In pre-Comey Russian news, "Where are they now? The Russian bots that disrupted the 2016 election" follows the Russian botnets in the first few months of this year. And "6 Takeaways From Monday’s Senate Hearing on Russia" isn't that great, but leads well into a whole series of stories about the attempt to intimidate Sally Yeats. (That's a felony, by the way.) To wit, "And now, 6hrs before #SallyYates testifies against him & his cronies I'm pretty sure this constitutes as a POTUS intimidating a witness," and "‘The president is threatening a witness’: CNN analyst slams Trump’s ‘disturbing’ Sally Yates tweets" cover that. They also had "Per @axios, WH plans to smear Sally Yates tomorrow as a "Democratic operative." She was a nonpolitical, career DOJ attorney for two decades" queued up.
But her testimony was damning nonetheless. "Spicer: White House Didn't Act on Sally Yates' Warning Because She's a "Political Opponent"." "Trump Is So Freaked Out By Sally Yates He Changed His Goddamn Twitter Profile" and "Yates: Alarm about Russian blackmail led to warning on Flynn" are also important
Sessions's justice department is moving against Cascadian groups protecting immigrant rights, sending cease-and-deists to them. They're fighting back. ("Group sues to continue giving immigrants legal help"). We also have a first-person report from Desiree Fairooz, the woman arrested for laughing at Jeff Sessions. ("I'm facing jail time after laughing at Jeff Sessions. I regret nothing.") Sessions is also trying to revive discredited (and overtly racist) Supreme Court decisions of the past. (The racist, discredited argument Trump’s DOJ just made in a federal court). Also, Sessions continues the tradition of trying to get Julian Assange in jail, with "The government wants Julian Assange in jail. That could hurt the rest of us." Yes, he's a Russian tool, but he's not a US citizen and he's not acting on US soil, and publishing data - even curated with political intent - isn't criminal.
Have a little cultural warfare, scarecrow: "Texas Bill Could Let Agencies Bar LGBT, Atheist, Single Parents From Adopting" (another 'religious liberty' bill), "Tennessee 'Natural Meaning' Law Raises Fears in LGBT Community" (an attempt to weasel in general inefficiencies targeting LGBT couples trying to use their rights under the law), and "Alabama Governor Signs Law Allowing Adoption Agencies to Discriminate Against Gay Couples" (more 'religious liberty' horseshit).
Suppression of Science: "Interior Dept. freezes work of advisory boards." Reportedly some haven't met in years, and those are fine, but this a broad brush. And given everything else we've seen, it'd be stupid not to assume the worst.
"White House advisors called Ottawa to urge Trudeau to help talk Trump down from scrapping NAFTA." YES, REALLY. THAT IS THE STORY FROM A REAL CANADIAN NEWSPAPER. Christ.
Other Racism: "99% of students handcuffed by NYPD in public schools were black or Hispanic: report."
Other Fascism: "The Healthcare Bill Exposes Trump's Chilling Authoritarian Agenda."
Other "alt-facts," a.k.a. lies, discredited in "Noncitizen Voting: The Missing Millions."
A bit of opinion: "Yes, House Republicans, the heartless health-care vote will define you," and "Washington Loves General McMaster, But Trump Doesn't."
As always - good luck out there.
----- 1 -----
U.S. Census director resigns amid turmoil over funding of 2020 count
By Tara Bahrampour | May 9, 2017 | The Washington Post
The director of the U.S. Census Bureau is resigning, leaving the agency
leaderless at a time when it faces a crisis over funding for the 2020
decennial count of the U.S. population and beyond.
John H. Thompson, who has served as director since 2013 and worked for
the bureau for 27 years before that, will leave June 30, the Commerce
Department announced Tuesday.
The news, which surprised census experts, follows an April
congressional budget allocation for the census that critics say is
woefully inadequate. And it comes less than a week after a prickly
hearing at which Thompson told lawmakers that cost estimates for a new
electronic data collection system had ballooned by nearly 50 percent.
