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Video Shows Teen’s Horrible Death in U.S. Immigration Detention Center

TruthDig.com News -

Footage from an immigrant detention center in Texas obtained by Pro Publica and published online Thursday shows the final hours of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez—who died from complications of the flu while in custody—but also strongly indicates the border patrol agents responsible for his care lied about what happened that night.

“As immigration authorities sat by, a child lay dying from the flu on a slab of concrete in a pool of his own vomit next to a toilet.”
—Jess Morales Rocketto, Families Belong Together

Carlos, according to the news outlet,

was seriously ill when immigration agents put him in a small South Texas holding cell with another sick boy on the afternoon of May 19.

A few hours earlier, a nurse practitioner at the Border Patrol’s dangerously overcrowded processing center in McAllen had diagnosed him with the flu and measured his fever at 103 degrees. She said that he should be checked again in two hours and taken to the emergency room if his condition worsened.

While a log kept by officers at the McAllen detention center in Texas says that Carlos, born in Guatemala, was given wellness checks three times over the course of four hours during the overnight, the video footage reveals that his seemingly lifeless body remained where it was—on the floor by the cell’s toilet—from approximately 1:30am until Carlos’ cellmate discovers him there after waking up past 6:00am. Notably, while the local police say the obtained the video footage from CBP, it contains a four-hour gap that the CBP has still not explained even as they refuse to hand over or acknowledge the existence of a complete recording of the night.

Pro Publica explained it decided to publish the available portion of the video “because it sheds light on the Border Patrol’s treatment of a sick child and shows the government’s account was not true.”

A 16-yr-old boy died in Border Patrol custody. He had the flu

They didn’t take him to the hospital
They didn’t release him
They didn’t even seem to check on him as he was dying on the floor of his cell, contrary to the govt’s account

We have the videohttps://t.co/DE0BDzyviI

— Eric Umansky (@ericuman) December 5, 2019

The annotated video—the original of which was obtained from local law enforcement in Texas who investigated the death—details the final hours of Carlos life [warning the footage is graphic]:

Response to the video and accompanying reporting was a mix of a sadness, shock, and outrage.

“As immigration authorities sat by, a child lay dying from the flu on a slab of concrete in a pool of his own vomit next to a toilet,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, chair of the immigration rights group Families Belong Together.

“Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez’s death was preventable,” Rocketto added. “As flu season is upon us, the Trump administration has ignored the CDC’s demands to vaccinate children in their immigration jails.     Three children have died of flu-related illnesses on the Trump administration’s watch in the past year.  We need action immediately to get children the life-saving care they deserve and ensure that no more kids die in cages.”

Children are dying in cages at the border. Where’s your outrage for children who are actually being traumatized and abused?! https://t.co/MDlaWKC4yu

— Alex (@AlexMcMackivan) December 5, 2019

“Impeach Trump for this,” said another user on Twitter.

As the Pro Publica notes towards the end of its long and detailed reporting on Carlos’ death while in U.S. custody “reverberated beyond the small village of San Jose del Rodeo” from where he came.

“Friends posted video of his funeral and a village wake on social media, with emotional tributes to him,” the outlet reports. “Guatemalan immigrants outside New York City held a fundraiser to help support his family, one of the goals Carlos had in coming to the U.S.”

The post Video Shows Teen’s Horrible Death in U.S. Immigration Detention Center appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Kerry Endorses Biden as Ad Cites NATO Leaders Mocking Trump

TruthDig.com News -

NEW HAMPTON, Iowa — John Kerry, the former secretary of state and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, endorsed Joe Biden for president on Thursday, buoying the former vice president’s argument that his international experience should be a deciding factor for voters in 2020.

“I’ve never before seen the world more in need of someone who on day one can begin the incredibly hard work of putting back together the world Donald Trump has smashed apart,” Kerry said in a statement.

Related Articles by by Common Dreams

The Biden campaign rolled out Kerry’s endorsement as it continued to portray Trump as a dangerous and erratic commander in chief and head of state. The campaign amplified its argument with an online ad featuring video of other world leaders mocking Trump at a Buckingham Palace reception held alongside the NATO summit this week.

Biden, at an event in New Hampton, Iowa, expressed embarrassment over the world reaction to the video capturing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson laughing about Trump earlier this week in London.

“Did you ever think you’d see that?” Biden asked.

Yet before Biden could bolster his argument by celebrating Kerry’s high-profile endorsement, he demonstrated that foreign affairs isn’t a seamless issue for his candidacy. That came during a tense exchange with a voter in New Hampton.

Biden reacted testily and then grew angry at his campaign town hall when an 83-year-old retired farmer queried the candidate about his son Hunter Biden accepting a lucrative post on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while Biden handled U.S.-Ukraine relations as vice president. The issue is near the heart of House impeachment proceedings against Trump after disclosures that the president sought Ukraine’s help in investigating the Bidens. Ukraine officials have said there was nothing illegal about Hunter Biden’s business dealings.

The voter, who declined to give his name, pressed Biden on why it was acceptable for Hunter Biden to capitalize on his father’s power while Democrats assail Trump for self-dealing.

“You’re a damn liar, man, that’s not true,” Biden boomed as the man continued to argue that “You don’t have a backbone … any more than Trump.” When the man finally told Biden he wouldn’t vote for him, Biden replied, “I knew you weren’t voting for me.”

Separately, the man told the 77-year-old Biden that he worries the former vice president is too old for the presidency. Biden challenged the man to a pushup contest and an IQ test. The man later told reporters that he prefers Elizabeth Warren, a 70-year-old Massachusetts senator, for president.

Biden drew applause during the exchange from other attendees, a point the candidate noted afterward to reporters. “I didn’t lose my temper,” he said. “What I wanted to do was shut this down. You saw the reaction here.”

He added that he knows Trump will keep pushing the Hunter Biden story line in a general election campaign that promises “to be even meaner.”

Biden has touched on Trump’s belligerent style on the world stage repeatedly this week as he travels across Iowa, whose Feb. 3 caucuses open Democrats’ 2020 voting. He believes that international experience — with his six terms as a Delaware senator and two terms as vice president — is a winner for him in a primary and potential general election.

“Foreign policy is a major issue” for voters he encounters, Biden said in an interview. “It’s not an issue that they say, well … I think we should take this number of troops out of there and that number of troops there and I’m worried about what’s going on in Ukraine,” he said. “They just know something’s not right. It’s uncomfortable. They know.”

He added that he not only has a better demeanor and skill set for the job than Trump, but he also has more relevant experience, deeper knowledge and more extensive relationships abroad than his Democratic competitors. “It’s not in their wheelhouse,” Biden said. “I mean, it doesn’t mean they can’t learn it, doesn’t mean they’re not smart as hell.”

Biden believes that international experience — with his six terms as a Delaware senator and two terms as vice president — is a winner for him in a primary and potential general election.

Meanwhile, Biden said he looks forward to Kerry, who won the 2004 Iowa caucuses, joining him in the state on Friday.

“John’s a good friend,” Biden said. “He knows what’s at stake.”

The post Kerry Endorses Biden as Ad Cites NATO Leaders Mocking Trump appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Here’s (One Reason) Why Democrats Should Get Behind a Massive Climate R&D Project

Mother Jones Magazine -

I’ve written before that I think massive investment in R&D is the single most important thing we can do to address climate change. And I’ll write about it again! There are various reasons that I believe this—which I will review at great length in the near future—but since “How are you going to pay for that?” is such a hot button among Democrats right now, it’s worth mentioning one big benefit of an R&D program: It all but pays for itself.

