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From The Editors Politics

Alabama Senate Passes Controversial Near-Total Ban on Abortion

An overwhelming male Republican majority in the Alabama Senate has voted in favor of a near-blanket ban on abortion, making it a felony to terminate a pregnancy at any stage.

While doctors and providers found guilty of carrying out the procedure will face jail time of 10 to 99 years, patients will be exempt from any civil or criminal proceedings against them.

The bill only allows an exception in cases where the health of the unborn child’s mother is at serious risk or if the fetus is found to have a “lethal anomaly.”

However, the fear of criminal prosecution is likely to discourage doctors from performing abortions under any circumstances, regardless of the exemption.

“If the anti-abortion politicians leading our state of Alabama make the grave mistake of passing a bill that would criminalize those who provide abortion care, it would have a disastrous effect on the health and well-being of Alabamians,” Dr. Yashica Robinson, an obstetrician at the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives and a member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement to ThinkProgress.

“Physicians will be unwilling to help patients in need, even when continuing pregnancy is detrimental to a patient’s health, or potentially fatal, out of fear of being scrutinized by the criminal justice system,” she added.

A Democrat-recommended amendment that would have allowed an exemption in rape- and incest-related pregnancies, was also rejected by the lawmakers on an 11-21 vote.

An emotional Bobby Singleton, the Democrat who introduced the bill, said that he would go home and tell his daughter that “the state of Alabama doesn’t care about you, baby.”

“You just said to my daughter, ‘You don’t matter. You don’t matter in the state of Alabama’,” he said.

The controversial ban, passed by a 25-6 majority on Tuesday night (May 14), was signed into law by Republican Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey the following day.

“Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, a bill that was approved by overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the Legislature,” Ivey said in a statement.

“To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.”

Since the new law does not become enforceable until six months after the signing, the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama (ACLU) have every intention of contesting it in court.

Worried that law has already taken effect, people have been calling up the Alabama Women’s Center – one of only three clinics in the state offering abortion services – wanting to know if the clinic was open and if they were still providing care, reports Vox.

In fact, the day the bill was passed, “one young lady was telling us about a dream that she had that she was going to wake up and get here to the clinic and we were going to tell her that we couldn’t take care of her,” Dr. Robinson told the news website.

ACLU spokesperson Rebecca Seung-Bickley has said that the union is working on drafting litigation that would seek a temporary federal injunction on the ruling to keep it from being implemented.

Citing a 2014 litigation that ACLU had filed against an Alabama law banning a common abortion procedure and won, Seung-Bickley said: “This will never go into effect, as long as ACLU is in litigation.”

Her confidence stems from the fact that even though the state had appealed against U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s ruling, the case is still waiting to be heard by the Supreme Court, five years on.

“It’s so extreme that it is unlikely to be picked by the Supreme Court,” said the ACLU spokesperson.

Speaking to CNN on Wednesday, Elisabeth Smith, chief counsel of state policy and advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights said:

“There is nearly 50 years of precedent that says this law is unconstitutional. Regardless of what district judge hears this case, there is no argument that Alabama can make that this law is constitutional.”

Ever since Trump took over the Whitehouse in 2017, six states, including Kentucky, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, North Dakota, and Mississippi, have passed legislation prohibiting abortion in cases where a fetal heartbeat is detected, which usually happens about six weeks into a pregnancy.

However, CNN reports that its legal analyst Joan Biskupic says that none of the recent bans have seen the light of day, in so far as implementation is concerned.

“Pre-viability bans (bans on abortions prior to 24 weeks) like the Alabama ban … have never been enforced,” Smith told CNN.

“Some of them have been enacted by a state but none of them have been enforced,” she said, adding: “That’s because of the litigation that has stopped them from going into effect.”

Reactions against the ban came thick and fast on Twitter. Here are some of them.

https://twitter.com/NationalRogue/status/1128518707603484672
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From The Editors Politics

G20 Summit 2018: US-China Announce 90-Day Suspension of Hostilities in Tariff War

The 2018 G20 Buenos Aires summit saw nineteen leaders of the world’s biggest economies and a European Union representative get together this weekend to discuss pressing global issues, including the escalating US-China trade standoff.

The 2-day event was the thirteenth G20 summit and the first to be hosted in South America after Argentinian President Mauricio Macri assumed the one-year G20 presidency on Nov 30, last year.

All eyes were on Xi Ping and Donald Trump as the two leaders met in the Argentinian capital for the highly-anticipated working dinner between them.

The heightened interest in the meeting was largely due to the APEC stalemate in Papua New Guinea earlier this month, where China and the US failed to agree on the language for a joint communique – a first in the history of the Asia-Pacific conference.

Although the two-and-a-half-hour meeting over sirloin steak, caramel rolled pancakes and Argentine wine didn’t yield a lasting resolution to the lingering US-China issues, Xi and Trump did manage to reach a middle ground of sorts.

Both agreed to halt additional tariffs on one another’s goods for a period of ninety days – time enough, one hopes, to engage in meaningful negotiations and find a mutually-acceptable solution to their escalating disputes that could potentially jeopardize world trade as a whole.

According to a White House statement released yesterday (Dec 1), both leaders said the working dinner between them was “highly successful.”

