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Archive for October 2017

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The Trump Era

How Trump’s Election has helped Women in Ways They Don’t Even Realize

October 17th 2017


The case of Harvey Weinstein raises a number of issues that need to be discussed in public, but in a way that challenges the current media display of piling on while the subject is being beaten.  Deservedly, the co-founder of Miramax Films and The Weinstein Company, is getting his just desserts, so to speak.  His methods of cuing female actors, dangling success in front of them through sexual favors, even alleged rape, are repugnant for any time in human history, and they should have been called out long ago.  However, this piling on, adding more victims every day – now – seems so directed and predictable.

Was Harvey Weinstein’s misogynistic behavior just discovered now?  Hardly!

Mega star and well respected humanitarian Angelina Jolie came out last week saying, “I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did… This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”  Gwyneth Paltrow also revealed that in 1994 she was also sexually harassed by Weinstein. Read more ..

The Caliphate

Raqqa Liberated From ISIS, Commander With US-Backed Syrian Forces Says

October 17th 2017


The Syrian city of Raqqa was liberated from ISIS fighters Tuesday, a commander with U.S.-backed Syrian forces said, announcing the "fall of the capital of terrorism."

The loss deprived the terror group of the capital of its so-called caliphate, which has dwindled from a land mass spanning two countries to a sliver of space in Syria.

The last group of Islamic State militants had been holed up Tuesday in a stadium in the Syrian city of Raqqa, their last stand as U.S. backed, Kurdish-led forces closed in around them.

Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo told The Associated Press on Tuesday there were no longer clashes going on in the city, and that a formal declaration would follow befitting "the fall of the capital of terrorism." Read more ..

North Korea's Nukes

North Korea Warns That Nuclear War Could ‘Break Out Any Moment’

October 17th 2017

NK Military Parade Apr 2012

North Korea warned that a nuclear war “may break out any moment” as the U.S. and South Korea began one of the largest joint naval drills off both the east and west coasts of the peninsula.

Kim In Ryong, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said on Monday that his nation had become a “full-fledged nuclear power which possesses the delivery means of various ranges” and warned that “the entire U.S. mainland is within our firing range.” He also called North Korea “a responsible nuclear state.”

“As long as one does not take part in the U.S. military actions against the DPRK, we have no intention to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any other country,” Kim said, referring to his country’s formal name. Read more ..

Series Review

When Good TV Goes Bad: How House of Cards Tumbled

October 17th 2017

Capitol Building at night

When House of Cards first premiered on Netflix in 2013, the biggest story in American politics was that nothing was happening – that Congress, gridlocked over the budget of President Obama, was stuck in a frustrating state of paralysis. By comparison, the show was a parallel universe in which Washington, so mundane in reality, became the domain of snakes and raptors, of machiavellian masterminds epitomised by Democratic congressman Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), the house majority whip with ambitions of absolute power. Moodily lit and beautifully shot, it was still always considerably trashier than it looked, but none the worse for it, full of ridiculous dialogue and knowing hyperbole. But not since The West Wing had politics looked so possible, politicians so impressively full of agency. In the words of Obama himself: “Man, this guy’s getting a lot of stuff done.”

House of Cards has always thrived upon topicality. Its third, Russia-centric series riffed upon the homophobic policies of Vladimir Putin; its fourth gave Frank a scandal involving the KKK. Season five had him calling for a travel ban, and also saw his wife, Robin Wright’s Claire, attain power – obviously banking on a Hillary Clinton administration. But yes: in recent years, its outrageous portrayal of American politics doesn’t seem so outrageous any more.


After the Election

Trump Dossier Firm Refuses to Speak to Congress

October 17th 2017

File Folders

In a letter to the House Intelligence Committee on Monday, an opposition research firm behind an infamous dossier about then-candidate Donald Trump said it refuses to comply with subpoenas for testimony and documents that were issued earlier this month by the committee. Compiled by a former British intelligence operative for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, it discusses supposed Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The unproven dossier has been embraced by progressives to appoint an independent commission to investigate President Donald Trump’s ties with Russian officials. President Trump has denounced the dossier as "fake news" and "phony."

