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Thursday, March 22, 2018

John Dowd Resigns as Trump’s Lead Lawyer in Special Counsel Inquiry - The New York Times













"WASHINGTON — The president’s lead lawyer for the special counsel investigation, John Dowd, resigned on Thursday, according to two people briefed on the matter, days after the president called for an end to the inquiry.

Mr. Dowd, who took over the president’s legal team last summer, had considered leaving several times in recent months and ultimately concluded that Mr. Trump was increasingly ignoring his advice, one of the people said. Under Mr. Dowd’s leadership, Mr. Trump’s lawyers had advised him to cooperate with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russia’s election interference and possible ties to Trump associates as well as whether the president obstructed the inquiry.

Mr. Dowd’s departure comes as the president has made clear he is seeking a more aggressive response to Mr. Mueller’s investigation. The president has in recent days begun publicly assailing Mr. Mueller, a shift in tone that appears to be born of Mr. Trump’s concern that the investigation is bearing down on him more directly. He has also privately insisted he should sit for an interview with the special counsel’s office, even though Mr. Dowd believed it was a bad idea.

Mr. Trump now is veering toward the combative approach supported by his longtime personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, who stepped back last summer but was still in contact with the president occasionally over the past several months.

John Dowd Resigns as Trump’s Lead Lawyer in Special Counsel Inquiry - The New York Times: ""

Stephon Clark shooting: Sacramento police release body camera video showing death - The Washington Post

Stephon Clark shooting: Sacramento police release body camera video showing death - The Washington Post

The Daily 202: Winners and losers in the spending bill - The Washington Post 3. The “dreamers”: This was also probably the last opportunity before the midterms to protect the undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children, as part of a deal for wall funding. They continue to be left in limbo.

The Daily 202: Winners and losers in the spending bill - The Washington Post

Why Is Trump So Afraid of Russia? - The New York Times

"The former C.I.A. director John Brennan pulled no punches on Wednesday when he was asked why President Trump had congratulated his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for his victory in a rigged election, even after Mr. Trump’s national security staff warned him not to.

“I think he’s afraid of the president of Russia,” Mr. Brennan said, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, of the phone call on Tuesday between the two presidents. “The Russians, I think, have had long experience with Mr. Trump and may have things they could expose.”

The possibility that Mr. Putin could have some hold on the American president has lurked in the background over the past year as Mr. Trump displayed a mystifying affection for the Russian leader and ignored or excused his aggressive behavior and nefarious activities, most important, his interference in the 2016 campaign, a subject of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Some Trump defenders noted that President Barack Obama also called Mr. Putin when he was elected president in 2012.

But the circumstances are very different. In the intervening years, Mr. Putin has become an increasingly authoritarian leader who has crushed most of his political opposition and engineered a deeply lopsided re-election this week. American intelligence officials say they are certain that he meddled in the 2016 American election on behalf of Mr. Trump and is trying to meddle again in the 2018 election, as well as in many European elections.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, is waging war in other parts of Ukraine and is enabling President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

While the administration recently imposed its first significant sanctions on Russia for election interference and other malicious cyberattacks and has faulted Russia for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain, Mr. Trump has refrained from criticizing Mr. Putin or calling him to account. The phone call reinforced that approach.

What Mr. Trump didn’t say to Mr. Putin was as significant as what he did say. He did not demand that Mr. Putin stop meddling in American elections or others, he did not even raise Moscow’s role in the poisoning.

He made no mention of the unfair political system that deprives Russians of a real say in their government. The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, later reinforced Mr. Trump’s lack of interest, telling reporters it was not America’s place to question how other countries conduct their elections.

The disparity between Mr. Trump and his advisers, who seem to take threats from Russia more seriously, is becoming more pronounced.

A senior administration official told The Times that Mr. Trump didn’t want to antagonize Mr. Putin because fostering rapport is the only way to improve relations between the two countries. On Tuesday, the president said he hoped to meet Mr. Putin soon and discuss preventing an arms race — an arms race both leaders have encouraged with loose talk and investment in new weapons.

Engaging Russia and preventing an arms race are undeniably important. But it’s hard to see how praising and appeasing a bully will advance American interests. That’s not the approach Mr. Trump has taken with adversaries like North Korea or Iran, or, for that matter, even with some allies.

While Mr. Trump panders to Mr. Putin, his criticism of Mr. Mueller, is becoming harsher, as the investigation raises increasingly serious concerns about a web of ties connecting Mr. Trump’s associates to Russia.

Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has pleaded guilty to lying about his involvement with Russia. A former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying about his involvement with Russians. A former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, who had his own Russian connections along with a now-indicted former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has pleaded guilty to lying about Russian-related matters.

Mr. Mueller has subpoenaed Mr. Trump’s company for any documents involving Russia. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee say Mr. Trump was “actively negotiating a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank” during the 2016 campaign season.

And Mr. Mueller has charged 13 Russians with conspiring to subvert the 2016 election and put Mr. Trump in the White House.

Mr. Brennan’s fears clearly arise from some of these elements.

Mr. Brennan knows more than most about possible threats to America, but he is not the only one speaking out. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, slammed Mr. Trump, saying “an American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections.” Even the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who rarely crosses Mr. Trump, said calling Mr. Putin “wouldn’t have been high on my list.”

If Mr. Trump isn’t Mr. Putin’s lackey, it’s past time for him to prove it."

Why Is Trump So Afraid of Russia? - The New York Times

Republicans Start Talking Impeachment | The 11th Hour | MSNBC

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

F.B.I. Investigated Sessions for Possible Perjury Over Russia Denials - The New York Times



















 "WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. investigated Attorney General Jeff Sessions for possible perjury last year over congressional testimony in which he said he had no contacts with Russians, according to three people familiar with the case.

In fact, Mr. Sessions later acknowledged, he had personally met the Russian ambassador to the United States during the campaign and was aware that George Papadopoulos, a campaign adviser, had developed Russian ties, too. F.B.I. agents were aware of both inaccuracies in real time. And last March, when Congress asked the F.B.I. to investigate the attorney general, agents began doing so, two of the people said.

Andrew G. McCabe, the F.B.I.’s deputy director at the time, authorized the investigation, the two people said. Mr. McCabe himself was recently fired for showing “lack of candor” in an internal investigation. Mr. Sessions rejected Mr. McCabe’s appeal and fired him hours before his retirement was to take effect, jeopardizing his pension.

The investigation into Mr. Sessions began before Robert S. Mueller III was appointed special counsel to investigate Russia-related matters. Mr. Sessions’s lawyer, Chuck Cooper, said no investigation is being conducted now."

F.B.I. Investigated Sessions for Possible Perjury Over Russia Denials - The New York Times

"WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. investigated Attorney General Jeff Sessions for possible perjury last year over congressional testimony in which he said he had no contacts with Russians, according to three people familiar with the case.


In fact, Mr. Sessions later acknowledged, he had personally met the Russian ambassador to the United States during the campaign and was aware that George Papadopoulos, a campaign adviser, had developed Russian ties, too. F.B.I. agents were aware of both inaccuracies in real time. And last March, when Congress asked the F.B.I. to investigate the attorney general, agents began doing so, two of the people said.


Andrew G. McCabe, the F.B.I.’s deputy director at the time, authorized the investigation, the two people said. Mr. McCabe himself was recently fired for showing “lack of candor” in an internal investigation. Mr. Sessions rejected Mr. McCabe’s appeal and fired him hours before his retirement was to take effect, jeopardizing his pension.


