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Richard Zula was among a handful of former Catholic priests accused by a state grand jury of participating in a child porn ring in the Pittsburgh area.

One of the issues working its way through a number of states is getting the statute of limitations dropped for such child sexual abuse cases.

I hope that every such effort is successful, and each case prosecuted to the full extent that the law allows. And that the souls who have had their childhoods stolen can find some measure of peace. 


You know, we diners should really put our best BITCHFACE on & ride this War-Mart is Evil thread into the sunset.

Hope it catches ablaze to JQP/J6P

I'm all in. Neither Contrary not I EVER darken the door of Wal-Mart. And haven't for years.

If their business practices aren't enough, the fact that they externalize they expenses to their surrounding communities should be enough to push you over.

Don't know if Wal-Mart will give you cancer, but Wal-Mart is cancer to a community.

Activist Post

By Kurt Nimmo

Target Liberty posted a screen capture of Caitlin Johnstone’s terminated Twitter account.

The Silicon Valley division of the national security state is now in the process of memory-holing high-traffic users in violation of corporate community terms of service which are of course selectively enforced.

Jack Dorsey has made all sorts of noises to the contrary, including not suspending Alex Jones' account until recently. Then Jack limped-dicked some sort of apologia:

Twitter CEO Dorsey explains ignoring Infowars' rules violations
Speaking to CNN, Dorsey says Twitter didn't take action against Alex Jones until others pointed out bad behavior.

Frankly, I have absolutely NO patience with the fraternity of putative right wing victims who have their own bountifully funded media system, publishing houses, richly endowed sugar daddies and most of reddit, who are the first to howl like little bitches the first time they encounter some pushback. Anywhere. The reaction of right-wing vics is a textbook example of privilege-in-action. These little choads troll the internet and feel free to make bold on social media threads with shouts of "libtard" and "cuck," but bleat like baby lambs when someone invites them to suck a bag of dicks.

May they all earn an early case of flesh-eating bacteria.

As for Caitlin Johnstone, I'll see her in hell.

Economics / Re: 🚛 Trade Warz
« on: Today at 12:04:54 PM »

China finds itself reeling under trade disputes with the US, as the next round of tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods is expected to start on August 23. Earlier this week, Russia offered to bail out China from the trade war with Washington. Moscow offered 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of arable land available to Chinese farmers to meet its large-scale demand for soybeans — and of course, prevent a massive soybean shortage that would lead to political/social upheavals across the country.

<a href="" target="_blank" class="new_win"></a>

Saw a reference to the Russian land offer elsewhere as well.

BRICS Brothers have to hang together.

Cui bono?

Well, the Waltons, for one, because you can never own too many yachts, retail associations, law enforcement groups, and

... the private prison system, because deploying prison slave labor helps keep wages down, and is good for profits.

From the article:
The legislation also allows local law enforcement to keep the value of stolen gift cards as forfeiture money.

Again, "win, win," unless you're poor.

12 years in jail for shoplifting: how Walmart is helping prosecutors hike up sentences
The case of a man facing 12 years in prison for shoplifting shows a growing trend in America: corporations successfully pushing state prosecutors to increase shoplifting charges to felonies

Jessica Pishko, for The Appeal

“Across the country, more state legislatures are increasing the penalties for multiple shoplifting offenses.”
“Across the country, more state legislatures are increasing the penalties for multiple shoplifting offenses.” Photograph: AlexRaths/Getty Images/iStockphoto

It was late afternoon on 26 December 2016 – the day after Christmas, a day when most stores are busy processing the returns for unwanted gifts – when Curtis Lawson entered a Walmart in Knoxville, Tennessee. He had a receipt for $39.57 in purchases made earlier that month. He needed cash. He walked through the store, picking up the same items he had purchased previously – dishwasher detergent, Oral-B refills, and a pair of girl’s jeggings – and put them in a shopping bag. He brought them to the register, returned the items using his receipt, and received $39.57 in cash. Lawson had committed what is known as “return fraud” – pretending to return items that you didn’t buy.

When Lawson walked into the Walmart empty-handed, Walmart loss prevention officer Robert McAuley decided he looked suspicious and watched him on the security cameras. He watched Lawson pick up the clothes and return them at the customer service desk. McAuley immediately detained Lawson, who admitted right away that he had stolen the items, and Lawson was eventually charged with shoplifting and criminal trespass. What came next was a startling encounter with a local criminal justice system heavily influenced by a big box retailer’s desire to reduce shoplifting and a prosecutor’s penchant for punishing those who are more unlucky than dangerous.

Lawson had at least three outstanding warrants, most of which were related to traffic violations, including a DUI. Lawson’s attorneys admitted that Lawson had a drug addiction and sometimes shoplifted to support his habit, but noted that he had never been accused of being a threat to anyone’s safety. Because of the outstanding warrants, his bail was set at $2,500 total, and he was immediately taken to jail. On 9 January, a warrant was issued for Lawson that escalated his shoplifting charge to a felony because, according to the arrest affidavit, Lawson was not allowed to be inside Walmart at all. Therefore his return fraud was a burglary – a felony punishable by up to 12 years of prison. His bail was jacked up to $5,000.

In Tennessee, as in many states, shoplifting items under $1,000 is a misdemeanor. But, in the past few years, the Knox county district attorney’s office has been prosecuting people like Lawson under the burglary statute, which under Tennessee law is defined as “unlawfully and knowingly entering a building without the consent of the owner and committing a theft”.

It turned out that Lawson had been arrested for shoplifting a bra over four years earlier from another Walmart location. That time, Lawson was issued what’s called a “Notification of Restriction from Property” by Walmart loss prevention staff. This piece of paper essentially restricts someone’s access to Walmart by officially “evicting” them from the property forever. The notice informs Lawson that he is “no longer allowed on property owned by Walmart Stores Inc or in any area subject to Walmart Stores Inc’s control” and it includes “all retail locations or subsidiaries”. Such documents, according to the loss prevention officer at Lawson’s trial, are regularly issued at Walmarts across the US.

Lawson’s attorneys argued that charging their client with felony burglary was not appropriate because the store, rather than being a private residence or a warehouse, was open to the public. Assistant district public defender Jonathan Harwell, who has worked on similar cases and represents Lawson, believes that Walmart’s notifications are confusing. They are not consistently enforced: Lawson, for example, had entered Walmart locations countless times since receiving his notification. He had made returns, purchased goods, and even showed his ID to buy food using his EBT card, all without a problem. There aren’t any “no trespassing” signs around Walmart and no other indication that potential shoppers are being checked when they enter the store. And, most likely, they aren’t. The only people who have access to the notices are loss prevention staff.

The law in Tennessee is confusing when it comes to prosecuting shoplifters on felony charges, so the decision is left to local prosecutors. A case in another county similar to Lawson’s, State v Danielle Chandria Jensen, was dismissed when the judge decided the felony charge wasn’t appropriate. The appellate court that upheld the dismissal wrote scathingly that “the prosecutor had a strong desire to prosecute all individuals for burglary who had been arrested for shoplifting or theft who previously had been banned from the relevant store, a questionable goal when the harshness of a felony conviction and sentence for burglary is compared to the wrong committed, even for a repeat shoplifter.” The case was vacated by a higher court on a different issue, so the law remains unsettled.

Charme Allen, the Knox county district attorney, vowed after the Jensenappellate decision to keep up-charging shoplifters anyway. When I asked her office about the policy, deputy district attorney general Kyle Hixson responded via email: “The District Attorney’s Office prosecutes all business burglaries, whether the victim is a sole proprietor or a corporation, according to the provisions of the state burglary statute. Business burglary prosecutions of this type are not permitted for first-time offenders, as the defendant must be placed on the business’ no-trespass list due to prior criminal activity occurring on the victim’s property. These prosecutions have been a valuable tool to protect businesses from repeat offenders and to ensure that Knox County remains a safe place for businesses to operate.”

