Russia will build missiles if US leaves treaty, Putin warns

Politics, Power, SEcurity, Tech, War
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Nato’s accusation was a pretext for the US to leave the treaty

Russia will develop missiles banned under a Cold War agreement if the US exits the pact, President Vladimir Putin has warned.

His comments follow Nato’s accusation on Tuesday that Russia has already broken the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Signed in 1987 by the US and USSR, it banned both countries’ use of all short and medium-range missiles.

But Mr Putin says the accusation is a pretext for the US to leave the pact.

In televised comments, the Russian leader said many other countries had developed weapons banned under the INF treaty.

“Now it seems our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that [they] must also have such a weapon,” he said.

“What’s our response? It’s simple – in that case we will also do this.” 

US President Donald Trump has previously said the country would leave the treaty because of Russian actions.

Analysts say Russia sees the weapons as a cheaper alternative to conventional forces.

Arriving for talks with Nato foreign ministers, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini urged the two countries to save the treaty, saying it had “guaranteed peace and security in European territory for 30 years now”.

What has Nato said?

On Tuesday, the Western military alliance formally accused Russia of breaking the treaty.

“Allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security,” the Nato foreign ministers’ statement read.

The statement said the member nations “strongly support” the US claim that Russia is in breach of the pact, and called on Moscow to “return urgently to full and verifiable compliance”.

A Russian missile is fired during military exercises
Image captionRussia denies building missiles that violate the accord

Speaking after the release of Nato’s statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Russia had 60 days to return to compliance with the treaty, after which time the US would suspend its own compliance.

“During this 60 days we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” he said.

Russia has repeatedly denied breaking the Cold War treaty.

Presentational grey line

What is the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty?

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signing the INF Treaty in 1987
Image captionSoviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan signed the INF Treaty in 1987
  • Signed by the US and the USSR in 1987, the arms control deal banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges, except sea-launched weapons
  • The US had been concerned by the Soviet deployment of the SS-20 missile system and responded by placing Pershing and cruise missiles in Europe – sparking widespread protests
  • By 1991, nearly 2,700 missiles had been destroyed
  • Both countries were allowed to inspect the other’s installations
  • In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the treaty no longer served Russia’s interests
  • The move came after the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002
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At second memorial service, Bush remembered for humility and humor

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Washington (CNN)Former President George H.W. Bush was remembered Thursday as a man of humility, honor and humor at the Bushes’ family church in Houston, providing the nation with a last farewell before he begins his journey to his final resting place.Family, friends, politicians, musicians, actors and athletes filled the pews of the St. Martin’s Episcopal Church to say goodbye to the 41st president with heartfelt praises and gospel music, as well as some moments of levity.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Alex Brandon/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10012791y) Former US President George W. Bush and other family members watch as the flag-draped of former US President George H.W. Bush is carried by a joint services military honor guard to lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, DC, USA, 03 December 2018. Bush will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda before his state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral on 05 December. George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States (1989-1993), died at the age of 94 on 30 November 2018 at his home in Texas. George H.W. Bush dies at 94, Washington, USA – 03 Dec 2018

“I must begin with an apology. Jefe, I’m about to do something you always hated and that your mother always told you not to do: Brag about yourself,” former Secretary of State James Baker said in his eulogy for his old friend and boss.Baker, who was also one of Bush’s chiefs of staff, recalled the former president’s sense of humor.”I have always been proud that George Bush used to describe our relationship as one of big brother and little brother. He used to say that one of the things he liked best about me was that I would always tell him what I thought, even when I knew he didn’t want to hear it,” Baker said.After a spirited debate,

Bush “had a very effective way of letting me know when the discussion was over,” Baker recalled.”He would look at me and he’d say, ‘Baker, if you’re so smart, why am I president and you’re not?'” Baker said to laughs. “He was a leader and he knew it.”The former aide also reflected on Bush’s lifetime of military and civil service, calling the former commander in chief “temperate in thought, in word and in deed.”Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush also eulogized his grandfather, sharing personal anecdotes about “Gampy” that showed the elder statesman’s devotion to his family.Bush remembered how “Gampy” would host “intense” horseshoe games, go fly fishing with them in Maine and let the grandchildren “nestle up between him and ‘Ganny’ when they read the paper.

“He called it an “honor of a lifetime” to share his grandfather’s name.The former president’s granddaughters also read scripture at the service. Country singer Reba McEntire and the country quartet, The Oak Ridge Boys, both performed songs during the service.Before the service, Bush lay in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church from Wednesday night until Thursday morning.Houston has been Bush’s home for years since he left the presidency, and the family has worshipped at the church for decades. The church was also the funeral site for his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, earlier this year.

The nation honors President George H.W. Bush

The nation honors President George H.W. BushThursday’s funeral service in Houston follows the memorial service Wednesday in Washington, DC, attended by the former presidents and first ladies, family, friends and other dignitaries.The 41st President was honored at the Washington National Cathedral and eulogized by his son, former President George W. Bush, who remembered him as the “best father a son or daughter could have.”Thousands paid their respects to Bush as he was lying in state in the US Capitol Rotunda on Monday and Tuesday.View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Briefed in 2011 about his funeral and lying in state, the 41st President asked with typical humility, “Do you think anyone will come?” Tonight, people are waiting hours to pay their respects. This photo, taken Monday, is courtesy the Senate Press Photographers’ Gallery pool.

1,849 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacyAfter the Houston funeral service, Bush departed the church in a motorcade procession to the Union Pacific Railroad Westfield Auto Facility.A departure ceremony took place before Bush took his last trip by train to his final resting place. The funeral train departed on a 70-mile route, taking Bush from Spring, Texas, to Texas A&M University in College Station, the site of the Bush Presidential Library and Museum.Once there, Bush’s casket was carried through a military honor guard cordon, followed by his family.A private burial service conducted by the Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson, Jr. and the Rev. Peter G. Cheney followed a Navy jet flyover.

Bush will be laid to rest on the museum’s grounds, alongside his wife, Barbara, and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia as a child.Bush died late last Friday at his home in Houston at the age of 94

Huawei CFO arrested: Why Meng Wanzhou’s detention on U.S. extradition charges is a big deal

Business, international News, News, Tech


Along with Huawei’s success has come suspicion about the company’s ties to China’s government, its willingness to overlook U.S. sanctions and the security of its systems.

By Jason Abbruzzese 

The arrest of a Chinese tech executive in Canada on Saturday was the most recent and public chapter of an ongoing battle between the U.S. government and one of the world’s biggest tech companies — Huawei.

The arrest, which came on U.S. extradition charges, featured a heightened level of intrigue due to the profile of the person arrested: Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of Huawei’s secretive founder, Ren Zhengfei, who is one of the most powerful businessmen in China. The arrest came amid reports that Huawei had been sending U.S. technology to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions against the country.

Huawei is not a household name in the U.S., but the company has emerged as one of the largest tech firms in the world in the past decade thanks to its success in producing telecommunications equipment including cell towers and equipment for next-generation 5G wireless networks. Huawei is also second in the global smartphone market, having surpassed Apple earlier in 2018.

But along with its success has come suspicion about the company’s ties to China’s government, its willingness to overlook U.S. sanctions and the security of its systems.

“Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it’s more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said in February when he introduced legislation to block the U.S. government from buying telecom equipment from Huawei or ZTE, another Chinese hardware maker. President Donald Trump signed the the bill in August.

The arrest of the Huawei executive is a BIG deal in China and is probably being underplayed in the US news cycle. Equivalent of an Apple or Facebook exec being arrested in China. https://www.scmp.com/tech/article/2176655/detained-huawei-cfo-sabrina-meng-wanzhou-told-staff-one-may-accept-risk …

310 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

Ren, a former Chinese army engineer, started Huawei in 1987 and found initial success making telephone equipment. Huawei’s expansion into telecommunications technology in the 1990s would fuel the company’s international expansion — and put it on the radar of U.S. security experts. Meng has been seen as the successor to Huawei.

In 2017, Fortune magazine ranked Huawei as the seventh-biggest tech company in the world by revenue, with more than $89 billion. The company has more than 180,000 employees.

Despite its size and global reach, only 38 percent of Americans said they had heard of Huawei, according to the survey company Morning Consult. The company’s name has also been something of a mystery for some in the West who wonder how to pronounce it. The company even made a humorous video for the U.K. about how to pronounce Huawei.

China’s rise as a global power has coincided with the emergence of the internet as a major av

NFL Insiders predict the best rookie class of 2018 — High Velocity Sport

News, sports

NFL Insiders predict the best rookie class of 2018 https://ift.tt/2HTw1bH The New York Giants stuck to their plan and drafted Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall. Will it pay off with immediate impact? Over the next week, our panel of ESPN NFL Insiders will break down the 2018 draft class, starting with their picks for […]

coltss.jpegNFL Insiders predict the best rookie class of 2018

https://ift.tt/2HTw1bH

The New York Giants stuck to their plan and drafted Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall. Will it pay off with immediate impact?

Over the next week, our panel of ESPN NFL Insiders will break down the 2018 draftclass, starting with their picks for which team will get the most from their rookies.


Which team’s rookie class will be the most impactful in 2018?

Matt Bowen, NFL writer: Chicago Bears. It starts with linebacker Roquan Smith. He’s a blue-chip talent with the speed and natural instincts to find the ball. Great fit for Vic Fangio’s defense. Up front, Iowa center/offensive guard James Daniels has the athleticism and pro-ready technique to compete for a starting job. And wide receiverAnthony Miller should find a role as a slot target for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The quicks are there and so is the playmaking ability.