“It’s like two trains going down the track toward each other, with
Republicans decrying the budget overrun and Democrats saying the census
has been underfunded,” Phil Sparks, co-director of the Census Project,
a watchdog organization, said of the May 3 hearing before the House
Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice and science. “This
puts the census in the crosshairs both ways.”
No successor for Thompson was announced. A Commerce Department
spokesperson said an acting director would be designated “in the coming
days” and the position would be filled permanently “in due course.”
John H. Thompson has led the Census Bureau since 2013 (U.S. Census
Bureau/U.S. Census Bureau)
The decennial count typically requires a massive ramp-up in spending in
the years immediately preceding it, involving extensive testing, hiring
and publicity. However, in late April Congress approved only $1.47
billion for the Census Bureau in the 2017 fiscal year, about 10 percent
below what the Obama administration had requested. And experts say the
White House’s proposed budget for 2018, $1.5 billion, falls far below
what is needed.
Neither Census Bureau nor Commerce Department officials responded to
questions about why Thompson is leaving now and whether his departure
was unexpected. His five-year term expired in December, but he had been
widely expected to stay on through at least the end of this year.
----- 2 -----
Departure of U.S. census director threatens 2020 count
By Jeffrey Mervis | May. 9, 2017 | Science
John Thompson is stepping down next month as director of the U.S. Census Bureau. His announcement today comes less than 1 week after a congressional spending panel grilled him about mounting problems facing the agency in preparing for the 2020 decennial census. And Thompson’s pending retirement is weighing heavily on the U.S. statistical community.
Thompson is leaving halfway through a 1-year extension of a term that expired last December. His departure will create what a 2011 law was expressly designed to avoid--a leadership vacuum during a crucial time in the 10-year life cycle of the census, the nation’s largest civilian undertaking. The immediate concern is who the Trump administration will appoint, and how soon it will act.
“The key is to act expeditiously,” says Phil Sparks, co-director of the Census Project, a Washington, D.C. based advocacy organization. “The normal length of time to fill a vacancy [with a nomination] is 6 months, but the Census Bureau doesn’t have the luxury of time.”
Ken Prewitt, who led the agency from 1998 to 2001, worries that a long delay in naming a well-qualified replacement for Thompson could be the first step of a long, steep decline in the quality of the federal statistic system, which spans 13 agencies. “That system is fragile, and it wouldn’t take much to damage it severely,” says Prewitt, a professor of social affairs at Columbia University in New York City. “My real fear is that they don’t care enough to do a good job with the 2020 census. And then after doing a bad job, they decide to let the private sector take over.”
----- 3 -----
Spicer: White House Didn't Act on Sally Yates' Warning Because She's a "Political Opponent"
Yates had warned that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn could be compromised by Russia.
Pema Levy | Mother Jones | May 9, 2017
The White House has a new explanation for its decision not to immediately fire National Security Adviser Michael Flynn after learning that he could be the target of Russian blackmail efforts: The acting attorney general, who supplied that information, was a supporter of Hillary Clinton.
On January 26, Sally Yates, then acting attorney general, met with White House Counsel Donald McGahn to warn him that Flynn could be compromised by the Russians. He had lied to the Vice President Mike Pence about the content of his conversations with the Russian ambassador, and the Russians knew he had lied. But President Donald Trump waited 18 days before showing Flynn the door for lying to Pence.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the administration's decision to keep Flynn on as national security adviser for more than two weeks after Yates' warning by implying that Yates, a Barack Obama appointee, could not be trusted because she was "a strong supporter of Clinton."
----- 4 -----
Group sues to continue giving immigrants legal help
By GENE JOHNSON Associated Press | 8 May 2017
SEATTLE -- The U.S. Justice Department has ordered a Seattle-based immigrant rights group to halt a large part of the work it does to advise immigrants of their legal rights and help them fill out paperwork — a demand that the organization says would force thousands of people to go without legal help in deportation cases.
