September 7, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 PM


The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election (SCOTT SHANE, SEPT. 7, 2017, NY Times)

Sometimes an international offensive begins with a few shots that draw little notice. So it was last year when Melvin Redick of Harrisburg, Pa., a friendly-looking American with a backward baseball cap and a young daughter, posted on Facebook a link to a brand-new website.

"These guys show hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US," he wrote on June 8, 2016. "Visit #DCLeaks website. It's really interesting!"

Mr. Redick turned out to be a remarkably elusive character. No Melvin Redick appears in Pennsylvania records, and his photos seem to be borrowed from an unsuspecting Brazilian. But this fictional concoction has earned a small spot in history: The Redick posts that morning were among the first public signs of an unprecedented foreign intervention in American democracy.

A Facebook post, by someone claiming to be Melvin Redick, promoting a website linked to the Russian military intelligence agency G.R.U. Credit The New York Times
The DCLeaks site had gone live a few days earlier, posting the first samples of material, stolen from prominent Americans by Russian hackers, that would reverberate through the presidential election campaign and into the Trump presidency. The site's phony promoters were in the vanguard of a cyberarmy of counterfeit Facebook and Twitter accounts, a legion of Russian-controlled impostors whose operations are still being unraveled.

The Russian information attack on the election did not stop with the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails or the fire hose of stories, true, false and in between, that battered Mrs. Clinton on Russian outlets like RT and Sputnik. Far less splashy, and far more difficult to trace, was Russia's experimentation on Facebook and Twitter, the American companies that essentially invented the tools of social media and, in this case, did not stop them from being turned into engines of deception and propaganda.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM


U.S. appeals court rejects Trump's bid to bar most refugees (Jonathan Stempel, Mica Rosenberg, 9/07/17, Reuters) 

A U.S. appeals court on Thursday rejected the Trump administration's effort to temporarily bar most refugees from entering the country, ruling that those who have relationships with a resettlement agency should be exempt from an executive order banning refugees.

A three-judge 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel also ruled that grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins of legal U.S. residents should be exempted from President Donald Trump's order, which banned travelers from six Muslim-majority countries.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


Europe's Far-Right Proves It's Possible To Be Pro-Israel And Anti-Semitic (Tamara Micner, September 5, 2017, The Forward)

In continental Europe, allying with Israel is also a way to advance an anti-Muslim agenda. For far-right leaders, Islam and its adherents--be they immigrants or European-born--have become the new target for scapegoating and discrimination.

So these leaders have found an ally, and a model, in the Israeli government's narrative of Israel as "the bulwark of Western civilization in the midst of Muslim barbarism," as Mr. Weidinger puts it.

Mr. Wilders argues that both Muslim newcomers and established Turkish- and Moroccan-Dutch communities present a threat to the Netherlands' "Judeo-Christian" identity.

Eric Krebbers and Jennifer van Leijen, from Dutch anti-racism organization Doorbraak, say this nationalist identity ignores 2,000 years of Christian persecution toward Dutch Jews, and is a way to exclude Muslims.

"If you ask Jewish people, it's a meaningless term," says Ms. van Leijen. "They don't really like the fact that he's hijacking our identity to do that."

And when it comes to proposing or voting on legislation, Mr. Wilders' talk of "Judeo-Christian identity" fails to translate into action. For example, the PVV has supported a proposed ban on "ritual slaughter" without sedation (affecting both Muslim and Jewish practices).

"They're not really against anti-Semitism as much as they are against Islam," says Mr. Krebbers.

In Austria, the FPÖ uses the issue of anti-Semitism as a way to scapegoat Muslims. Mr. Weidinger says the party claims that Muslim immigrants have "introduced" present-day anti-Semitism to Austria, and that it no longer exists among "native" Austrians--which absolves non-Muslim Austrians of any prejudice or responsibility.

"The narrative of the Freedom Party is, 'Anti-Semitism in Austria today equals anti-Semitism in Muslim communities,'" he says.

As for Ms. Le Pen, Mr. Camus believes her support for Israel depends on who is in power and whether the government continues to ally with her worldview.

