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'Days of God': A look at Iran's mounting crises

'Days of God': A look at Iran's mounting crisesThe Islamic Republic has been reeling from one crisis to another, from the targeted killing by the United States of its top general to the Revolutionary Guard's accidental shootdown of a passenger plane carrying scores of young people, most of them Iranians. U.S. sanctions have crippled its economy as tensions with America have soared. In a rare Friday sermon in Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stuck to the playbook Iran has relied on since 1979, blaming the country's woes on the U.S. and other Western powers, and proclaiming that Iranians still support the Islamic Revolution.




POSTED JANUARY 17, 2020 7:50 AM

Postpone the Impeachment Trial until the House Finishes Investigating

Postpone the Impeachment Trial until the House Finishes InvestigatingTwo things happened simultaneously on Wednesday: (a) The House of Representatives transmitted to the Senate two articles of impeachment approved on straight partisan lines a month ago, and (b) the House’s impeachment inquiry — yes, it’s still very much alive — highlighted new, relevant evidence it has turned up about the activities in Ukraine of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Giuliani’s associates.The Democrats’ strategy is coming clear.The House provided the Senate with two half-baked impeachment articles. House Democrats rushed through the investigation, forgoing salient witnesses and evidence, because of the political calendar. The charges are weak and the inquiry was needlessly short-circuited, so Democrats have continued investigating the premature allegations. Now they are publicly disclosing newly acquired evidence, with the promise of more to come. Transparently, their goal is to pressure the Senate not merely to conduct a trial but to complete the investigation that the House failed to complete — calling witnesses and gathering evidence, as if a trial were nothing more than an extension of an open-ended grand-jury probe.Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans should not let them get away with it. No trial court would allow itself to be whipsawed this way. A federal judge would tell prosecutors to go back to the grand jury, finish the investigation, and come back to the trial court when they have a case ready to be tried, not investigated.That is not to say new evidence may not be serious. It may be very serious. It could make the case worse for President Trump. But in any event, there should be just one trial, and it should occur when the investigation is complete. This is not supposed to be a non-stop grand jury, with an ever-hovering prospect of new articles of impeachment, in addition to an endless stream of newly emerging materials that the Senate is expected to sort out rather than judge.Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans should hold the two pending articles in abeyance, or vote to dismiss them without prejudice to the House’s revoting them when its impeachment inquiry is finally concluded.The new information that has emerged underscores a strategic error by the president and House Republicans, which I have outlined several times since the Ukraine controversy emerged. They have insisted on fighting the Ukraine allegations on the impossible theory that the president’s communication with his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky, was “perfect,” and that there was no quid pro quo — i.e., no indication that the president was withholding official acts sought by Kyiv ($400 million in defense aid and a White House visit) until its government met his demands (the public announcement that Ukraine would conduct an investigation of the Bidens and into Ukraine’s role in the Trump-Russia investigation).I have contended, to the contrary, that the president’s best defense is that nothing of consequence happened. I have been prepared to assume that the president pressured Ukraine, as alleged. But it was much ado about nothing: Ukraine got the defense aid (and barely knew it had been briefly delayed); Zelensky did not have to make any commitment about investigations; and he got his high-profile audience with President Trump (albeit at the United Nations in New York City, not at the White House). The president’s defense should be that, while there may have been improprieties, nothing here approaches the egregious misconduct required to trigger impeachment.This would be the best strategy in any event. It is an imperative strategy, however, in a situation such as this one, where the investigation is continuing and new information is coming out continuously. Under my approach, if new evidence emerged about the president’s knowledge of or complicity in the pressure campaign on Zelensky, it could be dismissed as mere confirmation of what was already obvious. But because the president and Republicans have taken the tack that nothing inappropriate happened and no pressure was asserted, any evidence of impropriety and pressure can be framed as a bombshell — even though it doesn’t actually change the bottom line.Giuliani associate Lev Parnas is under indictment in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), in a case that has factual overlap with events that were the focus of the House impeachment inquiry. Parnas wants to use his potential value as a witness in the impeachment inquiry as leverage against his SDNY prosecution. So he has begun sharing information from the SDNY case with House investigators. They, in turn, are releasing the information to the media, which are reporting it as ground-shaking revelations.That information (texts, notes, and the like) indicates that Giuliani, representing that he was acting with the president’s knowledge and approval, and in his official capacity as Trump’s private lawyer, sought a meeting with Zelensky in mid May 2019. The implication is that this was part of a then-ongoing plan to push Ukraine for an investigation of the Bidens.Moreover, there are communications between Parnas and Yuriy Lutsenko, a Ukrainian prosecutor who was helping Giuliani investigate possible Biden corruption, about their desire for the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch — the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was eventually removed by the president at the urging of Giuliani (among others). There is enough detail in Parnas’s correspondence about Yovanovitch’s activities that it raises the disturbing specter that he was monitoring an American ambassador.The allegedly unjustified removal of Yovanovitch was extensively covered in the House hearings, which included the ambassador’s testimony. It was mainly atmospheric, rather than substantive. The president does not need a reason to dismiss an ambassador. And while it was vaguely suggested that Yovanovitch was removed because she was seen as an obstacle to pressuring Ukraine for an investigation of the Bidens, that was not established. There are no impeachment articles tied to her removal.If I am right, and Parnas is trying to use his potential value as an impeachment witness as a chip in plea negotiations with the SDNY, that could take time to work out. (The SDNY, whose job is prosecution, not impeachment, would want a guilty plea and full cooperation; Parnas would want immunity.) Meanwhile, the other major storyline is that John Bolton, formerly the president’s national-security adviser, has indicated that he is willing to testify if called. He is patently a relevant witness to the internal administration discussions over delayed defense aid to Ukraine. So is acting chief of staff and budget director Mick Mulvaney. So may be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, if the House’s continuing investigation is focusing on Ambassador Yovanovitch’s dismissal.Plainly, there are loose ends here that the House should have tied up and that, importantly, the House is continuing to investigate. Note that Democrats have been caterwauling that the impeachment trial will not be fair because Senate Republicans are too in-the-tank for Trump to do their duty as impartial decision-makers (as if Democrats were not rabid anti-Trump partisans). But what could more undermine the fairness of a trial than a continuing, very public investigation of the same defendant while that trial is proceeding?No trial judge would put up with that. Prosecutors would not be permitted to present the case before a trial jury while, outside the courtroom, they were prejudicing the trial by continuing to investigate and publicize their findings.There is a very simple solution, one that judges in federal court deal with all the time in cases that are still under investigation when an indictment is initially filed: Don’t schedule the trial until the prosecutors acknowledge to the court that the investigation is over and no further charges are anticipated.It is worth bearing in mind: Impeachment is not just any trial. It stops the legislative business of the United States cold. There will be no movement of bills, no consideration of appointments, no hearings on vital issues such as Iran and the use of force. The impeachment trial will impede the work of the Supreme Court, since the chief justice must preside. In this instance, the impeachment trial will even wreak havoc on the Democratic nomination campaign, as senators — including top-tier contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — must sit as jurors for six days a week.These are costs that must be borne. There has been an impeachment, so the Constitution calls on the Senate to act. But for the sake of our governance, that should mean a single trial, and it should represent the Democrats’ best, most complete case for the president’s removal. That trial should not happen until the investigation is done and the charges are fully ripe. By contrast, if Republicans allow Democrats to engage in the ongoing gamesmanship — in which the Senate trial would open, but House Democrats plan to throw new evidence into the mix every few days or weeks, demanding that the Senate trial be expanded to investigate what it all means — we would be looking at weeks, maybe months, of governmental paralysis. There is, moreover, basic fairness: The accused is supposed to know what the allegations are before the trial starts — the charges are not supposed to evolve as the trial proceeds.The importance of preserving impeachment as a viable constitutional remedy for presidential misconduct transcends the current administration and Congress. If impeachment must be done, it should be done right. It should not be done as a partisan game of investigative ping-pong between congressional chambers.