Trump has agreed not to impose additional tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, which he had threatened to raise from 10 percent to 25 percent from January 1, 2019.

China, on its part, is expected to purchase an unspecified amount of “agricultural, energy, industrial, and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries,” says the White House statement.

Meanwhile, China will start purchasing agricultural products from US farmers starting immediately.

According to the statement, both leaders have consented to a 90-day window in which to engage in “negotiations on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture.”

However, should the two countries fail to arrive at a consensus at the end of the ninety-day breather, the United States will go ahead with its plans and raise tariffs on Chinese goods to 25 percent.

In what the statement calls a “wonderful humanitarian gesture,” President Xi has also agreed to regulate Fentanyl – a deadly opiate which has been illegally finding its way into the United States – by designating it as a Controlled Substance.

The ruling would effectively mean that “people selling Fentanyl to the United States will be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law,” the statement said.

In fact, it was part of Trump’s agenda for the meeting, as he had earlier acknowledged.

Calling it a “very important” meeting, the US president had said that he had faith it would end in “something that will be great for China and great for the United States” and said that he would ask Xi to “do something” about the “fentanyl problem.”

“The relationship is very special, the relationship I have with President Xi,” Trump said.

The two leaders were also on the same page in regard to the progress made in North Korea, with both presidents agreeing to work alongside Chairman Kim Jong Un for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

“This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China. It is my great honor to be working with President Xi,” the statement quoted President Trump as saying.

Speaking to reporters after the talks, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said:

“The principal agreement has effectively prevented further expansion of economic friction between the two countries and has opened up new space for win-win cooperation.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed many of the world’s nations’ concerns when she said:

“We all realize that we are indirectly influenced by the fact that Sino-American economic relations are not running as smoothly as a world order needs.”

“This was a rare opportunity for China because (the mid-terms) made Trump a lame president,” SBS News quoted Beijing-based political consultant Hua Po as saying.

“So at this time it was acceptable for China to maintain some bottom lines while making some major concessions,” Po reportedly said.

However, Brad Setser – Council on Foreign Relations in Washington – told Bloomberg that “the hard part is finding the basis for a real deal that settles the broader issues rather than agreeing on a pause.”

“Where we are right now is in a place of considerable uncertainty. Clearly, there’s a lot of jockeying going on within the administration with pretty sharp contrasts between the positions that people are taking. That’s what makes this so unpredictable. We don’t know where it will end up,” CNN quoted US-China Business Council’s president Craig Allen as saying.

The G20 final joint communique issued at the end of the summit said that the members welcomed “the strong global economic growth,” but they were concerned that it lacked a synchronized approach between countries and that “some of the key risks, including financial vulnerabilities and geopolitical concerns, have partially materialized.”

The members pledged to step up dialogue and actions to achieve their common goal of a “strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth, and safeguard against downside risks.”

“We thank Argentina for its G20 Presidency and for hosting the successful Buenos Aires Summit and we look forward to our next meetings in Japan in 2019 and in Saudi Arabia in 2020.”

While the G20 summit may not have successfully addressed all the concerns facing the participating countries, it was nowhere near as acrimonious as the APEC meet where US Vice President Mike Pence had accused China of wooing poorer nations in the region with cheap loans and road-building initiatives.

He said China was burdening these countries with loans and other initiatives so it could demand concessions and advantages in exchange for debt-relief when these countries failed to keep up with their repayments.

“We don’t drown our partners in a sea of debt, we don’t coerce or compromise your independence,” Pence had said. “The United States deals openly and fairly. We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road.”

One sincerely hopes the two economic superpowers make the most of the ninety days they have given themselves to iron out the creases in their economic relationship.

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From The Editors Politics

China-U.S. Discord Leads to APEC Stalemate – ‘The Entire World is Worried’

Worsening trade relations between China and the U.S. is fast becoming a cause for major concern among world leaders.

The two economic powerhouses failed to reach common ground on the language for a joint communique at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea that ended Sunday (Nov 18) in a stalemate.

Claiming to have seen draft versions of the APEC communique, Associated Press (AP) reports that the U.S. demanded a strongly-worded statement that highlighted China’s contentious trade policies.

China, on the other hand, insisted on the need to oppose, if not condemn, the practice of protectionism and unilateralism that it accuses the United States of indulging in.

According to officials, the attending leaders were unable to come to a consensus on the role of the World Trade Organization (WTO) – the intergovernmental body that regulates international trade.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said his office would soon release a “chairman’s statement” on behalf of the attending leaders.

He did, however, acknowledge before reporters that “the entire world is worried” about the escalating differences between the two countries.

“The entire world is worried about the debate about trade relations between China and, of course, the United States,” O’Neill said.

“This is a situation that both countries need to sit down and resolve. And I believe that the G20 meeting that is going to be held very shortly will be an opportune time,” he added.

President Trump was conspicuous in his absence as his second-in-command, Vice President Mike Pence, presented the U.S. point of view in his weekend address at the summit – as did the Chinese president.

“The world today is going through major development, transformation and change,” Xi told the gathering of political and trade leaders representing 21 Pacific Rim nations that account for 60 percent of the global economy.

“While economic globalization surges forward, global growth is shadowed by protectionism and unilateralism,” said the Chinese premier.

