Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Federal Judge Calls Trump Deportation Order 'Inhumane'


The Trump administration's decision to deport a coffee farmer in Hawaii who came to the U.S. illegally 28 years ago prompted a harsh rebuke Tuesday from a federal appeals court judge who called it inhumane.

President Trump has claimed that his immigration policies would target the 'bad hombres," said Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The government decision in the immigration case "shows that even the 'good hombres' are not safe."

Reinhardt's comments came as the appeals court turned down a request from Andres Magana Ortiz to delay his deportation. The judge said the court was compelled to deny the request "because we do not have the authority to grant it. We are not, however, compelled to find the government's action in this case fair or just."

Magana Ortiz, now 43, came illegally to the U.S. when he was 15 and became a coffee farmer in Hawaii's Kona region. He has three children, all of them U.S. citizens because they were born in Hawaii, and he married his current wife last year.

He will be returned to Mexico, having spent 28 years successfully building a life and family in this country," Reinhardt said. "The government forces us to participate in ripping apart a family.

"I concur as a judge, but as a citizen I do not," Reinhardt concluded.


                      The Impossible Job of Speaking for Trump


As a staffer in the Trump White House, it’s dangerous to get too much attention; President Trump is known to dislike it when his staff outshines him in the media, or when aides get too much credit.

But as the departure of White House communications director Mike Dubke shows, having too low of a profile doesn’t protect you either.

“Mike is a pro,” said Katie Packer Beeson, a Republican strategist who has known Dubke for years. “But a communications expert is only as effective as the principal allows them to be. The best communications director in the business is no match for a boss who thinks they know better, changes their mind and struggles with the truth.
This is an impossible job and no amount of compensation in the world would make it worth taking.”

Dubke tendered his resignation on May 18, though his departure only became public knowledge on Tuesday in an Axios report, after Trump returned from his first foreign trip abroad. Dubke, a founder of the media-buying firm Crossroads Media, and an establishment Republican, was primarily brought in by press secretary Sean Spicer, another mainstream Republican figure whose stature within the administration has suffered. A shakeup in the White House communications shop after the foreign trip had been rumored for some time, but Dubke's departure is the first concrete sign that one could be underway.

The embattled Spicer, whose job has seemed perpetually in danger from the beginning, still gave the press briefing on Tuesday. One possible outcome is for Spicer to replace Dubke, with deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders taking Spicer’s current job.

Dubke’s ouster is being presented as a voluntary resignation.

"I want to thank Mike Dubke for his service to President Trump and this administration,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said in a statement on Tuesday. “We appreciate Mike and are very grateful for his service to President Trump and our country. Mike tendered his resignation just before the President's historic international trip and offered to remain onboard until a transition is concluded. Mike will assist with the transition and be a strong advocate for the President and the President's policies moving forward."

A Republican strategist with close knowledge of the situation said Dubke had taken the job knowing that it would be exceptionally difficult.

“I think he went into this with eyes as wide open as they could be and understood what the challenges might be and the challenges ended up being real,” the strategist said. “It’s a tough job to begin with but how do you manage to plan and execute around a president who’s as unpredictable as Trump? I don’t know how you do it.”

Dubke never cut much of a figure in a White House populated with outsize personalities and animated by factionalism and conflict. Trump told people he felt Dubke “could never go on offense” and that he didn’t think Dubke “would be somebody who was willing to go to the mat,” said a source close to the White House. Trump has blamed his communications team for the morass his administration finds itself in, as scandals related to the Russia investigation pile up and dominate coverage of his White House.

I tried to get Dubke to cooperate for a profile back in April; he invited me for a meeting in his office in the “upper press” area of the White House, but politely declined to cooperate. This remained the case on Tuesday. “Appreciate the persistence, but still think I will take a pass,” Dubke said in an email.

Dubke’s background made him an object of suspicion on the Trump-loyalist right, at least at first. In its story on his hiring, Breitbart News described him as a “Karl Rove acolyte” who “worked his way into President Donald Trump’s White House.” Dubke’s low profile made him less of a target during his tenure from Breitbart and its fellow travelers than some other establishment figures who have come on board to the White House. But he never fit in to any of the factions inside the White House.

“He’s not one of the New York people,” said the Republican strategist. “He’s not someone who’s looking to remake the world in some nationalistic image. And he’s not someone who got swept along in the tide from the RNC. In a world of factionalism he didn’t really fit into any one particular camp.”

Under different circumstances, someone like Dubke could have been an asset to a dysfunctional and disorganized White House.

“I think that his approach and personality is what the White House needs,” Brian Jones, Dubke’s partner at the Black Rock Group, told me when I was reporting a profile on Dubke in April. Dubke is expected to rejoin Black Rock after leaving the White House. “This is someone who plays nice with others, this is not someone who’s counting how many times they’re going to be on TV in week, this is someone who’s very results-driven and focused.”

The press team at the White House has struggled to keep up with, and explain a president who consistently creates communications problems for them to solve. His unwillingness to match his own message to that of his spokespeople speaks to an eternal truth about Trump, which is that he is the only person who can speak for himself. No one else has ever truly been empowered to do so.

Trump is now showing signs of wanting to return to his roots, so to speak, communications-wise. White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is in the process of setting up a team dedicated to dealing with the Russia issue; former Citizens United chief David Bossie, now at a pro-Trump outside group, and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, have both been spoken to about being a part of it.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Bossie said on Fox and Friends on Tuesday morning. “They’ve talked to many people including me.”

During the same TV hit, Bossie said Dubke “has done a good job trying to put together a communications staff at the White House, and it looks like it’s his time to move on because the White House looks like it’s going in a little bit different direction.”

Beeson, the Republican operative and Dubke ally, said there was only one person who could ultimately do Dubke’s former job.

“Trump should be his own communications director,” she said. “No one else can do it.”


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lawyer Arrested For Allegedly Telling Rape Victim She’d Be Deported If She Testified

Christos Vasiliades is also charged with offering her $3,000 not to show up in 



A Baltimore attorney was indicted Tuesday for allegedly pressuring a rape victim not to testify against his client, in part by threatening her with deportation.

Christos Vasiliades, 39, is accused of telling the woman and her husband that they would likely be deported if they showed up in court and offering them $3,000 from the defendant in exchange for not testifying.

The Maryland state indictment, first published by the Baltimore Sun, charges Vasiliades and Edgar Ivan Rodriguez, who acted as a Spanish-language interpreter for the woman and her husband, with obstruction of justice and witness intimidation by threat and corrupt means. (The couple’s names are blacked out in the public version of the indictment.)

Vasiliades was arrested on Tuesday and arraigned on Wednesday. He pleaded not guilty and prosecutors “agreed to release him under pretrial supervision,” said Raquel Guillory Coombs, public information officer at the Maryland Attorney General’s office.

The lawyer represents Mario Aguilar-Delossantos, who is facing felony rape charges. According to the indictment, Vasiliades contacted the woman and her husband on April 11 to meet and talk because he said his client’s case had become “more complicated.” 

