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Vox Populi / Re: Virginia (Race) Riot
« on: Today at 03:28:42 pm »
Wednesday, 20th November 2019
Another Confederate monument comes down, this time in North Carolina

by Jason Hanna and Joe Sutton

A Confederate monument that had stood in front of a North Carolina courthouse for 112 years was taken down overnight after months of debate and protests.

Crews used cranes early Wednesday to remove the monument -- a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier atop a marble pedestal -- from its spot outside the Chatham County courthouse in Pittsboro, roughly a 35-mile drive west of Raleigh.

It was the latest Confederate memorial in the South to be moved in the past few years amid a national debate about their purpose and necessity.

The county Board of Commissioners voted in August to remove the statue, CNN affiliate WRAL reported.

That sparked a court challenge by the group that donated the statue in 1907, the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

A judge ruled this month that the group did not give sufficient evidence supporting the monument's continued presence in front of the courthouse, CNN affiliate WTVD reported.

The statue and pedestal "will be transported to a safe location where they will be preserved and stored" until the Winnie Davis chapter "finds a more appropriate location to place them," the county said in a news release.

A few dozen people gathered to watch the removal after the county announced late Tuesday that it was about to happen, CNN affiliates reported.

Robert Butler, a supporter of the monument, told WRAL that its removal was heartbreaking.

"A statue's never hurt a soul, just like a grave memorial. Do they hurt anybody?" he said.

Anderson Ritter told WRAL that he supported the takedown.

"It represents stuff that never really should have happened, and it kind of memorializes and makes it seem good," Ritter told WRAL.

"I and other people don't agree with that."

Debate over the monument's future sparked protests against and for its removal in recent weeks.

A fight erupted Saturday between pro-monument demonstrators and counter protesters, leading to the arrests of 11 people, WTVD reported.

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Vox Populi / Re: The US War in Africa
« on: Today at 10:08:53 am »
Wednesday, 20th November 2019
Nikki Haley Used System for Unclassified Material to Send ‘Confidential’ Information
by Christopher Dickey

North Korea had just tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting Alaska, and the Trump administration was scrambling to react.

But it seems Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, had lost her password for classified communications.

That’s why on that fraught July 4, 2017, she was typing away on her BlackBerry 10 smartphone, sending “confidential” information over a system meant only for unclassified material.
Haley was in a rush as she headed to her office— “On my way in” —shooting emails back and forth with top aides who’d been with her since she was governor of South Carolina.

She needed to make a statement, and they were drafting it for her.

“Let’s clean this up,” she writes after looking at some of the copy.

“Pretty this up for me,” she says.

The next day we discover what the problem is with her communications.

“Can’t find my password for the high side,” she writes.

The stylistic suggestions and the apparent explanation for using less secure messages was in a trove of emails recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the watchdog organization American Oversight.

But most of the content is blacked out—and the redactions note various classification criteria as exempt from FOIA requests, including the B1 category:

“classified national defense and foreign relations information”; 1.4(B) “foreign government information”; and 1.4(D) “foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources.”

For an administration obsessed with security lapses others have committed, and for a still-rising star in the Republican Party, this could be more than a little embarrassing.

“The American public has heard for years what the standard is for senior State Department officials mishandling classified information in their emails,” says Austin Evers, executive director at American Oversight, a self-described “nonpartisan, nonprofit ethics watchdog… investigating the Trump administration.”

“Ambassador Haley may have found it inconvenient to update her password,” Evers told The Daily Beast,

“but, as we all know, ‘convenience’ is not an acceptable reason to skirt information security rules. She should be held to the same standard as everyone else.”

Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Haley requested to see the emails in question and then did not respond further.

Since 2015 at least, when investigations of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email use became a major issue, Donald Trump and the Republicans have made references to her emails a constant refrain.

In 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, Trump famously called on Russia to help him find missing Clinton emails.

Then-FBI Director James Comey called Clinton’s practices “extremely careless,” but not worthy of a criminal prosecution, and his brief reopening of the case just before the election may have contributed substantially to her loss.

Now almost three years into the Trump presidency, his administration and his congressional defenders are still fixated on Clinton’s supposed lapses.

They use the issue as a knee-jerk riposte to the many accusations leveled at Trump, including mishandling classified material.

Indeed, the rampant whataboutism has made “but her emails” an inside joke inside the Beltway.

But the Trump obsession won’t go away.

The Washington Post reported in September this year that State Department investigators had notified scores of present and former State Department staffers whose communications were found in Clinton’s unsecured emails that they “have been identified as possibly bearing some culpability” for “security incidents” as the content of those emails is examined and classified ex post facto.

Unlike Clinton, Haley did not use a private email account exclusively, and did not use one to send the emails in question.

She left her Cabinet post in the administration last year when she resigned as UN ambassador.

She is currently pushing her new book, With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace, pitching herself as one of Trump’s great defenders amid widespread speculation she is looking to replace Vice President Mike Pence on the 2020 ticket and eventually make a run for the presidency in 2024.

In July 2017, the issue Haley and her staffers were discussing over the State Department’s OpenNet system for unclassified communications was the clear and present danger of nuclear war with North Korea.

“There was no time to waste,” Haley writes in her book.

“The missile launches were ongoing and the regime’s capabilities were increasing with each launch.”

Precisely because of the crisis atmosphere, Haley’s use of OpenNet for classified communications could be of serious concern.

State Department communications often are targeted by hackers, and the Russians, Chinese, Iranians—and North Koreans—have some of the most effective. In September 2018, State acknowledged there had been what it described as “activity of concern in its unclassified email system.”

The hack supposedly affected fewer than 1 percent of users and involved personal information, according to the State Department alert notice published by Politico.

But the most successful hacks, of course, are the ones that go undetected, and the system’s vulnerability is a matter of record.

After the frantic events of July 4 and 5, 2017, Pyongyang would test more ICBMs, including one capable of carrying a nuclear warhead anywhere within the continental United States.