Criticizing China for its “authoritarianism and aggression,” Pence said that the United States was in favor of “collaboration and not control.”

He accused China of wooing poorer nations in the region with cheap loans and road-building initiatives, in an attempt to burden them with bad debts so that it could demand concessions and advantages in exchange for debt-relief when these countries are unable to keep up with their repayments.

“We don’t drown our partners in a sea of debt, we don’t coerce or compromise your independence,” Pence said.

“The United States deals openly and fairly. We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road,” he said.

China’s foreign ministry has, meanwhile, categorically refuted the allegations of debt entrapment.

“The assistance provided by China has been warmly welcomed by our partners in this region and beyond,” said Wang Xiaolong, a foreign ministry official.

In a post-summit tweet Pence said:

“Every nation gathered here at APEC has a place in @POTUS’ vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific. Our vision excludes no one. We only ask that nations respect their neighbors’ sovereignty, embrace free, fair, and reciprocal trade, and uphold individual rights.”

The APEC deadlock could well set the tone for the upcoming meeting between President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, later this month.

The already bitter relations between the two economic giants became even more acrimonious when the U.S. slapped tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods earlier this year and has threatened tariffs on $257 billion more.

Now that the APEC summit has failed to bridge the differences between the two countries, and if the G20 summit ends on a similar note, we could well see Trump go through with his threat of additional tariffs, perhaps as early as December.

China, meanwhile, retaliated by levying tariffs on U.S. products worth $110 billion and has even threatened “quantitative and qualitative” measures if the U.S. doesn’t mend its ways.

Zhu Haibin, the chief China economist at JPMorgan in Hong Kong, said in June that China might have to consider other alternatives to counter the US tariff threat on Chinese goods.

“Any further action might include punitive measures against American companies operating in China, such as removing privileges and excluding them from any future deals,” he said.

However, China does realize that any such move on its part would be detrimental to the business-friendly image it has been trying to build for itself.

Louis Kuijs, Asia Economics head at Oxford Economics, is of the opinion that, sooner or later, Beijing will be forced to explore alternative measures, saying that it is unlikely it would be able to sustain the tariff war with the U.S. for long.

“China will run out of ammunition sooner than the US,” he wrote in a note published in June.

He went on to say that “history shows that there are various other measures [China] could take to inflict pain on US companies, especially those present in China, including scaled up health, safety and tax checks, delaying the imports of goods, and boycotts of US goods.”

Coming back to the APEC summit, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was appreciative of O’Neill’s candor about the outcome of the summit.

“If the major powers here are not going to agree, we shouldn’t be pretending they do and we shouldn’t be trying to smooth that over for the sake of a communique,” he said. “We should call it out.”

While it is normal for two dominant powers to debate on issues, blowing their differences out of proportion could set a dangerous precedence, hinted the Australian prime minister.

“The other economies around the table here, it’s been made very clear to both the US and China that we want to see these issues resolved,” he said.

“That’s what is in our interests, and we’ve presented those positions to both the United States and China with the opportunities we’ve had here.”

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From The Editors Politics

Trump Accuses Google of Rigging Search Results to Show Him in Bad Light

It all started with a Tuesday tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump in which he accused search engine giant Google of rigging its search results in a manner that would only show negative news about him while hiding all the good stuff when somebody searched for “Trump News.”

The president said that there was a growing tendency among tech companies to suppress Conservative viewpoints, calling it a “very serious situation,” which “will be addressed.”

“Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent.

Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?” read the presidential tweet.

“96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation will be addressed!” he wrote.

Google was quick to deny the president’s unsolicited allegations, saying in a press statement that the company didn’t use its search platform to “set a political agenda” nor did it manipulate its results to support any political ideology.

Here’s the press statement in full.

“When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds.

“Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.

“Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries.
“We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Speaking to reporters at the White House later that afternoon, following a meeting with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Trump expanded his attack to include Facebook and Twitter alongside Google, saying that the three companies were “treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful.”

“I think Google is really taking advantage of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very serious thing, and it’s a very serious charge,” he told the attending reporters during the Oval Office press meet.

“And I think what Google and what others are doing, if you look at what’s going on at Twitter, if you look at what’s going on in Facebook, they better be careful, because you can’t do that to people,” he continued.

“You can’t do it. We have tremendous, we have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in, and you just can’t do that,” he went on.

“So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory, and they have to be careful,” he told the reporters, adding that it wasn’t “fair to large portions of the population.”

Responding to a query about Trump’s misgivings about Google, his economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that the White House was taking stock of the situation through “investigation” and “analysis” and considering whether the search engine should be regulated.

In a similar attack on Twitter last month, Trump accused the social networking service of limiting the visibility of top Republicans using a procedure known as “shadow banning,” which the president said was a “discriminatory and illegal practice” and that his administration would “look into it.”

Shadow banning, basically, means preventing someone’s content from being discovered by other users on the platform, without the knowledge of the user who posted it.

“We do not shadow ban,” Twitter rebutted the president’s accusation in a blog post entitled “Setting the record straight on shadow banning.”

“You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology,” the blog post said.