Climate R&D is a mix of basic science and applied research, and estimates of the return on this kind of thing hover in the range of 20-30 percent annually. Think tanks can provide detailed models of how this pencils out over the long term, but a back-of-the-envelope calculation¹ suggests that government spending of, say, $200 billion per year would cost about $4 trillion over 25 years but increase GDP by enough to produce about $3 trillion in additional tax revenue. The remaining balance is pretty small: perhaps around 1-2 percent of the current federal budget annually. This is easily fundable. Hell, we increased the military budget by that much a couple of years ago without even bothering to pretend that we were funding it.

This is something that Democratic candidates and think tanks should pick up on. A massive research program might cost a fair penny at first, but over time it would mostly pay itself back. The net cost would be surprisingly small—and that’s not even counting the benefit of not incinerating our planet.

¹That is, no accounting for inflation or NPV, and no sophisticated input/output model of the economy. Just some rough numbers.

The Hack Gap Rears Its Ugly Head Yet Again

Mother Jones Magazine -

Yesterday, testifying before Congress, Stanford University professor Pamela Karlan made this quip:

The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son Barron, he cannot make him a baron.

There is nothing wrong with saying this. Nonetheless, Republicans pretended to be outraged by it, and as near as I can tell there was no pushback. Not a single Republican stepped up to say “Give it a rest, guys.”

This kind of solidarity is a startlingly successful strategy. Reporters mostly bought into the Republican outrage, and even more tellingly, so did many Democrats, who suggested that Karlan really shouldn’t have “brought up the president’s son.” Eventually this forced Karlan to say sorry, which prompted yet another round of faux Republican outrage over her (of course) inadequate apology.

This was a minor affair, quickly forgotten. But it reminds me once again of the hack gap. Conservatives instinctively circled the wagons after the first person let loose on Karlan. Many joined in and none defended Karlan. Liberals, by contrast, were divided. Some were clear from the start that the whole thing was entirely fake, but others apparently felt like they had to demonstrate their reasonableness, which they did by saying that while it was no big deal, “still she really should have left Barron out of it.”

I shall have more to say about this later, but I’m not going to tell you when and it won’t be obvious that I’m doing it. It will just be a little test.

U.S. Considers Sending Several Thousand More Troops to Mideast

TruthDig.com News -

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is considering sending several thousand additional troops to the Middle East to help deter Iranian aggression, amid reports of escalating violence in Iran and continued meddling by Tehran in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the region.

John Rood, defense undersecretary for policy, told senators Thursday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper “intends to make changes” to the number of troops deployed in the region. Other officials said options under consideration could send between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East, but they all stressed that there have been no final decisions yet. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The troop deliberations follow several decisions since spring to beef up the U.S. presence in the Middle East because of a series of maritime attacks and bombings in Saudi Arabia that the U.S. and others have blamed on Iran.

Related Articles by by TomDispatch by

President Donald Trump has approved those increases, even though he also routinely insists that he is pulling U.S. troops out of the Middle East and withdrawing from what he calls “endless wars” against extremists. In October, Trump told his supporters that despite the sacrificing of U.S. lives in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, the region is less safe and stable today. “The single greatest mistake our country made in its history,” he said, “was going into the quicksand of the Middle East.”

Asked about a possible troop increase, Trump told reporters Thursday that “We’ll announce whether we will or not. Certainly there might be a threat. And if there is a threat, it will be met very strongly. But we will be announcing what we may be doing — may or may not be doing.”

Military leaders have argued that the U.S. needs to increase its presence in the region in order to deter Iran from conducting more and broader attacks. Rood provided no details to back up why the additional troops are needed, but said the U.S. is concerned about recent intelligence indications suggesting an increased threat from Iran.

Rood was asked several times about reports that 14,000 more troops could be sent to the region. He repeatedly said Esper hasn’t made a decision yet, but didn’t specifically confirm or deny the number, so his answers appeared only to confuse senators. Shortly after the hearing, Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah sent out a statement flatly denying the 14,000 number, saying Esper told the Senate committee chairman Thursday morning that “we are not considering sending 14,000 additional troops” to the region.

The troop discussions came as the Trump administration on Thursday accused Iranian security forces of killing more than 1,000 people in crackdowns against recent protests that have swept the country.

The estimated death toll is significantly higher than previously estimates from human rights groups and others, and the administration did not present documentary evidence to back up the claim. But Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, told reporters the tally was based on a variety of reports coming out of Iran as well as intelligence analyses.

Speaking at the State Department, Hook said the U.S. had received and reviewed video of one specific incident of repression in the city of Mahshahr in which the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps had mowed down at least 100 protesters with machine-gun fire.

He said the video was one of tens of thousands of submissions the U.S. has gotten since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appealed last month for Iranians to submit evidence of atrocities by the authorities in putting down the protests. In it, he said IRGC forces can be seen opening fire on protesters blocking a road and then surrounding those who fled to nearby marshlands where they were sprayed with bullets.

“In this one incident alone the regime murdered as many as 100 Iranians and possibly more,” Hook told reporters at the State Department. He did not display the video but said the actions it depicted corresponded to accounts of a brutal nationwide crackdown on the demonstrations, which started in response to gasoline price increases and rationing.

“We have seen reports of many hundreds more killed in and around Tehran,” he said. “And, as the truth is trickling out of Iran, it appears the regime could have murdered over 1,000 Iranian citizens since the protests began.” The dead include 13- and 14-year-old children, he said.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said Iran had “killed hundreds and hundreds of people in a very short period of time” and called for international pressure to be applied. “They are killing protesters. They turned off their internet system. People aren’t hearing what’s going on,” he told reporters while hosting a lunch for the ambassadors of U.N. Security Council members.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and there was no immediate comment on state media in Iran.

There was no known public video that supported Hooks’ allegation of a massacre in Mahshahr, although he said the State Department had gotten more than 32,000 responses to Pompeo’s appeal for videos and other evidence using the encrypted messaging app Telegram, which is popular in Iran.

Nor has there been any widely accepted claim matching Hook’s death toll of more than 1,000. Amnesty International believes at least 208 people have been killed and that the number could be higher. Iran has disputed that figure, but has refused to offer any nationwide statistics of the number of injuries, arrests or deaths from the unrest.

However, Hook’s numbers appear to match a figure put out late Wednesday by the Iranian exile group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which has paid Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for speeches at its events in the past.

The MeK alleged late Wednesday that more than 1,000 people had been killed. It published a list of 320 people it said it had identified so far as having been killed but did not provide proof.

Iran has alleged MeK supporters and those backing exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of the country’s late shah, of being behind the unrest alongside foreign powers. It has not offered evidence to support those allegations.

In addition to the deaths, Hook said more than 7,000 protesters had been detained, with many sent to two prisons. Hook said that Pompeo had notified Congress on Thursday that both prisons would be hit with U.S. sanctions for gross human rights abuses. It was not immediately clear when those designations would occur.

Hook’s comments come as the U.S. steps up its “maximum pressure campaign” on Iran that it began after withdrawing from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal last year. That campaign has been highlighted by the imposition of increasingly tough sanctions and an increase in rhetoric critical of Tehran and its leadership.