The nonprofit Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sued the Justice Department Monday in federal court in Seattle in an effort to block the order. The group says the Justice Department's demand violates its First Amendment rights to free speech, assembly and to petition the government.
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which recently has challenged President Donald Trump's travel ban in court, helps provide free legal representation to more than 200 immigrants facing deportation every year. However, it also provides lesser help, such as assistance with asylum applications, to hundreds more, and it holds clinics to help immigrants learn about their legal rights.
In a cease-and-desist letter sent last month, the Justice Department's Executive Office of Immigration Review told the group it cannot provide legal help unless it undertakes formal representation of a client. It cited a rule adopted in 2008 and designed in part to curtail attorney misconduct and so-called "notario" fraud, in which people unauthorized to practice law advertised themselves as able to help immigrants obtain lawful status.
Matt Adams, the Northwest Immigrant Right's Project's legal director, said that while other immigrant rights groups around the country provide similar services, he was not aware of any others that had received cease-and-desist letters from the Department of Justice. Several planned to file supportive briefs as part of his group's lawsuit, he said.
After the rule was adopted, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project met with the administrator of the local immigration court, which allowed the organization to meet the rule's requirements by adding a note to any applications or motions it worked on saying the documents were prepared with its assistance, Adams said.
The DOJ's letter said that's not good enough. The Executive Office for Immigration Review, charged with enforcing federal immigration law, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
----- 5 -----
I'm facing jail time after laughing at Jeff Sessions. I regret nothing.
My story should scare you — and inspire you to act.
Updated by Desiree Fairooz | Vox | May 8, 2017
I am an ordinary person. A mother of two and a grandmother of one, I am a retired children’s librarian who loves to hike, bike, travel, pick purple wildflowers, grow cherry tomatoes, read to little kids, and dance. I shop at Costco. I love their tortilla chips and salsa. I read Lisa Scottoline, Sandra Cisneros, and Howard Zinn. I watch documentaries, rom-coms, and foreign films. I have a cairn terrier named Jinx and a grandpuppy named Mattie. I am just an ordinary person who happens to care an awful lot about peace and justice and human rights.
And yet on January 10, I was arrested for laughing during the confirmation hearing of attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions. And just this week, I was convicted of the two charges I received as a result of my arrest: one of disorderly and disruptive conduct, and one of parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds. Sentencing happens next month — I could spend up to a year in jail, or be fined, or both. Just because I let out a chuckle at a public hearing.
----- 6 -----
Trump Is So Freaked Out By Sally Yates He Changed His Goddamn Twitter Profile
If you want to know how badly the Sally Yates hearing made President Strongman piss his pants, just look at his Twitter profile.
Mike Redmond | The Daily Banter | May 9, 2017
Despite Republican efforts to make Monday's Senate hearing on Russia about everything but Russia, Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates ate so many lunches that Donald Trump not only went on a Twitter rant, but literally changed his Twitter profile like a fucking middle schooler.
So first, the rant. In which the President of the United States continues to refer to the fourth estate as "fake" because it has the audacity to do its job and inform the America public of the ever-flowing shitstorm pouring out of the White House every goddamn second of every goddamn day.
And while Donald Trump losing his shit on social media has become our new normal, even though it should terrify everyone to their very core each and every time it happens, he took things to a whole new level by changing the cover photo on his Twitter profile to this:
[image at link]
Keep in mind, that's Donald Trump literally quoting his own tweet. Not the expert opinion of anyone at the hearing, or an unbiased third party assessment, but Donald Trump's own words about Donald Trump.
----- 7 -----
White House advisors called Ottawa to urge Trudeau to help talk Trump down from scrapping NAFTA
John Ivison | National Post (Canada) | May 8, 2017
White House staff called the Prime Minister’s Office last month to urge Justin Trudeau to persuade President Donald Trump not to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to multiple Canadian government sources.
