(UA-59908317-1)

ARMED and DANGEROUS suspect identified; 3 schools on lockdown

BREAKING NEWS: ARMED and DANGEROUS suspect identified; 3 schools on lockdown

Keith Cunningham, 31; Source: ACSOKeith Cunningham, 31; Source: ACSO
AIKEN COUNTY, SC (WFXG) –UPDATE: More details have been released.

Deputies received information at about 7 a.m. from the Williston PD regarding a stolen red Chevy S-10 pickup truck. The vehicle was spotted on  Belvedere-Clearwater Rd. where the suspect fled, causing a police chase. The suspect ran into a wooded area near Dixie Clay Rd. and Storm Branch Rd.

The suspect has been identified as 31-year-old Keith Cunningham of Warrenville, SC. He is said to be wearing dark utility clothing. If you spot this suspect, do NOT approach. Call 911 for emergencies and the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office at 803-648-6811 for other information.  A female suspect, who was also in the stolen vehicle, has been taken into custody.

Clearwater Elementary, Jefferson Elementary and Langley Bath Clearwater Middle School have been placed on hard lockdown, with all exterior doors and windows locked and no outside access.

SLED, SC Highway Patrol, and Burnettown Police Department are also assisting in this search.


Breaking news out of Aiken County.
The Sheriff’s Office says that authorities are searching for a suspect involved with a stolen vehicle. The suspect fled, causing a chase, and now a manhunt. The perimeter of the Pine Log Road and Dixie Clay Road area is blocked off. Details are limited at this time. Suspect is ARMED and DANGEROUS.

We’ll update you as more information becomes available.

Copyright 2017 WFXG. All rights reserved.

Philando Castile Family Reaches $3 Million Settlement in His Death

NEWS

Philando Castile Family Reaches $3 Million Settlement in His Death

MINNEAPOLIS — The mother of Philando Castile, a black motorist killed by a Minnesota police officer last year, has reached a nearly $3 million settlement in his death, according to an announcement Monday by her attorneys and the Minneapolis suburb that employed the officer.

The settlement to be paid to Valerie Castile will avoid a federal wrongful death lawsuit stemming from Philando Castile’s death. The 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker was killed by St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop July 6 after Castile told the officer he was armed. Castile had a permit for his gun.

The shooting gained widespread attention after Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car with her then-4-year-old daughter, livestreamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook.

Dash Cam of Philando Castile Shooting Released 2:31

Yanez, who is Latino, was acquitted of manslaughter and other charges earlier this month. The jury’s decision prompted days of protests, including one in St. Paul that shut down Interstate 94 for hours and ended with 18 arrests.

Related: Girl Pleads With Mother After Castile Shooting: ‘I Don’t Want You to Get Shooted!’

The $2.995 million settlement will be paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, which holds the insurance policy for the city of St. Anthony. It requires approval by a state court, which could take several weeks.

Robert Bennett, an attorney for Valerie Castile, said the idea behind the settlement was to move expeditiously rather than have the case drawn out in federal court, a process that would “exacerbate and reopen terrible wounds.” The settlement will also allow the family, the city and community to work toward healing, Bennett said.

Bennett said it also will allow Valerie Castile to do the work she plans through the Philando Castile Relief Foundation. A Facebook page for the nonprofit foundation says it was established to help victims of gun violence and to provide relief for the grieving.

Image: Valerie Castile
Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, gestures as she speaks about her reaction to a not guilty verdict for Officer Jeronimo Yanez at the Ramsey County Courthouse on June 16, 2017 in St. Paul. Renee Jones Schneider / Star Tribune via AP

During his trial, Yanez, 29, testified that Castile ignored his commands not to pull out his gun. The officer said he feared for his life. According to squad-car video that captured the shooting, Castile said: “I’m not pulling it out” before Yanez fired seven rapid shots. Castile’s last words after the shooting were “I wasn’t reaching …”

Related: Ray Tensing Trial: Mistrial Declared for Second Time

Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, later said Castile was reaching for his wallet.

The squad-car video shows the shooting, but does not show what happened inside the car or what Yanez saw, leaving room for reasonable doubt.

After Yanez’s acquittal, the city of St. Anthony said it was offering Yanez a “voluntary separation agreement” from the police department, and he would no longer be an on-duty officer. The department serves the cities of St. Anthony, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights, where the shooting occurred.