As part of the pressure campaign, Hook announced that the U.S. is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the whereabouts of a top IRGC commander now believed to be supporting rebels in Yemen. He said Abdul Reza Shahalai was responsible for numerous attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and had been behind a foiled plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a Washington restaurant.


Lolita C. Baldor, Robert Burns and Deb Riechmann in Washington and Jon Gambrell in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

The post U.S. Considers Sending Several Thousand More Troops to Mideast appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

‘It’s This Culture of Secrecy That’s Pervading the Courts’ - CounterSpin interview with Melissa Goodman on the PATRIOT Act

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting -

Janine Jackson interviewed the ACLU’s Melissa Goodman about the PATRIOT Act for the September 30, 2005, episode of CounterSpin—a conversation that was reaired on the November 29, 2019, show. This is a lightly edited transcript of the rebroadcast.

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MP3 Link

Janine Jackson: Librarians might be described as the canaries in the coal mine on US civil liberties, a kind of early warning system about predations on our freedom to gather and share information. As such, librarians were out in front in challenging the ominously sweeping powers given to law enforcement under the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act. And it’s libraries that are now at the center of a critical court case involving the PATRIOT Act and the right to talk about it, and even to know about it. Here to tell us what’s going on and what it means to us is Melissa Goodman, national security fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union, who are involved in this case. Melissa Goodman joins us now by telephone. Welcome to CounterSpin.

Melissa Goodman: Thank you, Janine, and I’m happy to be here.

JJ: First, please fill us in, if you would, on the basic facts on this Connecticut librarian case, and what is the current state of play?

MG: Sure. Well, let me first say what national security letters are. Essentially, they’re a tool the FBI can use to demand personal records from internet service providers, which includes more than just something like America Online, but also libraries, universities, even places like Amazon.com, any place where you can communicate over the internet, essentially.

Through these national security letters, the FBI can demand personal records about innocent people, without any court approval or any oversight. And essentially what happens is, if you are an organization or person who gets one of these letters, you are gagged forever from telling anyone about it, and saying anything about it whatsoever, even where there’s absolutely no threat to national security.

The ACLU’s client later turned out to be the Library Connection, a consortium of Connecticut libraries that included the Welles-Turner Memorial Library in Glastonbury.

The ACLU has actually filed two cases with regard to the national security letter power. Our most recent case we filed in Connecticut, challenging both the statute and a particular NSL that was—I can not say very much about it, because I am under a very heavy FBI gag order—but it was served on an organization with library records that is a member of the American Library Association. That’s all I can say about our client. Basically, as soon as they got this letter, they were gagged.

We challenged that gag and the NSL itself. What we did, because Congress is in the throes of finalizing the PATRIOT Act reauthorization legislation in the next week or so, we wanted to make sure that our client, who had very important things to say about the PATRIOT Act, could actually participate in that debate. However, because of the gag, they can’t, and also because of the gag, there’s a lot of information that the public can’t know as well.

So we went in and we asked a judge in Connecticut, who is Judge Hall, to give us a preliminary injunction, that basically would allow our clients to speak in time to participate in the PATRIOT Act debate. We actually won that, and Judge Hall granted an injunction.

But what happened is, she stayed her ruling for 20 days, which basically says this ruling won’t go into effect, and gave the government an opportunity to appeal the decision. The government rushed into the appellate court, which is the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and applied for a stay.

We opposed that, we opposed that strenuously, given that the debate is about to draw to a close in Congress, and they’re going to act without having vital information from people with firsthand knowledge of how the PATRIOT Act is being used.

What happened is the Second Circuit agreed with the government and granted a stay.

One good thing they did was, they set an expedited schedule for the appeal, which means it’s happening very quickly. Right after they granted that stay in the Second Circuit, we actually moved to vacate the stay—I’m actually not allowed to tell you why—and we just learned today that they denied that as well. So now we’re just waiting to finish the appeal.

Melissa Goodman: “If the government is going to come in and say you can’t say something you have a constitutional right to say, they have to meet a very high burden.”

JJ: Now, let’s be clear, from the Department of Justice perspective, the federal government’s line is that the reason for this gag order is that if the name of the people who’d been served with these national security letters were known, then the suspects—who, as you point out, under the PATRIOT Act, need not be under active investigation or have hard evidence against them—the suspects would somehow be able to piece together the investigation, and that this, therefore, trumps the librarians’—or whoever’s—free speech rights.

MG: That’s absolutely right, Janine. And in fact, the most troubling thing about what the government has done here is that, in the First Amendment context, if the government is going to come in and say you can’t say something you have a constitutional right to say, they have to meet a very high burden. It’s not enough for them to come in and say, “National security is affected.” The courts are very clear that you need to say more than that. You need to show, in this particular case, that the secrecy is needed because some very particular harm will happen.

And what they did here, rather than come in and say anything specific to this particular situation, this particular target, they came in and said, “Counterterrorism investigations are just different.” They essentially argue that you always need blanket and complete secrecy. And it’s an incredibly dangerous argument that they’ve been pressing, not just in this case, but in many other cases, and it’s depriving the public and the courts and Congress of vital, vital information that they need.

Attorney General John Ashcroft

JJ: In her ruling lifting the gag order, US District Judge Janet Hall cited some 2003 comments by Attorney General John Ashcroft, accusing people who feared government searches of reading records of hysteria. He said that no library records have been seized. Most recently, I saw him saying none were seized in the first two years of the PATRIOT Act. But I guess the point is, we don’t really know, do we, just how the government is applying the PATRIOT Act?

MG: That’s absolutely true.  The biggest problem, I can’t emphasize enough, with the PATRIOT Act debate, is that it’s an absolutely lopsided debate. Because of these gags that are built into all of the provisions, the National Security Letter provision, and the other provision—the one that Attorney General John Ashcroft was talking about with Section 215—those have built-in gags. So therefore, anyone who actually knows that the FBI is using their power in these ways that they’re denying that they’re using them, can’t tell anyone about it.

And it’s not even just that you’re gagging the people who have firsthand knowledge. The Justice Department has even refused to give information directly to members of Congress about how they’re using the PATRIOT Act. Over and over, members of Congress have complained that they’re doing oversight in the dark. And I’m not quite sure how Congress is supposed to make informed decisions about whether the PATRIOT Act simply went too far or not, or how the public is supposed to make that decision, when it’s impossible to know.

JJ: Journalists might say, then, that this is a story where there’s a lot of information lacking, a lot that they simply don’t know. But you might suggest that that itself is a worthy topic of some sort of investigation or coverage.

MG: That is absolutely true. I think that it is very important for the media to pay close attention, not just in this case, but actually in many other cases, cases where the government has come in and insisted on redacting a tremendous amount of what we consider to be innocuous information. It’s happening over and over. The government consistently files secret evidence, now, that we’re not allowed to see.

And it’s this culture of secrecy that’s pervading the courts, it’s pervading all aspects of life. It really has a tremendous impact on the foundations of our democratic system, and it’s really only the press who can consistently shine a light on that and question why, and try to push back against it.

JJ: That was the ACLU’s Melissa Goodman, on the show in September 2005.