The investigation into Mr. Sessions began before Robert S. Mueller III was appointed special counsel to investigate Russia-related matters. Mr. Sessions’s lawyer, Chuck Cooper, said no investigation is being conducted now."


The Last Jim Crow Generation

"White voters turning 70 this year are among Donald Trump’s most enthusiastic demographic blocs. His support weakens in younger age groups, especially those too young to have been shaped by Jim Crow. Shift to an older demographic in which voters, like former President George H.W. Bush, remember Hitler, and Trump’s support softens.

Oddly, in a nation reaching new heights of prosperity, freedom and international power, many white voters born in 1946 are lathered into a panic, desperate to “Make America Great Again.” Their hysteria defies ready explanation, but clues might be uncovered with a survey of their formative years. This is America's last generation raised under Jim Crow.

Like Donald Trump, white voters turning 70 this year had already reached adulthood in 1964, the year that the first Civil Rights Act was passed. They started kindergarten in schools that were almost universally white. Most were in third grade when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education. A good number of them would complete their public education in formally segregated schools.

Among those who played sports in school, few would ever compete against a black player. They would be 17 the first time a black player was allowed on the field in a college football game against a Southern SO -0.72% school, a game in which the crowd chanted “kill the n****r.” These voters would be 35 years old when Vince Evans became the NFL’s first black first-string quarterback.

When this generation applied to college, higher education was a carefully groomed preserve of white men, insulating them not only from racial minorities, but competition from women. Virtually every administrator, professor and admissions officer was a white man. Most colleges had begun granting admission to women, but they were still barred from some of the country's most elite institutions. Women were not admitted as undergraduates at Yale until 1969. Voters born in 1946 were 29 years old before the first woman would be allowed to head a major research university.

Men born in 1946 enjoyed similar social and economic protections if they skipped college. Unions, like the academy, were a white domain. As with academia, some unions allowed limited minority or female participation, but leadership was almost universally male and white. White men graduating from high school in 1964 found that almost all government jobs, from local positions with police and fire departments to professional positions in the federal civil service, were set aside just for them.

If they ever landed in trouble, white men found their behavior adjudicated by other white men. With only the rarest exceptions, every police officer, judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, bailiff and jailor they faced was a white man. When they became adults, every minister they encountered was a white man. Every banker, attorney, accountant, realtor, doctor or bureaucrat they dealt with was a white man. Most of these voters would be in their forties or fifties before ever interacting a black professional in any capacity. Growing up, nearly every black person or woman they encountered occupied a subservient position.

Across roughly half of America, voters born in 1946 would have been adults before they ever saw a black person eat in a restaurant dining room, stay in their hotel, or enter a restroom with them. In the South, these voters spent all of their formative years drinking from the whites’ only fountain.

When these voters were buying their first homes, their black peers were still blocked from obtaining a conventional mortgage, keeping prices low for white buyers and protecting their preferential access to credit. Voters born in 1946 would be 28 years old before women acquired the right to get a credit card in their own name. They had reached the age of 26 before a woman would head a Fortune 500 company. They would live more than 40 years before ever seeing a black man head a Fortune 500 company. They would be halfway through their careers before realtors were forced to start showing black buyers homes in white neighborhoods.

Voters born in 1946 would be at least 24 years old before they saw their first interracial kiss on TV (on Star Trek in 1968). Many if not most of these voters would be well into their forties or fifties before they ever saw a black character on film who was not playing a criminal, a slave or a buffoon.

Flag sold at Donald Trump near Richmond, VA, June, 20126 Credit: M. Scott Mahaskey on Twitter Credit: M. Scott Mahaskey on Twitter

Flag sold at Donald Trump near Richmond, VA, June, 2016 (M. Scott Mahaskey, posted at Twitter)

In 1971, no woman had ever been elected Governor without assuming her husband’s seat. These voters would be 30 years old the first time an openly gay man, Harvey Milk, would win elected office in the United States. Milk was assassinated two years later.

They would reach their sixties before seeing a black man become President. Some would respond by launching the Tea Party. In 2016, many would help nominate Donald Trump and screech their intention to “Make America Great Again.”

White voters born in the same year as Donald Trump would spend much of their lives in a world crafted to reinforce their sense of racial superiority. They came of age protected like a Soviet state-owned factory. Exposed suddenly to competition, some are not thriving. They are experiencing very real trauma as the world they once knew, a world dedicated to their protection, erodes away.

Explanations are not excuses, but history can at least shed light on their otherwise baffling behavior. For the last Jim Crow generation, making America great again has a special meaning. What was great for them was not quite so great for everyone else."

The Last Jim Crow Generation

Trump knocks DOJ over DACA driver’s license case | TheHill

Trump knocks DOJ over DACA driver’s license case

"Trump knocks DOJ over DACA driver’s license case

President Trump on Wednesday lashed out at the Justice Department, hitting the agency for not challenging an appeals court ruling that Arizona cannot deny driver's licenses to immigrants without legal status.

In a tweet, the president said the agency should have pushed for the Supreme Court to intervene after a Tuesday decision issued by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that said Arizona overstepped by refusing to issue driver's licenses to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients...."

Trump knocks DOJ over DACA driver’s license case | TheHill

Mark Zuckerberg Is Silent Amid Facebook's Privacy Scandal

Bill Maher Talks Donald Trump, Racism, & The 47%

John Oliver on His Children's Book About VP Pence’s Gay Bunny, Marlon Bundo

Bannon oversaw Cambridge Analytica’s collection of Facebook data, according to former employee - The Washington Post

Bannon oversaw Cambridge Analytica’s collection of Facebook data, according to former employee - The Washington Post

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

'Utterly horrifying': ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine | News | The Guardian

Sandy Parakilas in San Francisco

"Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.

Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach.

“My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he said.

Parakilas said Facebook had terms of service and settings that “people didn’t read or understand” and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused.

Parakilas, whose job it was to investigate data breaches by developers similar to the one later suspected of Global Science Research, which harvested tens of millions of Facebook profiles and provided the data to Cambridge Analytica, said the slew of recent disclosures had left him disappointed with his superiors for not heeding his warnings.

“It has been painful watching,” he said. “Because I know that they could have prevented it.”

'Utterly horrifying': ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine | News | The Guardian

Let The Robert Mueller Tweets Begin!

Trump lawyer's new interview about alleged Stormy Daniels threats In a new interview, Trump's attorney Michael Cohen responds to the alleged physical threats against Stormy Daniels. Lawrence O'Donnell reminds us of Cohen's long history of threatening people on behalf of Trump. David Cay Johnston and Kurt Andersen join. - The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC

The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC

Stormy Daniels — not Robert Mueller — might spell Trump’s doom - The Washington Post

"It was just a little thing, a scratch, that he failed to treat and gangrene set in and it was killing him. They were on safari, in Africa, and their truck had broken down and the rescue plane was never going to make it in time. This is the way Harry died in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” I reread it the other day because of President Trump. I think of him as Harry. Stormy Daniels is the scratch.

The saga of the adult-film star and the juvenile president has become a rollicking affair. Each step of the way, Daniels has out-Trumped Trump. She is as shameless as he, a publicity hound who adheres to the secular American religion that, to be famous, even for nothing much, is to be rich. By and large, that’s not true, but then there is Kim Kardashian to prove otherwise.

Daniels alleges she and Trump had an affair beginning in 2006. The president’s lawyer and his press secretary allege that the allegations are not true. The lawyer, Michael Cohen, does admit to paying Daniels $130,000, apparently to keep her silent about an affair that, according to Cohen, did not happen. To do this, Cohen set up a private Delaware company and concocted false names for everyone involved — the allegation-maker and the allegation-denier. Only the name Delaware is legit.