Dan Graziano, national NFL writer: Cleveland Browns. Is there any team that needs an impact from its rookie class more than the one that’s 1-31 over the last two seasons? We don’t know when No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield will take over as the starter, but it’s a safe bet it’ll happen at some point this season. They’ll give No. 4 pick Denzel Wardsignificant opportunity right away as a starting cornerback. And second-rounders Nick Chubb and Austin Corbett should help the run game. Opportunities abound in Cleveland, for rookies and everyone else.

Mina Kimes, senior writer: Denver Broncos. I’m a big fan of the Cowboys’ draft class as well, but I think Denver’s first three picks — defensive end Bradley Chubb, wide receiverCourtland Sutton, and running back Royce Freeman — could all become immediate contributors. Sutton, a big-bodied receiver from SMU, stands out as a potential red-zone threat for Case Keenum.

Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: New England Patriots. Other teams’ rookies will play more snaps and earn greater honors. As for impact? New England could emerge with a starting left tackle (Isaiah Wynn), a rotational running back (Sony Michel) and perhaps aDanny Amendola-replacement (Braxton Berrios) on a championship-caliber team.

Aaron Schatz, editor-in-chief of Football Outsiders: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There’s opportunity on the depth chart. Vita Vea slides right into the starting defensive line next to Gerald McCoy. Ronald Jones II should slide right into the starting running back spot. And given the weakness at cornerback and the age of their No. 1 CB Brent Grimes, who turns 35 in July, second-rounders M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis could play a larger role than expected early.

coltsKevin Seifert, national NFL writer: Indianapolis Colts. It won’t be as flashy as some other classes, but the addition of two guards and two defensive linemen among the first 64 picks will significantly enhance the Colts’ long-standing trench weakness. GuardQuenton Nelson, especially, will give the Colts a much better chance of keeping their most prized asset — quarterback Andrew Luck — upright.

Field Yates, NFL Insider: New York Giants. Here’s the bottom line: a single player can dramatically impact the perception of a team’s collective draft class. Along those lines, no player is better equipped to contribute immediately — factored in his own ability plus the opportunity ahead — than Saquon Barkley. Beyond that, second-rounder Will Hernandez projects as a Day 1 starter. Should Barkley produce (and I expect a massive rookie season), it will be a positive reflection on the offensive line, as well.

Breaking Sports News

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May 7, 2018 at 05:58AM

via NFL Insiders predict the best rookie class of 2018 — High Velocity Sport

Amazon Treasure Truck Bursts Into Flames In West Philadelphia Parking Lot — CBS Philly

News

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Flames destroyed a truck overnight in West Philadelphia.

An Eyewitness viewer sent video of the fire on 42nd and Samson Streets, around 1:30 a.m.

Turns out, this was the Amazon Treasure Truck, a promotional tool for the online company.

The truck was parked in a lot at the time of the fire.

No one was injured.

via Amazon Treasure Truck Bursts Into Flames In West Philadelphia Parking Lot — CBS Philly

Michigan Man Arrested After Caller Threatens to Kill CNN Employees: Affidavit — KTLA

Crime, News

Authorities arrested a Michigan man last week after he allegedly called CNN several times, threatening to kill employees at the network’s Atlanta, Georgia, headquarters, according to a federal affidavit.

Brandon Griesemer made 22 calls to CNN on January 9 and January 10 and four calls, which were recorded, contained threats, according to the affidavit, which was unsealed Friday.

Griesemer, whose age was not given, also made disparaging statements about Jewish people, African-Americans and the network in several calls, the affidavit said.

He was charged Friday in US District Court with transmitting interstate communications with the intent to extort and threat to injure. He was released Friday on $10,000 bond.

A family member at Griesemer’s home in Novi, Michigan, declined to comment late Monday.

“We take any threats to CNN employees or workplaces, around the world, extremely seriously. This one is no exception. We have been in touch with local and federal law enforcement throughout, and have taken all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our people,” CNN said Monday in a statement.

Michigan authorities first crossed paths with Griesemer last fall.

On September 19, a man — later identified as Griesemer — called an employee at an Islamic center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and made derogatory comments about the mosque and Muslims, an FBI agent said in the affidavit.

Ann Arbor police used an online database to identify Griesemer’s father as the phone’s owner.

Two days later, Ann Arbor police contacted Griesemer’s mother at the family’s home, where Griesemer lived. She told police her son had called the mosque, the affidavit said. Officers told her they wanted to talk to her son.

In a call to Ann Arbor police that day, Griesemer admitted he called the mosque on September 19 “and that he was angry at the time of the call,” the affidavit said.

CNN received the first threatening call around 3 p.m. on January 9. The call was made to a publicly listed phone number at the Atlanta headquarters from the same cell phone number used to call the Islamic center in Ann Arbor on September 19, the affidavit said.

It was the first of three threatening calls that day to CNN from that number, according to the affidavit.

“Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down,” said the caller, who cursed and used an expletive directed at African-Americans, the affidavit said.

“I am on my way right now to gun the f****** CNN cast down …. I am coming to kill you,” the caller said a second call to CNN, according to affidavit.

On January 9, an investigator employed by CNN searched law enforcement databases for the phone number and discovered it was registered to Griesemer’s father, the affidavit said. The investigator learned a second number was associated with the wireless account.

The investigator called the second phone number and asked to speak to Griesemer’s father. The man who picked up identified himself as Brandon, the affidavit said.

The investigator recorded the conversation with Griesemer and compared the audio to the recorded audio of the threatening calls, the affidavit said.

The voices sounded like the same person, the affidavit said.

On January 10, CNN received the fourth call from the same cell phone number used to make the three prior threats, the affidavit said.

The caller again threatened to come to the Atlanta headquarters to “gun every single last one of you,” the affidavit said.

The CNN investigator collected data from the cell phone used to make the threats. That phone had accessed a cellular tower in Novi, Michigan, the affidavit said.

Griesemer could face a fine or up to five years in prison if convicted

via Michigan Man Arrested After Caller Threatens to Kill CNN Employees: Affidavit — KTLA

Passyunk Avenue Bridge Closed Due To Multi-Vehicle Accident — CBS Philly

News

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Passyunk Avenue Bridge is closed in both directions due to a multi-vehicle accident. It happened on the westbound lanes between 61st Street and 28th Street. Officials say the accident involves a dump truck. No word if anyone was injured.

via Passyunk Avenue Bridge Closed Due To Multi-Vehicle Accident — CBS Philly  

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Passyunk Avenue Bridge is closed in both directions due to a multi-vehicle accident.

It happened on the westbound lanes between 61st Street and 28th Street.

Officials say the accident involves a dump truck.

No word if anyone was injured.

Ronny Jackson Withdraws As VA Secretary Nominee

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WASHINGTON (CNN) – Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson has withdrawn as President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, he said in a statement Thursday morning.

His nomination was hampered by a flurry of allegations about Jackson’s professional conduct.

In a statement announcing his withdrawal, Jackson slammed allegations of improper behavior leveled against him as “completely false and fabricated.”

“If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years,” Jackson said. “Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity.”

Jackson said he was motivated to withdraw from consideration because the allegations against him “have become a distraction” for Trump and his agenda.

“Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this President and the important issue we must be addressing — how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes,” Jackson said. “While I will forever be grateful for the trust and confidence President Trump has placed in me by giving me this opportunity, I am regretfully withdrawing my nomination to be Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Speaking on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, Trump said Jackson’s withdrawal was not unexpected.

“I even told him a day or two ago I saw where this was going,” Trump said.

Allegations mounted

On Wednesday evening, the release of a two-page document written by Democratic staff on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that included a list of allegations from the committee’s conversations with nearly two dozen of Jackson’s former and current colleagues made Jackson’s chances at survival more uncertain.

According to the summary released by Senate Democrats — the contents of which remain under investigation by lawmakers and have not yet been substantiated — Jackson was allegedly “abusive” to his colleagues, loosely handled prescription pain medications and was periodically intoxicated, even once wrecking a government vehicle while drunk.

Jackson has not responded to the allegations in their totality, but told reporters on Wednesday that he did not wreck the government car and had indicated at the time that he planned to continue in the nominating process.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee had raised concerns this week about allegations involving Jackson, the White House physician, and had started to review the allegations in an effort to determine whether they were sufficient to upend his nomination.

Jackson had been expected to appear on Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a confirmation hearing, but that hearing was postponed indefinitely as members were assessing allegations about the White House physician’s behavior.

Whistleblowers who spoke to the panel described a “toxic” work environment under Jackson’s leadership and questionable behavior, including excessive drinking, CNN has reported.

On Wednesday, before the allegations from the Democratic staff of the veterans’ panel became public, the White House mounted a robust defense of Jackson, with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders telling reporters he had an “impeccable” record. Sanders suggested that Jackson’s current position as the White House physician meant that he had been more thoroughly vetted than other Cabinet nominees.

At one point on Wednesday, Trump raised the prospect of going into the briefing room himself to stick up for Jackson, to say that he is a good guy and had his support. But several senior administration officials, including Sanders, advised against that move.

But later Wednesday, after the allegations included in that Democratic document were released, Trump himself began to wonder out loud whether Jackson should step aside “before things get worse” and White House aides were preparing for that possibility, officials told CNN.

