National and state news briefs

Staff and wire reports

Patrol reports 15 deaths during Memorial Day weekend

Ohio State Highway Patrol

COLUMBUS – The Ohio State Highway Patrol is reporting 15 deaths on Ohio roadways during the 2018 Memorial Day weekend according to provisional statistics. There were 15 traffic deaths during the 2016 and 2017 Memorial Day weekends. Two of this year’s fatalities were the result of not wearing a seat belt when available and two were OVI-related. The four-day reporting period began Friday, May 25 and ran through Monday, May 28.

State Troopers made 36,582 traffic enforcement contacts; including 787 OVI arrests, 490 drug arrests, 8,242 safety belt citations. In addition, the Patrol made 17,905 non-enforcement contacts including 4,077 motorist assists.

“We take enforcing traffic laws seriously, and troopers were highly visible this weekend to encourage safety,” said Colonel Paul A. Pride, Patrol superintendent. “We thank everyone who slowed down, buckled up and designated sober drivers this weekend. We ask that you do the same every time you get behind the wheel.”

Year to date, there have been 380 confirmed fatalities on Ohio’s roads; a 4 percent decrease over the same time last year. Roadway safety is a shared responsibility; everyone can contribute to making our roadways safer by following traffic laws, wearing safety belts and driving sober.

What is Memorial Day?

Three years after the Civil War ended, the Grand Army of the Republic set aside a day (May 30th) to decorate the graves of those lost to the war, following a Southern custom. It was called Decoration Day. After World War II, it became known as Memorial Day. That became the official name in 1967. In 1968 the day was changed to the last Monday in May.

Trump’s company earned $40M from Washington hotel in 2017, disclosure shows

Steve Reilly and Nick Penzenstadler, USA TODAY

May 27

The president’s income from his company’s hotel in Washington, D.C. topped $40 million last year, according to a copy of his annual financial disclosure report released on Wednesday, making the property a clear winner among a portfolio which showed mixed results.

The Trump International Hotel, located less than one mile from the White House, has emerged a favorite of the Washington power players, including lobbyists and interest groups since its opening in October 2016.

President Trump earned $40.4 million from the hotel in the 2017 calendar year, according to the disclosure released Wednesday. Last year’s financial disclosure report, which covered January 2016 to mid-April 2017 indicated President Trump earned $19.7 million from the hotel over that period.

The Washington hotel’s revenue in 2017 included more than $350,000 in campaign funds, according to a USA TODAY analysis of campaign finance data. More than 60% of that came from events hosted by the Republican National Committee.

The hotel’s customers in 2017 also included officials or lobbyists for the governments of Malaysia, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, according to public disclosures and event announcements. The hotel hosted events for a range of domestic business interests, from the National Mining Association to the National Confectioners Association.

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Unlike previous presidents, Trump continues to own a sprawling international business empire whole holding office and has not divested from it, which has drawn concern from ethics advocates. The Washington hotel is at the center of multiple lawsuits alleging President Trump is violating the emoluments clause, which prohibits U.S. officials from accepting gifts or titles from foreign states without congressional approval. Trump also refused during the campaign, and since, to release copies of income tax returns.

The hotel has become a destination for politicians and others who might want to influence the president, and has been making money “hand over fist” while other businesses in Washington struggle, said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“Are people going there and spending this huge amount of money there in an effort to curry favor with the president? It’s something we’re going to have to keep asking,” he said.

Why Do Racists Keep Popping Up In Republican Primaries?

Ron Kampeas

The Forward Association, Inc.

May 28, 2018

WASHINGTON (JTA) — “Republicans seek alternative to ‘Nazi’ candidate after he secures nomination,” one headline reads.

“GOP House candidate in Illinois is a 9/11 truther, said Beyonce had ties to the Illuminati,” another says.

Both headlines would be alarming enough if they weren’t about two separate congressional races. The emergence of fringe candidates as the top challengers in these two districts and elsewhere is giving Republicans headaches. And it is raising questions as to who or what is to blame for the seeming mainstreaming of hate- and conspiracy-mongering.

Is it Donald Trump and his “America First” populism? An emboldened “alt-right”? Social media’s megaphone effect?

In Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, in the state’s northwestern corner, Democratic incumbent Cheri Bustos will face a GOP nominee named Bill Fawell, who believes, according to CNN research posted Friday, that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an inside job, and that Beyonce and Taylor Swift are stumping for the Illuminati, a worldwide domination sect that some conspiracists insist exists.

In the same state’s 3rd district, comprising southwest Chicago and its suburbs, Arthur Jones, a Nazi — not a sobriquet, his preferred affiliation — became the GOP candidate despite being rejected by national Republicans and the state party for denying the Holocaust.

Party leaders have also gone out of their way to denounce Paul Nehlen, who is seeking the soon-to-be-vacated seat of House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st, and Patrick Little, who is running for the U.S. Senate in California. Nehlen proudly attacks his enemies as Jews and Little is a white supremacist.

Paul Nehlen is running to replace Paul Ryan.

Wisconsin GOP Scrambles To Keep Paul Ryan’s Seat From Jew Hater Paul Nehlen

Aiden PinkApril 11, 2018

The GOP’s critics are taking notice.

“Republican Anti-Semites on the Rise” was the subject line on a recent newsletter distributed by the Jewish Democratic Council of America.

What’s going on? Here are some answers.

Funds are limited when you’re fighting for your political life.

In the 17th, Illinois Republicans declined to run a viable nominee in a district where Trump won by less than a percentage point in 2016, though he gained 16 points over Mitt Romney in 2012. That opened the door for Fawell, a one-time Libertarian with a conspiracist streak. The Republicans’ decision reflects a system in which both parties are strapped for cash and forced to prioritize some seats over others — leaving the same seats vulnerable to extremists who otherwise would never make the cut.

Republicans are very much on the defensive this year, fearing a “blue wave” that will hand the House of Representatives back to the Democrats. It doesn’t make sense under those circumstances, party leaders say, for a state or national party to throw away fundraising on unwinnable districts, and if there’s no real apparatus within the district to run a credible candidate, anyone can sneak in.

“With the map of competitive races so extensive this cycle, neither the national party or local parties have the luxury of working to attract candidates to run as a suicide mission in an unwinnable race,” Matt Brooks, the Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director, told JTA in an email. (JTA also has a query into the Illinois State Republican Party.)

Congressional candidate Arthur Jones is a Holocaust denier and former American Nazi Party leader.

Suicide mission, you say? Extremists like suicide missions.

Mark Pitcavage, the director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League, says extremists have a longstanding tradition of lying in wait for establishment parties to abandon “unwinnable” primaries and then rushing in — often at the last minute to avoid legal counteractions — to seize the prize. And both major parties have been targets. The tactic dates at least to 1980 when Tom Metzger, a white supremacist, won the Democratic nomination in California’s 43rd District comprising the San Diego area. Democrats ended up endorsing the Republican incumbent to keep Metzger out of Congress. (He lost.)

“They know they have no chance to win the congressional or senatorial seat they’re running for,” Pitcavage said. “But then they become the nominee, and for the rest of their lives they can use that — major party nominee — for credibility or attention.”

The alt-right is emboldened.

Nehlen in Wisconsin and Little in California are not stealth candidates — not this time anyway. (Nehlen obscured some of his more toxic views when he first ran against Ryan in 2016.) Now the candidates are upfront about their views and affiliations; Little was forcibly removed from the California State Party convention earlier this month, kicking and dragging an Israeli flag. He has opined at length on YouTube about the “Jewish problem.” Nehlen obsesses about Jews in the media.

Coming out makes sense at a time when there is at least the appearance of mainstreaming of some of their views. A number of past and current officials in the Trump administration have affiliations with the alt-right, and the president has not wholly repudiated the movement’s views.

Pitcavage said that the resulting media oxygen for the alt-right emboldens some of its figures into believing their ideas can fly in an election.

“There’s been more attention given this year to people like Nehlen and Jones,” he said.

What to do?

Nothing, said the RJC’s Brooks. Bad apples are the price one pays for an open system.

“In a democracy, ballot access is sacrosanct and anyone can run.”

Wake up, the ADL’s Pitcavage said. Run party-sanctioned candidates even in unwinnable districts.

“This is true for both parties. Even if you can’t win, it’s never a good idea to not have a candidate for an important seat,” he said. “What if something happens to the [opposition party] incumbent which might make the contest viable? If you cede the ground, crazy people might come forward to take it and embarrass you.”

