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TBR News August 6, 2016

Aug 08 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. August 8, 2016:”The rush by the American media to support Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House seems to have ignored certain aspects of their favored candidate’s persona. That she is a mean and spiteful person is never discussed. The possibility of erotic personal computer messages from the candidate to other women emerging from the Wikileaks trolling of her personal computer, as well as that of the DNC, is never discussed. And there is the serious manifestation of mental disturbances, clearly seen by millions on national television recently. Her bizarre behavior on the platform is by no means a secret that the media can cover up. An individuals with her very evident neurological problems ought never to be put in any position of stress and the White House is filled with daily stresses of domestic and foreign natures. Hillary, under these circumstances, is more to be pitied than censured but she ought not to be allowed to drive a vehicle on the streets, let alone occupy the Oval Office.”

10 Hillary Health Issues That Have Raised Questions

by Nick Sanchez


Hillary Clinton appeared to be wearing her corrective eyeglasses while campaigning Thursday in Las Vegas, the same ones she used after suffering a fall and concussion a few years ago.

“Hillary Health Drama: Prism Glasses Back on Day After Coughing Seizure,” the Drudge Report tweeted Thursday morning, accompanied by a photo from The Associated Press.

The photo, which showed the 68-year-old Clinton meeting with employees at the Caesars Palace casino, reignited questions about her health as it pertains to her public duties.

Gathered below are 10 times Hillary Clinton’s health has been the subject of public discussion.

  1. Coughing fits — In February 2016, presidential candidate Clinton suffered her third public coughing fit during a speech in Harlem. “Clinton had to dig out a lozenge at last year’s Benghazi hearings,” noted the Daily Mail, and “also suffered a coughing fit in Iowa back in January, something she attributed to speaking a lot on her campaign tour.” The fits prompted many to speculate as to what could be causing them. Ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Jonathan Aviv told “Inside Edition,” “It’s not just cough. There’s some hoarseness, there’s some throat clearing, in fact there’s frequent throat clearing. When you have these trio of symptoms, you have to think of what I call throat burn reflux, which is acid reflux affecting the throat.”
  2. Health attack on Sanders backfires — “Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ campaign is fundraising off a report that an ally of rival Hillary Clinton plans to demand Sanders release his medical records,” The Hill reported in January. John Podesta, chairman of Clinton’s campaign, tried to downplay the incident in an effort to draw attention away from Clinton’s health. “We’re fighting on who would make a better president, not on who has a better Physical Fitness Test,” he tweeted.
  3. Fall fractures elbow — While serving as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state in mid-2009, Hillary Clinton fell and fractured her right elbow while walking to her car in the basement of the State Department, The New York Times reported. Clinton, 61 at the time, underwent surgery to repair the elbow, and missed at least one meeting with Obama as a result. “Having broken my right arm as secretary of defense, and had the left arm operated on, I think I can truthfully say, I feel her pain,” said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at the time. Secretary Clinton fell again in 2011 while boarding a plane to Oman, but did not sustain injury.
  4. Faint causes concussion — In late 2012, Secretary Clinton “sustained a concussion after fainting,” The Associated Press reported. The incident came just days before her scheduled testimony about the Sept. 11 attack against a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Other officials from the department attended in her stead. The State Department said Clinton was dehydrated because of a stomach virus, which had recently caused her to back out of a trip to North Africa and the Persian Gulf.
  5. Blood clot — Secretary Clinton was hospitalized in December 2012 after doctors discovered a blood clot during a follow-up exam related to her concussion. “Mrs. Clinton’s blood clot formed in a large vein along the side of her head, behind her right ear, between the brain and the skull,” The New York Times reported, noting that Clinton also had a blood clot in her leg in 1998. She began taking blood thinners around the time of her hospital discharge. The concussion and subsequently discovered blood clot forced Clinton to ultimately take a month-long absence from her role as secretary of state.
  6. Prism glasses for double vision — “As she testified about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, the secretary of state appeared to have tiny vertical lines etched onto the left lens of her new brown specs,” the New York Daily News wrote in January 2013. “Clinton’s spokesman confirmed Thursday night she is wearing the special glasses as a result of the fall and concussion she suffered last month, but he did not elaborate. Experts told the Daily News that Clinton likely has a Fresnel prism placed on her glasses. The adhesive panel is used to treat double vision.” Fresnel prisms can be ground into a lens for longer term use, and the prism is not visible when built into the lens itself.
  7. Prescription blood thinner — In August 2015, The Associated Press reported that Clinton was still taking Coumadin, a blood thinner used to prevent blood clots. “Her Coumadin dose is monitored regularly and she has experienced no side-effects from her medications,” wrote Dr. Lisa Bardack, an internist who practices near Clinton’s suburban New York home. Previously, in a 2014 interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Clinton said she was “probably” on blood thinners for life.
  8. Thyroid — Along with her blood thinner, Clinton takes Armour Thyroid, a thyroid hormone replacement, antihistamines, and vitamin B12, the AP reported.
  9. Brain damage comment — In May 2014, The Washington Post reported that Republican strategist Karl Rove “distanced himself from a provocative report in Monday’s New York Post, saying he does not believe — as the newspaper asserted he had said — that Clinton suffered ‘brain damage’ when she fell and sustained a head injury in December 2012.” Rove had been commenting on Clinton’s prism glasses.
  10. Bill says recovery took six months — Fox News reported in May of 2014 that “Bill Clinton said earlier this week there’s ‘nothing to’ the [Hillary] health questions — though at the same time, he revealed her recovery took about six months, which is much longer than the State Department had indicated.”

Ophthalmologist says glasses worn by Clinton used to treat double vision

Fox News

A New York ophthalmologist told FoxNews.com that special glasses former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was seen wearing last year are used to treat double vision, which is sometimes caused by severe head trauma.

Dr. Marc Werner explained the purpose of the Fresnel prism eyeglasses, like the ones Clinton wore, amid questions about the potential presidential candidate’s health. The subject was raised after Karl Rove commented on her time in and out of the hospital in December 2012.

“In order to see one object, your eyes need to be pointed in the same direction. If your eyes are misaligned, one way to optically align them is to put a prism … on your glasses,” Werner said.

In late 2012, Clinton was suffering from a stomach virus when she fell at her home, struck her head and endured a concussion, according to her representatives. Doctors later discovered a blood clot behind her right ear. Werner says severe head trauma could have caused double vision and Clinton’s need for Fresnel prism glasses.

“Any issue which raises intracranial pressure can damage one of the nerves which moves the eye around, and if it damages one of the nerves, your eyes will be misaligned — maybe temporarily, maybe more permanently,” Werner said.

Fox News analyst and former George W. Bush administration adviser Karl Rove recently defended comments he reportedly made saying Clinton’s hospitalization would be an issue should she run for president in 2016.

“This was a serious deal. She basically was out of action,” Rove said Tuesday. “She spends over a month fighting this. …And they’re not particularly forthcoming.”

Clinton’s representatives, and husband, have defended her, saying she’s “100 percent.” Bill Clinton said earlier this week there’s “nothing to” the health questions — though at the same time, he revealed her recovery took about six months, which is much longer than the State Department had indicated.

When asked what he might look for given the chance to see Clinton’s medical records, Dr. Werner said he would want to examine imaging studies.

“I would like to know what the results of any imaging studies were and the cause of why someone needed Fresnel,” Werner said. “There are lots of different causes, anything from Myasthenia to Multiple Sclerosis to maybe a blood clot, these are all possible causes, but all we know is that she was using a Fresnel prism and therefore had double vision.”