More upheaval for Trump’s Cabinet

Jackson’s withdrawal marks the most recent setback for Trump’s Cabinet, which has had a high rate of turnover. A number of Cabinet officials have faced criticism and scrutiny over their spending habits and ethical judgement, including Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. Jackson also isn’t the first nominee to withdraw. Andrew Puzder pulled his name from consideration last year to become labor secretary after facing intense opposition to his nomination.

Trump had defended Jackson even after the allegations against him surfaced.

On Tuesday, the President called Jackson “one of the finest people I have ever met.” Trump said he was not aware of the specifics of the allegations and added that it was up to Jackson to decide whether to press forward. “It’s totally his decision,” the President said, adding, “I don’t want to put a man through a process like this. It’s too ugly and disgusting.”

But Trump also acknowledged that Jackson lacks a background in running a government agency.

“There’s a lack of experience,” he said.

A surprise nominee

When Trump announced his intent to nominate Jackson in March, the decision came as a surprise on Capitol Hill, where members on both sides of the aisle raised questions about whether Jackson was qualified to lead the sprawling Department of Veterans Affairs. While Jackson served as White House physician under three presidents, his policy views were relatively unknown and some lawmakers expressed concern over whether he had the managerial experience necessary to steer the department.

Trump announced his intention to nominate Jackson as a replacement for David Shulkin, in a presidential tweet last month. Shulkin became embroiled in controversy of his own after the VA inspector general released a damaging report accusing him and other department personnel of “serious derelictions,” but was also locked in a policy-based power struggle with members of his staff and political appointees. Trump later said he was dissatisfied with the “speed with which our veterans were taken care of” under Shulkin’s leadership.

A graduate of Texas A&M University, Jackson started active-duty naval service in 1995, according to his official US Navy biography. He was chosen to serve as White House physician in 2006 during the administration of George W. Bush, and later served as the physician for then-President Barack Obama.

In January, Jackson made headlines after declaring he had “no concerns” about Trump’s cognitive ability after the President underwent a neurological screening. Jackson’s performance during that extended news conference played a part in Trump’s decision to nominate him to lead the VA, a White House official told CNN.

Tuesday, the Senate committee’s top Democrat, Montana’s Jon Tester, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that around 20 people had raised concerns to the committee about Jackson, and according to those people, Jackson would hand out prescriptions “like candy.”

Tester described reports to the committee that alleged that on overseas trips, Jackson would “go down the aisle way of the airplane and say, ‘All right, who wants to go to sleep?’ And hand out the prescription drugs like they were candy … and put them to sleep and then give them the drugs to wake them back up again.”

“These are called controlled substances for a reason,” Tester said on “Anderson Cooper 360.”

The White House doctor also faced allegations of being drunk while overseas with then-President Barack Obama.

“If you are drunk and something happens with the President, it’s very difficult to go in and treat the President,” Tester said. “That’s what multiple people told us, this was the case on several different trips.”

Other concerns about Jackson included allegations of a toxic work environment, the senator confirmed.

“We were told time and time again the people above him he treated like gold, the people below him, he belittled, screamed at them, really created a very toxic environment to the point where the people who worked around him felt like they had to walk on eggshells because of his lack of respect for his job,” Tester said.

In a letter to Trump sent Tuesday, the senators requested information “regarding allegations or incidents” involving Jackson dating to 2006, the year he was tapped to become White House physician.

One source on the committee told CNN prior to Jackson’s withdrawal that lawmakers were also requesting information from the FBI, including Jackson’s background check. Tester later said the FBI background investigation into Jackson was “clean.”

Congressional sources also told CNN that committee aides had been in touch with individuals associated with additional allegations about prescriptions handled by the White House Medical Unit, which oversees the medical care of the president and administration aides.

While campaigning for the presidency, Trump pledged to make improvements at the Veterans Affairs Department, including reducing wait times for care, upgrading technology and taking steps to facilitate access to private care.

Since his dismissal, Shulkin has warned against privatizing veterans’ health care. In a statement released in early April, the VA shot down the idea, saying “there is no effort underway to privatize” veterans’ care and that “to suggest otherwise is completely false.”

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Ex-policeman charged with decades-old serial killings — INKLING LEAGUE

Crime, News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A man once sworn to protect the public from crime was accused Wednesday of living a double life terrorizing suburban neighborhoods at night, becoming one of California’s most feared serial killers and rapists in the 1970s and ’80s before leaving a cold trail that baffled investigators. Former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, […]

via Ex-policeman charged with decades-old serial killings — INKLING LEAGUE

Former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was arrested at his home Tuesday after DNA linked him to crimes attributed to the so-called Golden State Killer and he initially was charged with eight counts of murder and could face dozens more charges, authorities said.

The culprit also known as the East Area Rapist, among other names, is suspected of at least 12 slayings and 50 rapes in 10 counties from Northern to Southern California. The armed and masked prowler sneaked in through windows at night and surprised sleeping victims who ranged in age from 13 to 41.

When encountering a couple, he was known to tie up the man and pile dishes on his back. He threatened to kill both victims if he heard plates crash to the floor while he raped the woman. He then ransacked the house, taking souvenirs, notably coins and jewelry before fleeing on foot or bicycle.

Despite an outpouring of thousands of tips over the years, DeAngelo’s name had not been on the radar of law enforcement before last week, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said.

“We knew we were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we also knew that needle was there,” she said. “It was right here in Sacramento.”

A break in the case and the arrest came together in “light speed” during the past six days, Schubert said, though authorities refused to reveal what led to DeAngelo.

Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones said detectives with “dogged determination” were able to get a sample of DNA from something DeAngelo discarded, though he wouldn’t say what the item was. The genetic material was not a match, but there were enough similarities for investigators to return for more and they said they were able to get a conclusive match.

After watching DeAngelo for several days, deputies took him by surprise Tuesday.

“It looked as though he might have been searching his mind to execute a particular plan he may have had,” but never had time to act, Jones said.

DeAngelo was arrested on suspicion of committing double-killings in Sacramento and Ventura counties and later charged with four counts of murder in Orange County, officials said.

Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten said that before prosecutors decide whether to seek the death penalty, there will be a “solemn and formal death review process that typically takes many months before a decision is made.”

DeAngelo, who served in the Navy, was a police officer in Exeter, in the San Joaquin Valley, from 1973 to 1976, at a time a burglar known as the Visalia Ransacker was active, Jones said.

He transferred to the force in Auburn in the Sierra foothills near where he grew up outside Sacramento. About 50 crimes, including two killings, were attributed to the East Area Rapist during the three years DeAngelo worked in Auburn, but Jones said it wasn’t clear if any were committed while on duty.

DeAngelo was fired from the Auburn department in 1979 after being arrested for stealing a can of dog repellant and a hammer from a drug store, according to Auburn Journal articles from the time. He was convicted of the theft and fined $100.

Ten slayings occurred after he was fired and all took place in Southern California.

DeAngelo worked for 27 years in a distribution center for Save Mart Supermarkets in Roseville, a Sacramento-area suburb. He retired last year, said Victoria Castro, spokeswoman for The Save Mart Companies.

“None of his actions in the workplace would have led us to suspect any connection to crimes being attributed to him,” Castro said in a statement, adding that the company was working with investigators.

Although it’s unusual for serial killers to stop, Jones said they have no reason to think DeAngelo continued to commit crimes after 1986, when the last rape and killing occurred in Orange County.

“We have no indication of any crimes with a similar or at least a close enough link to his MO and other things that he’s done in the past to link him to anything from ’86 on,” Jones said. “We just have nothing at this point.”

Jones said he always thought the rapist was alive, but might be in prison.

For the prosecutors and investigators, the arrest not only marked a significant professional achievement but also a personal one that had touched their formative years and early careers.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley was a college student volunteering at a rape crisis center and “sat with survivors who had been assaulted by this guy.”

The wave of horrifying crimes had brought an end to a more innocent era in the Sacramento suburbs when children rode bicycles to school, played outside until dark and people didn’t lock their doors, Schubert said.

“It all changed,” said Schubert, who was 12 at the time. “For anyone that lived here in this community, in Sacramento, the memories are very vivid. You can ask anyone who grew up here. Everyone has a story.”

Totten said he was a young law clerk in the office during the investigation into the 1980 slayings of Lyman and Charlene Smith that “struck terror in the hearts of Ventura residents.”

“We had no idea this killer was connected to so many other crimes,” Totten said.

In 1999, Orange County sheriff’s homicide detectives were able to use DNA to link the Irvine slaying of Keith and Patrice Harrington to nine other slayings in in Orange, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The genetic evidence was later used to connect the same suspect to dozens of rapes in Northern California.

Harrington’s brother, Bruce, helped bankroll a successful 2004 ballot initiative campaign to take DNA from all convicted felons and some arrestees.

“To the victims, sleep better tonight, he isn’t coming through the window,” Bruce Harrington said at the news conference announcing the arrest.

Jane Carson-Sandler was one of the first victims when she was sexually assaulted in 1976 in her home in Citrus Heights, the same community where DeAngelo was arrested at home.

She said she received an email Wednesday from a retired detective who worked on the case telling her they identified the rapist and he’s in custody.

“I have just been overjoyed, ecstatic. It’s an emotional roller-coaster right now,” Carson-Sandler, who now lives near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “I feel like I’m in the middle of a dream and I’m going to wake up and it’s not going to be true. It’s just so nice to have closure and to know he’s in jail.”