The payment of $130,000 over an affair that did not happen did not deter Daniels. For one thing, no one could possibly believe Cohen paid a woman not to talk about a sexual interlude that did not happen. (What’s the price for one that did happen?) I, for one, am understandably mortified that any lawyer named Cohen could be that stupid. Second, the various deniers, both at the Trump Organization and at the White House, keep confirming that Trump and Daniels were fighting it out in court. For instance, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently said that Trump’s lawyers had won an arbitration case “ in the president’s favor . ” Bingo!

Sometime in the last month or two, it must have occurred to Trump that he is up against himself. Daniels is indefatigable. She appears everywhere. She makes statements, vows, rebuttals and allegations and is scheduled to appear this Sunday on “60 Minutes.” Trump must be shaking his head in admiration. He supposedly used to call in gossip items about himself to New York reporters, employing a false name and false voice. He even exulted in publicity about his extramarital affair with Marla Maples, who was overheard by the New York Post alleging it was the “best sex I’ve ever had.”

Sometimes, as with the Iran-Iraq War, it is hard to take sides. Here, too, it is difficult. Daniels, after all, is a porn actress. She directs and writes screenplays as well, but she is best known for having sex in the movies — turning what used to be called a romp in the hay into a payday. But, with the inadvertent cooperation of Trump and his band of merry incompetents, she now comes across as the victim. Cohen says he can demand as much as $20 million from her for breaching a nondisclosure agreement. In other words, they’re out to crush her.

This, then, is not about Russians with Dostoevsky-ish tongue-twisters for names, or the financial machinations of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and others. It’s not even about Hillary Clinton or the FBI — which was once the paragon of civic virtue but now, inexplicably and not credibly, is rotten to the core. It’s about a woman up against a bully and it makes other things explicable: This is what Trump did to Andrew McCabe, fired from the FBI hours before he qualified for his pension. Crushed.

In pre-Trump days, it might have been possible to destroy Daniels by calling her a slut or whatever. But Trump himself is a slut. He is a liar and a moral harlot who revels in irresponsibility and bad-boy behavior. He has no moral edge over his accuser. We have all been instructed by Trump himself to disregard schoolhouse virtues of honesty, dignity and rectitude. Trump himself travels light.

It was the little thing that killed Harry on safari. It was the unattended cut, the disabled truck, the tardy rescue plane. As he died, he dreamed of Kilimanjaro, “unbelievably white in the sun” but the hyena that had been stalking him made “a strange, human, almost crying sound,” and he knew what the hyena already knew. It is what Trump is learning."

Stormy Daniels — not Robert Mueller — might spell Trump’s doom - The Washington Post

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tribe: Trump 'orchestrating a massive cover-up' worse than Nixon

Tribe: Trump 'orchestrating a massive cover-up' worse than Nixon

Matthews: The Mueller Probe won’t end well for Trump

Matthews: The Mueller Probe won’t end well for Trump

Stormy Daniels' Lawyer: Fox News won't book me

Stormy Daniels' Lawyer: Fox News won't book me

Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys - The New York Times

"Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in ome of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children.

White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households.

Even when children grow up next to each other with parents who earn similar incomes, black boys fare worse than white boys in 99 percent of America. And the gaps only worsen in the kind of neighborhoods that promise low poverty and good schools.

According to the study, led by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau, income inequality between blacks and whites is driven entirely by what is happening among these boys and the men they become. Though black girls and women face deep inequality on many measures, black and white girls from families with comparable earnings attain similar individual incomes as adults..."

Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys - The New York Times

‘You Will Not Destroy America’: A Trump Battle Is No Longer One-Sided - The New York Times

"... Other former officials who have been the subject of the president’s taunts have also had choice words for him on Twitter. John O. Brennan, a former C.I.A. director who now refers to himself as “a nonpartisan American who is very concerned about our collective future,” attacked the president’s character on Saturday.

“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history,” wrote Mr. Brennan, whom Mr. Trump once called “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington.” “You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you.”

‘You Will Not Destroy America’: A Trump Battle Is No Longer One-Sided - The New York Times

Jimmy Kimmel’s Shocking Discovery About Trump Merchandise

Mike Pence: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Team Trump: Expect Trump to Attack Mueller More Directly #ManchuranPresident. #ResistanceIsNotFutile

















"On Saturday, Donald Trump did something he’d never done before, something his closest advisers had warned him not to do: He tweeted Robert Mueller’s name.

But what seemed like a frantic, even panicked, bit of late-night lashing-out is actually a sign of things to come. Multiple aides and Trump confidants tell The Daily Beast that they believe this will not be the last time the president goes after the Justice Department special counsel on his frenetic Twitter feed. And that’s making some of them nervous.
The president, those close to him say, is determined to more directly confront the federal probe into his campaign’s potential role in alleged Russian election interference, even if it means exacerbating his legal standing amid an investigation that has already ensnared some of his most senior campaign and White House aides.

Two sources who speak regularly with Trump said they had noticed an uptick in recent months in the frequency of the annoyance the president would express regarding Mueller and his team, and the irritation at the deluge of negative news stories regarding the probe.
Last week, for instance, The New York Times reported that Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, some pertaining to Russia—a demand for personal financial details that the president famously said would be crossing a “red line” in an interview with the Times last year.

Still, on Sunday, White House lawyer Ty Cobb blasted out a statement to reporters that simply assured, “in response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

The White House press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But some of the president’s more prominent allies—on Capitol Hill, in the administration, and in pro-Trump media circles—looked on with unease as Trump attempted to undermine the special counsel’s probe

Team Trump: Expect Trump to Attack Mueller More Directly:

The Trump presidency is rotten to the core - The Washington Post


Screen Shot 2018 03 19 at 12 13 11 PM






















Rotten to the core - The Washington Post

Austin bombing: Police say fourth explosion possibly detonated by tripwire, connected to earlier package bombs - The Washington Post



Trump: The Un-American President - The New York Times

"By Charles M Blow

"“I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ ”

That, as reported by The Washington Post, was Donald Trump boasting during a private fund-raising dinner about lying to Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, our northern neighbor and closest ally.

When caught in the lie, Trump did what Trump does: Repeats the lie, louder, stronger, and more stridently.

After the lie was reported, Trump tweeted:

“We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive). P.M. Justin Trudeau of Canada, a very good guy, doesn’t like saying that Canada has a Surplus vs. the U.S. (negotiating), but they do … they almost all do … and that’s how I know!”

By the way, here is PolitiFact’s fact-check of Trump’s claim:

“In 2017, the United States had a $23.2 billion deficit with Canada in goods. In other words, the United States in 2017 bought more goods from Canada than Canada bought from the United States.

However, the United States had a $25.9 billion surplus with Canada in services — and that was enough to overcome that deficit and turn the overall balance of trade into a $2.8 billion surplus for the United States in 2017. The same pattern occurred in 2016.”

It bears repeating that Donald Trump is a pathological, unrepentant liar. We must state this truth for as long as he revels in untruth.

But there is something about the nakedness of this confession, the brazenness of it, the cavalier-ness, that still has the ability to shock.

First, why does the president of the United States not know whether we have a trade surplus or deficit with Canada? A pillar of his campaign was to renegotiate Nafta. Surely he understood the basic fundamentals before making wild accusations and unrealistic promises, right? Wrong.

Trump’s recalling of the story suggested that he was somehow overpowering and outmaneuvering Trudeau, free to best him because he was unencumbered by an allegiance to the truth.

