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 on: Yesterday at 11:58:37 pm 
Started by Im2Sexy4MyPants - Last post by Im2Sexy4MyPants

 on: Yesterday at 03:28:10 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

A lot of similarities to America are going on in the facist/terrorist Israeli regime. As with Trump and the Republicans in America, Netanyahu's Likud Party and his coalition allies are looking the other way and making excuses for lies, corruption and obstruction of justice. No wonder Iran feels it can comfortably comment on what a ratbag/scumbag regime Zionist Israel under Netanyahu is.

 on: Yesterday at 03:26:42 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The New York Times....

Netanyahu Inquiry Expands, With New Bribery Allegations

The Israeli prime minister, already accused of accepting nearly $300,000 in bribes,
could now face charges of obstructing justice.

By DAVID M. HALBFINGER | Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Munich this month. The Israeli police have arrested several of his friends and confidants, as well as top executives of the telecommunications company Bezeq, in a widening inquiry into whether he traded favors for favorable news coverage. — Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Munich this month. The Israeli police have arrested several of his friends and confidants, as well as
top executives of the telecommunications company Bezeq, in a widening inquiry into whether he traded favors for favorable news coverage.
 — Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

JERUSALEM — The mushrooming corruption scandal plaguing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel took a surprising new turn on Tuesday, with an allegation that one of his closest advisers had sought to bribe a judge into dropping a criminal investigation involving the prime minister's wife.

At the same time, the Israeli police said they had arrested several of Mr. Netanyahu's friends and confidants, as well as top executives of Bezeq, the country's biggest telecommunications company, in a widening inquiry into whether Mr. Netanyahu had traded official favors for favorable news coverage.

The new allegations significantly raise the level of political and legal peril the prime minister faces, suggesting that he or some in his camp could be exposed to charges of obstructing justice.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Netanyahu's situation appeared to become even graver, as Israeli news organizations reported that one of those arrested — a top government official who reported directly to Mr. Netanyahu on the Bezeq affair — was in talks with prosecutors to become a government witness.

Mr. Netanyahu was already embattled, after the police recommended a week ago that he be prosecuted for accepting what they said were bribes worth nearly $300,000 from wealthy businessmen seeking government favors.

With this latest round of allegations he will come under even greater strains, accused by his critics on the left of saber rattling over Iran and pressured by the right to accept its agenda of expanding settlements and annexing the West Bank in return for its support.

Late on Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu released a video denying the newest allegations, calling them “hallucinatory” and “baseless” and part of a “campaign of persecution against me and my family that has been going on for years.”

Israel's enemies have begun seizing on Mr. Netanyahu's legal predicament: In Munich on Sunday, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, pointedly alluded to Israel's “domestic corruption” problem in accusing Mr. Netanyahu of “aggression” to distract attention from his political troubles.

Back at home, opponents from the Israeli left and center are demanding that Mr. Netanyahu resign or declare himself “incapacitated”: Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party, calling in vain for a no-confidence vote, said on Monday that Mr. Netanyahu should appoint a temporary prime minister from within his own party.

“Israel deserves a full-time prime minister who is not engaged in anything else,” Mr. Lapid said.

Another of Mr. Netanyahu's main challengers, Avi Gabbay of Labor, said that the prime minister had “become a liability for the citizens of Israel.” Mr. Gabbay lamented Mr. Netanyahu's “sickly obsession for ‘what will people say’ and what will be written about him in the media,” adding, “Every day that he stays in office is damage to the country.”

Yet, Mr. Netanyahu's right-wing coalition appears solidly behind him. On Tuesday morning, even as reports were first surfacing about the allegations of an attempt to bribe a judge, the prime minister's coalition allies were loudly denouncing the police commissioner as biased and unprofessional, while accusing him of leaking like a sieve about the various Netanyahu-related inquiries.

Protesters in Tel Aviv last week called for Mr. Netanyahu to resign. — Photograph: Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency.
Protesters in Tel Aviv last week called for Mr. Netanyahu to resign. — Photograph: Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency.

At the center of the two new allegations is a close adviser to the prime minister, Nir Hefetz, a veteran Israeli journalist and political operative who in recent years has bounced back and forth between editing jobs and tending to the public image of the prime minister and his family. In 2015 he was a top strategist for the Likud Party's successful election campaign.

Late that year, according to the police and Israeli news reports, Mr. Hefetz, working as the Netanyahu family's media adviser, passed a message through an intermediary to Israel's commissioner for prosecutorial oversight, Judge Hila Gerstel: Would she drop a corruption case against Mr. Netanyahu's wife, Sara, in exchange for being named attorney general?

The case was not dropped, and Judge Gerstel did not become attorney general. Avichai Mandelblit, who did get the job, announced in September that he intended to indict Sara Netanyahu on fraud charges, accusing her of misusing some $100,000 through her management of the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem. Mr. Hefetz resigned as the Netanyahu family's spokesman in October.