The unconventional diplomatic manoeuvre — approaching the head of a foreign government to influence your own boss — proved decisive, as Trump thereafter abandoned his threat to pull out of NAFTA unilaterally, citing the arguments made by Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as pivotal.
But the incident highlights the difficulties faced by governments all over the world when it comes to dealing with a president as volatile as Trump.
On Wednesday, April 26, the Washington Post, Politico, CNN and the New York Times published stories saying that sources within the White House were considering a draft executive order to cancel NAFTA. The rumour knocked almost two per cent off the Mexican peso and a third of a cent off the loonie.
According to Canadian government sources, White House advisers pushing a more cautious approach then called Ottawa to ask for Trudeau’s assistance.
“You never know how much of it is theatre, but it didn’t feel that way,” said one senior Canadian diplomatic source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. “Maybe they’re just learning how to be a government. At least they were open to the conversation, and that stopped them doing something rash and destructive.”
----- 8 -----
The Healthcare Bill Exposes Trump's Chilling Authoritarian Agenda
It's not only an assault on our bodies, but on our political will.
opinion | marie claire | By Sarah Kendzior | 8 May 2017
The image is now iconic: a group of old white men stand at a podium, announcing that a healthcare bill that disproportionately hurts women has passed the House. The men include a beaming Mike Pence, who once signed a law forcing women to bury or cremate aborted fetuses, and President Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault by at least 13 women, and, lest we forget, once bragged about his ability to "grab" women "by the pussy" on tape.
All thirteen of the members who designed this bill were men. And while the legislation has the potential to hurt every American, many of its stipulations are explicitly designed to render women unable to acquire basic care. If the new bill is signed into law, rape and sexual assault—far more common among women than men—could be considered pre-existing conditions by the federal government. For women who let their insurance lapse, maternity coverage will no longer be guaranteed, and pregnant women may face surcharges up to $17,000 for care. C-sections could also be considered a pre-existing condition, meaning that a woman could incur costs of roughly $50,000 for simply wanting another child. States could determine that having a heavy period or other menstrual irregularities is a pre-existing condition to be paid for out of pocket.
Erectile dysfunction, at the moment, is still covered.
It is not surprising that no women were involved in the creation of the healthcare bill. Women currently comprise only 19.4% of the House, are in no senior cabinet positions, and remain a minority in every branch of government and most sectors of public influence, like business, media, and technology. To be clear, this gender imbalance existed under the Obama administration and all others before it; half of the population being represented by a fragment is nothing new. The difference is that prior administrations were not fledgling kleptocratic autocracies whose primary opponents are female citizens.
----- 9 -----
‘The president is threatening a witness’: CNN analyst slams Trump’s ‘disturbing’ Sally Yates tweets
Brad Reed | Raw Story | 08 May 2017 at 10:01 ET
President Donald Trump has drawn a lot of criticism for his decision to lash out at former acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday, just hours before she was scheduled to testify about former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Appearing on CNN to talk about the president’s tweet — in which he said that someone should “ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council (sic)” — legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that Trump’s behavior crosses the line of what we consider to be normal behavior for a politician in the United States.
“It just shows how much the norms of behavior have changed,” Toobin said. “The idea of the President of the United States essentially threatening a witness, he’s basically accusing her of leaking, we have never had that before. We’ve never had presidents who did this kind of thing. The idea that the president — the guy who’s in charge of the Justice Department — is threatening a witness is really kind of disturbing.”
Yates was fired from her role as acting attorney general earlier this year after she refused to enforce the administration’s proposed travel ban. She will reportedly testify on Monday afternoon that she gave the Trump administration warnings about Flynn possibly being compromised by the Russian government.
----- 10 -----
Yates: Alarm about Russian blackmail led to warning on Flynn
Originally published May 8, 2017
By ERIC TUCKER and
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates told Congress Monday she bluntly warned the Trump White House in January that new National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “essentially could be blackmailed” by the Russians because he apparently had lied to his bosses about his contacts with Moscow’s ambassador in Washington.