As senator, Clinton promised 200,000 jobs in Upstate New York. Her efforts fell flat.

August 7, 2016

by Jerry Markon

Washington Post

In her presidential bid, Hillary Clinton has made job creation a centerpiece of her platform, casting herself as a pragmatist who would inspire “the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.’’

Her argument that she would put more Americans to work has focused on her time in the Senate, when she took on the mission of creating jobs in chronically depressed Upstate New York. As her husband, former president Bill Clinton, put it recently, she became the region’s “de facto economic development officer.”

But nearly eight years after Clinton’s Senate exit, there is little evidence that her economic development programs had a substantial impact on upstate employment. Despite Clinton’s efforts, upstate job growth stagnated overall during her tenure, with manufacturing jobs plunging nearly 25 percent, according to jobs data.

The former first lady was unable to pass the big-ticket legislation she introduced to benefit the upstate economy. She turned to smaller-scale projects, but some of those fell flat after initial glowing headlines, a Washington Post review shows. Many promised jobs never materialized and others migrated to other states as she turned to her first presidential run, said former officials who worked with her in New York.

Clinton’s self-styled role as economic promoter also showcases an operating style that has come to define the political and money-making machine known to some critics of the former first couple as Clinton Inc. Some of her pet economic projects involved loyal campaign contributors, who also supported the Clinton Foundation, The Post review shows.

Clinton’s Senate record — rarely examined in detail this campaign cycle — offers a template for her approach to jobs creation. Her campaign has crafted a detailed jobs plan and cited her Upstate New York work as a blueprint for a Clinton presidency.

Republican opponent Donald Trump claims he’s created “thousands and thousands of jobs’’ as an international developer and knows better how to stimulate the economy. Most of the jobs Trump created were construction and management jobs for projects early in his career, when he was building heavily in New York City and other locations.

Clinton’s pledge to help Upstate New York amid an early 2000s recession was risky, experts say. “To her credit, she really did focus on economic development upstate as a focus and as a purpose,’’ said David Shaffer, former president of the Albany-based Public Policy Institute, which compiles New York jobs data.

But Shaffer and other experts faulted Clinton for setting an unrealistic goal by promising to create 200,000 new jobs in a region struggling to retain existing positions. “As soon as I heard that, I thought, ‘Okay, some D.C. consultant sat around with focus groups to figure out what would sound good. You wouldn’t make a promise like that if you had seriously looked into it,’’ Shaffer said.

Clinton also has touted success with cosmetic projects that created few jobs, The Post found. Nicholas A. Langworthy, the Republican Party chairman in Erie County, N.Y., said he’s taken aback by Clinton’s repeated references to what he described as “small bore” efforts, such as securing federal money for a Buffalo project called Artspace that created residential living space for artists. Clinton cites Artspace in her list of Senate accomplishments.

“To have someone running for president of the United States bragging about an Artspace apartment building in Buffalo is laughable,’’ Langworthy said. “That’s a project a city council member or a small-city mayor would champion, not a U.S. senator.’’

Kris Balderston, a longtime senior Clinton aide now at FleishmanHillard, a D.C. communications firm, said the Buffalo project was a “symbol that she was going to be helping everybody no matter how big or small.”

Clinton’s backers say the unfulfilled jobs promise pales in comparison to her work on the Sept. 11, 2001 recovery and protecting New York military installations. All told, Clinton aides have said, she helped to secure more than $1 billion in federal assistance for New York, not including $20 million in post-Sept. 11 funds.

Campaign spokesman Glen Caplin said Clinton “worked hard” to create jobs. “Facing the stiff head winds of the [George W.] Bush economy, she never gave up and never stopped fighting for New York jobs,’’ he said.

Caplin added, referring to the campaign contributions and Clinton Foundation donations by some of the entities Clinton worked with in Upstate New York: “Hillary Clinton worked tirelessly to help New Yorkers. It’s no surprise that people who saw that work wanted to support her election campaigns and efforts to make a difference in people’s lives around the world.”

Focus on upstate

In her first Senate campaign, Clinton zeroed in on upstate, the region north of New York City and its suburbs. Upstate native Balderston said upstate reminded Clinton of rural areas in Arkansas, where her husband had served as governor.

A day after announcing her 2000 candidacy, then-first lady Clinton vowed to infuse more than a half billion dollars into the upstate economy. A television ad ran just before the election, citing the 200,000 new jobs goal. Clinton won by more than 12 points.

In March 2001, she introduced seven bills to stimulate the upstate economy — “part of a larger partnership to spur job creation across our country,’’ Clinton said. None of the measures passed, records show.

Clinton shifted to federal grants and other assistance. In her 2009 Senate farewell speech, she said she had worked “hard to help make investments in New York’s economy.’’

But counting jobs is trickier. Clinton’s campaign said she stimulated employment by encouraging cooperative relationships and securing federal money for initiatives such as an Albany bioscience center and a Buffalo medical campus.

The campaign declined to estimate how many jobs Clinton created. Campaign officials cited a line from a chart produced by the New York State Department of Labor, showing “Upstate New York’’ gaining 117,000 jobs during Clinton’s first term.

The Post was unable to confirm that number, and the state agency does not use Upstate New York as a specific regional area to measure employment. Different agencies use different metrics to count jobs, and definitions of what constitutes upstate New York vary.

The most authoritative jobs numbers are widely considered to be those from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Multiple analyses of its New York data show that upstate actually lost jobs during Clinton’s first term. For example, the non-partisan Public Policy Institute in Albany — which uses BLS data for a monthly snapshot of Upstate New York — reported that the region lost more than 31,000 payroll jobs between October 2001 and December 2006.

Clinton was re-elected in November 2006 and left the Senate to become secretary of state in January 2009.

During her overall Senate tenure, according to the institute, upstate jobs rose 0.2 percent overall, but manufacturing jobs fell 24.1 percent.

The quest for jobs

In the Senate, Clinton cultivated a mutually beneficial relationship with Corning, an upstate manufacturer of glass and high-tech products. Through legislation and federal grants, she helped steer money to Corning to support its diesel emissions reduction technology.

Corning officials said federal legislation passed in 2005 helped create about 300 upstate jobs. But that legislation was introduced by a Republican senator. Clinton was among the 21 co-sponsors. The bill did not reverse the economic decline of Steuben County, where Corning is located. Employment there declined about 7 percent during Clinton’s Senate tenure, data shows.

Corning employees have donated to Clinton’s campaigns at a massive clip, and Corning’s chief executive co-hosted a 2015 fundraiser for her. The company paid her $225,500 in 2014 to speak to Corning executives. Corning also has given more than $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, its records show.

Clinton also has touted her role in creating an “eBay university’’ that trained New York entrepreneurs to sell products on eBay. The idea was that expanding their sales would allow them to create jobs. Company executives have supported Clinton. Its then-CEO, John Donahoe, hosted a 2015 campaign fundraiser with his wife, Eileen, who worked for Clinton at the State Department. EBay paid Clinton $315,000 for a 20-minute speech last year, and eBay’s charitable foundation has given more than $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

In 2003, Clinton launched an upstate jobs initiative with Clinton family ally Roger Altman, deputy treasury secretary in the Bill Clinton administration.

Hillary Clinton and Altman called their program New Jobs for New York, designed to match New York City financiers with upstate entrepreneurs. At the announcement, Clinton said New Jobs would “create the jobs that will make the entire state vibrant and economically sound.”

