March 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Iraq's Shi'ite militias formally inducted into security forces (Reuters, 3/08/18)

According to the decree, members of the Shi'ite militias, an assortment of militia groups known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), which are mostly backed and trained by Iran, will be granted many of the same rights as members the military.

Paramilitary members will be given equivalent salaries to those members of the military under the Ministry of Defense's control, the decree said. They will also be subject to the laws of military service and will gain access to military institutes and colleges.

The decree had been expected for some time and comes two months ahead of a high-stakes general election. The PMF commands popular support among Iraq's majority Shi'ite population and is expected to sway voters.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis heeded a call to arms in 2014 after Islamic State seized a third of the country's territory, forming the PMF. The paramilitaries supported Iraq's military in ejecting Islamic State from areas the militants overran in 2014, when Iraqi military and police divisions deserted en masse.

Posted by orrinj at 2:43 PM


FBI briefed lawmakers on failures leading up to Florida shooting (MAX GREENWOOD, 03/07/18, The Hill)

Acting FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich met with lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees Tuesday to discuss the missteps, which were revealed in the days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Bowdich acknowledged that the FBI failed to follow its own protocol after it received a tip in January about the accused shooter, Nikolas Cruz, 19, and vowed to take corrective actions, according to a press release issued by Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairmen of the Oversight and Judiciary committees, respectively.

The FBI admitted just two days after the Feb. 14 shooting that it received a tip from a person close to Cruz the previous month warning about the teen's gun ownership, desire to kill and erratic behavior.

That tip "should have been assessed as a potential threat to life," the FBI said at the time, but the warnings were never investigated further.

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Saudi Arabia Using Law Firm Tied to Trump to Lobby U.S. for Nuclear Deal (Ken Klippenstein, 3/08/18, TYT)

A law firm that reportedly has advised President Trump's real estate empire registered last month to lobby the Trump administration as part of Saudi Arabia's bid for U.S. approval for a civilian nuclear power program, federal documents show.

King & Spalding, an international law firm headquartered in Atlanta that reportedly has worked for Trump's real estate concerns, disclosed that Saudi Arabia was paying the firm up to $450,000 for a 30-day period. The disclosures were made in a filing with the Justice Department, as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The contract was registered with the DOJ on February 21. Five days later, Energy Secretary Rick Perry canceled a trip to India so he could fly to London to discuss a nuclear cooperation agreement with senior Saudi officials. Such an agreement could open the door for lucrative U.S. contracts to build the kingdom's new power plants.

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


Informant had no evidence Clinton benefited from uranium sale: Democrats (Warren Strobel, 3/08/18, Reuters)

The Uranium One sale was unanimously approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which comprises representatives of nine U.S. government agencies. When the issue was voted on, the State Department was represented not by Clinton, but by a lower-level official.

Five committees in the U.S. House and Senate previously looked into the issue and found no evidence that Clinton was behind CFIUS' approval of the deal, according to congressional records.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 AM


Senate Dem denounces Farrakhan's remarks (JULIA MANCHESTER, 03/08/18, The Hill)

Schatz was responding to a tweet from Farrakhan posted on Wednesday.

"The FBI has been the worst enemy of Black advancement," it said. "The Jews have control over those agencies of government."

Did Seb Gorka hack his Twitter feed?

Trump: Gary Cohn 'may be a globalist, but I still like him' (The Week, 3/08/18))
President Trump used a well-known anti-Semitic dog whistle on Thursday while wishing his best to outgoing National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn. "This is Gary Cohn's last Cabinet meeting," Trump said. "He may be a globalist, but I still like him. He is seriously a globalist, no question." [...]

Trump added that "in his own way, [Cohn is] also a nationalist because he loves our country." 

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM

THE LAST NICKEL DROPS (salacity alert):

Trump partied with Russian oligarchs at Vegas nightclub shut down over 'lewd' acts involving women and urine: report (Travis Gettys, Mar. 8th, 2018, Raw Story)

A group of about 20, including Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, dined in a private room, and Trump flattered his new friends and boasted that "nobody in the world" was better at self-promotion than he was, and referred to himself in third person.

Also at the dinner was Ike Kaveladze, the vice president of Agalarov's Crocus International, who had been identified in 2000 by U.S. authorities as a conduit for money laundering $.14 billion out of Russia and Eastern Europe.

Part of the group -- including Trump, Emin, Goldstone, reigning Miss Universe Olivia Culpo and outgoing Miss USA Nana Meriwether -- went after dinner to an after-party at a raunchy nightclub called the Act, where they arrived shortly after midnight.

The Act was later ordered a few months to stop its "lewd" and "offensive" performances -- which involved activity that resembles salacious details of the Trump-Russia dossier compiled by a former British spy.

"Among the club's regular acts cited by the judge was one called 'Hot for Teacher,' in which naked college girls simulate urinating on a professor," Isikoff and Corn reported. "In another act, two women disrobe and then 'one female stands over the other female and simulates urinating while the other female catches the urine in two wine glasses.'"

The club had been under undercover surveillance since March 2013 by the Nevada Gaming Con­trol Board and private investigators hired by its landlord, the Palazzo -- which was owned by Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson.