US test to shoot down ballistic missile fails

US test to shoot down ballistic missile fails

Amid the threat of North Korea possibly launching a missile, the latest U.S. effort to test its shoot-down capability failed on Wednesday night, according to a statement from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

A medium-range ballistic missile was launched from a test range in Hawaii at 7:20 pm local time, but the interceptor missile fired at sea from USS John Paul Jones, a guided-missile destroyer, missed the target.

“A planned intercept was not achieved,” the statement said.

A U.S. defense official told Fox News both the ballistic missile and the SM-3 interceptor missile fired from the American warship landed in the ocean, but neither were recovered after both missiles broke up when impacting the water.

Wednesday’s launch was the second attempt to shoot down a ballistic missile from a U.S. Navy warship since February. The first test was successful, but this latest attempt failed after missing the target for reasons not explained in the statement.

NORTH KOREA NUKE TEST SITE SEES MORE BUILDUP

Late last month in a first-of-its-kind test, the U.S. military successfully shot down an intercontinental ballistic missile target in outer space using an interceptor missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The Pentagon will now also have to defend against the potential North Korean missile threat without the use of one of its premier ballistic missile defense ships, after USS Fitzgerald, a guided-missile destroyer, struck a 700-foot cargo ship off the coast of Japan last week.

Deadly Tropical Storm Cindy Makes Landfall in Louisiana

Deadly Tropical Storm Cindy Makes Landfall in Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS — Gulf Coast states were in for a third day of rough weather as Tropical Storm Cindy sloshed ashore early Thursday in southwestern Louisiana.

Already blamed for one death in Alabama, Cindy was expected to keep churning seas and spin off bands of severe weather from eastern Texas to northwestern Florida.

 

The Sound of Cindy: Tropical Storm Crashes Into Gulf Coast0:48

The storm’s maximum sustained winds had decreased to near 40 mph Thursday morning with additional weakening expected, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

A boy on an Alabama beach was struck and killed Wednesday by a log washed ashore by the storm. Baldwin County Sheriff’s Capt. Stephen Arthur said witnesses reported the 10-year-old boy from Missouri was standing outside a condominium in Fort Morgan when the log, carried in by a large wave, struck him. Arthur said the youth was vacationing with his family from the St. Louis area and that relatives and emergency workers tried to revive him. He wasn’t immediately identified.

Related: Here’s Why You May Hear About More Storms This Summer

It was the first known fatality from Cindy. Otherwise, the storm was blamed for widespread coastal highway flooding, rough seas and scattered reports of power outages and building damage caused by high winds. There were numerous reports of waterspouts and short-lived tornadoes spawned by the storm.

National Weather Service forecasters estimated the storm had dumped anywhere from 2 to 10 inches of rain on various spots along the Gulf Coast from southern Louisiana to the Florida panhandle as of Wednesday. And more rain was on the way.

Image: Tropical Storm Cindy over the Gulf of Mexico
Tropical Storm Cindy centered over the Gulf of Mexico on June 21. NOAA via EPA

PHOTOS: Tropical Storm Cindy Slams Gulf Coast

Alek Krautmann of the National Weather Service in Slidell, Louisiana, said Thursday’s pattern would likely be much like Wednesday’s: Bands of intermittent, sometimes heavy rain spinning onto the coast.

In Gulfport, Mississippi, Kathleen Bertucci said heavy rainfall Wednesday sent about 10 inches of water into her business, Top Shop, which sells and installs granite countertops.

“It’s pretty disgusting, but I don’t have flood insurance because they took me out of the flood zone,” said Bertucci, whose store is near a bayou. “We’re just trying to clean everything up and hope it doesn’t happen again.”

In nearby Biloxi, a waterspout moved ashore Wednesday morning. Harrison County Emergency Management Director Rupert Lacy said there were no injuries but fences, trees and power lines were damaged.

Related: Four Deaths Blamed on Sweltering Heat in the West

Storms also downed trees in the Florida Panhandle. Fort Walton Beach spokeswoman Jo Soria said fallen trees hit houses and cars in what she called “pockets of wind damage” in two or three residential neighborhoods.

The White House said President Donald Trump was briefed on the storm Wednesday by Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, like his Alabama counterpart a day earlier. He was among authorities stressing that the storm’s danger wasn’t limited to the coast.