The non-profit organization was headquartered initially at Altman’s Manhattan office. Its unpaid, voluntary board included former Bill Clinton administration appointees and a Hillary Clinton campaign donation bundler.

Overall, New Jobs board members and their spouses have contributed more than $115,000 to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns since the non-profit was formed.

The focus on jobs creation shifted over time. Instead, the non-profit touted using Clinton’s “extraordinary power to convene” at business conferences. It issued a progress report in 2006 that reads like a Clinton campaign flyer and features her in five photographs.

How many jobs did the program create? “From a jobs perspective, I genuinely don’t remember,’’ said one person familiar with the organization, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

In the report, only one company specifically cited new jobs: Lumetrics of Rochester. CEO John Hart said last week that Lumetrics added 10 jobs after hooking up with investors at a New Jobs conference, then also securing help from New York state and other investors.

In eight years, New Jobs privately raised just over $1 million from undisclosed sources and spent the bulk of it on staff salaries and conferences.

Clinton appeared at networking events in 2005 and 2006 as she geared up for a reelection campaign. New Jobs did virtually no work after 2007, according to documents and interviews, and it liquidated in 2011.

Clinton did personally go to bat to create upstate jobs at Lockheed Martin. Judy Marks, a Lockheed senior executive, was vice chair of New Jobs.

Lockheed and a British partner were competing in 2005 to build Marine One helicopters for the Navy, a contract that promised to generate 750 new upstate jobs.

Clinton called British Prime Minister Tony Blair to ask him to work the Bush White House, according to a person familiar with the conversation, who recounted it on condition of anonymity.

Lockheed won the contract, but the Pentagon cancelled it in 2009 because of cost overruns. The jobs disappeared.

Jobs in Buffalo

As Clinton cranked up New Jobs, she also helped recruit Mumbai-based Tata Consultancy Services to open a software development center in Buffalo.

Buffalo was struggling to rebuild its manufacturing base, and Tata, a division of a massive Indian conglomerate, was expanding its North America footprint. Clinton, who then co-chaired the Senate India Caucus, also persuaded Tata to partner on several projects with a local university.

Tata officials predicted up to 200 new Buffalo jobs. But Clinton came under fire for aligning with a global leader in outsourcing that relied heavily on foreign workers who were in the United States on temporary visas. Clinton defended outsourcing, telling CNN in 2004, “You know, outsourcing does work both ways.’’

Ron Hira, an outsourcing critic then in Rochester, branded the Tata deal an obvious Clinton outreach to “the Indian American donor class.”

“From an economic development perspective, bringing in Tata was just a terrible idea,” said Hira, an Indian American who is a professor at Howard University.

After opening in Buffalo, Tata announced that it would also locate a new training center in the city, former employees said. At one point, Tata employed about 45 people in Buffalo.

As the U.S. economy tanked, however, Tata’s Buffalo business faded.

Anxious Tata employees said they turned to Clinton’s Senate office, which was unresponsive. “We were calling to try to get a scope on what was happening, what we were going to do as the economy continued to go south,’’ one former employee said. “The phone would go unanswered.”

Tata closed its Buffalo office in 2009 and laid off the eight to 10 employees still there, according to former employees.

Tata spokesman Ben Trounson said the office closed because “local market conditions did not perform as well as we hoped.’’

Although foreign nationals cannot contribute to U.S. campaigns, Clinton has won campaign support from the Indian American community, records show. And Tata has remained friendly to the Clintons. Tata Consultancy Services contributed between $25,000 and $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation, and Ratan Tata, then chairman of the Tata Group, was a speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in 2010.

Upstate greening

Clinton holds out the success of a Rochester project called Greenprint, a 2006 alternative energy conference and follow-up report that recommended ways for the city to create economic growth by harnessing green energy.

Clinton said at the time that the effort “holds tremendous economic potential,’’ although there has been no estimate of jobs created.

Clinton’s office worked closely with the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability, named for New York businessman Thomas Golisano, a billionaire philanthropist. Golisano, a Bill Clinton friend, was an original underwriter of the Clinton Foundation, to which he has donated between $10 million and $25 million, records show.

Back in Buffalo, the Artspace project illustrated Clinton’s theory that improved quality of life may draw prospective employers. She secured a federal grant for Artspace, the artists’ residential complex, which also won backing from the Republican administration of then-Gov. George Pataki.

In her 2009 Senate departure speech, Clinton said Artspace had created a “model” for not only urban revitalization but also “economic development centered on cultural projects.’’

Did the project create jobs?

“It’s a really creative use of space,’’ said former Buffalo mayor Tony Masiello, a Hillary Clinton donor. He said it helped transform the neighborhood.

The remodeled building was the setting for a May 2015 Clinton fundraiser, billed as the premier western New York “Democrats for Hillary’’ event.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.


What Julian Assange’s War on Hillary Clinton Says About WikiLeaks

August 6 2016

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

In recent months, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed has started to look more like the stream of an opposition research firm working mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers.

This has puzzled some of the group’s supporters, and led to speculation that the site’s Australian founder, Julian Assange, had timed the release of emails hacked from the servers of the Democratic National Committee to drive a wedge between supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The publication of emails that revealed an anti-Sanders agenda inside the Democratic party was certainly welcomed by the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

But it should come as no surprise to anyone who looks back at the founding principles of WikiLeaks that Assange — who has clearly stated his distaste for the idea of the former secretary of state becoming president — would make aggressive use of leaked documents to try to undermine her.

As Raffi Khatchadourian explained in a New Yorker profile of the WikiLeaks founder in 2010, “Assange, despite his claims to scientific journalism, emphasized to me that his mission is to expose injustice, not to provide an even-handed record of events.” To Assange, Khatchadourian wrote, “Leaks were an instrument of information warfare.”

In other words, Assange’s project has been from the start more like opposition research than dispassionate reporting. His goal is to find dirt in the servers of powerful individuals or organizations he sees as corrupt or dangerous, and bring them down by exposing it. As he memorably told Der Spiegel in 2010, “I enjoy crushing bastards.”

His recent focus on “crushing” Clinton but not Trump has led some to ask Assange if he is worried about helping to elect someone who might be even more hostile to him — let alone to the causes of justice and peace that have motivated Wikileaks’ previous disclosures. Asked recently by Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” if he does prefer Trump over Clinton, Assange replied, “You’re asking me, do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea?”

Speaking to Bill Maher on Friday night from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been effectively confined for more than four years, Assange joked about hacking Trump’s tax returns, but added, “from the perspective of WikiLeaks trying to protect its sources, you have really two very bad presidential candidates.”

In an address to the American Green Party convention on Saturday, Assange reiterated that both major party candidates for the presidency were “horrific,” but argued that “it certainly doesn’t make as much difference as people say,” which of them gets elected. What is important, he said, is to build political pressure “to discipline and hold to account and check the abuses of power during the next four years.”

To better understand Assange’s recent intervention in the U.S. election, it helps to look more closely at a sort of manifesto he wrote as he was creating WikiLeaks. The same month that WikiLeaks.org went live, in December of 2006, Assange posted an essay on his blog, “Conspiracy as Governance,” in which he explained his theory that authoritarian regimes — and western political parties — maintain power by conspiring to keep the public in the dark, through “collaborative secrecy, working to the detriment of a population.” In order for the people to regain control of the political system, Assange argued, it is necessary to find ways of “throttling the conspiracy,” like disrupting the ability of the conspirators to communicate secretly.