The testimony from Yates, an Obama administration holdover fired soon after for other reasons, marked her first public comments about the concerns she raised and filled in basic details about the chain of events that led to Flynn’s ouster in February.
Her testimony, coupled with the revelation hours earlier that President Barack Obama himself had warned Donald Trump against hiring Flynn shortly after the November election, made clear that alarms about Flynn had reached the highest levels of the U.S. government months before. Flynn had been an adviser to Trump and an outspoken supporter of his presidential candidacy in the 2016 campaign.
Yates, appearing before a Senate panel investigating Russian interference in the election, described discussions with Don McGahn, the Trump White House counsel, in which she warned that Flynn apparently had misled the administration about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.
----- 11 -----
And now, 6hrs before #SallyYates testifies against him & his cronies I'm pretty sure this constitutes as a POTUS intimidating a witness.
@th3j35t3r on Twitter | May 7, 2017
^^^ This right here, is not how you 'Make America Great Again' and it's definitely not how you 'President'. WTF.
----- 12 -----
Per @axios, WH plans to smear Sally Yates tomorrow as a "Democratic operative." She was a nonpolitical, career DOJ attorney for two decades
Brian Fallon on Twitter | 7 May 2017
Per @axios, WH plans to smear Sally Yates tomorrow as a "Democratic operative." She was a nonpolitical, career DOJ attorney for two decades
----- 13 -----
The racist, discredited argument Trump’s DOJ just made in a federal court
Who knew something like this could happen with Jeff Sessions in charge?
8 May 2017 | Ian Millhiser
Here’s a pro tip for the lawyers at Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department: If you want to defend the president’s efforts to lock people out of the nation because of their religion, you might not want to rely on discredited Supreme Court decisions enabling a racist backlash.
Palmer v. Thompson is one of the great missteps in the Supreme Court’s often unfortunate history on matters of race. This case centered on the city of Jackson, Mississippi’s operation of five racially segregated public swimming pools. After a court ordered the pools integrated, the city closed the pools rather than operating pools where people of all races could swim. And the Supreme Court, in a 5–4 vote, let Jackson get away with this scheme.
As a federal judge acknowledged in 1989, “the Supreme Court has never expressly overturned Palmer, but it has all but done so.”
Nevertheless, the Trump administration cites Palmer favorably in a brief it filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which hears a challenge to Trump’s Muslim ban on Monday afternoon.
----- 14 -----
Interior Dept. freezes work of advisory boards
By Rene Marsh and Eli Watkins, CNN
Mon May 8, 2017
Washington (CNN)The Interior Department froze the work of more than 200 advisory boards, committees and subcommittees last week, according to a department memo obtained by CNN.
An agency spokeswoman said about a third of those advisory boards are science-based.
The memo, received by a member of one of the advisory panels, said the department was instituting the freeze to review "the charter and charge of each committee" and that the review required the groups' meetings be postponed until September at the earliest.
News of the May 5 memo came as CNN learned Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt had dismissed half of the scientists serving on a scientific review board that provides guidance to the EPA.
----- 15 -----
Noncitizen Voting: The Missing Millions
Noncitizen voting in the 2016 election was exceedingly rare, according to this new analysis of information from local election administrators. It debunks President Trump's claims that millions improperly voted in November.
Christopher Famighetti, Douglas Keith, Myrna Pérez
The Brennan Centre for Justice | May 5, 2017
In 2016, for the first time, presidential politics was roiled by claims of widespread illegal voting. In the weeks after the election, the claims continued. President-elect Trump insisted, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." On that same day, four hours later, he added, “Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California — so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias — big problem!” After his inauguration, the claims escalated. “I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD,” he declared.