In Knoxville, Tennessee, the power-generating Tennessee Valley Authority, said it was drawing down water levels on nine lakes it controls along the Tennessee River and its tributaries in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky, anticipating heavy runoff from Cindy’s rains once the storm moves inland. The TVA manages 49 dams to regulate water, provide power and help control downstream flooding.

In Alabama, streets were flooded and beaches were closed on the barrier island of Dauphin Island. Some roads were covered with water in the seafood village of Bayou La Batre, but Becca Caldemeyer still managed to get to her bait shop open at the city dock. If only there were more customers, she said.

“It’s pretty quiet,” Caldemeyer said by phone from Rough Water Bait and Tackle. “Nobody can cast a shrimp out in this kind of wind.”

Rough seas also led to the rescue of a shrimp trawler in danger of sinking off the coast of Texas. The U.S. Coast Guard said crew of the trawler Footprint was about 80 miles southeast of Galveston when the crew radioed that the vessel was taking on water faster than onboard pumps could clear it. A helicopter crew lowered and extra pump that enabled the shrimp boat crew to clear enough water to stay afloat. A Coast Guard cutter escorted the vessel to Freeport, Texas.

Breaking News: Amber Alert Issued In Santa Rosa County

Breaking News: Amber Alert Issued In Santa Rosa County

UPDATE:  8:10 am-  According to the Milton Police Department, William Kavchak is known to Alanda’s mother and left the Santa Rosa Medical Center with the child to get ice cream at 9:30 pm Tuesday night and did not return.

 

A Florida Amber Alert has been issued for 4-year-old Alanda McCoy.

She was last seen in the area of the 6000 block of Berry Hill Road in Milton wearing a yellow spaghetti-strapped tank top, a light colored skirt and blue flip flops.

The child may be in the company of William Kavchak. William goes by Billy.

They may be traveling in a 2007, green Mercury Montego with Florida tag number Y53UNW.


Kavchak may be in a car similar to this. NOT THE ACTUAL CAR

The vehicle may look light blue in color with a dent on the right front passenger bumper.

Mr. Kavchak is known to the child’s mother and left Santa Rosa Medical Center at 9:30 p.m. 06-20-17 to go get ice cream and didn’t return.

An AMBER Alert has been issued.

 

Armed Russian jet comes within 5 feet of US recon jet

Armed Russian jet comes within 5 feet of US recon jet

The Russian Su-27 jet had air-to-air missiles under its wings and approached the U.S. Air Force RC-135 recon jet “rapidly,” coming within 5 feet of the American aircraft, the officials said.

Once alongside, the Russian jet was “provocative” in its flight maneuvers and flying “erratically,” according to another official.

Since June 2 there have been more than 35 interactions in the Baltic Sea region between U.S. and Russian jets and warships, but the incident Monday morning is notable because the U.S. military considered it “unsafe,” according to one official.

The incident comes one day after the Russian Defense Ministry said it would treat any U.S. jet flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria as a potential target, following a U.S. Navy jet’s shoot-down of a Syrian jet that was targeting U.S.-aligned fighters.

The Russian military has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad for decades and deployed dozens of fighter jets and helicopter gunships to shore up the Syrian regime in September 2015.

In February, Russian jets buzzed a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer in the Black Sea, while the U.S. Army was unloading dozens of tanks and 500 U.S. Army soldiers arrived in a port in nearby Romania.

Two months later, that same destroyer, USS Porter, fired Tomahawk cruise missiles into Syria hitting an airbase belonging to the Russian-backed Assad regime.

For the past few weeks, the U.S. military has participated in a large military training exercise in the Baltic region, including the use of B-52 nuclear-capable bombers and the long-range B-1 bomber.

Dozens of U.S. and allied warships also participated in the Baltic Sea exercise amid heightened tensions with Russia. The “Baltops” exercise concluded over the weekend.

It was not immediately clear how close the U.S. military recon jet was flying near Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between NATO allies Poland and Lithuania. This fall, Russia moved nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, putting some European capitals in strike range.

The U.S. Air Force did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Breaking News: Comey Hearing

Breaking News: Comey Hearing


(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Senators have had hours to pick apart the first taste of former FBI Director James Comey’s upcoming testimony – and both sides of the aisle will have plenty to chew on.