With that in mind, Assange wrote, “let us consider two closely balanced and broadly conspiratorial power groupings, the US Democratic and Republican parties.” He continued, “Consider what would happen if one of these parties gave up their mobile phones, fax and email correspondence — let alone the computer systems which manage their subscribers, donors, budgets, polling, call centres and direct mail campaigns? They would immediately fall into an organisational stupor and lose to the other.”

A decade later, by releasing thousands of unredacted emails and voice-mail messages hacked from the Democratic Party — in a database that makes it easy to search for the social security numbers of donors, as well as their passport and credit card details — Assange was finally able to put his theory into practice, by attempting to throttle one of the “conspiratorial power groupings” that selects candidates to run the U.S. government.

Assange’s attack on the DNC certainly revealed hypocrisy within the party, and led to the resignations of four senior officials, but his decision to not redact personal information from those documents — or from a second cache of emails hacked from a Turkish political party — also led to criticism from some longtime supporters, including Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower.

My colleague Glenn Greenwald also told Slate last week that he was troubled by the fact that WikiLeaks had abandoned its previous policy of redaction. “There were tons of redactions when they were releasing Pentagon documents about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars,” he noted. “And they even wrote a letter to the State Department before they released the cables requesting the State Department’s help in figuring out which information ought to be withheld.”

Although Assange has spoken of the dumping of “pristine,” unedited documents as a philosophical principle — and his biographer Andrew O’Hagan reported that the collapse of his working relationship with the editors of the New York Times and the Guardian was partly fueled by disagreements about redaction — it seems possible that the intense pressure on the organization has also made it nearly impossible to carry out careful editing of every document it obtains. Assange continues to be confined to Ecuador’s embassy in London — which has been described as illegal, “arbitrary detention” by a United Nations panel — and Sarah Harrison, his investigations editor, has chosen to live in exile in Berlin since helping Snowden get from Hong Kong to Russia, heeding legal advice that she could face prosecution if she tried to return to Britain.

Whatever the reason, it is difficult to see a public-interest argument for making public some of what was contained in the DNC files. One of the voice-mail recordings, for instance, was a conversation between a staffer and his young child during a visit to a zoo, which appears to have been left by accident, following a pocket-dial. The staffer’s phone number was made available, much to the delight of some Trump supporters.

As the Turkish scholar Zeynep Tufekci explained in the Huffington Post, a trove of Turkish-language emails WikiLeaks released last month, inaccurately presented as private messages from members of Turkey’s ruling party, the AKP, also included little of public interest but did reveal the private information of ordinary citizens.

To make matters worse, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed also shared a link to another cache of hacked Turkish documents that included home addresses or phone numbers for every female voter in 79 of Turkey’s 81 provinces.

Unfortunately, for believers in the WikiLeaks project, Assange has responded to criticism of his redaction-free document dumps by attacking even longtime supporters who have spoken out. The @wikiLeaks Twitter account the site’s founder uses to annotate documents and rebut critics replied angrily to Snowden’s message about the desirability of some sort of selective editing, accusing the NSA whistleblower whom Assange helped get asylum in Russia of angling for a pardon from Clinton.

WikiLeaks also suggested, wrongly, that Tufekci is an “apologist” for Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan — a leader she has, in fact, frequently criticized for his opposition to internet freedom.

Of course, Assange is hardly alone in being quick to denounce his critics on Twitter, but the way in which he uses the @wikileaks account these days matters to the overall functioning of the organization because it is the only obvious way for outsiders to provide feedback on the annotation or analysis of the documents. Despite the site’s name, WikiLeaks never developed into a Wikipedia-like website that welcomes, or facilitates crowd-sourced annotation and vetting of the documents it obtains. If you spot an error on Wikipedia, you can fix it, but WikiLeaks does not allow for that kind of collaborative fact-checking.

That the site was originally intended to function more like a crowd-sourced, wiki platform was suggested by the Wikipedia-like annotation that accompanied the very first document uploaded by WikiLeaks in 2006. (Although it was described as a “leak,” that document — an order from an Islamist rebel leader in Somalia that the site’s editors could not verify as authentic — was not provided by a whistleblower, but stolen from Chinese hackers by a WikiLeaks activist who intercepted traffic flowing through a Tor network server he owned.)

Since the crowd-sourced aspect of WikiLeaks proved difficult to implement, and the site no longer relies mainly on collaborations with news organizations to vet and make sense of the vast troves of documents it obtains, Assange has, over time, taken on the role of the organization’s main analyst. Before the advent of Twitter, analysis and annotation written by Assange and his volunteers filled a section of the WikiLeaks website. Lately, though, most of the interpretation of the documents has been done only in short bursts on the WikiLeaks Twitter feed, where the site’s founder draws attention to items he thinks are important, and tries to provide some context and analysis.

The micro-blogging format has obvious limits, however, when it comes to making complex annotations. The generally hostile tone of the WikiLeaks Twitter feed in response to even well-intentioned efforts to fact-check the group’s work has also severely hampered the project’s ability to use crowd-sourcing to properly annotate and vet the documents it posts. (I know this from first-hand experience, having been denounced by @wikileaks last month for pointing to a factual error in one of the group’s tweets about a DNC email.)

This criticism might seem like a narrow, technical objection — and it is certainly the case that journalists independently continue to help verify and interpret the most significant documents Assange publishes — but WikiLeaks’ lack of scrutiny of the documents it obtains, and its founder’s hostility to constructive criticism from outsiders, could be a significant problem if it is ever duped into publishing a forgery.

What if, as the cybersecurity consultant Matt Tait asked last month in relation to the DNC emails, a source — like, say, a hacker working for a Russian intelligence agency — provided WikiLeaks with a cache of documents that was tampered with in order to smear a political candidate?

In a post on the blog Lawfare, Tait explained that he had spent some time looking through the DNC files for any signs of a fake email planted among the genuine ones:

The metadata analysis I did on the leaked documents that day was almost by accident. I was actually looking for evidence of something much more frightening and which still keeps me up at night: What if the documents were mostly real, but had been surgically doctored? How effective would a carefully planted paragraph in an otherwise valid document be at derailing a campaign? How easily could Russia remove or sidestep an inconvenient DNC official with a single doctored paragraph showing “proof” of dishonest, unethical or illegal practices? And how little credibility would the sheepish official have in asserting that “all of the rest of the emails are true, but just not the one paragraph or email that makes me look bad?”

WikiLeaks is justly proud of its record to date of not being duped by forgers.

“The materials that we release are pristine,” Assange told Bill Maher on Friday. “We’re really good at this, we have a ten-year perfect record of having never got it wrong in relation to the integrity of what we’ve released.”

Still, given that WikiLeaks is now unwilling or unable to closely scrutinize all of the documents it obtains, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where something like this could occur — and that possibility itself serves to diminish the group’s credibility as a source of unvarnished truth.

Even so, for an organization so wounded by official persecution, it remains capable of inflicting remarkable damage. Although the DNC leaks have so far failed to derail Clinton’s campaign, Assange has hinted in recent interviews that he has more material on the candidate that he plans to release soon. While it is unclear why Assange would hold on to any secrets that might torpedo Clinton, if he has something like that, the fear of a WikiLeaks-powered October surprise must still haunt the dreams of her advisors.

Did you think US presidential debates were open and fair? Think again

August 8, 2016

by Danielle Ryan


With three months to go until decision day, the presidential election campaign in the United States is in full-swing — but there’s an unfortunate reality facing many American voters: They’re not really too fond of either major party candidate.