FBI agents and other investigators were gathering evidence at DeAngelo’s neatly kept home on Wednesday. Jones said they were looking for mementos that may have been stolen from victims.

Neighbors said DeAngelo took meticulous care of his house, which was always perfectly painted and his lawn manicured. But he was known for an explosive temper and loud cursing.

Kevin Tapia said when he was a teenager, DeAngelo falsely accused him of throwing things over their shared fence, prompting a heated exchange between DeAngelo and his father.

“No one thinks they live next door to a serial killer,” Tapia said. “But at the same time I’m just like, he was a weird guy. He kept to himself. When you start to think about it you’re like, I could see him doing something like that, but I would never suspect it.”

___

Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press Writers Jonathan J. Cooper in Citrus Heights, Sophia Bollag and Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles, and Olga Rodriguez, Paul Elias and Juliet Williams in San Francisco and investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report.

___

This story has been corrected to show that prosecutors haven’t decided whether to seek the death penalty for DeAngelo.

Police throw black woman to floor, say they will “break” her arm during arrest at Waffle House — Kopitiam Bot

News

(Source: http://www.vox.com) A new viral video shows police at a Waffle House in Saraland, Alabama, throwing a black woman on the ground on Sunday, exposing her breasts and suggesting they might “break” her arm after she didn’t cooperate. According to CBS News, the woman, Chikesia Clemons, was waiting for a waitress to give her the […]

 

According to CBS News, the woman, Chikesia Clemons, was waiting for a waitress to give her the district manager’s phone number after she refused to pay for plastic utensils that she had asked for with her order. Clemons’s waitress canceled the order after Clemons said that she and her friend didn’t have to pay for utensils at the same Waffle House the previous night, Chiquitta Clemons-Howard, Clemons’s mother, told AL.com.

As Clemons waited for the district manager’s card to file a complaint, the officers arrived. The video, filmed by Clemons’s friend Canita Adams, shows the officers grabbing Clemons and throwing her to the floor.

“What are you doing?” Clemons asked.

“I’m about to break your arm — that’s what I’m about to do,” one officer responded.

The officers proceeded to arrest her. She was booked on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, according to Clemons-Howard.

The Saraland Police Department is investigating the incident. “When the facts of the investigation are gathered, we will have a response,” the department said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

Waffle House is also investigating the incident. Spokesperson Pat Warner said, “there is reason to doubt Clemons’s version of events.”

Video of the incident went viral, drawing comparisons to another incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia in which an employee called the police on two black men who were reportedly waiting for a business associate. It’s not clear who called the police in the Waffle House case.

Regardless of who called the police, the escalation of the arrest once again puts a spotlight on police use of force in America, particularly against black Americans. There are vast racial disparities in how police use force. And these kinds of incidents, in which a dispute over plastic utensils can escalate into a violent arrest, are a major reason that police have lost so much trust and legitimacy within the black community.

The racial disparities in police use of force

Consider the use of deadly force: Based on nationwide data collected by the Guardian, black Americans are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to be killed by police when accounting for population. In 2016, police killed black Americans at a rate of 6.7 per 1 million people, compared to 2.9 per 1 million for white Americans.

A chart of police shooting rates by race.

There have also been several high-profile police killings since 2014 involving black suspects. In Baltimore, Freddie Gray died while in police custody — leading to protests and riots. In North Charleston, South Carolina, Michael Slager shot Walter Scott, who was fleeing and unarmed at the time. In Ferguson, Missouri, Darren Wilson killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. In New York City, NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner by putting the unarmed 43-year-old black man in a chokehold.

One possible explanation for the racial disparities: Police tend to patrol high-crime neighborhoods, which are disproportionately black. That means they’re going to be more likely to initiate a policing action, from traffic stops to more serious arrests, against a black person who lives in these areas. And all of these policing actions carry a chance, however small, to escalate into a violent confrontation.

That’s not to say that higher crime rates in black communities explain the entire racial disparity in police shootings. A 2015 study by researcher Cody Ross found “There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.” That suggests something else — such as, potentially, racial bias — is going on.

One reason to believe racial bias is a factor: Studies show officers are quicker to shoot black suspects in video game simulations. Josh Correll, a University of Colorado Boulder psychology professor who conducted the research, said it’s possible the bias could lead to even more skewed outcomes in the field. “In the very situation in which [officers] most need their training,” he previously told me, “we have some reason to believe that their training will be most likely to fail them.”

Police need to own up to these problems to do their jobs

It’s these type of statistics, along with cases like Clemons’s, that explain the distrust between police and minority communities. But more than simple distrust, these issues also make it more difficult for police to do their jobs and stop crime.

There’s a longstanding criminological concept at play: “legal cynicism.” The idea is that the government will have a much harder time enforcing the law when large segments of the population don’t trust the government, the police, or the laws.

This is a major explanation for why predominantly minority communities tend to have more crime than other communities: After centuries of neglect and abuse, black and brown Americans are simply much less likely to turn to police for help — and that may lead a small but significant segment of these communities to resort to its own means, including violence, to solve interpersonal conflicts.

There’s research to back this up. A 2016 study, from sociologists Matthew Desmond of Harvard, Andrew Papachristos of Yale, and David Kirk of Oxford, looked at 911 calls in Milwaukee after incidents of police brutality hit the news.

They found that after the 2004 police beating of Frank Jude, 17 percent fewer 911 calls were made in the following year compared with the number of calls that would have been made had the Jude beating never happened. More than half of the effect came from fewer calls in black neighborhoods. And the effect persisted for more than a year, even after the officers involved in the beating were punished. Researchers found similar impacts on local 911 calls after other high-profile incidents of police violence.

But crime still happened in these neighborhoods. As 911 calls dropped, researchers also found a rise in homicides. They noted that “the spring and summer that followed Jude’s story were the deadliest in the seven years observed in our study.”

That suggests that people were simply dealing with crime themselves. And although the researchers couldn’t definitively prove it, that might mean civilians took to their own, sometimes violent, means to protect themselves when they couldn’t trust police to stop crime and violence.

“An important implication of this finding is that publicized cases of police violence not only threaten the legitimacy and reputation of law enforcement,” the researchers wrote, but “they also — by driving down 911 calls — thwart the suppression of law breaking, obstruct the application of justice, and ultimately make cities as a whole, and the black community in particular, less safe.”

That’s why, especially in the context of racial disparities in police use of force, experts say it’s important that police own up to their mistakes and take transparent steps to fix them.

“This is what folks who rail against the focus on police violence — and pull up against that, community violence — get wrong,” David Kennedy, a criminologist at John Jay College, previously told me. “What those folks simply don’t understand is that when communities don’t trust the police and are afraid of the police, then they will not and cannot work with police and within the law around issues in their own community. And then those issues within the community become issues the community needs to deal with on their own — and that leads to violence.”

Cases like Clemons’s feed into the distrust — by signaling to black communities that police aren’t there to protect them but are instead likely to harass them and use excessive force. In that way, these cases make it a lot harder for police to achieve the basic roles they’re meant to fulfill.

For more on American policing’s problems and how to fix them, read Vox’s explainer.

More Info: www.vox.com

via Police throw black woman to floor, say they will “break” her arm during arrest at Waffle House — Kopitiam Bot

Oil dips as U.S. drilling tempers otherwise bullish sentiment

International Finance, international News, News, Oil, Petroleum Products
Reuters.
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Illustration photo of crude oil being dispensed into a bottle© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Illustration photo of crude oil being dispensed into a bottle

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices dipped on Monday as a rising U.S. rig count implied further increases in output, marking one of the few factors tamping back crude in an otherwise bullish environment.

Brent crude futures were at $73.91 per barrel at 0630 GMT, down 15 cents, or 0.2 percent from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 18 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $68.22 a barrel.

“We expect for oil prices to recede slightly today as market anticipates on the prospect of rising production in the U.S.,” Singapore-based Phillip Futures said on Monday.

U.S. drillers added five rigs drilling for new production in the week ended April 20, bringing the total to 820, the highest since March 2015, according Baker Hughes energy services firm.

The rising rig numbers point to further increases in U.S. crude production, which is already up by a quarter since mid-2016 to a record 10.54 million barrels per day (bpd).

Only Russia produces more, at almost 11 million bpd.

Despite slipping on Monday, overall the oil market remains well supported, especially by strong demand in Asia.

Brent is up by 20 percent from its 2018 low in February.

Prices are also being supported by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that were introduced in 2017 to prop up the market.

“Added price pressure comes from U.S. sanctions against the key oil exporting nations of Venezuela, Russia and Iran,” said J.P. Morgan Asset Management Global Market Strategist Kerry Craig. He was referring to action the U.S. government has taken on Russian companies and individuals, as well as on potential new measures against struggling Venezuela and especially OPEC-member Iran.

“Stay long oil,” J.P. Morgan said in a separate note.

The United States has until May 12 to decide whether it will leave the Iran nuclear deal and instead impose new sanctions against Tehran, including potentially on its oil exports, which would further tighten global supplies.

The U.S. trade action against Russia and, potentially, against Iran has resulted in a slump in Russia’s ruble and Iran’s rial.

This means costs for any imported goods become more expensive for its citizens or companies, but it has also pushed up the value of Russia’s and Iran’s oil sales as all of their production costs are in the local currencies, while foreign sales are largely made in the U.S. dollar.

The generally elevated oil prices have also sparked a spat between U.S. President Donald Trump and producer cartel OPEC.

