Trump Takes a Page Out of the Authoritarian’s Playbook with New Threat Against NBC

from October 11, 2017 at 09:14AM

The president lashes out on Twitter over an explosive new report.

President Donald Trump angrily lashed out at NBC News over its report that he wanted to dramatically increase the United States’ nuclear arsenal by threatening to go after the network’s broadcasting license.

“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. “Bad for country!”

The president also said that NBC “made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold” increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal,” which he described as “pure fiction, made up to demean.”

According to the original NBC report, Trump “said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders.” The president was reportedly incensed by a chart showing that the U.S. has actually been reducing its nuclear arsenal since the late 1960s.

According to NBC’s sources, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron” after this particular meeting. Additionally, the sources claim both Tillerson and the joint chiefs of staff pushed back against Trump, and told him why it would be unwise to start a massive nuclear arms race.



Read more at: Alternet

Report: Zinke Attended Fundraisers While On Taxpayer-Funded Trips

from October 11, 2017 at 09:07AM

During official trips throughout the U.S. on taxpayer-funded flights, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also attended fundraisers for Republican lawmakers in Montana and Alaska, Politico reported Tuesday evening.

The report raises additional questions about Zinke’s travel habits as the Office of Government Ethics scolds Cabinet officials for their recent actions.

Zinke is one of several agency chiefs who’ve come under scrutiny in recent weeks for taking trips on non-commercial planes. Zinke has used both charter planes and government planes for official travel.

The Interior Department’s inspector general is reviewing one trip to Nevada and Las Vegas in particular. Zinke attended a meeting with the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team, which is owned by a major donor to his congressional campaign, before taking a late-night flight to Montana. Democrats argue that Zinke could have flown commercial to his official events in Montana had he not attended the hockey meeting.

It’s also been previously reported that Zinke attended a Republican fundraiser in the U.S. Virgin Islands — an official trip for which he used a non-commercial plane.

In March, Zinke attended a fundraiser in Big Sky, Montana for a committee affiliated with Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), according to Politico’s new report. Records show the Interior secretary was reimbursed for 75 percent of his per diem the day before, when he toured Yellowstone National Park, and he did not seek reimbursement for his lodging for the trip.

The Hatch Act bars government officials from participating in political events while acting in their official role, but it’s not clear that Zinke violated any rules on that March trip.

In May, Zinke attended a fundraiser for Rep. Don Young (R-AK) while he was in the state for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, per Politico. Zinke was not listed on the official invitation for the fundraiser but did give brief remarks. For that trip, Zinke took a military plane from Europe to Alaska.

Read more at: All TPM News

Black Man Beaten At C’ville White Nationalist Rally Charged With Assault

from October 10, 2017 at 12:00PM

(AP) — A black man who was beaten at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been charged with an alleged assault during that confrontation, police said Monday.

DeAndre Harris, 20, was charged with unlawful wounding in the Aug. 12 rally that turned violent. Harris was seen bloodied in viral photos and a video after being attacked during the rally in August.

Harris’ attorney, S. Lee Merritt, said in a phone interview Monday night that Harris was left with a concussion, abrasions and contusions across his body, as well as a head laceration that required staples, a knee injury and a fractured wrist after the clash.

Lt. Stephen Upman says the alleged victim told the magistrate’s office, a judicial office in Virginia, what happened. The magistrate contacted police, Upman said, who verified facts and issued the warrant.

The police don’t have sufficient probable cause to charge Harris, his lawyer said.

Merritt said he is making arrangements with police for Harris to surrender.

Two men were charged with malicious wounding in September in the attack against Harris. Both are being held without bond.

Upman refused to identify the alleged victim or provide any other details about the alleged assault.

At the rally, Heather Heyer was killed when a car struck a crowd of counter protesters. A man has been charged with murder in Heyer’s death.