In one recent poll, more American voters viewed Hillary Clinton unfavorably (55 percent) than favorably (44 percent). In the same poll, Donald Trump fared even worse. Only 36 percent of voters had a positive opinion of him, while 63 percent expressed a negative opinion.

In that climate, both candidates’ strategies seem to rest not on proving how worthy they are of the top job, but how unworthy their opponent is. As a result, many voters will pull the lever for one candidate on November 8 simply so they can attempt to prevent the other one from winning. Voting for the ‘lesser evil’ seems to be the general theme.

But polls have also shown something else: American voters are increasingly open to the idea of third-party candidates — and some are actively looking for an alternative. About 44 percent are looking for an option beyond Trump and Clinton. In this focus group, a whole room full of undecided voters raised their hands when asked if they felt “embarrassed for the country” by Trump and Clinton. Sure, it’s only one example, but it’s not a great sign. The election is turning into a serious conundrum for voters who favor neither candidate.

Given that, wouldn’t it make sense to let people know that they are not simply restricted to voting Republican or Democrat? Plenty of Americans do know this, of course, but many don’t. And how could they? Neither the media nor the major parties really want to acknowledge that there are viable alternatives — and over time they’ve done everything in their power to maintain the two-party system. One of the ways they’ve done it is through the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Stealing the debates

The League of Women voters began organizing and overseeing presidential debates in 1976. That organization — beholden to neither party — operated in a fair, non-partisan manner and earned the public’s trust. In 1980, for example, when independent John B. Anderson was polling at 12 percent, the League ensured that he would be allowed to participate in debates. If the voting public wanted to hear him, it was only fair they argued that he should be heard. When Jimmy Carter refused to debate him, the League held the presidential debate with an empty chair on the stage to signify Carter’s absence.

But in 1988 the two major parties announced the formation of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). This essentially handed control of the debates over to the parties and effectively shut out interference from anyone else.

The president of the League of Women Voters at the time accused the parties of “trying to steal the debates from the American voters” and argued that third-party candidates needed to be included. She said the new system would leave presidential debates devoid of substance and spontaneity. Finally, the League said it had no intention of “becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.” The Democratic national chairman at the time had a different view, announcing that the two parties had assumed their “rightful responsibility” in taking control of the entire process.

There is now even a 21-page contract drawn up by both parties to dictate the terms, to the smallest detail, of all debates. The existence of this document was denied by the parties until it was leaked to the press. It showed how both parties agreed on multiple ways to prevent natural, spontaneous and vigorous debate: No follow-up questions may be asked by any audience member or moderator. Neither candidate may issue a challenge to his or her opponent for additional debates. Neither candidate may appear at any other debate except those agreed to by the parties.

Since the CPD took control, only one independent candidate has qualified to participate in national debates. That was Ross Perot, polling at around 7 percent in 1992. After that, the CPD changed its rules to require independent or third-party candidates to be polling at 15 percent or more before they could be allowed to participate in debates. Candidates must have the support of 15 percent of the national electorate “as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations” using the averages of their most recent results.

But how are lesser-known candidates ever going to garner the support of 15 percent of the public if they are shut out of the debates, which are perhaps the biggest opportunity they will have to sell their ideas to voters?

‘Ideological containment’

Third-party candidates could play a crucial role in bringing issues to the fore that are otherwise ignored. In this election, for instance, Green Party candidate Jill Stein has repeatedly brought up the issue of failed interventionist policies and the astronomical sums that are spent on the US military. She wants to slash military spending by 50 percent and close down American bases overseas.

While Stein didn’t receive much media attention early on, interest in her has appeared to increase in recent weeks as Bernie Sanders ended his campaign and his supporters went looking for someone who they feel is more in line with their beliefs than Clinton. The ‘Bernie bump’ may now see Stein’s poll numbers (around 6 percent) begin to rise. If she were admitted to the debates, they could potentially rise even more.

Supporters of the CPD debate system tend to defend it by arguing that hundreds of people run for president and you couldn’t conceivably have roughly 400 people on stage at once. But George Farah, an American writer and political commentator who wrote a book on the debate system has said this is simply part of the CPD’s “propaganda” and that there are ways to whittle it down fairly. He argues that candidates who are on enough state ballots to theoretically have a shot at winning should be given the opportunity to take part in debates.

When you exclude third-party voices from the conversation, you end up “with a sort of ideological containment,” Farah has said. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has called the system a “rigged game”.

Legal action

Over the years, efforts have been made to open up the process, to no avail. Third-party candidates have tried to reach the impossibly high 15 percent support threshold with almost next to no media coverage in comparison to the major party candidates.

This year, the Green and Libertarian parties put forward a legal case against the CPD, contending that the 15 percent rule is a threat to the First Amendment and that the CPD was the “gatekeeper for millions of dollars in free publicity.” The case was thrown out by a federal judge who said the alleged injuries — failure to receive media coverage and garner votes etc. — were caused only by the “lack of popular support” for the candidates, which makes you wonder whether she missed the entire point. Johnson’s campaign manager said the party would be exploring options, as the issue was “too important to simply allow such an arbitrary dismissal.”

But it’s an uphill battle for third-party candidates and the odds are well and truly stacked against them.

Another Sarajevo?

Assassination of Ukrainian rebel leader mirrors start of World War I

August 8, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


While the world is focused on the conflict in the Middle East, and the threat to Europe posed by increasing terrorist attacks, the reality is that the “war on terrorism” is being displaced by the West’s renewed cold war with Russia. This is true for a couple of reasons:

1) For all the dramatic headlines they generate, ISIS and similar groups are minor players in the scheme of things. Yes, al-Qaeda brought down the World Trade Center and even got a shot at the Pentagon, but it and its mutant offspring never represented an existential threat to the United States and its allies. The most they can do is harass, provoke – and provide a convenient pretext for Western governments to launch military expeditions and extend their powers on the home front.

2) Foreign and domestic policy cannot be separated out, one from the other, and there is little political motivation for Western political elites to continue what was effectively a war on Islam launched by the administration of George W. Bush. Indeed, they are seeing in the rise of Donald Trump a good reason to put an end to it, as calls to ban Muslim immigration and a domestic political backlash against our keystone alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states is threatening the sacred “international order.”

With the “war on terrorism,” and the war weariness of the American public providing little justification for huge expenditures on armaments and military force projection, the War Party is looking for new enemies to demonize – and finding the perfect candidate in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

This shift has been going on for some time, and the process has recently escalated due to domestic political pressures in the US. As Donald Trump has called into question the range of alliances that have created tripwires from the Pacific to the steppes of Central Asia, the staunchly internationalist Democrats and their neoconservative allies have responded with an all-out smear campaign linking Trump to Russia. The Clinton campaign has released a new online ad that all but says Trump is a Russian agent. Indeed, former CIA head Michael Morrel wrote an op ed piece for the New York Times endorsing Clinton, in which he wrote:

“Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests – endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

“In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

To say this is disgusting nonsense is an understatement. Anyone who questions the utility of NATO is an “unwitting” KGB agent? If you want to “get along” with Russia, as Trump has said, you’re a tool of the Kremlin? Where have we heard this kind of demagoguery before? I’ll tell you where: in the darkest days of the cold war, when any effort to prevent World War III – and the potential annihilation of the human race – was treated as if it were sedition.

The reality is that NATO is obsolete, as Trump has said: far from serving American interests, it serves the interests of the socialist states of Europe, who refuse to honor their treaty obligations to fund the alliance and meanwhile have no problem lavishing their citizens – and hundreds of thousands of refugees – with cradle-to-grave subsidies.