Trump on Friday accused OPEC of “artificially” boosting oil prices, threatening on Twitter that this “will not be accepted”, drawing rebukes from several of the world’s top oil exporters within OPEC.

 

Teen faces terrorism charges in Florida school shooting

Crime, News, Politics
CAPTION: OCALA, FL - APRIL 20: Marion County Police officers walk out Forest High School after a school shooting on April 20, 2018 in Ocala, Florida. It was reported that a former student shot a 17-year-old male student in the ankle The shooter is in custody.© (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images) CAPTION: OCALA, FL – APRIL 20: Marion County Police officers walk out Forest High School after a school shooting on April 20, 2018 in Ocala, Florida. It was reported that a former student shot a…

A 19-year-old who shot a Florida high school student on Friday shared the “adrenaline rush” he felt that morning and acknowledged he should not have had a gun.

Sky Bouche, 19, was arrested at Forest High School in Ocala on Friday — just hours before the students planned to participate in a nationwide gun violence protest to mark the anniversary of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School.

Instead, students and faculty barricaded themselves during the lockdown, and a 17-year-old boy was taken to a local hospital for a gunshot wound to the ankle.

Bouche faces several charges including terrorism and aggravated assault with a firearm, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

Bouche originally planned a shooting of some kind on Friday the 13th before changing his mind and deciding to shoot up a school in order to attract more media attention, according to the sheriff’s office.

“Bouche also expressed to detectives that he felt ignored, and made statements that he could potentially conduct another shooting in the future,” the sheriff’s office said.

The teen, who later spoke to the Ocala Star Banner from Marion County Jail, described the rush he felt when he woke up on Friday and loaded his sawed-off shotgun, which he bought online without a background check.

“It’s not anger, it’s not hatred, it’s an adrenaline rush that, you know, I’m about to do something. I spend most of my time in a room alone so I’m getting this rush, so that’s what I was feeling,” he told the local news outlet.

Sky Bouche, 19, center, was arrested at Forest High School in Ocala, Fla., on Friday after he fired a shotgun and wounded a 17-year-old boy in the ankle.© Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner via AP Sky Bouche, 19, center, was arrested at Forest High School in Ocala, Fla., on Friday after he fired a shotgun and wounded a 17-year-old boy in the ankle.Bouche, a former student who dropped out in 2016, returned to Forest High School on Friday morning with the gun in a guitar case.

The teen was surprised he could simply waltz into the school bathroom, where he took out his weapon and put on a tactical vest and a pair of gloves.

By the time he stepped out of the bathroom, Bouche said he was overcome with a “disgusting feeling,” and fired the shotgun at the bottom of a locked classroom door before hearing someone scream.

Bouche, who said he “could’ve kept going,” threw down the gun and surrendered to a teacher.

Unaware that he wounded anyone, Bouche said, “I didn’t shoot anyone,” and apologized, adding, “It doesn’t matter anyway” as he was led from the school in handcuffs.

The shooting comes just two months after a gunman killed 17 people and wounded 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

With News Wire Services

U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Coach Martha Karolyi Says There’s ‘No Way’ She Suspected Sexual Abuse By Larry Nassar — TIME

News

(NEW YORK) — Former USA Gymnastics women’s national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and husband Bela tell NBC they were unaware of the abusive behavior by a former national team doctor now serving decades in prison. Martha Karolyi led the national team for 15 years before retiring after the 2016 Rio Olympics. She tells Savannah Guthrie…

via U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Coach Martha Karolyi Says There’s ‘No Way’ She Suspected Sexual Abuse By Larry Nassar — TIME

In Comey memos, Trump talks of jailed journalists, ‘hookers’

News, sports
WGN-TV

WASHINGTON — In a series of startlingly candid conversations, President Donald Trump told former FBI Director James Comey that he had serious concerns about the judgment of a top adviser, asked about the possibility of jailing journalists and described a boast from Vladimir Putin about Russian prostitutes, according to Comey’s notes of the talks obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday night.

The 15 pages of documents contain new details about a series of interactions with Trump that Comey found so unnerving that he chose to document them in writing. Those seven encounters in the weeks and months before Comey’s May 2017 firing include a Trump Tower discussion about allegations involving Trump and prostitutes in Moscow; a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty; and a private Oval Office discussion where the ex-FBI head says the president asked him to end an investigation into Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser.

The documents had been eagerly anticipated since their existence was first revealed last year, especially since Comey’s interactions with Trump are a critical part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice. Late Thursday night, Trump tweeted that the memos “show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION.”

In a Friday morning tweet, Trump lamented that Flynn’s life has been “totally destroyed” after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, “while Shadey (sic) James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book (that should never have been written).”

He added: “Is that really the way life in America is supposed to work? I don’t think so!”

The president also has accused Comey of leaking classified information. The memos obtained by the AP were unclassified, though some portions were blacked out as classified. Details from Comey’s memos reported in news stories last year appear to come from the unclassified portions.

In explaining the purpose of creating the memos, which have been provided to Mueller, Comey has said he “knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened” to defend not only himself but the FBI as well.

The memos cover the first three months of the Trump administration, a period of upheaval marked by staff turnover, a cascade of damaging headlines and revelations of an FBI investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The documents reflect Trump’s uneasiness about that investigation, though not always in ways that Comey seemed to anticipate.

In a February 2017 conversation, for instance, Trump told Comey how Putin told him, “we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world” even as the president adamantly, and repeatedly, distanced himself from a salacious allegation concerning him and prostitutes in Moscow, according to one memo.

In another memo, Comey recounts how Trump at a private White House dinner pointed his fingers at his head and complained that Flynn, his embattled national security adviser, “has serious judgment issues.” The president blamed Flynn for failing to alert him promptly to a congratulatory call from a world leader, causing a delay for Trump in returning a message to an official whose name is redacted in the documents.

“I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgment of any FBI interest in or contact with General Flynn,” Comey wrote.

By that point, the FBI had already interviewed Flynn about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and the Justice Department had already warned White House officials that they were concerned Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail.

Flynn was fired Feb. 13, 2017, after White House officials said he had misled them about his Russian contacts during the transition period by saying that he had not discussed sanctions. The following day, according to a separate memo, Comey says Trump cleared the Oval Office of other officials, encouraged him to let go of the investigation into Flynn and called him a good guy. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

The memos reveal that days before Flynn’s firing, then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked Comey if Flynn’s communications were being monitored under a secret surveillance warrant.

“Do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn?” Priebus asked Comey, according to the memos, referring to an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Comey said he “paused for a few seconds and then said that I would answer here, but that this illustrated the kind of question that had to be asked and answered through established channels.”

Comey’s response is redacted on the unclassified memos.

The memos also show Trump’s continued distress at a dossier of allegations — compiled by a former British spy whose work was funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign — examining potential ties between him and his aides and the Kremlin. Comey writes how Trump repeatedly denied to him having been involved in an encounter with Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.

“The President said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense,” Comey writes, noting that Trump then related the conversation with Putin about the “most beautiful hookers.” Comey says Trump did not say when Putin had made the comment.

The documents also include the president’s musings about pursuing leakers and imprisoning journalists. They also provide insight into Comey’s personal and professional opinions. He judges the administration’s travel ban to be legally valid, and he takes a swipe at former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, calling her predecessor, Eric Holder, “smarter and more sophisticated and smoother.”

The memos were provided to Congress earlier Thursday as House Republicans escalated criticism of the Justice Department, threatening to subpoena the documents and questioning officials.

In a letter sent to three Republican House committee chairmen Thursday evening, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote that the department was sending a classified version of the memos and an unclassified version. The department released Boyd’s letter publicly but did not release the memos. The chairmen issued a statement late Thursday saying the memos show that Comey clearly never felt threatened, and Trump didn’t obstruct justice.

Justice officials had allowed some lawmakers to view the memos but had never provided copies to Congress. Boyd wrote that the department had also provided the memos to several Senate committees.

Boyd wrote in the letter that the department “consulted the relevant parties” and concluded that releasing the memos would not adversely affect any ongoing investigations. Mueller is investigating potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign as well as possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Comey is on a publicity tour to promote his new book, “A Higher Loyalty.” He revealed last year that he had written the memos after conversations with Trump.

He said in an interview Thursday with CNN that he’s “fine” with the Justice Department turning his memos over to Congress.

“I think what folks will see if they get to see the memos is I’ve been consistent since the very beginning, right after my encounters with President Trump, and I’m consistent in the book and tried to be transparent in the book as well,” he said.

Islam, News

OLD NEWS OF 14-YEAR OLD RAPED INSIDE MOSQUE IN MORADABAD CIRCULATES AS RECENT INCIDENT

A news report is currently being circulated widely by some sections on social media. According to this report, a 14-year old girl was raped inside a mosque by a cleric and a shopkeeper in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. The report states that the mosque falls under the Bhagwatpur police station area. This news report has been published by some websites such as http://www.newsbytesapp.com, andhttp://www.gnsnews.co.in. NewsbytesApp was the first to publish this article, although it was later deleted. A copy of the NewsbytesApp article was put out by Yahoo News and it was quoted extensively on social media. These reports were published on April 14, 2018.

This report is being shared widely on social media. On Twitter, it was shared by right-wing users, who asked why this incident is being ignored by mainstream media organisations, with an obvious reference to the outrage over the gruesome incident in Kathua, J&K.