As time passed, Trump’s claim grew more specific and more exaggerated. On Feb. 9th, he told a group of 10 Senators that ineligible persons had voted in droves, and that they had been driven in buses by the thousands from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended and reiterated the claims of voting by noncitizens. Senior policy advisor Stephen Miller toured the Sunday morning news interview shows to defend the claim. The White House asserted that these claims required an investigation, to be led by Vice President Mike Pence. In a March 22nd interview with TIME, the president said that he believes he will be proven right and that he is moving forward with the investigative committee. In late April, Spicer told CNN that he expects news on the voter fraud investigation in the “next week or two,” and that Pence will still be “very involved.”
Are the president’s claims plausible? The Brennan Center reached out systematically to those who would know best: the local officials who actually ran the election in 2016. These officials are in the best position to detect improper voting — by noncitizens or any other kind. To make sure we were speaking to the right individuals, this study relies on interviews with officials who ran the elections in jurisdictions (towns, cities, or counties) nationwide with the highest share of noncitizen residents, and those in states identified by Trump as the locus of supposed misconduct. We interviewed a total of 44 administrators representing 42 jurisdictions in twelve states, including officials in 8 of the 10 jurisdictions with the largest populations of noncitizens nationally.
----- 16 -----
Where are they now? The Russian bots that disrupted the 2016 election
Russia-linked social media bots played a big role in online conversation about the election. Here’s what they’ve been up to since.
Lauren C. Williams | 5 May 2017 | Think Progress
“There are many different truths. There has to be a pluralism of truth.”
That’s what Russian propaganda site Sputnik’s Paris-based editor in chief Nataliya Novikova told the New York Times when asked about false stories published about France’s presidential contender Emmanuel Macron.
Novikova’s pluralist truth, however, is actually a meld of unsubstantiated media reports designed to disrupt France’s electoral process.
In February, Sputnik quoted Nicolas Dhuicq, a Republican French Parliament member who belongs to the Kremlin-friendly French-Russian Dialogue Association, who called Macron a “very rich gay lobby.”
The story took off on social media, prompting the 39-year old former high school teacher to publicly laugh off the rumors during a rally in Paris.
“If in dinner-party chatter, or in forwarded emails, you’re told that I have a double life,” he added, taking a dig at a competitor, “it’s my hologram that suddenly escaped, but it can’t be me!”
Why did a rumor about a French presidential candidate’s sexual orientation take flight despite the country’s sexually liberated reputation? Blame it on the bots: fake online accounts programmed to post messages automatically and mimic a real person’s identity.
----- 17 -----
6 Takeaways From Monday’s Senate Hearing on Russia
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG | The New York Times | 8 May 2017
WASHINGTON — When did the White House know — and exactly who knew — about conversations that Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, had with the Russian ambassador? That was the focus on Monday at a Senate hearing where Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general, testified about Russia’s interference in the presidential election.
James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, also testified, giving senators a chance to go well beyond the Flynn affair and ask about leaks of classified information to the news media; the F.B.I.’s investigation into the Russian interference and possible collusion by Trump associates; and — this being a hearing in the Republican-controlled Congress — Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Here are six highlights from the testimony:
----- 18 -----
Yes, House Republicans, the heartless health-care vote will define you
By E.J. Dionne Jr. Opinion writer | The Washington Post May 5, 2017
We should never forget May 4, 2017.
It should forever be marked as the day when the House of
Representatives descended to a new level of cruelty, irresponsibility
and social meanness.
The lower chamber has always claimed to be “the people’s house.” No
more. It should now come to be known by other names: the house of
selfishness, the house of suffering, the house of the wealthy, the
house of expediency, the house of untreated illness. Perhaps also: the
house of Trump.
The Anti-Health-Care Bill passed on Thursday bids to be the most
remarkable redistribution of income in congressional history, from the
poor and middle class to the very wealthy. An earlier version of the
legislation, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), would
have thrown 24 million Americans off health insurance. This spiteful
abomination is worse.
