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Hometown: Boston, MA
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Journal Archives

Some federal prosecutors disagreed with decision to charge Assange under Espionage Act

Source: Washington Post

Two prosecutors involved in the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange argued against the Justice Department’s decision to accuse him of violating the Espionage Act because of fear such charges posed serious risks for First Amendment protections and other concerns, according to people familiar with the matter.

The previously undisclosed disagreement inside the Justice Department underscores the fraught, high-stakes nature of the government’s years-long effort to counter Assange, an Internet-age publisher who has repeatedly declared his hostility to U.S. foreign policy and military operations. The Assange case also illustrates how the Trump administration is willing to go further than its predecessors in pursuit of leakers — and those who publish official secrets.

The internal Justice Department debate over how, or whether, to prosecute Assange stretched back to the Obama administration, which ultimately decided that such charges were a bad idea but did not formally close the case.

The case was dormant when the Trump administration began, but in 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, eager to demonstrate his zeal for pursuing anti-leak investigations, urged the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia to take a second look at prosecuting Assange.


By Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Rachel Weiner May 24 at 5:48 PM

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/some-federal-prosecutors-disagreed-with-decision-to-charge-assange-under-espionage-act/2019/05/24/ce9271bc-7e4d-11e9-8bb7-0fc796cf2ec0_story.html

U.S. Supreme Court blocks redrawing of Ohio, Michigan electoral maps

LBN thread: U.S. Supreme Court grants Ohio's request to delay new map in gerrymandering case


Source: Reuters


U.S. Supreme Court blocks redrawing of Ohio, Michigan electoral maps

Andrew Chung, Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Friday blocked lower court rulings ordering Republican legislators in Michigan and Ohio to redraw U.S. congressional maps ahead of the 2020 elections, dealing a blow to Democrats who had argued that the electoral districts were intended to unlawfully diminish their political clout.

The justices granted requests from Republican lawmakers in both states to put those decisions on hold, halting further action in the cases and the need to rework electoral district boundaries. The justices did not provide any explanation for their brief orders.

The lower courts found that the electoral maps in the two states had been drawn to entrench Republicans in power by manipulating boundaries in a way that reduced the voting clout of Democrats - a practice known as partisan gerrymandering - in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

While both disputes involve U.S. House of Representatives districts in the two states, the Michigan case challenges districts in the state legislature as well.

The decisions in Michigan and Ohio that were put on hold by the justices were the latest rulings by federal courts determining that electoral maps designed by a state’s majority party unconstitutionally undermined the rights of voters who tend to support the other party.


Read more: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-gerrymandering/u-s-supreme-court-blocks-redrawing-of-ohio-michigan-electoral-maps-idUSKCN1SU292

Trump orders intelligence community to cooperate with review on Russia probe origins

Source: Reuters


Trump orders intelligence community to cooperate with review on Russia probe origins

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered the intelligence community to cooperate with Attorney General William Barr’s review of the events that prompted the FBI to open an investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“Today, at the request and recommendation of the attorney general of the United States, President Donald J. Trump directed the intelligence community to quickly and fully cooperate with the attorney general’s investigation into surveillance activities during the 2016 presidential election,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said after Trump issued the directive.

The order also allows Barr to declassify any information he sees fit during his review.

Last month, Barr said at a Senate hearing that “spying” on Trump’s campaign was carried out by U.S. intelligence agencies, though he later referred to his concerns as focused on “unauthorized surveillance.”

Barr has assigned a top federal prosecutor in Connecticut to probe the origins of the Russia investigation in what is the third known inquiry into the opening of the FBI probe.


Read more: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-barr/trump-orders-intelligence-community-to-cooperate-with-review-on-russia-probe-origins-idUSKCN1SU00T

'He always brings them up': Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm

Source: Washington Post

‘He always brings them up’: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm

By Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey May 23 at 7:06 PM

President Trump has personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to award a border wall contract to a North Dakota construction firm whose top executive is a GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News, according to four administration officials.

In phone calls, White House meetings and conversations aboard Air Force One during the past several months, Trump has aggressively pushed Dickinson, N.D.-based Fisher Industries to Department of Homeland Security leaders and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the Army Corps, according to the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and DHS officials.

Semonite was summoned to the White House again Thursday, after the president’s aides told Pentagon officials — including Gen. Mark Milley, the commander of the U.S. Army — that the president wanted to discuss the border barrier. According to an administration official with knowledge of the Oval Office meeting, Trump immediately brought up Fisher, a company that sued the U.S. government last month after the Army Corps did not accept its bid to install barriers along the southern border, a contract potentially worth billions of dollars.

