Thursday Reads: Weird But True NewsPosted: July 5, 2018
I’m feeling really disoriented this morning. I’ve been away from my apartment all week; I’m house-sitting at my brother’s place. I tend to feel this way during holiday weekends when the usual pace of news coverage slows down–even when I’m in my own space. This time the holiday was in the middle of the week; so it feels to me like a week-long holiday weekend, if that makes any sense. Between being away from home and the holiday and dealing with the ongoing strangeness of Trump as “president,” I’m feeling strangely detached from reality.
What news coverage there has been this week has been weird. The New York Times and The Boston Globe have frontpaged stories about Alan Dershowitz being “shunned” by his old friends on Martha’s Vineyard, while ignoring the story about the report issues by the Senate Intelligence Committee stating that Vladimir Putin personally ordered Russian interference in the 2016 election to help Trump.
A GOP-led Senate panel concluded on Tuesday that the US intelligence community’s 18-month-old conclusions about the 2016 presidential election — that Moscow meddled to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump— were “well supported.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee released a seven-page summary that corroborates much of what the CIA, NSA, and FBI concluded back in January 2017, and praises their report as “a sound intelligence product” — despite President Donald Trump’s continued insistence that Russia didn’t interfere to help him and his criticism of the intelligence assessment as biased against him.
“The Committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions,” Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) said in a statement.
The report does point out that the CIA and FBI had “high confidence” that Russia was trying to help Trump win, but that the NSA only had “moderate confidence” of that finding. However, the committee writes that they found “the analytical disagreement” between the agencies “was reasonable, transparent, and openly debated” — not the result of political bias.
Read the full report at the Vox link.
There also has been limited coverage of a delegation of Republicans who chose to spend the Fourth of July in Moscow having secret meetings with Russian officials. Why the secrecy? Are they discussing how to fix the upcoming midterm elections?
The Washington Post: Republican lawmakers come to Moscow, raising hopes there of U.S.-Russia thaw.
Republican members of Congress sounded a newly conciliatory tone in meetings with Russian lawmakers and officials here on Tuesday in a rare visit to Moscow and a preview of the looming summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) told Russia’s foreign minister that while Russia and the United States were competitors, “we don’t necessarily need to be adversaries.” Later on at the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, members attending a plenary session greeted the Americans with applause.
“I’m not here today to accuse Russia of this or that or so forth,” Shelby told Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. “I’m saying that we should all strive for a better relationship.” [….]
Among the Russians meeting with the Republicans on Tuesday was Sergey Kislyak — the former Russian ambassador to Washington whose communications with Michael Flynn led to the former national security adviser’s downfall. Kislyak, now a member of the upper house of parliament, noted in an interview after the meeting that many of the Republicans sitting across the table were already known to him from Washington.
So a group consisting of Republicans only is working on this “thaw?” In secret? This stinks to high heaven. Apparently, the group had also hoped to meet with Putin. From Twitter:
Most of the lawmakers tweeted July 4th as if they were here in the U.S., probably hoping their constituents wouldn’t know where they were. But Twitter was ready for them. Read the responses to this tweet from Dakinikat’s Senator.
As these GOP dupes spend their holiday sucking up to Russia, the UK is dealing with more poisonings by that Russian nerve agent. Yahoo News:
Salisbury (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Britain demanded answers from Russia Thursday after a couple was exposed to the same nerve agent used on a former Russian spy and his daughter in an attempted murder blamed on Moscow.
But Russia quickly hit back, denouncing Britain for playing “dirty political games” and demanding London apologise.
The British couple fell ill on Saturday in Amesbury, a small town near the southwestern English city of Salisbury where former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed on March 4….
Speaking to parliament on Thursday, Interior Minister Sajid Javid said a link between the cases was “clearly the main line of inquiry” and demanded Moscow explain itself.
Remember when the UK was our ally? A normal U.S. president would support Britain’s efforts to get answers from Russia. Instead, we have a president who adores Putin and other brutal dictators and Republican Congresspeople who bow down to Moscow.