Lunchtime Photo

Mother Jones Magazine -

This is the Chicago skyline as seen from Navy Pier. Sadly, I took this picture before my experiments with panoramic shooting. Still, even when it’s cropped a little tight who doesn’t like a nice nighttime skyline?

October 22, 2019 — Chicago, Illinois

A Border Officer Told Me I Couldn’t Opt Out of the Face Recognition Scan. They Were Wrong.

ACLU News -

“Look at the camera,” a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer told me as I approached the primary inspection point at the Paso del Norte port of entry.

“Is that the face recognition technology?” I asked. “If so, I want to opt-out.”

“Look at the camera.”

“I want to opt-out.”

“Look at the camera.”

On the evening of November 25, 2019, I crossed from Mexico into the United States. Signs in the port noted the new use of face recognition technology and United States citizens’ option to “undergo alternative procedures.” After handing over my U.S. passport card, and despite my repeated protests, the CBP officer took my picture anyway.

My data was likely processed through a system of databases, handled by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an agency with a long history of employing abusive surveillance techniques. In the last year, DHS has unlawfully tracked journalists and advocates, and was the subject of data breaches that exposed the private information, including photos, of thousands of travelers.  

CBP, a component agency of DHS, began piloting the use of “biometric facial comparison,” or face recognition technology, in September 2018 at pedestrian crossing lanes in San Ysidro, California and vehicle lanes in Texas. On November 22, 2019, CBP announced the expansion of the technology to additional pedestrian lanes at ports in Texas, including the Paso del Norte port of entry in El Paso. This expansion came despite an internal review raising concern about the accuracy of such technology and despite serious problems identified by privacy experts about prior expansions at airports.  The agency intends to expand the use of face recognition nationally at airports — despite the documented concerns.

CBP deploys a variety of surveillance technologies at the border, claiming national security justifications, but Congress has not explicitly authorized the use of face recognition technology in the immigration context. Congress has mandated that the DHS collect biometric information to track travelers entering and exiting the United States to identify those who overstay their visa, but fingerprints — and other less troubling methods — could achieve compliance without the worries surrounding face recognition.    

Face recognition is one of the most dangerous forms of biometric tracking and carries a greater potential for growth into a widespread tool for spying on people as they move. Face recognition can be used for surveillance through public video cameras — mapping a person’s movement without their knowledge or consent and raising serious Constitutional concerns.

Photos collected by state motor vehicle agencies provide another source of data that could easily be coupled with face recognition to create a comprehensive surveillance system equipped to track U.S. citizens and immigrants alike throughout the country.

Given the many concerns and shortage of mechanisms to safeguard against abuse, immigration agencies should suspend their use of the technology at ports of entry. 

CBP claims the technology will facilitate faster border crossings but the technology is inaccurate, exposing crossers to further inspection if the system falters. Studies also suggest the technology is racially biased, with error rates rising significantly when applied to people of color.  

If I, carrying all the privilege of a white American lawyer, could not opt-out of the invasive technology, what chance do other travelers — and particularly people of color — have to assert their rights before an agency patterned on racial profiling and harassment? Indeed, many other travelers have been forced to submit to invasive face recognition — despite the agency’s promises that anyone can opt-out.

CBP clearly and consistently states that “it is not mandatory for U.S. citizens to have their photo taken” and if they wish to opt-out they should “advise the CBP officer when they approach the primary inspection area.” While no one should be subjected to this technology, CBP must minimally provide a meaningful opt-out option that does not mean hours of delay, and must train its agents on this policy. Even the best policies are meaningless if government agents are free to disregard them with impunity.

The CBP officer I encountered last week ignored my repeated protests, claimed ignorance of the signs plastering the port, and told me I could not opt-out. “Why are you so concerned? We have all your information anyway,” was the last thing the officer said before waving me through.

My concern is one we should all share: The continued expansion of surveillance technology at the border, under the guise of efficiency and security, signals the erosion of our privacy rights and the building of a system of government surveillance capable of intrusion in our everyday lives. Taking away every meaningful option to avoid new forms of surveillance simply cannot be an accepted border reality. The Constitution protects us all, even at the border.          

The Secret of Donald Trump’s Success: BHC06

Mother Jones Magazine -

The Washington Post published a story yesterday about the undocumented workers employed by Donald Trump’s Bedminster golf club. But the real scoop comes halfway through:

Trump loved Tic Tacs. But not an arbitrary amount. He wanted, in his bedroom bureau at all times, two full containers of white Tic Tacs and one container that was half full. The same rule applied to the Bronx Colors-brand face makeup from Switzerland that Trump slathered on — two full containers, one half full — even if it meant the housekeepers had to regularly bring new shirts from the pro shop because of the rust-colored stains on the collars. A special washing machine in the laundry room was reserved for his wife Melania Trump’s clothing.

How about that? The marketing boffins at Bronx Colors were quick to take advantage of this revelation. Their website features a prominent screenshot of the Post story along with a special offer to all customers that’s good through Saturday:

Hmmm. BHC06. Let’s take a look:

Yep, that’s our boy! I wonder what the backstory is here? When did Trump find out about this stuff? Why did he pick a shade called, simply, “Orange”? Our gossip media, which is far more aggressive than our national political media, needs to get on this. We want answers.

Tufts University Severs Ties with Family Behind OxyContin

TruthDig.com News -

BOSTON — Tufts University is cutting ties with the billionaire family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, saying it will strip the Sackler name from its campus and accept no further donations amid concerns over the family’s role in the opioid crisis.

University officials announced the decision Thursday, ending a relationship that has spanned nearly four decades and brought $15 million to the school’s science and medical programs. Tufts leaders said they considered the issue for more than a year before concluding it is inconsistent with the school’s values to display the family’s name.

“We had to deal with the reality that the Sackler name has become associated with a health care epidemic. Given our medical school’s mission, we needed to reconcile that,” Peter Dolan, chairman of Tufts’ board of trustees, said in an interview.

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A firm that represents the Sackler family did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The change was announced at the same time officials released findings from an outside review examining the school’s ties with the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma. The inquiry, commissioned by the school, found no major wrongdoing but concluded there was an “appearance of too close a relationship between Purdue, the Sacklers and Tufts.

The family’s ties with Tufts date to 1980, when the three founding brothers of Purdue Pharma provided a donation to establish the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. Tufts separately named its medical school building after one of the brothers, Arthur, after he made a donation in 1983.

Arthur Sackler’s wife, Jillian, served on the university’s board of trustees for a decade starting in 1986. And Richard Sackler, a Purdue board member and former CEO, sat on the medical school’s board of advisers for nearly two decades until he left in 2017.

Officials said the Sackler name will now be dropped from all campus facilities and programs, including the biomedical sciences school, the medical school, a laboratory and two research funds. A sign bearing Arthur Sackler’s name on the facade of the medical school was being removed Thursday.

Tufts joins a growing number of colleges seeking distance from the Sackler family amid pressure from students and activists. Several have stopped accepting gifts from the family, including Cornell and Yale universities. Others, including Brown University, said they will redirect past donations to support addiction treatment.

An Associated Press review in October found that prestigious universities around the world accepted at least $60 million from the Sacklers over the past five years. Some critics say schools should return the money so it can be used to help cities and states harmed by the opioid crisis.

Past donations to Tufts will continue to be used for their original purpose, officials said, but the university will establish a $3 million endowment to support research and education on addiction. The school also plans to create an educational exhibit exploring Tufts’ history with the Sacklers.