Trump has latched on to the company’s public claims that a new weathered steel design and innovative construction method would vastly speed up the project — and deliver it at far less cost to taxpayers. White House officials said Trump wants to go with the best and most cost-effective option to build the wall quickly.

“The President is one of the country’s most successful builders and knows better than anyone how to negotiate the best deals,” said Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary. “He wants to make sure we get the job done under budget and ahead of schedule.”


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/he-always-brings-them-up-trump-tries-to-steer-border-wall-deal-to-north-dakota-firm/2019/05/23/92d3858c-7b30-11e9-8bb7-0fc796cf2ec0_story.html

British man arrested on suspicion of giving bleach-based 'cure' to Ugandans

Source: The Guardian

British man arrested on suspicion of giving bleach-based 'cure' to Ugandans

Sam Little arrested after Guardian exposed massive distribution network of MMS in Uganda that was being supervised by US pastor

Alon Mwesigwa in Kampala and Ed Pilkington in New York
Thu 23 May 2019 19.06 BST Last modified on Thu 23 May 2019 19.27 BST

A British man has been arrested in Uganda on suspicions of “intoxicating the public” after he claimed to have carried out a trial of a “miracle cure” on local villagers using industrial bleach.

Sam Little, 25, from Arlesey in Bedfordshire was picked up by Ugandan police at 6am on Thursday in a village church in Kitembi, a few miles outside Fort Portal in western Uganda. Also arrested were two Ugandans who are suspected of being involved in the distribution of the bleach, which is known by advocates as MMS or Miracle Mineral Solution.

The arrests come five days after the Guardian exposed a massive distribution network of MMS in poor areas of Uganda that was being supervised by an American pastor from New Jersey. The network by its own estimation was handing out quantities of the bleach to up to 50,000 Ugandans every month and telling them that it was a cure-all for almost every serious disease including HIV/Aids and cancer.

Little supported the network with a donation of $10,000.

In the wake of the Guardian’s reporting, the US government put out an official warning in Uganda. The US mission, an outpost of the US embassy in Kampala, issued a public statement saying that it was aware of reports that MMS was being distributed by an American pastor in the country and stating: “We strongly condemn the distribution of this substance, which is extremely dangerous and is NOT a cure for any disease.”


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/23/british-man-arrested-on-suspicions-of-giving-bleach-based-cure-to-ugandans

Purdue Pharma accused of 'corrupting' WHO to boost global opioid sales

Source: The Guardian

Purdue Pharma accused of 'corrupting' WHO to boost global opioid sales

‘Unscrupulous’ manufacturer replicated false marketing claims to change WHO guidelines, report by members of Congress alleges

Chris McGreal
Wed 22 May 2019 18.09 BST First published on Wed 22 May 2019 14.00 BST

Purdue Pharma, the drug manufacturer that kickstarted the US opioid epidemic, corruptly influenced the World Health Organization in order to boost painkiller sales across the globe, according to a report by members of Congress.

An investigation by Katherine Clark and Hal Rogers, who represent districts in Massachusetts and Kentucky hard hit by the US opioid epidemic, accuses Purdue of replicating its false marketing claims about the safety and effectiveness of opioids to change WHO prescribing guidelines in an attempt to expand foreign markets for its drugs.

“The web of influence we uncovered paints a picture of a public health organization that has been corrupted by the opioid industry,” said Clark. “The WHO appears to be lending the opioid industry its voice and credibility, and as a result, a trusted public health organization is trafficking dangerous misinformation that could lead to a global opioid epidemic.”

The report, called Corrupting Influence. Purdue and the WHO, accuses Purdue of using pharma-funded organisations and specialists to influence the writing of WHO policy to encourage much wider prescribing of addictive high-strength opioids across the globe. It said that, as a result, “WHO guidelines are serving as marketing materials for Purdue”.


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/22/purdue-pharma-opioid-world-health-organization-painkiller-global-sales


Related: Corrupting Influence: Purdue & the WHO (Offices of Representatives Katherine Clark and Hal Rogers]

UK suffers crushing defeat in UN vote on Chagos Islands

Source: The Guardian

UK suffers crushing defeat in UN vote on Chagos Islands

General assembly strongly condemns British occupation of Indian Ocean territory

Owen Bowcott and Julian Borger
Wed 22 May 2019 18.56 BST Last modified on Wed 22 May 2019 21.19 BST

The United Nations general assembly has overwhelmingly backed a motion condemning Britain’s occupation of the remote Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean.

The 116-6 vote left the UK diplomatically isolated and was also a measure of severely diminished US clout on the world stage. Washington had campaigned vigorously at the UN and directly in talks with national capitals around the world in defence of the UK’s continued control of the archipelago, where there is a US military base at Diego Garcia.

