TBR News February 8, 2018

Feb 08 2018

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 8, 2018:” ‘New York Times beats as digital subscriptions surge, shares rise’ Here, from Reuters, is an entertaining headline. I notice that the New York Times that used to allow a reader to download 20 free articles a month, reduced this to 10 and now to 5. A friend who works for the Times in the editorial department told me yesterday that the Times had lost 75% of its print editions subscribers and that there was a lay-off of 50% of the staff. If this is Surging Ahead, I would be afraid to speculate what a Glorious Triumph would be. In the US, print media is rapidly evaporating because of the Internet where one can find diverse, interesting, mostly accurate, and free, news.”


Table of Contents

  • It Can Happen Here
  • Turkey Accused of Recruiting Ex-Isis Fighters to Attack Kurds in Syria
  • Russian army says U.S. goal in Syria is to capture economic assets: Interfax
  • U.S.-led coalition, pro-Assad forces, clash in east Syria
  • Lebanon says will prevent Israel from building border wall
  • ‘World on the brink,’ warns Munich Security Report
  • Donald Trump Wants to Make It Easier to Start a Nuclear War. This Should Petrify Us.
  • US Senate’s bipartisan spending-hike budget is ‘monstrosity’
  • US House set for budget battle ahead of shutdown deadline
  • Former Wives of Top White House Aide Rob Porter Both Told FBI He Abused Them
  • Wall Street falls as investors remain on edge
  • Israeli police recommend indicting Netanyahu for corruption: report
  • Why did the US stock market crash on Monday? Blame the central banks
  • Homeless person in California swept into garbage truck and nearly crushed

It Can Happen Here

February 8, 2018

by Andrew P. Napolitano


We remain embroiled in a debate over the nature and extent of our own government’s spying on us. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was enacted in 1978 as a response to the unlawful government spying of the Watergate era, was a lawful means for the government to engage in foreign surveillance on U.S. soil, but it has morphed into unchecked government spying on ordinary Americans.

The journey that domestic spying has taken in 40 years has been one long steady march of massive increase in size and scope. The federal government now employs more than 60,000 people to spy on all Americans, including the White House, the Pentagon, the federal courts and one another. As well, the National Security Agency and the intelligence arm of the FBI have 24/7 access to the computers of all telecoms and computer service providers in the U.S. And certain politicians have access to whatever the NSA and the FBI possess.

Last week, we witnessed a new turn as politicians engaged in cherry-picking snippets from classified raw intelligence data that support their political cases – pro-Trump and anti-Trump.

Raw intelligence data consists of digital versions of telephone conversations and copies of text messages, emails and other communications, as well as fiber-optic internet traffic (legal, medical and banking records, for example) and secret testimony and briefings intended only for the eyes and ears of those who possess a security clearance.

The surveillance state is now here.

The Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee fired the first salvo by releasing a memo derived from classified raw intelligence, which they claimed would show a conspiracy in the Obama Department of Justice, including the FBI, to spy on Donald Trump’s campaign and pass along the fruits of that spying to the Democrats. The issue they chose to highlight is the DOJ application to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge for surveillance on Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to candidate Trump who once boasted that he also advised the Kremlin.

The memo’s authors wrote about intelligence data they did not personally see; they selectively extracted and purported to summarize raw intelligence data but quoted none of it verbatim; they intentionally sat on their conclusions that the feds regularly have abused FISA authorities throughout the congressional debate to expand FISA; and a principal drafter of the memo – Rep. Trey Gowdy – advises that the raw data he saw and the memo he wrote have nothing to do with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the president.

The Republican memo also reveals that former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier that accuses Trump of pre-presidential money laundering and grossly inappropriate personal behavior but has many parts that have not been publicly verified, was a “longtime FBI source,” and a summary of his work was part of the DOJ’s application for continued surveillance of Page.

That quoted phrase is today a major headache for the DOJ, as the American and British governments, which regularly share intelligence and occasionally spy for each other, have agreed not to recruit the services of each other’s agents. But the FBI obviously recruited Steele. If Steele was an FBI asset while still a British spy – if he was spying for the FBI and MI6 at the same time – he may be exposed to a criminal prosecution in Britain.

The Democrats on the committee have written their own memo, which the committee voted unanimously to release. It will be up to the president to permit or bar its full or partial release. The Democrats claim that their memo will show that the DOJ was candid and truthful when it sought a FISA surveillance warrant on Page and that the application for the renewal included far more than Steele’s tainted work.

Why should anyone care about these political games?

The loss of liberty rarely comes about overnight or in one stroke. In a democracy, that loss is normally a slow process, often pushed along by well-intentioned folks who do not even realize until it is too late that they have created a monster. FISA is a monster. It began as a means of surveilling foreign agents in the U.S., and today it is used for surveilling any American at any time.

If you call a bookstore in Florence from a telephone in New Jersey, the government’s computers will be alerted. A federal agent will download the digital copy of your conversation, even though it was only about ordering a book. Then that communication may be used to justify surveillance of you whenever you talk to anyone else, in the U.S. or in any foreign country.

This is blatantly unconstitutional, and it is often fruitless. And we know it can happen to anyone.

The Supreme Court has ruled that electronic surveillance constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. That amendment prohibits warrantless searches and requires probable cause of crime as the sole trigger for judges to sign search warrants. FISA only requires probable cause relating to a foreign agent on one end of a phone call – a far lower standard – to trigger a warrant. The government has convinced the FISC that it should grant warrants based on probable cause of talking to someone who has ever spoken to a foreign person, whether an agent of a foreign government or an innocent foreign bookseller.

That judicially created standard is so far afield from the Fourth Amendment as to render it legally erroneous and profoundly unconstitutional. Yet the FISA expansion that the president signed into law last month – after the debate during which House Intelligence Committee Republicans intentionally remained mute about their allegations of FISA abuses – purports to make this Stasi-like level of surveillance lawful.

The political use of intelligence data makes the owner of the data a serious threat to personal liberty, and it renders his instruments monstrous.


Turkey Accused of Recruiting Ex-Isis Fighters to Attack Kurds in Syria

February 7, 2018

by Patrick Cockburn

The Independent/UK

Turkey is recruiting and retraining Isis fighters to lead its invasion of the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria, according to an ex-Isis source.