Read more at: All TPM News

It’s Official: Trump Administration to Repeal Clean Power Plan

from October 10, 2017 at 01:39AM

Scott Pruitt speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 25, 2017.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

The Trump administration will scrap the Clean Power Plan (CPP), President Obama’s signature environmental policy aimed at fighting climate change, confirming earlier reports of such a move.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said at an event in Kentucky he will sign a proposed rule on Tuesday “to withdraw the so-called clean power plan of the past administration.”

The Clean Power Plan, which focused on cutting emissions from coal-burning power plants, was a major target of the current administration’s regulatory rollbacks. In March, President Trump signed the Executive Order on Energy Independence that called for a review of the CPP, which he considers a “war on coal.”

And in June, Trump infamously announced plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, a global action plan to limit temperature rise to well below 2°C to avoid dangerous climate change. Without the CPP, the U.S. will not live up to its pledge made in Paris.

Pruitt, as Oklahoma’s attorney general, made a career fighting EPA safeguards and was part of a coalition of state attorneys general that sued the Obama administration to block the implementation of the CPP. The Supreme Court has since put the regulation on hold until the legal challenge is completed.

“The EPA and no federal agency should ever use its authority to say to you we are going to declare war on any sector of our economy,” Pruitt said Monday.

According to the Associated Press, the EPA plans to declare that the Obama policy overstepped federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.

“That rule really was about picking winners and losers,” Pruitt also said during his remarks. “The past administration was unapologetic, they were using every bit of power, authority to use the EPA to pick winners and losers on how we pick electricity in this country. That is wrong.”

Vera Pardee, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, criticized the announcement in a prepared statement to EcoWatch.

“Repealing the Clean Power Plan will sabotage EPA’s most important effort to fight pollution and protect us from climate change,” Pardee said. “Undoing the existing plan without any replacement would add years of doing absolutely nothing to reduce power plant emissions. If Scott Pruitt follows through with this repeal, his reckless disregard for EPA’s essential duties should cost him his job.”

POLITICO reported last week that the agency will now seek suggestions from the public on possible replacements for the CPP but “some conservative groups have pressed for Pruitt to simply erase Obama’s rule and offer no replacement at all.”

Lorraine Chow is a freelance writer and reporter based in South Carolina.

Read more at: Alternet

Pruitt: WH To Abandon Obama-Era Clean Power Plan To Slow Global Warming

from October 9, 2017 at 08:15AM

HAZARD, Ky. (AP) — EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says the Trump administration will abandon the Obama-era clean power plan aimed at reducing global warming.

Speaking in Kentucky on Monday, Pruitt said he will sign a proposed rule on Tuesday “to withdraw the so-called clean power plan of the past administration.”

The clean power plan aimed to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. It was a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s environmental policies.

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to declare the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.

Pruitt said the EPA should not use its authority “to say to you we are going to declare war on any sector of our economy.”

Read more at: All TPM News

CNN: Pence Spent More Than $200K To Attend Colts Game He Walked Out Of

from October 9, 2017 at 07:44AM

Vice President Mike Pence spent more than $200,000 to attend the 49ers-Colts game he left on Sunday after players knelt during the anthem, according to an estimate by CNN.

CNN estimated, citing Air Force data and the length of Pence’s flights from Las Vegas to Indianapolis, and from Indianapolis to Los Angeles, that the total price tag for Pence’s flying visit to the 49ers-Colts was “about $242,500.”

According to CNN, the Republican National Committee will reimburse some costs of Pence’s flight to Los Angeles because Pence “is attending a political event there.”

“I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence tweeted on Sunday.

In addition to Pence’s tweets on the subject, the White House released an official statement on the matter as well as a photograph of Pence standing during the national anthem.

Trump promptly took credit for Pence’s walk-out, tweeting that he “asked” Pence to leave the stadium “if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country.”

“I am proud of him,” Trump tweeted.

Early Monday morning, Trump claimed the trip was “long planned” and said Pence was “receiving great praise for leaving” the game.

An aide to the vice president told CNN that Pence’s attendance at the game “was on his schedule for several weeks.”