POSTED JANUARY 15, 2020 5:34 PM

Political Turmoil to Be ‘New Normal’ for 2020, Risk Firm Says

Political Turmoil to Be ‘New Normal’ for 2020, Risk Firm Says(Bloomberg) -- The violent protests and political upheaval that marked 2019 and challenged governments from Hong Kong to Chile is set to stay and is now the “new normal,” according to a global risk firm.Verisk Maplecroft, which advises corporate clients on political risk around the world, said in a new report released Thursday that it predicts “continued turmoil in 2020” as administrations around the world continue to be surprised by demonstrators and ill-prepared to address the underlying social grievances that spur them.“We all need to buckle up for 2020,” said Miha Hribernik, the Singapore-based head of Asia risk insight for Verisk Maplecroft. “The rage that caught many governments off-guard last year isn’t going anywhere and we’d all better adapt.”Many governments were caught by surprise by the scale and ferocity of the protests and ended up attempting to crackdown on the movements, deploying what human rights group have said were arbitrary arrests and indiscriminate violence. That response has ended up further radicalizing protesters and provoking more violent demonstrations, Verisk Maplecroft said in its Political Risk Outlook 2020.Rising UnrestOf the countries seeing significantly more angry protests than usual, some of the steepest increases on firm’s unrest index were in Chile and Hong Kong. Chile rose from 91st place to 6th on the index as simmering social strife transformed Latin America’s richest and most stable nation into a focal point of chaotic protests that caused some $2 billion of property damages and killed more than two dozen people.Hong Kong similarly rose from 117th to 26th after seven months of pro-democracy street protests, the firm said. Although prompted by a since-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, Verisk Maplecroft added that the “root cause of discontent has been the rollback of civil and political rights since 1997.”India and Iraq, which have both seen determined protests recently, ranked much lower on the list of worsening hot spots because they began last year with heightened levels of unrest. In New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi now faces the most significant challenge to his rule since being first being elected in 2014, as protesters take to the streets criticizing his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party for its anti-Muslim policies.Many governments have “reacted with a combination of repression and limited concessions” which achieved little because resilient protest movements have adapted rapidly to police tactics, Hribernik said.“During 2019, governments worldwidescrambled to find an effective response to protests,” he said. “We don’t see much changing during 2020, and January has so far borne this out -- protesters have continued to turn out in their thousands in Iran, Iraq, India, Chile, Hong Kong and Lebanon -- to name just a few places.”To contact the reporters on this story: Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.net;Hannah Dormido in Hong Kong at hdormido@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Muneeza NaqviFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.