“Most of those who are fighting in Afrin against the YPG [People’s Protection Units] are Isis, though Turkey has trained them to change their assault tactics,” said Faraj, a former Isis fighter from north-east Syria who remains in close touch with the jihadi movement.

In a phone interview with The Independent, he added: “Turkey at the beginning of its operation tried to delude people by saying that it is fighting Isis, but actually they are training Isis members and sending them to Afrin.”

An estimated 6,000 Turkish troops and 10,000 Free Syrian Army (FSA) militia crossed into Syria on 20 January, pledging to drive the YPG out of Afrin.

The attack was led by the FSA, which is a largely defunct umbrella grouping of non-Jihadi Syrian rebels once backed by the West. Now, most of its fighters taking part in Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” were, until recently, members of Isis.

Some of the FSA troops advancing into Afrin are surprisingly open about their allegiance to al-Qaeda and its offshoots. A video posted online shows three uniformed jihadis singing a song in praise of their past battles and “how we were steadfast in Grozny (Chechnya) and Dagestan (north Caucasus). And we took Tora Bora (the former headquarters of Osama bin Laden). And now Afrin is calling to us”.

Isis suffered heavy defeats last year, losing Mosul in Iraq after a siege of nine months and Raqqa in Syria after a four-month siege. The caliphate, declared by its leader Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi in 2014, was destroyed, and most of its experienced commanders and fighters were killed or dispersed.

But it has shown signs of trying to revive itself in Syria and Iraq over the last two months, assassinating local opponents and launching guerrilla attacks in out-of-the-way and poorly defended places.

Isis fighters are joining the FSA and Turkish-army invasion force because they are put under pressure by the Turkish authorities. From the point of view of Turkey, the recruitment of former Isis combatants means that it can draw on a large pool of professional and experienced soldiers. Another advantage is that they are not Turks, so if they suffer serious casualties this will do no damage to the Turkish government.

Isis and Turkey are seeking to use each other for their own purposes. Faraj, 32, an Arab from the mixed Kurdish-Arab province of Hasakah in north-east Syria, says that he does not like the YPG, but he is suspicious of Turkey and believes that it is trying manipulate Isis. “Turkey treats Isis like toilet tissues,” he says. “After use they will be thrown away.”

Turkey is evidently aware that using Isis fighters as the spearhead for the assault on Afrin, even if they relabelled as FSA, is likely to attract international criticism.

Faraj says that Turkish commanders have discouraged Isis from using their traditional tactics of extensive use of suicide bombers and car bombs at Afrin because this would make the Isis-Turkish cooperation too blatant.

He says that the FSA men are “professional in planning car-bomb attacks as they have experience before with Isis in Raqqa and Mosul”.

But he cites Turkish officers as discouraging such identifiable tactics, quoting one as telling an FSA group in training that “we leave the suicide attacks for the YPG and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party which carries on guerrilla warfare in Turkey), so that the world will be convinced that they are terrorists”.

Turkey has had an ambivalent relationship with jihadi groups since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. At first, it allowed foreign jihadi fighters and military supplies to cross into Syria, though this tolerance ebbed after the fall of Mosul in June 2014.

Nevertheless, Ankara made clear by its actions during the siege of the Kurdish city of Kobani that it would have preferred victory to go to Isis rather than the YPG.

As the YPG advanced after Kobani with the support of US air power, Turkey’s priority became to reverse the creation of a de facto Kurdish state in Syria under US military protection.

The US is in a particularly difficult position. It was the YPG who provided the ground troops who, backed by US air strikes, have defeated Isis in many battles.

Without them there would have been no victory over Isis as was claimed by President Trump in his State of the Union message. But the YPG is now facing some of the same Isis fighters in Afrin with whom it fought over the past four years. It will not look good if the US abandons its proven Kurdish allies because it does not want a confrontation with Turkey.

Such a confrontation could be just around the corner. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened at the weekend to expand the Turkish invasion to include the Arab town of Manbij, captured from Isis by the YPG in 2016 after a long siege. He said that the Americans “tell us, ‘Don’t come to Manbij.’ We will come to Manbij to handover these territories to their rightful owners.”

The fighting between Turks and Kurds and the growing confrontation between the US and Turkey are all in the interests of Isis. It does not have the strength to recover from its crushing defeats last year, but the opponents it faced then are now fighting other battles.

Eliminating the last pockets of Isis resistance is no longer their first priority. The YPG has been transferring units that were facing Isis in the far east of Syria to the west where they will face the Turks.

Turkey is not in a very strong position militarily almost three weeks after its invasion of Afrin. It can only win by bombing round the clock, and for this it will need Russian permission, which it probably will not get. If it is going to expand its attacks, it will need more combat soldiers and this will provide an opportunity for Isis to join in a new war.

The Turkish embassy in the UK has been approached for comment but had not responded by the time of publication.


Russian army says U.S. goal in Syria is to capture economic assets: Interfax

February 8, 2018


MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s defense ministry said on Thursday the ultimate goal of the United States in Syria is not to fight Islamic State but to seize economic assets, according to the Interfax news agency.

It also said Syrian militants hit by the U.S.-led coalition had not previously agreed their reconnaissance activities with Russia. Washington initially reported the strike on Wednesday.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg


U.S.-led coalition, pro-Assad forces, clash in east Syria

February 8, 2018

by Phil Stewart and Lisa Barrington


WASHINGTON/BEIRUT (Reuters) – The U.S.-led coalition and its local allies in Syria struck pro-government forces with deadly air and artillery fire overnight to repel “an unprovoked attack” near the Euphrates, the coalition said on Thursday.

The incident underscores the potential for further conflict in Syria’s oil-rich east, where the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias holds swathes of land after its offensive against Islamic State.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is supported by Russia and by Shi‘ite militias backed by Iran, has said he wants to take back every inch of Syria.

The pro-government forces were “likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham” east of the Euphrates in Deir al-Zor province, said a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity.

The attack was carried out by 500 troops backed by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars but the coalition and its local allies killed more than 100 of them, the official said.

