Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Monday, May 30, 2016
Brazil's Temer pressed to drop anti-corruption minister
Brazil's interim President Michel Temer is facing pressure to drop his anti-corruption minister, the second top official in his administration accused of trying to derail a sprawling bribery and kickback probe before taking office.
Transparency Minister Fabiano Silveira, the man tasked with fighting corruption, and Senate President Renan Calheiros became the latest officials ensnared by leaked recordings secretly made by a former oil industry executive as part of a plea bargain.
Those tapes led to the resignation of the planning minister last week, dealing a blow to Temer's efforts to build a stable government in the wake of the May 12 suspension of leftist President Dilma Rousseff.
A government source told Reuters on Monday that Silveira will stay in his job for now. He took over the post almost three weeks ago.
In parts of the recordings, aired by TV Globo on Sunday night, Silveira criticizes prosecutors in the probe focused on state-run oil company Petrobras, which has already implicated dozens of politicians and led to the imprisonment of top executives.
In the conversation, recorded at Calheiros' home three months before Silveira became minister, Silveira advises the Senate leader on how best to defend himself from the probe.
The former head of the transportation arm of Petrobras, Sergio Machado, who is under investigation as part of the graft probe and has turned state's witness, recorded the meeting and conversations with other politicians to obtain leniency from prosecutors.
Silveira was a counsellor on the National Justice Counsel, a judicial watchdog agency, at the time of the meeting.
In its report, Globo TV also said some audio indicated that Silveira on several occasions spoke with prosecutors in charge of the Petrobras case to find out what information they might have on Calheiros, which he reported back to the Senate leader.
Silveira is heard saying prosecutors were "totally lost."
A spokesman for Silveira confirmed the conversation took place but said the excerpts were taken out of context.
"Temer's initial decision was that Silveira can continue in his post for now because he did not interfere in the investigation, he was just giving Calheiros advice," the spokesman said. He said Silveira was meeting his lawyers.
On Monday, Ministry of Transparency staff marched to the presidential palace in Brasilia to demand Silveira's ouster and restoration of the comptroller general's office, which Temer renamed to show his commitment to fighting corruption.
All employees with management duties at the ministry resigned their posts to press their demands, union leader Rudinei Marques said.
Earlier, protesting employees prevented Silveira from entering the ministry building. They then washed its facade with soap and water to symbolize Temer's need to clean up his government.
Temer, a centrist who was Rousseff's vice president, will meet with Brazil's prosecutor general later on Monday to discuss the leaked recordings.
Several members of Temer's cabinet are under investigation in the Petrobras probe. Rousseff, facing an impeachment trial in the Senate on charges of breaking budget laws, and others have said Temer plotted her downfall to stifle the investigation.
Temer strongly denies the allegation.
But the recordings add weight to the argument that the new government is illegitimate and may undercut support for Rousseff's ouster in the Senate, which needs a two-thirds majority to convict her in a trial expected to last through August.Last week, one of Temer's most important confidants, Senator Romero Juca, was forced from his new role as planning minister after a leaked audio, also recorded by Machado before Rousseff's suspension, revealed him suggesting a pact be made across party lines for politicians to weaken the investigation.
The two-year probe into billions in graft at Petrobras has led to jail for executives from Brazil's top construction firms and investigations of dozens of politicians, including several members of Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, and Rousseff's Workers Party.
Temer served as Rousseff's vice president after she took office in 2011, and the PMDB was the strongest coalition partner for the Workers Party since 2006, when former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was in power.
Judge criticized by Trump unseals documents in Trump University case
A judge, called a "hater" by Donald Trump for his handling of a lawsuit related to the businessman's Trump University real estate school, has unsealed documents related to the case.
Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for the Nov. 8 election, is fighting a lawsuit that accuses his school venture of misleading thousands of people who paid up to $35,000 for seminars to learn about the billionaire's real estate investment strategies.
In an order signed on Friday, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel said that materials, including Trump University procedures on dealing with students and the media, should be unsealed.
He noted they had already been published by the media organization Politico and that a magistrate judge described them previously as "routine" and "commonplace."
At a rally in San Diego on Friday, Trump criticized Curiel for his handling of the Trump University case.
"I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. A hater. He's a hater," Trump said.
"We're in front of a very hostile judge. The judge was appointed by Barack Obama," Trump said, adding he believed Curiel was Mexican.
Curiel is an American who was born in East Chicago, Indiana, and graduated from the Indiana University School of Law.
