Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Losing My Religion

I've said too much, I haven't said enough:

"E-mail claims Russian government sought to aid Trump’s candidacy" by Matt Apuzzo, Jo Becker, Adam Goldman and Maggie Haberman New York Times  July 11, 2017

WASHINGTON — Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an e-mail that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the e-mail.

The e-mail to the younger Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting. In a statement Sunday, Trump acknowledged that he was interested in receiving damaging information about Clinton, but he gave no indication that he thought the lawyer might have been a Kremlin proxy.

Goldstone’s message, as described by the three people, indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information. It does not elaborate on the wider effort by Moscow to help the Trump campaign.

There is no evidence to suggest that the promised damaging information was related to Russian government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee e-mails. The meeting took place less than a week before it was widely reported that Russian hackers had infiltrated the committee’s servers.

But the e-mail is likely to be of keen interest to the Justice Department and congressional investigators, who are examining whether any of President Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election. US intelligence agencies have determined that the Russian government tried to sway the election in favor of Trump.

The circumstances surrounding the meeting fueled new questions about the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

The existence of the meeting was first reported on Saturday, and a fuller picture has emerged in subsequent days.

Alan Futerfas, the lawyer for the younger Trump, said his client had done nothing wrong but pledged to work with investigators if contacted.

“In my view, this is much ado about nothing. During this busy period, Robert Goldstone contacted Don Jr. in an e-mail and suggested that people had information concerning alleged wrongdoing by Democratic Party front-runner, Hillary Clinton, in her dealings with Russia,” he said in an e-mail Monday. “Don Jr.'s takeaway from this communication was that someone had information potentially helpful to the campaign and it was coming from someone he knew. Don Jr. had no knowledge as to what specific information, if any, would be discussed.”

Goldstone represents Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, whose father was President Trump’s business partner in bringing the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013. In an interview Monday, Goldstone said he was asked by Agalarov to set up the meeting with Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

“He said, ‘I’m told she has information about illegal campaign contributions to the DNC,'” Goldstone recalled, referring to the Democratic National Committee. He said he then e-mailed Trump Jr., outlining what the lawyer purported to have, but Goldstone, who wrote the e-mail more than a year ago, denied any knowledge of involvement by the Russian government in the matter, saying that never dawned on him. “Never, never ever,” he said. Later, after the e-mail was described, efforts to reach him for further comment were unsuccessful.

In the interview, he said that it was his understanding that Veselnitskaya was simply a “private citizen” for whom Agalarov wanted to do a favor. He also said he did not know whether Agalarov’s father, Aras Agalarov, a Moscow real estate tycoon known to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was involved. The elder Agalarov and the younger Trump worked together to bring a Trump Tower to Moscow, but the project never got off the ground.

News of the meeting involving the younger Trump, Kushner and Manafort blunted whatever good feeling the president’s team had after his trip to Europe for the Group of 20 economic summit meeting.

The president learned from his aides about the 2016 meeting at the end of the trip, according to a White House official. But some people in the White House had known for several days that it had occurred, because Kushner had revised his foreign contact disclosure document to include it.

The president was frustrated by the news of the meeting, according to one person close to him — less over the fact that it had happened, and more because it was yet another story about Russia that had swamped the news media cycle.....

Which is why I'm tuning them out.


For the second day in a row it was my top story, and then I find out it is nothing but recycled garbage and not news?

Also see

How a pageant led to Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer

A stunning admission from Donald Trump Jr.

He said the US is a family dynasty.

Newton council approves resolution calling for Trump probe

Trying to preserve a way of life.

Trump backs off idea of ‘cyber security unit’ with Russia

Former defense secretary Ashton Carter equated the move to ‘‘the guy who robbed your house proposing a working group on burglary,’’ so can you please point him towards Wall Street.

Trump civil rights nominee went from government advocate to corporate hired gun 

That's front page news?