The family's current spokesman, Ofer Golan, denied any attempt by Mr. Hefetz to sway the judge's actions. “Nir Hefetz never offered this hallucinatory proposal to the prime minister and his wife,” Mr. Golan said in a statement. “He was never asked to make such a proposal, and we do not believe that Hefetz even raised such a thing.”

He added sarcastically, “The Netanyahu couple will soon be accused of murdering Arlosoroff,” referring to the Zionist leader Chaim Arlosoroff, who was assassinated in Tel Aviv in 1933.

The arrests in connection with Bezeq — a $2.9 billion telecom giant with telephone, television and news divisions — involve official actions taken by Mr. Netanyahu's government that were worth hundreds of millions of dollars to a near monopoly enterprise that sends monthly bills to most ordinary Israeli voters.

Bezeq's subsidiaries include a cable television company and Walla, a news website. Mr. Netanyahu's aides are suspected of trading favorable treatment by the Communications Ministry, which regulates the company, for favorable coverage by the news site. (The police last week accused Mr. Netanyahu of a similar swap: bargaining for favorable coverage in Yediot Aharonot, a big Israeli daily newspaper, by offering its publisher help in fending off a competitor.)

Mr. Netanyahu personally directed the ministry from 2014 to 2017. During that period, Bezeq's controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, was trying to merge the Yes satellite-television company, of which he owned half, into the larger conglomerate, but at terms that were far more favorable to him than to Bezeq's shareholders.

Mr. Elovitch sought a series of regulatory approvals that were opposed by low-level officials in the Communications Ministry but approved nonetheless.

A crucial letter from a top ministry official in late 2015 was of enormous value both to the company and to Mr. Elovitch, said Gad Perez, a reporter for the Globes newspaper who broke a number of major stories on the case.

A 2015 article in Haaretz, meanwhile, reported that Walla's journalists were pressured by Mr. Elovitch to provide doting coverage of the prime minister and his wife. (Walla has since changed its tune.)

On Sunday, the police arrested Mr. Hefetz; Shlomo Filber, who was director general of the Communications Ministry and reported directly to Mr. Netanyahu; Mr. Elovitch; his wife, Iris; his son, Or, who was a director of both Bezeq and Yes, the cable TV company; Stella Handler, Bezeq's chief executive; and Amikam Shorer, the company's business development manager.

The Bezeq inquiry involves suspicions of obstruction of justice, as well as fraud and breach of trust, the police said on Tuesday in lifting a gag order on the names of those arrested.

Reuven Kuvent, a former investigations chief of the Israeli Securities Authority, said the challenge for law enforcement officers would be to establish an explicit link between the favorable news media coverage and the government's aid to Bezeq and Mr. Elovitch. “Things like that are not a written contract,” Mr. Kuvent said. “So what they're trying now is to get a state's witness: Elovitch, Hefetz or Filber.”

Indeed, Mr. Filber was close to becoming a state witness, Israeli news organizations reported Tuesday night. “They need a connection between the Bezeq story and Walla news,” said Shmuel Sandler, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University. “Maybe he will be it. If so, then that could change everything.”

The allegation about Judge Gerstel is not the first time Mr. Netanyahu or one of his aides has been accused of using the office of attorney general as an inducement.

In 1996, during his first stint as prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu was accused of striking a complicated three-way deal to name Roni Bar-On, an unexpected candidate, as attorney general to obtain the support of Arye Deri, a minister who was on trial for bribery, for a disputed plan to overhaul security arrangements in Hebron.

Mr. Bar-On quickly resigned amid criticism of his appointment. An investigation led to a police recommendation that Mr. Netanyahu be charged with fraud and breach of trust. But Mr. Bar-On's replacement as attorney general, Elyakim Rubinstein, dropped the case, citing a lack of evidence.


Irit Pazner Garshowitz contributed reporting to this story.

• David M. Halbfinger is the Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times. He covers Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and the Middle East. Before taking up his post in 2017, Mr. Halbfinger spent four years as metro political editor, deputy metro editor, presidential campaign editor and then deputy national editor, posts in which he oversaw political reporting in the New York area, managed the political reporters covering the 2016 presidential campaign, and helped lead coverage of the United States. As a N.Y. Times reporter from 1997 to 2013, Mr. Halbfinger frequently gravitated toward political and investigative reporting while ranging from Manhattan and the Bronx to posts as bureau chief in Long Island, Trenton and Atlanta, and as a Hollywood correspondent in Los Angeles. He also covered the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry. He was a winner of the Jesse Laventhol Prize for deadline news reporting by a team for his coverage of the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. Before coming to The New York Times, Mr. Halbfinger worked at The Boston Globe, New York Newsday and The Philadelphia Business Journal. He received a bachelor's degree in English from Yale. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.


Related to this topic:

 • New Netanyahu Corruption Allegations: The Details

 • In Netanyahu's Israel, the Divisiveness Is Now All About Him

 • Netanyahu, Linked to $300,000 in Bribes, Says He Won't Quit

 • The Case Against Netanyahu: Highlights From the Police Investigation


 on: Yesterday at 02:29:48 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from the Los Angeles Times....