Islamic cleric Nazir and shopkeeper Mohsin rape a 14 year old minor girl INSIDE a mosque. After calling the innocent girl inside on the pretext of cleaning the room, they overpowered her and committed the heinous crime! Why no outrage in MSM? Cc – @Nidhihttps://t.co/I0kYsuWSby

— Shubhrastha (@Shubhrastha) April 16, 2018

This news was shared by Prasanna Vishwanathan, who is the CEO of the right-wing magazine Swarajyawho tweeted that cleric Nazir and shopkeeper Mohsin who allegedly committed the crime are absconding.

Uttar Pradesh: Cleric rapes 14-year-old girl inside mosque premises. Cleric Nazir and shopkeeper Mohsin, are absconding and the police are putting in efforts to arrest them.https://t.co/WLUeFmZcNk

— Prasanna Viswanathan (@prasannavishy) April 15, 2018

Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit was among those who tweeted about it, as did those who are followed on Twitter by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Each of these tweets was retweeted hundreds of times.

14-year-old girl raped inside the mosque by cleric Nazir and shopkeeper Mohsin in #Muradabad U.P.

“I Am Hindustan
I Am Ashamed
14 yrs old raped in a mosque”

— Ashoke Pandit (@ashokepandit) April 16, 2018

A shocking incident from Moradabad, UP !

14-year-old girl raped inside the mosque by cleric Nazir and shopkeeper Mohsin.

Can we have placard?

“I Am Hindustan
I Am Ashamed
14 yrs old raped in mosque”

— Sumit Katiyar (@iSKatiyar) April 16, 2018

Alt News fact checked this report and discovered that the said incident is not recent, but had in fact occurred in 2015. had reported about this incident in August 2015.

Alt News also contacted Bhagwatpur police station, Moradabad where the complaint was reportedly lodged. Sanjay Tomar, Inspector, Bhagwatpur police station confirmed, “The case is of 2015. The case number is 237/15 and it was registered under section 376D of the IPC. It is not a recent incident”.

An old incident dating back to August 2015 was presented as a recent incident by some news websites, and this was picked up on social media by those who seek to rationalise the horrific incidents of Kathua and Unnao. Resorting to whataboutery and alleging bias in coverage by mainstream media, a false narrative is sought to be created and perpetuated by these sections through this attempt to mislead the people.

The post Old news of 14-year old raped inside mosque in Moradabad circulates as recent incident appeared first on Alt News.

Judge rejects Missouri governor’s bid to dismiss criminal case

international News, News
ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – A St. Louis judge on Thursday rejected a bid to dismiss a criminal invasion of privacy charge against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens stemming from a sex scandal involving an extramarital affair

Judge Rex Burlison ruled against the Republican governor’s legal team, which filed a motion last week accusing Kim Gardner, the Democratic circuit attorney for the city of St. Louis, of prosecutorial misconduct. The lawyers had argued that Gardner tried to conceal video evidence favorable to the governor and his assertions that the affair was entirely consensual.

Greitens was indicted in February on a single felony count of invasion of privacy, charging he took a photo of a woman in a state of undress without her consent and then made it accessible by computer to use as retaliation should she divulge their relationship.

The alleged offense occurred in March 2015, the year before Greitens, a married father of two and a former U.S. Navy SEAL commando, was elected governor. If convicted, he would face up to four years in prison.

Greitens has admitted to a months-long affair with the woman. But he has denied blackmailing her or other criminal wrongdoing. Instead, he has cast himself as the victim of a “political witch-hunt” for private transgressions that have nothing to do with his job as governor.

His lawyers have noted neither prosecutors nor anyone else has produced the photograph in question. The woman testified to a state House of Representatives committee that she believes it was taken while she was bound and blindfolded, and partially nude, in Greitens’ basement.

Writing by Steve Gorman and Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Dan Grebler and Jonathan Oatis

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Dick’s Sporting Goods to destroy all guns pulled from shelves — kplr11.com

News

PITTSBURGH – Dick’s Sporting Goods will be destroying all the guns and accessories that it stopped selling in late February. In a statement to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this month, a company spokeswoman said they are “in the process of destroying all firearms and accessories” associated with the policy change. The retail giant will be…

via Dick’s Sporting Goods to destroy all guns pulled from shelves — kplr11.com

Russia Reveals Who “Staged” Syria Gas Attack, As US Claims Moscow “May Have Tampered” With Site

international News, Politics, Power, SYRIA

Russia Reveals Who “Staged” Syria Gas Attack, As US Claims Moscow “May Have Tampered” With Site

The Russian envoy to the chemical weapons watchdog group, OPCW, said that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) funded by the UK and US carried out the April 7 chemical attack in the Damascus, Syria suburb of Douma.

Russia’s permanent representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Alexander Shulgin, said Russia has irrefutable evidence that there was no chemical weapons incident in Douma.

“Therefore, we have not just a “high degree of confidence,” as our Western partners claim, but we have incontrovertible evidence that there was no incident on April 7 in Douma and that all this was a planned provocation by the British intelligence services, probably, with the participation of their senior allies from Washington with the aim of misleading the international community and justifying aggression against Syria,” he stated. –Sputnik

Shulgin added that the US, UK and France are not interested in conducting an objective investigation of the attack site. “They put the blame on the Syrian authorities in advance, without even waiting for the OPCW mission to begin to establish the possible facts of the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” he said.

The nine-member OPCW mission people has yet to deploy to the city of Douma according to the organization’s Chief, citing pending security issues.

“The Team has not yet deployed to Douma. The Syrian and the Russian officials who participated in the preparatory meetings in Damascus have informed the FFM Team that there were still pending security issues to be worked out before any deployment could take place. In the meantime the Team was offered by the Syrian authorities that they could interview 22 witnesses who could be brought to Damascus,” OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said as quoted by the organization.

The Russian Envoy says that the controversial “White Helmets” were one of the anti-Assad “pseudo-humanitarian NGOs” which staged the event. As Disobedient Media and others have reported, the White Helmets are funded in large part by the United States.

a

“The Syrian Civil Defense Force (aka the White Helmets) is funded in part by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Included here are two links showing contracts awarded by USAID to Chemonics International Inc. (DBA Chemonics). The first award was in the sum of $111.2 million and has a Period of Performance (POP) from January 2013 to June 2017. It states that the purpose of the award will be to use the funds for managing a “quick-response mechanism supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria.” The second was in the sum of $57.4 million and has a POP from August 2015 to August 2020. This award was designated to be used in the “Syria Regional Program II” which is a part of the Support Which Implements Fast Transitions IV (SWIFT IV) program.” Via Disobedient Media

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Judge rules jury can hear Bill Cosby’s Quaalude testimony

Celebrity Gists, Crime

Judge rules jury can hear Bill Cosby’s quaalude testimony

Andrea Constand arrives to resume her testimony during Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., Monday, April 16, 2018.Dominick Reuter / AP

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — The jury at Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial can hear his decade-old testimony about giving quaaludes to women before sex, a judge ruled Tuesday, handing the prosecution a key victory in its effort to portray the comedian as a serial predator.

Judge Steven O’Neill said prosecutors can have the “Cosby Show” star’s deposition testimony read into the record.

Cosby, 80, is on trial on charges he drugged and molested former Temple University basketball administrator Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004. The deposition was also included at his first trial, which ended with a hung jury last year.

Prosecutors used another of Cosby’s statements — this one to police — to show how he described the encounter with Constand in 2005.

Cosby said he gave Constand 1 1/2 tablets of the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl to help her relax, then fondled her breasts and genitals, according to the transcript, which was read to the jury Tuesday morning.

Cosby said Constand never told him to stop.

“We are petting. I enjoyed it,” the TV star said, according to the transcript. “And then I stopped and I went up to bed. We stopped and then we talked.”

Constand says Cosby knocked her out with the pills and then sexually assaulted her, penetrating her with his fingers and guiding her hand to his penis. Cosby told police he didn’t remember whether Constand touched his genitals.

The jury was expected to hear later about Cosby’s acknowledged use of quaaludes, a popular party drug in the 1970s that was banned in the U.S. in 1982, to help get women to have sex with him.

Testifying under oath in 2005 as part of Constand’s civil suit against him, Cosby said he had obtained several prescriptions for quaaludes from his doctor in Los Angeles in the 1970s, ostensibly for a sore back. The long-married comedian said he never took the drug, instead giving it to women he wanted to have sex with “the same as a person would say, ‘Have a drink.”‘

“Quaaludes happen to be the drug that kids, young people were using to party with, and there were times when I wanted to have them just in case,” Cosby testified.

The comic ultimately settled Constand’s lawsuit for nearly $3.4 million.

Cosby’s lawyers argued the testimony is irrelevant to his retrial because there is no evidence he gave Constand the drug. Prosecutors have suggested otherwise.

The unsealing of the deposition, at the request of The Associated Press, led prosecutors to reopen Cosby’s criminal case in 2015.

A police sergeant who investigated Constand’s allegation a decade earlier testified Tuesday that the probe was abruptly shut down before police had finished their work.

Cheltenham Township Police Sgt. Richard Schaffer told jurors that then-District Attorney Bruce Castor announced he was closing the probe hours after investigators met to discuss leads that needed to be followed up — and just four weeks after Constand went to police. Castor has said the evidence showed both parties “could be held in less than a flattering light.”

On Monday, Constand rejected defence allegations that she concocted her story to score a big payday, and her mother testified that Cosby apologized in a phone call and called himself a “sick man.”