In early September, Pyongyang tested a hydrogen bomb.

President Trump would threaten North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with “fire and fury” and dismiss him as “Rocket Man.”

Kim would keep on testing missiles and testing Trump, until Kim was satisfied he could threaten major American cities with a nuclear attack.

The situation grew dire indeed until Trump embraced the idea of a summit and claimed the problem was solved. Certainly tensions abated.

But so far, North Korea has kept its nukes and its ICBMs.

One of the emails obtained by American Oversight shows that on July 5, 2017, as Haley continued to communicate on the OpenNet system, and as she was addressing the Security Council, former Georgia Congressman and House Speaker Newt Gingrich sent a message to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Gingrich struck a Strangelovian note.

If North Korea could not be coerced,

“We may need a war surviving strategy,” he wrote, including “nuclear attack survival systems.”

As Haley tells the story of the United Nations Security Council negotiations for tough new sanctions against North Korea, she first cajoled the Chinese into backing them, partly to avert what seemed to be Trump’s threats of a catastrophic war.

In her book, she says this was a ruse.
Trump was just pretending to be a madman, she claims, even though she told the Chinese,

“I can’t promise you the president won’t act on his own if you don’t work with us.”
Haley’s approach to the Russians was a little different, and she gives the impression in her book that she shamed them into support of North Korea sanctions.

But according to the emails obtained by American Oversight, on Monday, July 10, 2017, Haley started arranging to share intelligence with Russia about the July 4 North Korean missile test:

“I will try and reach out to Russia wed [Wednesday] and see if they want it. Would aim for the end of the week.”

What happened next?

The Haley emails released so far don’t tell us.

But Russia, if you’re listening …

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« on: Today at 08:52:19 am »
Wednesday, 20th November2019
California prosecutor accused of using his own daughter as bait to catch suspected child molester
by Nicole Chavez, Stella Chan and Sarah Moon

A prosecutor in Northern California was placed on leave after he allegedly used his daughter to lure a suspected child molester, the Santa Clara District* Attorney's Office says.

Authorities had been searching for a man who approached a 13-year-old girl several times between August and September while she was walking her dog at the Los Alamitos Creek Trail in San Jose, the San Jose Police Department said in a statement.

The man touched the girl inappropriately on the last three occasions they met, police said.

The girl was the daughter of a prosecutor for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.

Authorities had been searching for a man who approached a 13-year-old girl several times between August and September while she was walking her dog at the Los Alamitos Creek Trail in San Jose, the San Jose Police Department said in a statement.

The man touched the girl inappropriately on the last three occasions they met, police said.

The girl was the daughter of a prosecutor for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.

The prosecutor, who has not been identified, sent his daughter back to walk on the trail while staying in touch with her using cellphones and earbuds, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

In a police report obtained by the newspaper, a police sergeant said the prosecutor told his daughter "to let (the suspect) touch her if she encountered him, but if it was the breast or between the legs to move away.

He instructed (the victim) to let (the suspect) identify and make the contact and if she cannot handle things she should move away. He instructed (the victim) to walk back and forth on the designated route and don't interact with anyone for very long."

The prosecutor recorded a video of the man interacting with his daughter and shared it with police before they made the arrest, the Mercury News reported.

Ali Mohammad Lajmiri, 76, was arrested November 12 and charged with lewd and lascivious acts on a minor under the age of 14 and false imprisonment, police said.

CNN has reached out to Lajmiri's attorney for comment.

Lajmiri also told police he had Alzheimer's disease and had trouble remembering the interactions, the police report states, according to the Mercury News.

Lajmiri's bail was set a $3 million, according to a spokesperson with the state's attorney general's office.

The state agency has taken over prosecution of the case because of the conflict of interest with the District Attorney's Office.

The prosecutor was placed on leave as the Santa Clara District* Attorney's Office reviews his actions.

In a letter to his staff obtained by CNN, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said he has to be careful about releasing information that could damage the state and local investigations.

"I am sure you are aware of a matter involving the actions of one of our prosecutors and the arrest of a man for sexually assaulting the prosecutor's daughter," the letter said.

"The moment we became aware of this matter, we took immediate action, referring it to the Attorney General's Office and initiating our own internal review. ... As prosecutors, we must never forget that our own behavior -- inside and outside of the courtroom -- matters. The choices we make in our professional and personal lives need to be in harmony with the protocols, laws, and ethics of our criminal justice system."

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*former Representative Katie Hill's district

Vox Populi / Re: Trump to visit Phoenix AZ for rally
« on: Today at 08:30:53 am »
Wednesday, 20th November 2019
China signs defence agreement with South Korea as US angers Seoul with demand for $5bn troop payment

by Julian Ryall

The defence ministers of South Korea and China have agreed to develop their security ties to ensure stability in north-east Asia, the latest indication that Washington’s long-standing alliances in the region are fraying.

On the sidelines of regional security talks in Bangkok on Sunday, Jeong Kyeong-doo, the South Korean minister of defence, and his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, agreed to set up more military hotlines and to push ahead with a visit by Mr Jeong to China next year to “foster bilateral exchanges and cooperation in defence”, South Korea’s defence ministry said. 

Seoul’s announcement coincided with growing resentment at the $5 billion (£3.9bn) annual fee that Washington is demanding to keep 28,500 US troops in South Korea.

That figure is a sharp increase from the $923 million that Seoul paid this year, which was an 8 per cent increase on the previous year.

An editorial in Monday’s edition of The Korea Times warned that the security alliance between the two countries “may fall apart due to Washington’s blatantly excessive demands”.
Mr Trump has previously threatened to withdraw US troops if his demands are not met, with the editorial accusing the president of regarding the Korea-US mutual defence treaty “as a property deal to make money”.

The vast majority of Koreans agree, with a recent survey by the Korea Institute for National Reunification showing that 96 per cent of people are opposed to Seoul paying more for the US military presence.