How much more humiliation can Melania Trump take?

By ROBIN ABCARIAN | 3:00AM PST — Tuesday, February 20, 2018

First Lady Melania Trump listens as she meets with personnel at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center on February 5. — Photograph: John Minchillo/Associated Press.
First Lady Melania Trump listens as she meets with personnel at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center on February 5.
 — Photograph: John Minchillo/Associated Press.

AMERICA asks a lot of its first couples. Fairly or not, they become national marital role models. We don't really care if they have separate bedrooms, but we do expect them to demonstrate a certain amount of mutual respect and fondness for each other.

We like it when they seem to be in love, like George and Laura Bush, or Barack and Michelle Obama. Even Bill and Hillary Clinton, for all their woes, seem to take pleasure in each other's intellects and achievements. We also want them to be devoted parents.

We get no good vibes from the Trump marriage.

Trump, who demands adoration, would no doubt love for Melania to gaze upon him the way Nancy Reagan gazed upon her Ronnie. But Ronnie didn't cheat on Nancy with porn stars and Playmates.

What's distressing to many Americans is that Melania seems like a prop in her husband's reality show. During his inauguration last year, when the new president turned around to say something to his wife, her face lit up for a second. As soon as he turned away, her happy mask fell away. Months later, she slapped away his hand as they walked on the tarmac in Israel.

“These people are under constant scrutiny,” said University of Washington sociologist Pepper Schwartz, a sex and relationships expert. “Has anyone ever seen a loving gesture between them?”

Our first lady does not seem to be having a good time. In the last month alone, amid the daily chaos that is the Trump White House, stories about the president's womanizing, and his techniques for suppressing stories about his womanizing, have become fodder for the daily news report.

Porn star Stormy Daniels said she was paid to stay quiet about an affair she alleges she had with Trump shortly after Melania gave birth to their son, Barron. Michael Cohen, Trump's personal attorney and self-described “fix-it guy” for the president, announced he had paid the actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, $130,000, but has not said why.

Last week, the New Yorker reported that former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal kept a diary of the nine-month affair she began with Trump in 2006, around the same time he was seeing Clifford. McDougal has said that the National Enquirer, whose publisher is a friend and protector of Trump, paid her $150,000 for the exclusive rights to her story, then never ran it. (Trump has denied both affairs.)

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive for a National African American History Month reception in the East Room of the White House on February 13. — Photograph: Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive for a National African American History Month reception in the East Room
of the White House on February 13. — Photograph: Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

Melania had already skipped the billionaire confab in Davos after the Stormy Daniels payment story broke. Then came Playmate McDougal , and more wifely passive-aggression followed: On Friday, Melania's office, citing a scheduling issue, announced she would drive alone to Andrews Air Force Base rather than helicopter there with her husband from the White House.

Maybe Melania passed on the 'copter ride because she is getting tired of walking across the White House lawn in her stilettos, but she was also a no-show at a Mar-a-Lago dinner her husband hosted with Geraldo Rivera and her stepsons, according to The Washington Post.

Melania seems to be punishing Donald, but for what?

“I don't think she ever imagined that he was going to be faithful to her,” Schwartz said. “This is a man who has never stopped pushing himself on women. The preponderance of the evidence, as they say, is pretty convincing.”

The punishment, in that case, must be for the relentless humiliation.

SURELY, Melania Trump knew what she was getting into when she married the man who would become our 45th president.

Twenty-four years her senior, Donald Trump had already been divorced twice. He was a famous adulterer, womanizer and sexist, and a regular on shock jock Howard Stern's radio show, making proclamations about then-girlfriend Melania's breasts, the hotness of his own daughter, his belief that when a woman turns 35, it's “checkout time.”

She rallied to his defense after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape became public during the 2016 presidential campaign. America's future first lady dismissed her husband's boast about being able to grab women's genitals as just “boy talk,” that her husband had been “egged on” by host Billy Bush.

And then, when more than a dozen women came forward to allege that Trump had sexually harassed or assaulted them over a period of four decades, the former model attacked the women. Their stories, she said, were “lies.”

“This was all organized from the opposition,” Melania Trump, 47, told CNN. “Did they ever check the background of these women? They don't have any facts.”

Well, you certainly can't blame a wife for supporting her husband.

Unless, of course, she's a Democrat, like Hillary Clinton. In which case the wife will be vilified for supporting her husband.

Melania Trump arrives before the State of the Union address on January 30. — Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press.
Melania Trump arrives before the State of the Union address on January 30. — Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press.

IN THE past year, there has been a lot of speculation about the durability of the Trumps' marriage, mostly focusing on Melania's tolerance levels. Tongue-in-cheek memes include “#FreeMelania”.

Thirteen months ago, at the first Women's March, there were numerous handmade posters, riffing on the first lady's generally stone-faced expression, with variations of “Melania, blink twice if you need help!” And that was long before new details about the porn star and the Playmate emerged.