How is this in America’s interest?

Worse, the cost of NATO includes running the risk of war over some obscure boundary dispute in the tangled miasma of Eastern European power politics. Will we go nuclear over Moldova’s dispute with Transnistria? Or the status of Kalingrad? And then there’s Ukraine The War Party – and the Democrats (or do I repeat myself)?) – is making a Very Big Deal over the GOP’s platform plank on Ukraine. Rather than acknowledge the plain fact that anti-interventionist sentiment is growing inside the Republican party, they accused the Trump campaign of deleting a statement that would have supported arming Ukraine with offensive weapons. But of course the GOP platform has never had such a plank: this was an addition that was rightly rejected. Polls show the American people don’t want to start World War III over Ukraine – and that the less they know about Ukraine’s actual location, the more they favor US intervention.

For what seems like years, the Ukrainian coup leaders – brought to power when they overthrew the elected President by force – have been yelping about an “imminent” Russian invasion of their country. Now they’re saying it could happen “at any minute”! They’ve been singing the same song for so long that they have even begun to believe it: certainly the US political class wants to believe it. Indeed, we are told that the invasion has already occurred – this in spite of the rather obvious lack of Russian tanks parading through the streets of Kiev. Of course, if Putin wanted to invade he would’ve done so a long time ago, and wouldn’t have had too much trouble taking the whole country. But this is a country that isn’t worth conquering: bankrupt, rife with corruption, crawling with criminals and neo-Nazis, the whole place is a ramshackle mess that is practically ungovernable. Why would Putin want it?

But reality and war propaganda are two different matters: it suits the purposes of the War Party to market this myth, and there are a number of “journalists” in the mainstream media who live to spread this nonsense. It may be a coincidence that a good many of them are Russian émigrés – Julia Ioffe, Miriam Elder, Max Boot, to name a few – and then again one might surmise that there’s a common agenda at work here. All three of these characters are in Clinton’s camp, and have been energetically promoting the cold war hysteria that has become a major theme of the Democratic campaign.

And now it looks like their efforts may well come to fruition.

The conflagration of World War I was sparked by a Serbian ultra-nationalist who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Sarajevo – an act that set into motion a series of events that claimed millions of lives, destroyed the old European civilization, and set the stage for World War II. Now another assassination in the volatile Balkans has the potential to plunge the world into an even more hellish firestorm….

The elected President of the Republic of Luhansk in what used to be eastern Ukraine barely survived an assassination attempt when a bomb exploded underneath his car. He has been seriously injured. There seems little doubt that this was the work of the SBU, the notorious Ukrainian secret police outfit that has been implicated in a series of mysterious attacks and “suicides” that have killed opposition journalists and politicians in recent months. Unable to put down the popular rebellion in the east, the coup leaders in Kiev have resorted to terrorism – which is fitting, since fighters formerly affiliated with ISIS are now in their ranks.

Just as the Serbian “Black Hand” murdered the Archduke and set off World War I, so the ultra-nationalist Ukrainians – just as crazy as their Serbian counterparts of a century ago – may have sparked World War III. The system of alliances that brought all the European powers into what was initially a local conflict, setting the Entente against the Central Powers, is similar to the set up we see today, with NATO involved hip-deep in Ukraine, arrayed against Russia and its allies in eastern Ukraine, Belarus, and quite possibly Hungary, which is increasingly friendly to the Russians.

What’s driving the escalating aggression of the Ukrainians is, in part, American domestic politics. Urged on by a highly-placed network in the upper reaches of the US political class, led by former NATO commander Gen. Philip Breedlove, and now by Hillary Clinton’s political campaign linking Trump to the Russians, the Kiev gang has every incentive to create a catalyzing incident – and it looks like they just did.

The attempted assassination of President Igor Plotnitsky will doubtless set off renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine, as Kiev tries to take back territory and the rebels – who have the support of the local populace – continue to hold on. “President” Petro Poroshenko, the principal coup leader, has seen his support plummet as the economy tanks and Western creditors squeeze the bankrupt country of its last drop of blood. For Poroshenko and his gang, war is a welcome distraction from all this – and a good excuse to crack down on the opposition, which can be accused of “sedition” and jailed, as was journalist Ruslan Kotsaba.

By creating a diversion, Poroshenko not only shores up his faltering base of support, he also gives his putative allies in America a shot in the electoral arm: with Ukraine once back in the headlines, and the cry of “The Russians are coming!” once again being heard in the land, the Clintonistas and their journalistic camarilla can have a field day with their Trump-is-a-KGB-agent smear campaign.

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

Meanwhile, the world heads toward another cold war, one that could turn hot at a moment’s notice.

I can’t recall a more dangerous time since the days of the Cuban missile crisis. Indeed, we may yet see a reenactment of that scary episode in eastern Europe before Election Day. And while “liberals” like David Corn of Mother Jones magazine are screaming about “Moscow gold” fueling the GOP campaign, our political class is united in their Russia-baiting and shameless warmongering. I’d compare them to Joe McCarthy, but “Tailer-Gunner” Joe had least had some facts on his side; these people have nothing but crude innuendo and archaic prejudices.

Here at last is a cause the “progressives” and the neoconservatives can unite around: hatred of Russia, all nicely wrapped up in an “anti-Trump” package. The entire political class, from left to right, is coalescing around this crazy anti-Kremlin crusade – and the politics of it is pushing us to a direct military confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.

Jury Trials Vanish, and Justice Is Served Behind Closed Doors

August 7, 2016

by Benjamin Weiser

The New York Times

The criminal trial ended more than two and a half years ago, but Judge Jesse M. Furman can still vividly recall the case. It stands out, not because of the defendant or the subject matter, but because of its rarity: In his four-plus years on the bench in Federal District Court in Manhattan, it was his only criminal jury trial.

He is far from alone.

Judge J. Paul Oetken, in half a decade on that bench, has had four criminal trials, including one that was repeated after a jury deadlocked. For Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who has handled some of the nation’s most important terrorism cases, it has been 18 months since his last criminal jury trial.

“It’s a loss,” Judge Kaplan said, “because when one thinks of the American system of justice, one thinks of justice being administered by juries of our peers. And to the extent that there’s a decline in criminal jury trials, that is happening less frequently.”

The national decline in trials, both criminal and civil, has been noted in law journal articles, bar association studies and judicial opinions. But recently, in the two federal courthouses in Manhattan and a third in White Plains (known collectively as the Southern District of New York), the vanishing of criminal jury trials has never seemed so pronounced.

The Southern District held only 50 criminal jury trials last year, the lowest since 2004, according to data provided by the court. The pace remains slow this year.

In 2005, records show, there were more than double the number of trials: 106. And decades ago, legal experts said, the numbers were much higher.

“It’s hugely disappointing,” said Judge Jed S. Rakoff, a 20-year veteran of the Manhattan federal bench. “A trial is the one place where the system really gets tested. Everything else is done behind closed doors.”

Legal experts attribute the decline primarily to the advent of the congressional sentencing guidelines and the increased use of mandatory minimum sentences, which transferred power to prosecutors, and discouraged defendants from going to trial, where, if convicted, they might face harsher sentences.

“This is what jury trials were supposed to be a check against — the potential abuse of the use of prosecutorial power,” said Frederick P. Hafetz, a defense lawyer and a former chief of the criminal division of the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, who is researching the issue of declining trials.