Walmart’s trespass notifications are part of the extension of private influence over parts of the criminal justice system that benefit third parties, like retailers. Walmart, in particular, has come under fire in the past for hiring too few employees (a cost-cutting measure), and then relying heavily on publicly funded local police to handle their shoplifting problem. I have previously written about Walmart’s “restorative justice” program, a private anti-shoplifting program in California that a superior court judge found to amount to illegal extortion. Around 2008, according to testimony from Lawson’s preliminary hearing, Walmart began implementing the trespass system, which allows them to keep records on who has shoplifted before.

Across the country, more state legislatures are increasing the penalties for multiple shoplifting offenses, a move that has been encouraged by the National Retail Federation, a trade group that lobbies on behalf of retail businesses. The Federation represents the interests of both small businesses – mom-and-pop shops – and big megastores like Walmart and Dollar Store. According to the trade publication Loss Prevention Media, “legislation has become a primary tool used in combating organized retail crime”.

Little reliable information is available about “organized retail crime” or about shoplifting in general. The only information out there comes from the National Retail Federation itself. In a 2014 study, the NRF said that shoplifting accounted for 38% of shrinkage (all lost inventory), or about $44bn in losses. A valuation by Forbes estimated that, by these numbers, Walmart loses under $2bn in shoplifting. The latest studies by the NRF have focused on what they call “Organized Retail Theft”, which an NRF study says affects “9 out of 10 retailers”, creates a loss of “$726,351 per every $1bn in sales”, and involves people “exhibiting much more aggression”.

In Tennessee, the push to make penalties for shoplifting harsher came from the Tennessee Retailer Association and the state representative from Knoxville, Jason Zachary, whose profile notes that he is a small business owner. Notes from the legislative sessions indicate that the provision, which would punish retail theft, gift-card fraud, and return fraud more harshly would “increase recurring local revenue by an amount exceeding $20,000 per year”. The retailer’s associations argue that shoplifting hurts local government by decreasing the sales taxes collected. The legislation also allows local law enforcement to keep the value of stolen gift cards as forfeiture money.

Other states are considering similar laws under the guise of preventing “organized retail crime”. For example, in California, the state retailer’s association has banded together with prosecutors and sheriffs to support a bill that would increase the penalties for shoplifting. These lobbyists argue that recent changes to California’s laws have made it difficult for law enforcement to detain and prosecute shoplifters, which is hurting their bottom line.

Lawson was convicted of burglary in March. He is still waiting for his sentencing hearing, but because of the burglary charge, his options for parole or alternative sentencing are limited. A representative from the Knox county DA’s office pointed to Lawson’s long list of felony charges, indicating that he is likely to receive the maximum sentence of 12 years in prison. Lawson’s attorneys in the public defender’s office have noted that these felony prosecutions have increased since the 2014 election of the current Knoxville district attorney, Charme Allen, who vowed to crack down on crime and has prosecuted a large number of cases under the state’s gang statute, which was recently struck down by the Tennessee court of criminal appeals for being too broad. In the meantime, it appears that the new law is being used not to prosecute dangerous retail gangs, but rather to penalize those who can least afford it, like Lawson.

Jessica Pishko is a writer in Dallas, Texas, who frequently covers incarceration and social justice issues. She used to practice corporate law, specializing in securities fraud, and representing death penalty clients and victims of domestic abuse pro bono. For more, click here.

Looking for more great work from The Appeal, the national outlet for criminal justice journalism and commentary? Try these links:

Surly Newz / The TRUE cost of "Low, Low Prices Ever Day."
« on: Today at 08:40:09 AM »
The TRUE cost of "Low, Low Prices Ever Day."

Once way to avoid being mined for corporate profits is to not steal. A better one is to never darken the door of a War-Mart.

The point here is not to defend what any of the accused did so much as Was-Mart's corporatized and opportunistic response.

They’re Falsely Accused of Shoplifting, but Retailers Demand Penalties
Walmart and other companies are using aggressive legal tactics to get the money back, demanding payments even when people haven’t been convicted of wrongdoing.

By Michael Corkery

MOBILE, Ala. — Crystal Thompson was at home watching the Rose Bowl parade when a county sheriff came to arrest her for shoplifting from the local Walmart.

Ms. Thompson, 43, was baffled and scared. An agoraphobic, she had not shopped at a Walmart in more than a year. She was taken to a Mobile jail, searched, held in a small room and required to remove her false teeth, something she didn’t even do in front of her husband.

Four days after she returned home, the letters from Walmart’s lawyer started to arrive. The lawyer demanded that Ms. Thompson pay the company $200 or face a possible lawsuit. She received three letters over two months in early 2016.

Shoplifting is an intractable problem for retailers, costing stores more than $17 billion a year, according to an industry estimate. To get the money back, many companies employ aggressive legal tactics and take advantage of loosely written state laws, pushing for restitution even when people have not been convicted of wrongdoing.

Many of the laws were established so retailers could pursue shoplifters without clogging up the courts. Retailers, though, often move on both fronts, pressing criminal charges against suspects, while demanding that they pay up before cases are resolved.

In many states, retailers do not have to return the money they collect if the cases are ultimately dismissed or the people are cleared. A Walmart executive, in a court deposition, acknowledged that the company did not follow up to check on whether people it sought money from had been convicted of shoplifting.

A letter sent to Ms. Thompson by the Palmer Reifler law firm demanding payment. She received three letters over two months.

Walmart and other companies have created well-oiled operations, hiring law firms to send tens of thousands of letters a year. Walmart set a collection goal of about $6 million in 2016 for one of its go-to firms, Palmer Reifler & Associates, according to a court paper filed as part of a lawsuit Ms. Thompson brought against the retailer. The firm also pointed out to Walmart that minors tended to pay off more frequently, the filing said.

“It is my word against this company,” said Ms. Thompson, whose criminal case was dismissed after no one from Walmart appeared at a hearing to testify against her. “I’m nobody special. I didn’t feel like I had a prayer

Walmart declined to comment on individual cases, citing continuing litigation.

“While there are multiple steps that our associates follow before initiating a civil claim against a customer, people can make mistakes,” the company said in a statement. “We are deeply sorry when that happens. We continually evaluate the effectiveness and benefit of our programs.”

Starting decades ago, the retail industry lobbied state legislatures for legal recourse to pursue shoplifters with fines. Retailers argued that the penalties would go a long way toward deterring future theft, and that rampant shoplifting ate into already thin profit margins, potentially raising prices for consumers.

In some states, companies have been able to collect more than the value of the allegedly stolen items, up to $1,000 in some instances. Despite numerous lawsuits against retailers and news reports about collection tactics, the laws have remained largely intact.

Maryland is one of the few states to revise its shoplifting statutes. In 2016, the state began requiring retailers to report the number of collection letters they send. To date, no retailer has complied with the new requirements, according to state records.

In Illinois, a 2015 proposal to reduce the penalties that retailers can demand from shoplifting suspects died in the legislature. One of the bill’s sponsors said an industry lobbyist had warned him that the issue was a “third rail” among retailers with deep political influence in the state.

“There is no evidence that these laws have decreased shoplifting or decriminalized petty crime at all,” said Ryan Sullivan, an assistant professor at the Nebraska College of Law who studies the impact of shoplifting laws.

Yatarra McQueen got ensnared in the system after she exchanged an inflatable mattress for a grill at a Walmart in Montgomery, Ala.

Store employees suspected that she had stolen the mattress. But they let her make the exchange and leave the store.

A few days later, Ms. McQueen found an arrest warrant in her mailbox. She drove to a detention center, where she was searched and made to wear a blue jump suit.

At the same time, Walmart forwarded her name to Palmer Reifler. The firm sent her two letters demanding that she pay $200 or face a potential lawsuit on top of the criminal charge, according to a suit she later filed against Walmart. Ms. McQueen said she was scared of being sued, but she did not have the money to pay.

“The most powerful company in the world called me a thief and threatened to sue me,” Yatarra McQueen of Montgomery, Ala., said in a court document. “I was terrified.” The criminal shoplifting case against her was dismissed.CreditWilliam Widmer for The New York Times
A monthly log of suspected shoplifting from the Walmart in Semmes, Ala.Credit

“The most powerful company in the world called me a thief,” Ms. McQueen said in a court document. “I was terrified.”