A Marist Poll released on Valentine's Day (!), found that 43% of Americans think the Trumps should stay together, 34% said Melania should leave and 23% were unsure. I can't imagine what it feels like to have your marriage put to a popular vote.

Over the course of the last year, Melania's approval rating has inched up. She is now far more popular than her husband. This is not much of a surprise; most first ladies are more popular than their mates. In Melania's case, the bar was pretty low given Trump's low ratings, but good for her.

Last fall, during a White House dinner, President Trump acknowledged his wife's popularity, calling her “the star of the Trump family,” according to news reports. “They love her out there, I'll tell you. We walked all over Florida. We walked all over Texas, and they're loving Melania.”

Since he has a history of walking all over his marriage, it's good to know that someone is loving Melania.


• Robin Abcarian is a columnist at the Los Angeles Times. Focusing mostly on California culture, news and politics, she roams the Golden State, reporting stories that help readers understand what makes this place unique. Over the past year, she has devoted many columns to helping readers understand the complex issues they would have to consider as they made up their minds about whether to legalize cannabis for adult recreational use. Abcarian has held many positions at the L.A. Times. She covered the 2004, 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns full time, and wrote occasionally about the 2016 campaign. As a culture writer for the paper's Calendar section, she has covered the Oscars, the Emmys and the Sundance Film Festival. For most of the 1990s, she was a columnist for the Los Angeles Times' feature section, before becoming its editor in 2003.


 on: Yesterday at 01:39:38 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from the Los Angeles Times....

Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann has a reputation for
hard-charging tactics — and sometimes going too far

Andrew Weissmann would probably lead questioning of Trump.
He's tenacious, smart and feared.

By DAVID WILLIAMS | 11:15AM PST — Monday, February 19, 2018

U.S. attorney Andrew Weissmann. — Photograph: David J. Phillip/Associated Press.
U.S. attorney Andrew Weissmann. — Photograph: David J. Phillip/Associated Press.

WHEN FBI agents raided the northern Virginia home of President Trump's former campaign manager Paul J. Manafort Jr. on July 26, they came with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

They arrived before dawn, forced the front door lock and burst in with a no-knock warrant, tactics typically used in a major drug bust. The agents seized Manafort's tax, banking and real estate records, photographed his expensive antiques and tailored suits, and hauled away a trove of material.

Manafort, once a high-flying Washington lobbyist, now is awaiting trial on a dozen federal charges, including fraud, conspiracy and money laundering of more than $18 million in an elaborate scheme that prosecutors allege extended through the period he led Trump's campaign. He has pleaded not guilty.

The dramatic case is being helmed, in part, by Andrew Weissmann, a senior deputy to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, in the wide-ranging investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump or his aides committed crimes before, during or since the campaign.

At 59, Weissmann casts a broad shadow in the Mueller probe, a veteran federal prosecutor who has built a reputation for aggressive tactics and a no-nonsense demeanor. Both his supporters and his detractors agree he is hard-charging and to be feared.

“He's tenacious, and very smart,” said Bradley D. Simon, a defense lawyer who worked alongside Weissmann as an assistant U.S. attorney in Brooklyn in the 1990s. “He really got enormous results. He won a lot of big, high-profile cases.”

Weissmann's approach — and his expertise in uncovering perjury, obstruction of justice and complex financial crimes — now could pose a mortal threat to Trump's presidency.

Trump's lawyers have sparred with Mueller since last year over whether, and under what conditions, the president would submit to an interview. Weissmann is a likely choice to take the lead in any direct questioning of the president.

Under attack by conservatives

That has made Weissmann a prime target of Trump's allies and surrogates, especially on cable TV. Sean Hannity, whose weeknight Fox News show pummels Trump's presumed foes, has said Weissmann “not only needs to be fired but fully investigated.”

Hannity vilified the prosecutor during 14 episodes in December and January alone, according to transcripts of the show, cable's most watched news program. Other conservative commentators, notably radio's Rush Limbaugh and Fox News' Lou Dobbs and Laura Ingraham, have joined the attack.

The critics often cite Weissmann's political contributions. Federal Election Commission records show he donated a total of $6,650 to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and to the Democratic National Committee from 2006 to 2008.

Weissmann was out of the government at the time, employed by Jenner & Block, a law firm that specializes in corporate litigation.

The contributions by Weissmann and eight other lawyers on Mueller's team led critics to accuse the group of partisan bias. But federal regulations bar the Justice Department or a special counsel from considering political donations as a basis for employment.

Weissmann's critics also cite the supportive email he sent Sally Yates, then the acting U.S. attorney general, on January 30, 2017. Trump had just fired Yates for refusing to enforce his order to ban residents from seven Middle East countries from entering the United States.

Whatever his politics, Weissmann has worked closely in the past with Mueller, a registered Republican who headed the FBI from 2001 to 2013. Weissmann was Mueller's legal advisor for national security in 2005 and later served as FBI general counsel for two years.

Weissmann was leading the Justice Department's criminal fraud section when Mueller recruited him in early June for the special counsel probe. So far, they have overseen indictments of four former Trump aides, plus others.