Listen Here

The seven-page written opening statement released ahead of the 10 a.m. ET Thursday hearing shows the fired FBI boss affirming prior reports that President Trump once sought his “loyalty” and help lifting what he called the “cloud” of the Russia investigation. Democrats are poised to use those details to accuse Trump of trying to strong-arm the top law enforcement official in the weeks and months before he fired him.

At the same time, Comey is expected to stop short of accusing Trump of “obstruction of justice.” His written testimony also confirms that he assured Trump he was not personally under investigation. The Republican National Committee and Trump’s attorney already have cited this detail as a victory for the president, confirming what he’s been saying for months.

Breaking news: Comey begins Senate testimony on Trump, Russia

NATION

Breaking news: Comey begins Senate testimony on Trump, Russia

UPDATED: Thu., June 8, 2017

In this Feb. 25, 2016, file photo, then-FBI Director James Comey, testifies before a House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee budget hearing about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s FY 2017 budget. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)
In this Feb. 25, 2016, file photo, then-FBI Director James Comey, testifies before a House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee budget hearing about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s FY 2017 budget. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

Editor’s note: Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump, will testify today before the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the details surrounding the allegations that Russia influenced the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between Russian officials and the Trump campaign team to influence the election. We will be updating details of that hearing throughout the day and will update this report as news happens.

All times are EDT

10:18 a.m.

WASHINGTON – Former FBI Director James Comey has begun his much-anticipated congressional testimony under oath.

Comey is expected to recount a series of interactions with President Donald Trump in the weeks before his firing that he will say made him uncomfortable.

Those include a January dinner in which he says Trump asked him for his loyalty, and a White House conversation weeks later in which he says Trump asked him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Comey is testifying before the Senate intelligence committee. His remarks are his first public statements since his firing on May 9, which came as he was leading an FBI investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

10:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump will dispute key parts of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony.

That’s according to a person close to the president’s legal team.

The person says the president disputes Comey’s claim that he asked him for loyalty. Trump also disputes Comey’s account of a conversation about the investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

The person demanded anonymity because the person is not authorized to be named in a discussion about legal strategy.

10:00 a.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey has arrived in a Senate hearing room where he will deliver long-awaited testimony about his dramatic firing.

Senators will ask Comey about his interactions with President Donald Trump before he was fired in May.

Comey says he had a series of uncomfortable conversations with Trump. He says Trump asked him for a pledge of loyalty and pushed him to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation by declaring publicly the president was not the target of the probe into his campaign’s ties with Moscow.

Comey’s remarks are his first since he was fired.

7:30 a.m.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee says former FBI director James Comey’s account of his conversations with the president about the Russia investigation are “disturbing.”

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia will emphasize at Thursday’s committee hearing that the American people need to realize that what happened was that a president asked an FBI director to drop an ongoing investigation into a former national security adviser.

Warner released excerpts of his opening remarks to the committee early Thursday ahead of the hearing.

Warner says that in violation of clear guidelines put in place after Watergate to prevent any whiff of political interference by the White House in FBI investigations, President Donald Trump also called Comey twice to ask him to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation over his White House.

6:45 a.m.

A Senate Democrat is cautioning members of Congress against asserting too hastily that President Donald Trump has engaged in acts that could constitute obstruction of justice in the investigation of Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware says, “I think we have to be careful about making legal conclusions” and argues that lawmakers should not be “getting in the way“ of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller (MUHL’-ur).

But Coons also tells MSNBC in an interview, hours before fired FBI Director James Comey’s Capitol Hill appearance, that he believes Trump’s words and deeds go “right up to the line” of legality. The senator adds that statements about the Russia probe attributed to Trump by Comey raise the question of whether the president’s actions “meet the legal standard for obstruction of justice.”

6:05 a.m.

The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee says former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on President Donald Trump’s conduct “is certainly evidence of interference or obstruction.”

Comey is testifying Thursday that Trump urged him to back off from his investigation into Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russians. Comey’s written statement released ahead of his testimony said Trump had described the Russia investigation as a “cloud” that was interfering with his job. Comey is testifying that he gave Trump no such assurance. Trump fired him last month.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, made his assessment Wednesday in an interview with The Washington Post. Schiff added that even if Trump’s actions met the legal test for obstruction, in practical terms it was less likely that the Republican-controlled Congress would move to remove him.

3:45 a.m.

In a hugely anticipated hearing, fired FBI director James Comey will recount a series of conversations with President Donald Trump that he says made him deeply uneasy and concerned about the blurring of boundaries between the White House and a law enforcement agency that prides itself on independence.

