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New details emerge in secret grand jury case reportedly tied to Mueller — but it's not what anyone expected

December 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The case required an entire floor of a D.C. courthouse to be cleared.


Some suspected the defendant in a secret grand jury proceeding reportedly tied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller could have been the president, the vice president, or even one of the president's children.

All of those theories have proven to be wrong. But the truth, though not fully revealed, may turn out to be just as intriguing as any of those answers might have been.

Zoe Tillman, a BuzzFeed news reporter, was among the first to spot the newest development.

“Remember that mystery grand jury subpoena case argued last week in the DC Circuit?” Tillman said in a tweet. “A decision is out, and it's public, sort of — it's about a company (unnamed) owned by a country (unnamed). Court upheld the denial of a motion to quash the subpoena.”

The revelation raises at least as many questions as it does answers. If, as has been reported, the case is brought by Mueller's team, it's not obvious which country and company would be under scrutiny. Russia is the most natural guess, but other foreign countries could have fallen into the scope of Mueller's investigation, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Trump and his associates' connections with these entities have drawn increasing scrutiny.

If this country and company turn out to be central to the investigation, the development could reveal a new branch of the investigation previously unreported.

The grand jury in question has subpoenaed information from the foreign company, but the country has claimed that it is immune from such a subpoena and that it would violate the country's own laws. The D.C. court, however, disagreed — and the court held the company in contempt for failing to comply. The corporation is continuing to appeal the case.

“Looks like it’s got a good shot to go to the Supreme Court on this point; the DC Circuit carved out a brand new ground for federal courts to exercise subject matter jurisdiction over foreign sovereigns (in criminal cases),” noted legal analyst Luppe Luppen.

Read the judgment below:

<Img align="left" border="0" height="1" width="1" alt="" style="border:0;float:left;margin:0;padding:0;width:1px!important;height:1px!important" hspace="0" …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump's Wall Will Not Stop Terrorism

December 18, 2018 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

Chérif Chekatt murdered five people and wounded 11 in a terror attack in France last week before being killed by police. Shortly before the attack, President Trump argued with the incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer over funding the border wall. Trump linked his earlier spat with the Democrats and the attack in France when he tweeted: “Another very bad terror attack in France. We are going to strengthen our borders even more.”

Terrorist attacks are a serious threat that the government needs to try to prevent, but there’s only one problem with Trump’s tweet: A U.S.-Mexico border wall will not prevent terrorism.

Trump is the latest American politician to argue that there’s a large threat from terrorists crossing the Mexican border. In the aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) claimed that there was “credible information regarding potential terrorist infiltration through the southern border regarding this incident,” even though no such evidence ever came to light. Back in 2014, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said that “ISIS is coming across the southern border.”

There is almost no evidence of a terrorist threat from the Mexican border. Not a single Mexican or Central American has committed or planned to commit an attack on U.S. soil since 1975.

The Center for Immigration Studies has done more than any group to exaggerate the terrorist threat along the border. Yet even its own report could not identify a single individual who has committed or tried to commit an attack on U.S. soil after crossing the border.

According to a CIS report, “15 suspected terrorists have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, or en route, since 2001.” But only one of the supposed 15 terrorists, Mahmoud Kourani, was convicted — of conspiracy to send money to Hezbollah. Kourani’s offense is serious, but it’s not comparable to murdering people in an attack as Chérif Chekatt did.

Many of the other supposed terrorists on CIS’ list are unidentified, and thus unverifiable. They were stopped by Central American governments and never charged with terrorist offenses, or travelled through the United States to Canada, in the case of Abdulahi Sharif. CIS had to include unidentified people with “credibly suspected or confirmed terrorism …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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'He's acting like a nut': Trump aides are reportedly alarmed at his actions as the president plans a purge of White House staff

December 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

He's clearing spooked that the Russia investigation is zeroing in on him.


With 2018 winding down, President Donald Trump is getting ready to face a House of Representatives that will be much more Democratic. But the Capitol Building isn’t the only place in Washington, DC that is in a restless state: there is pre-2019 chaos in the White House as well—and a new Vanity Fair article by Gabriel Sherman describes some of the chaos at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

For his article, Sherman interviewed some Republicans and a former Trump Administration official—all of them quoted anonymously. And according to Sherman’s sources, everything from the search for a new chief of staff to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has the president on edge.

A former Administration official told Sherman that “the staff is fed up” with Trump because “he’s acting like a nut. They can’t get him to stop tweeting.”