According to the testimony in July of William Browder to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and other reports, Fusion GPS was hired by Russians to defend Russian government officials from allegations of fraud. Fusion GPS was also employed by Russians to fight against the Magnitsky Act and has worked on issues with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, whose meeting with Donald Trump Jr. during the campaign has also come under scrutiny. Fusion GPS has ties to the Democratic party and Democrats, and was retained by Planned Parenthood.  Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Trump's Critics on Iran Are Wrong

October 17th 2017

Iranian clerics

On Friday, President Trump announced he will not certify Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal signed by his predecessor. I'm sure most of us spent the weekend inundated with thought pieces declaring this a major misstep or some kind of politically motivated gambit that plays fast and loose with global security. But they're all wrong. With this bold action, we're finally on the path toward a safer Middle East.

Iran remains an immense threat to the United States and our allies, and decertification is a serious first step towards mitigating the harm Tehran is causing around the globe. Today's less covered announcement by the Treasury Department that it would apply further sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is an important second step.


The Edge of Terrorism

German Intelligence: Hizballah Fighters Posing As Refugees

October 17th 2017


Hizballah terrorists are exploiting Germany's refugee policy and entered the country as part of the recent wave of Middle East migrants, according to the Jerusalem Post's review of a German intelligence report released this month.

"Since mid-2015 there are increased indications of fighters from Shi'ite militias entering Germany as legal refugees," the report says, and "roughly 50% [of the fighters] show a direct connection to Hezbollah."

A growing number of Hizballah operatives are settling in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, the report says. The region hosts the Imam-Mahdi Center – a traditional hub for Hizballah operatives. The report also cites a growing and open Hamas presence in North Rhine-Westphalia, despite Germany's terrorist designation of the Palestinian organization, where Hamas supporters exploit Germany to "collect funds" and "recruit new members to spread their propaganda." Read more ..

Inside Washington

The Drug Industry’s Triumph over the DEA

October 16th 2017


In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.

By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight.

A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.


The War Against Anti-Semitism

Austrian Students Reject 'Antisemitic' Boycott Israel Campaign

October 15th 2017

Boycott Israel

The Austrian National Union of Students passed on Friday a motion against BDS, saying that the boycott movement targeting Israel is antisemitic, and that its demands recall the Nazis’ economic war against Jewish businesses.
It is believed to be the first time an Austrian national student union has passed such a resolution.

The Austrian Jewish students group announced on its Facebook page: “We are very happy to announce that the Austrian Students Union is the first national student union to officially pass a resolution denouncing BDS and also passing a version of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – IHRA definition of antisemitism. The resolution states BDS to be an antisemitic campaign and calls not to give it any space or supporting funds.

“This has been a big step in the fight against antisemitism, and we are very happy that after our lobbying effort almost all factions have supported the motion. Read more ..

Hollywood on Edge

Fifth Weinstein Company Board Member Resigns, Leaving Three Remaining

October 15th 2017


The Weinstein Company is down to three board members, as Richard Koenigsberg today became the fifth to resign in the wake of the ongoing scandal involving company co-founder Harvey Weinstein.

Koenigsberg, an independent board member and one-time accountant to Harvey and Bob Weinstein, was reported to have resigned by the New York Times. That leaves co-founder Bob Weinstein, Tarak Ben Ammar, and Lance Maerov left on the company board, as rumors of sales and/or shut-downs swirl.

The departure by Koenigsberg follows the resignations of Tim Sarnoff, Paul Tudor Jones, billionaire Dirk Ziff and Marc Lasry.

Creatives and outlets have been galloping away from TWC since the October 5 New York Times piece on October 5 into Harvey Weinstein’s many sexual harassing actions and their resulting settlements. Since then, other women have come forward, former TWC partners have backed away, and law enforcement officials have allegedly started investigations into potential criminal complaints.

After the Vote

Pennsylvania Secstate Mysteriously Resigns After Revelation Of Non-Citizen Voters

October 14th 2017

Vote Buttons

A native of Puerto Rico, Pedro A. Cortes, Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, abruptly resigned on Wednesday, just three weeks after his office came under fire for allowing thousands of ineligible immigrants across the state to vote. The announcement of his departure came in a “personnel update” from Gov. Tom Wolf (D) that did not specify the reasons for the resignation. Cortes also served as secretary of state from 2003 to 2010 under Gov. Ed Rendell (D).

