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Sun, 08 Dec 2019
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US government drops case against Max Blumenthal after jailing journalist on false charges

max blumenthal arrested Venezuela
The US government has dropped its bogus charge of "simple assault" against journalist Max Blumenthal, after having him arrested on a 5-month-old warrant and jailed for nearly two days.

The Grayzone has learned that Secret Service call logs recorded during the alleged incident were either not kept or destroyed. The mysteriously missing evidence included print documents and radio recordings that may have exposed collusion between Secret Service officers operating under the auspices of the US State Department and violent right-wing hooligans in an operation to besiege peace activists stationed inside Venezuela's embassy in Washington, DC.

Blumenthal, who is the editor of The Grayzone, was arrested at his home on October 25 by a team of DC cops who had threatened to break down his door. He later learned that he was listed in his arrest warrant as "armed and dangerous," a rare and completely unfounded designation that placed Blumenthal at risk of severe harm by the police.

Comment: For background on the arrest, see: Political persecution: Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal arrested months after reporting on Venezuelan opposition violence

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Snakes in Suits

House Judiciary Committee report: President can be impeached for 'motives' without breaking law

© Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty
The House Judiciary Committee released a report Saturday in which it argued that a president may be impeached for "illegitimate motives" even if his actions are "legally permissible."

The 52-page report, written by 20 members of the staff for the Democratic majority, attempts to provide a legal and constitutional basis for the Democrats' ongoing effort to impeach the president.

The report states: "The question is not whether the President's conduct could have resulted from permissible motives. It is whether the President's real reasons, the ones in his mind at the time, were legitimate."

Bizarro Earth

Video shows Israel's Iron Dome intercepting 2 rockets, IDF claims 'fired from Gaza at civilians'

gaza israel
© Twitter / @guyelster
On 29 November, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said that a rocket was fired from Gaza "at Israeli civilians", noting that it was the fourth launch that week. Following the attack, the IDF conducted a retaliatory air strike against a Hamas military post in Gaza.

Air-raid sirens were activated in the Gaza Strip and Sderot on Saturday, according to the Israel Defence Forces. The IDF said that three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, noting that two of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome Aerial Defence System.

​Twitter users shared videos allegedly showing the moment when the Iron Dome intercepted the rockets.

Comment: More details from Sputnik:
The IDF said that, in responding to the launch of the rockets from the Gaza Strip, its fighter jets, along with attack helicopters, "struck a number of Hamas terror targets in Gaza".

According to the IDF, among the targets were "warehouses, offices and security posts" claimed to belong to Hamas.

"A military position of the naval force of the Hamas terror organization in the northern Gaza Strip has been destroyed", the IDF statement added.

The IDF stated that Hamas "is responsible for what is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip and it will have consequences for actions against Israeli citizens".
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Black Magic

Will 'get Brexit done' ever end? Johnson provokes haters mocking his campaign slogan with... more Brexit mantra!

© Global Look Press / Andrew Parsons
Boris Johnson has been lampooned for repeatedly recycling his Brexit slogan during a debate with Labour's Jeremy Corbyn. Unfazed by his critics, the Tory leader has continued to flood Twitter with his polarizing campaign mantra.

The British Prime Minister locked horns with Corbyn during Friday's BBC debate. While discussing a range of issues, Johnson often steered the conversation back to his rallying cry, "get Brexit done."

According to the BBC, he used the slogan no less than ten times over the course of the evening. He somehow managed to work the pledge into almost every issue, including how rude behavior and threats in politics could be ended by - yes, you guessed right - "getting Brexit done." In fact, he rolled out the phrase so many times that it reportedly began to trend on Twitter - albeit due to the tsunami of social media mockery.

Comment: The Brexit pantomime isn't engendering a positive response from the British public, and so is it any wonder: Most British voters think violence against MPs is 'price worth paying' over Brexit

See also: And check out SOTT radio's: NewsReal: Yellow Vest Protests, Brexit Farce - Revolutionary Climate in Western Europe?


'People are flushing toilets 10 times': Trump mulls pouring conservation rules down the drain & Twitter cannot hold it

trump toilet
© Reuters / Carlos Barria; Reuters / Thomas Peter
President Donald Trump is taking aim at water efficiency laws, arguing that they paradoxically encourage waste due to weak water pressure. He vowed to seek "commonsense" solutions to America's toilet troubles.

Despite ongoing Democratic impeachment efforts in Washington, a trade row with Beijing and another war of words heating up with Iran, the president took time on Friday to address a problem much closer to home - perhaps lurking in your very own bathroom.

"We have a situation where we're looking very strongly at sinks and showers, and other elements of bathrooms," the president said. "You turn on the faucet and you don't get any water... people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once."

Comment: Trump has a point; environmentalists have devised numerous schemes - from wind turbines to nature reserves - that, ultimately, are inefficient, ineffective and even destructive to the very environment they claim to be wanting to save:


'We can make a deal together': Trump thanks Iran for 'very fair negotiation' that led to prisoner swap

Xiyue Wang
© Reuters / US Embassy in Switzerland
US Ambassador to Switzerland Edward McMullen greets Xiyue Wang in Zurich, Switzerland
In a reprieve from the usual bellicose rhetoric, President Donald Trump thanked the leaders of Iran for swapping an American prisoner with a detained Iranian scientist. Senior officials, however, told a different story.

