G7 summit: War of words erupts between US and key allies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

G7 summit: War of words erupts between US and key allies

Photo from the G7 summit of the leaders, tweeted by the German government on 9 June 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThe final communique had been intended as a face-saving agreement after a bad-tempered summit

A war of words has erupted between the US and its G7 allies, hours after the group had put on an apparent show of unity at the end of a tense summit.

US President Donald Trump and two of his advisers lashed out at Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, accusing him of engaging in “bad faith diplomacy”.

Germany’s Angela Merkel said Mr Trump’s decision to reject a joint communique was “sobering” and “depressing”.

That statement had sought to overcome deep disagreements, notably over trade.

In recent weeks, trading partners of the US have criticised new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports imposed by the Trump administration.

So how did the latest spat unfold?

In a news conference after the summit, the Canadian leader reasserted his opposition to the US tariffs, and vowed to press ahead with retaliatory moves on 1 July.

“Canadians are polite and reasonable but we will also not be pushed around,” he said.

Media captionTrudeau: “I don’t want to hurt American workers”

Mr Trump responded by tweeting en route to his next summit, in Singapore, that he had instructed US officials “not to endorse the communique as we look at tariffs on automobiles”.

He said the move was based on Mr Trudeau’s “false statements… and the fact that Canada is charging massive tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies”.

His top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, and trade adviser, Peter Navarro, then took to the Sunday morning news shows to further attack Mr Trudeau.

“He really kind of stabbed us in the back,” Mr Kudlow said, while Mr Navarro said: “There is a special place in Hell for any leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.”

Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland responded by saying Mr Trump’s argument for imposing tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium was “absurd and frankly insulting to Canadians”.

Mr Trump has cited national security as his reason, telling a news conference on Saturday that “to have a great military you need a great balance sheet”.

Canada, she said, is “the closest and strongest ally the United States has had. We can’t pose a security threat to the United States and I know that Americans understand that”.

Other G7 partners also seemed stunned by Mr Trump’s reaction, and pledged to support the communique.

Media captionWho left their mark on President Trump at the G7 summit?

French President Emmanuel Macron said international co-operation could not be “dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks”.

“Let’s be serious and worthy of our people,” a statement from the French presidency said. “We make commitments and keep to them.”

What is in the joint communique?

In the communique after the summit in La Malbaie, Quebec province, the group of major industrial nations – Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Japan and Germany – had agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism.

Other agreements reached include:

Mr Trump’s twitter attack on Mr Trudeau came minutes after the communique had been published.

What are the tariffs?

On 1 June, the US imposed a 25% tariff for steel and 10% for aluminium on imports from the European Union (EU), Canada, and Mexico. Mr Trump said the move would protect domestic producers that were vital to US security.

The EU then announced retaliatory tariffs on US goods ranging from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to bourbon. Canada and Mexico are also taking action.

Media captionDairy wars: Why is Trump threatening Canada over milk?

What is the G7?

It is an annual summit bringing together seven major industrialised nations which represent more than 60% of global net worth between them.

Economics tops the agenda, although the meetings now always branch off to cover major global issues.

Russia was suspended from the group – then called the G8 – in 2014 because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

On Friday, Mr Trump made a surprise call for Moscow to be readmitted but German Chancellor Angela Merkel said other members were against the idea.

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US & Canada

The West is ill-prepared for the wave of “deep fakes” From AI

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

ORDER FROM CHAOS

The West is ill-prepared for the wave of “deep fakes” that artificial intelligence could unleash

Chris Meserole and Alina Polyakova

Editor’s Note:To get ahead of new problems related to disinformation and technology, policymakers in Europe and the United States should focus on the coming wave of disruptive technologies, write Chris Meserole and Alina Polyakova. Fueled by advances in artificial intelligence and decentralized computing, the next generation of disinformation promises to be even more sophisticated and difficult to detect. This piece originally appeared on ForeignPolicy.com.

Russian disinformation has become a problem for European governments. In the last two years, Kremlin-backed campaigns have spread false stories alleging that French President Emmanuel Macron was backed by the “gay lobby,” fabricated a story of a Russian-German girl raped by Arab migrants, and spread a litany of conspiracy theories about the Catalan independence referendum, among other efforts.

