2019-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2019-04-18 10:57:46 UTC
2019-04-18 12:24:09 UTC
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A FISA warrant was obtained to monitor Trump campaign aide Carter Page before the election:
The FBI obtained a warrant to secretly surveil former Donald Trump aide Carter Page last summer under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), according to a Tuesday Washington Post report.
The FBI and Justice Department demonstrated probable cause that Page is acting on behalf of a foreign state in order to be granted the warrant.
The FISA warrant was part of the FBI's investigation into possible ties between Russia and Trump campaign associates, law enforcement and U.S. officials told the Post.
"This confirms all of my suspicions about unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance," Page told the Post Tuesday. "I have nothing to hide."
Page has not been accused of committing a crime.
Also at MarketWatch.
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
Former President Barack Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice ordered U.S. spy agencies to produce "detailed spreadsheets" of legal phone calls involving Donald Trump and his aides when he was running for president, according to former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova.
"What was produced by the intelligence community at the request of Ms. Rice were detailed spreadsheets of intercepted phone calls with unmasked Trump associates in perfectly legal conversations with individuals," diGenova told The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group Monday.
[...] Other official sources with direct knowledge and who requested anonymity confirmed to TheDCNF diGenova's description of surveillance reports Rice ordered one year before the 2016 presidential election.
Common Dreams reports
The Trump administration's anti-science bent has reached the Department of Justice (DOJ), with Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying [April 10] that the department is ending the National Commission on Forensic Science.
The 30-member panel was described by ThinkProgress as "a group of scientists, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other experts tasked by the Obama administration in 2013 with raising standards for the use of forensic evidence in criminal proceedings".
In its place, a senior forensic advisor will be appointed "to interface with forensic science stakeholders and advise department leadership", Sessions' statement said.
[...] "The reliance of law enforcement on questionable science and the overstatement of the reliability of that science has been a leading cause of the wrongful conviction of innocent people", said National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) president Barry Pollack on Monday. "The reason the National Commission on Forensic Science has been so important is that it includes leading independent scientists, allowing an unbiased expert evaluation of which techniques are scientifically valid and which are not. NACDL is terribly disappointed that even while acknowledging the crucial role played by the National Commission on Forensic Science, the Attorney General has chosen to disband it."
The Center for American Progress reports
After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) decision to prevent a president of the opposite party from nominating anyone to the Supreme Court, it's doubtful that any justice will ever be confirmed again when the presidency is controlled by a different party than the Senate. That means America will lurch back and forth between extended periods with a understaffed Supreme Court, followed by massive shifts in the law as one party fills a backlog of vacancies.
[...] Several states have shown that there is a better way [than what, it appears, will happen at the federal level from now on].
The Missouri plan
As America struggled through the Great Depression, Missouri's courts were a den of partisanship and corruption. As former Chief Justice of Missouri Michael Wolff explains, judges were "selected in elections in which nominees were chosen by political parties under a patronage system." In much of the state, judges were selected by a single machine party leader, "Boss" Tom Pendergast. Throughout Missouri, "judges were plagued by outside political influences, and dockets were congested due to the time the judges spent making political appearances and campaigning."
Frustrated with their politicized judiciary, the people of Missouri passed a ballot initiative replacing the state's corrupt process with a non-partisan coalition--at least for the state's top judges.
When a vacancy arises on the state's supreme court, a seven person commission consisting of "three lawyers elected by the lawyers of The Missouri Bar . . . three citizens selected by the governor, and the chief justice" submits three candidates to fill that vacancy to the state's governor. The governor then has 60 days to choose among those three names. If the governor fails to meet this deadline, the commission selects one of the three.
Finally, after a year of service, the newly appointed judge must survive a retention election, where a majority of the electorate can cast them out of office--though this only happens rarely.
This method of judicial selection, as well as variants upon it, was adopted by many states since its inception in Missouri.
Alabama lawmakers have voted 24-4 to allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a police department. The church has over 4,000 members and is also home to a K-12 school and a theological seminary with 2,000 students and teachers:
"After the shooting at Sandy Hook and in the wake of similar assaults at churches and schools, Briarwood recognized the need to provide qualified first responders to coordinate with local law enforcement," church administrator Matt Moore said in a statement, referring to the mass murder of 20 first graders and six teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut by a deranged man with an AR-15 style rifle just before Christmas 2012. "The sole purpose of this proposed legislation is to provide a safe environment for the church, its members, students and guests." The church would pay the bill for its officers.
[...] "It's our view this would plainly be unconstitutional," Randall Marshall, the ACLU's Acting Executive Director, told NBC News. In a memo to the legislature, Marshall said they believe the bills "violate the First Amendment or the U.S. Constitution and, if enacted, would not survive a legal challenge." "Vesting state police powers in a church police force violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," his memo states. "These bills unnecessarily carve out special programs for religious organizations and inextricably intertwine state authority and power with church operations."
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has resigned after pleading guilty to abusing his office, allegedly to conceal an affair with a political adviser.
[...] The Associated Press describes the scene as the plea agreement was signed:
"Bentley appeared sullen and looked down at the floor during the Monday afternoon session. ...
"The agreement specifies that Bentley must surrender campaign funds totaling $36,912 within a week and perform 100 hours of community service as a physician. He also cannot seek public office again."
The governor, a Republican, was briefly booked into Montgomery jail, according to local media reports, before heading to the state Capitol to announce his resignation.
