Sunday, November 5, 2017

Last Call For Neighbors: The Movie, Con't

So it wasn't just a small altercation Rand Paul got into with his neighbor on Friday, it was a beating that resulted in Paul ending up with five broken ribs.

A senior adviser for Rand Paul says the U.S. senator is recovering from five broken ribs following an assault at his home.

Doug Stafford said it is unclear when Paul will return to work since he is in considerable pain and has difficulty getting around, including flying. Stafford said Sunday that the broken ribs include three displaced fractures, which can lead to life-threatening injuries. The severe pain can last for weeks or months.

Police arrested 59-year-old Rene Boucher on Saturday and charged him with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault with a minor injury. Boucher is accused of attacking Paul on Friday, but officials have not released a motive.

Boucher lives next door to Paul and his wife, according to Warren County property records.

Boucher was released from jail on Saturday. He has not returned a call seeking comment.

Violence in politics is nothing new, but dear god, five broken ribs?  What did Boucher do, hit him with a baseball bat?  This could have killed the guy.  I hate Rand Paul with a passion but the guy doesn't deserve broken ribs.

The hell is wrong with you, Bowling Green?

It's Mueller Time, Con't

NBC News is all but reporting that former Trump NSA Michael Flynn and his son Michael Jr. are the next targets in the ongoing Russia probe, and that the evidence is there for charges to be filed.

Federal investigators have gathered enough evidence to bring charges in their investigation of President Donald Trump's former national security adviser and his son as part of the probe into Russia's intervention in the 2016 election, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation.

Michael T. Flynn, who was fired after just 24 days on the job, was one of the first Trump associates to come under scrutiny in the federal probe now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Mueller is applying renewed pressure on Flynn following his indictment of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, three sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News.

The investigators are speaking to multiple witnesses in coming days to gain more information surrounding Flynn's lobbying work, including whether he laundered money or lied to federal agents about his overseas contacts, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.

Mueller's team is also examining whether Flynn attempted to orchestrate the removal of a chief rival of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. to Turkey in exchange for millions of dollars, two officials said.

A spokesperson for the special counsel had no comment.

Flynn's son, Michael G. Flynn, who worked closely with his father, accompanied him during the campaign and briefly worked on the presidential transition, could be indicted separately or at the same time as his father
, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.

If the elder Flynn is willing to cooperate with investigators in order to help his son, two of the sources said, it could also change his own fate, potentially limiting any legal consequences.

The pressure on Flynn is the latest signal that Mueller is moving at a rapid, and steady, pace in his investigation. Last week, investigators unsealed indictments of Manafort and Manafort's business partner Rick Gates. They pleaded not guilty.

Once again, Mueller has a lot to work with and a lot of people to get even more information from.  If Michael Flynn is willing to cooperate in order to save his son from prison, that could bring new information that he had access to as National Security Adviser, mainly involving Trump's relationship with Russia and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

Other sources are reporting that Flynn is already cooperating and has been for some time (which is why Manafort and Gates were charged before either of the Flynns, who were more germane to the Russia case than Manafort.)  If that's true, then things are moving even faster than I expected.  News on Flynn's fate may even come as early as this week.

Stay tuned.  It could be Mueller Time again very soon.

Sunday Long Read: A Drity River Runs Through It

I've talked about Portland before, America's whitest major city by a mile with a 72% white populace and one of the most segregated cities in America.  Now the city is trying to fix its long history of racism by starting with environmental justice and cleaning up the badly polluted Willamette River.

When Wilma Alcock was young, she fished the Willamette River nearly every weekend. Her favorite spot was Mock’s Bottom—a crescent of land that lies at the base of the steep bluffs along Willamette Boulevard. It has since been swallowed up by the Swan Island Industrial Park, but back then it was just marshy riverbank.

On warm summer evenings and crisp fall days, Alcock clambered down to the water to dip her line in the lazy current. She caught bluegills, ring-tail perch, and crappie—a tasty black and white speckled sunfish. “We used to catch them plentiful,” Alcock recalls. Now seventy-nine and retired after a career in nursing and childcare, she has an infectious laugh, short white hair, and smooth skin that belies her age.

Alcock grew up fishing, like many people of her generation in Portland’s African American community. She learned from her father, who always called her Bill. “You know, Wilma, William, Bill,” she explains. She got a cane pole at age eight and baited her first worm not long after. That’s when, she says, the “first little bit of callousness” came into her life. She knew how to cast by ten and has fished ever since.

But Alcock stopped fishing the Willamette in the 1970s. Part of the reason was that she was busy raising her four children. But it was also because the river had become so polluted that her catch was visibly unhealthy. “You didn’t need nobody to tell you not to eat the fish,” Alcock says.

Signs warning against eating fish from the Willamette eventually went up in 2004, four years after the Environmental Protection Agency declared the Portland Harbor a federal Superfund site—a ten-mile reach from the Broadway Bridge to Sauvie Island. While salmon and other migratory fish are safe to eat, the Oregon Health Authority advises healthy adults to eat a maximum of one meal of resident fish per month. For children and pregnant or nursing women, that number is zero.

The EPA has now released a plan to clean up the river after sixteen years of environmental studies. Three million cubic yards of contaminated sediments will be dredged from the river and more will be either removed from the banks or sealed in place. The cleanup will take thirteen years and cost polluters at least a billion dollars, but it will make the fish safer to eat and hasten the recovery of the river’s ecosystem.

Environmental justice advocates also see the cleanup effort as an opportunity to do right by those who have suffered the most from the pollution. Although the contamination has affected everyone who uses the Willamette, the impacts have fallen disproportionately on those who tend to fish the most: tribal members, people of color, low-income residents, and those from other marginalized groups who rely on the river for food.