During the meeting, Vasiliades allegedly pointed to the Trump administration’s ramped-up immigration efforts and warned the couple that they would risk deportation if they testified in court. In a follow-up meeting on May 18, the woman allegedly wore a device that recorded Vasiliades and Rodriguez claiming that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was “looking at this case.” 
“You know how things are with Trump’s laws now; someone goes to court, and boom, they get taken away,” Rodriguez said, according to the court documents. 

Vasiliades and Rodriguez allegedly offered the woman and her husband $3,000 in exchange for their silence. If the couple failed to show up in court, Vasiliades said he could get the case thrown out. Once that happened, the indictment said, the lawyer would alert Rodriguez, who would be waiting outside the courthouse to hand over the money. 

Afterward, the woman and her husband could seek out Aguilar-Delossantos and “kick his ass” themselves, Vasiliades allegedly suggested.

“If we were back home where I’m from, from Greece ... we would go f*ck him up, that’s it, if you want to do that, that’s fine,” the lawyer said, according to the indictment.

HuffPost reached out to Vasiliades for comment, but had not heard back from him at the time of publication. 
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told Mic.com that Vasiliades and Rodriguez had tried to capitalize on the “climate of fear” created by the Trump administration’s immigration policies and an uptick in ICE raids across the country.

“This case, I think, illustrates the folly of that kind of policy,” Frosh said. “It takes an enormous amount of courage for a rape victim to step forward and report a rape, and it takes even more courage for somebody who might be deported to step forward and report a crime.” 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Donald Trump claims his first foreign trip has been a success. His body language tells otherwise

The President failed to hold his wife's hand and pushed Montenegro Prime Minister

                                                               

Even if Donald Trump hasn't done a lot of public speaking during his big trip abroad, the body language of the president and those around him has spoken volumes. 

Day after day, with no presidential press conferences on the schedule, Trump watchers have instead parsed the president's movements, and taken away messages that are at times painfully obvious, at times puzzling. 
Put it all together, though, and the sense emerges of a president aggressively, if somewhat awkwardly, trying to assert himself on the world stage — with mixed success depending on his audience. 

"Throughout the trip he looked uncomfortable and isolated, others looked surprised or distant," presidential historian Julian Zelizer of Princeton wrote in an email. "The looks capture how much of the international community is dealing with the unorthodox president who has done little to show he cares about the role of the U.S. overseas."
There was certainly any number of routine and friendly interactions between Trump and world leaders.
But there was no mistaking the cool reception of NATO leaders who stood by with stone faces on Thursday as Trump lectured U.S. allies about the need to spend more on defence. No, heads were not bobbing as Trump intoned that he had been "very, very direct" with members of the NATO alliance in saying at they "must finally contribute their fair share." 

That came on the heels of a straight-faced greeting from the pontiff. In a photo that quickly went viral, Pope Francis posed next to the president with a dour look while Trump grinned. Adding to the dissonant image, Trump's wife, Melania, and daughter, Ivanka, stood next to the president, silently staring off into the distance, their sombre expressions heightened by their all black outfits. 
Back in Brussels, after the outdoor NATO ceremony ended, as the leaders headed to their next event, most chatted and mingled, but Trump walked alone. It was a stark contrast to the way world leaders once manoeuvred to get in the camera angle with Barack Obama when he was the new president on the block. 

The scene repeated itself in Italy at the G-7 summit on Friday. After the "family photo" group shot, the other leaders convivially walked down the narrow Sicilian streets to their luncheon. Trump hung back and, minutes later, opted instead to ride in a golf cart. Later, a number of the leaders surrounded Trump, some laughing as they listened. 

At the NATO group shot on Thursday Trump's move to get to the front of the pack again caused double-takes. 

The president pushed himself past Montenegro's prime minister, Dusko Markovic, to get to the front of the group as the NATO leaders walked inside the alliance's new headquarters building. 

Markovic gave a tense smile, and later called it a "harmless situation." 
But plenty of people in the Balkans were not amused. 

"It seems Donald Trump did not want that anyone overshadows his presence at the summit," said the Montenegro newspaper Vijesti. 

Asked about the incident, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he hadn't seen the encounter but noted that places were assigned for the group photo. 

Earlier, Trump and new French President Emmanuel Macron had engaged in a power hand shake that came across as a meeting of alpha males when they met for the first time over lunch at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Brussels. 
After some friendly chatter, the two gripped each other's hands so tightly before the cameras that their jaws seemed to clench. It looked like Trump was ready to pull away first but Macron wasn't quite ready to disengage. 

"They're presenting themselves as equals," said body language expert Lillian Glass. "They're both alphas." 

A different kind of hand-clasping — or lack thereof — also sparked chatter during the trip. 

Two days in a row, the president and first lady Melania Trump failed to connect when Trump reached out to grab his wife's hand — interactions that were replayed in slow-motion and endlessly dissected online. 
At a red-carpet welcome in Israel, Trump reached out to grab his wife's hand but she appeared to slap his hand away. A day later, in Rome, Trump seemed to reach for the first lady's hand just as she reached up to brush her hair aside. On Thursday, the two did hold hands as they made their way down the stairs of Air Force One on another stop in their itinerary. 

Glass said the interactions left people wondering: "What is that going on in that relationship?" 

There was no questioning Trump's friendly mojo with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the two embraced repeatedly while Trump was in Israel, in a telling contrast to the strained relationship the Israeli leader had with Obama. 

Netanyahu even tried to intervene when a politician in his Likud party with a reputation for inappropriate antics tried to take a selfie of the unamused-looking president by attempting to swat away Oren Hazan's arm. 

For diplomats, body language can be especially important. 
Trump's ambassador to Israel, Ron Dermer, is probably wishing he'd had a better poker face during the president's Jerusalem stop. 

When Trump told an Israeli delegation that he had just gotten back from the Middle East — which Jerusalem is clearly part of — Dermer instinctively reacted to the flub by putting his palm to his forehead. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

                            Kick Donald Trump’s Circus Out Of Town

                                               
I’m increasingly convinced that the real reason Ringling Bros. has gone out of business is that when it comes to circuses, the Trump White House was just too much competition.

For sure, it’s a sordid extravaganza with a lot more than three rings. The high wire acts alone are worth the price of admission, and the clowns — one of whom is also the putative ringmaster — are unintentionally hilarious, if sinister, as clowns so often seem to be. To some. Not me.

But as guiltily entertaining as current events may be for political wonks, nerds and sadomasochists, this whole mess of an administration, with a special emphasis on the Russia connection and Donald Trump’s clumsy, thuggish attempts at a cover-up, is deadly serious business. It’s crucial to get to the bottom of whether Trump’s campaign knew and approved the hacking of our elections, but also vitally important to remember that while we’re transfixed by that particular mayhem there’s a lot of other rotten stuff going on, too.