The testimony, Comey’s first public statements since his May 9 dismissal, is likely to bring hours of uncomfortable attention to an administration shadowed for months by an investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

His account of demands for loyalty from the president, and of requests to end an investigation into an embattled adviser, are likely to sharpen allegations that Trump improperly sought to influence the FBI-led probe.


Orlando shooting: 5 people dead after ‘disgruntled’ ex-employee opens fire, police say

Orlando shooting: 5 people dead after ‘disgruntled’ ex-employee opens fire, police say

Five people were shot and killed at an Orlando business on Monday morning by a “disgruntled” former employee who then turned the gun on himself, police said.

Officers responded to a call about an active shooter at Fiamma off Forsyth Road in Orange County, near Full Sail University, just after 8 a.m., Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said in a news conference. Deputies arrived two minutes later, where they found three men and a woman dead at the scene. A fifth person, a man, was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Seven people survived the shooting.

Demings said that the alleged shooter, who killed himself, was identified as a 45-year-old man who had been fired from Fiamma Inc., an awning manufacturing company, back in April. The employee had a criminal history “minor in nature,” with arrests for possession of marijuana and DUI. Officers had been called to the company back in June 2014 for a “workplace violence incident” in which “he allegedly battled another employee here in the business,” Demings said.

Shelley Adams told The Associated Press that her sister, Sheila McIntyre, called her from the building’s bathroom during the shooting and was very upset. She kept repeating “My boss is dead. My boss is dead,” Adams said.

A witness said they heard multiple, very loud gunshots, according to Fox 35 Orlando.

The FBI was on the scene assisting local police on the investigation, a spokesperson from the bureau told Fox News. But Demings said authorities could not “connect the incident to any global terrorism.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement that he has been briefed on the situation.

“Over the past year, the Orlando community has been challenged like never before,” Scott said.

“Ann and I are praying for the families who lost loved ones today. I ask all Floridians to pray for the families impacted by this senseless act of violence. I will remain in contact with the Orlando law enforcement community throughout the day as more information is made available,” the statement read.

The shooting comes a week before the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre, also in Orlando, where 49 people were fatally shot by Omar Mateen, an Islamic extremist.

Fox News’ Kathleen Reuschle, Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

China commits to Paris climate deal as Trump decision looms

China commits to Paris climate deal as Trump decision looms

Chimneys in TianjinImage copyrightEPA
Image captionMr Li said fighting climate change was in China’s own interest

China will honour its commitments on climate change, its premier has said, as the US appears poised to pull out of a key deal.

Speaking on a visit to Germany, Premier Li Keqiang said fighting climate change was in China’s own interest.

China was counting on other countries to follow its example, Mr Li said.

US President Donald Trump is due to announce his decision on the 2015 Paris agreement later. Some reports in the US suggest he will withdraw.

“China will continue to implement the promises made in the Paris accord. But of course we also hope to do this with the co-operation of others,” Mr Li said.

As a big developing country, China had an “international responsibility” to try to prevent climate change, he added.

Media captionCalifornia to ‘work with China’ on climate

Chinese and EU leaders are set to agree a joint statement on the Paris climate agreement, saying it is “an imperative more important than ever”.

The joint statement – a draft of which has been seen by the BBC – says rising temperatures affect national security and increase “social and political fragility”, while the transition to clean energy creates jobs and economic growth.

grey line

‘Selfish and irresponsible’ – Chinese media reaction, by BBC Monitoring

Chinese media are critical of Trump’s hint that the US will leave the Paris agreement.

Nationalist newspaper Global Times said it would “set a bad example”, reveal the US as “selfish and irresponsible” and “weaken US leadership”.

However, state TV channels downplayed the significance, with Shanghai-based Dragon TV saying Mr Trump “absolutely wasn’t speaking formally”.

grey line

Russia also said it would stick to its climate commitments, but said the Paris agreement would be affected by a US pullout.

“It goes without saying that the effectiveness of this convention is likely to be reduced without its key participants,” a Kremlin spokesman said.

Media captionMatt McGrath explains why we should care about climate change

Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was “anxious” at the prospect of a US withdrawal but said he believed Mr Trump was “genuinely thinking about the issue”.

Some of the biggest gains in tackling carbon emissions in the US had been made at state level rather than federal level, he added.

Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to the Paris agreement caused frustration at a G7 meeting last week, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel describing the discussion as “difficult, not to say dissatisfying”.

China overtook the US as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2007.

Graphic showing impact of US pulling out of Paris deal

What was agreed in Paris?

Climate change, or global warming, refers to the damaging effect of gases, or emissions, released from industry and agriculture on the atmosphere.

The Paris accord is meant to limit the global rise in temperature attributed to emissions.

Countries agreed to:

  • Keep global temperatures “well below” the level of 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5C
  • Limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100
  • Review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge
  • Enable rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy

To date, 147 out of 197 countries have ratified the accord, including the US, where it entered into force last November.

Scott Pelley reportedly out of ‘CBS Evening News’

Scott Pelley reportedly out of ‘CBS Evening News’

Scott Pelley is out at “CBS Evening News,” Page Six has exclusively learned.

Sources tell us that ‘Poison Pelley’s’ office was being cleared out on Tuesday while the anchor was away on an assignment for the network’s news magazine “60 Minutes.”

 

Insiders tell us that CBS News president David Rhodes “is making [Pelley] move to ‘60 Minutes,’ ” and that the pair “don’t get on.”

Another TV insider said while Pelley’s ratings have been down, “There’s also been friction between him and [Rhodes].”

Manuel Noriega, Ousted Panamanian Dictator, Is Dead at 83

Manuel Noriega, Ousted Panamanian Dictator, Is Dead at 83

Noriega, who in recent years had suffered from prostate cancer and survived several strokes, was the first foreign leader to be convicted of crimes in a U.S. court and served more than a dozen years in an American prison before he was finally allowed to return home to Panama.

Image: General Manuel Antonio Noriega acknowledges a cheering crowd at a Solidarity With Panama conference in Panama City
Noriega acknowledges a cheering crowd in Panama City, Panama, in March 1988. Carlos Guardia / AP

Noriega died at Hospital Santo Tomas in Panama City at around 11:00 p.m. local time, the hospital confirmed to NBC News.

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela also tweeted about the death, saying his passing “closes a chapter in our history; his daughters and their families deserve a burial in peace.”

Born Feb. 11, 1934 in Panama City, Noriega was the son of an accountant who was abandoned by his dad at age five and raised by an aunt. Young Manuel found his calling in the military.

Educated at a Peruvian military college, Noriega caught the attention of the CIA early on and became a paid informant as he rose through the ranks of the Panama National Guard, which was charged with defending the strategic canal that cuts the country in two.

Image: A U.S. military helicopter flies over a burning building near the Pacific Defense Headquarters in Panama City on December 20, 1989
A U.S. military helicopter flies over a burning building in Panama City on December 20, 1989. Noriega’s headquarters, behind the residential high-rise in the foreground, was one of the first targets for the U.S. military in their offensive. AP file

But even as he served his masters in Washington, Noriega was slowly seizing power in Panama while establishing himself as a drug lord in cahoots with the Medellin Cartel in Colombia. He turned his country into a corrupt narco-kleptocracy where some of the biggest banks were used to launder drug money.

By 1983, Noriega had promoted himself to the rank of general and was the de facto ruler of Panama while still on the CIA payroll.

The next year, Noriega gave his blessing to the first free presidential election in Panama in 16 years. But when it became clear a political rival would win, Noriega stepped in to make sure his puppet was victorious in the election.

Noreiga ruled with an iron hand. Longtime critic Hugo Spadafora was seized by a death squad and his decapitated and tortured body was found later wrapped in a U.S. Postal Service mail bag. Anti-Noriega demonstrations were put down brutally by his paramilitary forces, known as the “Dignity Battalions.”

When his U.S. sponsors turned on him, Noriega played the race card to maintain power, rallying dark-skinned Panamanians like himself against the “white tails,” the descendants of the white Europeans who dominated the country’s economy.

Image: U.S. Drug Enforcement Agents help Manuel Antonio Noriega into a C-130 transport plane en route from Panama City to Miami
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agents help Noriega into plane from Panama City to Miami on Jan. 4, 1990. Charles M. Reger / U.S. Air Force via AP

By 1989, the U.S. had had enough. And after a U.S. Marine was shot and killed, President George H.W. Bush ordered in the troops on Dec. 20 of that year.

By Jan. 31, 1990, Operation Just Cause was over and Noriega was in custody.