A spokesman for the governor, J.J. Abbott, told the media that he had no explanation for the resignation. Cortes served as the state’s top election official. 

Last week State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R), who chairs the House State Government Committee, joined 15 of his colleagues in a letter “to express our dire concerns” about the disclosure last month that legal resident noncitizens in Pennsylvania had been allowed to register as voters when applying for or renewing drivers’ licenses at PennDot service centers. Read more ..

After the Election

FBI Finds New Documents on Clinton-Lynch Tarmac Meeting

October 14th 2017

Hilary Clinton

According to Judicial Watch, a Washington DC-based transparency advocate, the FBI has found 30 pages of documents concerning the June 27, 2016 meeting conducted by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport. When the meeting was first revealed, during the midst of the 2016 presidential race, Lynch claimed that they discussed their respective grandchildren and other matters not related to an FBI investigation into whether Hillary Clinton had revealed classified information when using a non-secure email server while working as Barack Obama’s secretary of state.

Last October, the FBI claimed that it did not have any records related to the tarmac meeting. However, the Justice Department revealed in response to a separate lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch that some of its officials had been in contact with FBI officials about the Clinton-Lynch encounter. In August, DOJ released emails showing that officials exchanged emails with the FBI about the tarmac meeting. In a July 1, 2016, email, Caroline Pokomy of DOJ told her colleagues that the “FBI is asking for guidance” arising from the controversy that ensued over the Clinton-Lynch meeting. 

Once those documents were released, the FBI then acknowledged that it did have some records related to the meeting. The FBI told Judicial Watch that, “Upon further review, we subsequently determined potentially responsive documents may exist.” While a statement from Judicial Watch calls the FBI’s new disclosure “stunning,” it is not clear what those documents contain. In a statement, Judicial Watch said, “The FBI is out of control.” Fitton said, “It is stunning that the FBI ‘found’ these Clinton-Lynch tarmac records only after we caught the agency hiding them in another lawsuit.” Read more ..

The Edge of Disaster

Will Italy’s Ominous Supervolcano Erupt Soon?

October 14th 2017

Volcano erupting

Tragedy struck at the Solfatara volcano crater north of Naples a few weeks ago. An 11-year-old boy climbed over a low, wooden fence, ventured onto the chalky moonscape, and fell into an open fissure. His parents frantically tried to pull him out, just as the hollow floor of the crater crumbled, sending them all to their deaths in a gaseous pit of boiling gray mud, as the family’s seven-year-old boy watched in horror. The accident was a freak occurrence, responsible for the only recorded deaths on this crater in centuries. But those hot gases hold an ominous story: Solfatara is part of the massive Phlegrean Fields, a threatening supervolcano experts agree could begin erupting anytime. Read more ..

Historians On Edge

After Michael Marrus Resignation over Race Remark, Massey Masters Are No More

October 13th 2017

U of Toronto Massey College

The recent scuffle at Massey College at U of T with imputations of racism in some ill-considered cracks about “the master” and “the lash” by retired prof — and Holocaust scholar — Michael Marrus, actually joins a long peculiar history at Massey.

When it began in the 1960s, it was a snooty, men-only institution with an anglophile head, novelist Robertson Davies, who revelled in Brit pretensions. It took 10 years and a big fight just to get women in as members. The filthy rich, aristocratic Massey family endowed it, along with Hart House at U of T, also restricted to men for its first, oh, half-century.

Part of the shtick at Massey was the archaic lingo. It was the only part of U of T with a “master.” Davies loved that stuff. My own guess is that Marrus, who I’ve known since high school, wasn’t just making an offensive, tin-eared joke. He also meant to take the piss out of the pretension. His jibe was probably directed mostly at the current master, Hugh Segal, a lifelong Tory, not at the Black student who was present. But everything went shriekingly off the rails. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Paris Plans to Ban all Gas Cars by 2030

October 13th 2017

new cars close up

France’s capital city, the world’s most visited city, according to Reuters, plans to ban all petrol and diesel-fueled vehicles by 2030, officials announced Thursday. 
Paris will encourage commuters who don’t walk, bike or use public transportation to switch to electric cars.

The move is, in part, a pollution-reducing effort.