Previously known for their philanthropy, the Sacklers have more recently gained attention for their role in the opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy this year amid thousands of lawsuits accusing it of aggressively pushing OxyContin despite its addiction risks. Some of the suits target individual members of the family, who deny wrongdoing.

Students and faculty at Tufts have long called on the school to sever ties with the Sacklers, especially those in science and medicine programs. Dr. Harris Berman, dean of the medical school, said the building’s name had become an “embarrassment.”

“Our alumni, our board of advisers all have been troubled by the fact that we’ve got the Sackler name all over the place,” Berman said in an interview. “I think there’s going to be a great sigh of relief among all of them that we’ve finally done the right thing. Certainly I feel that way.”

Tufts also faces criticism over its direct ties to Purdue Pharma. In 1999, the company paid to establish a master’s program on pain research and education, and continued to fund it for a decade. One of the company’s senior executives became a lecturer in the program and was appointed as an adjunct professor.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey alleged in a January civil complaint that Purdue used the partnership with Tufts to bolster its reputation and promote OxyContin. In response, Tufts’ president ordered the outside review examining the relationship.

The inquiry, led by a former U.S. attorney, found that Purdue and the Sacklers contributed a combined $15 million to Tufts since 1980. Much of the family’s funding supported research on cancer and neuroscience.

Investigators found no evidence that the funding significantly skewed Tufts’ research or academic programs, but they believe the family and its company benefited from the relationship in subtler ways.

In 2002, for example, the director of the Tufts pain program appeared in an advertisement for Purdue, with his Tufts affiliation prominently displayed. In 2015, the medical school chose not to assign students to read “Dreamland,” a book on the opioid crisis, largely because it was too critical of the Sacklers, the review found.

“We do believe that Purdue intended to use the relationship with Tufts to advance its own interests and, in a few particular instances, there is some evidence that it was successful in exercising influence,” the report found.

Tufts leaders say they plan to implement a slate of recommendations included in the report. It called for “heightened scrutiny” of donors, greater transparency surrounding research donors, and the creation of a committee to review large gifts that “raise questions of conflicts of interest, reputational risk for the university or other controversy.”

The post Tufts University Severs Ties with Family Behind OxyContin appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

‘Giuliani Did All the Wrong Things on That Day’ - CounterSpin interview with Wayne Barrett on Rudy Giuliani and 9/11

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting -

Janine Jackson interviewed the Village Voice’s Wayne Barrett about Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 for the August 17, 2007, episode of CounterSpin; that conversation was rebroadcast for the November 29, 2019, show. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Janine Jackson: “It was so well-orchestrated that you would have thought he had prepared for it forever.” That was how the secretary of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani described Giuliani’s performance on September 11, 2001. Certainly that has become media’s memory of the then-mayor on that horrible day—calm, focused, effective—and consequently much of the public’s memory as well. Once media get hold of a storyline, they tend to run with it, and by the end of 2001, Time magazine had it that “Giuliani’s performance ensures that he will be remembered as the greatest mayor in the city’s history.” 

The troubling truth, according to a new book, is that the story that Giuliani has told, and that the press has repeated, about September 11 and his actions that day, doesn’t square with actual events. The book is called Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11. It’s co-authored by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins. Wayne Barrett is senior editor at the Village Voice; he joins us now by telephone. Welcome to CounterSpin, Wayne Barrett.

Wayne Barrett: It’s so good to be here.

JJ: We’re talking about the historical record here. So what to you are the most significant differences between the Time magazine picture of Giuliani as “taking on half a dozen critical roles and performing each masterfully,” and the reality of his role on that day?

WB: Well, on that day, he said all the right things; I think he hit a chord with the American public generally, and of course, he was filling a void, because the president couldn’t be located. But he actually did all the wrong things on that day and in the lead-up to that day, in terms of preparing the city for any form of terrorist attack.

Remember, we were attacked once already in 1993, and it was a city that should have been ready, and should have understood the threat, particularly to the World Trade Center, since the terrorists said they were coming back. 

So what he did wrong that day in particular was that he violated his own protocols, which it’s not just Wayne Barrett saying that. John Farmer, who was the head of the 9/11 Commission unit that worked on the chapter that dealt with the city’s response, I interviewed him, and he said that everything Giuliani did by splitting the command posts that day was in violation of his own command-and-control protocols. 

What Giuliani did—and this story has been told a thousand times—is when he arrived in the vicinity of the World Trade Center complex, he met the police commissioner, Bernie Kerik, and with Bernie Kerik and almost the entire top-ranking uniformed officers of the police department, he walked over to West Street, on the far side of the towers, where the fire chiefs had set up their command posts. 

It was, after all, a fire, so the fire chiefs are supposed to be in charge, and under any unified command system anywhere in the United States, the fire chiefs and the police chief should have been at the same command post, working together. 

Instead, Giuliani spent about five minutes there, and then proceeded to leave and take the entire police brass with him, to another location on the far side of the towers, a safer location in the Barclay Building, an office building much further away from the towers. 

If he had left a single high-ranking member of the police department there with the fire chiefs, then everybody would have had, the fire chiefs would have had, all the police communications that were coming in from the helicopters; the police pilots were saying the towers were going to collapse, and the dysfunction of the fire department radios would have meant far less. 

But in fact, there were no police chiefs at the fire chief command post; there wasn’t any unified command, and that was a direct result of what Rudy himself did. That was his principal error that day; he made a few others, but that was his principal error.

And in the lead-up to 9/11, why were they even going to a command post? Why weren’t they going to the command center, which the city had spent up to $70 million creating and operating? And that’s because he put the command center in 7 World Trade, in the complex that had already been attacked, and it was vacated early in the day. So it was dysfunctional throughout the day, and that was a very costly error. Because there was no functioning command center, it heightened the importance of establishing a unified command, at this much more makeshift thing that occurs in all major events, this command post.

JJ: So let’s be clear: It’s not so much that what Giuliani did in the midst of this chaotic situation turned out to be a mistake. It really was that he didn’t follow existing rules on paper, about how something should be done.

WB: Rules that he himself created. Yes.

JJ: Now you indicate that Giuliani has never really been forced to explain, by reporters or anyone, this splitting-the-post decision. Did journalists just not want to sully the icon, or what’s going on there?

WB: Well, I don’t think anybody really examined it the way you can in a book. I know this is one of the best-covered news events of all time, but still, the National Institute of Standards and Technology did a 10,000-page study of the city’s response. It was a significant chapter in the 9/11 Commission Report. And both of them observed that there was a split command post, and that it was detrimental. But they didn’t hold anybody accountable for it: They never mentioned the mayor’s name, they never reviewed the circumstances that led up to that day. So that the media didn’t have some official body telling them how to figure this one out. And apparently they couldn’t figure it out themselves. 

I mean, I quote everyone, including the current police commissioner, Ray Kelly, as saying that this was a violation of the protocols. No one else had ever asked them.

JJ: You’re kind of shifting, well, you’re very much shifting the memory, the public’s and the media’s memory, of a significant event. What kinds of responses are you getting from reporters, in particular, to this book?

WB: You know, the book is five years after the event. And it’s not just a focus on this kind of a mistake. Most of the book is really about the lead-up to 9/11, and all the mistakes that were made. And I think there’s a very receptive media audience to it in New York. 