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From Facebook

Remember in November: More people have died in the United States from gun violence than all our wars combined!

The country is divided as if this was the 1860’s. Trump appears to be forming the New Confederacy which has expanded to Midwestern States. He has written off Blue States, People of Color, and Immigrants. We have gone from Obama’s No red states, no blue states to Trump’s United Red States of America, and United Blue States of America. Almost like two separate countries. The Civil War really never ended. It just became dormant until the right leader came along to awaken the Beast. The Electoral College allows a Fringe candidate with dangerous ideas to win the Presidency. Trump could win again with even a bigger Popular vote loss. Trump has enhanced the New Confederacy with a Autocratic twist mixed with conspiracy theories, and attempts to discredit the Press and the Judicial branch of government to protect his power. All this destruction to our Democracy and Constitution has been accomplished in less than two years with the help of the Republican Congress, a ineffective Democrat Congress, and half the population. Voting to halt this New Confederacy is still possible. The choice to fight is up to us.

“Donald Trump is a damn traitor. Heroes didn’t die for this country so Trump could make money off his presidency. Heroes didn’t die for this country so he could abuse his powers. Heroes died for our country to protect us… from people like Trump.” — Scott Dworkin

Hawaii Kilauea: Perplexing Fact~ Israel Owns The Geothermal Plant On The Big Island. Your inability to grasp science is not a valid argument against it.

In an open letter, Crew [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington] chair and former White House ethics chief Norm Eisen and Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a nonprofit that advocates for campaign finance reform, wrote that Donald Trump’s children, Ivanka, Donald Jr and Eric, and son-in-law Jared Kushner “engage in business activities and trade on their relationship with the president to pursue business deals and accumulate wealth”. (The Guardian)

AG Sessions speaking about Immigration Policy says that, America “cannot take everyone on this planet who is in a difficult situation.” I ask why not? We have enough food we sell food all over the world. A flood of people from around the world would do more for our economy than any tax cut for the rich ever has. Let the people who want to come here in. We do not have to let people who are criminal mentally ill or contagious into the country. But if there is nothing wrong with an individual that person should be allowed to come. Make America The Land Of The New Beginnings.

Former NSA analyst claims US spy agencies have known Trump was ‘a Russian agent’ since 2016

Brad Reed

28 May 2018

Raw Story!

In his latest column at the Observer, former National Security Agency analyst John Schindler claims that American intelligence agencies have a lot more information connecting President Donald Trump to the Kremlin than they’ve let on so far.

Specifically, Schindler says that a current senior NSA official recently explained to him that his agency, with the help of some allied foreign intelligence agencies, knew what Trump and his family were up to well into the 2016 presidential campaign.

In fact, the agent said that by the time Trump accepted the Republican Party nomination for the presidency, “We knew we had a Russian agent on our hands.”

According to the official, NSA intercepts picked up quite a lot of chatter from Russian government officials about helping Trump’s campaign, and he tells Schindler that “the Kremlin talked about Trump like he was their boy.”

What’s more, the official also tells Schindler that he has no doubt that Trump and his associates were aware of — and embraced — the help they were receiving in 2016 from the Russians.

“Trump and his kids knew what they were doing, and who they were doing it with,” he claims.

Allies Of Vladimir Putin Funneled Money To Senior Republicans


May 8

The Intellectualist

Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham are among those who benefited from Russia-linked donations.

A close look at public campaign finance reports reveals a network of Russian oligarchs increasingly contributing to top Republican leadership in recent years, according to Dallas News.

And thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United in 2010, the donations are perfectly legal.

An example is Len Blavatnik, a dual U.S.-U.K. citizen and one of the largest donors to GOP political action committees in the 2015-16 election cycle. Blavatnik’s family emigrated to the U.S. in the late ’70s from the U.S.S.R. and he returned to Russia when the Soviet Union began to collapse in the late ’80s.

The Russian billionaire is one of the U.K.’s wealthiest, with an estimated net worth of $20 billion. Prior to the 2016 election season, Blavatnik’s political donations were bipartisan and meager.

In 2015-16, everything changed. Blavatnik’s political contributions soared and made a hard right turn as he pumped $6.35 million into GOP political action committees, with millions of dollars going to top Republican leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.