There is also irritation at the pressure that Washington is applying to the South to make Seoul sign an extension to a three-way agreement on sharing military information with the US and Japan.

The General Security of Military Information Agreement is due to expire at midnight on November 23 and South Korea insists that it will only agree to an extension if Japan cancels restrictions on exports of chemicals critical to the South’s microchip industry.

Japan is widely believed to have imposed the restrictions as the latest incident in its troubled relationship with South Korea, which includes the issue of compensation for labourers put to work during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The two nations' defence ministers held discussions with Mark Esper, the US defence secretary, at the weekend but hopes that a breakthrough might materialise came to nothing.

Just days before an agreement designed to protect the allies from North Korean belligerence runs out, Tokyo and Seoul merely reiterated their long-held positions.

The US demanded in July that Japan pay $8 billion a year to keep 54,000 US military personnel in the country, Foreign Policy reported late last week.

Tokyo currently contributes $2 billion a year to US military costs in Japan.

“This kind of demand, not only the exorbitant number, but the way it is being done, could trigger anti-Americanism”, Bruce Klinger, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation think tank, told Foreign Policy.

“If you weaken alliances, and potentially decrease deterrence and US troop presence, that benefits North Korea, China and Russia, who see the potential for reduced US influence and support for our allies”.

Daniel Pinkston, a professor of international relations at the Seoul campus of Troy University, was more blunt in his assessment.

“It’s just extortion”, he told The Telegraph.

“It’s little more than a mob boss going around and demanding protection money. The numbers that the US is demanding are politically impossible for Seoul and Tokyo to swallow and that is just fuelling resentment."

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Books / Healthy Holly by Catherine Pugh
« on: Today at 07:29:55 am »
Wednesday, 20th November 2019
Former Baltimore Mayor Pugh charged with 11 counts of fraud, tax evasion in ‘Healthy Holly’ book scandal

by Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector

Federal prosecutors have charged former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh with 11 counts of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy in what they allege was a corrupt scheme involving her sales of a self-published children’s book series.

In a grand jury indictment made public Wednesday, prosecutors allege Pugh defrauded area businesses and nonprofit organizations with nearly $800,000 in sales of her “Healthy Holly” books to unlawfully enrich herself, promote her political career and illegally fund her campaign for mayor.

Though her customers ordered more than 100,000 copies of the books, the indictment says Pugh failed to print thousands of copies, double-sold others and took some to use for self-promotion.

Pugh, 69, used the profits to buy a house, pay down debt, and make illegal straw donations to her campaign, prosecutors allege.

At the same time, prosecutors said, she was evading taxes.

In 2016, for instance, when she was a state senator and ran for mayor, she told the Internal Revenue Service she had made just $31,000.

In fact, her income was more than $322,000 that year ― meaning she shorted the federal government of about $100,000 in taxes, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The charges Pugh faces carry potential sentences totaling 175 years in prison.

Prosecutors are seeking to seize $769,688 of her profits, along with her current home in Ashburton, which they allege she bought and renovated with fraudulently obtained funds.

The former Democratic mayor is expected to appear Thursday in U.S. District Court in downtown Baltimore.

“Our elected officials must place the interests of the citizens above their own,” U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur said in a statement.

“Corrupt public employees rip off the taxpayers and undermine everyone’s faith in government."

Two of Pugh’s associates ― longtime aide Gary Brown Jr. and Roslyn Wedington, the director of a nonprofit Pugh championed ― have agreed to plead guilty in the investigation, according to just-unsealed agreements.

Brown, 38, an aide to Pugh as a state senator and mayor, pleaded guilty earlier this month to four counts:

one for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one for filing a false tax return, and two for conspiring to defraud the United States.

Of the latter two charges, one is related to his work with Pugh, while the other is related to his work with Wedington, the director of the nonprofit training center for which Pugh served as board chairwoman.

Wedington, 50, pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and five counts of filing false tax returns.

According to her plea deal, she “knowingly filed false tax returns" each year from 2013 to 2017, with Brown’s help.

Prosecutors declined to say whether Brown and Wedington are cooperating with investigators.

Brandon Mead, an attorney for Wedington, said she regrets her actions.

“Ms. Wedington has been an incredibly hard worker. She unfortunately got put in a situation that many Americans face today, where she was behind on student loans, behind on health care debt, and she unfortunately made some wrong decisions,” he said.

The charges against Pugh, who rose from the City Council to a leadership position in the Maryland Senate before becoming Baltimore’s 50th mayor in 2016, come more than six months after she resigned amid scandal.

“The people of Maryland expect elected officials to make decisions based on the public’s best interests, not to abuse their office for personal gain,” Jennifer Boone, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore division, said in a statement.

“The indictment alleges that Catherine Pugh betrayed the public’s trust."

Criminal charges against the former mayor are the latest blow to a city plagued by relentless violence, persistent poverty and decades of population loss.

Pugh was once seen as a more ethical option for voters in a city with a history of wrongdoing by politicians.

But her political career came to an end this spring amid public outcry over the “Healthy Holly” book deals.

Those sales were revealed in a series of articles in The Baltimore Sun that began March 13th.

Pugh collected $500,000 over several years selling the books in a no-bid deal with the medical system, where she was on the board of directors.

She later resigned from the board and as mayor amid multiple investigations into her finances and the book sales, including to other entities doing business with the city.

Pugh said she sold the clumsily published books — they contain grammatical and spelling errors, such as a main character’s name being spelled two different ways and the word “vegetable” appearing as “vegetale” — to the medical system to distribute to city schoolchildren.

School officials, however, said they hadn’t asked for the books, never used them for instruction, and had thousands sitting unread in a warehouse.

As some in city and state government blasted what they called self-dealing, Pugh was unrepentant — and called inquiries into her deals with UMMS a

“witch hunt.”         

