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Embattled Trump Cabinet Official Misspent Thousands of Taxpayer Dollars and Violated Department Policy: Report

October 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The Cabinet has faced a deluge of corruption scandals.


Will Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke be the next of President Donald Trump's Cabinet officials to go?

The latest reason to think Zinke may face the same humiliating fate as former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was revealed Thursday in a new report from the Washington Post. It said that an internal investigation has found that Zinke misspent government funds in violation of federal policy.

The report explains:

The Interior Department’s watchdog found that Zinke violated department policy by allowing his wife to travel in government vehicles and instructing his security detail to drive an associate to the airport.

The decision to take an unarmed security detail on his overseas vacation cost taxpayers $25,000, the report found.

Zinke was already facing scrutiny this week when it was announced that he was replacing the department's inspector general — a career official — with a political appointee from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This appeared to be a blatant effort to remove an independent and potentially critical force within the agency and replace her with a toady. Around a dozen investigations of potential misconduct were already looming over Zinke at the time of the announcement.

The department backtracked on Thursday, calling the previous day's announcement “100 percent false information,” the Post reported.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Ex-Republican Steve Schmidt Unleashes on 'This Vile Age of Trumpism' in Epic Rant Linking the President's Policies to Slavery

October 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

It was a powerful condemnation of the moral failings of our times.


Fear continues to be the force President Donald Trump thinks will be key to maintaining his stranglehold on American political power. In the latest iteration of this tactic, he's trying to whip up concern about a caravan of immigrants making its way from Honduras in an effort to seek asylum in the United States.

In response to Trump's baseless and dangerous fearmongering, former Republican Steve Schmidt, who used to serve on GOP presidential campaigns before Trump's takeover of the party, laid out why the president's reaction is so despicable. 

“These are vulnerable people fleeing some of the most violence-ravaged places on Earth,” said Schmidt on “Deadline: White House” Thursday. “And why do they walk for 2,000 miles? Because of the power of an idea. That idea is this place. America. A place where people are free. And they are safe.”

He continued: “And the idea that when a mother — through suffering, through abuse, through risk and sometimes death all around them — when they reach the border and they see a uniform with an American flag. And they are no longer safe. But that baby is ripped away and put into an internment camp? This is a moral outrage that harkens to the worse excesses in the history of the country. To the separation of families at the slave auction blocks, to the separation of Native American families. It is a moral outrage.”

Host Nicolle Wallace added: “As Laura Bush said: the Japanese internment camps.”

And then Schmidt turned to address Democrats, who he argued haven't done enough to stand up to Trump.

“This is the failure of the Democratic Party to address this as a small issue, not as a profound stain on our national honor,” he said. “As a profoundly un-American policy. And to frame the question for the country in this vile age of Trumpism: What is it that we are? Who are we as a people?”

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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Two Top Trump Aides Blew Up in a 'Profanity-Laced' Shouting Match as Midterm Election Pressure Rises: Reports

October 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Trump has said the White House is a “well-oiled machine.”


Just another day inside a “well-oiled machine”: According to reports from both CNN and Bloomberg, President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton engaged in a “profanity-laced” argument Thursday.

Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs reported that the source of the shouting match wasn't clear but linked it to the coming midterm election.

CNN was more specific, attributing the rift to an increase in crossings at the U.S-Mexico border.

While that report noted that heated arguments in the West Wing aren't unusual, “a source familiar with the clash equated it with a falling out.”

Discussion of potential resignations emerged — in particular, the potential departure of Kelly — but it appears everyone is committed to staying put for now.  According to CNN, though, it appears Bolton got the better of the argument when Trump took his side.

According to Bloomberg, it was not clear if the president overheard the actual shouting, but he was informed of the dispute.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Internet Scorches Jared Kushner After Report Finds He Callously Dismissed Concerns About the Alleged Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

October 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Kushner has been a major player in the alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia.


White House officials — up to and including President Donald Trump — continue to bungle the response to the reported murder of Washington Post journalist and United States resident Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudi government. But one of the key figures in the Saudi-U.S. alliance is receiving particular scrutiny for his role, or lack thereof, in the response: Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law.

Kushner was already facing blowback for his close relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to be implicated in the plot against Khashoggi. But a new report from the New York Times Thursday contained a few damning details that are triggering even more ire:

Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, has been urging the president to stand by Prince Mohammed, according to a person close to the White House and a former official with knowledge of the discussions.