Manafort and Richard Gates III, Trump's former deputy campaign chairman, face similar charges relating to their lobbying work for the government in Ukraine. The Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday that Gates, who asserted his innocence in October, will plead guilty in coming days. Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor, and George Papadopoulos, a former campaign foreign policy advisor, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and are cooperating with Mueller's team.

An additional indictment was made public on Friday — charging 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities with interfering in the 2016 presidential election by exploiting counterfeit identities of individuals and entities. Those charges are in part related to a separate guilty plea, also unveiled Friday, of a computer specialist from Santa Paula, Richard Pinedo, who admitted to selling fake identifications. Pinedo was unaware his customers included the Russian operatives, according to the documents.

A spokesman for Mueller, Peter Carr, declined to comment on Weissmann's career and said that Weissmann would not comment for this article.

A graduate of Princeton and Columbia Law School, Weissmann first made his mark as a federal prosecutor in New York City in the 1990s, leveraging evidence and threats of lengthy prison sentences to “flip” mob underlings to testify in trials of organized crime bosses.

Gangsters and white-collar crime

In 1997, Weissmann led the team that convicted Vincent Gigante, who headed the powerful Genovese crime family. Gigante had avoided trial for years by feigning mental illness, at times wandering the streets of Lower Manhattan in his bathrobe and slippers, mumbling to himself. New York tabloids dubbed him “The Oddfather.”

But Weissmann's biggest catch was a white-collar case that helped define the go-go years of easy money and lax enforcement: Enron.

After the giant Houston-based energy conglomerate collapsed in 2001, Weissmann helped lead what the FBI called the “most complex white-collar crime investigation” in its history.

He oversaw prosecutions of more than 30 people on charges that included fraud, perjury and obstruction. Three of Enron's top executives were among those convicted.

“If there's something wrong, Andrew Weissmann is the type of person who won't freakin' give up,” said Mary Flood, a lawyer who tracked the Enron cases as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle.

Weissmann also successfully argued in U.S. District Court that Enron's major outside auditor, Arthur Andersen, had covered up the losses at Enron and had shredded documents to hide its role. The long respected Chicago-based firm was convicted of obstructing justice and effectively went out of business in 2002.

But Weissmann soon came under fire for having pushed the legal boundaries.

In May 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction of Arthur Andersen. Weissmann had helped persuade the trial judge to advise jurors they could convict the accounting firm regardless of whether its employees had knowingly violated the law.

Writing the court's decision, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist noted that the opposing lawyers had “vigorously disputed” the jury instructions. The judge, Rehnquist wrote, “failed to convey the requisite consciousness of wrongdoing. Indeed, it is striking how little culpability the instructions required” to convict.

Arthur Andersen never recovered. But when Weissmann stepped down as head of the Justice Department's Enron task force two months later, he had cemented his reputation for unsparing tactics.

Weissmann not only sought stiff sentences for those convicted in the Enron scandal. As the cases unfolded, he named 114 individuals as “unindicted co-conspirators.” In interviews, several defense lawyers complained that by dangling the threat of prosecution over so many prospective witnesses, Weissmann blocked testimony that could have helped their clients.

Defense lawyers also have argued that Weissmann and his colleagues failed to turn over potentially favorable evidence in some cases. The row arose during separate appeals lodged by a top Enron executive and four officials at Merrill Lynch, a financial firm that Enron relied on.

An appellate court ruled that the evidence was not “material” enough to have changed the original guilty verdicts. The convictions of three of the Merrill Lynch executives subsequently were overturned for reasons unrelated to the dispute over the evidence.

The episode remains a source of resentment for the defendants and their lawyers.

The evidence would have “contradicted the theory of the government's case at trial,” Sidney Powell, who represented one of the Merrill Lynch executives during his appeal, wrote in her 2014 book, Licensed to Lie.

“Andrew Weissmann is not fit to practice law — much less serve on Mueller's team,” Powell wrote in an email for this article.

Weissmann's former colleagues, on the other hand, admired what they saw as his relentless push to find and punish those responsible for what was in 2001, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

A former FBI agent who worked on the Enron task force recalled how Weissmann confronted two defense lawyers who appeared to be coaching their client during questioning. After halting the interview and excusing the witness from the room, Weissmann warned both defense lawyers they were opening themselves to potential charges of suborning perjury.

“He was not going to be pushed around,” said the former FBI agent, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his current employer did not authorize him to speak to the news media. “If you want to get to the bottom of the truth — if you want justice — you want Andrew Weissmann as the prosecutor on that case.”

Even some of Weissmann's opponents in the Enron case praised his abilities.

‘The top of the food chain’

Mike DeGeurin, a defense lawyer, lauded Weissmann's creative efforts to win the cooperation of his clients — Andrew Fastow, who was Enron's chief financial officer, and his wife, Lea Fastow, a former assistant treasurer at the company.