One of the things that has Trump agitated is his search for a replacement for Chief of Staff John Kelly. Sherman mentions that Citizens United’s David Bossie was an option, but one of the problems with Bossie was his alliances with Corey Lewandowski and Steve Bannon—neither of whom get along with Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner. And eventually, Sherman says, Kushner recommended Budget Director Mick Mulvaney for the position, who has been given the job on an “acting” basis.

Trump’s allies, according to Sherman, are pushing him to get Kelly to sign a nondisclosure agreement. “People are worried that Kelly will be out there dropping bombs,” one of Sherman’s anonymous sources is quoted as saying.

Sherman also reports that “West Wing officials anticipate more departures—and worry that filling the jobs may be difficult.” This in part because Trump reportedly wants to fire all the Kelly loyalists remaining the White House. Deputy Chief of Staff Zach Fuentes and John DeStefano, counselor to Trump, “are likely to leave,” Sherman reports.

According to the report, some Trump allies believe that Donald Trump Jr. may be a “secret witness” at issue in the Mueller probe, but a spokesperson for the president's eldest son did not respond to a …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Trump administration just announced an actual step forward on gun control

December 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Trump has billed himself as a strong ally of the NRA.


The use of bump stocks, which are devices that allow semiautomatic weapons to be converted into full-fledged machine guns, has been hotly debated by gun control and gun rights activists. And today, the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs announced a clarification on bump stocks—asserting that they meet the definition of “machine gun” under federal law.   

The Justice Department, in a December 18 press release, clarified, “The term ‘machine gun’ includes bump-stock devices, i.e., devices that allow a semiautomatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger by harnessing the recoil energy of the semi-automatic firearm to which it is affixed so that the trigger resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.”

Because of this clarification, the press release stated, bump stocks are illegal to possess. Therefore, “persons in possession of bump-stock-type devices must divest themselves of the devices before the effective date of the final rule,” the announcement said.

The press release added that someone in possession of a bump stock may abandon it at the nearest office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

In the press release, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker—who replaced Jeff Sessions after the 2018 midterms—is quoted as saying, “President Donald Trump is a law and order president, who has signed into law millions of dollars in funding for law enforcement officers in our schools. And under his strong leadership, the Department of Justice has prosecuted more gun criminals than ever before as we target violent criminals. We are faithfully following President Trump’s leadership by making clear that bump stocks, which turn semiautomatics into machine guns, are illegal—and we will continue to take illegal guns off of our streets.”

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13 Photos of Powerful Communist Leaders and Dictators

December 18, 2018 in History

By History Staff

From Karl Marx to Joseph Stalin to Mao Zedong, the label of communism has been attached to these figures—and their often ruthless governments—through history.

Communism as an ideology arose in the wake of the first Industrial Revolution when overworked, underpaid workers felt exploited and sought better representation in government. The Communist Manifesto, as laid out by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, called for a classless society where each person would contribute according to ability and receive according to his or her needs.

While Marx never saw communism in action in his lifetime, Vladimir Lenin led the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, overthrowing imperial rule and establishing the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Communism then spread to China and on to Cuba, Vietnam and Korea.

The original, higher vision of communism, as outlined by Marx and Engels, was never implemented. But a series of leaders and dictators from the Soviet Union to China to Cuba would label their governments as communist. Many of these leaders, including Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, were brutal in their rule, overseeing the mass murder of millions of their own citizens. They also came to represent one side of the Cold War with the United States. See a gallery of communist figures and dictators through history below.

Karl Marx, a German philosopher and economist, is considered the father of Communism. Marx collaborated with Friedrich Engels to propose a new ideology in which the state owns major resources and everyone shares the benefits of labor. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engel called for a working-class revolt against capitalism. Their motto, “Workers of the world, unite!” became a rallying cry among disgruntled working class across Europe

View the 13 images of this gallery on the original article

Want more HISTORY? Read more:

How Photos Became a Weapon in Stalin’s Great Purge

Why the Communist Party Defended the Scottsboro Boys

How North Korea Feeds It’s Impoverished People A Steady Diet of Anti-U.S. Paranoia

Did Perestroika Cause the Fall of the Soviet Union?

How Ping-Pong Diplomacy Thawed the Cold War

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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'Have you done the math on that?' Reporters debunk Sarah Sanders' embarrassing claim that Mexico will pay for the wall

December 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

She's trying to pretend that a ridiculous campaign applause line is a political reality.


White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders remains in the unfortunate position — of course, only through her own choosing — of defending President Donald Trump's most preposterous promises and statements.

Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, she contorted the basic principles of logic trying to defend Trump's false promise that Mexico will be paying for the border wall. This is a particularly embarrassing topic for the White House right now, as it has threatened to shut down the government as it demands Congress provide wall funds. It now appears to be backing away from these threats. But the entire brinkmanship is ridiculous given that Trump repeatedly promised that Mexico would pay, even as all his detractors said this was ridiculous.

“With the deficit ballooning to over $1 trillion under this president, where are the additional monies for this wall going to come from, and why is he asking the American taxpayer for them when he promised Mexico was going to pay?” asked one reporter at the briefing Tuesday.

“We're not asking American taxpayers for that,” said Sanders. “We are looking at existing funding through other agencies right now that we can draw on immediately.”

This made no sense. Any government agency the White House could draw funds from receives those funds from taxpayers.

Sanders continued: “The president's been clear that the USMCA deal would provide additional revenue through that deal that would show that Mexico is paying for the wall.”

The USMCA is the president's term for the new NAFTA, which hasn't yet been approved by Congress, and only makes relatively minor changes to the original deal.

The reporter wasn't buying it: “The trade benefits, if there are any, don't go to the treasury.”

Sanders tried to argue that the supposed benefits of the deal could pay for the wall “four times over.” but, as the reporter pointed out, any putative benefits go directly to private citizens, not the government.

“We're talking about additional revenue that wouldn't have existed without the president getting a new deal,” Sanders shot back.

“Have you done the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Heartbreaking WWII Rescue That Saved 10,000 Jewish Children From the Nazis

December 18, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Parents gave their children advice and checked them over one last time. Then, came the goodbyes—sincere, but not too sad. “There was laughter and crying and one last hug,” recalled social worker Norbert Wollheim. The Jewish children, clutching their possessions, then walked toward the train to become child refugees in England. Their parents stayed behind.

The parting may have been understated, but its consequences were not. For most of the children who left Germany in scenes similar to the one Wollheim recalled, it was the last time they ever saw their parents. They were part of the Kindertransport, or children’s transport, a rescue effort that brought Jewish children to England in the lead-up to the Holocaust.

The Central British Fund for German Jewry, later known as Jewish Relief, discovered these documents in 1994. They show photographs and details for three children who were brought to Britain from Austria to escape the Nazis.

“We couldn’t even foresee, we couldn’t surmise for a moment that for many or most, it would be the last goodbye, that most of those children would never see their parents again,” Wollheim recalled in an oral history.

Between 1938 and 1940, about 10,000 Jewish children made their way to Great Britain on the Kindertransport. But though the rescue is widely seen as one of the only successful attempts to save European Jews from the Holocaust, the reality was much more complicated.

READ MORE: Holocaust Photos Reveal Horrors of Nazi Concentration Camps

The idea for the Kindertransport came after Kristallnacht, the anti-Jewish pogrom in which tens of thousands of synagogues, homes, and businesses were destroyed in November 1938. Life had been getting harder for Jews under Nazism, but Kristallnacht represented a turning point. After the violence, Jewish parents began desperately searching for ways to get themselves—and their children—to safer countries.

That wasn’t easy. The United States, Great Britain and other countries had strict immigration quotas and repeatedly refused to change their policies to help Jews under threat from the Nazi regime. At the 1938 Evian Conference, 32 nations had met to discuss what to do about the increasing number of Jewish refugees. But Great Britain, France and the United States had all left without committing to change their policies.


Tired and alone, 8-year-old Josepha Salmon, arriving from Germany destined for the Dovercourt Bay camp near Harwich in December …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Sarah Sanders gets flustered as a reporter corners her on Trump's praise for Michael Flynn — despite his traitorous actions

December 18, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The president's treatment of Michael Flynn continues to perplex.


President Donald Trump's treatment of his former aides Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen makes for a remarkable contrast, with Flynn continuing to receive praise from the president while Cohen gets deemed a “rat.”

This dissonance is particularly striking because of the similarity of the cases between Cohen and Flynn. Both have pleaded guilty to criminal counts of lying, and both have become cooperators with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a part of the Russia investigation. But Flynn receives nothing but love from Trump, while Cohen earns vitriol.

When White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was faced with explaining this disparity on Tuesday, she was at a complete loss for a reasonable explanation.

“Michael Flynn pleaded today that he did lie to the FBI repeatedly and that he was working for a foreign government during the campaign. Does that concern the president?” one reporter asked.