Mr. Kushner has argued that the outrage over Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible killing will pass, just as it did after other Saudi errors like the kidnapping of the prime minister of Lebanon and the killing of a busload of children in Yemen by a Saudi airstrike.

Online observers began expressing scathing responses as soon as the report was published:

It's clear the situation has blown up well beyond the White House's ability to contain it, and the bungled and morally abhorrent response from the country's leadership is nothing short of an international scandal. Whether any of the pushback and outrage …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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This is Trump's Pathetic Excuse for Having Not Yet Visited a Military Base in a Combat Zone

October 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Rozsa, Salon

Reminder that Donald Trump received five deferments during the draft.


President Donald Trump, despite presenting himself as a champion of America's soldiers and veterans, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he is too busy to visit a military base in a combat zone like Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Well, I will do that at some point, but I don’t think it’s overly necessary,” Trump told the Associated Press. “I’ve been very busy with everything that’s taking place here. We have the greatest economy in the history of our country. I mean, this is the greatest economy we’ve ever had, best unemployment numbers. Many groups are, you know, we’ve never even been close to these numbers. I’m doing a lot of things. I’m doing a lot of things. But it’s something I’d do. And do gladly.”

He added, “Nobody has been better at the military. Hey, I just got them a pay raise. I haven’t had a pay raise in 11 years. I just got them a substantial pay raise. ‘They’ meaning our military people. I just got them new equipment. They have stuff that was so old that the grandfathers used to fly it. I have done more for the military than any president in many, many years.”

@gretawire: PresObama is not busy talking to Congress about Syria..he is playing golf …go figure”

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2013

Can you believe that,with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf.Worse than Carter

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2014

Later during the interview, Trump returned to the theme that he had been a staunch ally of the military, although he did so as part of a broader response to a question about the budget deficit.

“Excuse me. No. 1, I had to take care of our military. I had no choice but to do it, and I want to take care of our military,” Trump told the Associated Press. He later elaborated, “We had to do things that we had to do. And I’ve done them. Now we’re going …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why the Romanov Family’s Fate Was a Secret Until the Fall of the Soviet Union

October 18, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Tsar Nicholas and his family waited patiently in the basement. For much of 1918, the Romanov family had been the captives of the Bolsheviks who overthrew Nicholas II in the bloody Russian Revolution, and they were used to moving from place to place.

They had no idea they had reached their final destination. Suddenly, armed thugs rushed in. Yakov Yurovsky, a revolutionary who led the Bolshevik’s secret police, told Nicholas he was about to be executed.

“What? What?” the tsar exclaimed. It was too late: The murder of the entire Russian imperial family, the Romanovs, had been ordered by the highest levels of Soviet leadership.

But the execution-style killings were just the beginning. The lifeless bodies of Russia’s last monarch, his wife Alexandra, and their five children, Alexei, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, were about to go on a journey that would stretch over years, stoke controversy and stump historians.

The cellar of Ipatiev house in Yekaterinburg, after the Execution of the Imperial Family in the night in July 1918.

The burial of the Romanov family is as gruesome as their execution

The murder of the imperial family was no simple affair. It took multiple attempts and 20 minutes to kill every family member, and Yakov Yurovsky and his men had to use the butts of their guns, bayonets, knives and brute force to finish off the Romanov children and their servants.

Then it was time to cover up the murders. Chaos ensued as Yurovsky and his men drove the bodies into the forest, stripped them down, confiscated their jewelry and the jewels that were hidden in their clothing, and buried them. As they did so, they covered them in acid and buried them. But the grave, located in a mine, was too shallow, and when the men tried to collapse the mine with grenades it failed. Instead, they disinterred the bodies as they frantically searched for another grave site.

Finally, they dug another shallow grave, and, after abusing the corpses even more, buried all but two of the family members. Two of the children—likely Maria and Alexei—were burned and the remnants of their bodies buried in another, separate grave nearby.


The examination of Tsar Nicholas II’s skull by photographic superimposition after the discovery of bones recovered in 1991.

Bolsheviks admit to killing Nicholas II, but cover up the murder of his family

A few …read more

Source: HISTORY

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5 Notable Women Hanged in the Salem Witch Trials

October 18, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

An elderly widow, a beggar and a church-going woman who made a stand against the trials were among those executed.


The Salem Witch trials of the late 17th century.