Andrew Fastow pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, and his testimony helped convict Enron's top two executives, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, plus the Merrill Lynch defendants.

DeGeurin said he met with Weissmann up to 20 times to negotiate the Fastows' plea deals. The prosecutor accommodated the couple's main request — that their incarcerations be staggered so one parent would always be available for their two young children.

Weissmann allowed Lea Fastow to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, lying on a tax return. DeGeurin said that prevented a judge from sentencing her to more than a year in jail.

“Weissmann was very astute,” DeGeurin said. “I felt I was dealing with the top of the food chain.”

Trump and his lawyers have given mixed signals as to whether the president will consent to questioning. But one of Weissmann's former targets offered a warning to the White House.

James A. Brown, a former Merrill Lynch executive, said he saw “no reason to hide” when Weissmann questioned him before a grand jury 14 years ago.

Brown wound up convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice and served nearly a year in prison. Separate convictions for fraud were overturned on appeal, prompting his release.

“My advice to Trump would be: ‘Do not talk to this guy’,” Brown said.


• David Willman is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times based in Washington, D.C. He won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2001 for work that prompted the market withdrawal of Rezulin, a widely sold diabetes drug. His subsequent reports on pharmaceutical industry payments to federal researchers triggered a ban of such compensation at the National Institutes of Health. His other national honors include Sigma Delta Chi's top award in 2009 for Washington-based reporting.


Related to this topic:

 • Russia investigation leads to guilty plea for lawyer linked to Trump's former campaign aides


 on: Yesterday at 12:50:07 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times....

Israeli premier faces new legal issue

Benjamin Netanyahu calls arrests of several close associates ‘a contrived bubble’.

By NOGA TARNOPOLSKY | Monday, February 19, 2018

Israelis protest in Tel Aviv on Friday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after police recommended he be indicted on several corruption charges. — Photograph: Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Israelis protest in Tel Aviv on Friday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after police recommended he be indicted on several corruption charges.
 — Photograph: Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

JERUSALEM — Less than one week after Israeli police recommended that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on several corruption charges, a new legal minefield has opened up beneath his feet.

Seven Israelis were arrested on Sunday in what the police call “Case 4000,” a new investigation in which members of Netanyahu's inner-most circle are suspected of intervening with regulators to help the Bezeq group, an Israeli communications giant then run by a close friend of the prime minister, in exchange for favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, on a news portal owned by the company.

Though Netanayhu has not been named as a suspect in the case, numerous Israeli news outlets reported on Sunday that he is expected to be questioned “under caution,” a term used for suspects in criminal cases.

The names of those arrested were not officially announced. But for about an hour before the imposition of a gag order on all details of the investigation, the Haaretz news website reported that they included Nir Hefetz, a close friend of the Netanyahus and the prime minister's former communications director, and Shlomo Filber, a Netanyahu associate who served as director general of the Communications Ministry.

Sunday's revelations came only five days after the police announced their recommendation, presented to the attorney general, that Netanyahu be indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two unrelated cases in which Netanyahu is alleged to have inappropriately given associates political favors.

From Germany, where he was attending the annual Munich Security Conference, Netanyahu said the arrests of members of his close circle revealed “yet another futile investigation, a contrived bubble that will burst.”

Netanyahu has been in Germany since Thursday, holding meetings with world leaders and acting outwardly as if nothing is amiss.

He addressed the plenum on Sunday. Brandishing the large shard of what he said was an Iranian drone downed on February 10 by the Israeli air force, he said that “Israel will not allow the Iranian regime to put a noose of terror around our neck.”

The drone's incursion into Israeli skies precipitated an exchange of fire that resulted in the loss of an Israeli F-16 that was downed by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile. It was the first loss of an Israeli fighter jet since 1982.

Speaking directly to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was in the audience, Netanyahu asked, “Do you recognize it? You should. It's yours. Don't test us.”

In Munich, Netanyahu holds what he said was part of an Iranian drone shot down in Israeli airspace. — Photograph: Lennart Preiss/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
In Munich, Netanyahu holds what he said was part of an Iranian drone shot down in Israeli airspace.
 — Photograph: Lennart Preiss/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

Speaking a few hours later, Zarif ridiculed what he called Netanyahu's “cartoonish circus.”

Such an international venue is familiar ground for the Israeli leader, who has dominated Israeli politics for the last decade.

Tal Schneider, the political analyst for the Israeli financial daily Globes, who accompanied Netanyahu to Munich, said the prime minister “appeared unruffled, projecting that business is as usual, carrying on with scheduled meetings.”

As he departed from Munich, Netanyahu refused to answer questions from Israeli reporters about the criminal investigations that surround him.

The Israeli public, however, appears to be asking the same questions. Three polls published before the weekend show many Israelis believe the police version of events rather than that of Netanyahu, who claims he is the victim of a political witch hunt.

A poll that aired on television channel Reshet said 49% of Hebrew-speaking Israelis believe Netanyahu acted improperly. Twenty-five percent accept Netanyahu's claims of innocence and the remaining 26% do not know what to believe.