Pool reporters accompanying Pence to Indianapolis were told by a staffer that “there may be an early departure from the game” and asked to stay outside the stadium, raising questions on Sunday about whether Pence’s walk-out was a planned stunt.

Read more at: All TPM News

California Police and Civil Liberties Groups Agreed on a Simple Transparency Measure. Gov. Brown Vetoed It Anyway.

from October 15, 2017 at 09:52AM

California Gov. Jerry Brown used the weekend to veto one of 2017’s last remaining bills to shine light on police practices. 

S.B. 345 was pretty straightforward: every law enforcement agency would have to upload its policies and training materials to its public website—but only documents that would be available anyway under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). The bill had uncommon support from both law enforcement associations and civil liberties organizations, like EFF and the ACLU of California

Some of S.B. 345’s supporters. Source: Senate Analysis

So why did Brown veto it? 

"The bill is too broad in scope and vaguely drafted. I appreciate the author’s desire for additional transparency of police practices and local law enforcement procedures, but I believe this goal can be accomplished with a more targeted and precise approach," he wrote in his rejection letter [PDF]. 

We’re not quite sure what he’s talking about. The bill was elegant and short and specified exactly what documents it applied to: "current standards, policies, practices, operating procedures, and education and training materials that would otherwise be available to the public if a request was made pursuant to the California Public Records Act." If he has a better idea, we’d love to hear it.

S.B. 345 was the last of a series of failures by California leadership to enhance government transparency this session. 

The legislature failed to pass S.B. 21, which would have more narrowly shined light on just surveillance technologies. Lawmakers also gutted a measure to penalize agencies that intentionally and improperly stymie public records requests. Yet, lawmakers somehow found the will to pass legislation to exempt even more documents from CPRA. And now that Brown has signed A.B. 492, independent companies that market public record research will have to include about as many disclosures and disclaimers as a pharmaceutical company advertising prescription drugs. 

Californians deserve much better. The sun should shine as brightly on our government as it does on our beaches. 

Along with the other transparency measures that fell short this session, we mourn the death of S.B. 345. We thank its sponsor, Sen. Steven Bradford, and all the transparency allies who urged the governor to sign this bill. 

Read more at: Deeplinks

The Airport Bomber From Last Week You Never Heard About

from October 11, 2017 at 02:21PM

It’s strange how some things really catch on and go viral and others don’t. These days, nothing quite makes a story blow up — no pun intended — like the president’s fixation with it. That’s why it’s so peculiar that what sure looks like an attempted terrorist attack was narrowly thwarted at an American airport this past Friday without so much as a peep from Donald Trump about it. No tweets. No nicknames for the alleged would-be-terrorist. Nothing. You’ll see why in a minute.

This past Friday morning, at 12:39 a.m., security footage from the Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina showed a man walking through the front doors wearing black clothing and a black cap, while carrying a bag. “Based on a review of the video, the individual walked near the entrance to the terminal, went out of sight momentarily, and was then seen departing the area without the bag,” according to the criminal complaint.

Following the Transportation Security Administration’s protocols, airport security allowed a bomb dog to sniff the bag for explosives and the dog signaled to the team the presence of dangerous materials in the bag. The concourse was then shut down. The street leading to the airport was shut down. And Asheville Regional Airport officials found themselves in a dangerous emergency situation.

What investigators eventually found in the bag was AN/FO (Ammonium Nitrate/Fuel Oil) explosives that, according to the criminal complaint, have been used “in a number of terrorist-related incidents around the world. When AN/FO comes into contact with a flame or other ignition source it explodes violently. Nails or ball bearings are often items added to the device so as to increase the devastation inflicted by the explosion.”

In fact, sharp nails and bullets were found in this improvised explosive device. Whoever built it designed the bomb to cause horrific bodily harm. Before disarming it, authorities discovered that the alarm attached to it was scheduled to go off at 6:00 a.m. that morning just as a fresh round of travelers was scheduled to arrive at the airport.