POSTED JANUARY 15, 2020 7:01 PM

FBI arrests 3 alleged neo-Nazis who were armed and anticipating a race war

FBI arrests 3 alleged neo-Nazis who were armed and anticipating a race warThe arrests come ahead of a big gun-rights rally in Virginia, where the governor has warned that there are "credible threats" of malicious activity.




POSTED JANUARY 16, 2020 2:03 PM

'Kill shot that took them out': Video reportedly shows 2nd Iranian missile hitting passenger jet

'Kill shot that took them out': Video reportedly shows 2nd Iranian missile hitting passenger jetSurveillance video circulating on social media appears to show two Iranian missiles slamming into a Ukrainian jet that crashed, killing 176.




POSTED JANUARY 15, 2020 3:58 PM

Secrets Stolen: What Will China Do With Data On Israel's Iron Dome Missile Defense?

Secrets Stolen: What Will China Do With Data On Israel's Iron Dome Missile Defense?If China can break into top-secret Israeli computers, they can break into America’s—and everybody else’s, too.




POSTED JANUARY 17, 2020

Republican tells female reporter 30 schoolboys ‘could have a lot of fun’ with her

Republican tells female reporter 30 schoolboys ‘could have a lot of fun’ with herA Republican lawmaker is facing calls for a sexual harassment investigation after he told a young female reporter that a group of high school boys “could have a lot of fun” with her.Peter Lucido, a Michigan state senator, has been accused of making inappropriate comments to local reporter Allison Donahue during a tour of the state Capitol.




POSTED JANUARY 16, 2020 8:09 AM

Philippine volcano shows signs of calming, but danger remains

Philippine volcano shows signs of calming, but danger remainsA Philippine volcano that has been spewing ash for days appeared to be calming down on Thursday, but seismologists said the danger of an eruption remained high and authorities warned evacuees not to return to their homes. Some residents took advantage of what they perceived as a lull in the activity of Taal, one of country's most active and deadliest volcanoes, to return home even though a 14 kms (nine mile) exclusion zone remained in place. "We are analyzing what this seeming calm of the volcano means," Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told reporters.




POSTED JANUARY 15, 2020 10:38 PM

The TSA apologized after an agent pulled a Native American passenger's braid and said "giddyup!" during a pat down

The TSA apologized after an agent pulled a Native American passenger's braid and said "giddyup!" during a pat downTara Houska was going through security at the Minneapolis airport on Monday when she said an agent humiliated her by whipping her braids.