In early 1692, during the depths of winter in Massachusetts Bay Colony, a group of young girls in the village of Salem began acting strangely. The daughter and niece of the local minister, Samuel Parris, claimed to be afflicted by invisible forces who bit and pinched them, sending their limbs flailing. By mid-February, two more girls had joined them, and the first waves of panic gripped Salem’s residents: The girls had been bewitched.

The afflicted girls soon accused three women: the , his famous account of the Salem Witch Trials, Cotton Mather memorably called Carrier a “rampant hag” who aspired to be “Queen of Hell.” The court convicted Carrier in the same session as two prominent male victims of the witch hunts, John Proctor and Reverend George Burroughs, whom people suspected of being the ringleader of Salem’s witches. On August 19, Carrier went to Gallows Hill along with Proctor, Burroughs and two other men—she was the only woman executed that day.


Martha Corey and her prosecutors, after being found guilty of being a witch.

5. Martha Cory

Like Rebecca Nurse, Martha Cory was far from the usual witch suspect, who tended to be a poor outcast. She was a covenanted member of her church, and was considered an upstanding member of the community. But Martha had attracted suspicion after she tried to stop her husband, Giles, from attending one of the early examinations in the witch trials, even going so far as to hide his saddle. Shortly after this, one of the afflicted girls accused Martha of bewitching her and turning her blind.

Martha’s defiant attitude turned court officials against her, and Giles refused to corroborate her testimony, and even testified against her—at least until he himself was accused. Less than two weeks after Martha was found guilty and sentenced to death, Giles was pressed to death after he refused to enter a plea in his own trial. On September 22, Martha Cory went to the gallows along with seven other convicted witches, in what would be the last hangings of the Salem Witch Trials.

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Source: HISTORY

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Eeping Big Brother at Bay: Cruz vs. O'Rourke

October 18, 2018 in Economics

By Patrick G. Eddington

Patrick G. Eddington

Federal spying on Americans remains a clear public concern. As
the contest between U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat, and
Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz heated up after Memorial Day, the Pew
Research Center reported in June 2018 that a clear majority of
Americans felt Uncle Sam should not be targeting taxpayers for
surveillance without real cause. So which candidate has done the
most to protect Texans from illegal federal surveillance? By voting
record, O’Rourke has the edge.

That’s not entirely Cruz’s fault, however.
O’Rourke has had more chances to vote on reining in the kind
of digital vacuum cleaner-style surveillance revealed by NSA
contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden. Although Cruz and
O’Rourke were both elected in the 2012 cycle, the House of
Representatives has had more votes than the Senate on
surveillance-related legislation over the last six years.

A month after Snowden’s initial revelations of mass telephone surveillance in
June 2013, O’Rourke joined libertarian-leaning U.S. Rep.
Justin Amash, R-Michigan, and 203 other House members in sponsoring
the first legislation (an amendment to the annual Pentagon spending bill)
to prevent warrantless government surveillance of Americans. The
amendment was only defeated because of a last-minute campaign against the
measure by the House GOP leadership.

Which candidate has done
the most to protect Texans from illegal federal surveillance? By
voting record, O’Rourke has the edge.

In 2014, O’Rourke, Amash, and an even larger bipartisan
coalition of lawmakers tried again to restrict warrantless NSA
surveillance via the same mechanism — the Defense Department
appropriations bill. This time, the amendment passed by a veto-safe margin of 293-123. However, the
victory was short-lived. The House leadership removed the amendment during the conference
with the Senate over the final Pentagon budget bill.

Cruz got his first chance to weigh in on surveillance reform
during the Senate debate over the so-called “USA Freedom Act” in 2015. The bill was
polarizing: a highly controversial measure touted as a major telephone surveillance reform
by tech companies and some privacy groups but condemned by others
(including the author) as worse than meaningless as a reform
measure because it would narrow the scope of surveillance of
American’s telephone calls instead of ending it
altogether.

Cruz co-sponsored and voted for that bill, telling The Hill, “It is absolutely
critical for Congress to balance the privacy interests of
law-abiding citizens against the public’s interest in
national security.”

O’Rourke struck a similar tone in his official explanation on his vote, while also criticizing
the House GOP leadership for blocking his …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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This New York Village Seceded from the Union…for 85 Years

October 18, 2018 in History

By Christopher Klein

The men of Town Line voted to leave the United States at the start of the Civil War—but it wasn’t over slavery.