But in fact, the story makes Trump look small and ignorant and unprincipled.

Lying to your friends and then bragging behind their backs that you lied to them is the quickest way to poison a friendship.

This is lying for sport, for the thrill of it, because you can and feel that there is no penalty for it.

Our relationship with our allies around the world depends on some degree of mutual trust and respect. What must they think when they watch Trump demolish those diplomatic tenets? How are international agreements supposed to be negotiated when one party is a proven, prolific liar?

We have no idea just how damaged the American brand has become under Trump.

As a June 2017 Pew Research Center report pointed out:

“Although he has only been in office a few months, Donald Trump’s presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States. Trump and many of his key policies are broadly unpopular around the globe, and ratings for the U.S. have declined steeply in many nations.”

The report continued:

“According to a new Pew Research Center survey spanning 37 nations, a median of just 22 percent has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64 percent expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world.”

Surely, some may think this lie to Trudeau is a small matter, particularly in light of the waves of Trump chaos and scandal that wash over us several times a day.

But it is this damaging of truth, this injuring of American identity, this undercutting of American credibility that will be the hardest to reverse.

One of Trump’s most lasting legacies will likely be the damage he’s doing to the fundamental idea that truth matters.

The world is watching, and that includes the world’s children, some of whom will register him as their first American president. How will they regard this absence from world leadership that Trump is enacting? Will they grow up repulsed by it? Most hopefully will. But there will undoubtedly be others that draw a different lesson from the Trump philosophy: Create your own reality; populate it with “facts” of your own creation; use lying as a tactic; remember that strict adherence to truth is a moral barrier and morality is a burden.

This is what this man is projecting: A debauched character and a hollow place where integrity should exist.

Rather than preserving the nobility of the presidency, he is debasing it. Rather than burnishing the image of America, he is tarnishing it.

It is an awful fact that the most powerful man in America may also represent the worst of America. In a way, Trump is the un-American president."

Trump: The Un-American President - The New York Times

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I went to prison for disclosing the CIA’s torture. Gina Haspel helped cover it up. - The Washington Post

"I was inside the CIA’s Langley, Va., headquarters on Sept. 11, 2001. Like all Americans, I was traumatized, and I volunteered to go overseas to help bring al-Qaeda’s leaders to justice. I headed counterterrorism operations in Pakistan from January to May 2002. My team captured dozens of al-Qaeda fighters, including senior training-camp commanders. One of the fighters whom I played an integral role in capturing was Abu Zubaida, mistakenly thought at the time to be the third-ranking person in the militant group.

By that May, the CIA had decided to torture him. When I returned to CIA headquarters that month, a senior officer in the Counterterrorism Center asked me if I wanted to be “trained in the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.” I had never heard the term, so I asked what it meant. After a brief explanation, I declined. I said that I had a moral and ethical problem with torture and that — the judgment of the Justice Department notwithstanding — I thought it was illegal.

Unfortunately, there were plenty of people in the U.S. government who were all too willing to allow the practice to go on. One of them was Gina Haspel, whom President Trump nominated Tuesday as the CIA’s next director.

Putting Haspel in charge of the CIA would undo attempts by the agency — and the nation — to repudiate torture. The message this sends to the CIA workforce is simple: Engage in war crimes, in crimes against humanity, and you’ll get promoted. Don’t worry about the law. Don’t worry about ethics. Don’t worry about morality or the fact that torture doesn’t even work. Go ahead and do it anyway. We’ll cover for you. And you can destroy the evidence, too.

Described in the media as a “seasoned intelligence veteran,” Haspel has been at the CIA for 33 years, both at headquarters and in senior positions overseas. Now the deputy director, she has tried hard to stay out of the public eye. Mike Pompeo, the outgoing CIA director and secretary of state designee, has lauded her “uncanny ability to get things done and inspire those around her.”

I’m sure that’s true for some. But many of the rest of us who knew and worked with Haspel at the CIA called her “Bloody Gina.”

The CIA will not let me repeat her résumé or the widely reported specifics of how her work fit into the agency’s torture program, calling such details “currently and properly classified.” But I can say that Haspel was a protege of and chief of staff for Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s notorious former deputy director for operations and former director of the Counterterrorism Center. And that Rodriguez eventually assigned Haspel to order the destruction of videotaped evidence of the torture of Abu Zubaida. The Justice Department investigated, but no one was ever charged in connection with the incident.

CIA officers and psychologists under contract to the agency began torturing Abu Zubaida on Aug. 1, 2002. The techniques were supposed to be incremental, starting with an open-palmed slap to the belly or the face. But the operatives where he was held decided to start with the toughest method. They waterboarded Abu Zubaida 83 times. They later subjected him to sleep deprivation; they kept him locked in a large dog cage for weeks at a time; they locked him in a coffin-size box and, knowing that he had an irrational fear of insects, put bugs in it with him.

Rodriguez would later tell reporters that the torture worked and that Abu Zubaida provided actionable intelligence that disrupted attacks and saved American lives. We know, thanks to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture and the personal testimony of FBI interrogator Ali Soufan , that this was false.

I knew what was happening to Abu Zubaida because of my position in CIA operations at the time. I kept my mouth shut about it, even after I left the CIA in 2004. But by 2007, I had had enough.

President George W. Bush had steadfastly denied to the American people that there was a torture program. I knew that was a lie. I knew torture didn’t work. And I knew it was illegal. So in December 2007, I granted an interview to ABC News in which I said that the CIA was torturing its prisoners, that torture was official U.S. government policy and that the policy had been personally approved by the president. The FBI began investigating me immediately.

A year later, the Justice Department concluded that I had not committed a crime. But CIA leaders were still furious that I had aired the agency’s dirty laundry. The CIA asked the new Obama Justice Department to reopen the case against me. It did, and three years later, I was charged with five felonies , including three counts of espionage, resulting from that ABC News interview and a subsequent interview with the New York Times . Of course, I hadn’t committed espionage, and the charges were eventually dropped, but only after I agreed to plea to a lesser charge. I served 23 months in prison.

It was worth every day. Largely because the CIA’s conduct became public, Congress has specifically prohibited waterboarding and other techniques that the agency used at the secret sites. A ban on torture is now the law of the land.

But while I went to prison for disclosing the torture program, Haspel is about to get a promotion despite her connection to it. Trump’s move hurts morale among CIA officers who recognize that torture is wrong. It comforts people at the agency who still believe “enhanced interrogation” is somehow acceptable. I spoke with a senior officer this past week who said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” There’s an attitude of defeatism among opponents of torture.

And the message it sends to our friends and allies (and the countries we criticize in the State Department’s annual human rights reports) is this: We say we’re a shining city on a hill, a beacon of respect for human rights, civil rights, civil liberties and the rule of law. But actually, that’s nonsense. We say those things when it’s expedient. We say them to make ourselves feel good. But when push comes to shove, we do what we want, international law be damned.

The meaning of Haspel’s nomination won’t be lost on our enemies, either. The torture program and similar abuses at military-run prisons in Iraq were among the greatest recruitment tools that al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other bad actors ever had, according to legal experts, U.S. lawmakers and even the militants themselves. It energized them and gave them something to rally against. It sowed an even deeper hatred of the United States among militant groups. It swelled their ranks. It was no coincidence that the Islamic State paraded its prisoners in front of cameras wearing orange jumpsuits (like those worn by Guantanamo Bay detainees) before beheading them. Haspel and the others at the CIA who engineered and oversaw the torture program are at least partially responsible for that, because they showed the world how the United States sometimes treats captives.

