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Wednesday :: May 24, 2017

UK Threat Level Raised to "Critical" as More Info on Attacker is Sought

The Manchester bombing investigation continues. The focus now is on determining whether the attacker, identified by UK police (after it was leaked by U.S. officials) as native British citizen Salman Abedi, acted alone.

This is a long post. While the info is current as of the time I am posting this, it will likely change in the coming days. That said, here's my assessment of what happened and what we learned yesterday. Feel free to add more information in comments. [More...]

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Tuesday :: May 23, 2017

Tuesday Open Thread: 15 years of Blogging

In 3 weeks, TalkLeft will be 15 years old. I'll be deciding whether to keep the site going another year. Feel free to let me know your thoughts.

TalkLeft is actually pretty expensive to run, because it has so much material it has to be on its own server. As I get older, I can't help but think of other things I can do with that money, particularly if I think I'm no longer contributing anything of substance to the discussions of the day. I'm not convinced my voice is needed over the next three and and a half years, since we've already gone to Hell in a hand basket, and absent a universally agreed upon despicable act by Donald Trump that is likely to lead to his resignation or impeachment, I'm not sure we'll get him out before 2020. I doubt I am willing to give this uncouth carnival barker another three years of my attention. I'd rather fade into the woodwork and hide my head in the sand, and hope there's still a world in place when I take it out. [More...]

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Report: Body of Suicide Bomber Found at Manchester Arena

19 people are dead and at least 50 were injured when an explosion occurred at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK. Police are treating it as a terrorist incident. Ariana had just finished her set and had just left the stage when the explosion occurred.

The Greater Manchester Police twitter feed with updates is here.

There are no clues yet as to who is responsible. While ISIS is an obvious possibility, it could also be al Qaida (Osama bin Laden's son Hamza bin Laden released an audio message this month calling for attacks in the west as did AQAP in Yemen. [More...]

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Monday :: May 22, 2017

Trump Signs 40 Trade Agreements with Saudis

I have my doubts Donald Trump can even read 40 documents, but in Saudi Arabia, he signed the United States' name to them anyway. We're now a party to 40 economic agreements totaling $350 billion , (or $280 billion,depending on which press release you read) most of which, from what I can tell, create jobs for the Saudis in Saudi Arabia, give them a huge amount of war toys and line the pockets of the shareholders of companies like Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin and General Electric.

The Saudi Official News page for the economic summit couldn't be more different than the spin Donald Trump is putting out. Examples: [More...]

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Sunday :: May 21, 2017

Ivanka Subs for Pops at Saudi Twitter Forum

Ivanka Trump took her father's place at a Saudi evening Twitter forum on social media. (He was a no-show, no explanation given.)

There she talked about the 'great Saudi entrepreneurs' she had met throughout the day and marveled that the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology was built in just 30 days.

'That is entrepreneurialism,' she cheered. 'And I may need to borrow those contractors for our next construction project, maybe infrastructure, it was incredibly impressive and the message was very meaningful.'

"Our new construction project?" I thought she had resigned her position with Trump Org., leaving the running of it to her brothers. [More..]

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Friday :: May 19, 2017

Senior Advisor Close to Trump is Subject of Russia Probe

Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner announced tonight that James Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in a public session. This will happen after Memorial Day.

The New York Times reports Donald Trump called James Comey a "nut job" during his meeting with Russian officials the day after he fired Comey. Trump also reportedly said by firing Comey, the pressure was off him.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

[More...]

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Anthony Wiener Pleads Guilty

Anthony Weiner pleaded guilty today to transferring obscene material to a minor.

DOJ's press release is here. He pleaded to an Information, before indictment. The parties estimate his guidelines to be 21 to 27 months. He gave up his right to appeal a sentence within that range.

He was released on bond pending sentencing. He also has to forfeit his iPhone.