Syrian state television reported that the coalition had caused “dozens of dead and wounded” by bombing pro-government forces. But a commander in the military alliance supporting Assad disputed the death toll, saying seven pro-government forces were killed and 27 injured.

The U.S.-led coalition had alerted Russian officials about the presence of SDF forces in the area far in advance of the thwarted attack, the U.S. official said.

“Coalition officials were in regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the thwarted (enemy) attack,” the official said.

The United States and Russia maintain regular contacts in eastern Syria to prevent unexpected confrontation between the forces they support there.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the pro-government militias involved in the incident had been carrying out reconnaissance and their activities had not been previously agreed with Russia.


No American troops were killed or wounded in the incident, officials said.

Some U.S. troops had been embedded at the time with the SDF, whose headquarters in Deir al-Zor province had been a target of the attack.

One SDF fighter was wounded, the official said. Nouri Mahmoud, spokesman for the SDF’s most powerful element, the Kurdish YPG militia, described the clash as “skirmishes” and said each side had returned to their former positions.

“We suspect Syrian pro-regime forces were attempting to seize terrain SDF had liberated from Daesh in September 2017,” the U.S. official said.

Neither U.S. officials nor the U.S.-backed coalition have offered details on the identity of attacking forces.

The coalition said in an email the pro-government forces had initiated hostilities with artillery fire, tank maneuvers and mortar fire after a steady buildup of forces over the past week.

A reporter for Syrian state TV station Ikhbariya described the groups it said had been bombed by the U.S.-led coalition as “local people fighting (Islamic State) and the SDF”.

Russia’s Interfax cited the Defence Ministry as saying the incident showed the U.S. goal in Syria was not to battle Islamic State but “the capture and withholding of the economic assets”, an apparent reference to the Khusham oil field.

Russian commanders held talks with coalition representatives after the incident, it added.

The coalition said the attack occurred around 8 km (5 miles) “east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line in Khusham”, a town southeast of the provincial capital Deir al-Zor city.

Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in Washington, Lisa Barrington in Beirut, Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Editing by G Crosse, Michael Perry, Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean


Lebanon says will prevent Israel from building border wall

February 8, 2018


BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Higher Defence Council gave orders on Wednesday to prevent Israel from building a border wall on Lebanese land, amid rising tensions over land and maritime boundaries.

Lebanese leaders have accused Israel of threatening the stability of the border region. Arguments over the wall and Lebanon’s plans to explore for offshore oil and gas in disputed waters have elevated tensions between them.

“This wall, if it is built, will be considered an assault on Lebanese land,” the secretary general of Lebanon’s Higher Defence Council said in a statement after meeting senior government and military officials.

“The Higher Defence Council has given its instructions to confront this aggression to prevent Israel from building (the wall) on Lebanese territory,” it said, without elaborating.

Israeli officials did not immediately respond. Israel has previously said that the wall, and a disputed Mediterranean gas field, were on its territory.

Calm has largely prevailed along the frontier since 2006, when Israel fought a war with Lebanon’s heavily-armed Shi‘ite Hezbollah movement.

The month-long conflict killed about 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them troops. There has been no major confrontation between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah since.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Janet Lawrence


‘World on the brink,’ warns Munich Security Report

With the US’s international role waning, Europe must define its own future, says a highly anticipated report. This assessment sets the agenda for leaders in the run-up to Germany’s pre-eminent conference on security.

February 8, 2018

by Matthias von Hein and Lewis Sanders IV


Security experts are rarely optimists and security reports rarely optimistic. That holds true for the latest Munich Security Report published on Thursday. Titled “To the Brink — and Back?” it forecasts a new era of uncertainty on the horizon.

“In the last year, the world has gotten closer — much too close — to the brink of a significant conflict,” wrote Munich Security Conference (MSC) Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger, who has served as Germany’s former ambassador to the US and UK.

Ischinger pointed to ever-louder saber rattling between the US and North Korea, the growing rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and ongoing tensions between Russia and NATO in Europe.

American ‘sabotage’

The latest MSC report followed up on last year’s forecast that the United States under President Donald Trump could forfeit its established role as the guarantor of international security by acting unilaterally and furthering an American-centric vision at the cost of its traditional allies.

Under Trump, the US has given up on policies based on shared values, showing little interest in developing regional or global institutions that shape international relations, and instead favoring bilateral ties that serves its own interests, according to the report’s assessment.

That attitude goes hand-in-hand with the White House’s lack of interest in advancing diplomacy. The budget at the US State Department has been mercilessly slashed since Trump came into office while defense spending has increased significantly.

“The world’s most powerful state has begun to sabotage the order it created,” the report said, quoting John Ikenberry, a US foreign policy expert at Princeton University.


Donald Trump Wants to Make It Easier to Start a Nuclear War. This Should Petrify Us.

February 8 2018

by Mehdi Hasan

The Intercept

She did try and warn us.

“Imagine, if you dare … imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis,” Hillary Clinton said in her speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2016, referring to her then-Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump. “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

Yet four months later, in November 2016, almost 63 million of her fellow Americans voted to put the short-tempered, thin-skinned former reality TV star in charge of their country’s 6,800 nuclear warheads. Never forget: As president of the nuclear-armed United States, Trump — Trump! — has the power to destroy humanity many times over, while rendering the planet uninhabitable in the process.

If that wasn’t terrifying enough, last week, less than 72 hours after the State of the Union speech, in which Trump ramped up his war of words with North Korea, his administration announced that it wanted to make it much easier for the president to start a nuclear holocaust.

You might have missed that rather important piece of news. Last Friday, while cable news channels rolled on the Nunes memo, the Pentagon published the latest Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, which includes two pretty alarming new components.

First, while Barack Obama’s 2010 NPR for the first time ruled out a nuclear attack against non-nuclear weapon states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, Trump’s NPR goes in the opposite direction and suggests that the U.S. could employ nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances” to defend the “vital interests” of the United States and its allies. The document states:

Extreme circumstances could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks. Significant non-nuclear strategic attacks include, but are not limited to, attacks on the U.S., allied, or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.