“This is about planning for the long term with a strategy that will reduce greenhouse gases,” Christophe Najdovski, a transportation policy official for the city of Paris, told France Info radio. “Transport is one of the main greenhouse gas producers ... So we are planning an exit from combustion engine vehicles, or fossil-energy vehicles, by 2030.”

According to the CBC, city officials said it was introducing a “feasible and realistic” goal of phasing out of gas vehicles instead of calling the move a “ban” on such cars. Read more ..

Media on Edge

Jeff Bezos and Workers at The Washington Post.

October 13th 2017

Amazon box

Like most of the industry titans in the world of big tech, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos is no fan of labor unions. Since 1994, he’s fended away every effort by Amazon warehouse workers to unionize.
But when Bezos purchased The Washington Post in 2013, he inherited more than 1,200 workers unionized with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild. That union now claims that Bezos and Washington Post management are trying to gut protections and benefits for workers in the latest contract negotiations.
“Under the Bezos ownership, we fear a fundamental transformation is under way at the Post — one that is occurring in many other workplaces around the country, leading to economic insecurity for working people as though we are disposable or interchangeable elements in a machine,” the union bargaining committee wrote in a memo sent to Post employees on Oct. 6.

Hollywood on Edge

Rose McGowan Claims Harvey Weinstein 'Raped Me' — and She Told Amazon Studios

October 13th 2017

Amazon Box2

On Thursday, Rose McGowan’s access to her Twitter account was restored and she celebrated by firing off a series of angry tweets at people she thinks covered for Harvey Weinstein and accusing the movie mogul of rape.

Addressing all of her tweets to Jeff Bezos  the founder and CEO of Amazon  McGowan wrote, “I told the head of your studio that HW raped me. Over & over I said. He said it hadn’t been proven. I said I was proof.”

In response to the lengthy allegations made against Weinstein, a spokesperson for the movie mogul said, “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.” Read more ..

Iran's Nuke's

Iran's Secret Sites Linked To Nuclear Weapons Development Revealed

October 13th 2017

Iran Nuclear Equipment centrifuges

President Donald Trump is expected this week to “decertify” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known simply as the Iran deal, declaring that the agreement reached in 2015 by the U.S. and five other international powers is not in America’s national interest. The matter will then be tossed back to Congress, which will have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose hefty pre-2015 sanctions.

While the President’s likely move has generated wide condemnation from foreign policy leaders — who reiterate that the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has maintained Iran is in compliance — a new 52-page investigative report by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), entitled: “Iran’s Nuclear Core: Uninspected Military Sites,” obtained exclusively by Fox News and slated for release Wednesday, asserts that the country’s nuclear weapons program has far from halted. Read more ..

UN On Edge


October 12th 2017


The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from Unesco, the United Nations cultural organization, after years of America distancing itself because of what it called the group’s “anti-Israel bias.”

“This decision was not taken lightly,” according to a State Department statement on Thursday. In addition to anti-Israel bias, the department cited “the need for fundamental reform” and “mounting arrears” at the organization.

While the United States withdrew from the group, the Trump administration said it wanted to continue providing American perspective and expertise to Unesco, but as a nonmember observer. The withdrawal goes into effect at the end of 2018. Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization popularly known for its designation of world heritage sites, is a global development agency with missions that include promoting sex education, literacy, clean water and equality for women.


The Digital Age

Smart Phone Cameras Will be Able to See Behind Corners

October 12th 2017

Smart phone

Researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (Cambridge, MA) have developed a system that can let smartphone cameras spot moving objects hidden from view around corners.

The researchers' imaging system uses light reflections to detect - in real time - objects or people in a hidden scene and to measure their speed and trajectory. The system, which could be used with smartphone cameras, holds promise for applications such as self-driving cars and search and rescue, say the researchers.

The system works by analyzing video of the shadow - called a " penumbra" - cast on the ground in the line of sight that is reflected by an object around a corner. Using imaging from the video, the system generates a series of one-dimensional images that - when stitched together - reveal information about the object(s) around the corner.

"Even though those objects aren't actually visible to the camera, we can look at how their movements affect the penumbra to determine where they are and where they're going," says Katherine Bouman, the lead author of a paper about the system. "In this way, we show that walls and other obstructions with edges can be exploited as naturally-occurring 'cameras' that reveal the hidden scenes beyond them."