Republican state Rep. Ed Henry, who had introduced articles of impeachment against Bentley last year, said, "I think we have a great day for Alabama, where justice was done. Corruption was spotted, recognized and dealt with. ... even though it was slower and little more painful than we had anticipated."
Submitted via IRC for Runaway1956
Rightwing computer scientist and hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer was the top donor to Donald Trump's presidential campaign. He contributed $13.5 million and laid the groundwork for what is now called the Trump Revolution. Mercer also funded Cambridge Analytica (CA), a small data analytics company that specializes in "election management strategies." CA boasts on its website that it has psychological profiles, based on 5,000 separate pieces of data, on 220 million American voters. CA scoops up masses of data from peoples' Facebook profiles and uses artificial intelligence to influence their thinking and manipulate public opinion. They used these skills to exploit America's populist insurgency and tip the election toward Trump.
[...] We enter and participate in this digital world every day, on our laptops and our smartphones. We are living in a new era of propaganda, one we can't see, with the collection and use of our data played back in ways to covertly manipulate us. All this is enabled by technological platforms originally built to bring us together. Welcome to the age of platform capitalism—the new battleground for the future.
Previously on SoylentNews: Do Advertisers Know You Better Than You Know Yourself?
MOSCOW — If Russia once maintained at least a semblance of distance from President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, it rushed to his defense after the American missile strike ordered by President Trump on Thursday. The attack cemented Moscow more closely than ever to the notorious Syrian autocrat.
Even as the United States condemned Mr. Assad for gassing his own citizens and held Russia partly responsible, given its 2013 promise to rid Syria of chemical weapons, the Kremlin kept denying that Syria had any such capability.
By championing Mr. Assad and condemning American "aggression," President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia seemed to be burying the idea that he could somehow cooperate with the Trump administration to end the conflict on his terms.
"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." Attributed to Abraham Maslow.
What is “lunch shaming?” It happens when a child can’t pay a school lunch bill.
In Alabama, a child short on funds was stamped on the arm with “I Need Lunch Money.” In some schools, children are forced to clean cafeteria tables in front of their peers to pay the debt. Other schools require cafeteria workers to take a child’s hot food and throw it in the trash if he doesn’t have the money to pay for it.
In what its supporters say is the first such legislation in the country, New Mexico has outlawed shaming children whose parents are behind on school lunch payments.
Source: The New York Times
Following reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, President Trump authorized the launch of Tomahawk cruise missiles against a base in Syria. The Russian government was notified prior to the launch as they have resources in the area that was attacked.
According to NBC News:
The United States launched dozens of cruise missiles Thursday night at a Syrian airfield in response to what it believes was Syria's use of banned chemical weapons that killed at least 100 people, U.S. military officials told NBC News.
Two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea fired 59 Tomahawk missiles intended for a single target — Ash Sha'irat in Homs province in western Syria, the officials said. That's the airfield from which the United States believes the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired the banned weapons.
There was no immediate word on casualties. U.S. officials told NBC News that people were not targeted and that aircraft and infrastructure at the site were hit, including the runway and gas fuel pumps.
Also at Al Jazeera:
The United States has launched 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Syrian government targets in retaliation for what the Trump administration charges was a Syrian government chemical weapons attack that killed scores of civilians, a US official says.
The targets hit from US ships in the Mediterranean Sea included the air base in the central city of Homs from which the Syrian aircraft staged Tuesday's chemical weapons attack, the US official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
[...] He [Trump] called on "civilised nations" to join US in "seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria".
Syrian state TV said "American aggression targets Syrian military targets with a number of missiles".
The poison gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on Tuesday killed at least 86 people, including 27 children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Turkey said samples from victims of Tuesday's attack indicate they were exposed to sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent.
The New York Times adds:
The Pentagon informed Russian military officials, through its established deconfliction channel, of the strike before the launching of the missiles, the official said, with American officials knowing when they did that that Russian authorities may well have alerted the Assad regime. "With a lot of Tomahawks flying, we didn't want to hit any Russian planes," he said.
[...] It was Mr. Trump's first order to the military for the use of force — other operations in Syria, Yemen and Iraq had been carried out under authorization delegated to his commanders — and appeared intended to send a message to North Korea, Iran and other potential adversaries that the new commander in chief was prepared to act, and sometimes on short notice.
The airstrikes were carried out less than an hour after the president concluded a dinner with Xi Jinping, the president of China, at Mar-a-Lago, sending an unmistakably aggressive signal about Mr. Trump's willingness to use the military power at his disposal.
Mr. Trump authorized the strike with no congressional approval for the use of force, an assertion of presidential authority that contrasts sharply with the protracted deliberations over the use of force by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
[...] Mr. Trump moved with remarkable speed, delivering the punishing military strike barely 72 hours after the devastating chemical attack that killed 80 people this week.
Wikipedia notes: Use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war .
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has reportedly offered to testify about President Trump's campaign and Russia:
President Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has reportedly told the FBI that he is willing to testify about the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russia, in exchange for immunity from prosecution, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Flynn resigned in February, after it was reported that he misled White House staff on his interactions with Russia and had discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak ahead of President Trump's inauguration. The Journal reported, citing officials familiar with the matter, that the FBI and the House and Senate Intelligence committees that are investigating Russia's attempts to interfere in the U.S. election have not taken his lawyers up on the offer.
Flynn's lawyer said in a statement that "General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit."
[...] In September, criticizing Hillary Clinton over former aides being given immunity deals as part of an investigation into her private email server, Flynn said, "When you're given immunity that means you've probably committed a crime."