"Where have I heard this before?"

But her side of the story evolved.

She acknowledged the medical system paid her more than she had initially acknowledged.

And she later said she hadn’t produced thousands of the ordered books and gave back $100,000 to the hospital network.

Then it came out that ― despite Pugh saying she had sold only to UMMS ― she’d collected at least another $300,000 from other entities.

The Sun revealed health insurer Kaiser Permanente and Associated Black Charities bought a total of roughly 30,000 copies of Pugh’s books, paying her nearly $200,000.

Pugh voted in 2017 to approve a $48 million contract for Kaiser Permanente to provide insurance to city employees.

Associated Black Charities has a deal with the city to manage a $13 million fund that makes grants to groups that help children.

And Columbia businessman J.P. Grant — whose Grant Capital Management has long done business with the city — said his company cut a check for $100,000 to Pugh’s Healthy Holly LLC in 2016.

He received a sample copy of a book, but no documentation of how his money would be used, Grant said.

After being hospitalized amid the emerging scandal for pneumonia, Pugh apologized for the UMMS sales at a March 28 news conference at City Hall.

But at the same event, she disclosed that some 40,000 books UMMS paid for were never produced.

And in a bizarre twist, the still seriously ill mayor showed off a line of “Healthy Holly” baby clothes.

Pressure mounted on Pugh to resign, with the City Council, the governor and the city’s delegation to the General Assembly calling on her to step down.

While she went on leave in April, citing health reasons, she refused to leave office until after investigators raided City Hall, her homes and other locations connected with her in May.

She apologized to the public in a resignation letter read her attorney, Steven Silverman.

“I’m sorry for the harm that I have caused to the image of the city of Baltimore and the credibility of the office of the mayor,” Pugh said in the statement.

“Baltimore deserves a mayor who can move our great city forward."

The Sun’s series of investigative stories resulted in major change at the medical system, a network of hospitals in the state.

The medical system accepted the resignations of CEO Robert A. Chrencik and four other executives.

The General Assembly passed sweeping legislation that demanded the resignation of the entire board of directors.

In the indictment, prosecutors say Pugh’s scheme began in December 2010 when she persuaded the medical system to pay her $100,000 to purchase 20,000 copies of her first “Healthy Holly” book to donate to Baltimore’s schools.

Because the book contained “various grammatical and spelling errors," a school system staffer copy edited the books, and then-CEO Andres Alonso ultimately decided they couldn’t be used for instruction, but would be donated to students, prosecutors said.

Then a state senator, Pugh had about 20,000 copies of the books delivered to the school system, and those copies were stored in a warehouse.

However, Pugh and Brown, who worked as her legislative aide, arranged for thousands of the books to be removed for their “personal use and benefit,” prosecutors say.

Over the years, Pugh re-upped the sales to the hospital network four more times, but never told medical officials she had not used the books as intended, according to prosecutors.

Instead, the mayor stored thousands of copies of the books at her house, the mayor’s office at City Hall, her legislative offices, the War Memorial Building, a public storage locker used by Pugh’s mayoral campaign, her and Brown’s vehicles and the vehicles of other aides.

Meanwhile, Brown, who runs several limited liability companies out of his house, helped Pugh manage her book publishing business, including overseeing “the transportation and storage of the books, drafted invoices, and corresponded with purchasers" while on the clock as "Pugh’s legislative aide and mayoral staff member,” prosecutors say.

During her successful mayoral campaign, Pugh and Brown decided to inflate her campaign finance report through illegal means by using money from the books, prosecutors allege.

On November 8th, 2016, prosecutors say Pugh and Brown decided to “secretly” donate book-sale money to the campaign ― an action that could have been done legally under Maryland law, because candidates may contribute an unlimited amount of their own campaigns.

But because Pugh and Brown believed “that if the voters learned that Pugh had injected her own money into the campaign, she would appear desperate" they decided to make “contributions to her campaign in other people’s names, i.e., to use straw donors, which is a violation of Maryland’s election laws,” according to the indictment.

“Instead of depositing the checks into a bank account, Brown took the checks to the bank where Healthy Holly’s account was located and cashed them at the teller’s window, thereby acquiring untraceable cash to fund the straw donations," prosecutors allege.

Brown later came under investigation from the Maryland State Prosecutor’s office, which questioned the source of funds for some of the straw donations.

To hide the Healthy Holly proceeds as the source, the indictment says Pugh had asked Brown to create a fake independent contractor agreement and business ledger that misrepresented the checks as payments for promotional services rendered by Brown’s company.

Also at Pugh’s urging, prosecutors say, Brown created bogus invoices and backdated them.

In total, Brown and Pugh cashed out approximately $62,100 in Healthy Holly money during 2016, all of which went to straw donors or Pugh, prosecutors say.

The FBI said it had been investigating Pugh since 2016, when her campaign that year for mayor came under scrutiny.

In 2017, Brown was found guilty of violating state election laws for funneling cash to Pugh’s campaign through relatives.

Pugh kept Brown working at City Hall after the conviction.

His home was among those the FBI raided this spring.

According to federal prosecutors, Pugh said she would return the money illegally donated to her campaign, but according to the federal indictment she instead sent it to Brown to pay for his legal defense.

Brown did not cooperate with the earlier state prosecution, and the new federal indictment says the State Prosecutor wasn’t able to identify Healthy Holly as the source of the straw donation funds.

Meanwhile, prosecutors say, Pugh and Brown also defrauded the IRS by falsely representing Healthy Holly checks to Brown as payments for services and therefore deductible business expenses.

Brown’s deductions included fictitious expenses such as fake labor costs for nonexistent employees, prosecutors allege.

When not working as a staff member for Pugh, Brown worked as a part-time freelance tax preparer and included materially false information in all of those tax returns to obtain larger refunds ― totaling more than $100,000 ― for his customers, prosecutors say.