Like that continued stinker of a health care reform bill which the Congressional Budget Office still says will cause the number of uninsured people to increase by more than 20 million over the next 10 years.

Attention must be paid. Trump’s proposed budget released on Tuesday devastates just about everything but defense expenditures. (At bottom, when it comes to increasing employment, Trump’s exclamation of “jobs, jobs, jobs!” really comes down to “guns, guns, guns!” — manufacturing more and more weapons — which inevitably will have him itching for a war in which to use them.)

Despite Trump’s campaign promises, Medicaid is under the knife for hundreds of billions, a move that will harm millions who voted for him. Food stamps are slashed by $190 billion, the earned income tax credit by $40 billion. Money for the State Department and other Cabinet-level departments is severely cut back, funding for the Environmental Protection Agency is reduced by 31 percent to $5.65 billion, including a 25 percent reduction in the Superfund charged with cleaning up toxic waste sites.
This is part of a continuing feud between the White House and Walter M. Shaub Jr., head of the Office of Government Ethics, who has the effrontery to demand that Trump appointees be held to standards of conduct.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is issuing draconian edicts on drug sentencing; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is trying to divert funds from work-study programs and student loan forgiveness to charter school vouchers and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke says extracting oil and gas in the United States is “better for the environment.”

This circus is out of control. All the animals are out of their cages.

Which tortuously but inevitably brings us back to Donald Trump and Russia, proof apparent that the wheels came off the circus wagons months ago. It was stunning on Tuesday to hear former CIA director John Brennan tell the House intelligence committee that not only had Russia “brazenly interfered” in the 2016 election but that:
But no matter what conclusions ultimately are reached as to whether or not the Trump campaign knowingly colluded with Russia, the crude attempts by Trump to quash the investigations clearly constitute an obstruction of justice. And that is an impeachable offense.

With the Justice Department’s welcome appointment of a special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation of the Russia scandal (including, one hopes, a thorough inquiry into Russian investments in Trump businesses and possible money laundering), the probe finally seems on track and hopefully resistant to whatever further ham-fisted attempts by Trump to shut it down.

But the special counsel does not negate the need as well for an independent bipartisan investigation so that the entire story comes out. As Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo and others have pointed out, that counsel’s inquiry can result in the indictment of those who have committed crimes, but, “The simple point is that the most important ‘bad acts’ may well not be crimes. That means not only is no one punished but far, far more important, we would never know what happened.
We need a fully empowered commission charged not with investigating and prosecuting criminal conduct but ascertaining, as far as possible, what happened and then bringing that information before the public.”

In other words, we can’t allow this White House circus of horrors to fold its tents and skulk away from truth under the cover of darkness. There’s too much at stake and too much to repair in its wake.


But as The New Republic’s Alex Shephard points out, not only is this deeply immoral, “It’s also a brazen accounting scam,” claiming deficits created by the proposed budget will be offset by $2 trillion in economic growth — growth that already has been pegged to cover deficits created by proposed tax cuts.
As we’ve seen too often, the incompetent can cause irreparable damage, and this load of bull crashing through the White House china shop is taking maladroitness to new levels of pandemonium. True, once this budget proposal goes through the congressional wringer, the result will bear little semblance to what was released this week — many of the cuts will shrink or even disappear completely — but it’s close enough to the GOP wish list that the rich will continue getting richer and the lower end of the income inequality charts will feel a ton of pain. Mission accomplished.

And speaking of both laughable and horrific, the Trump administration’s nonexistent efforts to “drain the swamp” of undue influence press on with Eric Lipton’s New York Times report that the Trump gang “has moved to block an effort to disclose the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the White House or federal agencies.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Brazil president formally accused of conspiracy against corruption inquir

                                                           
     
Brazil is set for more political carnage after the country’s top prosecutor formally accused President Michel Temer of conspiring with his chief coalition partner to silence witnesses and obstruct a corruption investigation.

Meanwhile, the escalating bribery scandal widened further on Friday with new plea-bargain details by executives from a meatpacking company that implicated more than 1,000 other politicians, including former presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and secret recordings of a supreme court judge apparently plotting to quash the judicial investigation.

Temer has lurched from crisis to crisis since he took power last year after plotting the impeachment of his running mate Rousseff.

The charges against the president set the stage for a disruptive constitutional battle between the judiciary and the government, adding to tensions that have already sparked violent protests and calls from a former chief justice for people to take to the streets in remove a tainted president.

The attorney general, Rodrigo Janot, said on Friday that Temer and Aécio Neves –a centre-right senator who was runner-up in the last presidential election – had attempted to disrupt the sprawling Lava Jato (Car Wash) inquiry into bribes and kickbacks from the country’s biggest companies to politicians.
Based on plea-bargain testimonies and secret recordings made by the top executives of the meat-packing company JBS, the president is accused of condoning hush-money payoffs to the jailed former House speaker, Eduardo Cunha.

JBS is the largest meat processor in the world, thanks largely to generous government support. Its executives are accused of bribery and insider trading.

Janot also alleges Temer (who heads the Brazilian Democratic Movement party) and Aécio (the head of the Social Democratic Party of Brazil) tried to use laws and appointments to disrupt the investigation.

Neves has also been accused of conspiring with supreme court Judge Gilmar Mendes, who was recorded in a cellphone conversation promising to support a parliamentary bill that would weaken e Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigations.
“It is evident that Aécio Neves, in conjunction with – among others – President Michel Temer, has sought to prevent Lava Jato’s investigations from proceeding, either through legislative measures or through the control of the officials who oversee the investigations,” Janot said.

The supreme court has accepted the evidence and authorised the investigation, prompting calls for Temer to resign. At least eight lower delegates have filed motions requesting an impeachment hearing.
Temer was due to address the country on Friday evening. The previous day, the former constitutional scholar proclaimed his innocence and insisted he would not resign. His legal team is questioning the evidence against him.

More details of the testimony by JBS executives are due to be released, which could add to the pressure on the president, whose approval ratings were in single figures even before the latest corruption revelations.

The country’s biggest newspaper, O Globo, published an editorial on Friday that urged Temer to step down. On Friday, the former chief justice Joaquim Barbosa added his voice.

“There is no other way out: Brazilians must organize, go to the streets and demand with strength the immediate resignation of Michel Temer,” tweeted Barbosa.

But none of the country’s major parties have escaped untainted. JBS executive Ricardo Saud testified that he paid 35m reais in bribes to five current and former PMDB senators to ensure support for former Workers’ Party leader Rousseff’s re-election in 2014.

This was part of 300m reias that JBS had put aside for a Workers’ Party campaign fund. At the time, the two parties were allied in coalition government.
Saud said JBS paid a total of 600m reais to 1,829 candidates from 28 parties.

                    Brazil's president struggles to retain power as political crisis deepens

                                                          
Thousands of protesters have called for Brazil’s president, Michel Temer,to leave office as he lost yet another key adviser amid a deepening political crisis.
Temer is struggling to retain power after the release of a recording that appears to capture him approving hush money for a convicted former lawmaker. The president is resisting calls to resign and has said he will fight the accusations. Brazil’s top court is investigating him for alleged obstruction of justice and involvement in passive corruption.