Nationally, there hasn’t been much of an audience for it yet. You know, the myth still is driving much of the anniversary spin about this event. As Giuliani emerges, more and more in time, as a presidential candidate, the national media may be more receptive to looking at the true facts, of not only what happened that day, but the failure to prepare for any form of a terrorist attack, that characterized the Giuliani administration for seven and a half years prior to 9/11.

JJ: Let me just ask you, finally, if you could characterize—media have had some time to cover follow-up, particularly here in New York, the environmental cleanup; it’s not like the story of September 11 is just what happened on that day. Do you feel that media are up to the task of really doing the first draft of history on this?

Wayne Barrett: “All of the media coverage in the aftermath of 9/11 stressed how Giuliani was the king of Ground Zero, that he ran it from top to bottom. That was at a time when everyone thought it was going so smoothly.” (cc photo: David Shankbone)

WB: There seems to be a fixation about the EPA and Christie Whitman and their role, which was certainly a culpable role, in the toxic aftermath of 9/11. But our book focuses very squarely on what we think is by far the more responsible party, and that is the city of New York. 

Again, it’s ironic, because all of the media coverage in the aftermath of 9/11 stressed how Giuliani was the king of Ground Zero, that he ran it from top to bottom. That was at a time when everyone thought it was going so smoothly, that they were getting rid of the debris, they were clearing the site so fast. 

Now, when everyone understands that this was a toxic nightmare, and an unnecessary toxic nightmare, especially after the first week or two, when it was clear that no rescues could be done—now no one seems to be saying, Giuliani was running that toxic nightmare, wasn’t he? Well, we certainly make the case that he was, that he made all the critical decisions. 

Just as an example, we cite a letter on October 5, that the EPA wrote the city’s health department, saying, Nobody’s wearing a respirator down there. There are no cleanup stations for anybody to get rid of the toxins as they leave. This letter was completely ignored by the city. The city did nothing about it. Christie Whitman, whose agency is certainly responsible for misrepresenting the condition of the air generally there, although the city did its own tests, tests that were never made public , that we reveal in the book, 87 test results, most of them positive, that were never released, and never put up on any website or anything by the city. Christie Whitman actually once saw on CNN, in the dead of night, that none of the firefighters and none of the construction workers were wearing respirators, and got on the phone herself calling city agencies. 

So Giuliani was running Ground Zero. And the toxic aftermath, it continues in the courts, will haunt his presidential prospects, because these suits are going forward, and the city’s culpability is becoming clearer every day in federal courts, not just involving the workers at Ground Zero, but the thousands of people who live down there, and Giuliani essentially said, “Clean your own apartments.”

JJ: That was reporter Wayne Barrett, speaking with CounterSpin in September 2006. Known as the first reporter to take Donald Trump seriously, describing him in 1979 as “a user of other users,” Barrett died the day before Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.


Sailor Who Killed Two and Himself at Pearl Harbor Identified

TruthDig.com News -

HONOLULU — A Navy sailor shot three civilians, killing two of them, before taking his own life at Pearl Harbor just days before thousands were scheduled to gather at the storied military base to mark the 78th anniversary of the Japanese bombing that launched the U.S. into World War II.

Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, the commander of Navy Region Hawaii, said the service would evaluate whether security should be upgraded before the annual ceremony. About a dozen survivors of the 1941 bombing were expected to attend, along with dignitaries and service members.

The shooter was identified Thursday as 22-year-old G. Romero, according to a military official who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details that had not been made public.

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Chadwick said he didn’t know the motive behind Wednesday’s shooting at the naval shipyard within the base. The third victim was hospitalized.

It wasn’t known if the sailor and the three male civilians had any type of relationship, or what the motive was for the shooting, Chadwick said.

“We have no indication yet whether they were targeted or if it was a random shooting,” Chadwick said.

The sailor was assigned to the fast attack submarine USS Columbia, which is at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for maintenance.

He was identified as a 22-year-old enlisted sailor, according to a military official speaking on condition of anonymity to provide details that hadn’t been made public

It wasn’t immediately known what type of weapon was used or how many shots were fired. Chadwick said that was part of the investigation. Personal weapons are not allowed on base.

Names of the victims will not be released until next of kin have been notified.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the victims and everyone involved. I can say that we are mobilizing support services for naval shipyard personnel as well as everyone else who may be affected by this tragic event,” Chadwick said.

The base went into lockdown at about 2:30 p.m. when the first active shooter reports were received. The base reopened a few hours later. Witnesses were still being interviewed hours after the shooting.

The shipyard repairs, maintains and modernizes the ships and submarines of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which is headquartered at Pearl Harbor. The base is the home port for 10 destroyers and 15 submarines. It also hosts Air Force units.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the White House has offered assistance from federal agencies and that the state is also ready to help if needed.

“I join in solidarity with the people of Hawaii as we express our heartbreak over this tragedy and concern for those affected by the shooting,” Ige said in a statement.

Mass shootings and gun violence are rare in Hawaii. In 1999, a Xerox service technician fatally shot seven coworkers. In 2006, a man fatally shot his taxi driver and a couple taking photos of the city lights from a lookout point in the hills above Honolulu.

Hawaii had the lowest gun death rate among the states in 2017, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The islands have strict firearms laws, including a ban on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.

The shipyard is across the harbor from the wreckage of USS Arizona, which sank in the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack. It’s also across from the visitors center, which will host Saturday’s ceremony. More than 2,300 Americans were killed in the bombing.

The shipyard has played a key role in naval history, most notably during World War II. Shipyard workers were given just days to repair the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier severely damaged during the Battle of the Coral Seat in 1942, because the Navy needed to quickly send the ship to Midway to meet Japanese forces there.

Some 1,400 shipyard workers labored around the clock for almost 72 hours to patch the carrier together. The planes the Yorktown delivered to Midway sank one of the four aircraft carriers Japan sent to the battle and helped destroy two others. The Battle of Midway turned the tide of the war in the United States’ favor.


Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, Jennifer Sinco Kelleher in Honolulu and Mark Thiessen and Rachel D’Oro in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.

The post Sailor Who Killed Two and Himself at Pearl Harbor Identified appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Who’s Really Behind a $1 Million Donation to Trump’s Inauguration?

Mother Jones Magazine -

The Justice Department on Tuesday announced it had indicted eight men for conspiring to illegally funnel $3.5 million to political committees supporting Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid. Prosecutors say the money came from George Nader—a businessman who was was recently charged with trafficking a child for sexual purposes. Nader was a key figure in the Trump-Russia scandal. According to special counsel Robert Mueller, he helped arrange meetings between Trump advisers and Russian emissaries. But this week’s indictment leaves a key question unanswered: Was Nader also the source of a $1 million donation from one of the defendants to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee?

According to the indictment, Nader conspired with Andy Khawaja, the CEO of an embattled online payment processing company, in a plot to provide massive campaign donations to Democratic groups. Khawaja allegedly made the contributions in his own name and through his wife and his company, and was then reimbursed by Nader. Six Khawaja associates were also charged with acting as straw donors as part of the scheme. It’s illegal to make political campaign donations in someone else’s name. Such charges are among the 53 counts in Tuesday’s indictment.