Legal scholars said Trump could face consequences for slamming the judge, although many speculated that Curiel was unlikely to sanction him formally.
"Mr. Trump's conduct could be subject to sanction for indirect criminal contempt of court," said Charles Geyh, a legal ethics expert at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.
"He has impugned the honesty of the judge in a pending case, and has done so in the context of a political rally that seems calculated to intimidate by inciting anger among his supporters," he said.
Arthur Hellman, an expert on federal courts and judicial ethics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, said the judge was in a difficult position.
"He can’t respond directly. He’s not supposed to talk out of court about proceedings before him. Judges have gotten into trouble defending themselves from attacks. The judge’s hands are really tied," he said.
Trump has drawn criticism for his comments about immigrants from Mexico, some of whom he has said were criminals and rapists.
He has proposed building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico to prevent illegal immigration and requiring Mexico to pay for it.
Hispanics are a critical voting bloc in U.S. presidential elections.
Last week, Trump knocked one of the highest-profile Hispanic women in the Republican Party, criticizing New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez for her handling of the state's economy.
Her office said his criticisms were not substantive. Martinez has been touted as a potential vice presidential pick for a Republican ticket.
Who Really Cares About Hillary’s Email?
Contrary to click-bait headlines this week, the State Department inspector general’s report proves that Hillary Clinton is by a long shot the most qualified and trustworthy candidate running for president. But don’t take my word for it, take five minutes and read the report yourself. The section about Clinton “breaking the rules” is less than six pages long.
The actual rules, however, would take weeks to read. They are mostly contained in the “Foreign Affairs Manual,” and just skimming them is dizzying. They make the report’s conclusion that “longstanding, systemic weaknesses related to electronic records and communications have existed within the Office of the Secretary that go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State” come as no surprise
No surprise either that with its budget declining and national security mission growing for decades, “records management” hasn’t been a high priority for the State Department.
What may be surprising is that had Clinton used a government server and email address, we would know nothing more about anything today; in fact, we’d probably know less since Clinton’s records retention system was far more sophisticated, well-maintained, secure and organized than the government’s. What definitely came as a shocker in the report was the government’s so-called “system” for retaining email: 1. Print every one and stick it in a box in random order. 2. Put said box on a shelf somewhere. 3. Start a new box. Seriously. Read the report. There are thousands of boxes of emails in no order, with no way of knowing whether they are comprehensive.
Well, I guess we know they’re not comprehensive. The report clarifies that Colin Powell, for instance, hasn’t printed any of his emails from his private server.
“Printing and filing remained the only method by which emails could properly be preserved within the office of the secretary in full compliance with existing FAM Guidance,” says the report, and “80 percent of agencies had an elevated risk for the improper management of electronic records reflecting serious challenges handling vast amounts of email, integrating records management functionality into electronic systems, and adapting to the changing technological and regulatory environments.”
How’s that for a confidence booster?
The specific “rule” Clinton allegedly broke states that the “general policy” of the State Department is for employees to use government email service on a government-issued device, but it then goes on to provide the conditions under which exceptions are made. The report acknowledges that Clinton had been openly using her private email server since she was a senator, through her 2008 presidential campaign and then as secretary of state. In fact, during her tenure at the State Department, 55,000 emails were sent by Clinton using her clintonemail.com email address, all of which have been printed and made available, more than any other previous secretaries.
The report also clearly states: “Laws and regulations did not prohibit employees from using their personal email accounts for the conduct of official Department business.” And nowhere in the report is there suggestion that Clinton’s use of a private email address and server was “illegal.”
Instead, the thrust of the criticism of Clinton is that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Information Resource Management were not asked permission by Clinton to use her private server. Had she asked, the new person in charge says, permission would have been denied.
How the new person in charge of security knows what the old person in charge of security when Clinton was secretary would have done is not explained, but bureaucrats under a microscope are like cockroaches when the lights come on. They scatter.
“These officials all stated that they were not asked to approve or otherwise review the use of Secretary Clinton’s server and that they had no knowledge of approval or review by other department staff. These officials also stated that they were unaware of the scope or extent of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email account, though many of them sent emails to the secretary on this account.”
So let’s get this straight: The bureaucrats “in charge” of security knew Clinton was using a private email server since 2001 — and they sent her email regularly to it between 2009 and 2013 — but they wouldn’t have given her permission to do that?
They sent her emails to her personal address, but they didn’t know she had a personal address?