A poll by Channel 2 showed that 45% of Israelis believe Netanyahu should resign even before the attorney general decides whether to indict, versus 40% who said he should not.

The police recommendations were the product of a year-long investigation and were presented on Tuesday to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the nation's chief prosecutor, who will have to decide whether to indict Netanyahu.

Israel feels increasingly alone as it confronts a difficult dilemma on its northern border: to allow Iran to gain a permanent foothold just across its border with Syria, or to go to war to prevent that from happening.

The White House took more than a full day before reacting to the first incident of Iranian-Israeli military engagement before releasing a statement reaffirming Israel's right to defend itself.

Other strains are becoming evident in the usually strong relationship between Netanyahu and President Trump, including a spat last week in which Netanyahu told political allies that “for some time now I've been talking about [plans to annex areas of the occupied West Bank] with the Americans,” an assertion that White House spokesman Josh Raffel rapidly declared “false.”

“The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the president's focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative,” Raffel said in a statement.

On Friday, however, dismissing any concerns relating to Netanyahu's possible indictment, the White House announced it would be hosting Israel's embattled prime minister for meetings with Trump on March 5.

“Netanyahu will keep meeting other leaders, he'll keep on acting as if everything is normal as long as he can,” Meir Sheetrit, a former minister from Netanyahu's political party, Likud, said in an interview. “But we know what direction this is going in: political defeat.”

“This is untenable in the long term,” Sheetrit added. “Netanyahu and the Likud are disconnected from the people, floating along in a world in which their corruption doesn't matter. But it will, and this won't take long to come.”


• Noga Tarnopolsky is a special correspondent to the Los Angeles Times. She reports on Israeli and Palestinian topics.


 on: Yesterday at 01:56:04 am 
Started by Im2Sexy4MyPants - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

 on: Yesterday at 01:39:13 am 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The Washington Post....

Some places flourished in the Little Ice Age. There are lessons for us now.

Adaptations to climate change helped give the Dutch a golden age.

By DAGOMAR DEGROOT | 10:00AM EST — Monday, February 19, 2018

To adjust to new weather patterns, the Dutch developed such inventions as the “sailing car” or ”land yacht”, which used wind power to haul people and goods along beaches. — Illustration: Rijksmuseum.
To adjust to new weather patterns, the Dutch developed such inventions as the “sailing car” or ”land yacht”, which used wind power to haul people and goods along beaches.
 — Illustration: Rijksmuseum.

WE ARE changing Earth's climate with terrifying speed. In the past, natural forces provoked slower climate changes. We now know that they were still big and fast enough to shape the fates of past societies. Climate change then brought disaster to most societies, but a few prospered. Perhaps the most successful of all emerged in the coastal fringes of the Netherlands, and it has left us with lessons that may help us prepare for our warmer future.

Based on glacial ice samplings, stalagmites, ocean- and lake-bed sediments, tree rings and other assessments, it's clear that sometime in the 13th century, Earth's climate cooled. Huge volcanic eruptions lofted dust high into the stratosphere, blocking sunlight just as the sun slipped into a less-active phase, sending less energy to Earth. Sea ice expanded, wind patterns changed and ocean currents shifted. In many regions, torrential rains alternated with unprecedented droughts.

A period called the “Little Ice Age” had begun, reaching its coldest point in the 16th century.

The timing could not have been worse. In empire after empire, population growth had left millions dependent on crops cultivated in arid, unproductive farmland. When weather extremes interrupted growing seasons, harvests failed, time and again. Famine and starvation gripped the heartland of the Spanish Empire, the jungles of the Mutapa Kingdom in southern Africa, the steppes of the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the rice fields of the Ming Dynasty.

The worst was yet to come.

Changing weather patterns altered the range of insects that carried pathogens, bringing new and deadly ailments to the previously unexposed. Because malnourished bodies have weak immune systems, farmers and their livestock soon fell sick. Refugees from the famine-stricken countryside spread diseases to cities, where epidemic outbreaks often inflicted a fearsome toll.

In one empire after another, the sick and starving blamed governments for their misery. As a result, the coldest stretch of the Little Ice Age brought an unprecedented surge of revolts and civil wars. Rebel and state armies alike conscripted farm laborers who joined refugees in spreading disease. In the end, millions died.

Yet remarkably, inhabitants of the Dutch Republic — the precursor state to today's Netherlands — enjoyed a golden age that perfectly coincided with the chilliest century of the Little Ice Age. Somehow, a country with a small population emerged as a great power, with a navy that went from victory to victory and a commercial fleet that dwarfed all others.

The Dutch Republic was an oddball in the 17th-century world.

A surge in urbanization

The overwhelming majority of people in most societies of the time toiled in rural fields, growing crops for local markets. Many Dutch farmers, by contrast, cultivated cash crops for distant consumers. The republic therefore depended on grain imports from farms scattered along the Baltic Sea, which rarely all suffered at the same time from cold snaps or precipitation extremes.