Europe is finally taking action. In January, Germany’s Network Enforcement Act came into effect. Designed to limit hate speech and fake news online, the law prompted both France and Spain to consider counterdisinformation legislation of their own. More important, in April the European Union unveiled a new strategy for tackling online disinformation. The EU plan focuses on several sensible responses: promoting media literacy, funding a third-party fact-checking service, and pushing Facebook and others to highlight news from credible media outlets, among others. Although the plan itself stops short of regulation, EU officials have not been shy about hinting that regulation may be forthcoming. Indeed, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared at an EU hearing this week, lawmakers reminded him of their regulatory power after he appeared to dodge their questions on fake news and extremist content.

The problem is that technology advances far more quickly than government policies.

The recent European actions are important first steps. Ultimately, none of the laws or strategies that have been unveiled so far will be enough. The problem is that technology advances far more quickly than government policies. The EU’s measures are still designed to target the disinformation of yesterday rather than that of tomorrow.

To get ahead of the problem, policymakers in Europe and the United States should focus on the coming wave of disruptive technologies. Fueled by advances in artificial intelligence and decentralized computing, the next generation of disinformation promises to be even more sophisticated and difficult to detect.

To craft effective strategies for the near term, lawmakers should focus on four emerging threats in particular: the democratization of artificial intelligence, the evolution of social networks, the rise of decentralized applications, and the “back end” of disinformation.

Thanks to bigger data, better algorithms, and custom hardware, in the coming years, individuals around the world will increasingly have access to cutting-edge artificial intelligence. From health care to transportation, the democratization of AI holds enormous promise.

Yet as with any dual-use technology, the proliferation of AI also poses significant risks. Among other concerns, it promises to democratize the creation of fake print, audio, and video stories. Although computers have long allowed for the manipulation of digital content, in the past that manipulation has almost always been detectable: A fake image would fail to account for subtle shifts in lighting, or a doctored speech would fail to adequately capture cadence and tone. However, deep learning and generative adversarial networks have made it possible to doctor imagesand video so well that it’s difficult to distinguish manipulated files from authentic ones. And thanks to apps like FakeApp and Lyrebird, these so-called “deep fakes” can now be produced by anyone with a computer or smartphone. Earlier this year, a tool that allowed users to easily swap faces in video produced fake celebrity porn, which went viral on Twitter and Pornhub.

Deep fakes and the democratization of disinformation will prove challenging for governments and civil society to counter effectively. Because the algorithms that generate the fakes continuously learn how to more effectively replicate the appearance of reality, deep fakes cannot easily be detected by other algorithms—indeed, in the case of generative adversarial networks, the algorithm works by getting really good at fooling itself. To address the democratization of disinformation, governments, civil society, and the technology sector therefore cannot rely on algorithms alone, but will instead need to invest in new models of social verification, too.

At the same time as artificial technology and other emerging technologies mature, legacy platforms will continue to play an outsized role in the production and dissemination of information online. For instance, consider the current proliferation of disinformation on Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

A growing cottage industry of search engine optimization (SEO) manipulation provides services to clients looking to rise in the Google rankings. And while for the most part, Google is able to stay ahead of attempts to manipulate its algorithms through continuous tweaks, SEO manipulators are also becoming increasingly savvy at gaming the system so that the desired content, including disinformation, appears at the top of search results.

For example, stories from RT and Sputnik—the Russian government’s propaganda outlets—appeared on the first page of Google searches after the March nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom and the April chemical weapons attack in Syria. Similarly, YouTube (which is owned by Google) has an algorithm that prioritizes the amount of time users spend watching content as the key metric for determining which content appears first in search results. This algorithmic preference results in false, extremist, and unreliable information appearing at the top, which in turn means that this content is viewed more often and is perceived as more reliable by users. Revenue for the SEO manipulation industry is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

On Facebook, disinformation appears in one of two ways: through shared content and through paid advertising. The company has tried to curtail disinformation across each vector, but thus far to no avail. Most famously, Facebook introduced a “Disputed Flag” to signify possible false news—only to discover that the flag made users more likely to engage with the content, rather than less. Less conspicuously, in Canada, the company is experimenting with increasing the transparency of its paid advertisements by making all ads available for review, including those micro-targeted to a small set of users. Yet, the effort is limited: The sponsors of ads are often buried, requiring users to do time-consuming research, and the archive Facebook set up for the ads is not a permanent database but only shows active ads. Facebook’s early efforts do not augur well for a future in which foreign actors can continue to exploit its news feed and ad products to deliver disinformation—including deep fakes produced and targeted at specific individuals or groups.