No one from Walmart showed up at her criminal trial, and the case was dismissed. While she was awaiting trial, Ms. McQueen said, her temporary nursing license was put on hold for nearly six months.

“This is an unpopular constituency,” said Christian Schreiber, a lawyer who filed a lawsuit in California state court against Home Depot over the practice. The suit resulted in a settlement for about 3,500 people who received demand letters from Palmer Reifler. “These are people accused of theft, so there is not a big interest in their rights.”

In Burlington, N.C., Anna Marie Martin said two police officers “threw” her on a couch, handcuffed her and took her to jail, according to a lawsuit she filed against Walmart. Her alleged crime: stealing a Bryan Adams CD and two others, totaling $25.62, then hitting a car in the Walmart parking lot and driving away.

Palmer Reifler sent her two letters demanding that she pay $150 within 20 days. “You may be held civilly liable” for as much as $1,000, the letters said.

Both letters were sent before the authorities determined that Ms. Martin had been “mistakenly charged” and dropped the criminal case, according to her suit. A Walmart employee had told the police that she was “80 percent sure” that Ms. Martin was the thief.

Lesleigh Nurse with her husband, Ed, in Semmes. She was was accused of stealing groceries from a self-checkout line while she shopped with her husband and two children at a Walmart. Her criminal case was eventually dismissed, but “I can’t erase what people think of me in the back of their mind,” Ms. Nurse said.CreditWilliam Widmer for The New York Times

Ms. Martin recently settled her suit with Walmart for an undisclosed sum.

For many, a mere charge of shoplifting can do damage.

Lesleigh Nurse was accused of stealing groceries from a self-checkout line at a Walmart outside Mobile while she shopped with her husband and two children. She said that Walmart refused to show her video surveillance footage of the alleged crime. In the weeks after her arrest, Ms. Nurse said she got at least two letters from Palmer Reifler demanding $200, but she was advised by her lawyer not to pay.

Ms. Nurse appeared in court three times. No witnesses from Walmart ever showed up, she said, and her case was eventually dismissed. The letters stopped coming to Ms. Nurse once her case was dropped.

But Ms. Nurse has still had to repair her reputation. The day after she reported to jail, an internet police blotter posted her mug shot on a popular Facebook feed. Her husband said he had to pay more than $100 to the site’s operator to take down her photo.

“I can’t erase what people think of me in the back of their mind,’’ she said in an interview.

In a deposition this year in Ms. Thompson’s civil case, a senior Walmart manager at the time, said Walmart did not audit whether the people who received the demand letters had committed a crime.

He said such due diligence was the responsibility of Walmart’s outside law firms, which had “expertise” in the area.

Video footage of Ms. Thompson’s daughters at the Walmart in Semmes, showing their attempts to scan groceries in the self-checkout area.

“What investigations do you expect the law firms to conduct to determine whether these allegations are true?” Ms. Thompson’s lawyer David McDonald asked the executive in a deposition.

The executive replied: “We do not get involved in their processes because they are an independent contractor.”

In Alabama, Palmer Reifler hired a lawyer who had not practiced law in 27 years to sign letters sent to shoplifting suspects. The lawyer said he was employed part time at a funeral home while also working for Palmer Reifler. In a deposition, he said he was typically paid a retainer of $200 a month to sign collection letters.

The law firm did not return calls seeking comment.

In Ms. Thompson’s suit, a Walmart employee acknowledged in a deposition that he mistakenly accused her of shoplifting in December 2015.

He said it had appeared that one of Ms. Thompson’s daughters failed to scan about $70 worth of groceries at the self-checkout line.

The employee followed Ms. Thompson’s daughter out to the parking lot and wrote down the license plate of her car, which was registered to her mother. Based in part on the license plate, Walmart sought a criminal complaint against Ms. Thompson.

Mr. McDonald said that if Ms. Thompson’s daughter took the groceries without scanning them properly, it was by mistake. Video surveillance, reviewed by The New York Times, shows her daughter trying to scan and rescan groceries at the checkout machine for about 17 minutes.

Walmart has not filed shoplifting charges against Ms. Thompson’s daughter.

“They are playing games with people’s future,” Ms. Thompson said.

Geopolitics / Re: Official Global Police State Thread
« on: Today at 07:36:01 AM »
The US does all of those. Zero difference.

No kidding?

The FSoA disappears people? Put your family under house arrest, even if they haven't been accused of a crime? Threaten to kill your family and forbid them from leaving?

We're far more sophisticated, and prefer methods that don't leave fingerprints. Unless you are a black male, in which case you can be summarily executed by police without any consequences, ever. And sometimes black women, c.f. Sandra Bland.

There are too many people with cell phone cams for people to tolerate too much of this. Plus, the internet in Chains is under total lockdown. See the internal cicil war in Google about developing a censored search engine. I think you owe the burden of proof, ed.

Barging into your home, threatening your family, or making you disappear: Here's what China does to people who speak out against them

3. Put your family under house arrest, even if they haven't been accused of a crime.

3. Put your family under house arrest, even if they haven't been accused of a crime.
Portraits of Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia displayed at a protest in Hong Kong in June 2017.
Vincent Yu/AP

China has kept family members of prominent activists under house arrest to prevent them from traveling abroad and publicly protesting the regime.

In 2010 Liu Xia tried to travel to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of her husband, Liu Xiaobo, a human rights activist who at the time was imprisoned for "inciting subversion" with his protests.

She wasn't allowed to go and was placed under house arrest with 24-hour surveillance. She had no access to a cell phone or computer, even though she hadn't been charged with a crime.

She was allowed to leave the house in 2017 to attend the sea burial of her husband after his death from liver cancer, before being sent to the other side of the country by authorities so she wouldn't see memorials held by supporters in Beijing.

Liu Xia was detained in her house for eight years in total. She was released to Berlin in July after a sustained lobbying effort from the German government for Liu's release.

Still, she is not completely free: Xia is effectively prevented from appearing in public or speaking to media for fear of reprisal from Beijing. She fears that if she does, the government will punish her brother, who remains in Beijing, her friend Tienchi Martin-Liao told The Guardian.

4. Threaten to kill your family and forbid them from leaving China.

4. Threaten to kill your family and forbid them from leaving China.
Anastasia Lin, whose family in China is being punished for her activism against China.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Even when dissidents leave China, they are not safe. Many Chinese expats and exiles have seen family members who remained in China pay the price for their protest.

One example is Chinese-Canadian actress Anastasia Lin, who repeatedly speaks out to criticise China's human rights record.

She told Business Insider earlier this year that her uncles and elderly grandparents had their visas to Hong Kong — a Chinese region that operates under a separate and independent rule of law — revoked in 2016.

Security agents also contacted Lin's father saying that if she continued to speak up, the family "would be persecuted like in the Cultural Revolution" — a bloody ten-year period under Mao Zedong when millions of Chinese people were persecuted, imprisoned, and tortured.

Shawn Zhang, a student in Vancouver who has criticized President Xi Jinping online, told Business Insider earlier this year that police incessantly called his parents asking them to take down his posts.

The family members of five journalists with Radio Free Asia — a US-funded media outlet — were also recently detained to stop their reporting on human rights abuses against the Uighur minority in China's Xinjiang region.

Read more: China uses threats about relatives at home to control and silence expats and exiles abroad

5. Take down your social media posts.

5. Take down your social media posts.
A woman surrounded by Chinese paramilitary police on a smoggy day in Beijing in December 2015.
Kevin Frayer/Getty

Chinese tech companies routinely delete social media posts and forbid users from posting keywords used to criticize the government.

Censorship in China has soared under Xi Jinping's presidency, with thousands of censorship directives issued every year.

Posts and keywords are usually only banned for a few hours or a few days until an event or news cycle is over.

In February, popular chat and microblogging platforms WeChat and Weibo banned users from writing posts with the letter N when it was used to criticize a plan allowing Xi to rule without term limits.

