Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trump Is Openly Looting the Country And There’s No One to Stop Him

by David Atkins May 26, 2018

The corruption scandals emanating from the White House are coming faster than even news junkies can process, much less the general public. Worse, it’s not even hidden. It’s all right out in the open.

Let’s take a quick look. First, Trump has committed to protect a Chinese firm, ZTE, that has been deemed a potential security threat. He is doing this against a fierce bipartisan backlash. Why? Trump and the White House literally won’t say. But the recent Chinese investment of $500 million into a Trump hotel in Indonesia right before Trump’s decision might have something to do with it:

Trump’s tweets, in other words, aren’t picking a side in an internal disagreement about trade policy. At least, they aren’t just doing that. They appear to involve overruling his whole national security team’s assessment of ZTE’s role in the world. And it happened with no explanation, no background briefing, and seemingly no consultation with the relevant officials.

But it also happened the same week a Chinese state-owned company came through with hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, some of which will go to facilitate the construction of Trump-branded properties in Indonesia.

The White House has no other credible explanation. It’s just out in the open.

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency led by oil lobbyist Scott Pruitt has been actively colluding with climate science deniers, even going so far as to speculate internally about whether to simply ignore all climate data in making decisions on behalf of Republican-connected coal and oil firms. Scott Pruitt himself, of course, is a one-man personal corruption racket as well.

Trump’s daughter and son-in-law have inexplicably been granted top-level security clearances despite an open-and-shut case of influence-peddling, bribes and obstruction of justice by Qatari officials on the Trump Organzation’s behalf.

The president’s blatant lies about an FBI informant used to counter Russian meddling and protect the Trump campaign from Putin’s incursions led to no less than two meetings between the Justice Department and various officials yesterday, only for it to be confirmed that nothing untoward took place. Even GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell admitted as much. Nonetheless, Trump continues to pretend he was vindicated, and his TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani is trying to obstruct justice using a ridiculous “fruit of the rotten tree” defense.

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Why China Is Winning the Trade War

By John CassidyMay 23, 2018

In dealing with the U.S. on trade, China’s leadership knows what it wants, has clearly delineated its own red lines, and has studied its opponent closely.Photograph by Nicolas Asfouri / AFP / Getty
An acquaintance of mine, an economist with decades of experience in Washington and on Wall Street, recently visited Beijing, where he met with a top Chinese official. Given how the trade talks between the Trump Administration and Chinese negotiators have unfolded in the past couple of weeks, the meeting turned out to be prophetic.

The Chinese official said he viewed the Trump Presidency not as an aberration but as the product of a failing political system. This jibes with other accounts. The Chinese leadership believes that the United States, and Western democracies in general, haven’t risen to the challenge of a globalized economy, which necessitates big changes in production patterns, as well as major upgrades in education and public infrastructure. In Trump and Trumpism, the Chinese see an inevitable backlash to this failure.

The Chinese official also predicted that his government would show some flexibility in trade talks. Having monitored Trump’s rise closely, the Chinese fully expected a confrontation after he was elected, and they were willing to make some concessions to meet concerns about the huge U.S.-China trade deficit. Indeed, they agree with U.S. analysts who say that the Chinese economy, having experienced three decades of rapid industrialization and massive capital investments, needs to be rebalanced toward domestic consumption.

The official emphasized, however, that the Chinese government was not willing to compromise its other core economic strategy, which involves upgrading its now vast industrial sector, moving up the economic-value chain, and creating a major Chinese presence both in foreign countries and in the industries of the future, such as robotics, biotech, and clean-energy transportation. This policy is encapsulated in the “Made in China 2025” strategy document that China’s State Council released in 2015. To many members of the Trump Administration, particularly Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade representative, and Peter Navarro, a White House economic adviser, this document provides official cover for discrimination against U.S. firms in the Chinese market, the theft of U.S. intellectual property, and the misuse of industrial and antitrust policies to favor Chinese firms.