Although Twitter has taken steps to combat the proliferation of trolls and bots on its platform, it remains deeply vulnerable to disinformation campaigns, since accounts are not verified and its application programming interface, or API, still makes it possible to easily generate and spread false content on the platform. Even if Twitter takes further steps to crack down on abuse, its detection algorithms can be reverse-engineered in much the same way Google’s search algorithm is. Without fundamental changes to its API and interaction design, Twitter will remain rife with disinformation. It’s telling, for example, that when the U.S. military struck Syrian chemical weapons facilities in April—well after Twitter’s latest reforms were put in place—the Pentagon reported a massive surge in Russian disinformation in the hours immediately following the attack. The tweets appeared to come from legitimate accounts, and there was no way to report them as misinformation.

Blockchain technologies and other distributed ledgers are best known for powering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum. Yet their biggest impact may lie in transforming how the internet works. As more and more decentralized applications come online, the web will increasingly be powered by services and protocols that are designed from the ground up to resist the kind of centralized control that Facebook and others enjoy. For instance, users can already browse videos on DTube rather than YouTube, surf the web on the Blockstack browser rather than Safari, and store files using IPFS, a peer-to-peer file system, rather than Dropbox or Google Docs. To be sure, the decentralized application ecosystem is still a niche area that will take time to mature and work out the glitches. But as security improves over time with fixes to the underlying network architecture, distributed ledger technologies promise to make for a web that is both more secure and outside the control of major corporations and states.

If and when online activity migrates onto decentralized applications, the security and decentralization they provide will be a boon for privacy advocates and human rights dissidents. But it will also be a godsend for malicious actors. Most of these services have anonymity and public-key cryptography baked in, making accounts difficult to track back to real-life individuals or organizations. Moreover, once information is submitted to a decentralized application, it can be nearly impossible to take down. For instance, the IPFS protocol has no method for deletion—users can only add content, they cannot remove it.

For governments, civil society, and private actors, decentralized applications will thus pose an unprecedented challenge, as the current methods for responding to and disrupting disinformation campaigns will no longer apply. Whereas governments and civil society can ultimately appeal to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey if they want to block or remove a malicious user or problematic content on Twitter, with decentralized applications, there won’t always be someone to turn to. If the Manchester bomber had viewed bomb-making instructions on a decentralized app rather than on YouTube, it’s not clear who authorities should or could approach about blocking the content.

Over the last three years, renewed attention to Russian disinformation efforts has sparked research and activities among a growing number of nonprofit organizations, governments, journalists, and activists. So far, these efforts have focused on documenting the mechanisms and actors involved in disinformation campaigns—tracking bot networks, identifying troll accounts, monitoring media narratives, and tracing the diffusion of disinformation content. They’ve also included governmental efforts to implement data protection and privacy policies, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, and legislative proposals to introduce more transparency and accountability into the online advertising space.

While these efforts are certainly valuable for raising awareness among the public and policymakers, by focusing on the end product (the content), they rarely delve into the underlying infrastructure and advertising marketsdriving disinformation campaigns. Doing so requires a deeper examination and assessment of the “back end” of disinformation. In other words, the algorithms and industries—the online advertising market, the SEO manipulation market, and data brokers—behind the end product. Increased automation paired with machine learning will transform this space as well.

To get ahead of these emerging threats, Europe and the United States should consider several policy responses.

First, the EU and the United States should commit significant funding to research and development at the intersection of AI and information warfare. In April, the European Commission called for at least 20 billion euros (about $23 billion) to be spent on research on AI by 2020, prioritizing the health, agriculture, and transportation sectors. None of the funds are earmarked for research and development specifically on disinformation. At the same time, current European initiatives to counter disinformation prioritize education and fact-checking while leaving out AI and other new technologies.

As long as tech research and counterdisinformation efforts run on parallel, disconnected tracks, little progress will be made in getting ahead of emerging threats.

As long as tech research and counterdisinformation efforts run on parallel, disconnected tracks, little progress will be made in getting ahead of emerging threats. In the United States, the government has been reluctant to step in to push forward tech research as Silicon Valley drives innovation with little oversight. The 2016 Obama administration report on the future of AI did not allocate funding, and the Trump administration has yet to release its own strategy. As revelations of Russian manipulation of digital platforms continue, it is becoming increasingly clear that governments will need to work together with private sector firms to identify vulnerabilities and national security threats.