Read more: Planting spies, paying people to post on social media, and pretending the news doesn't exist: This is how China tries to distract people from human rights abuses

6. Remove your posts from the internet — and reportedly throw you in a psychiatric ward.

6. Remove your posts from the internet — and reportedly throw you in a psychiatric ward.
Dong Yaoqiong live-streaming herself defacing a poster of Xi Jinping in Shanghai, China, on July 4.
Hua Yong/Twitter

In July, Dong Yaoqiong live-streamed herself pouring black ink over a poster of Xi Jinping in Shanghai, while criticizing the Communist Party's "oppressive brain control" over the country.

Hours later, she reported seeing police officers at her door and the video — which can still be seen here— was removed from her social media account.

She has not been seen in public since, although Voice of America and Radio Free Asiareported that she was being held at a psychiatric hospital in her home province of Hunan, citing local activists.

7. Barge into your house to force you off the airwaves.

7. Barge into your house to force you off the airwaves.
Sun Wenguang in his home in Jinan in August 2013.

Sun Wenguang, a prominent critic of the Chinese government, was forced off air during a live phone interview with Voice of America in early August.

The 83-year-old former economics professor had been arguing that Xi Jinping had his economic priorities wrong, when up to eight policemen barged into his home, and forced him off the line.

His last words before he got cut off were: "Let me tell you, it's illegal for you to come to my home. I have my freedom of speech!" You can listen to the audio (in Chinese, but subtitled in English) here.

The father of Dong Yaoqiong, the woman who defaced the poster of Xi, was also interrupted while live-streaming a video calling for his daughter's release.

In the recording, which can be seen here, a man purporting to be a plain-clothed police officer can seen entering the premises, demanding to take Dong's father and his friend away, and ignoring their questions about whether the man had a search warrant.

8. Trap you in your house, and detain people who come to see you.

8. Trap you in your house, and detain people who come to see you.The Voice of America/Twitter

About 11 days after Sun Wenguang, the dissident Chinese professor, was interrupted on his call, he was found locked inside his own home.

Police had detained him in his house and Sun told two journalists who went to interview him that police forced his wife to tell people he had gone traveling to avoid suspicion.

He added: "We were taken out of our residence for 10 days and stayed at four hotels. Some of the rooms had sealed windows. It was a dark jail. After we were back, they sent four security guys to sleep in our home."

The journalists, from the US government-funded Voice of America, were detained immediately after the interview. Their whereabouts are not clear at this point.

Read more: A renegade Chinese professor who was forced off-air while criticizing the government says he was locked in his apartment and told to make up a story that he left town

9. Forbid you from leaving the country.

9. Forbid you from leaving the country.
Ai Weiwei in London in September 2015, two months after his release from China.
Carl Court/Getty

Ai Weiwei, the prolific Chinese artist and avid critic of the Chinese government, was blocked from leaving China for four years.

Authorities claimed he was being investigated for various crimes, including pornography, bigamy, and the illicit exchange of foreign currency.

He was detained for 81 days and charged with tax evasion, for which his company was ordered to pay 15 million yuan ($2.4 million). His supporters claimed the tax evasion charges were fabricated.

The government took away his passport in 2011 and refused to give it back until 2015. He then immediately flew to Berlin, where he now lives.

10. Intercept your protests before they even begin.

10. Intercept your protests before they even begin.
Police surrounding a group of people preparing to protest in Beijing on August 6.
Pak Yiu/Twitter

A group of protesters had been planning a demonstration in Beijing's financial district over lost investments with the country's peer-to-peer lending platforms.

Many of those platforms had shut down due to a recent government crackdown on financial firms, causing investors to lose some tens of thousands of dollars in savings.

But the demonstration, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on a Monday in front of China's banking regulatory commission, never materialized — because police had already rounded up the protesters and sent them home.

Many demonstrators who arrived in Beijing earlier that day found police waiting for them at their bus and train stations, before sending them away.

Peter Wang, who planned to take part in the protest, told Reuters: "Once the police checked your ID cards and saw your petition materials, they knew you are here looking to protect your [financial] rights. Then they put you on a bus directly."

Becky Davis, AFP's reporter in Beijing, described seeing more than 120 buses parked nearby to take the protesters away.

Other protesters seen traveling from their home towns to Beijing to take part in the demonstration were forced to give their fingerprints and blood samples, and prevented from traveling to the capital, Reuters said.

Activists told The Globe and Mail that the police likely found out about the protest by monitoring their conversations on WeChat.

Activists say we are now seeing 'human rights violations not seen in decades' in China

Activists say we are now seeing 'human rights violations not seen in decades' in China
Surveillance cameras in front of a giant portrait of Mao Zedong in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 2009.
Jason Lee/Reuters

China has a long history of suppressing dissenting views and actions. But Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, said the number of people being targeted and the extent of their punishment has worsened under Xi's rule.

"While life for peaceful critics in modern China has never been easy, there have been times of relative latitude," she told Business Insider.

"President Xi's tenure is most certainly not one of those times — not just in the numbers of people being targeted, but in the use of harsh charges and long sentences, and in the state's adoption of rights-gutting laws.

"Add to that the alarming expansion of high-tech surveillance and mass arbitrary detentions across Xinjiang, and you've got a scale of human rights violations we have not seen in decades."

The United Nations recently accused China of holding one million Uighurs in internment camps in the western province of Xinjiang. China has rejected the allegations as "completely untrue."

Does the Chinese Communist Party care that people know what's going on?

Does the Chinese Communist Party care that people know what's going on?
Xi Jinping raises his wine glass at a National Day reception in Beijing in September 2014.
Feng Li/Getty

Probably not.

Richardson said: "The Chinese government and Communist Party will keep treating people however badly they want unless the price for doing so is made too high for them — clearly this calculus finally changed recently for them with respect to Liu Xia," referring to the activist's wife who was released to Beijing after eight years of house arrest.

"That's why relentless public and private interventions on behalf of those unjustly treated is critical — to keep driving up the cost of abuses many people inside and outside China find unacceptable," Richardson added.

But there's a catch, says Frances Eve, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders. While the Party has released political activists due to public pressure in the past, it has kept family members in China to make sure the activists don't speak out.

Eve told The Guardian in July: "The Chinese Communist Party has become more immune to international pressure to release activists and let them go overseas, coinciding with its growing economic clout.

"Nowadays, on the rare occasion it does allow an activist to go abroad, it's with the sinister knowledge that their immediate or extended family remains in China and can be used as an effective hostage to stifle their free speech."

SEE ALSO:China is waging war against a cafe because it served coffee to Taiwan's president

Surly Newz / An Admiral Speaks Out
« on: Today at 06:47:07 AM »
An Admiral Speaks Out
An op-ed criticizing the president from the man responsible for the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden represents a startling intervention by a studiously non-political figure.


This week, retired Admiral William McRaven published an unsparing open letter to President Trump requesting that, in the wake of the president’s decision to strip former CIA Director John Brennan of a security clearance, the president grant him the same honor. It is a startling intervention by a luminary of military leadership—the man responsible for the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden—who has not previously publicly criticized this president, nor any other for that matter.

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To understand the meaning of McRaven’s intervention, one must recognize the ongoing challenge faced by former national security officials and military officers regarding appropriate responses to this president. National security is supposed to exist apart from politics—the identity of the president might change the list of national intelligence priorities or military objectives, but the job stays the same. This is a realm in which everyone is supposed to be on the same team; permitting cracks in that foundation leads to rapid erosion. Even after retirement, former military officers and similarly situated national security officials typically refrain from overt political participation: What is a formal rule during the period of service transforms into a powerful norm of silence upon return to civilian life. The candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump has upended this tradition.

The president’s detractors are simultaneously applauding McRaven’s statement and lamenting that it will have no impact. They are correct that McRaven’s op-ed is unlikely to change any minds among the president’s base. It will not embolden congressional Republicans finally to take a stand. Certainly it will not shame Trump into ceasing his relentless campaign against any and all who would dare oppose him. But the letter isn’t designed to do any of those things.