Trump administration blocks ‘startup visas’ tech leaders back

Texas is looking more Hispanic and less white every year

Meet the New Independents

Republican leader expects vote due next week on health bill

White House's 'Drug Czar' Visits Vermont 

"President Trump plans to nominate Randal Quarles, who served as a senior Treasury official in the George W. Bush administration, to be the Federal Reserve’s chief banking regulator, the White House said in statement Monday. The selection of Quarles, 59, would end a long search to fill a post with great sway over JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other large banks....."

At this point I'm pretty much done for the day.

"Wall Street capped a mostly listless day of trading Monday with an uneven finish for US stock indexes. Gains by technology and materials stocks were mostly outweighed by losses among real estate companies, banks, and others. Macy’s and other big retailers also took hefty losses. Energy companies rose as the price of crude oil rebounded. Trading got off to a mixed start Monday coming off a broad pickup in major markets in Europe and Asia. Investors appeared to mostly focus on the coming start of the second-quarter earnings season. Traders also were looking ahead to potential news out of the Federal Reserve later this week. Fed chair Janet Yellen is due to address Congress on Wednesday and Thursday....."

"Veterans committees show how bipartisan Congress can work" by Nicholas Fandos New York Times   July 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — As the rest of Congress fights over the health care overhaul and looming budget deadlines, the committees responsible for writing legislation affecting veterans are quietly moving forward with an ambitious, long-sought, and largely bipartisan agenda that has the potential to significantly reshape the way the nation cares for its 21 million veterans.

It could also provide President Trump with a set of policy victories he badly wants.

“It’s a case study in Washington working as designed,” said Phillip Carter, who studies veterans issues at the Center for a New American Security and advises Democrats. “And it’s shocking because we so rarely see it these days.”

Unless it is a sanctions bill against Russia and Iran or whatever else Israel wants.

The tally thus far is impressive, if not exactly the stuff of headline news: The secretary of Veterans Affairs was confirmed unanimously, the only Cabinet secretary with that level of congressional approval.

Congress quickly passed a temporary funding extension for the Veterans Choice Program, which pays for private-sector health care for veterans facing long wait times at government facilities. Then it passed a bill that makes it easier for the department to hire and fire. The next bit of legislation on the brink of becoming law expedites disability benefits appeals.

This is happening as Congress finds itself stalled by a growing list of priorities that lawmakers had hoped to send to Trump before the August recess. Lawmakers with coveted spots on the veterans committees are quick to acknowledge that caring for those who served the country in uniform has long been largely a bipartisan pursuit.

But ideological differences do exist between the parties on how to care for veterans’ health needs, particularly when it comes to the Choice program, which was hastily written after a 2014 scandal over the manipulation of patient wait times and has proved to be a flawed, if popular, fix.

Whether the latest bout of amity can persist will largely depend on whether lawmakers are able to agree on a way to permanently fix the program, and streamline a half dozen others that send veterans out for private care, before it loses its authorization in January.

But as lawmakers talk about how they will do it, it almost sounds like an idealized version of how Washington works.

“We don’t want to have a fight for fights’ sake. We want to find solutions,” said Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.....


RelatedAt least 16 feared dead in Marine Corps plane crash in Miss.

"Soldier held in slayings of wife, New York state trooper" Associated Press  July 11, 2017

THERESA, N.Y. — An Army soldier killed his wife and a state police trooper who had responded to reports of shots fired at the couple’s rural upstate property, authorities said Monday.

Staff Sergeant Justin Walters surrendered after the Sunday night slayings and was charged with two counts of murder, authorities said. A second woman living on the couple’s property was also shot, but her injuries weren’t considered life-threatening, police said.

Trooper Joel Davis, 36, was shot as he approached the home while responding to the report of gunfire at about 8 p.m. in the town of Theresa, near the Canadian border, said George P. Beach II, superintendent of the New York State Police.

Related"Five months ago, it was fears over flooding. Now it’s flames. Crews were making progress against that fire and dozens of others across California, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, and into Canada....."

Walters’s wife, 27-year-old Nichole Walters, was found dead at the scene. Police haven’t said how she was killed.