Pugh became the second Baltimore mayor in a decade to quit in connection with a criminal investigation; Democratic Mayor Sheila Dixon resigned in 2010.

In the wake of Pugh’s resignation, Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, then City Council president, ascended to Baltimore’s top job for the duration of her term.

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Wednesday, 20th November 2019
Indiana cop fired after stopping black customers for acting 'suspicious'

by Janelle Griffith

A deputy constable in Indiana has been fired after he was seen in a viral video confronting two black men in a store parking lot for "acting suspicious."

In the video posted to YouTube on November 13th, the description says the two men first noticed the officer watching them while they were at a Nordstrom Rack store in the Castleton neighborhood of Indianapolis.

"He watched us buy everything, and then followed us to the car," the YouTube video description says.

According to the description of the 17-minute video posted a day after the incident, which has been viewed more than 300,000 times as of Tuesday morning, the men started filming when they began to exit the parking lot and the officer screamed he was going to run their plates.

"So, we circled back to ask him why he was being invasive and abusing his authority!" the description says.

The men repeatedly ask the officer, identified as Lawrence Township Deputy Constable Daryl Jones by NBC affiliate WTHR in Indianapolis, why he approached them in the parking lot and why he wanted to see their driver's licenses.

They also request multiple times that he call his supervisor.

NBC News attempted to reach the two men confronted by Jones in the video, identified by local news stations as Aaron Blackwell and Durell Cunningham, at numbers listed for them but did not immediately hear back.

Jones was off duty and working security for the Nordstrom Rack store.

The store told NBC News on Tuesday that he no longer works there.

"I'm not calling the supervisor," Jones says, to which one of the men says:

"You're not pulling me over neither."

"What do you need my I.D. for, sir?" one of the men asks Jones.

"Because you want to run your mouth," he responds.

After one of the men tells Jones he didn't have the right to run the vehicle's license plates, Jones shouts:

"I got my rights to do anything I want to do, I'm a police officer."

"That doesn't mean anything," one of the men can be heard saying. Jones then threatens to tow their car and arrest them if they do not present their driver's licenses.

"I don't mind showing you my driver's license, but what is your reason for asking," one of the men says.

"Because you're acting suspicious," the off-duty constable responds.

The pair said they were clear about their complaint without being angry and were stern during the confrontation because they believed they did nothing wrong and did not act suspiciously.

After Jones calls for backup, an officer from the Indianapolis Metro Police Department responds and speaks with Jones near the car.

Jones then returns to the driver's side of the vehicle and tells the men they are free to go.

He walks off as they again request his name.

The responding officer speaks with the two men who questioned why Jones ran their plates without just cause.

The officer tells the pair:

"Not necessarily. We can run plates for any reason or no reason at all. What he does have to have is he has to have what's called reasonable suspicion in order to make a stop. He has to have some sort of reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed."

Lawrence Township Chief Constable Terry Burns told NBC News on Tuesday he fired the constable in the video within two hours of viewing it.

He also said Jones had been in the role for about 20 years.

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« on: Yesterday at 08:24:49 pm »
Tuesday, 19th November 2019
Brookshire white woman bombs!
by Cloe Alexander

A Brookshire woman has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after admitting to sending homemade bombs to state and federal officials.

Back in July, Julia Ann Poff, 47, pleaded guilty to transportation of explosives with the intent to kill, injure and intimidate a person.

She admitted she mailed a package in October 2016 with a homemade bomb addressed to former President Barack Obama.

She also admitted to mailing two similar packages addressed to Governor Greg Abbott and Carolyn Colvin, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

Authorities said the packages contained a victim-activated, booby-trapped improvised explosive device with explosive materials.

On October 6th, authorities intercepted a U.S. Postal Service small, flat rate box at a Executive Mansion mail handling facility at Bolling Air Force Base in the District of Columbia.

They opened the package, and it appeared to contain a bomb.

An FBI explosives expert conducted an examination and determined it to be a homemade bomb.
Investigators linked the box to Poff after finding a cat hair under an address label on one of the boxes that matched her cat’s hair.

Poff has been and will remain in custody pending tranfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined soon.

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Tuesday, 19th November 2019
Criminal charges expected this week against Jeffrey Epstein's guards


Two correctional officers responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein when he took his own life are expected to face criminal charges this week for falsifying prison records, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

The federal charges could come as soon as Tuesday and are the first in connection with Epstein's death.

The wealthy financier died at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls.

The officers on Epstein's unit at the federal jail in New York City are suspected of failing to check on him every half-hour, as required, and of fabricating log entries to claim they had.

Federal prosecutors offered the guards a plea bargain, but the AP reported Friday that the officers declined the deal.

The expected charges will be filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who have been investigating Epstein's August 10th death.

The people familiar with the matter insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Both guards were working overtime because of staffing shortages when Epstein was found.

The officers have been placed on administrative leave while the FBI and the Justice Department's inspector general investigate the circumstances surrounding Epstein's death.

The city's medical examiner ruled Epstein's death a suicide, but that hasn't stopped conspiracy theories.

A forensic pathologist hired by Epstein's family to observe the autopsy has said authorities could help clear things up by being more transparent.

Epstein's death ended the possibility of a trial that would have involved prominent figures, and it sparked widespread anger that he wouldn't have to answer for the allegations.

He had pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing girls as young as 14 and young women in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.

Even with his death, federal prosecutors in New York have continued to investigate the allegations against Epstein.

The Justice Department has vowed to aggressively investigate and bring charges against anyone who may have helped him.

There is also a related investigation in Paris, where accusers are complaining police haven't done enough to track down potential witnesses.

Epstein was placed on suicide watch after he was found July 23 on his cell floor with bruises on his neck.

Multiple people familiar with operations at the jail have said Epstein was taken off suicide watch about a week before his death, meaning he was less closely monitored but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.

Investigators believe those checks weren't done for several hours before Epstein was discovered in his cell with a bedsheet around his neck, another person familiar with the matter told the AP.