Organizations like the Portland Harbor Community Coalition, an alliance of individuals and associations representing Native American, African American, immigrant, refugee, and homeless communities, are trying to ensure that people from impacted groups get access to jobs associated with the billion-dollar project. They also want community members to have a role in monitoring progress and deciding how riverfront real estate should be used after it’s restored.

“We have a chance to actually do something different here,” says Donovan Smith, an African American artist and journalist who serves as PHCC’s media coordinator. (Smith is also a contributor to Oregon Humanities' This Land project.)

Many in Portland’s Black community say the cleanup offers a way to reclaim a connection to the Willamette River. That connection began with World War II shipyards and continued over decades spent living along the water and fishing. But the bond suffered as pollution made the fish unsafe and economic changes pushed many African Americans out of neighborhoods near the river. Many say the connection has been lost.

“It all kind of just blends together with all the displacement, the gentrification,” says Alcock, a PHCC member with deep ties to the river. “All of it is just one big old ball.”

It's a start, and there are plenty of old wounds in Portland and in Oregon in general, a state founded by white supremacists and a city that had racial exclusion laws worse than any Jim Crow Southern state.

But it's a start.  Portland still has a long, long way to go.

The Fulcrum Crumbles In Riyadh

Saudi Arabia's King Salman just cleaned house, in this case pretty much the entire House of Saud, the most notable arrest in Salman's purge is billionaire Prince Alaweed Bin Talal.

Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a prominent member of the county's royal family and a wealthy investor, was arrested on Saturday in connection with a wide-ranging anti-corruption initiative, according to local reports.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman removed a host of prominent officials in a sweeping crackdown, in which dozens of princes and former ministers were detained. News outlets, including Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, and The Wall Street Journal, reported Bin Talal was among those arrested. CNBC could not immediately confirm Bin Talal's status.

Bin Talal is considered one of the most prominent members of the Saudi royal family, and has been the subject of numerous profiles in U.S. and international publications. He has made numerous appearances on CNBC dispensing investment advice — such as last month, when he predicted bitcoin was little more than a speculative bubble that would soon "implode"

The billionaire is an American-educated philanthropist and investor who is heavily invested in U.S. corporate giants like Citigroup, Apple, 21st Century Fox and Twitter, just to name a few. Between 1991 and 1995, bin Talal came to the rescue of President Donald Trump, whose real estate empire was under strain. Bin Talal purchased a yacht, and invested in Trump's Plaza Hotel.

It's that last part that I think is a big part of the puzzle. Don't forget that this action is coming on the heels of last week's announcement of a massive new half-trillion dollar Saudi mega-city project.  That level of grandeur would almost certainly attract massive corruption, but King Salman got his house in order.


And later Saturday a missile attack from Yemen was intercepted.

Saudi Arabia says it has intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen, after a loud explosion was heard near Riyadh airport on Saturday evening.

The missile was destroyed over the capital and fragments landed in the airport area, officials quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency said.

A TV channel linked to Houthi rebels in Yemen said the missile was fired at the King Khalid International Airport.

The civil aviation authority said that air traffic was not disrupted.

Saudi forces have reported shooting down Houthi missiles in the past , though none has come so close to a major population centre.

Not to mention Lebanese PM Saad al-Hariri resigning out of fear of assassination.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has resigned, saying in a televised broadcast from Saudi Arabia that he feared for his life, while also fiercely criticising Iran.

He accused Iran of sowing "fear and destruction" in several countries, including Lebanon.

Mr Hariri's father, former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

The Hariri family is close to Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional competitor.

Mr Hariri has been prime minister since December 2016, after previously holding the position between 2009 and 2011.

"We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik al-Hariri," he said in the broadcast from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

"I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life."

Mr Hariri also attacked the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon.

Addressing "Iran and its followers" he said Lebanon would "cut off the hands that wickedly extend into it".

Iran said the resignation would create regional tensions and rejected Mr Hariri's accusations as "unfounded".

As a good friend has reminded me, all this is connected.  The shadow war between Riyadh and Tehran is old and ugly, and just because it's the 21st century doesn't mean it's any less dangerous.  The Saudis have been making moves all throughout 2017 in order to consolidate power and shut out Iran.  That mega-city project is the future as oil dies in the sands, and King Salman isn't taking any chances that his family is going to try to screw him over on it.

Everyone left is 100% on board, or soon will be.  The House of Saud is moving forward because they're running out of time.  Trump may be taking America back to a fossil fuel nightmare, but the Saudis aren't as stupid.

Let's not kid ourselves though, as the Saudis remain a brutally oppressive theocratic monarchy with deadly authoritarian tendencies.  They are not our buddies, or anyone's buddies for that matter, they are part and parcel of the problem in the Middle East for the last several decades, and that power they wield comes from oil.

But what this really comes down to is the fact that Jared Kushner was in Saudi Arabia last week.  The last time Kushner was in Saudi Arabia, we got the whole Qatar mess.  Now, days after his latest visit to Riyadh, we have a massive purge including a Saudi business billionaire who has a long-running feud with one Donald Trump.

Prince Alwaleed was giving interviews to the Western news media as recently as late last month about subjects like so-called crypto currencies and Saudi Arabia’s plans for a public offering of shares in its state oil company, Aramco. 
He has also recently sparred publicly with President Donald J. Trump. The prince was part of a group of investors who bought control of the Plaza Hotel in New York from Mr. Trump, and he also bought an expensive yacht from him as well. But in a twitter message in 2015 the prince called Mr. Trump “a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.” 
Mr. Trump fired back, also on Twitter, that “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money.”

And Trump tweeted today about a new IPO by Aramco here in the US.  Out of the blue.

You do the math.

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