Got that? Trump wants to be able to retaliate against a non-nuclear and perhaps even non-military attack on U.S. infrastructure — say, a cyberattack on the power grid? — with a nuclear strike that could kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions. To call such a move disproportionate would be a severe understatement.

Second, the new NPR calls for the development of a new generation of so-called low-yield nuclear weapons. These smaller nukes, the document suggests, would be tactical, not strategic; deployed to the battlefield, rather than dropped on a city. The problem with this argument is that the atomic bombs used against Hiroshima (200,000 dead) and Nagasaki (70,000 dead) could also be considered low-yield nuclear weapons, in terms of their explosive capacity.

There is also the clear lowering of the threshold for nuclear weapons use: It becomes easier to justify the launch of a small nuclear weapon on the basis of a supposedly lower explosive force. Yet “a nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon,” as Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of State George Shultz testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee the day before the release of Trump’s NPR. “One of the alarming things to me is this notion that we can have something called a small nuclear weapon … and that somehow that’s usable,” Shultz added. “Your mind goes to the idea that, yes, nuclear weapons become usable. And then we’re really in trouble, because a big nuclear exchange can wipe out the world.”

It would be a worrying development if any president of the United States announced, with little debate or discussion, a plan both to build more tactical nuclear weapons and use them in response to non-nuclear attacks; a nuclear strategy that makes the use of nukes more, not less, likely. But when that president is Donald J. Trump, it should be deemed a national, if not a global, emergency.

Lest we forget, this is a president who, during his election campaign, displayed complete ignorance about the “nuclear triad”; called for an “unpredictable” nuclear weapons policy, while refusing to rule out using nukes against the Islamic State or even in Europe (because “it is a big place”); and asked a foreign policy adviser three times, during a single hourlong briefing, “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?” This is a commander-in-chief, who since coming to office a year ago, has demanded a tenfold increase in the number of U.S. nuclear weapons; casually threatened North Korea “with fire and fury like the world has never seen”; and began 2018 by bragging on Twitter about his “much bigger & more powerful” nuclear button.

“Giving Trump new nukes AND new ways to use them is like giving matches and gasoline to Curious George,” wrote nuclear weapons expert Tom Collina of the Ploughshares Fund on CNN’s website last Friday. “It will not end well.” Or as one retired senior Army officer told the American Conservative, the NPR provides Trump with “a kind of gateway drug for nuclear war.”

Indeed. And even prior to the publication of this hawkish nuclear strategy document, a Washington Post-ABC News poll in mid-January revealed that 60 percent of Americans did not trust Trump to responsibly handle his “authority to order nuclear attacks on other countries,” while 52 percent of them were “very” or “somewhat” concerned the president “might launch a nuclear attack without justification.”

Remember: The courts may be able to strike down his executive orders as unconstitutional, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller may be able to indict him over collusion or obstruction of justice, but there are no checks or balances on the president’s authority to wage nuclear war. None. Zero. To quote Bruce Blair, a former nuclear missile launch officer and research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University: “We all need to confront the fact that [the U.S. political system] gives one person the God-like power to end the world.”

The questions, therefore, that matter far more than any other in 2018: Does the narcissist-in-chief plan on using this “God-like power?” Will an impulsive and aggressive Trump get us all killed by launching a nuclear war? Everything else is noise.


US Senate’s bipartisan spending-hike budget is ‘monstrosity’

February 7, 2018

BBC News

US budget hawks have labelled a plan to hike defence and domestic spending by hundreds of billions of dollars as a debt-ballooning “monstrosity”.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic counterpart Chuck Schumer agreed the two-year pact.

The bill is expected to clear the Senate comfortably, but face opposition in the House of Representatives.

It comes on the eve of a deadline to avert another government shutdown.

Congress has to reach a deal before government funding runs out at midnight on Thursday, when a one-month spending bill is set to expire.

Both Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives have voiced disapproval of the bipartisan bill.

What’s in the bill?

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said the package would increase spending by “just shy” of $300bn (£216bn).

The Washington Post puts the figure at half a trillion dollars.

The Senate bill, which has not yet been publicly unveiled, reportedly increases defence spending by $80bn in the first fiscal year and $85bn in the second.

Non-defence spending, such as a programme to provide health insurance for children, would reportedly increase by $63bn this year, and $68bn next year.

Turning on the money tap

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

The taps of government spending are open once more – at least if the US Senate gets its way.

When faced with the question of whether to boost military or domestic spending, Capitol legislators have their answer. Why not both?

That marks a decided change from the mood seven years ago, when Congress – pressured by conservative factions – felt compelled to address growing budget deficits after the economic collapse of 2008 and subsequent federal emergency stimulus efforts. Republicans and Democrats agreed to harsh fiscal medicine – mandatory spending caps on military and social programmes.

Those days are long gone. At the end of 2017, Republicans pushed through a tax-cut plan that added $1.5tn to the 10-year budget deficit. Now it seems likely spending will surge upward as well, despite the Trump administration’s promises of an austere budget last year.

The Senate compromise still has a perilous path through the US House of Representatives, as fiscal hawks worried about federal spending and liberals angry over the lack of an immigration deal threaten opposition.

With midterm elections looming, however, it’s likely that enough legislators on both sides of the aisle will welcome a two-year reprieve after months of shutdown drama.

Why are some Democrats unhappy?

Mr Schumer argued the budget accord would “break the long cycle of spending crises”.

But a number of his fellow Democrats are upset that the bill does not address immigration.

His House of Representatives equivalent, Nancy Pelosi, told the stories of immigrants in a speech lasting eight hours on Wednesday – setting what is thought to be a new record for the longest speech ever made in the House of Representatives.

The 77-year-old vowed to oppose any budget that does not include protections for so-called Dreamers, young immigrants who entered the US illegally as children.

Congressional historians believe the California lawmaker’s speech is the longest in House history.

Why are some Republicans opposed?

Conservative Republicans are up in arms about the bill’s ramifications for the US federal debt.

When asked if he supported the bill, Alabama Republican Mo Brooks said: “I’m not only a no. I’m a hell no.”

Mr Brooks, a member of the Freedom Caucus, a congressional group of budget hawks, dubbed the bill a “debt junkie’s dream”.

He called his fellow Republicans the party of “big spending” and “big government”.