Andrea and Gianna Constand’s testimony followed that of five additional accusers who told jurors that Cosby had drugged and assaulted them two decades earlier.

As Cosby arrived at the courthouse Tuesday, his spokeswoman Ebonee Benson told reporters that the Constands’ testimony “seemed to be more colorful and more embellished” than at the first trial.

——

Follow Mike Sisak at https://twitter.com/mikesisak.

NYC removes statue of doctor who experimented on slaves -AP NEW YORK

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NYC removes statue of doctor who experimented on slaves

NEW YORK — A statue of a 19th century doctor who did experimental surgery without anesthesia on enslaved African-American women has been removed from New York’s Central Park.

The city’s Public Design Commission voted Monday to accept a mayoral panel’s recommendation to remove the statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims, known as the father of modern gynecology.

It was removed Tuesday for relocation to Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, where Sims is buried, accompanied by signage with historical context.

The New York Times says the commission’s president wept on Monday when she called for the vote.

Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a review of “symbols of hate” on city property eight months ago following a white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left a person dead.

France accuses Russia of trying to cover up Syria poison gas attack saying ‘essential evidence’ is vanishing as investigators are blocked from site — The Sun

international News, Middle East, Military, Politics, Power, SYRIA

FRANCE has accused Russia of trying to cover up the Syrian poison gas attack claiming “essential evidence” has vanished. At least 70 people were killed, many of whom were little children, after aircraft’s dropped barrel bombs full of toxic chemicals in Douma on April 7. AFP or licensors France has accused Russia of trying to…

via France accuses Russia of trying to cover up Syria poison gas attack saying ‘essential evidence’ is vanishing as investigators are blocked from site — The Sun

France accuses Russia of trying to cover up Syria poison gas attack saying ‘essential evidence’ is vanishing as investigators are blocked from site — The Sun

international News, Middle East, Military, Politics, Power, SYRIA

FRANCE has accused Russia of trying to cover up the Syrian poison gas attack claiming “essential evidence” has vanished. At least 70 people were killed, many of whom were little children, after aircraft’s dropped barrel bombs full of toxic chemicals in Douma on April 7. AFP or licensors France has accused Russia of trying to…

via France accuses Russia of trying to cover up Syria poison gas attack saying ‘essential evidence’ is vanishing as investigators are blocked from site — The Sun

2018 NBA Playoffs First Round Preview

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2018 NBA Playoffs First Round Preview

2018 NBA Playoffs

First Round Preview
Warriors Champions

As the NBA regular season concluded, we saw an amount of parity and competitive balance that has been uncommon for a long time.  The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavilers looked human, while teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz went on large stretches of winning.  The Houston Rockets were the only team in the association to surpass the 60-win threshold, and there was a clutter of teams in both conferences with 40 plus wins.  The winners of each conference (Toronto and Houston) have a reputation for failing to perform in the playoffs, yet the teams we are accustomed to seeing do well have weaknesses of their own.  Can the Warriors move throughout round one without Steph Curry? Does LeBron have enough support to move on? Are the Sixers legit? Do we trust the Thunder? GIANNIS!?

 

Well, I simply do not know; only time will tell.

 

But what I will do is, with the best of my ability (and I’m like a wicked smaht guy), predict the first round of these playoffs… buckle up folks.

 

Eastern Conference

 

Toronto v Washington

demar and kyle

I do not know how to feel about this series.  Toronto had a stellar regular season. They finally established a bench, and did so by developing youth!  Stunning!

 

Yet just when you felt like things were in their favor, they lose in a shootout to the Cavs (just an example).  Can we trust their body of work to hold up?

 

Well… Washington has all the talent to beat Toronto.  John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter are no novices when it comes to the playoffs.  They have won a playoff series three of the past four seasons and were a game away from reaching the conference finals last season (blame the Olynyk clinic).  Nevertheless, they tend to underperform as well (the fact they’re an 8 seed says as much).

 

This reminds me of the Celtics-Bulls matchup last year… and this time I see the upset happening.  If I have to choose a backcourt to perform and win, I’m giving Wall and Beal the (slight) edge. It will be close, and this series could go either way, but I have the tides of luck going to Washington.

 

Washington in 7

Boston v Milwaukee

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics

If this were right after the All-Star break, and Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, and Daniel Theis were healthy, this would be a breeze… but they are not.  The Celtics have been dealt an undeniably bad hand all season… and yet they won 55 games. They have a brilliant coach who can work with anything, and that has been the case numerous times this season (see Jonathan Gibson).

 

But can he handle Giannis?

 

The Bucks have the superstar in this series (a huge plus), and good surrounding pieces in Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton.  They have the talent to win this in 5, yet they simply never perform to the level they should. This led to Jason Kidd getting fired, and Joe Prunty is not Phil Jackson.

This series will be a chess match.  The Bucks have the advantage, but the Celtics have an elite coach, and a roster of ruthless players who never quit.

 

The 55-win team is seemingly the underdog, and that is something Brad Stevens is familiar with (see Butler).  Folks, I am taking the underdog here.

 

Boston in 7

 

Philadelphia v Miami

Philadelphia 76ers V Miami Heat

The 76ers ended the regular season on a 16-game winning streak, finishing 52-30.  Process complete? Well, Ben Simmons looked like Magic Johnson. Joel Embiid looked like a superstar.  Markelle Fultz actually played (well!) How can you not root for this!?

 

Hit the brakes, America.

 

Miami is no stranger to the NBA playoffs.  Erik Spolestra has coached in 4 NBA finals, and has made numerous other playoff appearances.  The presence of the legendary Dwayne Wade will be an asset (and he is still balling). Miami has been called Boston-lite, meaning that although they may have inferior talent compared to their competition, their coaching and execution is far superior.  This should not be forgotten, especially against a young squad where many of the prominent players are making their first playoff appearances.

 

Joel Embiid will not be ready for game 1, but that did not stop Philly from winning at the end of the season.

 

This will be a fun series, but the momentum that the 76ers have had of late is remarkable.  They are clicking at the right time, and I do not see that stopping.

 

Philadelphia in 6

Cleveland v Indiana

AP THUNDER CAVALIERS BASKETBALL S BKN USA OH

LeBron James versus the Indiana Pacers in the first round.  If this sounds familiar, it is because it happened last year.  Unfortunately, this series will not feature the likes of Kyrie Irving or Paul George.  Yet it might be even better than last year.

 

The Pacers have been a nice story this year, winning 48 games with sudden superstar Victor Oladipo (who very well could make an All-NBA team).  No one anticipated this team doing much, as they only received Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in return in return for George (which was seen by many as pennies on the dollar), yet they exceeded all expectations.  Good for them.

 

Unfortunately, the luck runs out here, thanks to LeBron James.

 

James has been phenomenal this season.  Part of that is due to the fact his supporting cast is as lackluster as he has had since his first Cleveland stint, but we know good and well that means nothing.  If you have LeBron, you have a shot, and in most instances, you have a great shot. I see the Cavs, with a healthy Kevin Love, making easy work of the Pacers.

 

Indy, you were a nice story, and I hope you fill out your team around Oladipo… but do not expect a series here.

 

Cleveland in 5

Western Conference

 

Houston v Minnesota

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What a treat we got on Wednesday.  We witnessed a play-in game for the 8 seed between Minnesota and the Denver Nuggets.  In a game that went to OT (and dragged on forever due to replays), the Timberwolves ended a 14-year playoff drought, securing the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

 

Their prize?  Facing the juggernaut Houston Rockets.

 

Houston has exceeded everyone’s expectations this season on their way to 65 wins.  No one quite knew what to expect with a backcourt featuring James Harden and Chris Paul.  The critics said, “there is only one ball.” Well, for one ball, these two (and the whole team) sure knew what to do with it.  When all the pieces were healthy (including Clint Capella), this team was almost unbeatable. It was a sight to behold all year and will absolutely end in some hardware coming to Houston (at least in the form of an MVP trophy going to James Harden).

 

It’s good to see the T-Wolves here, but they are no match for this year’s best team

 

Rockets in 5

 

Warriors v Spurs

spurs

Yet another case of “what if everyone was healthy?”

 

If the Warriors had Steph Curry, this series would be quick.  If the Spurs had Kawhi Leonard, this series would be amazing (just like last year would’ve been).  Unfortunately, those two will not be playing.

 

Nevertheless, there is still a loaded Warriors team featuring Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, and an institutionally great Spurs organization including the rejuvenated LaMarcus Aldridge.

 

Great coaching, lots of ball movement, plenty of threes… but the champs move on.  San Antonio will not go down easy (even without Kawhi). Even as the Warriors season ended in disappointing fashion by their standards (imagine 58 wins being seen as a down year), they’re just too good, and too accustomed to this moment.

 

Good games will occur, but Golden State will prevail.

 

Golden State in 6

Portland v New Orleans

New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers

This is going to be a FUN series.  These two teams both were at a point this year where they seemed like they would be low seeds, and possibly not even make the playoffs.  New Orleans suffered a demoralizing injury when DeMarcus Cousins tore his achilles… yet did even better. They defied the odds and were in contention for a top 4 seed during the last days of the season.  Anthony Davis looked like a machine, NBA Rondos (sup Janos) was good, and the team did what we did not think they could: make the playoffs.