Furthermore, the EU and the U.S. government should also move quickly to prevent the rise of misinformation on decentralized applications. The emergence of decentralized applications presents policymakers with a rare second chance: When social networks were being built a decade ago, lawmakers failed to anticipate the way in which they could be exploited by malicious actors. With such applications still a niche market, policymakers can respond before the decentralized web reaches global scale. Governments should form new public-private partnerships to help developers ensure that the next generation of the web isn’t as ripe for misinformation campaigns. A model could be the United Nations’ Tech Against Terrorism project, which works closely with small tech companies to help them design their platforms from the ground up to guard against terrorist exploitation.

Finally, legislators should continue to push for reforms in the digital advertising industry. As AI continues to transform the industry, disinformation content will become more precise and micro-targeted to specific audiences. AI will make it far easier for malicious actors and legitimate advertisers alike to track user behavior online, identify potential new users to target, and collect information about users’ attitudes, beliefs, and preferences.

In 2014, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission released a report calling for transparency and accountability in the data broker industry. The report called on Congress to consider legislation that would shine light on these firms’ activities by giving individuals access and information about how their data is collected and used online. The EU’s protection regulation goes a long way in giving users control over their data and limits how social media platforms process users’ data for ad-targeting purposes. Facebook is also experimenting with blocking foreign ad sales ahead of contentious votes. Still, the digital ads industry as a whole remains a black box to policymakers, and much more can still be done to limit data mining and regulate political ads online.

Effectively tracking and targeting each of the areas above won’t be easy. Yet policymakers need to start focusing on them now. If the EU’s new anti-disinformation effort and other related policies fail to track evolving technologies, they risk being antiquated before they’re even introduced.

A how-to guide for managing the end of the post-Cold War era. Read all the Order from Chaos content »

Trust Trump, look like a fool. Just ask Nikki Haley

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Trust Trump, look like a fool. Just ask Nikki Haley.


President Trump with Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, at the White House in July. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

 Opinion writer April 18 at 7:49 PM 

What makes Republicans in Congress think their trust in Trump will work out any better for them?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he won’t take up legislation blocking Trump from firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Why? “I don’t think he’s going to” sack Mueller, McConnell told Fox News.

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House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) expressed similar faith that Trump wouldn’t sack Mueller: “I have no reason to believe that that’s going to happen” because “I have assurances that it’s not.”

Courting disaster because of what they “think” and “believe” the erratic president will do? You may think your toddler won’t wander into traffic. You may even have her assurances. But that doesn’t mean you leave her in the front yard unattended.

When I followed the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations, it was often possible to predict presidential actions based on patterns: Clinton’s split-the-difference style, Bush’s verbal signaling, Obama’s caution. But here’s a handy rule of thumb for this administration: Those who claim to know what Trump is going to do are making it up. Nobody truly knows, because Trump himself often doesn’t know what he’s going to do before the moment he does it. Decisions are impulsive, the product not of reason but of the brain’s cortisol levels. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

This is some of what we have learned lately from the Trump administration:

We are imposing new sanctions on Russia. We are not imposing new sanctions on Russia.

China isn’t manipulating its currency. China is manipulating its currency.

We’re getting out of Syria. We aren’t getting out of Syria.

We’ll decide about bombing Syria in 24 to 48 hours. We might not bomb Syria for a long time. We bombed Syria.

The bombing of Syria will be sustained. The Syria bombing was a one-time shot.

Trump will be talking to Kim Jong Un. Trump may not be talking to Kim.

Trump fired James B. Comey because of the Russia investigation. Trump did not fire Comey because of the Russia investigation.

We are leaving the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We may rejoin the TPP. We are not rejoining the TPP.

Poor Haley had no reason to think the president would change his mind. Yet Trump made the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations look like a fool.

After a meeting on Friday about Russia sanctions, Haley went on “CBS Sunday Morning” and said the treasury secretary “will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn’t already.”

This was consistent with talking points distributed on Saturday by the Republican National Committee, saying America intends “to impose specific additional sanctions against Russia.”

But some synapse misfired in the presidential amygdala, and what Haley thought she knew was no longer the case. Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Haley had “some momentary confusion.”

Retorted Haley: “I don’t get confused.”

But she was confused: She believed assurances that Trump would do as expected.