While arranging the payments to Democratic groups, Nader “reported to an official from a foreign government about his efforts to gain influence,” prosecutors said in a statement Tuesday. They didn’t name that government. According to the Mueller report, Nader “worked for the United Arab Emirates royal court” in 2016. The report described Nader’s efforts during the presidential transition period to help the UAE set up meetings between the Trump team and Russia.

But prosecutors said conspicuously little Tuesday about a $1 million donation that Khawaja’s company, Allied Wallet, gave to Trump’s inaugural committee. According to emails obtained by Mother Jones, Khawaja brought Nader as his guest to the inauguration. In a form apparently sent to the inaugural committee, Khawaja described Nader as an “advisor” to Allied Wallet.

In interviews and electronic messages prior to his indictment, Khawaja denied that Nader was his guest at the inauguration or an adviser to Allied Wallet. Any email suggesting this, he said, “is inaccurate. It’s bullshit. It’s fabricated.”

Tuesday’s indictment contradicted this denial, alleging that Nader had indeed attended the inauguration as Khawaja’s guest. Prosecutors also charged Khawaja with obstructing the investigation, in part by allegedly giving a witness false information in an attempt to downplay Nader’s ties to Allied Wallet.

The indictment, however, did not address an obvious question: Did Nader put up the $1 million that Allied Wallet gave Trump?

Khawaja says Nader had nothing to do with it. “Nader did not give me money for [the] inauguration,” he told Mother Jones Thursday. He also disputed the charges in the indictment. “Nader never gave me any money to give to [Hillary Clinton],” he said, asserting that Nader had instead simply done business with his company.

“Nader was a Trump supporter and never cared about Hillary or her campaign,” said Khawaja. “This is a hit job to make Democrats look bad.”

Lawyers for Nader did not respond to requests for comment.

The charges paint a picture of an effort by Nader to gain influence with Clinton’s supporters, and to hedge his bets by cultivating Trump’s team—all while reporting back to unnamed foreign masters. According to the indictment, in a July 19, 2016, WhatsApp message to an unidentified foreign official, Nader said he was “developing a steady, consistent and constructive relationship with both camps!” After Trump’s electoral victory, Nader appears to have hustled to ingratiate himself with the incoming administration. His attendance at the inauguration came as part of an effort in which he developed relationships with Steve Bannon, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy, and Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. 

The indictment also detailed WhatsApp messages in which Khawaja and Nader allegedly discussed plans for Nader to reimburse Khawaja for his donations, in part through allegedly fake invoices Khawaja sent Nader. Using what prosecutors say was a code, the men referred to funds as “baklava” and to Clinton as “sister.” These messages included hints that Nader may have been obtaining the funds from another source. When Khawaja pressed Nader in early July 2016 about the status of a reimbursement, Nader responded, “I shall pursue it vigorously!” Nader also told Khawaja that he was conferring with someone he called “HH.” In an August 4, 2016, message, for example, Nader told Khawaja he had met with “HH” and “as soon as we get back to [foreign city] prepare something with bakery for the upcoming event.” Nader told Khawaja that in this meeting, he “stressed important and unique role you are playing.”

“HH” was not identified in the indictment. According to the Mueller report and other public sources, Nader in 2016 was in direct contact with Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the effective ruler of the UAE. Bin Zayed, known as MBZ, is referred to by many Emirates as “High Highness.” Press officials at the Emirati embassy in Washington, DC, did not respond to questions about whether the UAE is the unidentified foreign government referenced in the indictment. 

Khawaja’s indictment makes him the second major Trump inaugural donor to be charged with illegally funneling earlier political donations to Democrats. In October, Imaad Zuberi, a California businessman who gave $900,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, agreed to plead guilty in connection with a nearly 10-year scheme in which he solicited money from foreign people and firms to donate to US political campaigns on the foreigners’ behalf. As with Khawaja, prosecutors have not said if they are investigating whether the funds Zuberi gave to the inaugural committee came from another source. Zuberi told Mother Jones last year that his inaugural donation came from his own pocket.

Even if prosecutors were able to identify straw donations to Trump’s inaugural committee, they might face significant hurdles in bringing a criminal case. That’s because fundraising for presidential inaugurations is “not regulated as strictly as funds raised to influence the election itself,” says Paul Ryan, a campaign finance expert with Common Cause. In particular, the statute that prohibits making a contribution in the name of another person to a political campaign does not apply to inaugural committees. Thirteen of the charges in Tuesday’s indictment relate to violations of that law.

Peter Carr, a spokesperson for the Justice Department’s criminal division, which announced the indictment against Khawaja and Nader, declined to comment when asked about possible investigations related to the inaugural committee.

The charges against Khawaja and Nader come amid other legal problems for both men. Nader, who was convicted in the Czech Republic in 2003 of sexually abusing minors, was arrested in June in New York. He remains jailed on charges that include child pornography and transporting a 14-year-old child for sexual activity. On Monday, six attorneys representing Nader in that case filed motions to withdraw as his counsel. It’s not clear if their withdrawal has anything to do with the new campaign finance allegations. 

In May, Khawaja and his firm agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission $110 million to settle charges that the company knowingly processed payments for online firms—including sketchy debt collection and pornography outfits—that were engaged in fraud. Khawaja also faces an ongoing federal criminal investigation into his company’s conduct, according to people with knowledge of the probe. That investigation is apparently separate from the campaign finance case. Khawaja, who did not respond to questions about this probe, told Mother Jones in October that he had retained a high-powered legal team that includes former FBI director Louis Freeh and two former lawyers for OJ Simpson: Robert Shapiro and Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz, a prominent defender of Trump, said Tuesday that he cannot comment on who he represents. Freeh and Shapiro did not respond to inquires.

Khawaja has said he has been traveling abroad for the past few months. In message sent Thursday, he said that he is in China but plans to return to the US to “deal with these fake accusations.” In a phone call in October, speaking from what he said was Tokyo, he was defiant. He argued that the allegations against him were manufactured by unnamed Republican operatives worried about his support for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Khawaja said his lawyers will “come down on” his critics “like the hand of God.”

“Tell them Andy is not gonna stop supporting Democrats,” he said. “He’s not gonna stop supporting Joe Biden. And let them go fuck themselves.”

Bernie Sanders Pulls Ahead in Crucial Primary

TruthDig.com News -

new poll released Thursday found that Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading the 2020 Democratic presidential field in California—but you wouldn’t have known it by reading the Los Angeles Times’ original headline on the survey, which mentioned Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, but not the senator from Vermont.

“Warren and Biden lose ground in California’s shifting 2020 Democratic race,” read the newspaper’s initial headline which, in the face of backlash, was later changed to, “Warren and Biden lose ground, Sanders moves ahead in California’s shifting 2020 Democratic race.”

While the Times changed its headline, it did not alter the body of the story, which doesn’t mention Sanders until the third paragraph.

“The Democratic presidential contest in California remains extremely fluid—but not enough, at least so far, to provide an opening for Michael Bloomberg,” reads the story’s lede paragraph.

The poll, conducted for the Times by the U.C. Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, found that Sanders is leading the California presidential primary race at 24% support and has gained 5% since September.

Warren polled in second place at 22% (down 7% since September), Biden in third at 14% (down 6% since September), and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg in fourth at 12% (up 6% since September). The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 4%.

Here are the results of this poll:

Sanders 24%
Warren 22%
Biden 14%
Buttigieg 12%

Now look at the headline.