The man who planted it, it turns out, openly admitted to authorities that he was “preparing to fight a war on U.S. soil” and that this bomb was but one part of that war.

Little Fanfare

I bet you never heard about it. I keep an eye on these types of incidents closely and I didn’t hear about it. Someone who follows me online who happens to live in Asheville sent me the story this morning — shocked that it hadn’t gotten any play at all beyond a few mentions in the local paper and some isolated pickup by a few national outlets.

As soon as I clicked on the article, it all made perfect sense.

The story didn’t go viral and Trump didn’t tweet about it because the bomb was not placed by an immigrant, or a Muslim, or a Mexican. It was placed there by a good ol’ white man, Michael Christopher Estes. Unlike the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, whose motive is still hard to discern, Estes wanted to be very clear that his ultimate goal was to accelerate a war on American soil.

Sorry if it sounds like you’ve heard this story before. I’m as tired of writing it as you are reading it, but you know good and well that if Estes was a young Muslim — hell, if he had ever even visited a mosque in the past 25 years — that Trump would be tweeting about him right this very moment to tout how essential a Muslim ban is for American safety.

A Muslim attacker’s mugshot would become a meme across the conservative media. Mainstream American outlets would be covering the heroic bravery of those who thwarted the terrorist plot. We’d all be seeing footage of the perpetrator being walked from the police car to the jail and from the jail to the court room. Out loud, people would talk and tweet about the man’s family and friends and networks — wondering where he was radicalized, and if anyone else feels the way he does.

In this case, though? Crickets. We hear nothing at all — almost exclusively because the man who planted an improvised explosive device, just like ones that have been used to murder and maim people all over the world, was white. His guilt starts and stops with him. His actions aren’t an indictment of his whole faith, political outlook, and race. White people aren’t, thanks to Estes, suddenly labeled terrorists or seen as a threat to American safety in the way that would almost certainly happen had it been anybody other than a white man.

This isn’t me calling for all of those things that happen to Muslims and immigrants every single day to now happen to Estes and white people all over the country. It’s me saying that the fundamentally bigoted double standard by which it is done to virtually everyone except for Michael Christopher Estes and other white men has to stop.

Top photo: A collage shows Michael Christopher Estes and a view of Asheville Regional Airport. (Photos: Google Maps, Buncombe County Detention Center)

The post The Airport Bomber From Last Week You Never Heard About appeared first on The Intercept.

Read more at: The Intercept

Silicon Valley and Hollywood Lobby Against Gender Pay Gap Transparency

from October 12, 2017 at 02:51PM

Lobbyists representing leading companies in the Silicon Valley and Hollywood have placed tremendous pressure to defeat legislation designed to shine a spotlight onto wage disparities by gender at California companies.

Gov. Jerry Brown is currently deciding the fate of AB 1209, a bill passed by both chambers of the legislature that requires large firms with 500 or more employees in the state to file reports with the secretary of state detailing the gender pay gap for people working in the same position.

Brown has until Sunday to sign or veto the legislation. If he takes no action, the bill becomes law without his signature.

What companies are pressing Brown to kill the bill? It’s a Sacramento mystery.

A number of business trade associations, including the Motion Picture Association of America, TechNet, and Computing Technology Industry Association, have been lobbying the governor. Those three groups represent the largest movie production studios and technology firms in the state, but when advocating on issues of public policy, they are not required to disclose the firms for whom they are lobbying.

The groups did not respond to requests for comment regarding which member companies asked them to push against AB 1209.

The trio last month signed a letter claiming that the proposal would create an unfair image of employers by failing to take into account jobs that are based on commission, where pay differentials may account for performance rather than any form of gender discrimination. They have urged elected officials to oppose the legislation.

“Public display of the data adds insult to injury. Employers would be required to provide statistics on job duties, wages and gender, but without the factors such as experience and seniority that the law says are legitimate reasons for wage gaps,” Kara Bush of CompTIA wrote in a column co-authored with the California Chamber of Commerce, denouncing the bill.