The falsification of records has been a problem throughout the federal prison system, which has been plagued for years by systematic failures, from massive staffing shortages to chronic violence.

In an internal memo earlier this month, the Federal Bureau of Prisons' new director, Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, said a review of operations across the agency found some staff members failed to perform required rounds and inmate counts but logged that they had done so anyway.

Staff members who are indicted by a grand jury will be placed on indefinite, unpaid suspension until the resolution of the criminal case, Hawk Sawyer wrote in the memo to top prison officials, a copy of which was obtained by the AP.

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« on: Yesterday at 08:19:10 am »
Tuesday, 19th November 2019
Wynonna Judd's Daughter, 23, Released from Prison 6 Years Early After Being Granted Parole

by Helen Murphy

Wynonna Judd‘s daughter Grace Pauline Kelley has been released from prison.

After being sentenced to eight years in prison, Kelley, 23, was granted parole and was released from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary 6 years early on November 8th, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Corrections confirmed to PEOPLE.

Her sentence began on March 5, 2017.

Jail records show that Kelley’s current supervision status is “parole.”

She will report to parole office P94F until her sentence ends on September 22nd, 2024, the records show.

PEOPLE previously confirmed that Kelley, whose father is Judd’s first husband Arch Kelley, was serving her sentence at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning.

Her original release date Aug. 10, 2025, PEOPLE previously reported.

Kelley was sentenced to eight years in prison for violating her probation stemming from a drug-related conviction in 2017.

According to Radar Online, she left a court-mandated drug recovery program in November 2017 and a warrant for her arrest was issued shortly after.

Months prior, in May 2017, she pled guilty to meth manufacture, delivery, sale and possession with intent in Williamson County Court.

She was also charged with manufacturing and delivering meth in nearby Maury County but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of possession of meth.

Kelley was previously ordered to serve 11 months and 29 days in jail but the sentence was suspended and instead, her jail time was to be served on probation after 30 days in jail in March 2017 followed by 180 days in an in-house rehab program.

Kelley was first arrested on the drug charges in Dec. 2015.

Amid her daughter’s legal troubles, Judd, 55, has become an activist for criminal justice reform.

Earlier this year, she reportedly met with Executive Mansion officials about working on criminal justice reform, and she also works with the nonprofit Hope for Prisoners, which helps inmates re-enter the world after they’re released with the goal of lowering the recidivism rate.

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« on: November 18, 2019, 07:42:02 pm »
Monday, 18th November 2019
by Elise Schmelzer

Patrick Frazee is guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his fiancee Kelsey Berreth and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

A Teller County jury convicted Frazee Monday on two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of solicitation to commit murder and tampering with a dead body.

The jurors deliberated for less than four hours.

District Court Judge Scott Sells then sentenced Frazee to maximum penalty on each count, giving him life without parole, plus 156 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Berreth’s family sobbed once the jury left the courtroom.

Meanwhile, Frazee showed no reaction, talking to his attorney once the jury was gone.

A guard assigned to monitor Frazee moved from his seat in the gallery to stand next to him as the verdict was read.

Frazee’s sentencing began immediately after the verdict.

Berreth’s uncle, Scott Morin, read a statement from Cheryl Berreth about how the murder of her daughter has destroyed their lives and the life of Kaylee, the 2-year-old daughter Kelsey Berreth and Patrick Frazee shared.

“Patrick, how would you like to find out that your daughter’s life ended the way that you ended Kelsey’s?” the statement said.

Frazee showed little emotion during the 15 minutes that victims spoke during sentencing.

The jury’s guilty verdict follows more than two weeks of detailed trial testimony from a broad swath of law enforcement, evidence experts, people who knew Berreth and Frazee as well as an assortment of strangers to the couple who found themselves ensnared in the case.

In closing arguments Monday morning, prosecutors asked the jury to convict Frazee of first-degree murder and “to please stop this defendant from getting away with murder.”

Frazee’s defense attorney attacked the credibility of the prosecution’s key witness and highlighted the lack of physical evidence tying Frazee to the alleged killing.

Berreth’s disappearance last year drew national attention to rural Teller County, where Frazee ranched and worked as a farrier, including for the beloved free-roaming donkeys of Cripple Creek.
Berreth moved in 2016 to Colorado from her home in Washington after meeting Frazee online in hopes that they would marry and raise a family together.

In the months before her disappearance, she sent Frazee listings for properties the two could buy together.

Berreth’s mother reported the young mother missing on Dec. 2 after not hearing from her for days.

For weeks, law enforcement scoured Teller County and conducted a multitude of interviews to find Berreth to little avail.

It wasn’t until investigators used cell phone records to track down Krystal Lee Kenney — Frazee’s longtime friend and sometimes lover.

Detectives convinced her to talk by offering a plea deal, and police had enough evidence to arrest Frazee on December 21st in connection to Berreth’s murder.

Kenney became the prosecution’s key witness and testified over two days of trial about how Frazee bludgeoned Berreth to death in Woodland Park and then summoned Kenney from her home in Idaho to clean the crime scene and destroy evidence.

Kenney said she watched Frazee burn a plastic storage container with Berreth’s body inside on his Florissant ranch.

She also testified that Frazee asked her to kill Berreth on three previous occasions in the fall of 2018.

Law enforcement relied on Kenney’s cooperation to piece together the case and spent much of their time in trial corroborating her account.

The lead Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent on the case testified Thursday that he didn’t know where they would be without Kenney’s information.

Kenney’s testimony was supported by phone location data as well as some of the DNA testing and surveillance camera footage.

No evidence seemed to contradict her testimony, but key moments in the alleged crime lacked physical evidence.

“The only thing she didn’t do was swing the bat,” Cheryl Berreth said in the statement read in court.

Fourth Judicial District Attorney Dan May said that Kenney deserves every day in jail that the judge sentences her to.