Julia L. Gatto, a federal public defender, recalled the case of Oumar Issa, a Malian arrested in Africa in a 2009 sting operation on charges of narco-terrorism conspiracy, which carried a mandatory minimum 20-year sentence, and conspiring to support a terrorist organization, which had no minimum.

Although Ms. Gatto and her client believed that elements of the case were weak and that there were strongly mitigating circumstances, Mr. Issa concluded that the risk of going to trial was too high. He pleaded guilty in 2012 to material support, with prosecutors dropping the other charge. He received 57 months in prison. “It was the only thing he could do,” Ms. Gatto said. “His hands were tied.”

In 1997, according to federal courts data nationwide, 3,200 of 63,000 federal defendants were convicted in jury trials; in 2015, there were only 1,650 jury convictions, out of 81,000 defendants.

Former Judge John Gleeson, who in March stepped down from the federal bench in Brooklyn to enter private practice, noted in a 2013 court opinion that 81 percent of federal convictions in 1980 were the product of guilty pleas; in one recent year, the figure was 97 percent.

Judge Gleeson wrote that because most pleas are negotiated before a prosecutor prepares a case for trial, the “thin presentation” of evidence needed for indictment “is hardly ever subjected to closer scrutiny by prosecutors, defense counsel, judges or juries.”

“The entire system loses an edge,” he added, “and I have no doubt that the quality of justice in our courthouses has suffered as a result.”

While the decline in jury trials in federal court has been felt by judges, lawyers and defendants, it has also disrupted the rhythm of the courthouse ecosystem and those who depend on it.

Young lawyers typically become clerks for Southern District judges to gain valuable trial experience; now, some clerks depart without having worked a single trial.

Even the court’s stenographers, whose incomes depend partially on the number of transcript pages they produce, feel the impact.

“It’s been awful,” said Rebecca Forman, who said she transcribed her last criminal jury trial in November 2015. “I didn’t send my kids to camp this summer. I didn’t have the money.”

New York State Court data also shows a striking decline in felony jury trials. In 1984, there were over 4,000 jury verdicts; in 2015, there were fewer than half of that.

Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, speaking to a lawyers group in 2012, cited another effect of the decline: fewer Americans serving on juries. “When trials vanish, citizenship also suffers,” Mr. Bharara said, according to his prepared remarks.

Beyond the statistics, though, the decline in trials in the Southern District has become a frequent topic of discussion, even among judges themselves.

“We’d love to have more trials; most of us enjoy trials,” said Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, who joined the bench in 1998.

In April, when Judge Shira A. Scheindlin resigned from the bench after more than two decades, she said the decrease in trials was one consideration for her departure. “Trials are way, way down,” she said. “The building’s quite dead.”

Judge P. Kevin Castel, who helped to organize the court’s 225th anniversary celebration in 2014, recalled taking a friend, Mary Noe, a legal studies professor at St. John’s University, to see an exhibit of courtroom illustrations documenting Southern District trial scenes of past decades. But as they reached the end, Professor Noe observed that the sketches of more recent defendants, like Bernard L. Madoff and the would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad showed them pleading guilty.

“I was like, what happened to the trials?” she recalled.

Judge Analisa Torres said she had felt the difference ever since joining the federal bench in 2013. Judge Torres, a former state court judge who handled about two dozen criminal trials a year in Manhattan and the Bronx, said she has since had just a few such trials. “It’s day and night,” she said.

On the state bench, she said, she spent her entire day in the courtroom but for the lunch hour. “Now, I am in chambers all day long.”

The hallowed jury trial is a right enshrined in the Constitution and immortalized in American culture. But these days, said Daniel C. Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School, “‘12 Angry Men’ is more a cultural concept than a regular happening.”

To be sure, federal judges are not exactly sitting on their hands. They maintain dockets filled with civil and criminal cases that wend their way through the process — even if most are resolved without a trial.

As for Judge Furman, he is still waiting for his second criminal jury trial since becoming a judge in 2012. He almost had one earlier this year, but a scheduling conflict with a civil trial meant he had to pass it to another judge.

Another criminal trial loomed this summer. Then it, too, disappeared from the calendar, as the defendant pleaded guilty.

It meant he would have more time to get other work done in chambers, Judge Furman recalled, and there was plenty of that to do.

“But there’s a tinge,” he added wistfully, “of what might have been, that we thought we had one, but it got away.”

Delta Air Lines resumes limited operations after computer outage

US carrier Delta Air has lifted a worldwide grounding of its flights, with some planes now taking off. The grounding was caused by a computer breakdown following a power outage.

August 8, 2016


Delta Air Lines said on Monday that it had resumed some flights after it grounded planes worldwide owing to a computer outage.

However, it said cancellations and delays would continue after the three-hour halt in departures, and gave no expected time frame for operations to completely return to normal.

The grounding on Monday morning disrupted the travel plans of thousands of passengers.

In a statement, Delta said the breakdown was caused by a power outage in its hub in Atlanta in the US state of Georgia.

The airline said its IT systems everywhere were affected, with the company website among the applications affected. Planes that were already en route when the outage set in continued as normal.

Delta runs flights to destinations in 64 countries and is one of the world’s largest airlines in terms of passenger numbers.

Stalling Obama’s Overtures to Russia

Washington’s foreign policy mavens are thwarting President Obama’s moves to work with Russia to resolve the Syrian war and reduce other tensions, so the new Cold War can proceed under Hillary Clinton, says ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.

August 6, 2016

by Alastair Crooke

consortium news

Yes, as we are all too aware, Hillary Clinton was officially anointed this week as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee for the upcoming election. She was chosen by the party to be its nominee long before the race ever began, and it used every means at its disposal, both in plain sight and behind closed doors, to ensure that nothing – least of all the will of the people – would prevent that from happening.”

So wrote an American commentator in respect to the U.S. Establishment’s determination that the political status quo shall be preserved, come what may. What has this to do with the Middle East? Well, in a similar vein, and again avoiding public debate, two establishment “heavy-hitters” have just pulled the plug on President Obama’s (and Kerry’s) crab-like, sideways scuffle towards winding down the “new” Cold War through, ostensibly, teasing out some sort of co-operation with Russia in Syria.

Co-operation with Russia in Syria, the establishment fears, should not be allowed to become some pilot project for subsequent co-operation that could ease tensions with Russia in other areas – such as Ukraine and the Baltic Republics.

At the Aspen Security Forum last Friday, CIA Chief John Brennan said: “we need to have some sense that Assad is on the way out. There can be a transition; but it needs to be clear that he is not part of Syria’s future. Until that happens – until that begins; until there is acknowledgement of that transition – we are going to have Syrians dying: continuing to die.”

And last Monday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking about the outcome of Kerry’s marathon discussions with President Putin in Moscow – that reportedly had tentatively agreed to set up a joint operational control room in Jordan, staffed by both Russian and American officers for the purpose of combating ISIS – commented:

“We had hoped that [Kerry’s talks in Moscow] would promote a political solution and transition to put an end to the civil war, which is the beginning of all this violence in Syria, and then combat extremists rather than moderate opposition, which has to be part of that transition,” Carter said at a Pentagon news conference with Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “So they’re a long way from doing that.”

When a reporter told Carter that he sounded unenthusiastic about the Kerry effort, Carter said, “No, I’m very enthusiastic about the idea of the Russians getting on side and doing the right thing. And I think that would be a good thing if they did. I think we’re a ways from getting that frame of mind in Russia. But that’s what Secretary Kerry is working toward.”