Dave Brat from Virginia agreed, calling the bill a “Christmas tree on steroids”.

Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan, of Ohio, said the agreement was a “monstrosity”, which he found hard to believe could have emanated from his own party.

What’s the White House saying?

Deficits are already projected to climb because of the Trump administration’s $1.5tn tax cuts, which were approved by Congress in December.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders praised the Senate bill, saying “we’re certainly happy with the way it’s moving”.

“The budget deal should be a budget deal,” she told a news conference, dismissing Democratic demands that it include a concession on immigration.

Officials at the White House say the deal would also increase the debt ceiling until March 2019.


US House set for budget battle ahead of shutdown deadline

February 8, 2018

BBC News

The US Senate is set to pass a deal to avert another US government shutdown, but the bill is expected to face opposition in the lower chamber.

Senate leaders from both major parties announced a two-year budget deal a day before federal funding runs out.

The bill has angered Republican fiscal hawks who claim it would lead to a $1tn (£717bn) deficit while Democrats oppose it for not addressing immigration.

But Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he believes it will pass.

“I think we will,” Mr Ryan told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “This is a bipartisan bill. It’s going to need bipartisan support. We are going to deliver our share of support.”

Congress has to reach a deal before government funding runs out at midnight on Thursday, when a one-month spending bill is set to expire.

Congressman Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has called the plan “eye-popping and eyebrow-raising”.

“We took an official position last night to say we can’t support this,” he told CNN on Thursday.

Failure to reach a spending agreement led to a three-day government shutdown last month.

What’s in the bill?

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said the package would increase spending by “just shy” of $300bn (£216bn).

The Washington Post puts the figure at half a trillion dollars.

The Senate bill, which has not yet been publicly unveiled, reportedly increases defence spending by $80bn in the first fiscal year and $85bn in the second.

Non-defence spending, such as a programme to provide health insurance for children, would reportedly increase by $63bn this year, and $68bn next year.

Why are some Democrats unhappy?

Mr Schumer argued the budget accord would “break the long cycle of spending crises”.

But a number of his fellow Democrats are upset that the bill does not address immigration.

His House of Representatives equivalent, Nancy Pelosi, told the stories of immigrants in a speech lasting eight hours on Wednesday – setting what is thought to be a new record for the longest speech ever made in the House of Representatives.

The 77-year-old vowed to oppose any budget that does not include protections for so-called Dreamers, young immigrants who entered the US illegally as children.

Why are some Republicans opposed?

Conservative Republicans are up in arms about the bill’s ramifications for the US federal debt.

“It’s not like Republicans aren’t concerned about disaster relief, or Republicans aren’t concerned about funding community health centers or dealing with the opioid crisis,” said Republican Congressman Warren Davidson.

Does the US debt of $20tn matter?

“But when you add them all up, it adds to an awful lot of spending… It’s not compassionate to bankrupt America,” he said in an interview with National Public Radio.

Alabama Republican Mo Brooks dubbed the bill a “debt junkie’s dream” while Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan said the agreement was a “monstrosity”.

What’s the White House saying?

Deficits are already projected to climb because of the Trump administration’s $1.5tn tax cuts, which were approved by Congress in December.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders praised the Senate bill, saying “we’re certainly happy with the way it’s moving”.

“The budget deal should be a budget deal,” she told a news conference, dismissing Democratic demands that it include a concession on immigration.

Officials at the White House say the deal would also increase the debt ceiling until March 2019.


Former Wives of Top White House Aide Rob Porter Both Told FBI He Abused Them

February 7 2018

by Ryan Grim and Alleen Brown

The Intercept

As the FBI conducted a background check on an incoming senior White House official last year, the bureau learned of the man’s history of domestic abuse. Rob Porter, a top aide to President Donald Trump, physically assaulted both of his previous wives, according to the two women. Porter’s first wife said she was physically abused for years, providing a photograph she took of herself after she said Porter hit her while on vacation in Florence, Italy — a photo she also shared with the FBI.

During the background interviews for Porter’s security clearance related to his senior White House role, FBI agents interviewed the two women. The former wives told the FBI that Porter was abusive during their marriages, according to interviews with the women. For Porter, the FBI interviews marked a collision of his professional ascendancy and his sometimes violent private life.

Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, provided her correspondence with the FBI to The Intercept. (The FBI did not respond to a request for comment, and the agent involved in the exchange declined to speak about the case.) In an interview, she said the pattern of violence in her marriage to Porter began on their honeymoon in the Canary Islands in 2003 and continued from there.

“He only punched me once, in the eye,” Holderness said. It was during a vacation in Florence in 2005. She said, “He threw me down on the bed and punched me in the face. I think he was shocked that he had lost control to that extent.”

Porter resigned Wednesday, with an undetermined effective date, amid the allegations.

Porter did not respond to requests for comment from The Intercept made through phone calls and text messages. Nor did White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders provide a comment in response to a query about Holderness’s detailed allegations and photo. In remarks to the British tabloid the Daily Mail, which reported some of the allegations of spousal abuse, Porter denied some of the charges and a raft of White House officials and one U.S. senator spoke to the strength of Porter’s character — all before Holderness detailed her part of the allegations to The Intercept.

Porter has kept a low public profile but is reported to be a powerful figure in the White House, a gatekeeper of the flow of information to Trump. According to Politico and the New York Times, Porter, the White House staff secretary, has been part of a two-man team, alongside Chief of Staff John Kelly, who decides what makes it to Trump’s desk.

In Florence, Holderness took photos of her face and emailed herself copies, which she shared with The Intercept.

“Up until then, he had always done it in a way that didn’t leave marks,” Holderness said. “I don’t know if that was conscious or not. He would get angry and throw me down on a soft surface — to his credit, it was always a soft surface like a couch or a bed — and he would lay on top of me shaking me, or rubbing an elbow or a knee into me. He graduated to choking me, not ever hard enough to make me pass out, or frankly to leave marks, but it was frightening and dehumanizing.”

“He was always a hair-trigger away.”

Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, wrote about her abusive relationship in a blog post on April 24, 2017, but did not name Porter. After finding the blog post, The Intercept independently identified Holderness as Porter’s first wife and approached her for an interview.