“Not when it comes to anything that has to do with the president,” Sanders said — though this made little sense. Flynn was a foreign policy adviser to the president during the campaign. The fact that he was on the payroll of Turkey at the time is, of course, relevant to the president. Sanders tried to deflect the line of questioning by saying that the investigation is supposed to be about Russia, as if that nullifies any other criminal activity it uncovers.

“Is the president concerned that Michael Flynn lied to representatives of his own government and was working for a foreign government during the campaign?” the reporter pushed. “Does that concern him or not?”

“There's certainly concern,” Sanders said, notably using the passive voice. “But that's something for the court to make that determination. And we'll let them do that.”

This, of course, made no sense. Flynn has pleaded guilty, and the court has accepted the plea. The only thing left to do is issue a sentence, which Trump shouldn't need to make his evaluation of the case. And Trump and the White House have often been eager to voice opinions about ongoing cases, or even matters that aren't even criminal cases …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Japan invades Hong Kong

December 18, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

On this day, Japanese troops land in Hong Kong and a slaughter ensues.

A week of air raids over Hong Kong, a British crown colony, was followed up on December 17 with a visit paid by Japanese envoys to Sir Mark Young, the British governor of Hong Kong. The envoys’ message was simple: The British garrison there should simply surrender to the Japanese—resistance was futile. The envoys were sent home with the following retort: “The governor and commander in chief of Hong Kong declines absolutely to enter into negotiations for the surrender of Hong Kong…”

The first wave of Japanese troops landed in Hong Kong with artillery fire for cover and the following order from their commander: “Take no prisoners.” Upon overrunning a volunteer antiaircraft battery, the Japanese invaders roped together the captured soldiers and proceeded to bayonet them to death. Even those who offered no resistance, such as the Royal Medical Corps, were led up a hill and killed.

The Japanese quickly took control of key reservoirs, threatening the British and Chinese inhabitants with a slow death by thirst. The Brits finally surrendered control of Hong Kong on Christmas Day.

The War Powers Act was passed by Congress on the same day, authorizing the president to initiate and terminate defense contracts, reconfigure government agencies for wartime priorities, and regulate the freezing of foreign assets. It also permitted him to censor all communications coming in and leaving the country.

FDR appointed the executive news director of the Associated Press, Byron Price, as director of censorship. Although invested with the awesome power to restrict and withhold news, Price took no extreme measures, allowing news outlets and radio stations to self-censor, which they did. Most top secret information, including the construction of the atom bomb, remained just that.

The most extreme use of the censorship law seems to have been the restriction of the free flow of “girlie” magazines to servicemen—including Esquire, which the Post Office considered obscene for its occasional saucy cartoons and pinups. Esquire took the Post Office to court, and after three years the Supreme Court ultimately sided with the magazine.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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Slavery abolished in America

December 18, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

Following its ratification by the requisite three-quarters of the states earlier in the month, the 13th Amendment is formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution, ensuring that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Before the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and other leaders of the anti-slavery Republican Party sought not to abolish slavery but merely to stop its extension into new territories and states in the American West. This policy was unacceptable to most Southern politicians, who believed that the growth of free states would turn the U.S. power structure irrevocably against them. In November 1860, Lincoln’s election as president signaled the secession of seven Southern states and the formation of the Confederate States of America. Shortly after his inauguration in 1861, the Civil War began. Four more Southern states joined the Confederacy, while four border slave states in the upper South remained in the Union.

Lincoln, though he privately detested slavery, responded cautiously to the call by abolitionists for emancipation of all American slaves after the outbreak of the Civil War. As the war dragged on, however, the Republican-dominated federal government began to realize the strategic advantages of emancipation: The liberation of slaves would weaken the Confederacy by depriving it of a major portion of its labor force, which would in turn strengthen the Union by producing an influx of manpower. With 11 Southern states seceded from the Union, there were few pro-slavery congressmen to stand in the way of such an action.

In 1862, Congress annulled the fugitive slave laws, prohibited slavery in the U.S. territories, and authorized Lincoln to employ freed slaves in the army. Following the major Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in September, Lincoln issued a warning of his intent to issue an emancipation proclamation for all states still in rebellion on New Year’s Day.

That day–January 1, 1863–President Lincoln formally issued the Emancipation Proclamation, calling on the Union army to liberate all slaves in states still in rebellion as “an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity.” These three million slaves were declared to be “then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The proclamation exempted the border slave states that remained in the Union and all or parts of three Confederate states controlled by the Union army.

The Emancipation Proclamation transformed the Civil …read more

Source: HISTORY