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Thursday :: May 18, 2017

Trump Middle Eastern (Mis) Adventures Set to Begin

Fasten your seatbelts, Trump and his relatives are about to embark a tour of the Middle East. It goes without saying, almost everything he does will bring a groan or an eye roll and be great fodder for late night talk shows, but what how much damage can he do with the deals he intending on committing us to?

Trump is not the first U.S. President to visit Saudi Arabia. Richard Nixon went there in June, 1974. While there he made an economic "deal with the devil" --oil for dollars. Here's his speech. Nixon resigned less than two months later, and we're still stuck with his deal. Here's the untold story, according to Bloomberg News.

The first clue that this visit will be bad news for the U.S. economically is how excited Saudi Arabia is about Trump's visit. It has set up this website to track events. It sounds like the counter-terror aspect is a front for the trips real purpose: economic advantages Trump is offering these countries. From a Saudi press release today: [More....]

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How to Brief Trump on National Security

Reuters, in an article on Donald Trump's upcoming first foreign trip, reports:

Conversations with some officials who have briefed Trump and others who are aware of how he absorbs information portray a president with a short attention span. He likes single-page memos and visual aids like maps, charts, graphs and photos.

National Security Council officials have strategically included Trump's name in "as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he's mentioned," according to one source, who relayed conversations he had with NSC officials. (my emphasis).

Why am I not surprised?

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Wednesday :: May 17, 2017

DOJ Taps Ex-FBI Director Mueller as Special Counsel for Russia Probe

The Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the investigation into "Russia's alleged involvement in the 2016 presidential election, including any possible involvement of President Donald Trump's campaign in that effort."

The announcement was made by Deputy AG Ron Rosenstein, who released a statement:

"Based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command," Rosenstein said in a statement. "A special counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome. Our nation is grounded on the rule of law, and the Public must be assured that government officials administer the law fairly."

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Republicans: Abandon Trump or Sink With Him

In the Atlantic: The Week the Trump [Administration] Fell Apart (I still won't print the P word with Trump.)

Further developments yesterday: James Comey took notes.

Israel reportedly managed to infiltrate ISIS and learn of its laptop bomb plan, and now its spy is at risk.

The Washington Post reports Trump met with Russian officials and their photographer at the White House as a favor to Vladimir Putin. [More...]

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Tuesday :: May 16, 2017

Tuesday Open Thread

Trump continues to self-destruct and feed his aides to the wolves. Yesterday he sent staff out to make denials, only to personally admit today what they denied. Yesterday:

“I was in the room — it didn’t happen,” Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, said in an appearance outside the West Wing, which was sent into chaos on Monday afternoon by reports that the president had disclosed extremely sensitive information about an Islamic State plot.

Trump today: I had every right to disclose whatever I disclosed to Russia.

Israel is the country whose intelligence information was exposed by Trump. [More...]

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Monday :: May 15, 2017

MotorMouth of the Oval Office

On Sirius this afternoon, driving back from the jail, CNN's host and guests were practically hyper-ventilating over the latest report in the Washington Post that Trump leaked information about ISIS to Russia that was so sensitive the U.S. had not even shared it with its allies.

CNN said the White House put out a denial that didn't address the substance of the WaPO report, but instead denied things that weren't alleged. There was some doubt expressed as to whether a statement the White House released in Tillerson's name even knew about it before hand, as none of the high up officials in the State Dept. that CNN reporters talked to seemed to know about it in advance. [More...]

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Sunday :: May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day and Open Thread

Happy Mother's Day to All. I got some good news from the TL kids (there are now two) which I can now share. [More....]

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Thursday :: May 11, 2017

Trump and Pence: The Unraveling Begins

Donald Trump tells NBC's Lester Holt he decided to fire Comey before asking for Rosenstein's report.

"I was going to fire Comey-- my decision. There is no good time to do it, by the way," Trump told NBC News’s Lester Holt. “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation."

This contradicts Trump's firing letter which said he was acting at the recommendation of Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod J. Rosenstein in firing Comey.

His staff said several times he talked to Sessions and Rosenstein about Comey on Monday and decided to fire him Tuesday based on their recommendation. [More...]

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