Republicans from Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) on down, who complained
that insufficient study was given to Obamacare (despite more than a
year of debate), rushed this bill through without scrutiny or a CBO
score. They thought that having no numbers would make it easier for
them to conceal the damage it would do to the American people — and get
away with it. But their lies will be exposed.
(Adriana Usero,Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)
They promised to improve Obamacare. Instead, they are bringing back the
very problems that Obamacare actually fixed. One of the most popular
provisions of the Affordable Care Act — supported by 87 percent of
Americans in a March CNN/ORC poll — barred insurance companies from
discriminating against those with preexisting conditions. This bill
guts those protections.
----- 19 -----
The government wants Julian Assange in jail. That could hurt the rest of us.
By Margaret Sullivan Media Columnist | May 7, 2017 | The Washington Post
Lady Gaga — all in black and wearing a witch’s hat — is interviewing
Julian Assange in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, where he’s been
holed up for years.
As the pop star, in a bizarre scene from a new documentary, quizzes the
WikiLeaks founder about everything from his legal problems to his
favorite food, Assange interrupts: “Let’s not pretend for a moment I’m
a normal person.”
Indeed, in Laura Poitras’s film about Assange, “Risk,” he comes across
as neither normal nor particularly sympathetic.
Consider: He has been accused of rape in Sweden (he says he was
entrapped and had to seek asylum from extradition); he has published
leaked information that has intruded into private lives; and he may
have helped Russian agents try to get Donald Trump elected president.
But everyone who cares about the free press in America needs to
understand something else, too.
Prosecuting Assange under the Espionage Act for publishing leaked
information — which Attorney General Jeff Sessions calls “a priority” —
is dangerous. It could turn out to be a major move toward what
President Trump has long been threatening to do: punish the independent
media in America.
----- 20 -----
Washington Loves General McMaster, But Trump Doesn't
The national security adviser has lost sway. The White House says everything's fine.
by Eli Lake | Bloomberg
May 8, 2017
For the Washington establishment, President Donald Trump's decision to make General H.R. McMaster his national security adviser in February was a masterstroke. Here is a well-respected defense intellectual, praised by both parties, lending a steady hand to a chaotic White House. The grown-ups are back.
But inside the White House, the McMaster pick has not gone over well with the one man who matters most. White House officials tell me Trump himself has clashed with McMaster in front of his staff.
On policy, the faction of the White House loyal to senior strategist Steve Bannon is convinced McMaster is trying to trick the president into the kind of nation building that Trump campaigned against. Meanwhile the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, is blocking McMaster on a key appointment.
McMaster's allies and adversaries inside the White House tell me that Trump is disillusioned with him. This professional military officer has failed to read the president -- by not giving him a chance to ask questions during briefings, at times even lecturing Trump.
Presented with the evidence of this buyer's remorse, the White House on Sunday evening issued a statement from Trump: "I couldn't be happier with H.R. He's doing a terrific job."
Other White House officials however tell me this is not the sentiment the president has expressed recently in private. Trump was livid, according to three White House officials, after reading in the Wall Street Journal that McMaster had called his South Korean counterpart to assure him that the president's threat to make that country pay for a new missile defense system was not official policy. These officials say Trump screamed at McMaster on a phone call, accusing him of undercutting efforts to get South Korea to pay its fair share.
----- 21 -----
99% of students handcuffed by NYPD in public schools were black or Hispanic: report
BY Kerry Burke Ben Chapman
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Black and Hispanic kids accounted for 99% of all public school students handcuffed by NYPD school safety agents in crisis incidents in 2016, data published Monday shows.
A “child in crisis” incident is one where a student displaying signs of emotional distress is removed from the classroom and taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation.
In 2016, there were 262 child in crisis incidents where handcuffs were used, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which first reported the data — and all but three of those incidents, or 259, involved black or Latino children.
NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said kids who are subject to police action in school suffer academically and emotionally.