"It's a pro-Israel party as long as the right is in power in Israel, and as long as Israel fights the neighboring states and the Palestinians, and fights the terrorism movement that comes from an Islamic background," he says.

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


Russians Flock to Trump Properties to Give Birth to U.S. Citizens : While the president rails against children of undocumented immigrants, wealthy Russians rent his condos--at huge costs--so they can have American kids. (Katie Zavadski, 09.06.17, Daily Beast)

Anatoliy Kuzmin held out his daughter's blue U.S. passport over a red Russian one and snapped a photo from a Florida beach.

"Woohoo! Got dual citizenship for my daughter!" he wrote on Instagram.

American citizenship for the newborn girl was the goal of Kuzmin and his Instagram-celebrity wife, who sought the help of birth-tourism services in Florida for the arrival of their first child. They are among the estimated hundreds of Russian parents who flock to the U.S. annually for warm weather, excellent medical care, and, more importantly, birthright American citizenship.

And many, like Kuzmin and his wife, stay at President Donald Trump's properties in Florida.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


NY's Highest Court Rejects Assisted Suicide (Bill McMorris, September 7, 2017, fREE bEACON)

"We reject plaintiffs' argument that an individual has a fundamental constitutional right to aid-in-dying as they define it," the court ruled. "We also reject plaintiffs' assertion that the State's prohibition on assisted suicide is not rationally related to legitimate state interests."

The court said the plaintiffs' complaint "would require that we read into the statutes words and meaning wholly absent from their text," and the state prohibition contained "no exceptions" to the criminal prosecution of those who participate in a suicide. It also drew a clear definition between refusing medical treatment that would further delay death and actively committing suicide, pointing to the intent of each practice.

"The State also has a significant interest in preserving life and preventing suicide, a serious public health problem," the court ruled. The ruling won support from anti-assisted suicide advocates. J.J. Hanson, founder of the anti-euthanasia Patient Rights Action Fund, hailed the court's decision as a victory for "truth and compassion."

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


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Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Trump's Tweets and Witness Tampering-Where to Draw the Line (Hannah Ryan, September 7, 2017, JustSecurity)

Over the years, Trump has used his Twitter account to target many different people. They now include potential witnesses in Mueller's investigation. One is Sally Yates, the fired acting attorney general who warned the White House that Flynn may be compromised and that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Ahead of her testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee in May, Trump suggested Yates leaked classified information to the press. He tweeted, "Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel."

Another is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. On top of the interest in his own interactions with Russians, Sessions is likely an important witness in the firing of Comey and in events surrounding Comey's Valentine's Day meeting with Trump, at which Comey says Trump pressured him to drop the Flynn investigation. Trump ratcheted up the pressure on Sessions in recent weeks, describing him on Twitter as "beleaguered" and "VERY weak," and may well return to this theme if and when Sessions' involvement is back in the news.

Comey himself will be a key witness to any obstruction case. Trump tweeted on May 12 that Comey "better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" While Trump didn't end up live-tweeting Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as he'd promised, his son Don Jr. did, disputing Comey's account and interpretation of Trump's actions.

Other potential witnesses to find themselves on the receiving end of Trump's Twitter account include former acting (and current Deputy) FBI Director Andrew McCabe - whom Trump has criticized as conflicted - and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who penned the letter recommending Comey's dismissal but also appointed Mueller. Trump has launched broadsides against these potential witnesses in comments to the press as well. Sessions, he told the New York Times, should not have recused. Trump tried to impugn Rosenstein's independence by saying the Deputy AG (incorrectly, as it turns out) was from Baltimore, a place with few Republicans. 

Can Trump tweet his way into criminal liability? Witness-tampering, a subspecies of obstruction, is dealt with in section 18 U.S.C. § 1512. Alongside conduct like killing or using physical force against a witness, the section outlaws "knowingly" using intimidation,  threatening a person, or corruptly persuading a person with the intent to influence, delay or prevent their testimony in an official proceeding, or to cause them to withhold their testimony.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


Donald Trump Jr. at Russia meeting sought damaging information on Hillary Clinton (dEUTSCHE wELLE, 9/07/17)

Donald Trump Jr., eldest son of US President Donald Trump, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that he met with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 because he was open to receiving damaging information on then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reported.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Syrian opposition leader says 'revolution continues' after UN failure (Middle East Online, 9/07/17)

A prominent Syrian opposition leader said on Thursday U.N. mediation to end the country's six-year conflict has failed and the revolution would continue. [...]