Last Friday, Trump’s Treasury Department put out a report saying, “The Chinese currency generally moved against the dollar in a direction that should, all else equal, help reduce China’s trade surplus with the United States.” This is true: The dollar has fallen nearly 10 percent against the yuan since Trump took office.

But on Monday, Trump took the opposite position. “Russia and China are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates. Not acceptable!” he tweeted.

Last month, Trump announced, “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon.” Now the White House was back to saying there was no timetable for an American withdrawal.

Last week, Trump signaled an imminent missile attack in Syria, saying via Twitter that Russia should “get ready” to shoot down “nice and new and ‘smart’ ” missiles. Criticized for telegraphing the strike, he then said the attack might be “not so soon at all” — a day before the attack. He said he was “prepared to sustain this response,” but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said it was a “one-time shot.”

The president has similarly reversed or contradicted himself this week on quitting the TPP trade pact and his justification for firing Comey. On North Korea, he said he would meet with Kim and raised the possibility he wouldn’t — in the same passage.

Now, Republicans in Congress are risking a constitutional crisis because of their “belief” that Trump won’t fire Mueller:

Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa): “I don’t think he would.”

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah): “I do not believe the president would.”

Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.): “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

They think they know Trump’s mind, huh? So did Nikki Haley.

Twitter: @Milbank

Read more from Dana Milbank’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Only In America Is It Possible For Politicians To Be This Clueless About China/Reality

(THIS ARTICLE IS FROM ‘ANDY TAI’S’ GOOGLE PLUS WEB SITE ON GLOBAL RELATIONS)

(ONLY IN AMERICA IS IT POSSIBLE FOR POLITICIANS TO BE THIS COMPLETELY CLUELESS TO REALITY, RIGHT?)

in US Congress:
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)…: “Mr. Zuckerberg, quite a story, right? Dorm room to the global behemoth that you guys are,” he began. “Only in America, would you guys agree with that?”
Zuckerberg: “Senator, mostly in America.”
Senator: “You couldn’t do this is China, right?”
Zuckerberg: “Well, uh….well, senator, there are some very strong Chinese Internet companies.”
Senator: “Right but, you’re supposed to answer ‘yes’ to this question. Okay, come on, I’m trying to help you, right? Gimme a break. You’re in front of a bunch of senators. The answer is ‘yes’!”

but the answer is, honestly, not yes.

“Only in America” (Are Lawmakers this Clueless about China)

‘Teflon don, Trump’ About To Go Down In The Flames Of Impeachment?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

(Is The ‘Teflon don, Trump’ About To Go Down In The Flames Of Impeachment?)

Right Turn

Trump melts down after Cohen raid — and only hurts himself

  
 April 10 at 9:00 AM 
 2:01
Trump fumes ‘attorney-client privilege is dead’ after FBI raid

President Trump tweeted his outrage at an FBI raid of his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s home and offices, calling it a “witch hunt.”

In an extraordinary series of events, the FBI executed a no-knock raid on President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen’s office, home and hotel. The president, seated alongside his top military and civilian national security advisers to discuss a response to the Syrians’ use of chemical weapons, launched into a rant in which he did not rule out firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, accused law enforcement of bias, whined that Hillary Clinton was not being prosecuted, suggested Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had behaved improperly in signing off on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, railed again at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself (and thereby allowing the investigation proceed) and deemed execution of a warrant signed off on by a federal judge and approved by a U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general, both of whom he appointed, to be an “attack” on the country.
Let’s start with the raid. The Post reports:

Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three people with knowledge of the case.
FBI agents on Monday raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about Cohen’s clients and personal finances. Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, according to another person familiar with the investigation.
Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records, including tax returns, as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, the second person said.
In a dramatic and broad seizure, federal prosecutors collected communications between Cohen and his clients — including those between the lawyer and Trump, according to both people.

Let us not understate how extraordinary a development this is. The standard of proof required to raid any attorney’s office is exceptionally high. To authorize a raid on the president’s lawyer’s office, a federal judge or magistrate must have seen highly credible evidence of serious crimes and/or evidence Cohen was hiding or destroying evidence, according to legal experts. “The FBI raid was the result of an ongoing criminal investigation *not* by Mueller but by the interim US Attorney personally interviewed and selected by Trump himself, pursuant to a warrant issued under strict standards by a federal judge, subject to approval by the head of the Criminal Division,” said constitutional scholar Larry Tribe. He warns that “firing Sessions or Rosenstein (or reining in Mueller) would trigger a crisis for the Constitution and our national security but wouldn’t even extricate Trump from criminal investigation of his innermost circle.” In short, Tribe concludes, “This is every bit as shattering as many have surmised.”