 

The Trail Blazers have always been a team I’ve rooted for from afar.  I absolutely love Damian Lillard, and C.J. McCollum is a baller. They are a group, not unlike the Wizards (or as Fredy has personally told me: the Raptors), that you think they have the talent to succeed, yet they just do not.  As the Raptors seem to face (and lose) to the Cavs each year, the Trail Blazers seem to face (and lose) to the Warriors every year. Luckily Golden State is not their opponent (yet?)

 

Portland finished the season strong, surging to the 3 seed with a strong second half, and securing it on the last night of the season.  They showed when all the pieces are clicking, they can be an elite team.

 

I can say plenty of nice things about each team, but only one can move on.

 

I have gone back-and-forth all day on this (and will continue to do so) … but right now, I’ll give the edge to Portland (hey, if it gets Anthony Davis mad, he’s one step closer to wanting out… hmmm).

 

Portland in 7

Oklahoma City v Utah

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This is another interesting series.  Utah went from looking on from the outside in February, to having a shot at the 3 seed on the last night of the season.  What a turn of events, huh? Donovan Mitchell looks like a legit scorer in this league, putting up 20.5 PPG this season. They feature a selfless squad (which includes former Celtics’ Jonas Jerebko and Jae Crowder) and a potential DPOY in Rudy Gobert.  Momentum is on their side… right.

(insert Russell Westbrook meme)

 

The Thunder have the stars that we all thought would culminate in the third best record in the West (they were close), but ultimately that was not the case.  The fit was not as seamless as we thought, as Carmelo had trouble acclimating to his new role, and George has had a tough stretch of late. There have been flashes of what this group can do (like last Saturday), and the pure talent and ferocity of Westbrook alone leaves them in any fight they encounter… but they just have not been in ultimate, true sync.

There is a lot riding on this series.  The fate of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony could hinge on how this series goes (unless they have already made up their minds).  It’s tough to throw stars together and expect them to mesh… and this is a team sport too, guys 4-12 play a huge role. Having Andre Roberson would help, but nevertheless, I do not think the Thunder will mesh and maximize the talent they have in time (if they do, I’d be peachy).  The parts the have are ultimately worth more than their whole…and their whole will not be better than that of the Jazz.

 

This series will go six because of Westbrook, but it will feel like domination on Utah’s end

 

Utah in 6

By Nick Collins

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WHY LEBRON IS RIGHT ABOUT THE NBA PLAYOFFS

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WHY LEBRON IS RIGHT ABOUT THE NBA PLAYOFFS

37621425836_8046eb39c6_k.jpg
LeBron James” by Erik Drost 
“I would disagree with that. I think our league has been built the right way as far as when it comes to the postseason.” “It’s cool to mess around with the All-Star Game, we proved you can do that, but let’s not get too crazy about the playoffs.”

The above quote by LeBron James is what most of us saw when we got the notification from whatever sports app we use. My guess is that several people saw that one quote by LeBron and thought something along the lines of LeBron wanting to keep the playoffs the same because right now nobody in the Eastern Conference can beat him. I envisioned that quote to give LeBron haters another reason to hate on LeBron.

It’s fair to think that if that’s the only quote you saw, but there’s so much more LeBron had to say about why the playoffs should stay the same, and he’s absolutely right. The NBA wants to change the playoffs to something crazy. A 16 seed playoffs where two Western or Eastern Conference teams can end up playing each other in the Finals. Now there’s even talk of them doing a play-in game for the bottom two seeds in each conference. While the idea of those might be cool, it shouldn’t happen.

To my knowledge, one of the biggest reasons the NBA is considering changing the playoffs, is because the Western Conference is a lot more loaded and competitive than the Eastern Conference. It’s been that way for several years. It’s also because LeBron James has ruled the Eastern Conference for years now, going to 7 straight NBA Finals.

“There’s been dominant conferences throughout time. You know obviously in the 80’s you had mix-matched together Lakers who dominated the league at one point and you had Boston who dominated the league. In the 90’s you had Chicago who dominated the league. You know, San Antonio has had its run, we had our run in the East with Miami, Golden State is having its run.”

LeBron is right on the money here. Was it a huge deal when Michael Jordan ruled the Eastern Conference? Was it when Kobe Bryant ruled the Western Conference? Teams change all the time, and so does dominance. LeBron James wasn’t always the player who made it to 7 straight Finals you know. He used to be the guy who had everyone wondering why he couldn’t win a single championship. During that time there were teams like the Celtics, Pistons, and even the Magic had a little run at the top. In the Western Conference you had the Lakers and Spurs in the Finals just about every year.

The Celtics are good now, but it wasn’t always like that. The Pistons aren’t great now, and the Magic are one of the worst teams in the league. The Spurs aren’t the team they used to be, and the Lakers are not the Kobe Bryant in his prime Lakers by any means. Again, teams change and so does dominance. The Warriors are currently having their time of dominance, but it won’t always be like that. Things will change over time. There will come a time when LeBron doesn’t make it to the Finals because things will change.

“It just changes the landscape of the history of the game if you start messing with seedings or playoffs and you start talking about well if this team played this Western Conference team would he have,” James added. This is another thing that bothers me about this. People say things like, “LeBron wouldn’t have made it the Finals if he played in the Western Conference or if he played the (insert team of choice here) in the playoffs.” People make it sound like LeBron getting to the Finals 7 straight times is easy. They make it sound like he didn’t play any good teams to get there or like he didn’t have to try.

What would happen if there’s a 16 seed playoff and LeBron still makes it to the Finals? Is that system automatically going to be deemed flawed too? LeBron James is one of the greatest players of all time. That’s why he’s been to 7 straight Finals. Michael Jordan is one of the greatest of all time. That’s why he had 6 championships. Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest of all time. That’s why he won 5 championships. It’s not because of what conference they played in.

I haven’t heard of any problem like this in the NFL, which has a slightly different but essentially the same playoff system. Tom Brady has been to 8 Super Bowls and has won 5 of them. Is the NFL considering changing their playoff system because Tom Brady rules the AFC? No. Teams change in the NFL just like they do in the NBA. The Jaguars were bad for years, and then last year they went to the Conference Championship game. At the end of last season, nobody thought the Eagles would win the Super Bowl because they were terrible the year before.

There’s no reason for the NBA to change the playoff system. It’s always been like that and it should stay that way. If they don’t like the Warriors and Cavs going to the Finals every year, all they have to do is wait. It won’t be that way forever.

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The gaping hole in Sean Hannity’s story about being Michael Cohen’s client

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shane

© AP Photo/Craig Ruttle Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, arrives for a hearing at federal court Monday, April 16, 2018, in New York.

It’s not what it looks like. That’s the refrain from Sean Hannity, after lawyers for President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, revealed in court on Monday that the Fox News host is one of only three clients that Cohen represented this year and last.

Cohen’s previous work included arranging a $130,000 payment to prevent porn star Stormy Daniels from talking publicly about her alleged affair with Trump. And Cohen’s work for the other client on his short list, Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, included negotiating a $1.6 million settlement with a former Playboy model who got pregnant when she and Broidy had an affair.

So what it looks like, of course, is that Cohen could have similarly helped Hannity silence a woman who might have told an embarrassing story. That is not the case, Hannity insisted on his radio show.

“I tell you why they’re going nuts,” Hannity said of the media. “They’re assuming — because I guess he did some type of work for some Republican guy — they’re figuring, ‘Oh, he must’ve done a big settlement case for Hannity.’ That’s not — no, that’s not what happened. Ever.”

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“Not one of any issue I ever dealt with Michael Cohen on ever — ever — involved a matter between me and any third party,” Hannity added.

Hannity’s denial is a bit confusing. Hannity sought Cohen’s legal counsel only on matters involving Hannity and himself?

It is also unclear why, if Cohen’s work for Hannity was innocuous, the two men sought to keep their relationship secret. In a letter to the court Monday morning, Cohen’s lawyers said his third recent client, besides Trump and Broidy, wished to remain anonymous.

“As to the one unnamed legal client, we do not believe that Mr. Cohen should be asked to reveal the name or can permissibly do so,” the letter said. A federal judge disagreed.

But there is an even bigger hole in Hannity’s explanation: Why, as he railed against FBI raids of Cohen’s office, home and hotel room last week, did Hannity not disclose to viewers and listeners that his communications with Cohen could have been among the materials seized?

“We have now entered a dangerous phase,” Hannity said on TV on the day of the raids, without mentioning any potential danger to himself.

A Fox News spokeswoman did not respond to a Fix inquiry on this point. Instead, the network issued the following statement, attributed to Hannity: “Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective. I assumed those conversations were confidential but, to be absolutely clear, they never involved any matter between me and a third party.”

On the radio, Hannity did not directly address his lack of disclosure but hinted at a possible defense — that he did not consider himself a formal client of Cohen’s.

That Cohen’s attorneys included Hannity’s name on a list of clients presented in court “just shows that Michael was doing his due diligence and being totally thorough about anybody that he might have had attorney-client privilege with,” Hannity told listeners.

Hannity made further comments that appear to be somewhat inconsistent with the statement he issued through Fox News. He said that he might have paid Cohen a small fee, after all, and said he did not merely assume that their conversations were privileged but rather sought assurances.

“I might have handed him 10 bucks [and said,] ‘I definitely want your attorney-client privilege on this,’ ” Hannity said on the radio. “Something like that. I requested that privilege with him when I would ask him: ‘Well, this just came up. What do you think about this? What do you think about that?’ ”

As a commentator, Hannity need not be neutral. But as a self-described “opinion journalist,” he could reasonably be expected to divulge a conflict of interest such as the one involving Cohen.

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