The blog post detailed what Willoughby said was Porter’s abuse. “The first time he called me a ‘fucking bitch’ was on our honeymoon,” Willoughby wrote. “A month later he physically prevented me from leaving the house. Less than two months after that, I filed a protective order with the police because he punched in the glass on our front door while I was locked inside.”

On Tuesday, the Daily Mail published an article linking to the blog post, which Willoughby confirmed to the British tabloid was written about her marriage to Porter. Willoughby and Porter’s marriage ended in 2013.

Before this report detailing Holderness’s account of her marriage, the White House offered broad support for Porter in the Daily Mail article. Porter told the tabloid, “I will not comment about these matters, beyond stating that many of these allegations are slanderous and simply false.”

Kelly praised him to the Daily Mail. “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly said. “He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional.”

Sanders, the White House spokesperson, offered equally effusive praise in his defense. “I have worked directly with Rob Porter nearly every day for the last year and the person I know is someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character,” Sanders told the Daily Mail.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of Porter’s previous employers, told the Daily Mail that the allegations against Porter came from “character assassins.”

“It’s incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man,” Hatch said. “Shame on any publication that would print this — and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name.”

Colbie Holderness, whose maiden name is Paulson, met Porter when she was a freshman at Wellesley College. At the time, Porter was a student at Harvard University, where he served as a leader with the Harvard Republican Club and Harvard Students for Bush, according to Harvard Magazine. Porter had gone on a Mormon mission before returning and meeting Holderness. The relationship made a brief appearance in a 2001 Rolling Stone article about Wellesley, a women’s school.

“Of course, Romantic life depends largely on the individual,” said the Rolling Stone article. “For junior Colbie Paulson, a Mormon and the president of the Wellesley Alliance for Life, a pro-life group, Wellesley’s single-sex environment means taking a step back in time. ‘For me, I find that the fact that our school is single-sex makes it more of a traditional dating experience. The guy comes to my school, he comes to my door, he picks me up, he takes me out, he makes a real effort to get here. So for me, it just reinforces my conservative upbringing.’”

The couple wed two weeks after graduation, following three years of dating. The marriage went bad quickly, she said. On their honeymoon on the Canary Islands, they were standing face to face, arguing, and he kicked her, Holderness said. She was stunned, and also puzzled.

“I don’t know why I remember this so vividly. Many of the physical incidents blend together, but I remember this one so clearly. My mother used to always say about my father that if he ever hit her, she was gone, she was out the door,” said Holderness. “Her saying that flew through my mind when that first happened.” She recalled her reasoning for staying with Porter: “What am I to do? I just married this man. It’s not as if he punched me in the face.”

In her blog post, Willoughby, the second wife, noted that Porter had kicked his first wife on their honeymoon. Holderness confirmed she had told Willoughby about the incident.

While Porter was at Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, Holderness landed a job with the governor of Idaho, her home state, which she said she taken partly to escape Porter’s abuse and further her own political career. She became friends with Trish Stack, who worked with her in the office in 2004 and 2005 and is now a marketing executive in Boise. Holderness confided in Stack about the abuse, telling her how it began on their honeymoon.

Holderness was eventually accepted to the Kennedy School and moved there with Porter in 2005. Stack said Holderness continued to confide in her. “She was trying to get help, and nobody would help her,” Stack said.

Spencer Paulson, Holderness’s brother, roomed with Porter’s younger brother at Harvard for three years. He was interning on a sheep ranch in Idaho in the summer of 2006, he said, when Holderness abruptly flew out to see him. She told him about the honeymoon and the incident in Florence, and showed him the photos. They discussed filing a police report but decided it wouldn’t do any good. “I encouraged her to separate,” he said, but the pull of the institution of marriage was still strong, and other considerations loomed. “There’s just a very warping effect when you think you can’t say things for career reasons, and that’s very sad, but it’s true.”

Holderness, who now works for the Government Accountability Office in Washington, explained that she ended up not going to the police out of fear. “I was too bewildered by the whole thing,” she told The Intercept. “Plus, I was too afraid to call the police during the entirety of our marriage, thinking they would consider the whole thing ridiculous and wouldn’t take me seriously.” She added, “Believe me, not calling the police is something I regret.”

One summer, when she was interning at a federal agency, she had access to a counselor through her job. “When I explained to him what was happening, he had a very different reaction from the Mormon bishops,” she said. “It was weirdly validating to hear that from somebody else.” Speaking about the counselor, she said, “He was very concerned to hear Rob was choking me.”

The counselor had helped her see the situation more clearly. She said, “Rob was constantly blaming me for every problem in my marriage.”

Porter blamed his first wife for his abuse of his second, according to Willoughby. “In the first weeks and months, his explanation for his anger was that his first marriage had been very toxic, rooted in arguments, accusations and manipulation and he was carrying over from that relationship,” she told the Daily Mail. “He would say that he was so used to being treated this way by his ex-wife that he was projecting that on to me. That was the explanation.”

Willoughby and Porter met through the Mormon church in 2009 and married after a romance of less than six months. She said that, within two weeks of their marriage, “it was very clear Rob had a temper that was inappropriate for the trigger.”

Willoughby said the first year of their marriage was the most volatile. During a period of separation that spring, Porter showed up at her apartment and refused to leave. According to a protective order, which the Daily Mail published and Willoughby confirmed to The Intercept was authentic, “I asked him several times to leave with his things, but he did not until I picked up the phone to call our clergy member. While he was gone, I took his clothes and put them in a suitcase on the front porch. When he returned a few minutes later, he punched in the glass on the door. I called the police, afraid he would break in.”

In her blog post, Willoughby wrote, “When I tried to get help, I was counseled to consider carefully how what I said might affect his career.” She told The Intercept that she had described Porter’s anger issues to a lay official in the Mormon church. She said the official had told her to think carefully about what she said publicly about Porter’s behavior. “Keep in mind, Rob has career ambitions,” she recalled the official saying. (The press office at the Mormon church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, declined to comment for this story.)