McRaven’s intended audience is not the general public, nor the president to whom this letter is addressed. Rather, McRaven is speaking to a small community of his peers, those who have served in high-ranking national security posts, both in and out of uniform, and have, like McRaven, remained staunchly apolitical. McRaven’s entire letter was just 250 words, but his message to that group required fewer than twenty: The retired admiral would feel privileged to lose his security clearance, he writes, so “I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.”

McRaven—a man so assiduously apolitical that he strenuously slapped downnascent rumors that he was being considered as potential vice presidential candidate—has now added his name to those who publicly oppose this president. In doing so, he is saying that the time has come for others in his circle to do the same.

Indeed, the following morning, twelve former intelligence agency directors and deputy directors signed a public letter admonishing the president and urging that security clearance decisions remain apolitical. Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates joined a day later. At least five of the signatories—including Gates, David Petraeus, and George Tenet—had not previously publicly criticized this administration.

This was followed by an additional open letter sent Friday evening and signed by 60 former CIA officials, who expressed a shared “belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views.”

Until now, a great many other members of this small community have remained silent. They recognize that as the president assails the norms of apolitical national security, there is a risk that responding in kind only hastens institutional destruction. After all, what better way to prove the existence of a “deep state” working against the president than unified opposition of national security officials rising from the depths?

It is against this backdrop that McRaven penned his missive. In speaking out, McRaven tells his peers that the cost of silence now outweighs the benefits of remaining above the fray.

During the campaign, Adm. (Ret.) Martin Dempsey, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, penned his own Washington Post open letter on retired military officers appearing at the Democratic and Republican conventions, writing that former officers “have an obligation to uphold our apolitical traditions. They have just made the task of their successors — who continue to serve in uniform and are accountable for our security — more complicated. It was a mistake for them to participate as they did. It was a mistake for our presidential candidates to ask them to do so.” Dueling letters signed by retired general and flag officers in support of Hillary Clinton and Trump likewise drew rebuke from scholars of civilian-military relations.

Trump’s election further strained traditions against political participation. As outrage upon outrage has mounted over the course of this presidency, former military and intelligence officials have increasingly tested the waters of public opposition—contradicting the president’s more outrageous statements and policies. John Brennan has been openly critical of President Trump since shortly after his inauguration, as have former DNI General (Ret.) James Clapper and Gen. (Ret) Michael Hayden among others. Indeed, even the sitting military service chiefs have flirted with public pushback on the president, as when they told Congress that transgender service members posed no threat to unit cohesion, despite the administration’s insistence that accommodations for these troops would place an “unreasonable burden on the military.”

Even Gen. Dempsey has moderated his prior critique that generals should remain apolitical, saying in March 2018, “I think the American people expect our military to be nonpartisan—not apolitical. We do have political beliefs, but we try to remain nonpartisan so that the American people never wonder whether we're serving one particular individual or one particular party or another.” Dempsey’s Twitter account now shares insights on leadership that are on the surface unrelated to politics, but stand in such obvious contrast to the current command-in-chief that they can only be described as subtweets.

McRaven has been resolutely non-political throughout his nearly four decades of service and since returning to civilian life. And he is not attempting to be political now. For someone like McRaven to author this letter is to declare that criticizing this president isn’t about politics at all; it is a defense of the United States.

McRaven’s risk is calculated, but it is still a risk. His prior reservations, those that compelled him to stay silent, may prove to be well-founded. Already, speculation is rising that McRaven plans to run for president in 2020 or that he should. McRaven may have been speaking to his compeers, but the rest of the world saw a man known for the stars on his shoulder, saying Trump is a danger to this country. He may have intended the letter to be a non-political act, but when it comes to commenting on this president there is simply no such thing.

Nevertheless, McRaven has made his choice. He has added his name. Each person who follows his lead makes it easier for the next person to speak out—and harder for others to justify their silence.

White House counsel Don McGahn is worried Trump’s setting him up on obstruction — so he’s talking a lot to Mueller
According to the New York Times, McGahn is cooperating “extensively” with special counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice inquiry.

White House counsel Don McGahn after a meeting in Washington, DC in July 2018. He’s reportedly speaking at length with Robert Mueller out of concern he’s the fall guy for Trump.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Donald Trump may not be speaking to special counsel Robert Mueller, but White House Counsel Don McGahn has. At length. Because he fears Trump may be setting him up to take the fall on potential obstruction of justice and that he’d then wind up like John Dean, former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon who eventually flipped: in prison.

Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times reported on Saturday that McGahn has taken part in at least three voluntary interviews totaling 30 hours with Mueller’s team of investigators in the Russia probe over the last nine months. He’s discussed a wide range of matters, including the president’s decision to fire former FBI director James Comey, the ouster of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Trump’s public and private griping about Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

According to the Times, two of Trump’s original lawyers, John Dowd and Ty Cobb, devised an “open-book strategy” for Trump when the Mueller investigation first started, the idea being that if Trump did nothing wrong, as he insisted, then why not be as cooperative as possible? McGahn was reportedly dubious of the plan but went along, and when the special counsel’s office asked to interview him last year, he was “surprised” but complied when Trump and his lawyers gave him the go-ahead.

The report describes McGahn and his lawyer, William Burck, as “stunned” at the Trump team’s willingness for him to talk to Mueller. So much so that they developed a theory that he’s being set up:

Mr. McGahn and his lawyer, William A. Burck, could not understand why Mr. Trump was so willing to allow Mr. McGahn to speak freely to the special counsel and feared Mr. Trump was setting up Mr. McGahn to take the blame for any possible illegal acts of obstruction, according to people close to him. So he and Mr. Burck devised their own strategy to do as much as possible to cooperate with Mr. Mueller to demonstrate that Mr. McGahn did nothing wrong.

Schmidt and Haberman draw parallels between McGahn and Dean, who served as White House counsel under the Nixon administration and was a central figure in the Watergate scandal. He took part in Nixon’s cover-up of the Democratic Party headquarters and eventually flipped on his boss after being fired. He eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice after striking a deal with the prosecution and received a prison sentence.

“This sure has echoes of Richard Nixon’s White House counsel, John Dean, who in 1973 feared that Nixon was setting him up as a fall guy for Watergate and secretly gave investigators crucial help while still in his job,” historian Michael Beschloss told the Times.

Maggie Haberman @maggieNYT

McGahn was leery of becoming Trump’s John Dean. So, after Cobb and Dowd encouraged cooperation with Mueller, McGahn - fearful he was being set up for blame on obstruction issues - talked and talked. @nytmike and me [url=https://www]https://www[/url] 

Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel. For a lawyer to share so much with investigators scrutinizing his client is unusual, but Mr. McGahn views his role as protecting the presidency, not the president.

White House Counsel Has Cooperated Extensively With Mueller’s Obstruction Inquiry

The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, was a witness to key episodes being scrutinized in the case. His cooperation with investigators is unusual.

The publication also reports that it’s not clear that Trump “appreciates the extent to which” McGahn has cooperated with Mueller and that the president has wrongly believed that McGahn would act as a personal lawyer for him. McGahn views his role as a protector of the presidency, not Trump.

That McGahn is speaking with special counsel Mueller is not new information, but the extent to which he’s cooperating — and his potential motivations for doing so — are. The report also details a distant relationship between Trump and McGahn, who has overseen Trump’s judicial appointment and deregulatory push at the White House but also appears not to be overly warm with the president himself.

According to the Times, Trump and McGahn rarely speak, and when they do, chief of staff John Kelly and other advisers are usually present. Trump questions McGahn’s loyalty. McGahn, behind his back, calls the president “King Kong.”

Trump on Saturday reacted to the Times story in a tweet and said he allowed McGahn and all other “requested members” of the White House staff to cooperate with Mueller. “Most transparent in history,” he wrote.