Even before the scandal broke, Temer’s popularity was low, in part because of opposition to economic reforms he is trying to push through Congress. Several of his allies and aides have also been caught up in a wide-ranging corruption investigation that has jailed business leaders and senior politicians.
Only one of the five special aides to the president now remains following the resignation Wednesday of former lawmaker Sandro Mabel, one of three who had been linked to corruption allegations. Mabel published a letter saying he needs to spend more time with his family.

In Brasilia, the capital, thousands of protesters marched toward Congress in an effort to stop proposed reforms to the country’s retirement system that unions and others say will force Brazilians to work too many hours and will unfairly reduce pensions. Temer says those and other reforms are necessary to drag the economy out of a deep recession.

But protesters also took aim at the president himself, shouting “Out with Temer!” and carrying signs calling for immediate direct presidential elections.

If Temer resigns, the Constitution says that Congress would vote to elect the next president, who would hold power through the end of 2018. But many Brazilians, disgusted with the political class, want to vote themselves.
While the demonstration was initially peaceful, police and protesters began clashing as the protest neared Congress. Police in riot gear, some on foot holding shields and others on horseback, lined up near the chamber. In television images, police could be seen spraying tear gas or pepper spray at protesters and detaining others who tried to break through a cordon.

In Rio de Janeiro, demonstrators gathered in front of the state assembly to protest proposed austerity measures.

“The state today is in a sea of debt because of corruption,” said Julio Cesar Azevedo, a leader of a union that represents prison guards. “It’s not right that public servants are paying this bill.”


The state of Rio is in serious financial trouble and many public servants have received their salaries late or not at all.

Drinking coffee may help prevent liver cancer, study suggests

                                          

Increasing coffee consumption may help to stave off liver cancer, a new study has suggested.

Researchers have found that people who drink more coffee are less likely to develop hepatocellular cancer (HCC), the most common form of primary liver cancer – and the effect was even found in decaffeinated coffee.

Experts from the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh examined data from 26 studies involving more than 2.25 million participants.

Compared with people who drank no coffee, those who drank one cup a day had a 20% lower risk of developing HCC, according to the study, published in the journal BMJ Open.

Those who consumed two cups a day had a 35% reduced risk and for those who drank five cups, the risk was halved. They found the protective effect for decaf was “smaller and less certain than for caffeinated coffee”.

The authors wrote: “It may be important for developing coffee as a lifestyle intervention in chronic liver disease, as decaffeinated coffee might be more acceptable to those who do not drink coffee or who limit their coffee consumption because of caffeine-related symptoms.”

Lead author Dr Oliver Kennedy, of the University of Southampton, said: “Coffee is widely believed to possess a range of health benefits, and these latest findings suggest it could have a significant effect on liver cancer risk.

“We’re not suggesting that everyone should start drinking five cups of coffee a day though. There needs to be more investigation into the potential harms of high coffee-caffeine intake, and there is evidence it should be avoided in certain groups such as pregnant women.

“Nevertheless, our findings are an important development given the increasing evidence of HCC globally and its poor prognosis.”

Professor Peter Hayes, of the University of Edinburgh, added: “We have shown that coffee reduces cirrhosis and also liver cancer in a dose-dependent manner.

“Coffee has also been reported to reduce the risk of death from many other causes. Our research adds to the evidence that, in moderation, coffee can be a wonderful natural medicine.”

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2015, 4,673 new cases of liver cancer were diagnosed in England.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Brazil’s top prosecutor accuses Temer of obstructing justice

                                                                    
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s top prosecutor is accusing President Michel Temer of corruption and obstruction of justice, according to an investigation released Friday by the supreme court, dramatically escalating pressure to force the embattled leader from office.

At the same time, other released documents said the owner of a major meatpacker has told prosecutors that he transferred $150 million to offshore accounts for the campaigns of Temer’s two predecessors in the presidency.
Attorney General Rodrigo Janot’s charges against Temer threaten to drive him from the presidency and represent an extraordinary development in a corruption probe that is upending politics and just about everything else in Latin America’s largest nation.

For Temer, a 76-year-old career politician who was not elected, the fallout could cost him his job. Temer, then vice president, took power a year ago after President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and later removed from office for illegally managing the federal budget.

By Friday afternoon, O Globo, the flagship paper of Brazil’s largest media company, was calling for Temer’s resignation, delivering a significant blow to Temer’s prospects of survival. The media group had supported Temer’s proposed reform, and more generally wields enormous influence because of its popular soap operas and media dominance.

The attorney general’s formal presentation of evidence is the latest revelation related to a secretly recorded audio that purportedly captured Temer endorsing the paying of hush money to an ex-lawmaker now serving a 15-year prison sentence for corruption. The audio was first reported by Globo newspaper Wednesday night and has been rocking the country ever since.

In a plea bargain by the same man who recorded Temer, released as part of the document dump by the Supreme Tribunal Federal, the president is accused of taking $1.5 million in bribes.

Janot says Temer and Sen. Aecio Neves have tried to derail the three-year-old “Car Wash” investigation into a huge kickback scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras via legislative means and by influencing police investigators.

“In this way, there is evidence of possibly committing the crime of obstructing justice,” Janot wrote.

Because the case involves a sitting president, the process is different than in any other kind of criminal case. With a formal investigation now opened, Janot’s next step will be to decide whether his case is strong enough to send it to the lower Chamber of Deputies in Congress.
If at least two-thirds of the members of the lower house voted in favor, the case would be sent back to the top court, which would then decide whether to put Temer on trial. If the court decided to try Temer, he would be suspended from office for up to 180 days. A conviction would permanently remove him from office.

At least eight pieces of proposed legislation to impeach Temer have been submitted in Congress, and a stream of people from many walks of life has been calling for him to step down.

On Friday, former Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa added his voice.

“There is not another way out: Brazilians must organize, go to the streets and demand with strength the immediate resignation of Michel Temer,” tweeted Barbosa.

Temer’s administration began questioning both the legality and content of the recording first reported by Globo.

“President Michel Temer does not believe in the veracity of the declarations” in the recording, according to a statement from his office.

The statement also noted that the person who made the recording, JBS meat-packing company executive Joesley Batista, is under investigation himself and thus was “taking advantage” of the situation. The recording was turned over to prosecutors as part of a Batista plea bargain.

In the documents released Friday, Batista also said his company paid Temer about $1.5 million from 2010 to 2017. Some of those funds were disguised as legal campaign donations and others were channeled to Temer’s public image consultant Elsinho Mouco, Batista said.

Attempts to locate Mouco for comment were not successful. The presidency also didn’t immediately respond to queries seeking comment about the latest revelations.

In Batista’s plea bargain, he also told authorities that he transferred $150 million to offshore bank accounts for campaigns of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his successor in the presidency, Dilma Rousseff.

