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2018-04-25T20:19:31.340Z
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{"feed":"The-Intercept","feedTitle":"The Intercept","feedLink":"/feed/The-Intercept","catTitle":"News","catLink":"/cat/news"}

Shortly after President Donald Trump was inaugurated last year, top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy offered Russian gas giant Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan aimed at removing the company from a U.S. sanctions list, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

Broidy is a Trump associate who was deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee until he resigned last week amid reports that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair. But in February 2017, when he laid out his lobbying proposal for Novatek, he was acting as a well-connected businessman and longtime Republican donor in a bid to help the Russian company avoid sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. The 2014 sanctions were aimed at punishing Russia for annexing Crimea and supporting pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In February 2017, Broidy sent a draft of the plan by email to attorney Andrei Baev, then a Moscow- and London-based lawyer who represented major Russian energy companies for the firm Chadbourne & Parke LLP. Baev had already been communicating with Novatek about finding a way to lift U.S. sanctions.

Broidy proposed arranging meetings with key White House and congressional leaders and generating op-eds and other articles favorable to the Russian company, along with a full suite of lobbying activities to be undertaken by consultants brought on board. Yet even as he offered those services, Broidy was adamant that his company, Fieldcrest Advisors LLC, would not perform lobbying services but would...

Seven years into his tenure as governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo finally took executive action on Wednesday to restore voting rights to former felons on parole. His executive order returns the vote to around 40,000 disenfranchised people, a disproportionate number of whom are black or Latino. The move is nothing radical — 18 other states and Washington, D.C. allow parolees to vote — but voting rights efforts in New York’s state legislature have been consistently blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Cuomo’s order is the right one and is being rightfully lauded. The question, however, is one of timing. The governor has always had the power to take this sort of executive action and the push for parolee voting rights is nothing new. In 2016, for example, a bill to restore the vote for parolees made some initial progress in the State Assembly with the support of numerous community groups and criminal justice advocates, but, as the Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy think tank, noted at the time, “Cuomo has not mentioned rights restoration as a legislative priority for 2016.” So why now?

Anyone with an eye for realpolitik could see a cynical motivation driving Cuomo’s executive action: Cynthia Nixon.

Anyone with an eye for realpolitik could see a cynical motivation driving Cuomo’s executive action: a response to the growing popularity of his opponent in the upcoming Democratic gubernatorial race, Cynthia Nixon. Nixon, who is opposing Cuomo from the left, has prioritized criminal justice...

Julian Assange has been barred from communicating with the outside world for more than three weeks. On March 27, the government of Ecuador blocked Assange’s internet access and barred him from receiving visitors other than his lawyers. Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, when Ecuador granted him asylum due to fears that his extradition to Sweden as part of a sexual assault investigation would result in his being sent to the U.S. for prosecution for his work with WikiLeaks. In January of this year, Assange formally became a citizen of Ecuador.

As a result of Ecuador’s recent actions, Assange — long a prolific commentator on political debates around the world — has been silenced for more than three weeks, by a country that originally granted him political asylum and of which he is now a citizen. While Ecuador was willing to defy Western dictates to hand over Assange under the presidency of Rafael Correa — who was fiercely protective of Ecuadorian sovereignty even if it meant disobeying Western powers — his successor, Lenín Moreno, has proven himself far more subservient, and that mentality — along with Moreno’s increasingly bitter feud with Correa — are major factors in the Ecuadorian government’s newly hostile treatment of Assange.

Yet many of the recent media claims about Assange that have caused this standoff — which have centered on the alleged role of Russia in the internal Spanish conflict over Catalan independence — range from highly dubious to demonstrably false. The campaign to depict Catalan...