Update: Story updated with Trump tweet on McGahn

Surly Newz / Doomstead Diner Daily 8/19
« on: Today at 05:05:12 AM »

Doomstead Diner Daily August 19

The Diner Daily is available HERE with even MORE sections and stories:


News digest brought to you by the Doomstead Diner.

A Saudi War-Crime in Yemen? Analysing the Dahyan Bombing - bellingcat

[url=][/url] - At just after 8:20 in the morning on the 9th of August, a bomb dropped from a Saudi-led Coalition plane struck a busy market area in the center of Dahyan, in Saada Governorate, Yemen. The bomb impact…

McGahn, White House Counsel, Has Cooperated Extensively in Mueller Inquiry

[url=][/url] - Mr. Trump’s lawyers still had a chance to keep Mr. McGahn’s insider knowledge from the special counsel. By exerting attorney-client privilege, which allows the president to legally withhold informati…

Accusing Trump Adviser of Repeatedly Lying to Investigators, Mueller Asks for Jail Time

[url=][/url] - In particular, the document said that during a January 2017 interview with the F.B.I., Mr. Papadopoulos misled agents about his conversations with Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor who investig…

Austria’s far-right government ordered a raid on its own intelligence service. Now allies are freezing the country out.

[url=][/url] - By Souad Mekhennet , Reporter Griff Witte , Bureau chief August 17 at 6:27 PM VIENNA — The raids came without warning, surprising even the intelligence operatives whose job is to never be caught off …

Amy Siskind's List Week 92 - This week Trump met his match in former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, who launched a new book and publicly shared her stories and perspectives on Trump and his regime members. Their feud…

John McCain and the End of Romantic Conservatism

[url=][/url] - Something about John McCain brings out the cruelty in Donald Trump. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said, early in his Presidential campaign. “I like people who weren’t captured.” McCain spent more than…

Ryan Zinke Uses Climate-Fueled Wildfires to Boost the Timber Industry — and It’s Not the First Time - In an op-ed for USA Today, titled “Wildfires seem unstoppable, but they can be prevented. Here’s how,” Zinke wrote, “Every year we watch our forests burn, and every year there is a call for action. Y…

How will the universe end? - One of the furthest reaches of time we dare to predict is the end of the universe. As far as we know this is the end of not only life as we know it but everything that’s ever existed. No more matter,…

Aretha Franklin fought the patriarchy with fashion, her full-figured body and her refusal to conform

[url=][/url] - By Ashley Parker , Reporter Seung Min Kim , Reporter Robert Costa , Reporter August 18 at 6:14 PM The president of the United States had just lobbed another racially charged insult — this time callin…

Stunning aerial photos of the worst drought in Australia’s living memory

[url=][/url] - By Kenneth Dickerman Photo Editor August 17 A lone tree stands near a water trough in a drought-affected paddock on Jimmie and May McKeown’s property, located on the outskirts of Walgett, a town in N…

Earth Has a Hidden Plastic Problem—Scientists Are Hunting It Down

[url=][/url] - This is the first of a three-part series that examines our growing understanding of the scope and impacts of microplastics pollution. During a research cruise to the Sargasso Sea in fall 1971 marine …

Barging into your home, threatening your family, or making you disappear: Here's what China does to people who speak out against them

xi jinping protesters

[url=][/url] - Even when dissidents leave China, they are not safe. Many Chinese expats and exiles have seen family members who remained in China pay the price for their protest. One example is Chinese-Canadian act…

Climate Change Has Doubled the Frequency of Ocean Heatwaves

Climate Change Has Doubled the Frequency of Ocean Heatwaves

[url=][/url] - Ocean heatwaves will become more frequent and extreme as the climate warms, scientists report on August 15 in Nature. These episodes of intense heat could disrupt marine food webs and reshape biodive…

Heart-stopping security news: Hackers can now get into pacemakers

Heart-stopping security news: Hackers can now get into pacemakers

[url=][/url] - A security flaw in a pacemaker made by Medtronic makes it possible for hackers to take control of the device and deliver malware to the computers implanted in someone’s chest. At the recent Black Hat…

Bedbugs plague hits British cities

Cimex lectularius – the common bedbug.

[url=][/url] - The UK is facing an exponential increase in bedbug infestation as a result of this summer’s hot weather, which is exacerbating a major problem in densely populated cities, experts are warning. In hig…

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Editor's note

The Doomstead Diner is a hub for discussion and information pertaining to the ongoing Economic Collapse of the Industrial Economy. The Diner is the result of many years of discussion and debate on many other forums. At Doomstead Diner, our goal is to collate much of the information we can to assist in planning for the world to come.

Surly Newz / Re: The Daily Meme
« on: August 18, 2018, 02:48:02 PM »

Surly Newz / Re: The Alternet Thread
« on: August 18, 2018, 07:38:08 AM »

TODAY'S TOP STORIES - August 18, 2018

'Drunk on Power': Former CIA Director John Brennan Comes Out Swinging Against Trump and the Republicans in Rachel Maddow Interview

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Brennan said he fears a "wag the dog" scenario with Trump. READ MORE»

Forever War: Here's the Dark Truth the Unending Conflict in Afghanistan Reveals About the United States

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

Almost 17 years and, coincidentally enough, 17 U.S. commanders later, think of it as a war of abysmal repetition. READ MORE»

Here's How Trump's Revoking Security Clearances Could Constitute a Federal Crime

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

His legal troubles are piling up. READ MORE»

'Mini-Maduro': RNC Attacks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — Compares Her to Venezuelan Dictator

By Matthew Rozsa, Salon

The New York congressional candidate has been criticized by conservatives like Tomi Lahren and Ben Shapiro READ MORE»

QAnon, Tampa and Trump: Not All Conspiracy Theories Are the Same

By Paul Rosenberg, Salon

Conspiracy theories motivate voters on both sides of the aisle — but with strikingly different results READ MORE»

Feds Investigating Former RNC Booster For Selling Trump Access To Foreign Governments: Report (Updated)

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

A longtime Republican donor and former RNC deputy finance chair is facing investigation by the Justice Department. READ MORE»

The People on Trump’s List Aren’t Enemies, They Are Witnesses

By Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon

The secrets they have aren’t secrets anymore. They’re evidence. READ MORE»

Here's Why Republicans' Disturbing Romance with the Racist Confederacy Is So Troubling

By W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Independent Media Institute

The road to the violence around statues is paved with hate, lies, and political gamesmanship. READ MORE»

Trump's Supreme Court Pick May Have Committed Perjury — And the GOP Appears to Be Suppressing Evidence that Could Prove It

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Sen. Patrick Leahy asserts Republicans were ready to request Brett Kavanaugh's records ... until they weren't. READ MORE»

This Surprising State Could Be the Next to Legalize Marijuana

By Phillip Smith, Independent Media Institute

Hint: It's located between Canada and South Dakota READ MORE»

Wall Street Journal Lashes Out at MSNBC's Rachel Maddow After Host Says the Paper Buried a Major Trump Scoop

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The Wall Street Journal has faced criticism for its editorial boards' biases. READ MORE»

How Turkey’s Crisis Might Fracture NATO

By Marshall Auerback, Independent Media Institute

Turkey is already deep in debt, and all the U.S. is offering is a doubling of sanctions and more insults. READ MORE»

Trump Got Into Fight With Vietnam Veterans Over The Plot of 'Apocalypse Now': Report

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Trump argued with veterans about Robert Duvall's character during a discussion of VA services. READ MORE»

Watch: White Woman Calls the Police on a Black Man for Entering His Own Car

By Chris Sosa, AlterNet

She then fled the scene. READ MORE»

Time to stick an enema tube in this thread. Rand Paul, along with a number of other Republican legislators (Independence Day in Moscow, anyone?) is a traitor, giving aid and succor to an American competitor. The old axiom, "Politics stops at the water's edge" is dead, dead, dead. And this pretender is among those who killed it, marching behind the Orange Lout.

Rand Paul has evidently developed a taste for rubles much like Dana Rorahbacher, "Putin's Favorite Congressman."