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What we don’t know is whether the suspected wrongdoing extends to Trump or is solely attributable to Cohen. (By referring the matter to the New York prosecutor, Mueller may have signaled this is not germane to the Russia investigation; however, any possible crimes concerning Stormy Daniels, for example, may or may not implicate Trump.) Whatever the FBI sweeps up may very well further enmesh Trump in an investigation in which what seemed like a series of separate topics — Trump’s personal finances, potential obstruction of justice, possible Russian collusion and hush money paid to a porn star — have begun to bleed into one another. Trump is as vulnerable as he has always been, in part because he plainly does not know what federal prosecutors now have in their possession and because intense pressure may be brought to bear on Cohen to “flip” on Trump.
Trump cannot take much comfort in the attorney-client privilege. For one thing, it applies to legal communications; if Cohen is acting as a businessman/”fixer,” no privilege may attach. Moreover, the attorney-client privilege cannot apply to communications that are part of a crime (e.g., a conspiracy to obstruct justice). Trump once said investigating his finances were a “red line” for Mueller; the latest move in raiding Cohen transgresses any limitation Trump could possibly have dreamed up. His reaction reflects his fury in not being able to fend off Mueller.
Trump’s response was disturbing on multiple levels.
First, Trump in essence declared war on the rule of law. “It’s, frankly, a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for,” said the president, who now equates the operation of the criminal-justice system under the rule of law to be an attack on the country. He is the country in his eyes. Those who challenge him are enemies of the country. There is no better formulation of his authoritarian, anti-democratic mindset than this.

 3:03
Opinion | Trump can fire Mueller, but that won’t get rid of the Russia investigation

Opinion | If President Trump fires the bane of his legal troubles, he could spark a legal and constitutional crisis.

Second, his tirade against Sessions should rekindle concerns that he is contemplating firing him and putting in a flunky to protect himself. “The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this, and when he recused himself,” Trump said. “Or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself, and we would have used a — put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country.” That, too, is a picture-perfect distillation of his warped view of the presidency. He hands Mueller another admission that he thinks the DOJ should protect him from, instead of conducting investigations into criminal and counterintelligence matters.
Third, Trump’s attempts to discredit Mueller’s team and the FBI should highlight the necessity of Congress protecting the special counsel. (“This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen.”) When he says the investigation is a “witch hunt,” he may be plowing the way to fire Mueller and/or Rosenstein or refuse to cooperate with an interview. In either event, we would face a constitutional crisis.
Fourth, Trump’s insistence that his campaign has been exonerated from “collusion” (“So they find no collusion, and then they go from there and they say, ‘Well, let’s keep going.’”) is baseless. More than 70 different contacts between Trump team and Russian-related figures have been found. Multiple indictments and plea deals have been struck. The investigation continues. His false certainty that there is no evidence of collusion can now be seen as the motive for his attempts to discredit and derail the investigation, to obstruct justice, in other words.
Finally, Trump’s rambling, unhinged reaction — after his attorneys no doubt counseled him to keep quiet — should shake his supporters. The pressure of the investigation and vulnerability to prosecution and/or impeachment are not going to vanish. His family and his fix-it lawyer won’t stop Mueller. His TV friends cannot keep the FBI at bay. He lashes out like a cornered animal. The angrier and more panicked Trump becomes, the greater chance he will behave in extreme and destructive ways.
“The president cannot help himself,” former White House ethics counsel Norman Eisen told me. “Instead of doing his job as our chief federal law enforcement official and allowing the rule of law to operate unimpeded, he lashes out when he feels personally threatened.” He adds, “The president’s words were more befitting a mob don when the feds are closing in. Given Michael Cohen’s role in Trump’s past, perhaps they are. The American people will not stand for any Trump attempt to match his hostile words with aggressive action against Mueller, Sessions, Rosenstein or other DOJ officials. If he does, it will be the beginning of the end for his presidency.”
Now would be a good time for Republicans to find their spines, remember their oaths and act to insulate Mueller and Rosenstein from Trump. A simple declaration that firing either would be an impeachable offense would, frankly, be a help to Trump. He could use some outside restraint.