Quando contei para uma tia minha que havia dado uma entrevista para a Al-Jazeera sobre a greve geral no ano passado, ela me olhou com olhos de Ana Amélia Lemos. Ela claramente ficou incomodada com o prefixo “al”. Um incômodo que foi incutido nela durante anos pelas marteladas contra o mundo árabe dadas pela mídia ocidental. Diferentemente da senadora do PP, a ligação da minha tia com a política e o mundo se dá basicamente pela acompanhamento diário do Jornal Nacional. Ana Amélia é jornalista há quase 50 anos e se destacou sendo comentarista política. Mesmo com esse currículo, foi capaz de cometer esse atentado verbal no Senado:

“Penso até que, dada a gravidade do conteúdo dessa exortação publicada pela TV Al Jazeera, para essa convocação ao apoio dos países do mundo árabe, eu só espero que não tenha sido também um pedido para que o exército islâmico venha ao Brasil atuar aqui”.

Foi assim que a senadora Ana Amélia reagiu a uma entrevista de Gleisi Hoffmann para Al-Jazeera. Nela, a presidente do PT pedia solidariedade ao mundo árabe a Lula, a quem considera um preso político, como parte da estratégia do partido de repercutir internacionalmente o caso. O conteúdo da entrevista para Al-Jazeera é basicamente o mesmo que Gleisi deu para veículos estrangeiros, mas a senadora resolveu implicar somente com essa. Ana Amélia chegou a afirmar que a petista pode ter violado a Lei de Segurança Nacional por provocar “atos de...

This much we know: Someone is lying about the reported use of chlorine gas to kill dozens of Syrian civilians this month in a rebel-held enclave on the outskirts of Damascus.

Either forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria once again committed a war crime, by dropping gas cylinders on a residential building in the town of Douma on the final day of a bloody campaign to drive out a terrifying Islamist rebel group; or, as Syria’s ally Russia claims, the volunteer rescue workers who sounded the alarm about the attack staged distressing images of its victims in order to prompt air strikes by the United States, Britain, and France.

As accusations continue to swirl nearly two weeks after the attack, international experts on chemical weapons who were deployed to Syria to settle the matter — by gathering scientific evidence and unearthing bodies in hidden graves — have spent six days trying, and failing, to gain access to...

In August 2017, an Italian prosecutor ordered police to seize and impound the Iuventa, a ship operated by the German nonprofit Jugend Rettet, in Trapani, a port in western Sicily. The Iuventa is used to rescue migrants attempting the perilous sea crossing between North Africa and Italy, but the prosecutor said he was investigating the organization for alleged ties to human trafficking operations in Libya. The investigation relied on evidence gathered through the use of police informants, an undercover operative, tapped phone calls, and a recording device that police placed in the Iuventa’s bridge months earlier, and it purported to show the crew of the Iuventa coordinating with Libyan smugglers.

The Italians’ case for holding the ship, however, has been criticized by outside observers, who point to legal irregularities and gaping holes in the prosecutor’s narrative. This week, Forensic Architecture, a London-based research organization, released a new investigation that calls into question the key evidence in the three events pivotal to the case. Researchers with the organization, who shared their findings with The Intercept, argue that Italian police have withheld and distorted evidence in order to paint a picture of collusion. On April 23, a court in Rome will decide Jugend Rettet’s final appeal against the seizure of their ship. Whatever the court decides, the case will set an important precedent for humanitarian operations in the Mediterranean.

In this video, Forensic Architecture breaks down the evidence...

MSNBC weekend host Joy Ann Reid apologized last December for a series of homophobic blog posts she wrote from 2007 to 2009 about then-closeted-Governor Charlie Crist of Florida, whom she repeatedly mocked as “Miss Charlie” and ridiculed with ugly anti-gay stereotypes. Miss Charlie, wrote Reid, was someone who, if he ever got to the White House as John McCain’s Vice President, would be fixated not on policy but on designing pretty napkin patterns at state funerals, and would spend his honeymoon “ogling male waiters.” In her apology, Reid insisted she has some gay friends (“the LGBT community includes people whom I deeply love”) and that her writings were “insensitive, tone deaf and dumb.”