Rand Paul, in Moscow, invites Russian lawmakers to Washington

Moscow (CNN)Sen. Rand Paul on Monday invited Russian lawmakers to Washington after meeting Russian members of parliament in Moscow.

"I am pleased to announced that we will be continuing this contact," Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said in Moscow. "We agreed and we invited members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Russia to come to the US to meet with us in the US, in Washington."
Paul is in Moscow meeting with Russian lawmakers in a trip he sees as a continuation of US President Donald Trump's diplomatic outreach to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and comes several weeks after Trump invited Putin to DC as well. Paul has been one of Trump's most outspoken supporters following the criticism Trump faced -- including from some within his own party -- for the US President's handling of his meeting with Putin in July. During a news conference in Helsinki at the time, Trump declined to back the conclusion of the US intelligence that Russia interfered with the US presidential election over Putin's denials, though Trump later said when he was back in the US that he misspoke.
Paul is also expected to meet with Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov and State Duma Foreign Affairs committee head Leonid Slutsky during his visit, and plans to continue speaking on Tuesday. The US delegation also plans to visit Saint Petersburg.
    When asked by CNN whether the issue of Russian interference came up, Paul said he had "general discussions about a lot of issues."

    The Senate’s resident wacko bird finds a new political family that shares his curious affinity for Moscow.

    Senator Rand Paul on Capitol Hill.

    The unlikely, unholy alliance between Rand Paul and Donald Trump, one a libertarian iconoclast, the other the cancerous center of the Republican party, has cemented itself in golf games and frequent phone calls. “They’ll talk on the phone and Trump will go on about Bedminster and golf and whatever else is going on; and Rand will drop in his libertarian ideas,” a source close to Trump recently told Axios. “And Trump will laugh and say, ‘This guy’s crazy’ . . . They won’t even argue. He’ll let him speak his mind.” Their friendship has manifested in a number of ways, including in Paul’s periodic abandonment of his principles to vote however Trump needs him to, and Trump’s apparent willingness to take Paul’s questionable advice. But while Trump’s affinity for Paul may, on some level, have been predictable—after all, they both love to needle Mitch McConnell—their friendship has recently veered in a less likely direction, as Paul comes to Trump’s defense on all matters Russia.

    On Monday, weeks after Paul made an impassioned speech on the Senate floor in support of Trump’s Helsinki summit—“The hatred for the president is so intense that partisans would rather risk war than give diplomacy a chance”—the Kentucky senator visited Moscow on a private trip to strengthen relationsbetween Russia and the U.S., a matter he called “in­cred­ibly important,” according to The Washington Post. (The U.S. Embassy in Moscow told the Post that Paul was not on an official diplomatic trip, and was traveling privately with a group.) Paul’s Russian jaunt reportedly included a visit with former Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, who U.S. intelligence suggests is a spy, and whose undisclosed meetings with Jeff Sessions and Michael Flynn led indirectly to Robert Mueller’s probe into the Trump campaign.

    At the tour’s conclusion, Paul released a statement saying he was “pleased” to announce that the contact with Russia would continue: “We agreed and we invited members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Russia to come to the U.S. to meet with us in the U.S., in Washington,” he said. For their part, Russian politicians reportedly have a laundry list of topics to discuss with Paul, including nonproliferation, sanctions, and alleged Russian spy Maria Butina. According to Russian media, State Duma foreign-affairs committee head Leonid Slutsky asked Paul about Butina’s “early release,” adding, “We hope and expect that our colleagues will conduct the necessary consultations with Washington, and tomorrow we can consult about a road map and the plan of actions [on Butina’s case].”

    In theory, Paul’s newfound zeal for improved U.S.-Russia relations fits with his libertarian ideals of limited government, stoked by his apparent distrust of the intelligence agencies urging Trump to retaliate against the Kremlin. “We’ve allowed too much power to gravitate to these . . . agencies,” he said last month during a speech at Turning Point USA’s high-school conference. But in practice, Paul, who has called the Helsinki summit “the sort of thing we should be doing”, is perhaps equally inspired by the president’s example, telling The New York Times that his trip would be “following up from the meeting that he had with Putin. Our goals are not necessarily, you know, finding world peace in one trip to Russia,” he added, “but our goals are to try to find some things that we could advance on.”

    Perhaps better than anyone else in Congress, Paul’s unusual position on the political spectrum reflects the growing convergence between the far left and the far right, which have found common ground in isolationism, distrust of authorities, and an affinity for Russia—his father Ron, a libertarian icon in his own right, has followed suit, frequently appearing as a guest on RT, a Russian state TV network adopted by both the extreme left and the extreme right as an alternative news source. (The day of Trump’s conference in Helsinki, Ron Paul told RT that the president’s friendly attitude toward Vladimir Putin was “great,” adding, “[the] best step ever” would be “getting rid of the sanctions on Russia.”) Into this emerging paradigm comes Paul, who finally seems to have found a home for his otherwise heterodox views. Whereas Russia is one of the few areas where the vast majority of the G.O.P. breaks with Trump, condemning his slavish devotion to Putin, Paul is—for once—truly aligned with the president, occupying the space where the screwball right and the White House converge: in Moscow.


    Once a Trump Antagonist, Rand Paul Emerges as His Russia Wingman

    Nearly everyone except Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, deemed President Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia a diplomatic disaster. Credit Erin Schaff for The New York Times

      WASHINGTON — When he ran against Donald J. Trump in 2016 for the Republican presidential nomination, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky quipped that “a speck of dirt would make a better president” than the bombastic businessman from New York.

      Then came President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, his government’s interference in a White House campaign in which Mr. Paul barely made a ripple and last week’s presidential summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland, which pretty much everyone but Mr. Paul deemed a diplomatic disaster.

      Suddenly, in the mind of the junior senator from Kentucky, Mr. Trump has soared from lower than that speck of dirt to high enough for Mount Rushmore.

      “The hatred for the president is so intense that partisans would rather risk war than give diplomacy a chance,” Mr. Paul fumed on the Senate floor last week in a long defense of Mr. Trump’s Helsinki meeting. “This is crazy.”

      As the lonely Senate voice extolling Mr. Trump’s diplomatic acumen, Mr. Paul has become the commander in chief’s wingman. He has nabbed broad visibility for views once deemed fringe, and coveted White House access: “Thank you @RandPaul, you really get it!” the president tweeted.

      It was the senator’s idea to suspend the security clearances of Mr. Trump’s political enemies, an idea embraced at the lectern by the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

      Mr. Paul plans to visit Moscow in early August as Mr. Trump’s envoy, “following up from the meeting that he had with Putin,” he said in an interview last week. “Our goals are not necessarily, you know, finding world peace in one trip to Russia, but our goals are to try to find some things that we could advance on.”

      Mr. Paul has other plans, too. “I continue to encourage President Trump that he would be a hero if he could end the Afghan war,” Mr. Paul said in an emailed statement on Thursday. He and the president, he said, “have a similar belief that we have been at war too long in too many places.”

      Even Mr. Paul’s libertarian icon of a father, Ron Paul, a former representative from Texas and three-time presidential candidate, has gotten into the act, making regular appearances on Russian state television to cheer for Mr. Trump’s stand against America’s “secret government.”

      Mr. Trump’s friendliness with Mr. Putin was “great,” the elder Mr. Paul told RT, a television network funded by the Russian government, the day of Mr. Trump’s news conference in Helsinki. For good measure, he added, the “best step ever” would be “getting rid of the sanctions on Russia.”

      The Paul family’s quirky views — father and son favor abolishing the Federal Reserve and legalizing marijuana, and oppose government spending from foreign aid to health care — have long attracted a hardy band of Birkenstock-wearing devotees.

      But Rand Paul is a solitary, at times cranky presence in the Senate, a legislator whose libertarian zeal once made him the sole opponent of a bill penalizing people who aim laser pointers at airplanes. He has denounced federal support for aging and disabled refugees, and called legislators “weak-kneed” over their failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement. He is a firm “no” to taxpayer-funded junkets abroad (not that anyone invites him).