The Act shut down after the judge's ruling, which also cited simulated bestiality and sadomasochist acts...

Mr. Steele just looks better and better....

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Trump Administration Admits Trump's $1 Billion Demand From China Was Supposed to Be $100 Billion (Jonathan Chait, 3/08/18, New York)
Earlier this week, President Trump raised eyebrows when he told reporters of a phone call he had held with North Korea, in which he warned the dangerous rogue state it must de-nuclearize. (His administration later admitted quietly Trump had actually spoken with South Korea, not North Korea.) This week, Trump ventured another strange foreign policy pronouncement. He had asked China to produce a plan to reduce its trade deficit by One Billion Dollars. He even capitalized it to underscore the significance of the towering sum he proposed to extract: [...]

This demand was incredibly puzzling to trade economists, and regular economists, and anybody who had ever read a couple paragraphs in a random business story. China runs a trade surplus of $375 billion with the United States. Trump was demanding a reduction of 0.3 percent, or less than a single day's worth of imports.

The Wall Street Journal's Lingling Wei reports that the demand was actually supposed to be $100 billion. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


U.S. Allies to Sign Sweeping Trade Deal in Challenge to Trump (MOTOKO RICH and ERNESTO LONDOÑOMARCH 8, 2018, NY Times)

A trade pact originally conceived by the United States to counter China's growing economic might in Asia now has a new target: President Trump's embrace of protectionism.

A group of 11 nations -- including major United States allies like Japan, Canada and Australia -- is set to sign a broad trade deal on Thursday that challenges Mr. Trump's view of trade as a zero-sum game filled with winners and losers. Covering 500 million people on either side of the Pacific Ocean, the pact will represent a new vision for global trade as the United States threatens to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on even its closest friends and neighbors. [...]

[T]he resuscitated deal could serve as a powerful sign of how countries that have previously counted on American leadership are now forging ahead without it.

"Only free trade will contribute to inclusive growth of the world economy," Taro Kono, Japan's foreign minister, told a group of ministers from Southeast Asian countries in Tokyo on Thursday. "Protectionism isn't a solution."

W, for initiating it, and the UR, for negotiating it, deserve tremendous credit.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


Amid renewed scrutiny, Erik Prince to host fundraiser for Russia-friendly congressman (Rebecca Berg, 3/08/18, CNN)

Blackwater founder Erik Prince will host a fundraiser this month for Russia-friendly Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, as Prince faces new questions over a 2017 meeting currently being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller. [...]

Rohrabacher, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been the target of attacks by Democrats and some Republicans for his unusually robust support for Russia. In the past, he has dismissed claims of Russia's human right violations as "baloney," publicly defended WikiLeaks and argued that the DNC was not hacked by Russia.

...and you swallow everything Donald tells you to, and newly believe that the FBI and NSA are anti-American.  Still, still, even after all that credulousness, wouldn't the breadth and depth of Donald and company's ties to Russia eventually tickle your conscience just a little bit?

Realistically, there are only a limited number of choices here: (1) they are deeply committed to Vlad Putin and his regime; (2) they are the take from Vlad; or (3) both.

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 AM


Background check states have lower gun death rates (Caitlin Owens, Andrew Witherspoon, 3/08/18, Axios)

While Congress has been caught in a perpetual argument over whether to require background checks for all gun sales, several states have already acted. Those that have added additional background check laws regarding private gun sales tend to have lower gun death rates.

Posted by orrinj at 3:11 AM


Report: Evidence Of Trump Efforts To Set Up Back Channel With Kremlin (Radio Liberty, March 08, 2018)

The Washington Post said the U.A.E. agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its close relationship with Iran -- a key objective of both the Trump administration and several Gulf Arab countries.

The Washington Post, citing U.S. officials, said such a concession by Moscow would have been required to justify any easing of U.S. sanctions on Russia by the Trump administration.

The Washington Post said that while Mueller is probing the circumstances of the Seychelles meeting, he is also more broadly examining apparent efforts by the Trump transition team to create a back channel for secret talks with the Kremlin.

After the Seychelles meeting, Nader visited the White House several times and met at least once there with former presidential adviser Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, The Washington Post said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:05 AM


Trump Spoke to Witnesses About Matters They Discussed With Special Counsel (Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, March 7, 2018, NY Times)

The special counsel in the Russia investigation has learned of two conversations in recent months in which President Trump asked key witnesses about matters they discussed with investigators, according to three people familiar with the encounters.

In one episode, the president told an aide that the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, should issue a statement denying a New York Times article in January. The article said Mr. McGahn told investigators that the president once asked him to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. McGahn never released a statement and later had to remind the president that he had indeed asked Mr. McGahn to see that Mr. Mueller was dismissed, the people said.

In the other episode, Mr. Trump asked his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, how his interview had gone with the special counsel's investigators and whether they had been "nice," according to two people familiar with the discussion.

The episodes demonstrate that even as the special counsel investigation appears to be intensifying, the president has ignored his lawyers' advice to avoid doing anything publicly or privately that could create the appearance of interfering with it.