Iran's Nukes

The Iranian Dictator's Clothes

October 11th 2017


The clock appears to be ticking on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); more than some may think, less than others may hope. Whatever President Donald Trump decides to do with the unsigned, unratified, unagreed-upon text of the untreaty, it should be clear that the agreement did not moderate Iran’s ambitions — nuclear or otherwise — and pretending will not make it so. The JCPOA was not designed to end Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.

One reason there is no agreed-upon text is that the sides were negotiating different ends: the U.S. wanted to constrain Iran’s enrichment and other nuclear weapons-related capabilities for a period of time during which President Obama and others said/hoped Iran would become a constructive regional player. Iran was negotiating the terms under which it could continue to enrich uranium with an international imprimatur. Deal supporters acknowledge as much Read more ..

Historians on Edge

Michael Marrus Race Comment-- Do Not Dismiss the Painful Pattern of Microaggressions

October 11th 2017

U of Toronto Massey College

The resignation of University of Toronto emeritus history professor Michael Marrus from a senior fellowship at Massey College has provoked discussion far beyond the college. In an exchange covered elsewhere, Mr. Marrus made a slavery-related remark to a black junior fellow, in reference to the approach of the college's head or "Master," that concerned the graduate student and others nearby.

Globe editorial: Globe editorial: Massey professor showed terrible judgment, but the response was worse

As word of the incident spread, petitions demanding action from the college attracted hundreds of signatures. The upshot to date, in addition to Mr. Marrus's resignation, has been an official apology from Massey College and the suspension of the use of the title "Master" for the head of the college, among other commitments.


The Race for Autonomous Cars

GM Unveils First 'Real' Self-driving Car

October 11th 2017

car door

General Motors-owned Cruise Automation (San Francisco, CA) has unveiled its 3rd-generation self-driving car prototype.

Acquired by General Motors last year, the company - which operates as an independent unit - says its latest prototype represents "the world’s first mass-producible car designed to operate without a driver." The prototype is based on a Chevrolet Bolt EV and features "airbags, crumple zones, and comfortable seats."

"The car we’re unveiling today is actually our 3rd generation self-driving car, but it’s the first that meets the redundancy and safety requirements we believe are necessary to operate without a driver," says Cruise Automation CEO and founder Kyle Vogt. "There’s no other car like this in existence."

According to Vogt, the new 3rd-generation vehicle has almost completely new and fault-tolerant electrical, communication, and actuation systems that are unique to a driverless vehicle. In fact, he says, its core system architecture "more closely resembles that of a commercial airplane or spacecraft."


The Race for Batteries

High Capacity, Fast-charging Lithium Battery uses Asphalt and Graphene

October 11th 2017


A chemist at Rice University (Houston, TX) has developed a high capacity, fast-charging lithium battery using a combination of graphene and asphalt, which is more commonly used for surfacing roads.

James Tour has developed anodes comprising porous carbon made from asphalt that showed exceptional stability after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles (shown above). A high-current density of 20 mA/cm2 allows it to charged in a matter of minutes.

"The capacity of these batteries is enormous, but what is equally remarkable is that we can bring them from zero charge to full charge in five minutes, rather than the typical two hours or more needed with other batteries,” said Tour, who as well as being the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry at Rice is also a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering.



Ex-Wasserman Schultz IT Aide Arrested for Fraud May Have Been a ‘substantial security threat’

October 11th 2017

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Data transfers between disgraced one-time Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her former IT aide Imran Awan may have constituted a significant security breach, one lawmaker claims.

Awan is at the center of multiple charges of fraud and conspiracy after he was arrested attempting to flee to Pakistan in July.

Fox News reported that on Tuesday, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), who sits on the Homeland Security subcommittee on cyber security, told fellow Republicans Awan created 5,400 unauthorized logins on the House server belonging to former Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), who is now California’s attorney general. After the House’s inspector general reported findings on Awan, a criminal investigation into him and multiple associates was open, culminating in him being fired by most congresspeople in February after allegations of “possible double-billing, alleged equipment theft and access to sensitive computer systems” were revealed. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Is Austria's Burqa Ban an Example for America?