Most people, at least in the media, seemed quick to accept Reid’s apology — and they were right to do so. People have the right to change their beliefs as they and the society around them grow, learn and evolve. That process should be encouraged, not stigmatized. Politics, at its core, should be about persuading people to repudiate misguided and destructive beliefs and adopt ones that are more reasoned, humane and just. And when that happens, it should be celebrated, not scorned.

In 2012, the Democratic Party officially changed its position on LGBT equality when Barack Obama “evolved” and announced his support for gay marriage, which he had previously opposed. There’s no reason to doubt that Reid (who once worked as a press aide for the Obama campaign) changed her views on LGBTs to align with the new Party dogma.

Candidly acknowledging the erroneous nature of one’s previously held views is a virtue, not a...

An interview with an 11-year-old Syrian boy broadcast last week on Russia’s main state-owned news channel, Russia-24, appears to have been filmed not in the boy’s hometown, where a suspected chemical attack took place, but at a Syrian army facility where Russian military advisers were present.

The report, claiming to prove that video of the attack’s aftermath was fake, is considered so important by Russian officials that Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, plans to screen it for the Security Council.

As state news channels broadcast the interview over and over, the boy, identified as Hassan Diab, was described as a crucial witness because he was first seen being doused with water in video recorded in the rebel-stronghold of Douma just after the suspected chlorine gas attack there on the night of April 7.

After Islamist rebels were driven out of Douma the following day, and Russian military police took control of the town, the Russia-24 correspondent Evgeny Poddubnyy found the boy and produced a report claiming that the child had been coerced into acting in the video by volunteer rescue workers who hoped to provoke Western military intervention.

Poddubnyy’s report was promoted by Russian diplomats, remixed for international broadcast on the Kremlin-financed Russia Today channels, and injected into social networks via In the Now, a government-owned account stripped of all Russian branding.

By now, it is well known that Donald Trump wants to jail reporters in order to force them to reveal their sources. “They spend a couple of days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk,” Trump told former FBI Director James Comey, according to a memo Comey wrote after a conversation between the two men in February 2017.

The Justice Department turned over this memo, along with others Comey wrote about his meetings with Trump before he was fired last year, to congressional leaders last week. The memos were leaked almost immediately. Republicans in Congress apparently wanted them out in order to attack Comey. While they don’t make Comey look particularly good, they generally make Trump look worse.

Just as the Comey memos were being published, former Forbes reporter Jonathan Greenberg supplied further proof that Trump has been obsessed with how he is portrayed in the press for as long as anyone can remember. Greenberg dug up a 1984 audiotape in which Trump pretended to be someone else in order to try to convince Forbes to include Trump on its roster of the wealthiest Americans. Greenberg says that Trump called him claiming to be an aide named John Barron, hyping the value of Trump’s assets in order to get him on the Forbes 400 list. (The Washington Post has separately reported that in his dealings with the press in the 1980s, Trump often pretended to be a purported Trump spokesperson named John Barron,...

The bulldozer that accidentally triggered an island-wide blackout in Puerto Rico last week was operated by D. Grimm Inc., a company that reports up to the Oklahoma-based firm Mammoth Energy Services. The same subcontractor was blamed for another blackout two weeks ago that affected 870,000 homes.

Attempting to repair a downed wire on Wednesday, a bulldozer got too close to a live, high-voltage line, triggering a chain reaction that left most of the island’s 3.4 million residents without power. D. Grimm is a subcontractor hired by Cobra Acquisitions LLC, itself a subsidiary of Mammoth.

First signed in October, Cobra’s contract is reminiscent of the one negotiated between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, and novice Montana-based firm Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC, a $300 million agreement that generated international controversy. The utility’s contract with Cobra — a recently formed amalgamation of a handful of small mainland utility services companies — was less outrageous on its face than the Whitefish deal, and faced less scrutiny.