A Twitter spokesperson had earlier said that the company was aware that some accounts were not auto-populating the search box and that Twitter was working on correcting the issue.

“The profiles, tweets and discussions about these accounts do appear when you search for them,” he said, adding that the platform’s “behavioral ranking doesn’t make judgments based on political views or the substance of tweets.”

As a matter of fact, earlier this year when there was a public outcry to ban Trump on Twitter for his vitriolic and inflammatory tweets, particularly in the wake his outburst against North Korea at the time, Twitter released a statement explaining why the company was against the proposed ban.

In a blog post entitled “World Leaders on Twitter,” the company said that blocking political figures and world leaders or removing controversial tweets posted by them would amount to depriving people of access to important information, which they were entitled to see and debate on.

While such a decision would not silence the leader it would most definitely come in the way of “necessary discussion around their words and actions,” the statement said.

Twitter had gone on to say that the company reviewed tweets by leaders “within the political context that defines them” and implemented rules accordingly.

“No one person’s account drives Twitter’s growth or influences these decisions. We work hard to remain unbiased with the public interest in mind,” the statement said.

The impression that Twitter’s explanation gave at the time was that world leaders were exempt from saying anything in the name of “necessary discussion around their words and actions,” at least as far as the social media platform was considered.

With the kind of stand Twitter took against the public demand to ban the president on its platform, Trump’s latest accusation against the social networking behemoth seems kind of unjustified and uncalled for, especially in the absence of any substantive evidence to back his claims.

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From The Editors Politics

Fierce Criticism Forces Trump to Fly White House Flag Back at Half-Staff until Sen. McCain’s Interment

Trump has ordered the lowering of the White House flag back to half-staff after it was re-raised on Monday, less than 48 hours after it was initially lowered following the death of Arizona Sen. John McCain on Saturday.

In the face of scathing bipartisan backlash and immense pressure from all quarters, Trump was left with no option but to sign the proclamation to fly the flag at half-staff again, until the senator was laid to rest.

So intense and relentless were the attacks against the decision to prematurely re-raise the flag that the presidential decree came within hours of what was a disrespectful move against a national hero – a true son of the soil.

“On the behalf of The American Legion’s two million wartime veterans, I strongly urge you to make an appropriate presidential proclamation noting Senator McCain’s death and legacy of service to our nation, and that our nation’s flag be half-staffed through his internment,” the American Legion’s national commander Denise Rohan demanded in a statement addressed to Trump.

https://twitter.com/krassenstein/status/1034050212388642816

“Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment,” Trump said in a statement.

A celebrated war hero and former presidential candidate, the Republican senator passed away after a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an extremely malignant form of brain cancer. McCain was 81.

Trump’s disdain for McCain and the acrimony that existed between the two Republicans are pretty well-documented.

The fact that Trump desisted from commenting on the senator and his legacy, despite repeated requests from reporters, further confirms his intense dislike for the man – so much that even his death couldn’t elicit a few words of respect from the president.

All that the Trump could initially manage was his “deepest sympathies and respect” to the senator’s family on Twitter.

However, in what seemed like an attempt at damage control, after the barrage of criticism and rebuke he was subjected to for his tepid response to McCain’s death and for raising the White House flag to full-staff way too soon, Trump came out with a few measured words in honor of the senator, on Monday.

Adding to his half-staff proclamation statement, Trump said that he had instructed Vice President Mike Pence to honor McCain in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Friday.

“I have asked Vice President Mike Pence to offer an address at the ceremony honoring Senator McCain at the United States Capitol this Friday,” the president said.

“At the request of the McCain family, I have also authorized military transportation of Senator McCain’s remains from Arizona to Washington, D.C., military pallbearers and band support, and a horse and caisson transport during the service at the United States Naval Academy. Finally, I have asked General John Kelly, Secretary James Mattis, and Ambassador John Bolton to represent my Administration at his services,” he added.

At a dinner of evangelical supporters that evening, Trump said, “We very much appreciate everything that Senator McCain has done for our country.”

“It sounds like in the end, he probably decided it was a political loser to continue to hold out on this,” CBC News quoted William Howell, a University of Chicago lecturer and an expert on presidential powers, as saying.

“I don’t know who got into his ear that changed his mind, but the [reports] that his very closest advisers — his chief of staff and his press secretary — both recommended to him earlier that he recognize John McCain as a hero, suggests that the pressure was as close as it could be,” Howell told CBC, claims the news channel.

The president’s daughter Ivanka Trump was, in fact, much more charitable in her tribute to the departed senator than her father, calling him an “American patriot” and a “true hero,” while speaking at a women’s empowerment event in Washington, D.C.

“As we gather here today I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Sen John McCain –an American patriot who served our country with distinction for more than six decades,” said Ms.Trump.

“The nation is united in its grief and the world mourns the loss of a true hero and a great statesman,” she added.

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From The Editors Politics

National Enquirer CEO David Pecker Gets Federal Immunity in Michael Cohen Case

American Media Inc (AMI) chief executive David Pecker has been granted immunity by federal prosecutors in the ongoing investigations into former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s role in offering hush money to women on behalf of the U.S. president, according to various news reports that started emerging Thursday (August 23).

The federal immunity was granted in exchange for information on Cohen, who on Tuesday pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, including tax fraud and campaign finance violations that could likely put him away for years.