October 10th 2017

Egyptian hijabi

With the number of jihadist terrorists in Europe rising, and a concurrent increase in the number of women involved in Islamist terrorism and recruiting, Austria's centrist government passed a bill in May to prohibit all face coverings in the public sphere. The measure, which carries a fine of €150, includes a ban on clown makeup, ski masks, and even hospital masks worn on city streets; but it is clearly the face-covering garments of Muslim women – the niqab and burqa – that are the law's real targets. The so-called "burqa ban," which went into effect Oct. 1, makes Austria the fifth European country to outlaw the wearing of face-coverings in public, and the fifth to do so on the basis of national security concerns related to Islamic dress. France, Belgium, Latvia, and Bulgaria already have such laws in place, and partial bans are in effect in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

Now other countries are starting to consider instituting comparable laws, despite ongoing protests from Muslim and many rights groups. Read more ..

Palestinians on Edge

Detained Teens in Gaza Highly Vulnerable to Abuse

October 10th 2017


Children in conflict with the law in Gaza, under the current Hamas-led government, are at severe risk of rights violations and abuses during detention, based on six cases documented by Defense for Children International – Palestine since January.

Six children, aged 15 – 17, were detained for a period of one night or longer at police stations across Gaza including Rafah, Khan Younis, Gaza City, Beit Lahia and Jabalia refugee camp, instead of at a facility approved for juveniles. In the worst instances, three children were tortured during police interrogations, and one child was reportedly physically abused by police station guards and adult prisoners whom he was forced to share a cell with, prompting the boy’s suicide attempt and resulting death on September 22.


The Trump Era

Lawsuit Filed Against Justice Dep’t Demands Mueller’s Special Counsel Records

October 10th 2017

Scales of Justice

On Oct. 5, 2017, attorneys with a top “Inside the Beltway” government watchdog group official declared their organization’s latest legal action against the U.S. Department of Justice. While acknowledging the marked differences between the ultra-politicized Obama Justice Department and that of President Donald Trump, many law enforcement and intelligence officers believe that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is conducting an inadequate number of corruption investigations while tepidly pursuing cases of suspected criminal conduct of Democratic Party officeholders and their staffs.

However, last week, the prolific and effective legal group, Judicial Watch, announced it had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) concerning the budget and administrative records of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the still evidence-deficient Putin-Trump collusion against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Read more ..

Palestinians on Edge

How Palestine “Occupies” Itself

October 10th 2017

Nabi Saleh Villagers with Rocks

“Occupation” has become an all-purpose Palestinian tool. On the one hand, the Palestinians claim the Israeli “occupation” makes serious negotiations with Israel impossible. On the other, they claim the “occupation” makes the development of local institutions and civil society impossible. Western and Israeli diplomats have largely avoided criticism of this strategy, possibly because it has become a central tenet of Palestinian identity.

A consistent Palestinian strategy for seeking statehood while blaming Israel for its absence has been codified through the narrative of “occupation.” The anniversary of the 1967 war brought this to the forefront in endless accusations regarding the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank. There is even an assertion that Gaza is still “occupied.” Read more ..

Historians on Edge

Michael Marrus Race Comment and The Importance of Forgiveness

October 9th 2017

U of Toronto Massey College

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” These days, Charles Dickens’ words might apply to Toronto’s Massey College. While its alumna Julie Payette was installed as Canada’s Governor General, distinguished senior member Professor Emeritus Michael Marrus was being pushed out the college door.

As a graduate student in computer engineering, Payette entered Massey College in 1988 with sparkling eyes, remarkable energy, and delightful eagerness to serve on the social committee and to converse with everyone around the dining room table. She lent her clear soprano voice to college events and quietly advanced academically in ways that would prepare her to later soar into space in 1999.  

Before Payette arrived at Massey, Marrus was already a Senior Fellow and had recently published a book with Oxford University Press titled The Unwanted: European Refugees in the Twentieth Century.


Historians on Edge

After Michael Marrus Race Comment College Says Offensive Incident Shows Need to Reform

October 9th 2017

U of Toronto Massey College

A student complaint about racially offensive comments made by a retired University of Toronto professor shows the need to consider more formal governance structures and codes of conduct for Massey College students, faculty and visiting researchers, says Hugh Segal, the head of the college.