      Earlier this year Mr. Paul’s next-door neighbor in Kentucky body-slammed him while he was mowing his lawn, breaking multiple ribs in a fracas Mr. Paul said was over politics but the neighbor said was a lawn care dispute gone horribly wrong.

      Now, Mr. Paul’s vocal support for Mr. Trump’s overtures to Mr. Putin and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and his opposition to the Justice Department’s Russia investigation have made the senator famous for Washington.

      On Tuesday night, Mr. Paul drew an uproarious standing ovation from several hundred young people at the Trump International Hotel, where he spoke at a dinner for Turning Point USA, an organization for college-age conservatives.

      “The bigger your government, the less freedom you have,” he said, while standing next to a towering placard that read “Big Government Sucks.” Kicking off a 10-minute, not-entirely-factual tirade against the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., he asked: “Why do people mistrust their government? Because they’re lied to by people in government.”

      Mr. Paul’s support for the president’s efforts to shut down an investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russian election interference “fits with what I’ve been saying for a decade now,” he said. “We’ve allowed too much power to gravitate to these intelligence agencies.”

      Just hours before the idea became an official White House initiative, Mr. Paul suggested that former intelligence officials be stripped of their security clearance, including the former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan, who called Mr. Trump’s Russia stance treasonous.

      “I don’t think that ex-C.I.A. agents of any stripe who are now talking heads should continue to get classified information. I think it’s wrong,” Mr. Paul said on Fox News on Monday.

      They Criticized Trump. Now He’s Targeting Their Security Clearances.
      President Trump has revoked the former C.I.A. Director John Brennan’s security clearance. The White House said it’s considering pulling the security clearances for other former top officials, as well, many of whom have been critical of the president. Here’s what they’ve said.Published OnCreditImage by Al Drago/The New York Times

      Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and another Trump critic turned golf buddy, said last week: “I’m not shocked that Rand Paul feels that the F.B.I. and C.I.A. are a bigger threat than Russia. His foreign policy is, I think, out of sync. But if the president is embracing that kind of approach, I think he risks making some serious mistakes.”

      Mr. Paul’s anti-intelligence zeal has its roots in 2013, when the senator mounted a nearly 13-hour filibuster opposing Mr. Brennan’s nomination as C.I.A. director, raising broad questions over the Obama administration’s drone policy.

      In March 2014, after Russia’s forced annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, Mr. Paul wrote an essay for Breitbart News warning America to stay out of it. “What we don’t need right now is politicians who have never seen war talking tough for the sake of their political careers.”

      “There is a time for military action, such as after 9/11,” he wrote. “There is a time for diplomacy and the strategic use of soft power, such as now with Russia.”

      That stand neatly encompasses where right meets left: A year ago, Mr. Paul and Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, were the only opponents of a bill imposing further sanctions on Russia and Iran. This spring, Mr. Paul threatened to do “whatever it takes” to block the confirmation of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, saying that Mr. Pompeo’s support for military intervention in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan did not square with Mr. Trump’s own views. Mr. Paul next delayed, then voted against, the nomination of Gina Haspel to replace Mr. Pompeo as C.I.A. director, saying, “I’m still concerned about her role in extreme rendition and torture.”

      Mr. Paul now says he is questioning Mr. Trump’s nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, over Judge Kavanaugh’s stances on privacy and government surveillance.

      But as with his threats to vote against the Affordable Care Act repeal that did not go far enough; against the president’s tax cuts, which did not cut deep enough; and against Mr. Pompeo, few believe Mr. Paul will make good on his threat against Judge Kavanaugh if his vote matters.

      It has, in fact, been a rough patch for Mr. Paul. Last fall, Mr. Paul had gotten off his riding mower at his home in Bowling Green, Ky., to move some branches when he was tackled from behind by Rene A. Boucher, his next-door neighbor. Mr. Boucher, who took a running start down a steep slope in Mr. Paul’s front yard, landed on him with such force that he broke several ribs and bruised the senator’s lungs.

      Mr. Boucher’s lawyers said the fight was the climax of a long-simmering dispute over Mr. Paul’s stacking brush too near his property. Mr. Boucher was sentenced last month to a 30-day jail term, and Mr. Paul is suing himfor damages.

      “The velocity of the hit was just more than pushing somebody down in their yard,” said Mr. Paul’s mother, Carol Paul. “He had no idea he was coming until he landed on him.”

      She is struggling not to see the blindsiding as a metaphor for the nation’s politics.

      “This is not the America I grew up in,” she said. “Everyone loved our country, loved our president and didn’t say horrible things and make up stories,” she said. “Rand is so intelligent and has so many good ideas. He’s not the kind that won’t listen, but he’s not going to go along to get along.”

      Extreme temperatures 'especially likely for next four years'
      Cyclical natural phenomena that affect planet’s climate will amplify effect of manmade global warming, scientists warn

      ‘If the warming trend caused by greenhouse gas emissions continues, years like 2018 will be the norm in the 2040s, and would be classed as cold by the end of the century.’
      ‘If the warming trend caused by greenhouse gas emissions continues, years like 2018 will be the norm in the 2040s, and would be classed as cold by the end of the century.’ Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

      The world is likely to see more extreme temperatures in the coming four years as natural warming reinforces manmade climate change, according to a new global forecasting system.

      Following a summer of heatwaves and forest fires in the northern hemisphere, the study in the journal Nature Communications suggests there will be little respite for the planet until at least 2022, and possibly not even then.

      Rising greenhouse gas emissions are steadily adding to the upward pressure on temperatures, but humans do not feel the change as a straight line because the effects are diminished or amplified by phases of natural variation.

      From 1998 to 2010, global temperatures were in a “hiatus” as natural cooling (from ocean circulation and weather systems) offset anthropogenic global warming. But the planet has now entered almost the opposite phase, when natural trends are boosting man-made effects.

      “Everything seems to be adding up,” said the author of the paper, Florian Sévellec of the French National Centre for Scientific Research. “There is a high possibility that we will be at the peak of a warm phase for the next couple of years.”

      The scientist built his forecasting system by statistical “hind-casting”. This crunches the data from previous climate models to measure which combination was most effective in predicting past temperature trends. 

      Based on this analysis, Sévellec says the statistical upward nudge from natural variation this year is twice as great of that of long-term global warming. Next year, it is likely to be three times higher.

      He cautions that this should not be seen as a prediction that Europe will definitely have more heatwaves, the US more forest fires, South Africa more drought or the Arctic more ice melt. The likelihood of these events will increase, but his model is on a broad global scale. It does not predict which part of the world will experience warming or in which season.

      But his data clearly suggests that water in the oceans will warm faster than air above land, which could raise the risks of floods, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones.

      “Natural variability is a wriggle around the freight train that is global warming,” he says. “On a human scale, it is what we feel. What we don’t always feel is global warming. As a scientist, this is frightening because we don’t consider it enough. All we can do it give people information and let them make up their own mind.”

      He said his model should not be seen as the final word, but be taken alongside other forecasting systems, including those that look in more detail at what is happening on a regional level.

      Dr Sam Dean, chief climate scientist at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said the paper indicated mankind will have to rely less on “fortuitously cool years” from natural processes. Instead of the cooling La Niñas experienced in the first decade of the century, he said there have been more warming El Niños since 2014 and this trend looks set to continue.

      “While we can’t be sure exactly how things will play out, at the moment the odds are higher for hot years,” he said.

      Other scientists praised the paper but concurred on the need for wider analysis. “The findings suggest it’s more likely we’ll get warmer years than expected in the next few years. But their method is purely statistical, so it’s important to see what climate models predict based on everything we know about the atmosphere and the oceans. Those are more expensive to run but also use more climate physics and observational information,” said Prof Gabi Hegerl of Edinburgh University.

      Professor James Renwick of Victoria University of Wellington said the new forecasting system was clever, but its value will only be clear in the future. The broader trend, however, was clear.

      “If the warming trend caused by greenhouse gas emissions continues, years like 2018 will be the norm in the 2040s, and would be classed as cold by the end of the century,” he wrote.

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