At the Assembly hearing to discuss the bill, another CompTIA lobbyist, Chris McHill, testified in opposition, claiming that AB 1209 would simply create new “avenues for enterprising plaintiffs lawyers to go and sue those individual companies.”

Members of CompTIA include Google, Apple, Ingram Micro, and other companies that may be forced to report gender pay data under the law.

Lobbying disclosures show that Google, which has faced mounting questions over its own gender pay gap, lobbied on the legislation, although it is not clear what position the technology giant took. Google’s primary Sacramento lobbying firm, KP Public Affairs, engaged on AB 1209 sometime between April and June, as the bill made its way through committee, according to the disclosures.

Asked by The Intercept if Google supports or opposes the legislation, a company spokesperson declined to answer. He later contacted us to say that Google “never instructed any firms to lobby on this to the legislature, governor or anywhere else.” KP Public Affairs, the spokesperson added, “[was] at meetings where it was discussed, among other topics, so we disclosed it.”

Google has many reasons to be wary of further scrutiny over its compensation practices.

The firm waged a legal battle against the Department of Labor over an audit designed to determine whether the company complied with equal pay laws.

In September, the New York Times obtained a spreadsheet from Google that contained salary and bonus information. While the data do not provide a full view of Google salaries, the spreadsheet appears to show that women are paid less than men for the same entry level and mid-level positions.

Also last month, three former Google employees filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that the firm engaged in widespread gender discrimination.

James Finberg, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the suit, said he wouldn’t be surprised if firms like Google are lobbying against pay gap transparency efforts. Finberg noted that the Department of Labor audit already found statistically significant pay disparities for women across the board. “So to the extent that that’s reported publicly, it’s embarrassing for Google,” he said.

Top photo: The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. on Sept. 2, 2011.

The post Silicon Valley and Hollywood Lobby Against Gender Pay Gap Transparency appeared first on The Intercept.

Read more at: The Intercept

Major Gunmaker Admits “Heightened Fears” of Crime and Terrorism Help Sales

from October 13, 2017 at 11:21AM

Following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, there has been a surge in sales of bump stocks — devices that can help increase the rate of fire of weapons like semi-automatic rifles.

The Georgia Gun Store in Gainesville told ABC Australia that it hadn’t fielded any requests for bump stocks in the past year, but the Las Vegas shooting changed that. Kellie Weeks, who owns the store, said there was increased demand following the shooting; she called several distributors but was told they were out of stock.

“Anybody that wants to get them is probably just worried that they’re going to be banned,” she said.

The surge in gun product sales following mass shootings and other major crimes is something the industry expects to happen. Just look at the 2017 annual report from American Outdoor Brands Corporation — the company formerly known as Smith & Wesson.

In the section of the the report discussing “risk factors,” the company cites speculation about gun control and “heightened fears” about terrorism and crime increasing consumer demand for their products:

In addition, speculation surrounding increased gun control at the federal, state, and local level and heightened fears of terrorism and crime can affect consumer demand for our products. Often, such concerns result in an increase in near-term consumer demand and subsequent softening of demand when such concerns subside. Inventory levels in excess of customer demand may negatively impact operating results.

The industry recognizing and acknowledging the role fear plays in its sales to investors is not new. In 2016, Sturm, Ruger & Co. President Michael Fifer told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting that the firm had seen a spike in a demand that “was strongly correlated to the tragic terrorist activities in Paris and San Bernardino.” This presented a “big opportunity for the distributors to step up and take on inventory.”

The Monday after the shooting in Las Vegas, American Outdoor Brands’s stock surged, rising 3.2 percent. Sturm, Ruger & Co. rose 3.5 percent.

Top photo: A bump stock device, (left) that fits on a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing speed, making it similar to a fully automatic rifle, is installed on a AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, (right) at a gun store on October 5, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The post Major Gunmaker Admits “Heightened Fears” of Crime and Terrorism Help Sales appeared first on The Intercept.

Read more at: The Intercept