Finally, the Chinese official expressed frustration that U.S. policymakers didn’t spend as much time studying China and its history as the Chinese spent studying the United States. Many senior Chinese officials, particularly the younger ones, speak English and have spent time studying in the West. How many American officials speak Mandarin? the Chinese official asked gently. How many of them could hold a conversation about Chinese literature or film?

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EPA bans CNN, AP from covering summit on chemicals, ‘forcibly’ removes reporter

It's another example of the agency's antagonism towards the press under the Trump administration.

MAY 22, 2018, 12:11 PM

On Tuesday morning, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt greeted a crowed of nearly 200 at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The attendees were there for a national summit on polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances — also known as PFAS, a class of chemicals linked to potentially serious health impacts with long-term exposure.

But absent from the summit’s introductory statement were reporters from several news outlets, including the Associated Press, CNN, and E&E News. One reporter with the Associated Press was allegedly forcibly removed from the EPA headquarters after trying to enter to report on the summit.
 @epa seems open to business, but closed to public and press …
11:02 AM - May 22, 2018
The altercation reportedly occurred after EPA security told the reporter that they could not enter the building to report on the summit. When the reporter asked to speak to a public affairs representative with the EPA, a security guard reportedly “grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building.”


Federal Judge Deals Manafort Another Setback In DC Criminal Case

Talking Points Memo

The federal judge presiding over Paul Manafort’s case in Washington, D.C. dealt him another legal setback Friday by declining to throw out charges brought against him that Manafort alleged were “multiplicitous.”

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had previously dismissed two seperate legal challenges brought by Manafort alleging that special counsel Robert Mueller was acting outside of his authority.

Manafort has been charged with money laundering, false statements and failure to disclose foreign lobbying — stemming from work he did in Ukraine predating his time on Trump’s campaign. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, as well as to the other charges Mueller brought against him in Virginia.

The issue Jackson decided on Friday was whether two of the counts in the D.C. indictment — both having to do with what Manafort told the government about his Ukraine lobbying — were duplicative, since they both dealt with the same set of statements Manafort made to the Department of Justice.

“But the test for multiplicity is not whether two counts are based on the same set of facts; rather, it is whether the statutory elements of the two offenses are the same,” Jackson wrote.

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NYT: Sessions And Kushner ‘Turf War’ Led To Federal Prison Director’s Resignation

Talking Points Memo

The director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons resigned last week over what the New York Times said was his frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House adviser Jared Kushner’s violations of “departmental norms.”

The Times, citing three unnamed people “with knowledge of the situation” said former FBP Director Mark Inch, who left that position after just nine months on the job, also complained of being excluded from major management decisions.

Portraying Sessions and Kushner as two sides of the Republican spectrum on prison policy — Sessions leaning far to the right and Kushner advocating for limited reforms centered on incentivizing rehabilitation post-sentencing — the Times said Inch “tried to navigate a middle course.”

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The White House is hinting it could ramp up sanctions against North Korea

Vox - All

A senior White House official says that the US is “still short” of applying maximum pressure to Pyongyang.

Hours after President Trump canceled his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump’s administration hinted that it might ratchet up sanctions against his country.

A senior White House official told reporters on Thursday that the administration’s goal is to “achieve maximum pressure” on Kim’s government using sanctions, and that “we’re still short of that.”

“It’s like painting the Golden Gate bridge,” the senior administration official said. “It starts peeling as soon as you finish, and so you have to keep a new coat of paint going just to maintain a certain level of pressure.”

The Trump administration has pursued sanctions as a pressure tactic to try to persuade Kim to halt his nuclear weapon and ballistic missile testing. At the United Nations, the US has successfully gotten multiple rounds of harsh sanctions passed, including a resolution in December that makes it harder for North Korea to import fuel and sell food to foreign countries.

It’s possible that additional sanctions — if powerful enough — could anger Kim and make a future summit less likely. And every time tensions between the US and North Korea rise, the likelihood of war breaking out between the two countries rises as well.


Religiously speaking

No matter WHY they say they need a gun, here's how far too many get used - GunFail

Note: Gun nuts can't see the words "Well regulated" and "militia".

News briefs and opinions from FB and Twitter #2

News briefs and opinions from FB and Twitter #1