"Should we evolve as we move to an era where governance is more specific and organized than it has been in the past?" Mr. Segal said. "I think governance sometimes has to change to deal with more complex matters."

Massey is a residential college for graduate students that is affiliated with the University of Toronto, but independently governed. It has long been run by its own governing body and has fewer formal rules and codes of conduct for its members than the university does.

For example, student members have a code of conduct, but faculty or visiting members, called "senior fellows," do not. For the past week, the college has been at the centre of public debate over a comment made by retired history professor Michael Marrus, who resigned as a senior fellow this week.


Iran's Nukes

Iran Warns U.S. Against Imposing Further Sanctions

October 9th 2017

Iranian Revolutionary Guard

Iran warned the United States against designating its Revolutionary Guards Corp as a terrorist group and said U.S. regional military bases would be at risk if further sanctions were passed.

The warning came after the White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump would announce new U.S. responses to Iran’s missile tests, support for “terrorism” and cyber operations as part of his new Iran strategy.

“As we’ve announced in the past, if America’s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran’s missiles,” Guards’ commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, according to state media.

Jafari also said that additional sanctions would end the chances for future dialogue with the United States, according to state media, and issued a stark warning to American troops. Read more ..

Inside Jewry

Hillel at the Crossroads. Part V: Feud Resolution or Escalation

October 9th 2017

Eric Fingerhut

Part 5 of Edwin Black's latest 5-part investigative series, "Hillel at the Crossroads," is based on more than 100 interviews in 4 countries, and the acquisition of many documents and internal emails. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.


At about 5 AM on September 20, 2017, before the sun rose over the Boston skyline, Gilad Skolnick tumbled out of bed. He hadn’t slept much the night before—the sheer excitement of starting a major new phase of his life weighed on his mind. He dressed and then, as usual, stopped at the gym as the first order of business. By 8:30 AM, Skolnick had tucked his white shirt into his khaki pants, emerged from the gym filled with anticipation, and made his way to 70 Saint Stephen Street—Northeastern University Hillel [NEU Hillel]. Read more ..

Historians on Edge

UT Massey College Apologizes For Michael Marrus's "Racial" Comment

October 8th 2017

U of Toronto Massey College

The head of a prestigious graduate college associated with the University of Toronto is apologizing for racist statements made by a faculty member toward a black student.

Hugh Segal is also promising changes at Massey College.

Segal issued a statement saying that professor Michael Marrus made "hurtful and completely inappropriate" remarks toward the student over lunch this past Tuesday.

The statement he issued containing the apology did not provide details of the incident, but a letter of complaint signed by dozens of students and faculty members outlines allegations that Segal appeared to corroborate. The letter of complaint alleges that while the student was in front of Segal, whose official title is "Master" of the college, Marrus overtly invoked images of slavery.

Marrus allegedly said "You know this is your master, eh? Do you feel the lash?"

The letter expressed "profound outrage" at the incident and demanded that Segal issue an apology, fire Marrus and change his own title from Master. Read more ..

Historians on Edge

Historian Michael Marrus Resigns over ‘Master’ Comment to Black Student

October 8th 2017

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A history professor who made racially offensive remarks to a Black student at the University of Toronto’s Massey College has submitted his resignation as a senior fellow at the school.

After commenting about the “master” of Massey College to a Black student, Michael Marrus resigned his fellowship Sunday when nearly 200 students and faculty signed a petition demanding that he be removed.

“First, I am so sorry for what I said, in a poor effort at jocular humour at lunch last Tuesday,” Marrus wrote in his resignation letter to college head Hugh Segal.

“What I said was both foolish and, I understood immediately, hurtful, and I want, first and foremost, to convey my deepest regrets to all whom I may have harmed.”

On Tuesday, Marrus was sitting with three junior fellows — graduate students who earned residence at Massey College through academic and extracurricular achievements — when Segal asked to join them. At the time, Segal’s title was “master” of the college.


Jewry on Edge

Center for Jewish History Hosting Jewish Voices for Peace Events

October 8th 2017

boycott Israel t-shirt

The New York based Center for Jewish History (CJH) remains embroiled in controversy weeks after it has been revealed that the new CEO, David N. Myers is an active leader of the New Israel Fund, If Not Now, When, J Street and other organizations that are hostile to the State of Israel.  While Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) has Myers listed in their propaganda as an academic advisor, he claims that this is inaccurate. Hiis writings reveal hostile-to-Israel viewpoints, including affinity for boycotts of Israel and sympathy for the Palestinian “Nakba.” 