Kenney agreed to talk with investigators as part of a deal that allowed her to plead guilty to evidence tampering.

When she is sentenced, Sells could give her to a penalty ranging from probation to a maximum of three years in prison.

“We did a deal with the devil,” May said, but it was necessary for the case against Frazee.

Frazee did not show emotion during the verdict or sentencing, even as Berreth’s father stared at him from across the room.

Frazee stood and looked the judge in the eyes as Sells read his sentence.

Frazee was then handcuffed and walked out of the courthouse to a waiting car.

His mother, also showing no emotion, watched from the courtroom as Frazee was led away.

Prosecutors offered a variety of motives Frazee may have had for killing Berreth.

Maybe he wanted sole custody of Kaylee without the legal fight, they said.

Maybe he didn’t want child support.

Maybe he didn’t want to risk Berreth moving out of state, taking Kaylee with her.

But even after trial, prosecutors said they couldn’t narrow down motives to one they believed in most strongly.

“We have questioned our faith. We have questioned why,” Scott Morin, Berreth’s uncle, told the judge.

“And we know we’ll never know.”

Beth Reed, one of the prosecutors on the case, said at a news conference that Frazee has shown signs consistent with being a sociopath.

Berreth, in contrast, was described as a loving, quiet woman enthralled with her role as a mother.
She worked hard her entire life to become a pilot and took a leap of faith in 2016 when she moved to Colorado to be with Frazee, whom she met online.

Even as their relationship became strained, Berreth tried to create a life and family with the Florissant rancher.

Meanwhile, Frazee was spreading lies about Berreth to his friends and family.

Her coworkers sent notes to the Berreth family, which Morin read before sentencing.

“She mattered,” one coworker wrote.

“And she made a direct impact and difference in the lives of so many and will continue to do so as the students she instructed will pass their knowledge along to the next generation, and so on.”

Veteran prosecutor Jennifer Viehman said the case was one of the most brutal murders she had ever tried.

But the district attorney’s office didn’t seek the death penalty in the case and the Berreths said they didn’t want to pursue capital punishment, although the murder shook the very faith that led them to that mercy.

“We respect life and leave Patrick’s in God’s hand,” Cheryl Berreth said in her statement.

Investigators in the case will continue to follow any leads they may find in hopes of finding Berreth’s remains, said Gregg Slater, the lead Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent on the case.
Law enforcement searched a new location as recently as a few weeks ago, May said.

“We will always search for Kelsey,” Slater said

Hudlin TV / Re: Monique VERSUS Netflix
« on: November 18, 2019, 12:54:18 pm »
Wasn't sure what to think about Jennifer Lopez over the span of her career. She's made a few questionable moves that didn't exactly draw me into her, however, always had my eyes on her.
After all, she's irresistible!
Now, have a newfound respect for her show business acumen. This is exactly what I've been hinting at all along; not everyone in show biz is going to be convinced about your level of success so you have to constantly show & prove and/or give 'em a lil' taste of who you are.  Check this article out:

Monday, 18th November 2019
Jennifer Lopez ‘Didn’t Get Paid’ to Star in ‘Hustlers’
by Nicholas Hautman

Jennifer Lopez didn’t have to do any hustling to get a big paycheck for her starring role in Hustlers because she apparently wasn’t paid at all — or at least not up-front.

“I didn’t get paid a whole bunch of money for Hustlers,” the singer, 50, claimed to GQ in a video published on Monday, November 18.

“I did it for free and produced it. Like Jenny from the Block — I do what I love.”

Lopez starred in the crime drama alongside an all-female lead cast including Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo and Cardi B.

“It became a movement,” she told the magazine.

“This is our movie, where we run sh!t. They know it’s all women producers, woman director, woman writer, all women starring in it. We’ve been watching men take advantage of women in movies for a long time, so it was a fun ride to see the tables turned.”

In the film, which hit theaters in September, the Grammy nominee played a veteran stripper named Ramona Vega who banded together a group of coworkers to steal money from their wealthy clients.

“The movies that I look for now, I’m looking for not just interesting and multilayered characters, which Ramona really was, but something that tells you about what’s going on in the culture,” Lopez explained in her accompanying GQ “2019 Men of the Year” cover story.

“So the whole idea of the Wall Street guys was interesting to me. These girls are cheating them, but these guys are cheating everybody! So what it says about that world, and men and women, and gender roles, all of that made me feel that this could be an interesting movie, as opposed to just a character piece.”

The Shades of Blue alum said she was drawn to Ramona because the character “had her own set of morals and values” and “was in many ways a good person” despite becoming “a little bit of a criminal.” She added,

“Playing that character, and having to be that independent and in charge, I was just like, ‘God, this is so empowering.’”

Next up, Lopez is set to headline the Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show with Shakira.

In her interview with GQ, the “Let’s Get Loud” singer explained why she didn’t have any conflicting feelings about signing on to perform at the NFL championship game.

“I feel like it’s an amazing platform and one of the biggest in the world to put out whatever message you want to put out there,” she said.

“I feel that it’s a great thing to have two Latina women in Miami headlining the Super Bowl, and what we could do with those 12 to 14 minutes to make people understand our worth and value in this country. … I think it could be a really beautiful celebration.”

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Monday, 18th November 2019

"I served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. This picture of a Russian flag flying over an American airbase is an embarrassment to the United States of America.

It's a stark example of what happens when drumphf repeatedly kneels before Vladimir Putin"

~ Representative Ted Lieu

In The News / Re: The Judge Who Replaced Brett Kavenaugh
« on: November 18, 2019, 10:19:49 am »
Monday, 18th November 2019
Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas suspended following federal indictment

by KHOU11

A Harris County District Court judge has been suspended following a federal indictment unsealed last week.

Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas, 44, is the presiding judge for the 164th District Court for the State of Texas and has jurisdiction over Texas civil cases in Harris County.

She is charged with seven counts of wire fraud.