Sometime before the end of 1861, the men of a small New York hamlet gathered inside the village schoolhouse and voted 85 to 40 to sever ties with the United States. Seven Southern states had already seceded from the Union, but few could have imagined that this community 250 miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line would also choose to leave the United States in one of the quirkiest episodes of the Civil War.

Although Town Line seceded from the Union, it never sought admission into the Confederate States of America, and Karen Muchow, curator of the Alden Historical Society, says there is no documentary evidence that any of Town Line’s young men fought with the South in the Civil War.

Town Line, highlighted (left) in Erie County, New York (highlighted right).

Author Daren Wang, who grew up in Town Line, says this wasn’t a vote in support of slavery. Town Line was not only a stop on the New York Central Railroad but Wang’s childhood home served as a depot on the Underground Railroad as well, providing the basis for his historical novel, “The Hidden Light of Northern Fires,” which is set in Town Line during the Civil War. “I could find nothing to document anyone from Town Line aligning themselves with the Confederacy,” he says.

The reason for the secession remains a m.

So why did Town Line leave the Union? To this day, no one knows for sure. “There is no documentation that we have or know of,” Muchow says, “so all we know is what has been passed down orally.”

Historians’ best theory rests on Town Line’s Civil War demographics. Many of its citizens at the time were poor farmers who had fled the violence and revolutionary unrest of Germany in the late 1840s. The war-weary refugees feared a prolonged Civil War could result in a draft that would force them onto the battlefields of their adopted homeland. “They wanted to be left alone to farm. They didn’t want the government interfering, and they certainly didn’t want to send their kids off to war and not have a choice about it,” Wang says. “These farmers got together in late 1861 understanding conscription is a real possibility and that people can …read more

Source: HISTORY

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With His China Trade War, Trump Aims to Alter the Course of History

October 18, 2018 in Economics

By Daniel J. Ikenson

Daniel J. Ikenson

Over the objections of economists, small business owners and
former advisers, President Trump has chosen to prosecute a trade
war with China. He’s invoked U.S. laws that give him sweeping
authority to restrict imports without requiring congressional
consent. He’s imposed duties on about $250 billion of Chinese
goods and is signaling his intention to more than double the scope
to cover all goods imported from China. And he may tighten the
screws ever further after that.

That these measures are costly to U.S. consumers, manufacturers
and farmers has not altered the president’s course. That they
violate international trade rules doesn’t bother him in the
slightest. That Beijing has been kept off-balance and struggling to
make sense of Trump’s unorthodox tactics reassures him that
he is winning.

The president’s decision to throw down the gauntlet with
China reflects something deeper than merely the behavior of an
impetuous blowhard looking for a fight. Trump is aiming to alter
the course of history. While it would be less unsettling if that
task were left to someone who possesses at least a vague sense of
history, the point is that Trump’s hardline approach to China
is less an abrupt policy pivot than it is the culmination of years
of bipartisan hand-wringing in Washington over the question of how
to respond to China’s rise.

With some good reason, over the past decade, U.S. policymakers
from across the political spectrum have grown increasingly
skeptical of China’s commitment to the global trading system
and wary of the country’s ambitions. Trump may be the
proximate cause of the trade war, but for years China has been
daring the United States to start one. Beijing’s
discriminatory indigenous innovation policies, forced technology
transfers, apparent complicity in abetting other forms of
intellectual property theft, market-distorting industrial policies,
inconsistent treatment of foreign companies, and other
transgressions have antagonized Washington.

Undoubtedly, many of the allegations against China are
overwrought or fallacious. In all likelihood, the sum total of the
adverse effects of Beijing’s trade policy transgressions are
not orders of magnitude worse than the sum total of U.S. trade
policy transgressions. But it is perceptions that matter and,
frankly, under President Xi’s leadership, the Chinese
government has exacerbated rather than assuaged growing concerns in
America.

Whoever’s been managing Beijing’s public relations
has failed to maintain balance between the messages meant for their
domestic and foreign audiences. There has been too much
triumphalism about China’s resurgence, too much emphasis on
the inevitability of China leapfrogging the United States to the
technological fore, too much brash talk about China
“borrowing” Western innovations to get there, too
little evidence of China being a “responsible
stakeholder” and too few demonstrable assurances that China
remains committed to …read more

Source: OP-EDS