This was no covert operation, for heaven’s sake. It’s not like Clinton was secretly selling arms to Iran and funding the Contras. The Clintons paid out-of-pocket for a few techies to work in their basement keeping this server humming and free from cyber breaches. Staffers from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security inspected the email system, looked at the logs and communicated with these people on a regular basis. The bureau even refused to help fix it when Hurricane Sandy disrupted power “because it was a private server,” according to the report.
Clinton reasonably believed her private server was allowed because the bureaucrats in charge of security allowed it. This present-day conviction for violating rule 12 FAM 544.2 after the fact means nothing of any consequence. Nobody was hurt. No security was breached. Who cares?
Oh, but other rules were broken —12 FAM 592.4 and 12 FAM 682.2-6 to be exact. These fault Clinton for failing to report a suspected a cyber-security “incident.”
Sounds Benghazi-like, right? Sounds pretty darn serious, right?
Wrong. The “incident” was Clinton sending an email to her under secretary that said, “Is this really from you? I was worried about opening it!”
The use of an unnecessary exclamation point might be fair game for critique, but really, in the grand scheme of things, do you care that she didn’t report this “incident?”
It’s not like she had nothing better to do as secretary of state. In 55,000 pages of email one alleged incident went unreported, so that makes her untrustworthy? Compared to whom? Trump? Bernie? How about reporting your tax returns, fellas?
The inspector general’s report found the State Department under Secretaries Albright, Powell, Rice and Kerry fell short of rules around the management, storage and protection of email transmission — as do virtually every other government agency and corporation.
In Maine we have rules, too, about document retention, and guess what? Nobody follows them, including Gov. Paul LePage. Until a document-shredding scandal was exposed, the Secretary of State’s office wasn’t even aware that 60 percent of state agencies didn’t have a records custodian, the board responsible for rulemaking was defunct and retention schedules were 30 years old.
Does this justify bad behavior? Of course not, but there’s a reason why so many people don’t care about Hillary Clinton’s 55,000 emails. The fact is, had she followed the letter of the law, our lives would be no better or worse. We would have had boxes of printed emails and instead we have boxes of printed emails. There’s not one iota of evidence of any motive to do harm, break the law or personally gain.
So to the people who were hoping the inspector general’s report would be the second-to-last nail in the coffin before a much-anticipated criminal indictment: sorry. Clinton remains the most qualified, experienced and trustworthy candidate by a long shot. She neither blames others for the technical rule violations, nor tried to cover up or conceal emails she sent or received.
The American people are sick and tired of hearing about her damn emails. There’s no smoking gun in the report. If that makes you unhappy, blame the liberal media
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Rio de Janeiro police are investigating allegations that more than 30 men and boys raped a 16-year-old girl, officials said on Friday, as outrage spread in the host city for the Olympics and reverberated across the country.
The reported assault was discovered after one of the suspects posted to Twitter a video of the nude, semi-conscious youth, with a few men brazenly insulting the girl, showing their faces, and one man heard saying, "more than 30 impregnated her!" The Twitter account where the video was posted has since been suspended.
Police said the girl told them more than 30 men had assaulted her, but they could not yet confirm how many took part in the alleged rape, as they are still investigating.
"There are all the indications that this rape did in fact happen, but we still have to investigate further before we can absolutely confirm it," said Fernando Veloso, head of Rio's civil police department, at a press conference on Friday.
Veloso said police have identified four suspects so far in the assault that apparently took place last Saturday in a western Rio slum - but have yet to make any arrests, saying further investigation is required.
Hashtags on Twitter such as #EstuproNaoÉCulpaDaVitima - Portuguese for "rape is not the victim's fault" - blasting the reported crime were among the top global trends.
Many Facebook users in Brazil, including suspended President Dilma Rousseff, the nation's first woman leader, changed their profile photos to the Venus female gender symbol with words calling for an end to a "culture of rape."
Brazil's interim President Michel Temer wrote on his Twitter account that he "vehemently repudiates" the alleged rape, and added that "it is absurd that in the 21st century we have to live with barbaric crimes like this."
Temer appointed a new government this month when Rousseff was suspended to face trial in the Senate for allegedly breaking budget rules. He came under intense criticism for excluding women and black Brazilians from his cabinet - something not seen in decades.
Temer said his justice minister would meet on Tuesday with the public security chiefs who oversee policing in Brazilian states to discuss how better to combat violence against women.