Unlike the Whitefish contract, it was arrived at with the blessing of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which Mammoth claims was in the negotiating room “every step of the way” and will ultimately reimburse PREPA for payments it makes to Cobra. Over the last several months, Cobra’s initial 90-day, $200 million contract ballooned to $445 million in late January and more than doubled again to $945 million about...

Last November, reports that a pair of U.S. Border Patrol agents had been attacked with rocks at a desolate spot in West Texas made news around the country. The agents were found injured and unconscious at the bottom of a culvert off Interstate 10. Agent Rogelio Martinez soon died from his injuries. Early reports in right-wing media outlets such as Breitbart suggested that the perpetrators were undocumented immigrants, and President Donald Trump quickly embraced the narrative to bolster his campaign for a border wall.

To people familiar with the harsh terrain and the habits of undocumented border crossers, however, the news made little sense. Why would immigrants seeking entry to the U.S. hang out in the middle of nowhere, miles from the border, waiting to randomly attack law enforcement officers?

It was four months before the FBI concluded its investigation and determined that the most likely cause of Martinez’s death was an accidental fall. Meanwhile, media outlets across the political spectrum repeated statistics showing a sharp upward trend in the number of assaults against Border Patrol agents even as the number of undocumented immigrants apprehended while crossing the southern border has dropped.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, assaults on Border Patrol officers increased dramatically in fiscal year 2016, reversing a long downward trend. That year, CBP claims, there were 454 assaults on agents nationwide, compared with 378 in fiscal year 2015, a 20 percent increase. The increase from 2016 to 2017...

The red-state school uprising is spreading to educators around the country, with teachers in Colorado and Arizona now planning walkouts to demand better treatment from state and county governments. But the widespread public support that has helped carry the teachers to victories so far has been less present for blue-collar workers following in their footsteps. In Georgia, bus drivers who organized their own work stoppage last week were met with public condemnation and immediate firings.

On Thursday, the same day that the votes in favor of a walkout were tallied in Arizona, nearly 400 school bus drivers in DeKalb County, Georgia, stayed home from work, staging a “sickout” to protest their low salaries and meager benefits.  

Whether the school bus drivers can succeed in winning their demands and maintaining broad popular support remains to be seen, but the protest provides an important test case on whether these teacher movements will lead to a broader working-class uprising or stay limited to organizing among a narrower band of white-collar professionals. The bus drivers are not building their case around the idea that their unique talents merit greater monetary reward, but that they simply need and deserve to be treated more fairly.

Bus drivers in DeKalb County have been raising concerns about their working conditions for the last several years, and since early March, driver representatives have been meeting with...

Two murders rocked Noxubee County, Mississippi, in the early 1990s. In each case, a young girl was abducted from her home, raped, murdered, and then dumped in a nearby body of water. Although the cases were startlingly similar, a different man was accused of each crime. Even though he had an alibi, Levon Brooks was pegged for killing 3-year-old Courtney Smith, based on the fact that he’d previously dated Smith’s mother. Kennedy Brewer was charged with the murder of 3-year-old Christine Jackson, whose mother he was dating.

The state’s case against each man was based on the findings of Steven Hayne, Mississippi’s de facto medical examiner, and Michael West, a dentist and self-styled bite mark expert. In each case, Hayne identified what he believed to be bite marks on the victim’s body and referred the evidence to West. This was not unusual. For decades, Hayne and West worked in tandem as the go-to experts for police and prosecutors in Mississippi.

The doctors were unequivocal in court about the medical evidence. At Brooks’s trial, West told the jury that “it could be no one but Levon Brooks that bit this girl’s arm.” In Brewer’s case, West pulled out one of his signature lines, saying that marks found on the victim’s body were “indeed and without a doubt” made by Kennedy Brewer. Brooks was sentenced to life in prison. Brewer was sent to death row.

But Hayne and West were wrong. Brooks and Brewer were innocent. Instead, a man named Justin Johnson, who had...