Pecker and Cohen are believed to have worked together to buy off the silence of porn star Stephanie Clifford – professionally known as Stormy Daniels – and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, who had been threatening to go public with their stories about their alleged sexual encounters with Trump, during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Daniels and McDougal, by the way, have not been named in the plea bargain filed in court

Cohen admitted in court on Tuesday that he and the “CEO of a media company, at the request of the candidate, worked together” to muffle the scandal that could have well thrown a spanner in the works for the Trump campaign.

Although details of the plea deal have not been made available yet, Pecker is reported to have given prosecutors detailed evidence of the president’s knowledge of the hush money paid out to the two female accusers.

Meanwhile, Trump has denied having had any knowledge of the hush-money payments until “later on,” without giving a specific date.

However, contrary to the U.S. president’s claim, Trump can be heard talking to Cohen about buying off the McDougal story from AMI in a September 2016 tape released by Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis.

Speaking to Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt, following the Cohen plea bargain, Trump said, “You have to understand, Ainsley, what he did — and they weren’t taken out of campaign finance.”

He added: “In fact, my first question when I heard about it was, ‘Did they come out of the campaign?’ because that could be a little dicey. And they didn’t come out of the campaign, and that’s big.”

Trump even went to the extent of suggesting that plea agreements between the government and people facing prosecution are unfair and should be deemed “illegal.”

“It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal,” Trump said, adding that it wasn’t “a fair thing.”

Long-time Trump ally Pecker is accused of playing a significant role in quashing damaging stories against the president by purchasing the story rights from the accuser and not publishing them – a practice known in the industry as “catch-and-kill.”

In the case of McDougal, AMI-owned tabloid magazine National Enquirer purchased the rights to her story, wherein she was claiming a sexual relationship with the president, for $150,000.

The Trump- McDougal thing is believed to have happened when he was already married to Melania, making it even more scandalous and damaging for the White House.

While the Justice Department (DOJ) didn’t mention Pecker by name, they did say on Tuesday that the “chairman” of “a media company that owns, among other things, a popular tabloid magazine” was also responsible for bringing Cohen and Stormy Daniels together for the hush-deal in which the porn was paid $130,000 in October 2016.

According to the Tuesday court filing, the prosecutors meant Pecker – that’s what everyone believes – when they said “Chairman-1 offered to help deal with negative stories about [President Trump’s] relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided”

The Wall Street Journal had reported earlier this year that Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen finalized a non-disclosure agreement for $130,000, initiated by Stephanie Clifford’s (Stormy Daniels) lawyer a month before the 2016 US presidential election, to buy the former porn star’s silence on her sexual relationship with the US president.

Known for her steamy movies, Daniels reportedly told friends that she met Trump at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, which led to the so-called sexual encounter, “people familiar with the matter” told WSJ.

Clifford, who has appeared in dozens of porn movies, including “Good Will Humping” and “Porking with Pride #2”, as well as feature films such as the “40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” was reportedly arrested in 2009 for “domestic battery” after an altercation with her husband.

In October 2011, Hooman Karamian, who goes by the alias Nik Richie on his gossip website TheDirty.com, ran a report from an anonymous whistleblower under the heading “World Exclusive: Donald Trump Cheats on His Wife Melania Trump While She Was Pregnant.”

The tipster wrote: “Donald Trump is the scum of the earth! Not only did he break up my friend’s marriage, but he also cheated on Melania Trump as she was pregnant with his child. My friend had sex with Donald after one of his golfing events and he lured her to multiple hotels [sic] rooms after that.

My friend wants to speak with you directly because she is in fear that Donald Trump will ruin her life more than he already has.”

Richie followed-up with a post of his own saying, “I know you cheated on your wife with Stephanie Gregory Clifford aka Stormy Daniels and now the world knows.”

In late October 2016, prior to Clifford’s story, another porn artist Jessie Drake had accused the president of offering her $10,000 for having sex with him in 2006, after he kissed her without her consent.

Peter Stris, McDougal’s legal representative in her lawsuit against AMI seeking annulment of the hush-deal, wrote “Told you so” in a Thursday tweet.

He tweeted: “To all media asking our firm to comment on
#NationalEnquirer publisher #DavidPecker getting immunity from prosecution in exchange for corroboration of his collusion w #MichaelCohen + @realDonaldTrump in silencing #KarenMcDougal, here is our official statement: “Told you so.”

Here are some reactions on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/SandAndWings/status/1032458279115542528

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From The Editors Politics

Inflammatory Text Messages Against POTUS Costs FBI Agent Peter Strzok His Job

Senior FBI agent Peter Strzok, a 22-year Bureau veteran, has been unceremoniously fired by FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich on charges of exchanging anti-Trump text messages during the 2016 presidential election campaign with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page – his lover at the time.

Calling it a “departure from typical Bureau practice,” Strzok’s attorney Aitan Goelman said in a statement that the decision “contradicts Director [Christopher] Wray’s testimony to Congress and his assurances that the FBI intended to follow its regular process in this and all personnel matters.”

Of course, a tweet or two from the president, if not more, was a given, especially when you consider that he was the subject of the exchanges between the fired agent and his former lover.