POSTED JANUARY 17, 2020 12:43 PM

When Iran Took Americans Hostage, Bernie Backed Iran’s Defenders

When Iran Took Americans Hostage, Bernie Backed Iran’s DefendersBernie Sanders, a top competitor in the Democratic primaries, has attacked Joe Biden for bringing “just a lot of baggage” into the race. But if past views are a major consideration, consider the baggage that Sanders drags into the campaign.Go back over 40 years, to the start of Iran’s long conflict with the United States. On April 1, 1979, the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran was proclaimed. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had returned to Iran from exile to assume command of the revolt, became Supreme Leader in December of that year. His rise was accelerated by the seizure on Nov. 4 of 52 American diplomats and citizens, and citizens of other countries, at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The hostage crisis became the means by which the Ayatollah crushed political opponents in Iran. Dealing with the hostage taking became the overwhelming political crisis for President Jimmy Carter. It lasted 444 days. Virtually all Americans—Democrats, Republicans and independents—united in support of the hostages and the international call for their freedom. One prominent political figure on the 2020 stage, then almost completely unknown, stood apart by joining a Marxist-Leninist party that not only pledged support for the Iranian theocracy, but also justified the hostage taking by insisting the hostages were all likely CIA agents. Who was that person? It was Bernie Sanders.  Sanders would like the public to believe, as an AP story put it, that “democratic socialism [is] the economic philosophy that has guided his political career.” But that has not always been the case. In 1977, he left the tiny left-wing Liberty Union Party of Vermont that he’d co-founded, and in 1980 instead aligned himself with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the self-proclaimed Trotskyist revolutionary party, became its presidential elector in Vermont, and campaigned for its candidates and platform that defended the Iranian hostage seizure.  In fact, the SWP’s position on Iran is part of what distinguishes it from democratic socialist groups. When its presidential candidate, Andrew Pulley, came to speak at the University of Vermont in October 1980, Sanders chaired the meeting. Pulley attracted only 40 students to his rally, where he concentrated, according to the SWP’s newspaper The Militant, “on the Iran-Iraq war,” and condemned “anti-Iranian hysteria around the U.S. hostages.” Military action against Iran was not at that point theoretical—Pulley’s speech came six months after the attempt to free the hostages in Operation Eagle Claw had failed. In his standard stump speech, Pulley condemned “Carter’s war drive against the Iranian people,” and said that the U.S. “was on the brink of war with Iran,” which would be fought “to protect the oil and banking interests of the Rockefellers and other billionaires.” Americans, he predicted, would soon “pay on the battlefields with our very own lives.” Their criticism of the Ayatollah was intended “to get us ready for war.” And, Pulley charged, the media who criticized those of us who were against “American imperialism” were “declared insane.”  As for the hostages, Pulley said “we can be sure that many of them are simply spies… or people assigned to protect the spies.”  Pulley’s words were a direct echo of what the Islamic  Society of University Teachers and Students had declared on Nov. 4, 1979 : “We defend the capture of this imperialist embassy, which is a center for espionage.” Six months after the 1980 election, on May 21, 1981, Sanders spoke at another Pulley rally. “For the last 40 years,” Sanders said, “the Socialist Workers Party has… been harassed, informed upon, had their offices broken into, had members of their party fired from their jobs, and have been treated with cold contempt by the United States government.”  Even worse, he went on, apparently referring to the Iranian hostage crisis, “now anybody who stands up and fights and says things is automatically a terrorist.” He claimed that he had been investigated himself by the FBI because “I was an elector for the Socialist Workers Party,” referring to his formal role in the 1980 election with the Trotskyists.    The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Asked about the SWP in 1988, Sanders, then the mayor of Burlington and a congressional candidate, talked down the connection, saying that: “I was asked to put my name on the ballot and I did, that’s true." Today, no mention of Sanders’ association with the SWP appears in any campaign biography he has issued. But Sanders remained tied to the party after 1980. He was a featured speaker at a Boston rally for the SWP’s Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate and the party’s slate for Congress in 1982, the year after he was narrowly elected mayor of Burlington. In 1984, he again spoke on behalf of the SWP’s presidential candidate, this time former Black Panther Mel Mason, telling The Militant that “at a time when the Democratic and Republican parties are intellectually and spiritually bankrupt, it is imperative for radical voices to be heard which offer fundamental alternatives to capitalist ideology." It remains unclear when Sanders’s affiliation with the SWP ended.  Of course, Sanders had a right to his beliefs. But he has not been fully transparent about what those beliefs, connections, and loyalties have been over the years. Sanders says that he has been consistently and firmly dedicated to democratic socialism. His record, however, reveals a very different story around the time of the Iranian hostage crisis. But Democratic voters today concerned above all with defeating Donald Trump and the electability of their prospective presidential candidate need to know the whole of Sanders’ history. He has not always been the democratic socialist he claims to be. Sanders could have supported the Socialist Party, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, or Social-Democrats U.S.A., the three leading democratic socialist organizations existing in 1980. He rejected them. Instead he embraced a Marxist-Leninist communist sect that proclaimed its solidarity with Iran. The preeminent democratic socialist of the time, Michael Harrington, wrote that the hostage taking was “terribly wrong,” and that “the original evil was compounded by the psychological and physical brutalization to which at least some of the hostages were subjected. The moral stance of those who denounce such acts is clear and compelling.” Far from denouncing the acts, Sanders stood with those who applauded the hostage taking. If Sanders were to become the Democratic presidential nominee, all this will come pouring out in Trump ads on television and social media. Voters  will see TV clips of the American hostages, blindfolded and abused, alongside Sanders as the Trotskyist elector supporting the Iranian kidnappers. Rest assured, Trump will make absolutely sure that it is Sanders’ own past that will bury him and perhaps the Democratic Party. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.




POSTED JANUARY 16, 2020 5:00 AM

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