As Trump continues to get rid of the people who were once thought of as “adults” on his staff, we are likely to be dealing with more crazy stories like this one from AP: Trump pressed aides on Venezuela invasion, US official says.
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — As a meeting last August in the Oval Office to discuss sanctions on Venezuela was concluding, President Donald Trump turned to his top aides and asked an unsettling question: With a fast unraveling Venezuela threatening regional security, why can’t the U.S. just simply invade the troubled country?
The suggestion stunned those present at the meeting, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, both of whom have since left the administration. This account of the previously undisclosed conversation comes from a senior administration official familiar with what was said.
In an exchange that lasted around five minutes, McMaster and others took turns explaining to Trump how military action could backfire and risk losing hard-won support among Latin American governments to punish President Nicolas Maduro for taking Venezuela down the path of dictatorship, according to the official. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.
But Trump pushed back. Although he gave no indication he was about to order up military plans, he pointed to what he considered past cases of successful gunboat diplomacy in the region, according to the official, like the invasions of Panama and Grenada in the 1980s.
The idea, despite his aides’ best attempts to shoot it down, would nonetheless persist in the president’s head.
The next day, Aug. 11, Trump alarmed friends and foes alike with talk of a “military option” to remove Maduro from power. The public remarks were initially dismissed in U.S. policy circles as the sort of martial bluster people have come to expect from the reality TV star turned commander in chief.
But shortly afterward, he raised the issue with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, according to the U.S. official. Two high-ranking Colombian officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing Trump confirmed the report.
Then in September, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump discussed it again, this time at greater length, in a private dinner with leaders from four Latin American allies that included Santos, the same three people said and Politico reported in February.
The U.S. official said Trump was specifically briefed not to raise the issue and told it wouldn’t play well, but the first thing the president said at the dinner was, “My staff told me not to say this.” Trump then went around asking each leader if they were sure they didn’t want a military solution, according to the official, who added that each leader told Trump in clear terms they were sure.
There is a literal lunatic in charge of our government and no one in power is doing much of anything about it.
I’ll end this strange post with yesterday’s Statue of Liberty story.
A woman who climbed up to the robes of the Statue of Liberty to protest the separation of migrant families was taken into custody after a standoff with police on the Fourth of July.
Authorities had tried to talk the woman down but she refused to leave. For nearly three hours, she crossed the base of the statue, at times sitting in the folds of the statue’s dress and under Lady Liberty’s sandal. The woman was identified as Therese Patricia Okoumou by a law enforcement source close to the investigation and another source who knows her.
The woman was part of a group of protesters and had declared that she wouldn’t come down until “all the children are released,” a source with the New York Police Department told CNN.
The woman arrested for scaling the base of the Statue of Liberty on Wednesday as part of a protest against U.S. immigration policy is an immigrant herself and an active participant in the resistance movement against President Trump, according to fellow demonstrators.
Therese Patricia Okoumou, 44, of Staten Island, was born and educated in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but she has lived in New York for at least the last 10 years, records show.
She joined the group Rise and Resist, which unfurled an “Abolish ICE” banner at the base of the statue on Wednesday, a few months ago and has been taking part in about one protest a week with the group, according to member Jay Walker….
Public records show that Okoumou has a long history of fighting social justice battles, even her own.
In 2003, she filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit, charging racial discrimination after being fired from a job as a staffer at a battered women’s home called Safe Horizons. Okoumou’s boss complained that she was rude to other staffers and clients at the shelter, according to court records. Her lawyer eventually withdrew from the case and she represented herself, unsuccessfully for the remainder of the case.
She won $1,500 in a 2009 racial discrimination lawsuit against a Staten Island towing company, County Recovery.
She unsuccessfully filed a human rights complaint in 2007 against a group home in Staten Island for racial discrimination.
Read more at the Daily News link.
So . . . what stories are you following today? Or are you ignoring the news?