“When a child is handcuffed, the child is humiliated,” Lieberman said.
“It’s incompatible with the safe and supportive learning environment a school is supposed to provide,” Lieberman added.
Police and city school statistics show overall police actions in schools are declining.
----- 22 -----
Texas Bill Could Let Agencies Bar LGBT, Atheist, Single Parents From Adopting
The bill would allow private adoption agencies to claim ‘religious exemption’ to working with LGBT parents or parents of another religion.
by Kelly Weill
05.07.17 | The Daily Beast
A Texas bill would give state-funded adoption agencies the right to discriminate against LGBT parents and religious minorities.
The bill, HB 3859, would allow Texas’ adoption and foster care agencies to claim religious objection to certain groups, without fear of losing state funding. The bill, touted by supporters as a victory for religious freedom, could restrict adoption and fostering opportunity for LGBT, single, or non-Christian parents, and could allow child welfare services to send foster children to anti-gay “conversion therapy.”
The bill was scheduled for a Saturday vote in Texas’s House, but an overfull schedule postponed the decision until a yet-to-be-determined date.
Most Texas adoptions are conducted through the state’s Child Protective Services department, the bill’s author, State Rep. James Frank told CBS. The bill would not allow CPS to discriminate based on religious beliefs of its employees.
But Texas also partners with hundreds of private adoption and foster agencies, some of which receive state funding. The bill would allow these agencies to claim religious exemption to working with LGBT parents or parents of another religion, without fear of losing their funding.
----- 23 -----
Tennessee 'Natural Meaning' Law Raises Fears in LGBT Community
Reuters | May 5, 2017
By Chris Kenning
(Reuters) - Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on Friday enacted a bill that critics say is an underhanded way of denying rights to same-sex couples by insisting on the "natural and ordinary meaning" of words in state statues.
The legislation, which was signed by the Republican governor despite pressure from civil liberty and gay-rights groups, requires words in Tennessee law be interpreted with their "natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language." It did not explain, however, what that means.
Civil rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocates warned the law is meant to undermine the rights of same-sex couples in any statutes that include words like "husband," "wife," "mother" or "father."
Neither of the two sponsoring lawmakers, Republican state Senator John Stevens and Republican state Representative Andrew Farmer, could be reached to comment.
However, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported Stevens said he proposed the measure partly to compel courts to side more closely with the dissenting opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 2015 ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized same-sex marriage.
Haslam said on Friday he believes the law will not change how courts interpret legal precedent.
"While I understand the concerns raised about this bill, the Obergefell decision is the law of the land, and this legislation does not change a principle relied upon by the courts for more than a century, mitigating the substantive impact of this legislation," he said in a statement.
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Alabama Governor Signs Law Allowing Adoption Agencies to Discriminate Against Gay Couples
Aimée Lutkin | Jezebel | 4 May 2017
On Wednesday. Gov. Kay Ivey signed House Bill 24 into law in Alabama, making it legal for faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to adopt to gay couples.
Slate reports that the law will not apply to agencies that accept state or federal money, but other adoption services may refuse to adopt to gay couples without suffering any repercussion:
“I ultimately signed House Bill 24 because it ensures hundreds of children can continue to find ‘forever homes’ through religiously-affiliated adoption agencies,” Gov. Ivey said Wednesday. “This bill is not about discrimination, but instead protects the ability of religious agencies to place vulnerable children in a permanent home.”
The bill was popular in the Alabama Senate, passing in a vote of 23-9 in mid-April along party lines, according to AL.com, then through the State House last week in a vote of 87-0. The Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act officially says that the state may not “refuse to license or re-license agencies because of policies based on religious beliefs.”
Rep. Rich Wingo, who sponsored the bill, says that the issue is that agencies shouldn’t be afraid they’ll be closed for their religious beliefs, which include discrimination against gay people, of course. “Very thankful to the governor that she believes in and stands up for religious liberty and religious freedom,” said Wingo.