII as their country expects a declaration of war on the Axis Powers.

Mexico’s Path to a Declaration of War

As the first rumblings of another great war stirred in Europe in the 1930s, Mexico and the United States seemed like unlikely allies. In 1938, Mexico’s reformist president, Lázaro Cárdenas, nationalized the country’s oil industry, which angered powerful U.S. oil companies.

“The late 1930s was a time of increasing tensions between Mexico and the United States on the diplomatic front, largely tied to the nationalization of oil,” says Monica Rankin, associate professor of history at University of Texas-Dallas and the author of México, la patria: Propaganda and Production During World War II. Plus, many Mexicans still resented the United States for the loss of 55 percent of Mexico’s territory after the U.S.-Mexican War (known in Mexico as the North American Invasion).

But as the war in Europe began to disrupt trade routes around the world, Mexico and other Latin American countries found themselves in economic peril. “Over those years as World War II is heating up,” Rankin explains, “the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Giving TSA Facial-Recognition Software Isn’t Worth a Faster Security Line

September 24, 2018 in Economics

By Matthew Feeney

Matthew Feeney

Earlier this month, officials at Washington Dulles International
Airport unveiled a facial-recognition system designed to replace
boarding passes. Travelers who loathe the long lines and waiting
associated with airports may applaud the move; the scans take less
than a second.

Yet we shouldn’t be so quick to welcome timesaving face
scanners. Facial-recognition technology poses a unique surveillance
threat and is being deployed without adequate privacy protections.
It should be kept far away from airports.

While certainly a member of the biometric family, facial
recognition is very different from other biometric technology (DNA,
fingerprints, etc.) in two important ways.

First, law enforcement can only collect DNA and fingerprints if
that information has been volunteered or collected as part of an
investigation. According to a 2016 study by the Center on
Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law
, the Federal Bureau
of Investigation’s DNA database only includes DNA related to
arrests and investigations. About 60% of the FBI’s
fingerprint database includes those associated with criminal or
forensic investigations, with many of the remaining prints being
volunteered by immigrants and those who have a job requiring
fingerprints. Thanks to the FBI’s access to passport photos
and numerous states’ driver’s license databases, at
least 80% of the images in the FBI’s Facial Analysis,
Comparison, and Evaluation Services Unit are not related to
criminal or forensic investigations.

Second, unlike DNA and fingerprint tools, facial-recognition
technology measures something that most people cannot hide in their
day-to-day lives. Most of us happily go about our days unconcerned
about law enforcement collecting and analyzing our fingerprints and
DNA. It’s true that you could seek to avoid facial
recognition by wearing masks, but such behavior is likely to draw
unwanted attention and incur a social cost.

We shouldn’t be so quick
to sacrifice our privacy on the altar of convenience.

When it comes to air travel, biometric collection is becoming
harder to avoid. In a Privacy Impact Assessment issued last year, the
Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border
Protection’s parent agency, bluntly stated, “the only
way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to
collection of biometric information when traveling internationally
is to refrain from traveling.”

Officials say that law-abiding travelers need not worry.
According to John Wagner, CBP assistant commissioner for the Office
of Field Operations, once the system is fully implemented, the
agency will delete the facial images of U.S. citizens almost
immediately after identity verification.

This may sound reassuring, and facial recognition is already
becoming commonplace in the private sectors thanks to companies
such as Apple
AAPL, +0.52%
and VIQ Solutions
VQS, +3.45%
but we should keep in mind …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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New Trump Rule Isn’t about Saving Taxpayer Money — It's about Keeping Legal Immigrants Out

September 24, 2018 in Economics

By David Bier

David Bier

A new regulation would ban immigrants who the Trump
administration believes will use public benefits. While I
don’t believe that any noncitizens should get welfare, this
rule will harm taxpayers by denying visas to immigrants who even
the government predicts will be largely self-sufficient in the
United States.

This rule isn’t about protecting taxpayer money —
it’s about keeping out law-abiding immigrants.