It takes the LA Times three paragraphs to mention who is leading.https://t.co/f6J9JFEsZa pic.twitter.com/gi1hw0KN8M

— Ari Rabin-Havt (@AriRabinHavt) December 5, 2019

“The person who gained ground is not allowed to be in the headline,” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, tweeted in response to the Times original headline.

Despite Sanders’ jump since September, the Times framed the survey solely around Warren and Biden’s fall.

“That erosion has benefited Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who narrowly tops the primary field,” the Times reported.

The new survey, the Times noted, also found that Sanders is leading 2020 Democratic field in California “on three other attributes—being the candidate who would bring the right kind of change to Washington (28%), the one who comes closest to sharing voters’ values (27%) and the candidate who best understands the problems of ‘people like you’ (28%).”

The newspaper’s treatment of Sanders on this poll was for many observers just the latest example of a trend by many mainstream outlets of ignoring, sidelining, or otherwise downplaying the Sanders presidential campaign—a phenomenon some refer to as the #BernieBlackout.

The post Bernie Sanders Pulls Ahead in Crucial Primary appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Mass Strikes in France Shut Eiffel Tower, Trigger Clashes

TruthDig.com News -

PARIS — The Eiffel Tower shut down, France’s high-speed trains stood still and tens of thousands of people marched through Paris and other cities Thursday in a massive and sometimes chaotic outpouring of anger at the government’s plan to overhaul the retirement system.

Small groups of masked activists smashed store windows, set fires and hurled flares on the sidelines of the otherwise peaceful Paris march, prompting volleys of tear gas from police in body armor.

Unions launched the open-ended, nationwide strikes Thursday over President Emmanuel Macron’s centerpiece reform in the biggest challenge to the centrist leader since the yellow vest movement against economic inequality erupted a year ago.

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Opponents fear the changes to how and when workers can retire will threaten the hard-fought French way of life. Macron himself remained “calm and determined” to push it through, according to a top presidential official.

The Louvre Museum warned of strike disruptions, and subway stations across Paris shut their gates. Many visitors — including the U.S. energy secretary — canceled plans to travel to one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations.

Tourists discovered historic train stations standing empty, with about nine out of 10 of high-speed TGV trains canceled. Signs at Paris’ Orly Airport showed “canceled” notices, with authorities saying 20% of flights were grounded.

Some travelers showed support for the striking workers. Others complained about being embroiled in someone else’s fight.

“I had no idea about the strike happening, and I was waiting for two hours in the airport for the train to arrive and it didn’t arrive,” said vacationer Ian Crossen, from New York. “I feel a little bit frustrated. And I’ve spent a lot of money. I’ve spent money I didn’t need to, apparently.”

Vladimir Madeira, a Chilean tourist vacationing in Paris, said the strike has been “a nightmare.” He hadn’t heard about the protest until he arrived, and transportation disruptions foiled his plans to travel to Zurich.

Beneath the closed Eiffel Tower, tourists from Thailand, Canada and Spain echoed those sentiments.

Paris authorities barricaded the presidential palace and deployed 6,000 police officers as activists — many in yellow vests — gathered around the Gare de l’Est train station for the march.

Police ordered all businesses, cafes and restaurants in the area to close. Authorities banned protests in the more sensitive neighborhoods around the Champs-Elysees avenue, the presidential palace, Parliament and Notre Dame Cathedral.

Police carried out security checks of more than 9,000 people arriving for the demonstration and detained 71 even before it started. Embassies warned tourists to avoid the protest area.

The mood was impassioned in the crowd as it moved toward the Republique Plaza, with protesters waving red flares in the gray sky at the head of the crowd.

Health workers showed up to decry conditions in hospitals. Students pointed to recent student suicides and demanded government action. Environmentalists emphasized that climate justice and social justice are one and the same.

And young and old roundly condemned the new retirement plan, which they fear would take money out of their pockets and reduce the period of relaxation the French expect in the last decades of their lives.

Skirmishes broke out between police firing tear gas and protesters throwing flares at a protest in the western French city of Nantes, and thousands of red-vested union activists marched through cities from Marseille on the Mediterranean to Lille in the north.

Lacking public transportation, commuters used shared bikes or electric scooters despite near-freezing temperatures. Many people in the Paris region worked from home or took a day off to stay with their children, since 78% of teachers in the capital were on strike.

The big question is how long the strike will last. Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said she expects the travel troubles to be just as bad on Friday, and unions said they will maintain the Paris subway system strike at least through Monday.

Joseph Kakou, who works an overnight security shift in western Paris, walked an hour to get to his home on the eastern side of town.

“It doesn’t please us to walk. It doesn’t please us to have to strike,” he said. “But we are obliged to, because we can’t work until 90 years old.”

The deeply unpopular Macron is expected to reveal the details of his retirement reform plan next week. The government has promised not to touch the official retirement age — 62, though earlier for certain physically demanding professions — but the plan will encourage some people to work longer.

To Macron, the retirement reform is central to his plan to transform France so it can compete globally in the 21st century. The government argues France’s 42 retirement systems need streamlining.

While Macron respects the right to strike, he “is convinced that the reform is needed, he is committed, that’s the project he presented the French in 2017” during his election campaign, the presidential official said. The official was not authorized to be publicly named.


Sylvie Corbet, Alex Turnbull, Nicolas Garriga, Mstyslav Chernov, Francois Mori in Paris contributed to this report.

The post Mass Strikes in France Shut Eiffel Tower, Trigger Clashes appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

“Don’t Mess With Me”: Nancy Pelosi Fires Back at Reporter’s Question After Impeachment Announcement

Mother Jones Magazine -

Don’t say Nancy Pelosi hates the president.

After the Speaker of the House announced the go-ahead for the House to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump Thursday morning, a reporter shouted a question that caught her attention, just as she was about to leave the weekly news conference:

“Do you hate the president?”

She turned around… and fired back. “I don’t hate anybody,” she said, wagging a finger at the reporter. “I was raised in a Catholic house. We don’t hate anybody. Not anybody in the world. So don’t accuse me—.”

The reporter, Sinclair Broadcast Group reporter James Rosen, said that he was following up on Rep. Doug Collins’ (R-Ga.) accusations that the Democrats are pursuing impeachment simply out of contempt for the president. Pelosi rebuffed that notion.

“I think the president is a coward when it comes to helping our kids who are afraid of gun violence,” she said, having strode back to the podium. “I think he is cruel when he doesn’t deal with helping our Dreamers, of which we are very proud. I think he’s in denial about the climate crisis.”

But that, she said, is for the election to decide. “This is about the Constitution of the United States, and the facts that lead to the President’s violation of his oath of office,” she said. “As a Catholic, I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone.”

“I pray for the president all the time,” she concluded. “So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”

President Trump, predictably enough, was quick to tweet:

Nancy Pelosi just had a nervous fit. She hates that we will soon have 182 great new judges and sooo much more. Stock Market and employment records. She says she “prays for the President.” I don’t believe her, not even close. Help the homeless in your district Nancy. USMCA?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2019

Watch the mic drop below:

“Don’t mess with me”: Nancy Pelosi fires back at reporter’s question after impeachment announcement https://t.co/mBVkYR69Vu pic.twitter.com/DUGyGS3OOW

— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) December 5, 2019


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