The federal indictment detailed she allegedly spent campaign donations on personal expenses.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued the suspension on Tuesday pending her criminal matter.

She is suspended without pay.

Smoots-Thomas, who previously used the name Smoots-Hogan, allegedly embezzled campaign contributions individuals and political action committees had made to her re-election campaigns.

The indictment read seven counts of wire fraud, including $761.74 on Zales Jewelry, $1,163.91 dollars on a Prada purse, roughly $1,213.82 on vacation airfare.

They say she also spend $9,941.99 on school tuition, and $11,809 on her home mortgage.

But Smoots-Thomas’ attorney Kent Schaffer said she paid them back.

“We had several meetings with them to explain the entries of several charges, and the fact that the charges were reimbursed," Schaffer said.

But he said U.S. Attorneys wouldn’t listen.

Instead, Schaffer is calling this political prosecution, saying prosecuting a state judge for a state crime in federal court has never happened before.

“She’s a black female Democrat, and I think they saw this as an opportunity to get her off the bench and try to start putting Republicans back on the bench in a county where there’s none that exist," Schaffer said.

KHOU 11 political analyst Bob Stein said the defense may try to justify some of those charges as campaign expenditures.

“Paying your mortgage payment is not a campaign activity, but I can imagine buying jewelry and cosmetics while she was on the campaign trail, might be," Stein said.

He said, though, if a candidate misuses campaign funds, they usually get the opportunity to pay it back before charges are filed.

“It often leads not to a criminal prosecution, but to some correction, and usually in a public way," Stein said.

If convicted, each charge carries a punishment of up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Schaffer said Smoots-Thomas will not be removed from the bench unless she is convicted.

The FBI conducted the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ralph Imperato and John Pearson are handling the case.

“The defendant in this case is a judge, whose responsibilities are to make sure the law is followed and carried out,” stated Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner, of the FBI - Houston Division.

“She was entrusted to serve the citizens of Harris County with duty and honor. However, the allegations contained in today’s indictment show that the judge put personal enrichment over this duty and honor."

According to her election website, Smoots-Thomas was born and raised in southeast Houston.

She attended school at UT-Austin, University of St. Thomas and South Texas College of Law.

Her law career began in Houston before she was elected in 2008 to her first term as a civil district court judge.

She was elected to a second term in 2012, and in 2016 she ran unopposed in the Texas 164th District Court Democratic primary, according to Ballotpedia, eventually winning a third term.

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Vox Populi / Re: Trump to visit Phoenix AZ for rally
« on: November 18, 2019, 09:24:40 am »
Monday, 18th November 2019
North Korea says no more talks with U.S.
by Joyce Lee and Sangmi Cha

(SEOUL, South Korea) - North Korea said on Monday it was not interested in meaningless talks with the United States just so acting-President Donald Trump had something to boast about, urging an end to what it called a policy of hostility if the United States wanted dialogue.

The comment by senior North Korean official Kim Kye Gwan, who is a former vice foreign minister, came after Trump on the weekend called on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" and hinted at another meeting.

Kim, in a statement carried by the state KCNA news agency, said he had seen the November 17th Twitter post by Trump signaling another summit but added that little had improved despite three meetings between the two leaders since June last year.

"We are no longer interested in such talks that bring nothing to us," he said.

"As we have got nothing in return, we will no longer gift the U.S. president with something he can boast of, but get compensation for the successes that acting-President Trump is proud of as his administrative achievements," Kim said.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim met for the first time in a landmark summit in Singapore in June last year, to push forward negotiations the United States hopes will lead to North Korea's dismantling of its nuclear and missile programs, in exchange for the lifting of punishing international sanctions.

The talks have made no significant progress since a second summit between acting-President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un collapsed in Vietnam in February, even though the two leaders agreed in June, at a third meeting, to reopen negotiations.

In April, Kim set a year-end deadline for the United States to show more flexibility, raising concern North Korea could resume nuclear and long-range missile testing, which it has suspended since 2017.

Kim Kye Gwan said the United States must make a decisive move to abandon its hostile policy if it genuinely wanted dialogue.

He did not elaborate.

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« on: November 17, 2019, 06:26:35 pm »
Sunday, 17th November 2019
Bank teller charged in home invasion of a customer who'd made a large withdrawal
by Ralph Ellis and Rebekah Riess

A bank teller has been charged in connection with a home invasion at the residence of a customer who'd made a large withdrawal of money, authorities in Maryland said.

A 78-year-old man told investigators he answered his door around 8:30 p.m. Monday and an unknown male forced his way inside, the Harford County Sheriff's Office said in a news release.

The intruder assaulted the man until a relative, a 57-year-old woman, intervened, the sheriff's office said.

The suspect ran upstairs and the woman called police from a nearby home.

When sheriff's deputies arrived, the intruder had fled and was not found during a neighborhood search with the K-9 unit, the sheriff's office said.

"As the investigation continued, it was determined one of the victims had removed a large amount of money from the bank," the news release said.

"Detectives gained information identifying a teller at the bank as the suspect."

Nathan Michael Newell, 19, of Bel Air, was arrested Wednesday at the bank, the sheriff's office said.

He has been charged with robbery, first- and third-degree burglary, first- and second-degree assault and home invasion, the news release said.

Newell was being held at the county detention center without bond.

The public defender's office said Thursday he will be assigned representation.

Both residents suffered injuries.

The woman was treated at the scene and the man was transported to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries, the sheriff's office said.

Michael MacPherson, president and CEO of Freedom Federal Credit Union, confirmed Newell was an employee of the credit union.

Newell was fired, he said, adding vetting procedures while hiring Newell met all standards.

Search of online databases showed he faced two traffic cases.

"We are shocked and appalled to hear of the events that led to the assault and injury of a longtime member of our credit union," MacPherson said in a statement.

"Our thoughts go out to him, and his family, during this difficult time."

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