We hear Ahmed Abdulrahman before we see him. He is preceded by the sounds of hammers clacking and concrete being moved around. We make our way from the street, through a narrow entryway scattered with bits of broken stones, shattered glass, and wiring. The entrance is damaged and its walls lean precariously. A sheen of white dust covers every surface. We emerge into an inner courtyard, where Abdulrahman is working cheerfully in a knitted blue and grey sweater that wouldn’t look out of place on a Norwegian grandfather. Goggles perched atop his head, he is a beaming, bearded steampunk repair man.

He lives in the Old City of Mosul. Most houses are mutilated, empty frames, but the neighborhood bears the signs of life. With a small toolbox in hand, he goes from house to house, cheerfully greeting people, helping them with small repairs, finding work or medicine. If there is a problem in the neighborhood, Abdulrahman is the first person to turn to.

“If you get someone who’s relaxed and not under pressure, then they’re fine,” Abdulrahman says, “but someone who’s been living for a long time in a destroyed place like this, he’s like ‘aaaaah’!” Abdulrahman throws his hands in the air with the growl of a monster in a children’s story. “Then they always make trouble, yes indeed,” he concludes, with a matter-of-fact grin. Locals elected Abdulrahman as a sort of neighborhood mayor and multipurpose problem solver — otherwise known as a mokhtar.

The streets of the neighborhood resemble a bizarre, space-like desert of...

On Monday, three Republican and three Democratic senators, led by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., released a draft of a new “authorization for use of military force,” or AUMF.

This AUMF would repeal the AUMF passed on September 14, 2001, which gave the president the power “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” It would also nullify the October, 2002, AUMF that authorized the president to use the military to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”

Not surprisingly, Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump have each taken this extremely broad language and run with it. A 2016 Congressional Research Service report found 37 examples in 14 different countries of Bush and Obama using the 2001 AUMF to justify the use of military force. When a U.S. jet shot down a Syrian government bomber in June 2017, the Trump administration explained that it could legally do so because the jet was there as part of the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State — which is somehow an organization that committed the 9/11 attacks, even though it didn’t exist before 9/11.

So, something needs to be done about this. “For too long, Congress has given presidents a blank check,” Kaine recently said. “Our proposal finally repeals those authorizations and makes...

It’s no secret that the FBI has a problem with race. Former Director James Comey even called the FBI’s lack of racial diversity a “crisis.” Some have argued that the top federal law enforcement agency’s failure to recruit a force that is better representative of the country is a liability and a security threat. The bureau has spent much effort and money over the last three decades trying to fix the problem — and yet its ranks have only grown less diverse after 9/11.

Eighty-three percent of the FBI’s 13,500 special agents are white — and only 4.4. percent are black, even though African-Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population. That’s down from about 6.5 percent just a decade ago, a retired, high-ranking FBI official involved in the agency’s diversity efforts told The Intercept. In the mid-90s, after a class-action discrimination lawsuit brought by black FBI agents, black officers made up 5.3 percent of the force.

And that’s just the race problem within the FBI. It’s hard to diversify an agency that many still associate with the systemic surveillance, infiltration, and repression of civil rights activists in the past — and which maintains ample discretion today to target individuals and groups it deems suspicious based on criteria that all too often reflect their race or religion. The bureau’s efforts at reform, so far, have been mostly aimed at recruiting a more diverse force. But people of color who do sign up to join its ranks often find themselves isolated...

The Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit this afternoon in a Manhattan federal court against the Russian government, the Trump campaign, and various individuals it alleges participated in the plot to hack its email servers and disseminate the contents as part of the 2016 election. The DNC also sued WikiLeaks for its role in publishing the hacked materials, though it does not allege that WikiLeaks participated in the hacking or even knew in advance about it; its sole role, according to the DNC’s lawsuit, was publishing the hacked emails.