State police said Justin Walters, 32, was stationed at nearby Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division. Fort Drum officials said Walters, of Zeeland, Mich., was a combat veteran who has served at the post since joining the Army in 2007. He did one-year tours in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division’s First Brigade in January 2009 and again in March 2011.

Walters was ordered held in the Jefferson County Jail without bail.

When the judge asked Walters if he knew why he was in court, Walters responded that he didn’t know, the station reported.

State police said Davis, of Evans Mills, graduated from the Basic School of the New York State Police Academy in May 2013. He originally was assigned to the Troop D Watertown barracks before receiving his current assignment at the state police barracks in Philadelphia, N.Y,, just outside Fort Drum.

Davis previously worked for the county sheriff’s office as a road patrol deputy. His brother, Josh Davis, is a police officer in Watertown, WWNY reported.


RelatedUS soldier accused of pledging loyalty to Islamic State

So it was an act of terror.

"Inmates take two guards hostage in Oklahoma prison riot" Associated Press  July 11, 2017

TULSA, Okla. — Hundreds of inmates armed with baseball bats and iron pipes rioted at an Oklahoma federal prison for about eight hours, taking two guards hostage and refusing to return to their cells before they were finally corralled by law enforcement officers, authorities said Monday.

The riot started late Sunday at the Great Plains Correctional Facility in Hinton after a fight broke out in the prison yard, then rapidly escalated, Caddo County Sheriff Lennis Miller said.

Inmates refused to return to their cells and at one point occupied one building in the complex located about 55 miles west of Oklahoma City, Miller said.

‘‘It was a full-fledged riot,’’ he said.

About 150 inmates were involved in the riot, but the Florida-based operator of the private prison, the GEO Group, estimated Monday that about 400 inmates were involved in the disturbance in the prison yard that preceded the rioting.

Miller said prisoners, some toting bats and pipes, took two guards hostage at the outset of the riot, but that both were freed and uninjured. It wasn’t immediately clear how the inmates got the weapons, how they were able to get inside one of the buildings, or what prompted the riot.

Miller said authorities used pepper spray and stun grenades to corral inmates into a soccer field and an exercise yard. The riot ended early Monday after roughly eight hours, authorities said.

Pablo Paez, a spokesman for the GEO Group, said in a statement Monday that the prison was secured without serious injury to staff, inmates, or law officers. He said the Federal Bureau of Prisons and other agencies are reviewing the incident. The prison houses about 1,900 inmates.


They called a truce.


"Truce in part of Syria survives first day, as new talks begin" by Somini Sengupta and Ben Hubbard New York Times  July 10, 2017

BEIRUT — Russia brokered a truce with Turkey, an important rebel sponsor, in northern Syria last December. That, say local residents, has tamped down violence there, notably the Syrian government’s aerial bombing campaign.

Look at map, Dardannelles. Iran, iraq, syrai.

The Syrian battlefield is populated by a mix of rebel groups, supported by Jordan, Turkey, and the Persian Gulf countries as well as the United States. Backing the government of President Bashar Assad of Syria are soldiers and advisers from Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah.

Syrian and Russian forces have tried to justify their military attacks on many rebel groups as targeting terrorists; Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria and the Islamic State group have not been part of the truces.

On Monday, Syrian forces said they had attacked Islamic State fighters in one area covered by the truce, an assertion disputed by local rebels, some of whom have received covert aid from the United States and its allies. They said the area contained no Islamic State fighters.

The latest truce covers three important areas in Syria’s southwest: Dara’a, Quneitra, and Sweida.

Dara’a is where the rebellion against the Assad government began in 2011 and much of its countryside is held by rebel factions, armed and aided by the United States, Jordan, and others.

Sweida is dominated by the Druze minority, which is largely loyal to the Assad government; Al Qaeda affiliates are scattered in the area along with nonextremist rebel factions who fight under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.

Quneitra is important to Israel because it presses against the Israeli-held portion of the Golan Heights, a strategic area Israel captured from Syria in their war in 1967. Syrian forces in Quneitra are backed by Hezbollah fighters, and, on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, while welcoming the cease-fire, warned against “Iran and its proxies” establishing themselves in the area.