Batista said former finance minister Guido Mantega was the middle man in the operation. He also said both former presidents were aware of the transfers, but did not say where the accounts were based. Batista also didn’t say for which campaigns the money was transferred.

Rousseff denied the accusations in a statement and said she never had offshore bank accounts. Silva’s spokesman said Batista’s accusations are hearsay that was never investigated.

For Silva, president between 2003 and 2010, the accusations add to a long list of corruption cases against him, which may ultimately keep him from running for office in 2018.

The sprawling “Car Wash” probe that began three years ago has already put dozens of Brazil’s top businessmen and politicians in prison. Many more are being investigated.

After the Globo report on Temer, Brazil’s highest court opened an investigation into the accusation late Thursday and lifted the seal on the nearly 39-minute recording, which is scratchy and often inaudible.

In it, two men can be heard talking about former Lower House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, now serving a 15-year prison sentence for corruption and money laundering. Globo’s report identified the men as Temer and Batista.

One man, apparently Temer, complains that Cunha could potentially embarrass him.

“Within my limits, I did the most I could there. I settled everything,” responds the other man, apparently Batista. “He came and collected, etc., etc., etc. I am good with Eduardo, OK?”

The first man then says: “You have to keep that up, see?” To which the second man responds: “Every month.”

Temer addressed the nation on Thursday, denying that he had authorized any bribes and vowing to continue in office. His short speech did little to calm nerves during a volatile that saw a 10 percent drop in Brazil’s stock market and an 8 percent drop in the real against the U.S. dollar.

By late Friday, the real had clawed back 3 percent of its value and stocks were up nearly 2 percent in the Ibovespa exchange. Still, it’s unlikely that the volatility, either in Latin America’s largest economy or its politics, has ended.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Brazil  president resists calls to resign amid allegations of witness bribery

                                                           
Brazilian President Michel Temer resisted calls to resign on Thursday after allegations that he condoned the bribery of a potential witness in the massive "Car Wash" graft investigation, news that sent markets tumbling and raised doubts that Congress would pass his austerity measures.

Temer strongly denied the allegations and told allied lawmakers in a morning meeting that he would not be driven from office. He cleared the rest of the day's schedule to react to the crisis and was expected to address the nation on national TV within hours, aides said.

"We need to see what the Supreme Court says and whether it accepts this tape as evidence," one presidential aide said. "The president is absolutely convinced he committed no crime, but that has to be made clear to the eyes of everyone."

Brazilian markets slumped on concerns that the investigation could derail Temer's economic and fiscal agenda. Shares of state-controlled companies, such as Banco do Brasil SA (BBAS3.SA) and Petróleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras (PETR4.SA), lost more than 10 percent of their value, and the nation's currency fell 7 percent, wiping out its gains for the year.

Brazil's Treasury and central bank said they stood ready to keep markets liquid and working properly.

Some Temer allies tried to shore up confidence in the president, while others said his party was in disarray.
The government will continue to work," said Congressman Darcisio Perondi, a leader of Temer's party in the lower house. "We will wait for the release of all those tapes. We are working on a strategy right now to keep the reforms on track."

But a senior aide to party leadership in Congress said lawmakers were in a panic and that "nobody right now knows what to do or what is going to happen."

Federal police, meanwhile, closed in on Temer allies as they intensified their work in the three-year investigation centering on billions in political kickbacks paid by Brazil's biggest construction companies in exchange for contracts at state-run oil producer Petrobras and other government enterprises.

Officers in the southern city of Curitiba searched the home of federal deputy Rodrido Rocha Loures, a longtime confidant of Temer and a member of the president's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB. Loures is accused of receiving bribes on behalf of Temer, which he denies.

The O Globo newspaper reported on Wednesday night that Temer met in March with Joesley Batista, chairman of meat company JBS SA (JBSS3.SA), which grew rapidly under 13 years of leftist Workers Party rule due largely to low-cost loans from Brazil's national development bank.

Batista, who is trying to secure a plea-bargain deal with prosecutors, recorded the conversation in which he and Temer allegedly discussed making illegal payments to jailed former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, of the PMDB, to keep him from testifying about corruption.
Three people with direct knowledge of the investigation said the O Globo report was accurate.

JBS said on Thursday that it had no comment on the situation.

TEMER IN TROUBLE

More than 90 leading business and political figures have been convicted so far, and dozens of leading lawmakers and a third of Temer's cabinet are under investigation, while still-powerful former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is facing five separate corruption trials.

Temer himself has been named in plea bargain testimony as negotiating millions in illegal campaign funding, which he denies. However, top federal prosecutor Rodrigo Janot has said that under Brazilian law, Temer cannot be investigated for crimes committed before he became president until he leaves office.

But the new allegations refer to an incident that took place after Temer took office, which would open the door to an investigation against him. 

If Temer resigns or is impeached, Brazil's constitution calls for Congress to name a successor within 30 days.

But with lawmakers under the cloud of corruption, there are widespread calls in Brazil that the constitution be changed to allow for direct elections now.

Activist groups from across the political spectrum took to social media, calling for protests this weekend. Should large demonstrations occur, pressure on Temer to step aside would increase significantly.       
Also on Thursday, Janot asked the Supreme Court's permission to arrest Senator Aecio Neves, a key government ally who lost the 2014 presidential election against former president Dilma Rousseff. The top court suspended Neves from the Senate.

Local media reported that Neves was recorded asking for 2 million reais ($638,000) from Batista, which the senator denies.

Rousseff was impeached last year for breaking budgetary laws, but she and her supporters have accused Temer, her vice president, of orchestrating her ouster as part of a soft "coup" meant to halt the Car Wash investigation. 

(Reporting By Ricardo Brito, Alonso Soto, Anthony Boadle, Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia, Brad Brooks and Bruno Federowski in Sao Paulo and Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro.; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Lisa Von Ahn)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Donald Trump foolishly went to war with America's intelligence agencies. Now it could cost him his job

                               

Donald Trump didn't need to add angry face emojis to his tweet, for people to realise that he was seething.

“I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community,” he wrote.


This was the morning after the Washington Post had revealed, in an article by its leading national security correspondent, the President had, in an apparent breach of known precedent, shared sensitive intelligence material with the Russians.


The next day, the New York Times reported that according to a memo written by then FBI Director James Comey, Trump had asked him to drop an investigation into his sacked national security advisor Michael Flynn. Three months later, Trump fired Comey.


HR McMaster, Flynn’s successor and one of the few people in the White House able to maintain the same narrative for more than 12 hours, held a press conference to claim the leaks behind the stories were a threat to national security.


“I think the real issue - and I think that I would like to see really debated more - is our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality and those releasing information to the press,” he said.


If this is true, and McMaster’s claim may be difficult to prove, then Trump and his cohorts in the White House can hardly be surprised. Since wining the election last November, Trump repeatedly condemned the US intelligence services, accusing them of handing “fake news” to the media.