And tweet he did!

“Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI – finally. The list of bad players in the FBI & DOJ gets longer & longer. Based on the fact that Strzok was in charge of the Witch Hunt, will it be dropped? It is a total Hoax. No Collusion, No Obstruction – I just fight back!” – he wrote.

It didn’t take him long to follow it up with another, making it a point to include “Crooked Hillary Clinton” in his attack, as well.

“Just fired Agent Strzok, formerly of the FBI, was in charge of the Crooked Hillary Clinton sham investigation. It was a total fraud on the American public and should be properly redone!”

Both Strzok and Page were part of the high-profile probe into the then secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of her personal email server for official communication.

The controversy attracted the most extensive media coverage compared to any other topic during the 2016 presidential election campaign, as was revealed in the post-election analyses of media coverage during the time.

The agent and the lawyer also have the distinction of having worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations into a possible Russian hand in the 2016 election outcome.

However, when the politically motivated inflammatory texts between the lovers were uncovered in a Justice Department inspector-general probe, Strzok was summarily removed from the Mueller investigation and demoted to a position in human resources.

Details of the report, however, were released later, and although Strzok was removed from the Mueller investigation sometime last summer, it became public knowledge only in December 2017, when news of the texts started surfacing in a number of news reports.

“Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the Special Counsel’s Office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,” special counsel’s office spokesman Peter Carr said in a December statement.

As for Page, he said that she “completed her brief detail and had returned to the FBI weeks before our office was aware of the allegations.”

Strzok’s woes didn’t end with the relegation, though, as Conservatives were having a field day attacking him in a bid to condemn Mueller’s investigations into the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

The FBI, apparently, succumbed to the intense and sustained political pressure and took steps to sack the beleaguered Strzok.

Not known for his subtlety, Trump had been relentless in his accusations of bias against him across the FBI, citing Strzok’s politically charged messages as evidence of a prejudiced investigation that absolved Clinton of any wrongdoing in the email controversy.

Conservatives have welcomed the move, with Trump even calling for the discontinuation of the Mueller probe of the Russian connection, as well as reopening the Clinton email case.

Following his dismissal, Strzok set up a GoFundMe Twitter account, seeking to raise $150,000 to take care of “his legal costs and loss of income.”

He used his newly-created account to lash out at the administration and House Republicans, saying that he was “deeply saddened by the decision” and that he considered it an honor to have been able to serve the country and “work with the fine men and women of the FBI.”

His tweet was accompanied by an image of a statement from his legal representatives, saying that investigations into the matter had failed to prove that Strzok’s personal views influenced his professional obligations, in any way, whatsoever.

Testifying at a Capitol Hill public hearing he tore to shreds the Conservatives’ theory that the purpose of the texts was to derail the Trump presidential campaign in 2016.

“In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign,” Strzok said.

“This information had the potential to derail and, quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind,” he said.

By texting Page “we will stop it” – obviously referring to Trump’s victory – he said he was by and large talking from the point of view of the American public and not with malicious intent.

While many of Trump supporters will find that hard to swallow, the fact remains that no conclusive evidence suggesting otherwise has been uncovered.

The inspector general’s report on the Bureau’s handling of the Clinton email investigation also stated that no “documentary or testimonial evidence’ linking Strzok’s political leanings with his investigative decisions were found.

However, one section of the report states, “We further found evidence that in some instances Strzok and Page advocated for more aggressive investigative measures than did others.”

The report also talks about the slow pace of Strzok’s action in 2016, following the discovery of thousands of Clinton’s e-mails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop, who happens to be the estranged husband of Clinton’s close aide Huma Abedin.

The inspector general had doubts that “Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias,” without providing any substantive evidence to back that line of thinking.

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From The Editors Politics

Anonymous Street Artist Replaces Trump’s Vandalized ‘Walk of Fame’ Star with Multiple Fake Ones

“You take away one and we’ll replace it with at least thirty” seems to be the motto of a conservative street artist who took it upon himself to replace U.S. President Donald Trump’s Walk of Fame star that was destroyed last month by a pickaxe-wielding vandal – not for the first time, though.

The Trump-supporting street equivalent of Van Gogh spoke to The Hollywood Reporter on condition of anonymity, telling the entertainment publication that his decision was motivated by last month’s defacement of the president’s original star.

The other factor that influenced his actions was the West Hollywood City Council’s recent decision, a unanimous one, to push for the removal of Trump’s star because of allegations of disrespect for women against him, as well as his take on climate change.

The anonymous artist defiantly told THR that he and his like-minded team members, who call themselves “The Faction,” were up to the task and would plant 30 stars each time a Trump Walk of Fame star was removed or destroyed.

“Rip up the president’s Walk of Fame star or try to have it removed — like you’re the mayor of West Hollywood or something — and 30 more will pop up,” he told THR.

In fact, “The Faction” even posted a couple of tweets to drive home their point.

“Take down his star, and we will descend upon you with 30 fresh new stars,’ read one of the tweets, closing the message with, “We are MAGA Legion.”

The Faction followed it up with another tweet that said:

“Keep taking down the @realDonaldTrump star, and we will further spread Trump Derangement Syndrome by installing a never-ending stream of stars.”