Willoughby said the couple’s fights only once resulted in a physical attack against her. “We were yelling in each other’s faces. I disengaged and went to take a shower. Rob was not done fighting. He came to the shower and grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me out of the shower to continue arguing,” she said. “I think he saw the look on my face, and immediately released me and apologized. But it happened and there was no coming back from it.”

After their first year of marriage, Willoughby said, things de-escalated but didn’t dramatically improve. “There was name-calling but also insidious commentary on how thin I was or how he liked a look that I didn’t have. There was arrogance about comments I would make or some knowledge I would have and condescension of how would I know that or someone must have told you that,” Willoughby said. “It was low-grade, constant.”

“I was a ghost of a person,” Willoughby said, noting her robust social life before her marriage. “That was very drastically no longer allowed to be part of my life, because the anger or the stress and argument that I would have to endure wasn’t worth it. Slowly, over that first year, I gave up being myself. I prioritized emotional survival.”

By the end of 2012, the couple had separated again and divorced the following year.

Willoughby said she has no regrets about putting up the blog post. She works as an educator and writer, speaking on issues of compassion and resilience. With that as her platform, she said, “I wrote the post because I wanted people to see that I had been through this and I did have compassion for a man that I loved who was part of that story, and that I was resilient, and I wasn’t seeing myself as a victim.”

Willoughby said Porter repeatedly asked her to take down the post, but she declined.

“For me, it is more compassionate to bring someone to awareness of weaknesses than to scapegoat or tear someone down because of weaknesses,” Willoughby said. “Rob now has awareness if he didn’t before.”

“I have the utmost respect for him professionally,” Willoughby said. “If there was to be a staff secretary in the Trump administration I hope to God it is Rob. However, being charming, intelligent, charismatic, capable at work, and able to be angry and manipulative and antagonistic at home — they’re not mutually exclusive.”

Update: February 7, 2018

This post has been updated to reflect that Porter announced his resignation Wednesday from the White House, with an undetermined effective date.



Wall Street falls as investors remain on edge

February 8, 2018

by Tanya Agrawal


U.S. stocks turned lower in early trading on Thursday, with investors still on edge as volatility in financial markets persisted following the worst declines in more than two-and-a-half years earlier in the week.

Wall Street ran out of steam on Wednesday after an early surge as investors were still cautious after a bruising sell-off that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average post its biggest intraday drop on record this Monday.

The market’s main gauge of volatility, the CBOE Volatility Index .VIX, fell to 26.18 on Thursday, still more than twice the level it held over the past few months. The index hit its highest level since August 2015 on Tuesday.

Investors are weighing whether the sharp swings are the start of a deeper correction or just a temporary bump in the nine-year bull market, spurred by concerns over rising interest rates and bond yields.

“While volatility in the markets has eased over the last couple of days, it has remained at very high levels – probably a sign of the ongoing nervousness among investors which may leave markets vulnerable to further declines,” Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda said in a note.

At 9:49 a.m. ET (1449 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 185.41 points, or 0.74 percent, at 24,707.94, and the S&P 500 .SPX was down 14.11 points, or 0.52 percent, at 2,667.55.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 30.45 points, or 0.43 percent, at 7,021.53.

Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the industrials .SPLRCI index’s 0.57 percent fall leading the decliners.

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said on Thursday the central bank could hike rates three times this year and the recent market volatility in itself was not enough to change his base scenario.

Minneapolis Fed chief Neel Kashkari and Kansas City Fed President Esther George are expected to make appearances at different events later in the day.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield US10YT=RR crept back to 2.875 percent, near Monday’s four-year peak of 2.885 percent.

Economic data showed weekly jobless claims fell to 221,000 below the 232,000 rise expected by economists, dropping to its lowest level in nearly 45 years as the labor market tightened further.

Among stocks, Twitter (TWTR.N) jumped 23 percent after it reported its first quarterly net profit and topped Wall Street targets as video ad sales rose.

Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA.N) fell 5 percent after the world’s largest generic drugmaker forecast 2018 would be weaker than analysts estimate as the U.S. generics market continues to deteriorate.

Yelp (YELP.N) was down 8.5 percent after a host of brokerages cut their price targets on the consumer review website operator’s stock following quarterly results.

Tyson Foods (TSN.N) rose 2 percent after the No. 1 U.S. meat processor reported better-than-expected quarterly results.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,782 to 823. On the Nasdaq, 1,658 issues fell and 827 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed no new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 12 new highs and 24 new lows.

Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty


Israeli police recommend indicting Netanyahu for corruption: report

February 7, 2018

by John Bowden

The Hill

Israeli police chiefs will recommend to the country’s attorney general that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on corruption charges, according to reports in local media.

The Times of Israel reported Wednesday that police chiefs, including the general commissioner of Israel’s police force, were in “unanimous agreement” that Netanyahu should be indicted for allegedly accepting bribes and receiving lavish gifts from wealthy benefactors, including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Any recommendation for an indictment would be sent to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who will decide whether to indict the prime minister.

In a Facebook video Netanyahu acknowledged that the police would likely move to recommend his indictment, but dismissed the allegations against him and predicted Mandelblit would not move to press charges.

“The State of Israel is a state of law. The law says that the one to determine whether there is evidence against the prime minister is the attorney general and he consults with the state attorney. The state prosecutor recently said in the Knesset that about half of the police’s recommendations end with nothing,” Netanyahu said Wednesday.

“So do not be nervous … I am sure that at the end of the day the competent legal bodies will come to one conclusion, to the simple truth: There is nothing,” he added.

Netanyahu’s current tenure as Israel’s prime minister began in 2009; he previously held the office from 1996 to 1999. He was reelected in 2015 with just over 23 percent of the vote share, with his Likud party winning 30 seats in Israel’s parliament.

The right-leaning Israeli leader is a top ally of President Trump, who last year declared that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The move was widely popular with Netanyahu and Israelis, but inflamed tensions with Palestine and Arab countries across the Middle East.


Why did the US stock market crash on Monday? Blame the central banks

February 6, 2018

by Steve Keene


Everyone who’s asking “why did the stock market crash Monday?” is asking the wrong question. The real poser is “why did it take so long for this crash to happen?”