Assad has won a series of military victories but rebel groups still hold large parts of the northwest of the country and substantial enclaves in the southwest, in Homs province and near Damascus.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


SOMEDAY, YOU WILL LOVE THE PATRIOTS (Will Leitch, 9/07/17, Sports on Earth)

It is strange to read NFL season previews, almost every single one of which ends with some variation of "the Patriots are the obvious, overwhelming, no-duh favorites to win the Super Bowl," in the wake of last year's Super Bowl. Obviously, the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead halfway through the third quarter, and that's something they're going to have to live with forever. But let's not forget what we were saying about the Patriots at that particular moment. It wasn't just "the Falcons are killing them." It was, "the Patriots look so old. They're toast. The dynasty is over." [...]

The Falcons looked like the future of football: speed everywhere, getting the ball to your burners in space, going nuts. The Pats looked old and tired and beaten. Now, after a quarter and a half that might be the most amazing in Super Bowl history, they're young and fresh and dominant and Obvious Favorites again? If the Patriots' comeback had fallen short and they had lost the Super Bowl, would we all be calling them the clear favorites in 2017? We wouldn't, right? That's just a quarter-and-a-half of football, switching the Patriots from "over" to "better than ever."

But that's what the Patriots do to us: They make us so emotional. Everything is always The Best Ever or The Worst Ever. They're either the greatest or the most devious. There is never an middle ground on the Patriots, and it's tough not to notice that this same all-or-nothing mindset -- a mindset one might call downright Belichickian -- has seeped in throughout the entire NFL. Counting the year before and after the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI -- and at this point I feel obliged to remind you that the entire sports world was cheering for Belichick over Kurt Warner in that game, a moment in history that will never be repeated in any realm for as long as humanity exists as a species -- the NFL had eight champions in nine years, with random teams like Tampa Bay and Oakland and Tennessee and Atlanta showing up in the Super Bowl. But the Patriots, as they always do, immediately began to weaponize the Big Game: In the 14 years since, they've won four Super Bowls, and the Super Bowls they didn't win were mostly defined by the winners' relation to the Patriots. "The Giants have their number; Peyton Manning finally broke through; the Steelers only win when they don't have to go through the Patriots."

They have owned the NFL, on the field and off, for so long that it's difficult to remember a time they didn't. The last time the Patriots weren't the center of the NFL, the rookie of the year was Mike Anderson, a guy who is now 43 years old. Barack Obama couldn't even get into the Democratic National Convention. Donald Trump was having a fight with Jesse Ventura on the Howard Stern show. Lots of things have happened.

And here's the thing: Eventually, we're all going to pretend we loved them. This is what we do with our champions.

...the rest are just props.

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


With alleged airstrike, Israel punctuates opposition to Syria ceasefire pact (Judah Ari Gross, September 7, 2017, Times of Israel)

In addition to whatever tactical value was gained from destroying such a facility, the early Thursday morning bombing run also presented a message to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, as well as to the United States and Russia, that Israel would continue to act in the war-torn country if necessary -- ceasefire between the regime and rebels be damned.

Posted by orrinj at 9:44 AM


Bannon Rips Catholic Church on Pro-DACA Stance: 'They Need Illegal Aliens to Fill the Churches' (Washington Free Beacon, September 7, 2017)

Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon condemned the Catholic Church's stance on immigration in an interview with Charlie Rose, saying they have an interest in illegal immigration to get "aliens to fill the churches."

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Elon Musk's new semi-truck may ignite a commercial war (Steve LeVine, 9/07/17, Axios)

Wall Street's most prominent Tesla bull says an electric semi-truck that the company plans to unveil later this month might be 70% cheaper to operate than conventional diesel-powered vehicles, and ignite a fierce contest to dominate a nascent market in intelligent trucks.