For months, he appeared to reject their assertion that Russia had sought to influence the 2016 election, dismissing their claims as coming from the same people who said, wrongly, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.


At one point, he even found himself likening the people within the 17 US intelligence services, to the Nazis. This was something that earned a rebuke from Barack Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan


“What I do find outrageous is equating an intelligence community with Nazi Germany,” he said. “I do take great umbrage at that, and there is no basis for Mr Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly.”


Has the worm now turned? It appears so. This week, as the Post and the Times published their blockbusters, US media noted how quickly other outlets were able to confirm the claims. The suggestion was that that there were an awful lot of people out there willing to dish the dirt.


The mood among many in the intelligence community may have been summed up by Leon Panetta, who served as both Defence Secretary and CIA Director. Trump, he told CNN, was a loose cannon.


“He’s got to have some lines here,” said Panetta. “He’s got to have some guardrails. The president of the United States cannot just do or say or speak whatever the hell he wants.”
During the election campaign, Trump got his way by his bullying and bluster.

He attacked everyone and anyone he wanted, from the Pope to Ted Cruz's father, and appeared to get away with it. But in attacking the intelligence services - the people who know, so to speak - where all the bodies are buried - he have committed a fatal error.


Firstly, Trump is a long way from being impeached. Despite the mounting clamour from those who hate him, and despite the claims of those who say he has broken his oath of office, the President has, based on the evidence that is publicly available, committed no criminal offence. Whether he had broken his oath of office is moot, and an issue that would be decided by the House Judiciary Committee.


Impeachment is about politics, not justice. At the moment, the Republicans control both the House and the Senate.


The only scenario in which they could decide to turn on Trump, would be if they calculated having him in the White House undermined their own reelection prospects in the 2018 midterms.

Many members, in districts where Trump’s support is strong, would have to weigh up the fish of his voters abandoning them.
It may be that the Democrats ride such a wave of anti-Trump disgust that they take control of the House at that point, but is 18 months away.


Secondly, if Trump is eventually toppled by leaks from the intelligence services, this should give everyone cause to stop and think


Trump’s supporters have been was mocked for their references to the US’s so-called “deep state”. But there is no doubt that America’s intelligence and military complex is alive and powerful.


Intelligence officials, from Brennan to James Clapper, Obama’s Director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, have all been given repeated platforms, both before Congressional committees and on 24-hour cable news, to denounce Trump and his actions.


Yet, whatever one thinks about Trump, about his haplessness, his bigotry, his apparent inadequacy to do the job, the New York tycoon was elected, by more than 60m of the American people. Clapper and Brennan were not.


Nobody who thinks Donald Trump is a danger to American democracy, should cheer if he is brought down by unelected forces

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

More Americans support Trump's impeachment than oppose it for first time, poll finds

                                      


More American support impeaching President Donald Trump than oppose it, a new poll shows.
The poll, conducting by Democratic polling company Public Policy Polling, found that 48 per cent supported such a move, while 41 per cent opposed it.


The same poll found Americans were evenly divided on the issue just three months before.

Researchers surveyed voters between 12 and 14 May – after Mr Trump's surprising dismissal of FBI director James Comey, but before revelations from the Washington Post that the president had reportedly shared classified information with Russian officials.

Mr Comey's firing sparked concern from both Democrats and Republicans concerning the FBI's ongoing investigation into possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. Mr Trump's approval rating slumped to its lowest point in two months in the wake of the firing, according to Gallup daily tracking. The majority of Americans – 57 per cent – now say they are not happy with Mr Trump's performance.


Only 37 per cent of Americans say they support Mr Comey's firing, compared to 48 per cent who oppose it.


At least 12 Democratic members of Congress have called for Mr Trump's impeachment since his inauguration. Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe has also argued for such a move, writing in the Washington Post that the firing of Mr Comey marks an "obvious effort to interfere with a probe involving national security matters".


Robert Reich, former labour secretary under President Bill Clinton, has argued that Mr Comey's firing amounts to an "impeachable offence".


"The question is no longer whether there are grounds to impeach Donald Trump," he wrote in a column for Newsweek. "It is when enough Republicans will put their loyalty to America ahead of their loyalty to their party."


Public Policy Polling found voters' discontent extends to Republicans in Congress, where Democrats have an 11-point lead in a generic Congressional ballot. Democrats lead Republicans by an average of almost seven points across 15 national polls. according to RealClearPolitics.


The polling firm attributes this downswing in Republican popularity to the widely disliked American Health Care Act, which narrowly passed a House vote this month. Only a quarter of voters say they support the bill, compared to 52 per cent who oppose it.


The bill is expected to undergo substantial changes when it moves to a Senate vote.



Public Policy Polling was ranked by the Wall Street Journal as one of the most accurate polling firms in 2008, but – like many national polls – significantly underestimated Mr Trump's lead in key swing states in the 2016 election.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Does Donald Trump want to be president?

                                        


President Trump’s eccentric behavior, especially in the past week, raises a serious question:

Does he want to be president?


His Twitter threat against James Comey, whom he fired as director of the FBI, suggests he might have secretly recorded their conversations.

Banning American news media from his Oval Office conversation with Russia’s foreign minister while allowing a TASS photographer to record the event may be payback against a press corps he despises.

But it also fuels suspicions that he is indebted, somehow, to the Kremlin. Recently, he retweeted Rosie O’Donnell, surely a first for a sitting president.


His undisciplined tweets give the public contradictory information, and a sense that he wants to run the country via social media instead of democratic debate.


The question is: to what end?


Most of Trump’s executive orders – there have been 36 so far – are in keeping with his campaign promises, and they have been well-received by his political base – those voters who felt they were being ignored by traditional politicians and wanted, as Trump put it, to “drain the swamp” of Washington.


Tighter immigration restrictions are popular with Americans who believe we have lost control of our borders. The process of repealing ObamaCare faces an uphill battle in the Senate, but that cannot be blamed on the president.


The military action against Syria after it attacked its own citizens with deadly nerve gas was honorable and justified. It also sent a message to rogue nations like North Korea to tread carefully.


The new trade deal with China that increases American exports and will lower our trade deficit is long overdue. The tax code needs reform and this administration is preparing just such an overhaul.


Why then does the president muddy the political waters by ranting against Democrats who oppose him, against news organizations that ask tough questions, against foreign leaders who pursue policies different from his?

Why does he obsessively remind Americans that it was he, and not Hillary Clinton, who was elected president? Why must he spar with television personalities who dislike him?


Bellwether wonders whether Trump actually plans to stay in office for four years.

Could he be considering a shorter stay in the White House, passing the baton to the widely respected Vice President Mike Pence? Might Trump feel that if and when he achieves his major goals – tighter borders, lower taxes, more American-made goods – he can declare victory and return to his successful career in the private sector?


The president, in his first four months in office, has accomplished much of which to be proud.

Like Ronald Reagan, his optimism about America’s future is contagious.