Over time, a growing share of Dutch citizens worked in commercial interests and industries in port cities protected by an extensive network of dikes and sluices. Urbanization was soon more common in the republic than just about anywhere else in Europe. Tens of thousands of sailors plied trade routes that reached into the Arctic, the Americas, Africa and Asia.

These sailing ships depended on two things: favorable winds and ice-free water. By changing currents and cooling temperatures in the atmosphere and oceans, the chilliest stretches of the Little Ice Age therefore affected sailing as much as farming. Yet the impact was very different. New wind patterns actually sped up ships that left the republic for Asia or America, shortening their journeys.

Seaworthy ships

In the waters off northern Europe, storms were unusually frequent in the coldest stretches of the Little Ice Age. The republic's biggest merchant ships were more seaworthy than similar ships fielded by other European powers. Portuguese ships bound for Asia were four times as likely to sink as their Dutch counterparts, and English ships were twice as likely to go down.

Even sea ice aided the Dutch, including in the Arctic. Expanding sea ice redirected Dutch voyages of northern exploration into bowhead whale feeding grounds off Norway's Svalbard archipelago. Whalers from all over Europe eventually set up shop there was well. But for a long time, the edge of the Arctic pack ice lingered near Dutch whaling stations, and because whales gathered along the edge of the ice, the Dutch benefited.

The Dutch fought most of their wars on or around water, and climatic cooling helped their armies and fleets. They flooded their own farmland to thwart Spanish and French invasions. Some of these floods would not have succeeded without torrential rains that reflected new atmospheric realities. Shifting wind patterns, shaped by the cooling climate, gave Dutch sailors the benefit of favorable winds in naval wars with England and France.

Climate change did not always aid the Dutch. In the Arctic, sea ice crushed ships, drowned sailors and screened whales from whalers. Small ships that carried grain and timber from the Baltic Sea endured deadly storms and confronted thick sea ice. Cold snaps in the Baltics occasionally led to harvest failures that imperiled the republic's grain imports. Ice repeatedly choked the waterways of the republic, halting ferry services between cities.

Time and again, the Dutch responded creatively. Shipmakers fortified the hulls of whaling ships and greased them until they slid off ice. Guilds and city governments bought icebreakers that not only kept waterways open but also produced ice blocks for wine cellars. When the ice was too thick to break, the Dutch used skates and sleds to turn frozen canals into busy thoroughfares. To manage the risk of mishaps, merchants divided their goods among ships and invested in marine insurance. They stockpiled Baltic grain in good years and sold it for healthy profits when food shortages plagued Europe.

The Dutch, in short, were lucky to benefit from environmental changes that favored their unusual economy. But they also made their own luck. The society they built ended up being remarkably resilient in the face of new weather patterns that spelled disaster elsewhere in Europe.

In fact, they may have consciously adapted their technologies and policies to exploit the Little Ice Age. Their long history of draining and damming the Low Countries, which helped them deal with weather well before the coldest stretch of the Little Ice Age, probably helped them recognize that environments can change and that societies can either adapt or succumb.

What, then, can the history of the republic's golden age teach us today?

First and perhaps most important, it shows us that even relatively small changes in Earth's average temperature can have enormous social consequences. The world has already warmed more, relative to average temperatures in the 20th century, than it cooled in the chilliest stretches of the Little Ice Age, and there is far more warming on the horizon. Histories of the Little Ice Age, therefore, are an urgent call to arms. We have technologies that our ancestors could not have imagined. But there are far more of us, consuming unimaginably more plants and animals, metals and fuels. And we, too, depend on a huge network of fields and fisheries that may not survive drastic changes in temperature and precipitation.

Unequal consequences

That leads us to our second lesson: Climate change has had, and probably will have, very unequal consequences for different societies, communities and individuals. Many assume that rich societies cope best with climate change. Yet some of the wealthiest 17th-century empires — from Ming China to the Ottoman sultanate — actually fared worst in the coldest decades of the Little Ice Age.

The Dutch prospered not because their republic was rich but because much of its wealth derived from activities that benefited from climate change. Today, we can learn from the republic by strengthening social safety nets, by investing in technologies that exploit or reduce climate change and, more broadly, by thinking proactively about how we will adapt to the warmer planet of our future.

Ultimately, the lessons of the past come to us in the form of parables, stories that hint at deeper truths but do not tell us exactly what to do. That does not make them any less valuable. We now know that we cannot ignore our changing climate, that it will shape our fortunes in the decades to come.


• Dagomar Degroot is a professor of environmental history at Georgetown University and author of the book The Frigid Golden Age. Climate Change, the Little Ice Age, and the Dutch Republic, 1560-1720. He is the co-founder of the Climate History Network.


 on: February 20, 2018, 02:21:25 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Im2Sexy4MyPants
all these people will go scot free because any evidence they find will be deemed as fruit from a poison tree
because of the illegal way obama spied on trump to help hillary

 on: February 20, 2018, 11:30:49 am 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Im2Sexy4MyPants
weaponized media is FAKE NEWS


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