Despite these facts, the Center for Jewish History has defended Mr. Myers and insisted he will remain as leader of the Jewish library of congress. And while organizational and Israeli leaders continue to demand he be fired, facts on the ground show that CJH has been infiltrated by Jewish Voices for Peace.

On October 26th, CJH is hosting an event for Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), “The Balfour Declaration: Support for a Jewish Homeland or Jewish State? Is there a difference?” JVP, according to the Anti-Defamation League, is “the largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States. Despite the neutral tone of its name, JVP works to demonstrate Jewish opposition to the State of Israel and to steer public support away from the Jewish State.” Read more ..

The Trump Era

In Surprise Announcement, Shea-Porter Says She won’t Seek Re-election in 2018

October 6th 2017

Capitol Building at night

In a surprise announcement Friday, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter said she will not seek re-election to the 1st District U.S. House seat in 2018.

The four-term Rochester Democrat was elected to the 1st District seat in 2006 and was re-elected in 2008. She lost to former Rep. Frank Guinta in 2010 but then defeated Guinta in 2012. Shea-Porter again lost to Guina in 2014, but then defeated him last year. In a statement, she attributed her decision to the “tug of family.” Shea-Porter, a staunch progressive, released the following statement.

“To the Good People of New Hampshire, the Greatest State in America,

"Thank you so much for electing me to Congress for four terms. You gave me the great honor of representing our state and being the first woman ever to be elected to federal office from New Hampshire, and the first Democrat to represent New Hampshire’s First District in 22 years, and I have worked each day with only one thought—to serve our state and our nation. But the time has come in my life to pause and decide on a different path, so I am announcing my intention to leave the House of Representatives in January 2019, when my present term ends. Read more ..

Media on Edge

Fact Checking the Fact Checkers

October 6th 2017


No one’s fact-checking the fact-checkers.  After 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, Congress passed two spending bills.  Congress suspended its rules to pass the second one. What started out as emergency relief for Hurricane Sandy became Disaster Relief Appropriations. By skipping the normal appropriations process, Congress could load the bill with billions in hand-outs not related to Sandy. Or not an emergency. The annual appropriations process is the proper and transparent mechanism to review spending requests.

Recently, the Washington Post [here] and PolitiFact [here] claimed “virtually all” money was spent on Sandy relief.  In fact, billions were not for emergency relief. Or for Sandy.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development received 16 of the 51 billion from the 2nd bill. Here are just two examples of HUD spending. Read more ..

America on Edge

Democrats Refuse to Honor Las Vegas Shooting Victims

October 6th 2017

Capitol Hill

Three liberal Democrats boycotted the moment of silence on Tuesday at the House of Representatives for the 58 persons who were killed on Sunday evening in Las Vegas. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Himes (D-CT) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) remained true to their promise made in June 2016 in the aftermath of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting in which a Muslim terrorist killed 49 and injured 58 in Miami. Clark said that such displays of mourning or respect are but "empty gestures."

Moulton tweeted on Tuesday, “As after Orlando, I will NOT be joining my colleagues in a moment of silence on the House Floor that just becomes an excuse for inaction.” Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, says he wants “basic gun reform.” He tweeted a challenge to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI): “We can do something about this. Most Americans – including gun owners – support common sense action. What about you, Speaker Ryan?” Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Nuke Deal Hangs in Balance as Trump Plans Iran Policy Speech

October 5th 2017

Iranian women trample US flag

President Donald Trump could announce his secret decision on the future of the Iran nuclear deal next week.

U.S. officials familiar with the president’s planning said Wednesday he is preparing to deliver an Iran policy speech in which he is expected to declare the landmark 2015 agreement contrary to America’s national security interests.

The speech has been tentatively scheduled for Oct. 12 at an as yet undetermined venue in Washington, according to two officials who weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the planning for the event and demanded anonymity. They cautioned that plans could still change, and the White House declined to comment on the timing or substance of Trump’s pending announcement. Read more ..

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