The DNC’s suit, as it pertains to WikiLeaks, poses a grave threat to press freedom. The theory of the suit — that WikiLeaks is liable for damages it caused when it “willfully and intentionally disclosed” the DNC’s communications (paragraph 183) — would mean that any media outlet that publishes misappropriated documents or emails (exactly what media outlets quite often do) could be sued by the entity or person about which they are reporting, or even theoretically prosecuted for it, or that any media outlet releasing an internal campaign memo is guilty of “economic espionage” (paragraph 170):

It is extremely common for media outlets to publish or report on materials that are stolen, hacked, or otherwise obtained in violation of the law. In October 2016 — one month before the election — someone mailed a copy of Donald...

Mick Mulvaney, since November the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, could have killed an Obama-era directive cracking down on discriminatory lending on auto sales with a snap of his fingers. In 2013, the new bureau put auto dealers and the finance companies they work with on notice: We have found evidence that auto loans are often marked up for Latino and African-American customers, and will be monitoring your compliance with fair lending laws. Study after study had shown that people of color typically pay higher fees and higher interest rates on car loans than whites with similar credit profiles. The CFPB didn’t wait to create a formal rule, instead issuing a “guidance” bulletin. Mulvaney could have undone that guidance simply by writing his own. But that wasn’t enough for Mulvaney, who, as a member of Congress, had sponsored a bill to eliminate the bureau entirely.

Instead, on Wednesday, the Senate took action, voting 51-47 to overturn the guidance.

When Congress strikes down an agency action, the consequences are far more permanent. “Once Congress passes a resolution disapproving of something like this, the agency is prohibited from ever doing anything substantially similar,” said Debbie Goldstein, who oversees federal policy at the Center for Responsible Lending. If passed by the House and signed by President Donald Trump, Goldstein said, “This would tie the hands of future CFPBs.”

The Senate vote was also the test launch for a new, potentially lethal weapon that could be...

Support for legalizing marijuana is surging among the public, as the position moves closer to the mainstream of the Democratic Party. This week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a politician adept at reading and responding to the public mood, introduced a bill to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. And in some states, pot is already being taxed and regulated.

Underneath that progress, however, a war is still raging. New data published here for the first time show that in at least 21 states, more people were arrested in 2016 than in 2014. Meanwhile, thousands of people who were arrested previously for what is now legal in many places continue to languish in prisons.

Fate Winslow is one of them. Crammed in a dorm with more than 80 other prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, he is serving out a life sentence. “Now pack[ed] in like sardines,” he wrote in a recent letter from the prison. They’re double-bunked and there’s no air conditioning to fight the Louisiana heat. “How is it fit to get 86 bodies no air?” he wondered. “Well you see the picture — very hot.”

“Let’s just say there are good days and bad days,” he wrote.

Winslow is sentenced to life imprisonment and hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Here’s why: In 2008, the year America elected...

When Molson Coors disclosed earlier this year that it considered the advent of legal marijuana to be a significant risk to its business, the company was coming down on one side of a contentious debate that has accompanied the movement to bring pot out of the shadows and into the world of taxed and regulated consumer products.

In Colorado, a pioneer in legalization, advocates centered their campaign on the argument that marijuana was far safer than alcohol and therefore, should be treated in at least a similar way.

That argument, though, becomes moot if marijuana is not actually a substitute for alcohol, but rather a complement. In other words, if getting high means you also drink more, it doesn’t matter if getting stoned is safer than getting drunk.

Because the federal government has long starved financing for research into cannabis, there is much still to learn, but early results do seem to suggest that what is intuitive is also true: that pot is a substitute — not just for alcohol, but for opioids, too.

“Although the ultimate impact is currently unknown, the emergence of legal cannabis in certain U.S. states and Canada may result in a shift of discretionary income away from our products or a change in consumer preferences away from beer,” Molson Coors Brewing Company warned in its filing.

The booze industry is not ignoring the...