Two years later, Noriega was convicted in Miami on eight counts of drug smuggling and racketeering after a trial during which the extent of his involvement with the CIA was revealed.

Image: Gen. Manuel Noriega in January 1990
Noriega in January 1990, after he was ousted by an American invasion of Panama a month earlier. AP, file

He was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was released in 2007 after serving 17 years.

Convicted back in 1999 of money laundering, Noriega was sent to France to do more time before he was extradited back to Panama and jailed for crimes committed while he was ruling the country, including the brutal murder of Spadafora.

Behind bars, Noriega unsuccessfully sued the creators of the “Call of Duty” video game franchise claiming they ruined his reputation.

Last year, Noriega was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor and allowed to return to his home to prep for surgery.

Manuel Noriega, drug lord and US ally, is dead at 83 2:02

Jeremy Scahill on Trump’s Embrace of Duterte’s Deadly War on Drugs in the Philippines

Jeremy Scahill on Trump’s Embrace of Duterte’s Deadly War on Drugs in the Philippines

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has suggested he might impose martial law across the country, after declaring it this week in his native island of Mindanao. This comes as a transcript of the call of Trump praising Duterte for his controversial drug war was leaked and published by The Intercept. According to the leaked transcript, Trump said, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing, and I just wanted to call and tell you that.” Duterte’s bloody war on drugs has led to the deaths of nearly 9,000 people, most of whom are poor. Human rights groups have blasted Duterte for the way he’s waged his anti-drug campaign, defined by extrajudicial killings of thousands of suspected drug dealers and users. For more on Trump and Duterte, we speak to Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept and host of the new weekly podcast, “Intercepted.” Scahill recently co-wrote a three-part series on the leaked call for The Intercept.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show looking at the Philippines, where Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has been overseeing a bloody war on drugs. Since last June, more than 7,000 people have been extrajudicially killed by police or vigilantes. Duterte has also suggested he might impose martial law across the country, after first declaring it this week in his native island of Mindanao. While human rights groups have condemned Duterte, he has received backing from President Trump, who recently invited him to visit the White House. Human Rights Watch slammed the invitation, saying, quote, “By effectively endorsing Duterte’s murderous ‘war on drugs,’ Trump has made himself morally complicit in future killings.”

Well, earlier this week, a transcript of the call of Trump inviting Duterte to the White House was leaked and published by The Intercept. According to the leaked transcript, Trump said, quote, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

Duterte responded, quote, “Thank you, Mr. President. This is the scourge of my nation now, and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation.”

Trump then responded, quote, “I understand that and fully understand that, and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that, but I understand that, and we have spoken about this before.”

On May 1, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about Trump’s decision to invite Duterte to the White House.

JOHN ROBERTS: Chris Coons said that the president is giving his stamp of approval to human rights abuses. Governor John Sununu, on the other hand, said this is part of the unpleasant things that presidents have to do. What’s the White House’s perspective on Duterte and him coming here?

PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: I think it is an opportunity for us to work with countries in that region that can help play a role in diplomatically and economically isolating North Korea. And frankly, the national interests of the United States, the safety of our people and the safety of people in the region are the number one priorities of the president.

AMY GOODMAN: The leaked transcript of the Trump-Duterte call does confirm North Korea came up, but only after Trump praised the Filipino president on waging his war on drugs. During the call, Trump said, quote, “We have a lot of firepower over there. We have two submarines—the best in the world—we have two nuclear submarines—not that we want to use them at all.” Trump went on to say, “I’ve never seen anything like they are, but we don’t have to use this, but he could be crazy, so we will see what happens,” unquote.

Well, to talk more about Presidents Trump and Duterte, we’re joined by Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, host of the new weekly podcast, Intercepted. Jeremy recently co-wrote a three-part article on the leaked call for The Intercept.

Jeremy, it’s great to have you with us here at the SkyDome, where the Blue Jays play, in Toronto, Canada, where we all participated in a forum on journalism last night. But talk about this really explosive exposé that you did for The Intercept around Trump’s phone call with Duterte.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, first of all, just to, you know, establish what this is that we published, this was a transcript from a phone call that took place on April 29th between Trump and Duterte. And Trump initiated the call. What we published was a Philippine government document, a classified Philippine government document. So this was the transcript that Duterte’s people made of his call with Trump.