The seriousness of the die-hard Trump-supporters can be gauged from the fact that they were happy to shell out $1,000, part of it coming from “a young and anonymous entrepreneur,” to have the fake stars printed on floor vinyl.

The Faction members then laminated the vinyl stars before affixing them on unpopulated squares on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the adhesive backs of the vinyl making the job relatively easy for them.

According to one onlooker, at least one of the replicas was placed on disgraced celebrity star Kevin Spacey’s star.

https://twitter.com/joshgremillion/status/1027711745295622144

Fearing intervention from onlookers, the anonymous artist and his merry gang kept the stars covered until they were all in place.

“I didn’t want to get hit over the head from behind. We thought Trump Derangement Syndrome was a joke, but I’m pretty sure it’s real,” he told THR, adding that the fake stars were good for the next ten years if nobody peeled them off.

But peeled off they were!

A “Ripley Believe it or Not!” employee told THR that the stars were peeled off because of apprehensions of a repeat of last month’s pickaxe incident, as that would not only destroy the stars but the Walk it was placed on, as well.

“We didn’t want to have what happened to the old star here. Not only would the star be destroyed, but it would damage our property,” he said.

“We started at 5 o’clock in the morning and we’ve found about 50 stars,” said a member of the cleaning service responsible for the Walk Fame’s graffiti- and vandalism-related issues, reported THR.

Last month a man surrendered himself to the police after vandalizing Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which the president had been honored within recognition for producing beauty pageants.

“He was selected for his producer job for his Miss Universe shows,” Walk of Fame spokesperson Ana Martinez explained to Christopher Zara of Fastcompany.com in an emailed response to his query in that regard.

According to eyewitnesses, the vandal unleashed his fury on the Trump star, attacking it with a pickaxe, which he had brought hidden in a guitar case, in the wee hours of the morning of July 25.

The man didn’t bother to take back his weapon of vandalism with him, leaving it behind at the crime scene, as can be seen in the picture accompanying the tweet immediately above.

As mentioned at the outset, this wasn’t the first incident of a vandal attacking the Trump star on the Walk.

Back in 2016, a man smashed the Trump star to express his disgust of the president bragging about his sexual escapades, revealed in an “Access Hollywood” recording.

While both the attacks involved pickaxes, the 2016 attacker used a sledgehammer as well.

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From The Editors Politics Science

America is Reaching for the Heavens: Trump Plans to Launch U.S. Space Force by 2020

If U.S. President Donald Trump manages to get Congress to see through his eyes, which he most likely will, Space Force could become a reality by, as early as, 2020.

Effectively, it will become the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, after the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and the Navy.

“Separate but equal” is the term President Trump had used to compare Space Force with the U.S. Air Force, speaking about it in a June meeting where the NSC (National Space Council) was going to reveal the first all-encompassing policy on space traffic management.

“We are going to have the Air Force and we’re going to have the Space Force, separate but equal. It is going to be something so important,” Trump had said.

Describing Space Force as “an idea whose time has come” in a Pentagon address on Thursday (August 9), U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said:

“The next generation of Americans to confront the emerging threats in the boundless expanse of space will be wearing the uniform of the United States of America,” going on to suggest that the ball was now in the Congress court for establishing and funding the mammoth project.

“Our nation’s armed forces have always been the vanguard of advancing American leadership here on Earth and beyond,” he also said. “The Space Force is the next and natural evolution of American military strength.”

“Now the time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces, to prepare for the next battlefield where America’s best and bravest will be called to deter and defeat a new generation of threats to our people, to our nation,” he said.

Trump’s tweeted response, to what we can consider another official announcement of a sixth military entity, read, “Space Force all the way!”

Of course, establishing Space Force would necessitate Congress consensus in the form of a new legislation and funding, which is exactly what the Trump administration proposes to do, come February when the president presents his annual budget request.

“Next February in the president’s budget, we will call on the Congress to marshal the resources we need to stand up,” Pence said during his Pentagon speech.

Explaining how the Trump administration plans to proceed in the initial stages, subject to a Congress nod, of course, Pence outlined four basic lines of action, or what you can call the first steps toward the creation of Space Force.

Here they are:

ONE: The incumbent U.S. government proposes the creation of a new U.S. Space Command in order to “establish unified command control for our Space Force operations; ensure integration across the military; and develop the space warfighting doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures of the future,” the vice president said.

TWO: Pence said that a Space Development Agency would be established for the research and development of emerging technologies, all of which would go a long way in ensuring “cutting-edge war-fighting capabilities.”

THREE: Pence said “an elite group of joint warfighters specializing in the domain of space” would be established.

FOUR: A new chain of command will be set up to establish “clear lines of responsibility and accountability to manage the process of standing up and scaling up the United States Department of the Space Force.”

Trump first publicly floated the idea of a sixth military dimension in space earlier this year, saying that his government’s “new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea.”

Then, again, in a June meeting of the NSC, Trump demonstrated his administration’s seriousness in pursuing the idea by officially ordering the Pentagon and the DoD to work on developing Space Force.

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” Trump had said and then spoilt it by a bit of braggadocio as he added, “That’s a big statement.”

As brilliant as the idea of having a dedicated military branch to secure the infinite deeps of space may seem to a lot of people, it is definitely not without its fair share of detractors.