Do we Americans want to remain a nation that tortures people, like North Korea, China and Iran? Are we proud of the era when we snatched people from one country and sent them to another to be interrogated in secret prisons? Do we want to be the country that cynically preaches human rights and then violates those same rights when we think nobody is looking?

Our country cannot afford that. We cannot look the other way. We cannot reward the torturers. Gina Haspel has no business running the CIA."

I went to prison for disclosing the CIA’s torture. Gina Haspel helped cover it up. - The Washington Post

Chris Hayes: What ‘Law and Order’ Means to Trump - The New York Times

"Donald Trump is not subtle. While normal political language functions through implication and indirection, Mr. Trump luxuriates in saying the quiet part loud. But in doing so, Mr. Trump exposes what drives the politics of the movement he commands. That is most evident in the way he talks about crime and punishment.

No president since Richard Nixon has embraced the weaponized rhetoric of “law and order” as avidly as Mr. Trump. “When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country,” he said during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 2016. “I will work with, and appoint, the best prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the country to get the job properly done. In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate.”

Time and again, the president denounces “illegals” and “criminals” and the “American carnage” they wreak on law-abiding Americans. He even advised an audience of police officers to rough up suspects they were arresting.

Yet this tough-guy stance disappears when the accused are in the president’s inner circle. In defending Rob Porter, the White House senior aide accused of abuse by both of his ex-wives, the president wondered whatever happened to due process while praising a man accused of giving his wife a black eye. (Mr. Porter denies the abuse.)

It’s no surprise that Mr. Trump’s critics pounced. Where was this concern for due process, they asked, when the president and his supporters chanted “Lock her up” about Hillary Clinton, who hadn’t even been formally accused of a crime? Where was his devotion to due process when he called for the Central Park Five to be executed, and then, after their exoneration, still maintained that they were guilty?

As tempting as it is to hammer Mr. Trump for his epic hypocrisy, it is a mistake. The president’s boundless benefit of the doubt for the Rob Porters and Roy Moores of the world, combined with off-with-their-heads capriciousness for immigrants accused of even minor crimes, is not a contradiction. It is the expression of a consistent worldview that he campaigned on and has pursued in office.

In this view, crime is not defined by a specific offense. Crime is defined by who commits it. If a young black man grabs a white woman by the crotch, he’s a thug and deserves to be roughed up by police officers. But if Donald Trump grabs a white woman by the crotch in a nightclub (as he’s accused of doing, and denies), it’s locker-room high jinks.

This view is also expressed by many of the president’s staff members, supporters and prominent allies. During the same week that the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, repeatedly vouched for Rob Porter’s integrity, Mr. Kelly also mused that hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants who did not fill out the paperwork for DACA protections had refused to “get off their asses.”

A political movement that rails against “immigrant crime” while defending alleged abusers and child molesters is one that has stopped pretending to have any universalist aspirations. The president’s moral framework springs from an American tradition of cultivating fear and contempt among its white citizens against immigrants, indigenous people and people of color, who are placed on the other side of “the law.” It’s a practice that has taken on new strength at a time when many white people fear they may be outnumbered, outvoted and out of time.

This is the opposite of what we like to tell ourselves is the traditional American civic creed: one symbolized by a blindfolded Lady Justice who applies the law without fear or favor to whoever may come before her. It is one of Mr. Trump’s most insidious victories that he has given his supporters permission to drop any pretense of insisting that their actions and views should conform to this principle.

If all that matters when it comes to “law and order” is who is a friend and who is an enemy, and if friends are white and enemies are black or Latino or in the wrong party, then the rhetoric around crime and punishment stops being about justice and is merely about power and corruption.

And this is what “law and order” means: the preservation of a certain social order, not the rule of law. It shouldn’t have taken this long to see what has always been staring us in the face. After all, the last president to focus so intensely on law and order, Richard Nixon, the man who helped usher in mass incarceration, was also the most infamous criminal to occupy the Oval Office. The history of the United States is the story of a struggle between the desire to establish certain universal rights and the countervailing desire to preserve a particular social order.

We are now witnessing a president who wholly embraces the latter. America can have that kind of social order, or it can have justice for all. But it can’t have both."

Chris Hayes: What ‘Law and Order’ Means to Trump - The New York Times

John Kelly's day from hell - Axios

John Kelly

LOL, It couldn't have happened to a worse piece of equestrian turd.   "White House Chief of Staff John Kelly started yesterday with prescient bravado.

What we’re hearing... The retired four-star Marine general told about 20 West Wing officials — including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — in the 8 a.m. senior staff meeting: This is on the record, since you’re all going to go out and tell the press, anyway.

On the Washington Post front page, above the fold, was the headline: "Trump plans to replace McMaster, maybe others."

Kelly stunned the room by declaring: We all read the same newspapers and watch the same shows. Contrary to what’s been reported, H.R. and I are still here.

Kelly then told the silent staffers: The press's worst day was when I came in. The press wants to take down the president. I stand between the press and the president. They have to take me down first.

Lindsay Reynolds, the first lady's chief of staff, broke the tension by joking: “We thought this was Black Friday — everybody gets fired.”

Economic adviser Gary Cohn topped her: “I can’t get fired. I already resigned.”

During senior staff meetings, the staff goes around the room, and General McMaster usually makes several orderly, numbered points.

Yesterday, he passed when his turn came.

All of this was before Kelly called in reporters for an off-the-record meeting (Axios didn't attend or make any agreement, so we're able to share the contents with you) where he acknowledged that Trump himself was probably responsible for a significant number of the stories about staffing chaos.

As we reported yesterday, and we told you in Axios PM, Kelly said it’s likely that Trump is talking to people outside the White House, who then talk to reporters.

Kelly also said that past cocaine use by Larry Kudlow, named this week to succeed Cohn, won’t be a problem for his security clearance, as it is public knowledge. Kelly joked that the 1990s were “a crazy time.”

Staffers were shocked that Kelly revealed to reporters that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during a diplomatic swing through Africa, was suffering from a stomach bug and was using a toilet when Kelly told him to cut the trip short and return to Washington.

Be smart: Kelly defended McMaster at the senior staff meeting — even though the chief is widely known to be casting about for a replacement."

John Kelly's day from hell - Axios

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Gen. McCaffrey: President Trump Is A Serious Threat To National Security...

McCabe gave Mueller memos of Trump conversations

Firing of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe political? Andrew McCabe, former FBI deputy director, was fired by Jeff Sessions hours before he qualified for retirement with his full pension. Joy Reid and her panel discuss the widespread belief that the firing of McCabe was politically motivated to vilify Robert Mueller, the FBI, and the Department of Justice - AM Joy on MSNBC

AM Joy on MSNBC:

How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions - The New York Times


















"LONDON — As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica’s drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm — and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics — under scrutiny from investigators and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic."

(Via.) How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions - The New York Times:

McCabe is said to have written memos detailing his interactions with Trump - The Washington Post


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Trump's Weak Response to Russia's Nerve-Attack - The Atlantic

Trump's Weak Response to Russia's Nerve-Attack - The Atlantic

NYT: Mueller subpoenas Trump Org, asks for docs related to Russia

NYT: Mueller subpoenas Trump Org, asks for docs related to Russia

Trump Lies to Trudeau, Fills His Staff with Loyalists: A Closer Look

Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization, Demanding Documents About Russia - The New York Times

"WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization in recent weeks to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known instance of the special counsel demanding records directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.

The breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that encompasses Mr. Trump’s business ventures. Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over records related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said.