Princeton scholar Xiyue Wang left Iran for the US on Saturday morning, while Iranian Scientist Massoud Soleimani returned to Tehran from America. Wang had been in Iranian custody since 2016 and was serving a ten-year term on espionage charges, while Soleimani was arrested in Chicago last year for sanctions violations and was awaiting trial.

The prisoner exchange came after weeks of negotiations, a senior US official told reporters on Saturday. President Trump later thanked Iran for "a very fair negotiation," and suggested that the swap was proof "we can make a deal together."


US reportedly resumes negotiations with Taliban after three-month halt

Trump Ghani Troops
© Alex Brandon/AP
President Donald Trump with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani addresses members of the military during a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit on Thursday at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
During his surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to a US base in Afghanistan, the US president mentioned that the Taliban "wants to make a deal" despite these efforts failing in September 2019, albeit after apparent progress had been achieved towards reaching an agreement.

US representatives resumed negotiations with the Taliban movement in Doha, Qatar on 7 December after a three-month halt, AFP reported, citing an anonymous source.

"The US rejoined talks today in Doha. The focus of discussion will be reduction of violence that leads to intra-Afghan negotiations and a ceasefire", the source said.

US officials have not commented on the AFP report.

The previous year-long negotiation efforts had seemingly reached a point of signing some sort of agreement that suggested the withdrawal of US forces after 18 years of war in Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban that the country won't become a haven for terrorist organisations. It could reportedly also have led to negotiations between the movement and the Afghan government in Kabul.

No Entry

Barr meets with Mexican president who said: 'Foreigners cannot intrude' in our country

© Reuters/Presidency of Mexico
US AG William Barr meets with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico City .
With the Trump administration considering declaring Mexican drug cartels terrorist organizations, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has insisted that he does not want US military intervention against them.

Mexico's drug cartels make billions of dollars per year on illegal drug sales in the US, and have been locked into a bloody conflict with the Mexican government for over a decade. The Mexican Drug War has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 2007, and the recent mass murder of nine Americans in an apparent ambush near the US border prompted President Donald Trump to offer Mexico help to wipe the cartels "off the face of the earth."

Obrador rejected Trump's offer, but the American president pressed ahead with plans to designate the cartels "foreign terrorist organizations." Though this designation is usually applied to hit foreign terror groups with sanctions, many observers feared it would bring the US one step closer to putting troops on Mexican soil.

Against this background, Obrador met with US Attorney General William Barr in Mexico City on Thursday. The Mexican leader hailed the meeting as productive, and told reporters on Friday that his government has "no confrontation" with the Trump administration.

Obrador pledged to cooperate with Washington on drugs, arms, and migration issues, but added that Mexico's constitution states that "foreigners cannot interlude in politics in our country. We can't have foreign forces on our territory for military ends," he said.

Comment: The drug cartels have power through violence and political manipulation. Trump threatens a seedy and dangerous arrangement with ties to the CIA, a key factor in keeping this notorious order alive and well-protected.

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Just a bit rich: Biden claims paychecks don't matter, that jobs are 'about dignity'

© Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden before an event in Elkader, Iowa, U.S., December 6, 2019.
Democrat hopeful Joe Biden says jobs aren't about the money, but his words rang hollow for critics who shot back with reminders about low wages and the former vice president's son getting a cushy gig at a Ukrainian oil company.

Biden's latest pitch to voters is that he will bring "dignity" back to the working middle class.

"A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about dignity. It's about being able to look your kid in the eye and say everything is going to be okay — and mean it. Too many people today can't do that," Biden tweeted on Friday.

Comment: Just like he told Hunter?

Comment: Never mind anything the Republicans might add in criticism of the Democratic leading candidate. Biden is completely self-defeating.


Hang it up already: White House claims Schiff has the wrong OMB number

© AP/Susan Walsh
Intel Committee Chair Adam Schiff
Who called Rudy Giuliani from the White House, and who took his calls in the administration? Those question have been buzzing around the White House after phone logs were released Wednesday detailing how President Trump's personal lawyer back-channeled diplomacy to Ukraine.

But the phone calls, a presidential spokesperson told RealClearPolitics, were not coming from inside the Office of Management and Budget: "No one from OMB has talked to Giuliani."

The House Intelligence Committee says otherwise.

In a voluminous report, the Democrat-led committee that took the lead in impeachment alleged in graphic detail how Giuliani worked with the administration to freeze $391 million in foreign aid to Ukraine to pressure the government of that country into publicly committing to opening an investigation into Joe Biden's family.

The report details phone calls and texts dating from last spring and summer, including a nearly 13-minute call on April 24 from an "OMB Phone Number." It is part of the evidence that Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff relied on to build his case for impeachment. Schiff said during a press conference after releasing the committee's impeachment report:
"This is not about Ukraine. This is about our democracy, this is about our security. Americans should care deeply about whether the president of the United States is betraying their trust in him."
Senior administration officials reply that no one is betraying any trust. They tell RCP that Schiff must have the wrong number. For his part, Giuliani has said publicly that he never placed a call to OMB, the agency responsible for how the White House spends money appropriated by Congress.