The stock market, which many predicted would tank if he were elected, has rebounded convincingly. Consumer confidence is up. Several major employers have announced that they will create thousands of jobs in America.


But his random tweets, his crude public use of insults and threats and his blatant disregard for decorum and the integrity of the office of president raise questions about his willingness to fulfill those duties for the long run.


Trump is slowly accomplishing his mission.

If he plans to walk away from Washington once he feels he has fulfilled his promise to the American people, he should say so.

Both his supporters and his growing list of opponents would probably respect his candor, and they might work together to give him what he wants,

so he will go away.

Michelle Obama launches scathing attack on Trump policy: 'Why is someone OK with your kids eating crap?'

                              

Michelle Obama has strongly condemned Donald Trump's rollbacks of her signature children's health initiative, accusing the administration of not caring about kids.


"Moms, think about this," the former first lady said at an annual health conference in Washington. "...Think about why someone is OK with your kids eating crap."


"Here's the secret," she added, "If somebody is doing that, they don't care about your kid."
The remarks come weeks after Agriculture S

ecretary Sonny Perdue announced changes to the National School Lunch Programme – a key fixture of Ms Obama's campaign to combat childhood obesity.


The law places limits on the amount of sodium, sugar and fat allowed in school lunches, and encourages the inclusion of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.


Republicans have long held that the program is too costly, and results in fewer children eating school meals. The USDA reports school districts and states spent $1.22 billion more on school meals in 2015, but saw decreased student participation.


Mr Perdue announced a more relaxed set of rules this month, saying he had heeded "years of feedback" from students, schools, and experts about the challenges of meeting the regulations.

Under the new rules, schools are no longer obligated to hit requirements for reduced sodium and increased whole grains in their meals.


"Try eating a biscuit made with whole grains," Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts said upon announcing the new regulations. "It just doesn't work!"


But Ms Obama hit back on Friday, asking the administration, "What is wrong with you?"


"You have to stop and think, 'Why don't you want our kids to have good food at school?'" Ms Obama said, adding, "Why is that a partisan issue?"


The comments came as part of her remarks to the Partnership for a Healthier American 2017 Healthier Future Summit, which was sponsored by the nonprofit that helped fund her anti-obesity initiative.


The former first lady was forced to defend another of her signature policies earlier this month, when it was reported that the White House may be cancelling the "Let Girls Learn" Initiative.

The programme, which recently announced $5 million in private sector donations, is dedicated to expanding girls' access to education worldwide.


Ms Obama refrained from discussing that development specifically, but slipped a simple mention of it into her tweet a few days later:

“Barack & I will continue to champion the issues close to our hearts," she wrote, "including girls ed.”


Thursday, May 11, 2017

 Donald Trump's approval rating approaches record low

                                                                       
Donald Trump’s approval rating has reached a near record low as support from the US President's core base begins to falter. 

Just 36 per cent of Americans approved of the Republican leader, while 58 per cent disapproved - a drop of two percentage points since April. 

The latest Quinnipiac University poll showed waning support among the former real estate mogul’s previously loyal base.
White voters with no college degree largely approved of the President in April, with 57 per cent believing he was doing a good job. However, this figure has now plummeted to 47 per cent.

Male voters were also wavering in their support, with 48 per cent approving of the president, down from 53 per cent last month. 

Voters also found the president to be increasingly dishonest, with 61 per cent believing he is not honest compared to 58 per cent in the last poll. 

 Donald Trump Admits He Was Looking For An Excuse To Fire James Comey

                                                                 
President Donald Trump had already made up his mind to fire FBI Director James Comey long before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote up a memo to justify the decision, the president said in an interview with NBC News on Thursday.

Trump’s team had repeatedly claimed that Rosenstein’s memo precipitated Comey’s firing. Hours after Trump fired Comey on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer blamed Rosenstein for the FBI director’s dismissal. “It was all him,” Spicer said, referring to Rosenstein. 

But in an interview with Lester Holt on Thursday, the president revealed he’d made up his mind to fire Comey before he met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein on Monday.

“I was going to fire Comey, my decision,” Trump said. “I was going to fire Comey,” he repeated, adding that there was no good time to fire someone. “I was going to fire him regardless of recommendation. He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

Trump also called Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander.” Trump said the FBI had been “in turmoil” for more than a year and hadn’t recovered. 

The White House’s claim that Rosenstein’s letter and Session’s recommendation had triggered Comey’s firing never made much sense in the first place. Rosenstein’s memo focused on how Comey publicly handled the FBI’s investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Although Trump thought Comey went too easy on Clinton, Rosenstein’s memo made the case that Comey’s public declarations about the Clinton investigation were unfair to her.

As the initial White House narrative crumbled, the White House released a timeline conceding that Trump had been “strongly inclined” to remove Comey following his testimony before Congress last week. Then The Washington Post reported that Rosenstein threatened to quit if the White House didn’t stop blaming him for the firing. A Justice Department spokeswoman denied that report.

Researchers have ditched the autism-vaccine theory. Here’s what they think actually causes it.


There’s a gaping hole between science’s understanding of autism and the public’s.

Of all the issues doctors have explored in children’s health, none has been more exhaustively researched than the question of whether vaccines are linked to autism. After hundreds and hundreds of studies in thousands of children, “We can say with almost as much certainty than anybody could ever say that vaccines don’t cause autism,” Mayo Clinic autism researcher Dr. Sunil Mehta told me.


And yet the fear that they do remains stubbornly persistent, as a current measles outbreak in Minnesota shows. The virus is spreading among unvaccinated children — in this case, Somali-Americans in Minneapolis, after anti-vaccine advocates targeted their parents with a misinformation campaign.


Now 51 people, most of them children, are very, very ill.
Today, about one in 68 US children has autism — a rate that’s remained unchanged since at least since 1990, though there’s been a steady increase in awareness and diagnosis. And it’s the parents of some of these children who are among the most vocal proponents of the vaccine-autism link — in Minnesota and elsewhere. Many are frustrated, confused, and desperate for an explanation for why and how their children got the disorder.


It doesn’t help that doctors have long struggled to explain what exactly causes autism if vaccines don’t — many medical theories have been debunked and then replaced by new ones.
The medical community is getting closer and closer to finally zeroing in on the cause.


I recently talked to half a dozen researchers on the cutting edge of this work to find out what they see as the latest and best evidence for what might trigger autism. They were excited about their new understandings of the genetic basis for autism — what they view as the most promising area of research on the disorder right now.

They also talked about recent advances in grasping how particular genetic mutations change the biology of the brain in ways that cause autism symptoms.

More blurry is their research on the non-genetic (or environmental) contributors to autism, like pollution or medications. Here’s a quick rundown of what we know about what causes of autism — from most well-established to least well-established.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ted Cruz Tried To Corner Sally Yates On The Law. He Failed.


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) attempted to school career federal prosecutor Sally Yates on the law, and it did not go well.  