The subpoena is the latest indication that the investigation, which Mr. Trump’s lawyers once regularly assured him would be completed by now, will continue for at least several more months. Word of the subpoena came as Mr. Mueller appears to be broadening his inquiry to examine the role foreign money may have played in funding Mr. Trump’s political activities. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have questioned witnesses, including an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, about the flow of Emirati money into the United States.

Mr. Mueller has already indicted 13 Russians and three companies accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, and on Thursday, the Trump administration included them in sanctions it leveled at Moscow as punishment for interference in the campaign and “malicious cyberattacks.”

The Trump Organization has typically complied with requests from congressional investigators for documents for their own inquiries into Russian election interference, and there was no indication the company planned to fight Mr. Mueller’s order.

“Since July 2017, we have advised the public that the Trump Organization is fully cooperative with all investigations, including the special counsel, and is responding to their requests,” said Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer representing the Trump Organization. “This is old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”

Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization, Demanding Documents About Russia - The New York Times

Beware of Devin Nunes’s Next Move - The New York Times














"This week Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee announced that they will be ending their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, having found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Trump administration. That’s no surprise: The announcement punctuates a process that has been a sham, falling far short of the benchmarks laid out by a bipartisan group of experts (including one of us, Ms. Schneider) last fall for effective, credible congressional investigations.

But for those who may be thinking good riddance, think again. Every indication is that this is far from the end of the committee majority’s mischief. All signs instead point to this week’s developments as the beginning of a new chapter in the story, in which House Republicans go on the offensive to support President Trump — and fight the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

That likely trajectory emerges from plotting the data points before us. First, the committee’s chairman, Representative Devin Nunes, attempted to provide cover for President Trump’s false allegation that he was wiretapped by his predecessor. Mr. Nunes met with White House officials in secret and then held news conferences in which he claimed that the outgoing national security adviser, Susan Rice, and her colleagues had wrongly sought to ‘unmask’ (i.e., identify by name) certain Trump associates in surveillance reports."

(Via.)   Beware of Devin Nunes’s Next Move - The New York Times:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In fundraising speech, Trump says he made up facts in meeting with Justin Trudeau - The Washington Post

"President Trump boasted in a fundraising speech Wednesday that he made up facts in a meeting with the leader of a top U.S ally, saying he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbor to the north without knowing whether or not that was the case.

“Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,’” Trump said, mimicking Trudeau, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post. “Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in – ‘Donald we have no trade deficit.’ He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed. ...

“So he’s proud. I said, ‘Wrong Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. ... I had no idea. I just said ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid. … And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong Justin.’ He said, ‘Nope we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well in that case I feel differently,’ I said ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my  guy, they went out,  I said ‘check because I can’t  believe it.’

In fundraising speech, Trump says he made up facts in meeting with Justin Trudeau - The Washington Post

Conor Lamb Wins Pennsylvania House Seat, Giving Democrats a Map for Trump Country - The New York Times

Conor Lamb Wins Pennsylvania House Seat, Giving Democrats a Map for Trump Country - The New York Times

Stephen Hawking Dies at 76; His Mind Roamed the Cosmos - The New York Times

"Stephen Hawking became a leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes. His work led to a turning point in the history of modern physics. Credit Terry Smith/Time Life

Stephen W. Hawking, the Cambridge University physicist and best-selling author who roamed the cosmos from a wheelchair, pondering the nature of gravity and the origin of the universe and becoming an emblem of human determination and curiosity, died early Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 76.

His death was confirmed by a spokesman for Cambridge University.

“Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world,” Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, said in an interview.

Dr. Hawking did that largely through his book “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” published in 1988. It has sold more than 10 million copies and inspired a documentary film by Errol Morris. The 2014 film about his life, “The Theory of Everything,” was nominated for several Academy Awards and Eddie Redmayne, who played Dr. Hawking, won the Oscar for best actor.

Scientifically, Dr. Hawking will be best remembered for a discovery so strange that it might be expressed in the form of a Zen koan: When is a black hole not black? When it explodes.

What is equally amazing is that he had a career at all. As a graduate student in 1963, he learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was given only a few years to live.

The disease reduced his bodily control to the flexing of a finger and voluntary eye movements but left his mental faculties untouched.

He went on to become his generation’s leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits so deep and dense that not even light can escape them.

That work led to a turning point in modern physics, playing itself out in the closing months of 1973 on the walls of his brain when Dr. Hawking set out to apply quantum theory, the weird laws that govern subatomic reality, to black holes. In a long and daunting calculation, Dr. Hawking discovered to his befuddlement that black holes — those mythological avatars of cosmic doom — were not really black at all. In fact, he found, they would eventually fizzle, leaking radiation and particles, and finally explode and disappear over the eons.

Nobody, including Dr. Hawking, believed it at first — that particles could be coming out of a black hole. “I wasn’t looking for them at all,” he recalled in an interview in 1978. “I merely tripped over them. I was rather annoyed.”

That calculation, in a thesis published in 1974 in the journal Nature under the title “Black Hole Explosions?,” is hailed by scientists as the first great landmark in the struggle to find a single theory of nature — to connect gravity and quantum mechanics, those warring descriptions of the large and the small, to explain a universe that seems stranger than anybody had thought.

The discovery of Hawking radiation, as it is known, turned black holes upside down. It transformed them from destroyers to creators — or at least to recyclers — and wrenched the dream of a final theory in a strange, new direction.

“You can ask what will happen to someone who jumps into a black hole,” Dr. Hawking said in an interview in 1978. “I certainly don’t think he will survive it.

“On the other hand,” he added, “if we send someone off to jump into a black hole, neither he nor his constituent atoms will come back, but his mass energy will come back. Maybe that applies to the whole universe.”

Dennis W. Sciama, a cosmologist and Dr. Hawking’s thesis adviser at Cambridge, called Hawking’s thesis in Nature “the most beautiful paper in the history of physics.”

Edward Witten, a theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, said: “Trying to understand Hawking’s discovery better has been a source of much fresh thinking for almost 40 years now, and we are probably still far from fully coming to grips with it. It still feels new.”

In 2002, Dr. Hawking said he wanted the formula for Hawking radiation to be engraved on his tombstone.

He was a man who pushed the limits — in his intellectual life, to be sure, but also in his professional and personal lives. He traveled the globe to scientific meetings, visiting every continent, including Antarctica; wrote best-selling books about his work; married twice; fathered three children; and was not above appearing on “The Simpsons,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation” or “The Big Bang Theory.”

He celebrated his 60th birthday by going up in a hot-air balloon. The same week, he also crashed his electric-powered wheelchair while speeding around a corner in Cambridge, breaking his leg.

In April 2007, a few months after his 65th birthday, he took part in a zero-gravity flight aboard a specially equipped Boeing 727, a padded aircraft that flies a roller-coaster trajectory to produce fleeting periods of weightlessness. It was a prelude to a hoped-for trip to space with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company aboard SpaceShipTwo.

Asked why he took such risks, Dr. Hawking said, “I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.”

Dr. Hawking pushed the limits in his professional and personal life. In 2007, when he was 65, he took part in a zero-gravity flight aboard a specially equipped Boeing 727. Credit Zero

His own spirit left many in awe.

“What a triumph his life has been,” said Martin Rees, a Cambridge University cosmologist, the astronomer royal of Britain and Dr. Hawking’s longtime colleague. “His name will live in the annals of science; millions have had their cosmic horizons widened by his best-selling books; and even more, around the world, have been inspired by a unique example of achievement against all the odds — a manifestation of amazing willpower and determination.”

Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on Jan. 8, 1942 — 300 years to the day, he liked to point out, after the death of Galileo, who had begun the study of gravity. His mother, the former Isobel Walker, had gone to Oxford to avoid the bombs that fell nightly during the Blitz of London. His father, Frank Hawking, was a prominent research biologist.

The oldest of four children, Stephen was a mediocre student at St. Albans School in London, though his innate brilliance was recognized by some classmates and teachers.

Later, at University College, Oxford, he found his studies in mathematics and physics so easy that he rarely consulted a book or took notes. He got by with a thousand hours of work in three years, or one hour a day, he estimated. “Nothing seemed worth making an effort for,” he said.

The only subject he found exciting was cosmology because, he said, it dealt with “the big question: Where did the universe come from?”

Upon graduation, he moved to Cambridge. Before he could begin his research, however, he was stricken by what his research adviser, Dr. Sciama, came to call “that terrible thing.”

The young Hawking had been experiencing occasional weakness and falling spells for several years. Shortly after his 21st birthday, in 1963, doctors told him that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. They gave him less than three years to live.

His first response was severe depression. He dreamed he was going to be executed, he said. Then, against all odds, the disease appeared to stabilize. Though he was slowly losing control of his muscles, he was still able to walk short distances and perform simple tasks, though laboriously, like dressing and undressing. He felt a new sense of purpose.

“When you are faced with the possibility of an early death,” he recalled, “it makes you realize that life is worth living and that there are a lot of things you want to do.”

In 1965, he married Jane Wilde, a student of linguistics. Now, by his own account, he not only had “something to live for”; he also had to find a job, which gave him an incentive to work seriously toward his doctorate.

His illness, however, had robbed him of the ability to write down the long chains of equations that are the tools of the cosmologist’s trade. Characteristically, he turned this handicap into a strength, gathering his energies for daring leaps of thought, which, in his later years, he often left for others to codify in proper mathematical language.

“People have the mistaken impression that mathematics is just equations,” Dr. Hawking said. “In fact, equations are just the boring part of mathematics.”

By necessity, he concentrated on problems that could be attacked through “pictures and diagrams,” adopting geometric techniques that had been devised in the early 1960s by the mathematician Roger Penrose and a fellow Cambridge colleague, Brandon Carter, to study general relativity, Einstein’s theory of gravity.

Black holes are a natural prediction of that theory, which explains how mass and energy “curve” space, the way a sleeping person causes a mattress to sag. Light rays will bend as they traverse a gravitational field, just as a marble rolling on the sagging mattress will follow an arc around the sleeper.

Too much mass or energy in one spot could cause space to sag without end; an object that was dense enough, like a massive collapsing star, could wrap space around itself like a magician’s cloak and disappear, shrinking inside to a point of infinite density called a singularity, a cosmic dead end, where the known laws of physics would break down: a black hole.

Einstein himself thought this was absurd when the possibility was pointed out to him.

Credit Sarah Lee/London Science Museum, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Using the Hubble Space Telescope and other sophisticated tools of observation and analysis, however, astronomers have identified hundreds of objects that are too massive and dark to be anything but black holes, including a supermassive one at the center of the Milky Way. According to current theory, the universe should contain billions more.

As part of his Ph.D. thesis in 1966, Dr. Hawking showed that when you ran the film of the expanding universe backward, you would find that such a singularity had to have existed sometime in cosmic history; space and time, that is, must have had a beginning. He, Dr. Penrose and a rotating cast of colleagues went on to publish a series of theorems about the behavior of black holes and the dire fate of anything caught in them.

Dr. Hawking’s signature breakthrough resulted from a feud with the Israeli theoretical physicist Jacob Bekenstein, then a Princeton graduate student, about whether black holes could be said to have entropy, a thermodynamic measure of disorder. Dr. Bekenstein said they could, pointing out a close analogy between the laws that Dr. Hawking and his colleagues had derived for black holes and the laws of thermodynamics.

Dr. Hawking said no. To have entropy, a black hole would have to have a temperature. But warm objects, from a forehead to a star, radiate a mixture of electromagnetic radiation, depending on their exact temperatures. Nothing could escape a black hole, and so its temperature had to be zero. “I was very down on Bekenstein,” Dr. Hawking recalled.

To settle the question, Dr. Hawking decided to investigate the properties of atom-size black holes. This, however, required adding quantum mechanics, the paradoxical rules of the atomic and subatomic world, to gravity, a feat that had never been accomplished. Friends turned the pages of quantum theory textbooks as Dr. Hawking sat motionless staring at them for months. They wondered if he was finally in over his head.

When he eventually succeeded in doing the calculation in his head, it indicated to his surprise that particles and radiation were spewing out of black holes. Dr. Hawking became convinced that his calculation was correct when he realized that the outgoing radiation would have a thermal spectrum characteristic of the heat radiated by any warm body, from a star to a fevered forehead. Dr. Bekenstein had been right.

Dr. Hawking even figured out a way to explain how particles might escape a black hole. According to quantum principles, the space near a black hole would be teeming with “virtual” particles that would flash into existence in matched particle-and-antiparticle pairs — like electrons and their evil twin opposites, positrons — out of energy borrowed from the hole’s intense gravitational field.

They would then meet and annihilate each other in a flash of energy, repaying the debt for their brief existence. But if one of the pair fell into the black hole, the other one would be free to wander away and become real. It would appear to be coming from the black hole and taking energy away from it.

But those, he cautioned, were just words. The truth was in the math.

“The most important thing about Hawking radiation is that it shows that the black hole is not cut off from the rest of the universe,” Dr. Hawking said.

It also meant that black holes had a temperature and had entropy. In thermodynamics, entropy is a measure of wasted heat. But it is also a measure of the amount of information — the number of bits — needed to describe what is in a black hole. Curiously, the number of bits is proportional to the black hole’s surface area, not its volume, meaning that the amount of information you could stuff into a black hole is limited by its area, not, as one might naïvely think, its volume.

That result has become a litmus test for string theory and other pretenders to a theory of quantum gravity. It has also led to speculations that we live in a holographic universe, in which three-dimensional space is some kind of illusion.

Andrew Strominger, a Harvard string theorist, said of the holographic theory, “If it’s really true, it’s a deep and beautiful property of our universe — but not an obvious one.”

The discovery of black hole radiation also led to a 30-year controversy over the fate of things that had fallen into a black hole.

Dr. Hawking initially said that detailed information about whatever had fallen in would be lost forever because the particles coming out would be completely random, erasing whatever patterns had been present when they first fell in. Paraphrasing Einstein’s complaint about the randomness inherent in quantum mechanics, Dr. Hawking said, “God not only plays dice with the universe, but sometimes throws them where they can’t be seen.”

Many particle physicists protested that this violated a tenet of quantum physics, which says that knowledge is always preserved and can be retrieved. Leonard Susskind, a Stanford physicist who carried on the argument for decades, said, “Stephen correctly understood that if this was true, it would lead to the downfall of much of 20th-century physics.”

On another occasion, he characterized Dr. Hawking to his face as “one of the most obstinate people in the world; no, he is the most infuriating person in the universe.” Dr. Hawking grinned.

Dr. Hawking admitted defeat in 2004. Whatever information goes into a black hole will come back out when it explodes. One consequence, he noted sadly, was that one could not use black holes to escape to another universe. “I’m sorry to disappoint science fiction fans,” he said.

Despite his concession, however, the information paradox, as it is known, has become one of the hottest and deepest topics in theoretical physics. Physicists say they still do not know how information gets in or out of black holes.