Critics and naysayers, including National security specialists, as well as U.S. Armed Forces officials, have openly voiced their concerns against the creation of such an entity.

Their argument is based on the premise that creating a separate force for space-related activities of the U.S. Armed Forces would encroach on the domain of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, which is currently managing that particular area of the nation’s concerns.

Following the June announcement, senior U.S. Senator from Florida Bill Nelson (D) claimed in a tweet that U.S. military generals had told him they were not happy with the idea of Space Force.

Sen. Nelson said that this was not the opportune time to rearrange the Air Force in order to create a new branch for the military; it would, potentially, jeopardize several important ongoing missions.

“The president told a US general to create a new Space Force as 6th branch of military today, which generals tell me they don’t want,” the senator tweeted.

“Thankfully the president can’t do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart. Too many important missions at stake,” the tweet further said.

Among the takers of the proposed concept is the U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, as his opening remarks before the vice president’s Thursday address at the Pentagon suggests.

“It is becoming a contested war-fighting domain, and we’ve got to adapt to that reality,” Mattis said.

Categories
From The Editors Politics

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Russian Intel Officers Indicted in Mueller Investigation

As part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations into the alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections, a federal grand jury on Friday indicted twelve Russian intelligence officers on charges of sabotaging the Democratic campaign.

Mueller was conspicuously absent from the midday news conference where Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the charges, which he claims to have informed the president about earlier this week, saying that “the President is fully aware of the department’s actions today.”

“Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious, and there will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide and conquer us,” Rosenstein told reporters.

“So long as we are united in our commitment to the shared values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed,” he said.

Here’s the list of the twelve GRU officers who, according to the 29-page indictment, “knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other, and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury to gain unauthorized access (to “hack”) into the computers of U.S. persons and entities, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

1. Viktor Borisovich Netyksho
2. Boris Alekseyevich Antonov
3. Dimitriy Sergeyevich Badin
4. Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov
5. Aleksey Viktorovich Lukashev
6. Sergey Aleksandrovich Morgachev
7. Nikolay Yuryevich Kozachek
8. Pavel Vyacheslavovich Yershov
9. Artem Andreyevich Malyshev
10. Aleksandr Vladimirovich Osadchuk
11. Aleksey Aleksandrovich Potemkin
12. Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev

The GRU, which stands for Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye, is the military intelligence service of the Russian Federation.

The indictment comes ahead of US President Donald Trump’s upcoming one-on-one meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit on Monday (July 16), which will go ahead as scheduled, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed on Friday.

The Russians “covertly monitored the computers, implanted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code, and stole emails and other documents,” Rosenstein said.

“The goal of the conspirators was to have an impact on the election. What impact they may have had . . . is a matter of speculation; that’s not our responsibility,” said the US Attorney General.

Rosenstein said that while the indictment does not name any American citizen, the Russian defendants did correspond “with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet.”

“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime,” he said. “There is no allegation that the conspiracy altered the vote count or changed any election result.”

Responding to a question about the timing of the announcement, Rosenstein said it was “a function of the collection of the facts, the evidence, the law, and a determination that it was sufficient to present the indictment at this time.”

Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani said on Twitter that the indictments were “good news for all Americans,” urging Mueller “to end this pursuit of the President and say President Trump is completely innocent,” now that the investigations have “nailed” the Russians and eliminated the possibility of American involvement.

According to the DOJ, the purpose behind the hacking was to target Clinton’s campaign, Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, with the mala fide intent to release the hacked data “on the internet under the names DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 and through another entity.”

The other entity, referred to as “Organization 1” in the indictment, was WikiLeaks, an international anti-secrecy non-profit group headed by the organization’s founder, editor-in-chief, and director Julian Assange, sources familiar with the case revealed.

Per the indictment, WikiLeaks is believed to have communicated with Guccifer 2.0 to access the hacked information.

The indictment states that WikiLeaks sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 on or about June 22, 2016, asking them to “[s]end any new material [Stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.”

WikiLeaks followed it up with another message on or about July 6, 2006, which said, “if you have anything Hillary related we want it in the next two [sic] days preferable [sic] because the DNC [Democratic National Convention] is approaching and she will solidify Bernie supporters behind her after,” obviously referring to Democratic nominee, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

WikiLeaks went on to say that they thought “trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary . . . so the conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”
Echoing Rosenstein’s comments, Deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said that the indictment absolves the Trump campaign of any “knowing involvement” in the Russian conspiracy.

“Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result,” Walters said in a statement, adding that it was “consistent with what we have been saying all along.”

“The detailed charges in this indictment make it unmistakably clear that the United States faces an aggressive, sophisticated adversary bent on using cyber means to subvert our democratic processes and institutions,” said David Laufman, former chief of DOJ’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

“Now is the time for unequivocal recognition of this threat by both the executive branch and Congress, and for a unified and well-coordinated commitment to confront it,” Laufman added.

President Trump, who is currently visiting England, said at a Friday press conference that the investigation was nothing but a “witch hunt.”

Standing alongside British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump said, “I think that we’re being hurt very badly by the — I would call it the witch hunt,” going on to say that “it really hurts our relationship with Russia.”