FBI Raids The Office Of Trumps Personal Lawyer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

The FBI raided the office of Michael Cohen, a personal lawyer and confidant of President Donald Trump, Cohen’s attorney confirmed to CNN Monday.

One source familiar with the matter told CNN that included in the documents authorities seized was information related to Stephanie Clifford, better known as porn actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006 that the White House has denied.
Stephen Ryan, a lawyer for Cohen, said in a statement that the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York had executed “a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications” between Cohen and his clients.
A White House official said Trump had been watching TV reports of the FBI raiding Cohen’s office, and that Trump knew about the raid before the news broke.
Ryan’s statement called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” and said federal prosecutors had told him it stemmed partially from a referral by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” Ryan said in the statement. “… It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”
The New York Times first reported on news of Monday’s raid.
The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the searches Monday.
A person briefed on the search told the Times that the FBI also seized emails, tax documents and business records, including communications between Trump and Cohen.
The White House official said it is unclear if Trump has spoken to Cohen.
Cohen is a longtime ally of the President, and admitted earlier this year to setting up a limited liability company in 2016 to pay Daniels. She has alleged she had an affair with Trump a decade earlier, and that the payment was hush money. The White House has denied Daniels’ allegations of an affair with Trump.
Asked about the Daniels controversy last week, Trump said he did not know about the payment and declined to comment further, instead referring questions to Cohen.
“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” Trump said. “Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”

Heart Cath this morning

Getting ready to leave in a couple of minutes to go to the VA in Lexington Ky for another heart cath. Scheduled to begin it at 10:30 EST. The doctors want to see if my heart is able to handle a neck and low back surgeries later this spring. I have had a couple of other heart surgeries in my past and it is not in very good condition. If everything goes perfect I will be back home this evening, if there are minor issues I might have to stay there a night or two. But if there are major issues this might be my last note to you. I wish each and every one of you God’s peace, grace and love, I wish you all well.—ted

Riyadh: Middle East Online

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ASHARQ AL-AWSAT SAUDI NEWS AGENCY)

 

The head of the General Authority for Audiovisual Media in Saudi Arabia, Reda Al-Haydar, announced on Monday the launching of the Ethical Charter of Social Communication initiative to create an interactive environment with fixed foundations in line with established values.
“We are launching today the Ethical Charter Initiative for the New Media Center with the support of the Audiovisual Media Authority to work together with influential media and social media professionals to create an interactive environment that is consistent with our established values,” he said.
“Social media leaders are partners in conveying what the Saudis know ethically to an interactive charter that can benefit other societies in the Arab world,” he said in a statement.
According to Haidar, the initiative aims to “create a moral reference in the use and interaction of various applications of communication in the digital media, in addition to trying to create a distinct media culture based on the foundations and fixed foundations in all networks and digital means and applications, where respect and positive interaction between different groups and on various topics “He said.
He added that “the drafting of the charter comes within the framework of developing the level of social communication for individuals and the development of the professional performance of enterprises, promoting the optimal utilization of new media products and promoting adherence to the principles and general principles and ethical standards of media, and dissemination of positive culture in the applications of communication in the field of digital media, .

Papa John’s says Anthem protests are hurting deal with NFL

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ESPN)

 

Papa John’s says anthem protests are hurting deal with NFL

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Executives from Papa John’s, the official pizza company of the NFL, expressed disappointment on a conference call Wednesday about the league’s ongoing player protests during the national anthem.

“The NFL has hurt us,” company founder and CEO John Schnatter said. “We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this.”

Executives said the company has pulled much of its NFL television advertising and that the NFL has responded by giving the company additional future spots.

“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter said, noting he thought the issue had been “nipped in the bud” a year and a half ago.

In revising sales estimates for the next quarter, Papa John’s president and chief operating officer Steve Ritchie said on the call that the NFL deal was the primary suspect behind the decline and that “we expect it to persist unless a solution is put in place.”

Ritchie said that research has found that Papa John’s has been the most recognized sponsor associated with the NFL for two years running, which he said means the company’s performance can track with that of the league.

Papa John’s has a deal with not only the NFL, but also with 23 individual teams.

Company executives declined to disclose exactly how much money in projected sales Papa John’s lost from its association with the NFL and declining ratings, which mean fewer people are ordering their product for game days, they said.