The public charge rule will not deny any immigrants welfare.
Instead, it denies them the ability to immigrate legally to the
United States if the government predicts that they will
“likely” rely on welfare at some point in the future.
Thus, even if certain immigrants never use welfare in their lives,
the rule could still be used to keep them out.

Since 1891, the law has denied visas to immigrants who are
“likely to become a public charge.” Prior to this new
regulation, “public charge” — i.e., a ward of the
state — was construed narrowly to exclude only those
immigrants who were “primarily” dependent on the
government, meaning most of their income comes from the
government.

The government’s new revision is so problematic because,
unlike the current standard, it explicitly ignores the degree to
which immigrants support themselves. It adopts a flat rate
standard: If the government predicts that they will use $2.50 per
person per day for a family of four in benefits, it will ban them
from the country. Immigrants who even the government predicts will
be
95 percent
self-sufficient would still be considered public
charges.

The rule has other problems. Given that this rule is about a
prediction, the method of making the prediction becomes
very important. Yet this rule never specifies what it means by
“likely” to use benefits. How confident does the
government have to be that the applicants will use welfare? Is it
70 percent? Is it 50 percent? Is it 20 percent? Apparently every
Department of Homeland Security adjudicator will get to decide
their own standard, leading to wildly variable outcomes and denials
for people who should receive approvals.

The government does have voluminous data on noncitizen welfare,
but rather than use this data to make a precise assessment, it only
vaguely describes factors that adjudicators will
“weight” on a case-by-case basis. Under this process,
no immigrant will know in advance whether they qualify for a
visa.

How much does having a job count for you? How much does having
used welfare at some point in the past count against you? The rule
doesn’t say. From the rule, adjudicators would glean the
vague impression that they should start denying more visas to
people who work difficult, lower-paying jobs, who may lack college
degrees — even if they …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Tax Incentives' Bipartisan Folly

September 24, 2018 in Economics

By William Ruger, Jason Sorens

William Ruger and Jason Sorens

Tax rates are a critical factor that businesses pay attention to
when deciding where to invest. That may sound like a conservative
belief, but when it comes to attracting investment and jobs to
their states, Democratic governors use corporate tax incentives and
economic development zones at least as much as their Republican
counterparts.

Consider the example of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Promoting
one of New York’s many tax incentive programs, Cuomo argued earlier
this summer that “businesses do not come to New York state without
government incentives. Businesses literally shop states. … It
literally takes money to make money.”

Cuomo is right, to some extent. States and cities are bending
backward to provide incentives for companies such as Amazon to set
up shop, yet the fact that these incentive programs attract
particular businesses does not mean they are conducive to economic
growth in general. States are better served through broad-based tax
cuts rather than incentive programs. Just like direct subsidies,
tax incentives and economic development zones, with their
preferential tax and development policies, distort sound business
decisions, place government in the role of picking winners and
losers, and undermine the rule of law.

New York is one of the worst offenders. According to Good Jobs First, since 1980 the Empire
State has offered more than $34 billion in 127,154 different
subsidy programs, far more than any other state. In subsidy dollars
per capita, only five states exceed New York, three of them blue
(New Mexico, Oregon and Washington state) and two red (Kentucky and
Louisiana). Apart from blue Hawaii, states with the lowest
subsidies per person are red or purple: the Dakotas, New Hampshire
and Wyoming.

New York is a typical blue state, with high taxes and
regulations on business, but Albany tries to compensate for those
disadvantages with targeted incentives. How well does this model
work compared to the red-state model of deregulation, right-to-work
laws and low taxes on labor and investment? In our biennial Cato
Institute study, Freedom in the 50 States, we have
found year after year that states with lower tax and regulatory
burdens — more economic freedom — see faster income
growth.

States are better served
through broad-based tax cuts rather than incentive
programs.

To be sure, red states indulge in corporate welfare as well, but
these states are less likely to have broad-based income and sales
taxes, which mitigates some of their ability to dole out special
favors using narrow exemptions and credits. But regardless of who
is adopting incentive programs — conservative or progressive
governments — they rarely make sense.

Why don’t tax incentives offset the disadvantages …read more

Source: OP-EDS