The interim president also said he would form a special department within the federal police focused on crimes against women, which would help to coordinate action and share information among the individual state security departments.
When Temer served as head of public safety for Sao Paulo state the early 1990s, he created the first police division in Brazil devoted to combating crimes against women, an idea that has since spread throughout the country.
RIO RESIDENTS SHOCKED
The cruelty of the alleged assault is the latest bleak chapter for Brazil and Rio.
The Olympic Games in August were meant to showcase a nation that had become a global power. Instead, they will take place as Rousseff faces an impeachment trial, the economy suffers its worst recession since the 1930s, an outbreak of the Zika virus prompts health concerns and a massive corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras infuriates Brazilians.
In Rio, a city that has long dealt with serious violence often involving minors, the brutal nature of the allegations shook citizens.
Marta and Leticia Festes, a mother and daughter heading to work and university in the Rio neighborhood of Copacabana, criticized a culture of sexism in Brazil. They said the slow and disorderly justice system lacked teeth and allowed for impunity.
"Some men think that they can get away with these things, especially in poor neighborhoods where the police are never around," said Marta, 43, who works as a maid.
Her 20-year-old daughter, in her third year of studying computer science, said stricter and swifter justice was needed.
"Those guys, if they even catch them, might serve a little jail time and then they'll all be free again," she said. "But the victim's life has been ruined."
Hillary Clinton's emails: broken rules, but nothing 'crooked'
broke some rules concerning her email management as secretary of state.he much-awaited State Department report yesterday declared that Hillary Clinton
The verdict taints her but does not deliver a knockout punch. Clinton does not deserve the slammer or political burial.
However, Donald Trump has been ranting for months that “she should be going to prison for what she’s done with the emails”.
But facts do not support that statement. She was chastised for her use of private email but so was former Republican secretary of state Colin Powell. The department itself was criticized too for not modernizing communications over the years and for failing to impose proper supervision in an era of growing cybersecurity threats.
Donald’s parallel universe of character assassination aside, I believe Clinton is guilty of a misdemeanor – not a crime. A FBI investigation still lingers, looking into whether her handling of classified information was illegal. But reports suggest that officials have yet to find that she “maliciously flouted classification rules.”
Clearly, however, she’s been bruised, even if exonerated from criminality.
Her defense has also been bruised. She maintained that a private email server was a “convenience” that allowed her to deal with only one smartphone and one email address, rather than two of each. She has further stated that “it was permitted. I did it. It turned out to be a mistake. It was not the best choice.”
Unfortunately, yesterday’s report stated that no permission was granted, nor was it sought by her. In this respect, she put herself above the rules within the department.
Trump continued yesterday to declare that the email controversy proves she’s a crook even though only the FBI and the courts can determine criminality, not him.
But his repetitious, unproven slanders about her won’t end. Unlike other countries with libel and slander protections, the United States considers public figures fair game and they can be maligned with impunity. Trump has mastered the art of the smear.
Yesterday, he said again that Clinton was “as crooked as they come. She had a little bad news today as you know. Some reports [that] came down weren’t so good.”
He also slammed two other prominent women – the most successful Hispanic Republican politician in America, Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico, as well as Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren.
“She’s [Martinez] not doing the job. We’ve got to get her moving. Come on. Let’s go, governor,” Trump said to the crowd. “Maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico. I’ll get this place going.”
His animus toward Martinez is because she refuses to endorse him and boycotted his rally in her state yesterday.
Senator Warren is a favorite Trump whipping girl whom he calls “Pocahontas”, because she has Native American heritage, and whom he has labelled as a “total failure” as a politician.
Clinton’s other rival, senator Bernie Sanders, ignored the email controversy yesterday and pledged to stick to issues. During the campaign trail, he has stated that the American people were sick of Clinton’s “damn emails”. Following yesterday’s wrist-slap report, Sanders campaign chair Jeff Weaver said “the report speaks for itself. This is obviously an area where the senator has chosen not to go.”
A cranky Sanders said in an interview in California that he had been asked “five million times” about the emails and won’t comment about that or about Bill Clinton’s personal life. But Trump is an unrelenting muckraker and will continue to hammer away about Bill Clinton’s old sexual escapades in an attempt to impugn Clinton’s character.
His strategy of insults has won him television ratings and polling results so far. But the general election is not American Idol. The media is riveted to his performances, but there is widespread concern about his intemperate, unsubstantiated and crude outbursts.
And November is months away.
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