Iran, which was not part of the deal, called Monday for the cease-fire to be expanded nationwide.

What impact — if any — the southwestern truce deal will have on the UN-brokered talks in Geneva is unclear..... 

What about the talks in Kazakhstan?


"Iraqis gain control of last ISIS-held area in Mosul" by Susannah George Associated Press  July 10, 2017

MOSUL, Iraq — Hours before Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi spoke, airstrikes pounded the last ISIS-held territory on the western edge of the Tigris River. In recent days, Iraqi troops, closely backed by airstrikes from the US-led coalition, confined the remaining few hundred extremists in an area measuring less than a half square mile.

President Trump said the recapture of Mosul means the Islamic State’s days in Iraq and Syria ‘‘are numbered.’’ Trump said in a written statement that the United States will continue to seek the ‘‘total destruction’’ of the extremist group.

The battle for Mosul was Iraq’s longest and most punishing conventional fight against ISIS in the more than three-year war against the extremists.

Launched in October, the massive operation involved more than 70,000 Iraqi troops drawn from the country’s army, special forces, police, tribal fighters, and mostly Shi’ite paramilitary forces.

Over the course of the campaign, Iraq’s special forces units who largely led the assault have faced casualty rates of 40 percent, according to a report in May from the office of the US secretary of defense.

Additionally, thousands of civilians were estimated to have been killed, according to Nineveh’s provincial council. That did not include those still believed buried under collapsed buildings.

The fight also displaced more than 897,000 people, and the United Nations said there was no end in sight to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq despite the conclusion of the fight.

At least there is an end in sight to the coverage of Mosul.

The UN said thousands of Mosul residents will likely remain displaced from the city after the fight is concluded because of ‘‘extensive damage caused during the conflict.’’

The battle also has decimated Mosul’s infrastructure in its western half.....

buildings dating back centuries, were severely damaged or destroyed.


RelatedSporadic clashes continue in Mosul despite declaration of victory

Elsewhere in the region:

"Tillerson landed in Kuwait City late Monday and was greeted at the airport by the Gulf country’s foreign minister. Washington is worried the dispute is hampering Trump’s bid to combat international terrorist financing. US officials said Tillerson doesn’t expect an immediate breakthrough, which they warned could be months away. Rather, they said, he wants to explore possibilities for sparking negotiations....."

The tiger has landed.

"Aramco to spend $300 billion, CEO warns on world oil supply" by Wael Mahdi Bloomberg News  July 10, 2017

Saudi Aramco, which plans what could be the world’s biggest initial public offering, will invest more than $300 billion over the next decade to maintain its spare oil-production capacity and explore for more natural gas, president and chief executive Amin Nasser said.

The outlook for oil supplies is ‘‘increasingly worrying,’’ with about $1 trillion in investments lost during the current industry downturn and fewer new deposits being discovered, Nasser said at a conference in Istanbul. Some estimates suggest that at least 20 million barrels a day of new output is needed over the next five years to offset rising oil demand and the natural decline of developed fields, he said Monday.

Where is that because it is not now.

‘‘There seems to be a growing belief that the world can prematurely disengage from proven and reliable energy sources like oil and gas, on the mistaken assumption that alternatives will be rapidly deployed,’’ Nasser said in a speech. The petroleum industry will be at the heart of global energy for years, and the transition to use of alternatives will be ‘‘long and complex,’ he said.

He means the sun is setting on renewables.

The state-run company known formally as Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the world’s biggest oil exporter, boosted production to an annual record last year before the kingdom led the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers to curb output to stem a global glut. Aramco is also at the heart of the nation’s long-term strategy to wean its economy off oil. The government plans to sell about 5 percent of the company in 2018 in what could be a record IPO.

Current oil prices won’t affect the company’s decision for a planned share sale, Nasser told reporters at the conference.

‘‘Financial investors are shying away from making much needed large investments in oil exploration, long-term development, and the related infrastructure,’’ Nasser said in his speech, putting part of the blame on what he said were ‘‘misleading arguments about peak oil demand and stranded resources.’’