ESPN reached out to 18 NFL official sponsors in the last few days and asked the companies about its current relationship with the league and if any marketing programs had been changed due to the turmoil. Only five sponsors responded with a comment.

Verizon spokesperson Jim Gerace wrote via email that “our discussions with any partner are between us and while we haven’t done anything different, we don’t discuss future plans.”

“We are not going to critique their performance in public just as I wouldn’t expect them to critique ours,” Gerace added.

A Hyundai spokesperson said in a statement, “Hyundai participated in constant dialogue with the league to discuss all aspects of our partnership, including national anthem protests. We’ve been pleased with the frequency and openness of those conversations.”

A spokesperson for Dannon, whose Oikos brand has an official NFL deal, said: “We continue to monitor the situation carefully and have not made changes to our advertising or related plans.”

Nike and Anheuser-Busch referred to previously issued statements.

League sponsors that either didn’t return a message after 24 hours or declined comment included: PepsiCo, Mars, Visa, Campbell’s Soup, Procter & Gamble, Castrol, Bose, McDonald’s, Nationwide, Microsoft, USAA, Marriott and Bridgestone.

A Maltese Journalist Who Reported on the Panama Papers Has Been Killed by a Car Bomb

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

A Maltese Journalist Who Reported on the Panama Papers Has Been Killed by a Car Bomb

Oct 16, 2017

(VALLETTA, Malta) — A Maltese investigative journalist who exposed the island nation’s links to offshore tax havens through the leaked Panama Papers was killed Monday when a bomb exploded in her car, the prime minister said.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, had just driven away from her home in Mosta, a large town on Malta’s main island, when the bomb went off, sending the vehicle’s wreckage spiraling over a wall and into a field, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

Caruana Galizia’s death resulted from a “barbaric attack” that also amounted to an assault on freedom of expression, Muscat said. He described her as “was one of my harshest critics, on a political and personal level” as he denounced her slaying.

One of the topics the veteran reporter examined was what the documents from the 2016 leak said about Malta. She wrote that Muscat’s wife, the country’s energy minister and the government’s chief-of-staff had offshore holdings in Panama to receive money from Azerbaijan.

Muscat and his wife, Michelle, denied they had companies in Panama.

Caruana Galizia filed a police report two weeks ago saying she was receiving threats, law enforcement officials told Malta news outlets on Monday.

The slain journalist had been a regular columnist for The Malta Independent, writing twice weekly for the newspaper since 1996. She also wrote a blog called “Running Commentary,” which was followed by in Malta.

A half hour before she was killed, she posted to her web site an item about a libel claim the prime minister’s chief of staff had brought against a former opposition over comments the latter made about corruption.

Caruana Galizia herself had been sued for libel over articles she wrote for her blog. Opposition leader Adrian Delia sued her over a series of stories linking him to a prostitution racket in London. Economy Minister Chris Cardona claimed libel when she wrote that he visited a brothel while in Germany on government business.

Monday evening’s Parliament session was scrapped, except for briefings about the bombing given by Muscat and Delia, who called the reporter’s slaying a “political murder.”

Muscat said he has asked the U.S. government and the FBI for help investigating the car bombing.

Caruana Galizia is survived by her husband and three sons. One son, Matthew, was on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its work on the Panama Papers scandal.

The leak exposed the identities of rich and powerful people around the world who allegedly had offshore holdings in Panama.

Caruana Galizia’s family has asked the Courts of Malta to have the magistrate assigned to conduct the inquiry into the journalist’s death replaced.

The family said the magistrate, Consuelo Scerri Herrera, “in her personal capacity, had launched judicial procedures against (Caruana Galizia) regarding comments she had written.”

Caruana Galizia for many years was a harsh critic of Malta’s Labor party and government. More recently she had expanded her criticism to include the opposition Nationalist Party.

Her slaying drew swift denunciations in the tiny EU nation.

“Daphne played a vitally important role in unearthing serious allegations of money laundering and corruption in Malta, including those involving senior figures in the Maltese government,” said Sven Giegold, a Greens member in the European Parliament.

Italian newsweekly L’Espresso, which has also written about alleged corruption linked to Malta, said the reporter’s murder demonstrated that a well-documented expose’ “is perceived as a danger by the powerful and by organized crime.”

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani in a tweet called the development a “tragic example of a journalist who sacrificed her life to search for the truth.”

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