Yates, who served as acting attorney general for 10 days of President Donald Trump’s administration before she was fired for refusing to defend the president’s controversial ban on travel from certain Muslim-majority countries, appeared on Capitol Hill Monday to testify before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.

While the hearing was focused on Trump and his associates’ alleged ties to Russia, some senators, including Cruz, instead focused on Yates’ refusal to defend the president’s executive order. 

While questioning that decision, Cruz, also a lawyer, cited a portion of U.S. code that allows the president to block immigrants from entering the country if allowing such entry would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” 

Yates immediately fired back by citing another statute that says visas cannot be denied due to someone’s race, nationality or place of birth.

Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses in Washington state

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A portion of a storage tunnel that contains rail cars full of radioactive waste collapsed Tuesday morning, forcing an emergency declaration at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington state.


Officials detected no release of radiation and no workers were injured, said Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology.


There were no workers inside the tunnel when it collapsed. But nearby Hanford workers were evacuated and others who were farther away were told to remain indoors, the U.S. Department of Energy said.


The accident occurred at a facility known as PUREX, located in the middle of the sprawling Hanford site, which is half the size of Rhode Island, Bradbury said.


The closed PUREX plant was part of the nation's nuclear weapons production complex.


Hanford for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons and is now the largest depository of radioactive defense waste that must be cleaned.


It contains about 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, most of it in 177 underground tanks.


Bradbury said the collapse occurred at one of two rail tunnels under the PUREX site.
In the past, rail cars full of radioactive waste were driven into the tunnels and then buried there, he said.


Hanford has more than 9,000 employees.


The site was built during World War II and made the plutonium for most of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, at the end of the


Monday, May 8, 2017

Barack Obama Warns Congress To Show "Political Courage" On Health Care


“I hope they understand that courage means not simply doing what’s politically expedient, but doing what, deep in our hearts, we know is right.”

Former president Barack Obama on Sunday implored members of Congress to have the “political courage” to protect health care access for Americans, making his first public comments on his signature Affordable Care Act just days after House Republicans voted to repeal it.

"As everyone here now knows, this great debate is not settled but continues," Obama told an audience at Boston's Kennedy Library, where he was accepting the Profile in Courage award commemorating the 100th anniversary of Kennedy's birthday.

The speech was a rare, high-profile foray back into day-to-day politics for Obama, who has mostly stayed out of the public eye since leaving office. It also marked the first time the former president has addressed pending legislation — presenting a stern, if indirect, response to Thursday's House vote to repeal Obamacare, and an impassioned defense of his signature domestic achievement.

"There was a reason why health care reform had not been accomplished before. It was hard, it involved a sixth of the economy and all manner of stakeholders and interests. It was easily subject to misinformation and fearmongering," Obama said.

Noting that many members of Congress risked — and lost — their seats by voting for the Affordable Care Act, he added, "It is my fervent hope, and the hope of millions that, regardless of party, such courage is still possible. That today’s members of Congress are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth, even when it bucks party dogmas."

Though the speech stopped short of explicitly calling on Congress to protect the Affordable Care Act, Obama implored lawmakers to protect health care access for vulnerable Americans.

"I hope that current members of Congress recognize it takes little courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential — but it takes great courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm," he said
. “I hope they understand that courage means not simply doing what’s politically expedient, but doing what, deep in our hearts, we know is right."

However, even as he tacitly admonished Republican priorities, Obama also repeated his now familiar calls for Americans to rise above the "division and discord" of national politics.

"Everywhere, we see the risk of falling into the refuge of tribe, and anger at those who don't look like us or have the same surnames, or pray like we do," he said.

"At such moments, we need courage to stand up to hate, not just in others, but in ourselves. At such moments, we need courage to stand up to dogma, not just in others, but in ourselves."

Saturday, May 6, 2017

These People Are Locked In A 50-Hour Kissing Contest For A Free Car


What would you do for a free car? How about lock lips with it for more than 48 hours?

People are engaged in a bizarre kissing contest in Texas that will reward the last person slobbering on the vehicles with a free Kia.

Since 7 a.m. on Monday, contestants have been pressing their lips to two different cars inside of an Austin dealership as their marathon is broadcast to Facebook Live.
The “Kiss a Kia” contest started with 20 people, Fox 7 reported. By Tuesday afternoon that number was down to 11.

Different candidates left for “different reasons,” a representative for iHeart radio station 96.7 KISS FM, which is hosting the event, told The Huffington Post.

“Some left voluntarily, some were called out for their lips coming off the car,” said iHeart Media Director Zachary Wellsandt. “Everyone has been in great spirits, even those called out have taken it well and talked to us on their way home to some well-earned sleep.”

Fortunately, there are 10-minute breaks each hour — not that it makes idly standing, bending or kneeling next to a car for hours on end a cake walk, especially when you consider they’re also fighting a lack of sleep.
Your nose is so red,” a female contestant told a male competitor as they came up for air during a quick break on Tuesday.

“Yeah, that was miserable,” he replied.

“Every hour seems longer than the one before it,” she remarked.
After each break, the participants must rotate places ― requiring a little wipedown of the car by their place taker. Those who were standing before the break will also have to sit in the next hour, and vice versa.

If after 50 hours there are people still hanging on, one of their names will be drawn at random to determine the winner, Wellsandt said.

Bernie Madoff Victim Says Losing Everything Was Actually A Good Thing


I was happier than I had been in years.

New York Times best-selling author Geneen Roth may be known for her spiritually infused writing, but when Roth lost her life savings in Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme and a friend shared spiritual words of comfort ―
 “Nothing of value has been lost.” ― Roth had only one response.

“This is not the time to be spiritual.”

She can chuckle about that exchange now on OWN’s “SuperSoul Sunday,” but at the time, Roth was devastated.

 She had just been putting the finishing touches on her now seminal work, Women Food and God, when she and her husband discovered they were among the thousands of people who had invested with Madoff, who was famously arrested and eventually sentenced to 150 years in prison for operating what’s considered the largest financial fraud in U.S. history.

 Like others, Roth and her husband had been wiped out.

“We lost everything,” Roth says. “We lost all of our money with Madoff. All of it ― 30 years of live savings, gone.”

Now, however, Roth considers the financial trauma to be a good thing.

I had to focus on what I had, not what I didn’t have.

That was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life,” she says. “I had to focus on what I had, not what I didn’t have.”

With tenacity and the encouragement of her friends, Roth consciously shifted her thinking. The result, she says, was life-changing.

“The most amazing thing happened:
 Within three to four days, maybe a week, I was happier than I had been in years,” she says. “I had confidence ... that my mind could start going to the brink of terror and I could bring it back.
 So, no matter what horrible thing happened ― ever, for the rest of my life ―

 I saw that if I was conscious about noticing what I did have and not noticing what I didn’t have, noticing what was good, that changed my mood. Every day.”

Second Week of Congressional Hearings Increases Pressure on Trump US President Donald Trump faces the threat of further testimony that ...