The volume of conventional oil discovered around the world over the past four years, for example, is down more than 50 percent from the previous four years, he said.

‘‘Investments in smaller increments such as shale oil will just not cut it. Yet without those higher investment levels, the energy transition — and therefore energy security — may be fatally compromised.’’

Aramco plans to spend $300 billion on projects over the next 10 years to maintain its spare oil production capacity, the biggest by far in OPEC, and boost exploration and output of conventional and unconventional gas, Nasser said.

‘‘Three hundred billion dollars over 10 years is a strong statement for Saudi Aramco, especially against the backdrop of the current oil environment, which has strained the Saudi budget,’’ said Will Hares, an energy analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in London. ‘‘This may form a response to its concerns of a long-term supply deficit resulting from underinvestment in the industry since 2014.’’

Still fun in the sun though.

Aramco’s capital investment program last year was its biggest ever, he said, without specifying what it spent. The company is looking to invest in new offshore oil projects, pending approval by the board, and it isn’t planning to increase production capacity with new projects but rather to maintain current oil output, he said.

Aramco plans to double its production of gas resources to 23 billion cubic feet a day over the coming decade, Nasser said. The forecast increase will raise the share of gas in the kingdom’s utilities to about 70 percent, the ‘‘highest of any G20 nation,’’ he said.

Saudi Arabia is also committed to developing solar energy and other renewable sources, and the economic restructuring strategy foresees the nation’s becoming ‘‘nothing less than a solar powerhouse,’’ he said.

The desert would seem to be a good place for them.


Who wants to go renewables when prices at the pump dropped another penny?

"Israel, Palestinians reach power deal for northern West Bank" Associated Press  July 10, 2017

JENIN, West Bank — Israeli and Palestinian officials on Monday signed a rare agreement to provide additional electricity to Palestinian residents of the northern West Bank.

Under the deal, Israel’s national electric company will sell an additional 60 megawatts of electricity to the power-starved Jenin area, with an option to more than double the supply. The electricity will be distributed through a Palestinian-operated substation.

The Palestinians are building a total of four substations, with backing from the European Investment Bank.

Israel’s energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, and other top officials attended a ceremony near Jenin.

Major General Yoav Mordechai, who heads Cogat, the Israeli defense body for Palestinian civilian affairs, said such agreements are ‘‘significant components of stability.’’

Hamdallah called the project an ‘‘impressive accomplishment.’’

In a separate development Monday, a senior Israeli Cabinet minister promoted a plan to build a regional train network that he says could link Israel and the Palestinians to much of the Arab world.

Yisrael Katz, the minister of transportation and intelligence, told foreign reporters Monday that Israel already is pushing forward with plans to extend an existing train line to the Jordanian border and into the West Bank.

The projects would give Jordan and the Palestinians greater access to Israel’s Haifa port.

Katz showed a map of a hoped-for rail network stretching through Jordan and Saudi Arabia to the Gulf.

Israel does not have formal relations with Saudi Arabia, but Katz suggested the issue has been quietly raised through back channels. He says the new US administration is ‘‘very active’’ promoting regional ‘‘normalization.’’


So now we know to where all the West Bank Palestinians are going to be deported, and if there is no room on the train..... there is a seat on the plane.


EU Parliament threatens veto on Brexit over citizens’ rights

UK court sets new hearing in case of terminally ill baby

"Dozens of firefighters poured water onto a big fire early Monday at Camden Lock Market, which is a popular tourist destination in north London....."

Did you notice how the terrorists quieted down for Wimbledon?

LA, Paris present Olympic plans ahead of 2024-2028 decision

Them and their damn hand signals.

Top Vatican cardinal returns to Australia to face sex assault charges

Australian journalist’s Trump teardown goes viral

"Liu is China’s most famous political prisoner, and now what is likely to be his short time still alive has become a source of contention with human rights advocates and Western governments....."

Need to read the fine print and stay silent while I apply this tourniquet (is there a nurse in the house?).

Time to start digging and find a new one.