Raphael Bousso of the University of California, Berkeley, and a former student of Dr. Hawking’s, said the present debate had raised “by another few notches” his estimation of the “stupendous magnitude” of Dr. Hawking’s original discovery.

In 1974, Dr. Hawking was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the world’s oldest scientific organization; in 1982, he was appointed to the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge, a post once held by Isaac Newton. “They say it’s Newton’s chair, but obviously it’s been changed,” he liked to quip.

Dr. Hawking also made yearly visits to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, which became like a second home. In 2008, he joined the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, as a visiting researcher.

Having conquered black holes, Dr. Hawking set his sights on the origin of the universe and on eliminating that pesky singularity at the beginning of time from models of cosmology. If the laws of physics could break down there, they could break down everywhere.

In a meeting at the Vatican in 1982, he suggested that in the final theory there should be no place or time when the laws broke down, even at the beginning. He called the notion the “no boundary” proposal.

With James Hartle of the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, Calif., Dr. Hawking envisioned the history of the universe as a sphere like the Earth. Cosmic time corresponds to latitude, starting with zero at the North Pole and progressing southward.

Although time started there, the North Pole was nothing special; the same laws applied there as everywhere else. Asking what happened before the Big Bang, Dr. Hawking said, was like asking what was a mile north of the North Pole — it was not any place, or any time.

By then string theory, which claimed finally to explain both gravity and the other forces and particles of nature as tiny microscopically vibrating strings, like notes on a violin, was the leading candidate for a “theory of everything.”

In “A Brief History of Time,” Dr. Hawking concluded that “if we do discover a complete theory” of the universe, “it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists.”

He added, “Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of why it is that we and the universe exist.”

“If we find the answer to that,” he continued, “it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we would know the mind of God.”

Until 1974, Dr. Hawking was still able to feed himself and to get in and out of bed. At Jane’s insistence, he would drag himself, hand over hand, up the stairs to the bedroom in his Cambridge home every night, in an effort to preserve his remaining muscle tone. After 1980, care was supplemented by nurses.

Dr. Hawking retained some control over his speech up to 1985. But on a trip to Switzerland, he came down with pneumonia. The doctors asked Jane if she wanted his life support turned off, but she said no. To save his life, doctors inserted a breathing tube. He survived, but his voice was permanently silenced.

It appeared for a time that he would be able to communicate only by pointing at individual letters on an alphabet board. But when a computer expert, Walter Woltosz, heard about Dr. Hawking’s condition, he offered him a program he had written called Equalizer. By clicking a switch with his still-functioning fingers, Dr. Hawking was able to browse through menus that contained all the letters and more than 2,500 words.

Word by word — and when necessary, letter by letter — he could build up sentences on the computer screen and send them to a speech synthesizer that vocalized for him. The entire apparatus was fitted to his motorized wheelchair.

Even when too weak to move a finger, he communicated through the computer by way of an infrared beam, which he activated by twitching his right cheek or blinking his eye. The system was expanded to allow him to open and close the doors in his office and to use the telephone and internet without aid.

Although he averaged fewer than 15 words per minute, Dr. Hawking found he could speak through the computer better than he had before losing his voice. His only complaint, he confided, was that the speech synthesizer, manufactured in California, had given him an American accent.

His decision to write “A Brief History of Time” was prompted, he said, by a desire to share his excitement about “the discoveries that have been made about the universe” with “the public that paid for the research.” He wanted to make the ideas so accessible that the book would be sold in airports.

He also hoped to earn enough money to pay for his children’s education. He did. The book’s extraordinary success made him wealthy, a hero to disabled people everywhere and even more famous.

The news media followed his movements and activities over the years, from visiting the White House to meeting the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, and reported his opinions on everything from national health care (socialized medicine in England had kept him alive) to communicating with extraterrestrials (maybe not a good idea, he said), as if he were a rolling Delphic Oracle.

Asked by New Scientist magazine what he thought about most, Dr. Hawking answered: “Women. They are a complete mystery.”

In 1990, Dr. Hawking and his wife separated after 25 years of marriage; Jane Hawking wrote about their years together in two books, “Music to Move the Stars: A Life With Stephen Hawking” and “Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen.” The latter became the basis of the 2014 movie “The Theory of Everything.”

In 1995, he married Elaine Mason, a nurse who had cared for him since his bout of pneumonia. She had been married to David Mason, the engineer who had attached Dr. Hawking’s speech synthesizer to his wheelchair.

In 2004, British newspapers reported that the Cambridge police were investigating allegations that Elaine had abused Dr. Hawking, but no charges were filed, and Dr. Hawking denied the accusations. They agreed to divorce in 2006.

Dr. Hawking married Elaine Mason in 1995. Credit Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Photo by: Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

A complete list of survivors was not immediately available, but on Wednesday morning, his children, Robert, Lucy and Tim, released the following statement:

“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”

Among his many honors, Dr. Hawking was named a commander of the British Empire in 1982. In the summer of 2012, he had a star role in the opening of the Paralympics Games in London. The only thing lacking was the Nobel Prize, and his explanation for this was characteristically pithy: “The Nobel is given only for theoretical work that has been confirmed by observation. It is very, very difficult to observe the things I have worked on.”

Dr. Hawking was a strong advocate of space exploration, saying it was essential to the long-term survival of the human race. “Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of,” he told an audience in Hong Kong in 2007.

Nothing raised as much furor, however, as his increasingly scathing remarks about religion. One attraction of the no-boundary proposal for Dr. Hawking was that there was no need to appeal to anything outside the universe, like God, to explain how it began.

In “A Brief History of Time,” he had referred to the “mind of God,” but in “The Grand Design,” a 2011 book he wrote with Leonard Mlodinow, he was more bleak about religion. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper,” he wrote, referring to the British term for a firecracker fuse, “and set the universe going.”

He went further in an interview that year in The Guardian, saying: “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Dr. Hawking saw space exploration as essential to the long-term survival of the human race. “Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global nuclear war,” he said in 2007. Credit David Silverman/Getty Images

Photo by: David Silverman/Getty Images

Having spent the best part of his life grappling with black holes and cosmic doom, Dr. Hawking had no fear of the dark.

“They’re named black holes because they are related to human fears of being destroyed or gobbled up,” he once told an interviewer. “I don’t have fears of being thrown into them. I understand them. I feel in a sense that I am their master.”

Stephen Hawking Dies at 76; His Mind Roamed the Cosmos - The New York Times

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

State Department Staffers Cry ‘Hallelujah’ Over Rex Tillerson’s Downfall

State Department Staffers Cry ‘Hallelujah’ Over Rex Tillerson’s Downfall

Gina Haspel: CIA veteran tied to use of brutal interrogation measures - The Washington Post

"President Trump on Tuesday nominated CIA veteran Gina Haspel to be the spy agency’s next director, tapping a woman who spent multiple tours overseas and is respected by the workforce but is deeply tied to the agency’s use of brutal interrogation measures on terrorism suspects.

Haspel, 61, would become the first woman to lead the CIA if she is confirmed to succeed outgoing director Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated to serve as Secretary of State. Haspel’s selection faced immediate opposition from some lawmakers and human rights groups because of her prominent role in one of the agency’s darkest chapters.

Haspel was in charge of one of the CIA’s “black site” prisons where detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harrowing interrogation measures widely condemned as torture.

When those methods were exposed and their legality came under scrutiny, Haspel was among a group of CIA officials involved in the decision to destroy videotapes of interrogation sessions that left some detainees on the brink of physical collapse..."

Gina Haspel: CIA veteran tied to use of brutal interrogation measures - The Washington Post