It is unclear why Republicans would knowingly accept donations from such contributors, particularly after Russia’s attempt to interfere with the presidential election was known:

Two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement in October 2016 that the Russian government had directed the effort to interfere in our electoral process, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings.

The PAC took another $1 million from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings on March 30, 2017, just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey publicly testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s interference in the election.

U.N. sets up human rights probe into Gaza killings, to Israel’s fury

May 18, 2018

GENEVA (Reuters) – Israel railed against the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday as it voted to set up a probe into recent killings in Gaza and accused Israel of excessive use of force.

The resolution to send a commission of inquiry to investigate was rejected by the United States and Australia, but backed by 29 members of the 47-state U.N. forum. Another 14 countries, including Britain, Germany and Japan, abstained.

Israel’s ambassador in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter, castigated the council for “spreading lies against Israel” during “five hours of ludicrous statements”.

“Simply put, with this resolution, this council has reached a new height of hypocrisy, and the lowest standards of credibility,” she said.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it totally rejected the resolution, adding the entire purpose of the council was “not to investigate the truth but to compromise Israel’s right to self-defense and to single out the Jewish state for demonisation”.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki welcomed the U.N. decision.

“The Human Rights Council’s formation of an international committee of investigation is a step towards doing justice to the Palestinian people,” he said in a statement. He urged speedy implementation “to stop Israeli war crimes”.

The special session of the Human Rights Council was convened after the bloodiest day for Palestinians in years on Monday, when 60 were killed by Israeli gunfire during demonstrations that Israel said included attempts to breach its frontier fence.

“Nobody has been made safer by the horrific events of the past week,” U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said as he opened the debate.

Israeli forces had killed 106 Palestinians, including 15 children, since March 30, he said. More than 12,000 were injured, at least 3,500 by live ammunition. Israel was an occupying power under international law, obliged to protect the people of Gaza and ensure their welfare, he said.

“But they are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death; deprived of dignity; dehumanised by the Israeli authorities to such a point it appears officials do not even consider that these men and women have a right, as well as every reason, to protest.”

Israel says the deaths took place in protests organised by Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, which intentionally provoked the violence, an accusation Hamas denies.

Israel and the United States complain that the Human Rights Council, made up of 47 states chosen by the General Assembly, has a permanent anti-Israel bias.

The United States has stood by Israel during the past week’s violence, which coincided with the opening of a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. U.S. chargé d’affaires Theodore Allegra said the Council was ignoring the real culprit: Hamas.

“The one-sided action proposed by the council today only further shows that the Human Rights Council is indeed a broken body,” he said.

Two million people live in Gaza, most of them stateless descendants of refugees from homes in what is now Israel at its founding in 1948.

The territory has been run by Hamas since 2007, during which time Israel has fought three wars against the militant group, which denies Israel’s right to exist.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of Gaza for security reasons, which the United Nations says has led to the collapse of Gaza’s economy.

Reporting by Tom Miles, Nidal al-Mughrabi, Stephen Farrell and Dan Williams.

Trump lawyer Cohen sought $1 million from Qatar in late 2016: Washington Post

U.S. President Donald Trump‘s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen asked the Qatari government for at least $1 million in December 2016 in exchange for access or insight into the Trump administration, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Qatar turned down Cohen’s offer, made weeks before Trump‘s inauguration in January 2017, the Post reported, citing several people with knowledge of the situation. Other media outlets also reported Wednesday that Cohen requested money from Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who at the time was head of the investments division of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.

Cohen made the solicitation to al-Rumaihi at a meeting in Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 12, 2016, the Post reported.

Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower as part of a Qatari delegation that included Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed al-Thani, the Post said.

Al-Rumaihi told Cohen that Qatar expected to invest in Trump plans to solicit investment in a U.S. infrastructure program, the Post reported. Cohen offered to help find projects for Qatar to sponsor, in exchange for a $1 million upfront fee, the newspaper reported.

The request to Qatar would be the latest such exchange offered by Cohen to be made public following acknowledgements by U.S. and European companies last week that they paid Cohen, who was Trump‘s lawyer for about a decade and self-described “fixer” for Trump.

Staff and wire reports