Saying ‘No’ to Kerry/Obama

This latter response led John Batchelor of The Nation to conclude: “What kind of ‘no’ does Kerry not understand?  That’s a complete slamming of the door in his face.”

Well, of course it was. But it was also an intentional slamming of the door in the face of Obama. The entire basis of Kerry’s (and Obama’s) understandings with Sergey Lavrov and President Putin hinged on the agreement to lay aside the issue of President Assad’s future, whilst focussing on combating (the now re-branded) al-Nusra and ISIS forces.

This has been the nature of discussions since the beginning of the year: nothing new here to suddenly fan Brennan and Carter’s embers into flame. To condition co-operation on the Russians “getting on side, and doing the right thing”: i.e. to demand that the U.S. calls all the shots (including in respect to President Assad’s ouster from power), of course torpedoes any understanding with Moscow that Kerry might be working towards.

On the other hand – and contrary to what John Batchelor suggests – perhaps Kerry precisely understands Carter’s and Brennan’s game: Kerry’s plan, it seems, has been all along to engage Moscow on the diplomatic track, and to keep the focus on ceasefires – thus buying time – whilst Carter and Brennan used the respite gained to give space for the re-arming and reenergising their insurgent forces fighting the Syrian government.

Kerry knew full well that the U.S. had pushed some 3,000 tons of weapons to the insurgent forces after the February ceasefire had begun. Kerry had tried to explain it subsequently to the Russians as an awkward administrative difficulty, ensuing from a terminating support program…

One respected commentator on Syria’s military events (blogger Moon of Alabama) has written: “the Russian General Staff has warned since April that al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra aka Fateh al Sham) and the various attached Jihadi groups were planning a large scale attack on Aleppo. An al-Qaeda commander confirmed such long term planning in a pep-talk to his fighters before the current attack.”

“This shines a new light on the protracted talks Secretary of State Kerry has had for months with his Russian colleague. The U.S. tried to exempt al-Qaeda from Russian and Syrian attacks, even as UN Security Council Resolutions demanded that al-Qaeda and ISIS areas be eradicated. Then the U.S. tried to make an ‘offer’ to Russia to collectively fight al-Qaeda should Russia put its own and Syrian forces under U.S. control.

“We called this offer deceptive nonsense. All this, it now seems, was delaying talk to allow al-Qaeda to prepare for the now launched attack [i.e. on Syrian and allied forces acting to lift the insurgent siege on that part of Aleppo, which has been under jihadist control]”, notes Moon of Alabama.

Stalling Russia

In any event, Kerry’s long protracted negotiations with the Russians – whether or not motivated mainly from a desire to win respite for American proxies, in the wake of Russian military intervention – has served to lift pressure on Obama from those U.S. “hawks” pressing for direct U.S. attacks on the Syrian State, and its President – in order to weaken the state, or bring about its implosion.

And here is the point: the Russians consciously went along with this American dual tactic (at some cost to their relations with allies), whilst continuously wearing down American (and European) objections to a major military operation, intended to relieve Aleppo from the jihadists — and to secure the city.

The reincorporation of Aleppo fully into the Syrian State will represent a major strategic shift. It seems that the government is succeeding – with substantial air support from Russia. Jihadists losses are heavy.

So what is this “hue and cry” from Brennan and Carter reviving the earlier “Assad must go” meme (together with a tear-jerking, “we are going to have Syrians dying … continuing to die, because he, Assad, hasn’t gone”), just at the moment when the demand for Assad’s removal has never seemed less credible – if it ever was?

That last question (what’s it all about), takes us back to the start-point: the determination by the Establishment (both Democratic and Republican) to preserve the status quo – “by all means at its disposal.” It clearly intends, too, by all means at its disposal, to maintain the foreign policy status quo, as well. Some of the Republican leaders endorse this proposition, even to the extent of being willing to put partisan politics aside, and support a Democratic candidate.

The outburst about Syria from the CIA and DOD leaders quoted above is in fact about more than just Syria. It is all part with the attempt to brand Trump as “Putin’s Puppet,” as the “Kremlin’s candidate,” and as a “de facto agent” (amongst other jibes).

Saving the New Cold War

Some powerful figures clearly want any winding down of this “new” Cold War dead in its tracks. Trump’s questioning of the hostilities with Russia, of the purpose of NATO, and of the costs to the U.S. of it being a global hegemon have turned them cold.

Does he (Trump) not understand, (these “ancien regime” figures seem to say,) that rapprochement and entente with Putin now, could bring the whole structure tumbling down? It could collapse America’s entire foreign policy? Without a clear Russian “threat” (the “threat” being now a constant refrain in the U.S. Beltway), what meaning has NATO? And without NATO, why should Europe stay “on side, and [do] the right thing?” And if Damascus, Moscow and Tehran succeed in emerging with political credit and esteem from the Syria conflict, what price then for the U.S,-led “rules-based” global order?

Especially, if those who reject it, and who opt to stay out of the globalized order, find that they can so do – and emerge empowered and with their influence enhanced? If the political “rules-based order” does erode, what then will be the future for the inter-connected, and presently shaky, U.S.-led, global financial order and governance?

More Syrians are going to have to die, not because President Assad has not been ousted, but because the U.S. Establishment wants to keep the Syria war going until (they hope) Hillary takes office – and they will do whatever they can, precisely to make sure she does – and that the options to maintain America’s traditional foreign policy the way it is are not foreclosed to her on taking office.

The unsubstantiated attempt – coming from the top – to suggest that Putin’s aim is to undermine the West, and that Trump is to be Putin’s “tool” in this endeavour, is not some whimsical campaign gig — it is deadly serious. And it is very dangerous. There are few willing to say so, for fear of being labelled Putin’s “useful idiots,” too.

Russia will be making its own calculations, but it would not be a surprise, were we to hear that they are battening down the hatches, and readying for a more severe Cold War — or even a hot one.

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum, which advocates for engagement between political Islam and the West.

Most Germans want to end EU migrant deal with Turkey: poll

August 7, 2016

by Caroline Copley


Most Germans think the European Union should scrap a landmark migration deal with Turkey, also scuppering negotiations on its accession to the bloc, according to a poll published on Sunday.

The deal, agreed by Ankara in exchange for the revival of financial aid, the promise of visa-free travel to much of the EU and accelerated membership talks, has sharply cut the number of refugees entering Europe via eastern routes.

Last year Germany took in around 1.1 million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond, far more than any other EU state, creating conditions that have led to a rise in social and political tensions in Europe’s powerhouse economy.

But the Emnid survey for mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag showed 52 percent were in favor of the migration deal being terminated, compared with 35 percent who wanted it to continue.

More than two thirds of the 502 people surveyed on Aug. 4 also wanted an immediate freeze of aid payments to Turkey and 66 percent wanted the EU accession talks broken off.

Under the migration pact, Ankara agreed to take back all migrants and refugees, including Syrians who cross by sea to Greece illegally.

The reciprocal visa-free access has been delayed due to a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation and concern in the West about the scale of Ankara’s crackdown following a failed coup.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last weekend Ankara would back out of the refugee agreement with the EU if the bloc did not deliver visa-free travel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Chief of Staff, Peter Altmaier, said on Friday there was “no Plan B” for the migrant deal and told the Berliner Zeitung he was convinced it would remain in place.

On Friday, Germany’s foreign minister resisted a push by Austria to halt the EU accession talks with Turkey on joining the EU, saying the bloc needed to think more broadly with how to frame its relationship with Ankara in troubled times.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; editing by John Stonestreet)


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