The vote was in support of a motion setting a six-month deadline for Britain to withdraw from the Chagos island chain and for the islands to be reunified with neighbouring Mauritius. It endorsed an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in February, calling on the UK to relinquish its hold on the territory in order to complete the process of decolonisation.

The US, Hungary, Israel, Australia and the Maldives backed the UK in the vote and 56 countries abstained, including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland and Romania. Other European allies including Austria, Greece, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland voted for the UK to relinquish sovereignty.

The scale of the defeat for the UK and US came as a surprise even to Mauritius, in view of the concerted campaign pursued by London and Washington.


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/22/uk-suffers-crushing-defeat-un-vote-chagos-islands

Internal memo orders military to restrict information it shares with Congress

Source: Washington Post

Internal memo orders military to restrict information it shares with Congress

By Missy Ryan and Greg Jaffe May 22 at 5:00 AM

Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan has mandated new restrictions on the way the Pentagon shares information with Congress about military operations around the world, a move that is straining ties with key Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

In a May 8 internal memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post, Shanahan lays out the criteria for when Pentagon officials may provide congressional offices or committees information they request about operational plans and orders.

The memo comes as lawmakers from both parties complain that the Trump administration has withheld information that prevents them from executing their constitutionally mandated oversight role. Some lawmakers are also concerned about whether Shanahan has allowed the military to be drawn too deeply into President Trump’s immigration agenda.

“Congress oversees the Department of Defense; but with this new policy, the department is overstepping its authority by presuming to determine what warrants legislative oversight,” Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.), the chair and ranking Republican of the House Armed Services Committee.

The memo was shared widely inside the Pentagon but was sent to key lawmakers only after inquiries by The Post. It outlines a half-dozen guidelines, including requirements that military officials and political appointees evaluate whether the request “contains sufficient information to demonstrate a relationship to the legislative function.” The memo urges Defense Department officials to provide a summary briefing rather than a requested plan or order itself.


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/lawmakers-bristle-at-new-rules-for-sharing-pentagon-information-with-congress/2019/05/21/79315df9-d792-41df-a42e-10df9af7306e_story.html

Trump administration tells judge Congress did not deny border wall funds when it declined to appropr

Source: Washington Post

Trump administration tells judge Congress did not deny border wall funds when it declined to appropriate money for it

By Fred Barbash May 17 at 7:34 PM

OAKLAND — In the first court hearing over President Trump’s border wall funding plan, administration lawyers on Friday vigorously pressed their controversial argument that Congress did not in fact deny him the money when lawmakers excluded it from the appropriations bill they enacted in February.

To bar spending, Deputy Assistant Attorney General James M. Burnham told a federal judge here, Congress would have had to explicitly say that “no money shall be obligated” in any form to construct a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. Having failed to do that, Burnham argued, the administration is free to tap funds never intended for border security .

“That just cannot be right,” responded Douglas Letter, general counsel for the House of Representatives, which participated as amicus in the case brought by nearly two dozen states and the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group. They are challenging Trump’s national emergency declaration to redirect taxpayer money for the wall. The House has filed a separate suit in Washington, D.C. “No money may be spent unless Congress actually appropriates it,” he said.

Letter likened the situation to that of an underage teenager who requires his mother’s signature to join the Army — but she wants him to go to college instead. “He says, ‘Mom, you can just sign this form?’ And mom walks out of the room” instead of signing it.

“Nobody can say that’s not a denial,” Letter said. This is exactly what Congress did when it balked at Trump’s request for more than $4 billion for the border wall beyond the $1.375 billion it did appropriate, he added.


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-administration-tells-judge-congress-did-not-deny-border-wall-funds-when-it-declined-to-appropriate-money-for-it/2019/05/17/3018d35e-786d-11e9-b3f5-5673edf2d127_story.html

Tackle white supremacy as terrorism, experts say

Source: CNN

Tackle white supremacy as terrorism, experts say

By Mallory Simon and Sara Sidner, CNN
Updated 0444 GMT (1244 HKT) May 15, 2019

New York (CNN) — Americans are being killed. Murdered not for what they have done or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Slaughtered again and again because, whether Jewish, or black, or simply not "pure" white, they are seen as a pestilence to be purged.

Their murderers are followers of a vile and hateful ideology that meets the FBI definition of terrorism. But some top current and former law enforcement officials say that they are not treated as terrorists, because they are American, and they are white.

But amid the rising number of deadly white supremacist attacks, the officials say that must change. White supremacy must be called terrorism and tackled with the same vigor as ISIS and al Qaeda.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance came to that realization while investigating the homicide of a black man in the center of New York City.


Read more: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/14/us/white-supremacy-terrorism-soh/index.html
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