The crash itself was significant—Donald Trump’s favorite index, the Dow Jones Industrial (DJIA) fell 4.6 percent in one day. This is about four times the standard range of the index—and so according to conventional economics, it should almost never happen.

Of course, mainstream economists are wildly wrong about this, as they have been about almost everything else for some time now. In fact, a four percent fall in the market is unusual, but far from rare: there are well over 100 days in the last century that the Dow Jones tumbled by this much.

Crashes this big tend to happen when the market is massively overvalued, and on that front this crash is no different. It’s like a long-overdue earthquake. Though everyone from Donald Trump down (or should that be “up”?) had regarded Monday’s level and the previous day’s tranquillity as normal, these were in fact the truly unprecedented events. In particular, the ratio of stock prices to corporate earnings is almost higher than it has ever been.

More To Come?

There is only one time that it’s been higher: during the DotCom Bubble, when Robert Shiller’s “cyclically adjusted price to earnings” ratio hit the all-time record of 44 to one. That means that the average price of a share on the S&P500 was 44 times the average earnings per share over the previous 10 years (Shiller uses this long time-lag to minimize the effect of Ponzi Scheme firms like Enron).

The S&P500 fell more than 11 percent that day, so Monday’s fall is minor by comparison. And the market remains seriously overvalued: even if shares fell by 50 percent from today’s level, they’d still be twice as expensive as they have been, on average, for the last 140 years.

After the 2000 crash, standard market dynamics led to stocks falling by 50 percent over the following two years, until the rise of the Subprime Bubble pushed them up about 25 percent (from 22 times earnings to 28 times). Then the Subprime Bubble burst in 2007, and shares fell another 50 percent, from 28 times earnings to 14 times.

This was when central banks thought The End of the World Is Nigh, and that they’d be blamed for it. But in fact, when the market bottomed in early 2009, it was only just below the pre-1990 average of 14.5 times earnings.

Safe Havens

That valuation level, before central banks (staffed and run by people with PhDs in mainstream economics) decided that they knew how to manage capitalism, is where the market really should be. It implies a dividend yield of about six percent in real terms, which is about twice what you used to get on a safe asset like government bonds—which are safe, not because the governments and the politicians and the bureaucrats that run them are saints, but because a government issuing bonds in its own currency can always pay whatever interest level it promises. There’s no risk that it can’t pay, and it can’t go bankrupt, whereas a company might not pay dividends, and it can go bankrupt.

Now shares are trading at a valuation that implies a three percent return, as if they’re as safe as government bonds issued by a government which owns the bank that pays interest on those bonds. That’s nonsense.

And it’s a nonsense for which, ironically, central banks are responsible. The smooth rise in stock market prices which led to the levels that preceded Monday’s crash began when central banks decided to rescue the economy by “Quantitative Easing (QE).” They promised to do “whatever it takes” to drive shares up from the entirely reasonable values they reached in late 2009, and did so by buying huge amounts of government bonds back from private banks and other financial institutions (pension funds, insurance companies, etc.). In the USA’s case, this amounted to $1 trillion per year—equal to about seven percent of America’s annual output of goods and services (GDP or “gross domestic product”). The Bank of England brought about £200 billion worth, which was an even larger percentage of GDP.

With central banks buying that volume of bonds, private financial institutions found themselves awash with money, and spent it buying other assets to get yields—which meant that QE drove up share prices as banks, pension funds and the like bought them with money created by QE.

Blind Oversight

So this is the first central bank-created stock market bubble in history, and central banks have just had the first stock market crash where the blame is entirely theirs.

Were this a standard, private hysteria and leverage driven bubble, we could well be facing a further 50 percent fall in the market—like what happened after the DotCom crash. This would bring shares back to the long-term average of 17 times earnings.

Instead, what I believe will happen is that central banks, having recently announced that they intend to end QE, will restart it and try to drive shares back to what think are “normal” levels, but which are at least twice what they should be.

As I said in my last book ‘Can we avoid another financial crisis?’ QE was like Faust’s pact with the Devil: once you signed the contract, you could never get out of it. They’ll turn on their infinite money printing machine, buy bonds off financial institutions once more, and give them liquidity to pour back into the markets, pushing them once more to levels that they should never rightly have reached.

This, of course, will help to make the rich richer and the poor poorer by further increasing inequality. Which is arguably the biggest social problem of the modern era. So, as well as being incompetent economists these mainstreamers are today’s Marie Antoinette. Let them eat cake, indeed.



Homeless person in California swept into garbage truck and nearly crushed

City official disciplined over mistake, the latest example of a deadly hazard faced by those living on the streets

February 7, 2018

by Alastair Gee in San Francisco

The Guardian

A senior official in San Diego has been disciplined after homeless cleanup crews swept up a tent with a person still inside and almost compacted them in a garbage truck.

Only after shrieks and screams emerged from the vehicle did workers realize the gravity of their mistake.

The incident was uncovered by the San Diego Union-Tribune, which reported that the deputy director of the waste management department, Angela Colton, had been “terminated”. A city official confirmed to the Guardian that Colton had been “relieved of her duties”.

A Guardian investigation found numerous examples of homeless people being compacted inside trash-collection trucks, often leading to their deaths.

In a memo released this week in response to the incident, San Diego has ordered supervisors to be present at cleanups to “ensure accountability”, and said tents, shopping carts and tarps must be photographed after they have been emptied to “ensure no individuals are present”.

Police officers who are on hand must also activate their body cameras.

These regularly scheduled sweeps are one element of San Diego’s response to an overwhelming homelessness crisis.

San Diego has resorted to spraying sidewalks with bleach and instituted a mass-vaccination program after a hepatitis A outbreak linked to poor sanitary conditions killed 20 people and infected 578, many of them homeless.

Three massive tents have also been erected as emergency shelters, because permanent housing is in critically short supply. The largest tent, located downtown, currently holds 325 people and 100 dogs.

Bob McElroy, head of the Alpha Project, which runs operations at the tent, said he was astonished by the cleanup incident. “My understanding is that the guy was wrapped up in sleeping bags and clothing,” he said. He has been trying to find the victim and offer housing.

“It must have scared the hell out of him,” McElroy said. “It makes me sick to my stomach – if you can imagine being crushed in the back of a track compactor.”

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