The reason I emphasize that is because after we published this, Matt Drudge put it at the top of Drudge Report, and so we had an enormous surge in traffic from many people who are supporters of Donald Trump. And we got bombarded, and Drudge got bombarded with a boycott campaign from Trump supporters, who were saying, “Whoever leaked this should be prosecuted for treason. And the journalists who published this should be put in prison,” which echoes what we know Trump has sort of suggested in meetings, most recently to James Comey right before he fired him, the idea that journalists should be arrested. This was not a U.S. government document. Also, people were saying, “Oh, this is proof that Obama left the White House bugged.” You know, it’s like they don’t understand the basic fact of when two foreign leaders are speaking, you know, there’s two sides of this conversation. So there we have it. We have the phone conversation between these two. So—

AMY GOODMAN: How did you get it?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, we’re not going to talk about sources or methods, as the U.S. government likes to talk about. All we’ll say is that we obtained it, and both the White House and the Philippines government—well, the Philippines government validated that it is a legitimate document. The White House said that the transcript was accurate.

Now, what does that leave us with? Well, it leaves us with the fact that Donald Trump begins a phone call with Rodrigo Duterte, who is one of the most unrepentant, murderous heads of state in the world today, openly brags about how he’ll give a pardon or immunity to people who extrajudicially kill anyone involved with the drug war. And the dominant perception and the way that this is portrayed by Duterte’s people is that they’re just going after narcotraffickers. In reality, many drug users have been assassinated as part of this campaign. Duterte actually enjoys a pretty wide base of support in the Philippines, and he kind of mixes in anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist rhetoric with these very harsh policies. He also is one of the few heads of state in the world who will—you know, he regularly swears. I mean, he called Barack Obama things that I can’t even say on this program, “the son of a”—and then referenced his—as though Obama’s mother had been a sex worker. I mean, he’s, you know, calling the president of the United States and saying, “I’m going to divorce the United States and orient myself toward China and Russia.” And he said that under Obama because Obama’s administration criticized the tactics that Duterte was using, the kind of paramilitary gangster tactics that they were using.

And, you know, I think the most—not astonishing, but the most relevant part of this is that Trump knows all of that and, in fact, views that as a positive thing. So he calls Duterte and says to him, you know, “Rodrigo, I just want to congratulate you for the amazing job that you’re doing.” And the reason that we know it’s not just kind of generic platitudes is because Trump himself references in this call the fact that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had said the obvious, which is, you know, this is not right, the way that this is being handled. And, you know, the Obama administration had a very hypocritical record on human rights, but, as Allan Nairn has pointed out before, hypocrisy has some virtue, in the sense that at least they—you’re able to call them out on it, because they say one thing but mean another. So the bottom line is, Trump calls Duterte and says, “Great job. Amazing job. Obama didn’t—you know, he didn’t get it. I get it. You have our full support. You’re a good man.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jeremy, I wanted to ask you—almost as shocking as the call and the congratulations from Trump was the other part of the discussion about North Korea and Trump revealing to Duterte and, obviously, to lots of folks in the Philippine government about nuclear submarines of the U.S. that are off the coast of North Korea.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, well, first of all, we know that, you know, Trump still continues to use an insecure cellphone, that he tweets from, and has brought that cellphone to the table on classified discussions about North Korea. He did it when Shinzo Abe was at Mar-a-Lago with him, the Japanese leader. There were photos of Trump’s cellphone. His specific phone that he uses has been—already, that phone, for years, it’s been known to have been compromised by Chinese hackers. So Trump is bringing this insecure phone to meetings about North Korea. Then he’s on the phone with Duterte last month, and he says, “You know, we’ve got these two nuclear subs near North Korea.” And he’s saying this to Duterte, who was most certainly under surveillance by both the North Koreans and the Chinese. So anyone who says, “Oh, well, you guys revealed this information,” the most damaging revelation of classified information happened when Donald Trump told Duterte this. And Duterte also is a clever operator when it comes to China. And he has called Vladimir Putin his hero.

But the most newsworthy aspect of that is that—and I felt bad for you, Amy, having to read those quotes from Trump, because when you actually read his words and you’re not Trump, it sounds like the garbled mess that it actually is, because you don’t have the inflection, and you’re not, you know, sniffling and all these things. But Trump tells Duterte about these submarines off the coast, and he says, you know, “We’ve got so much more firepower than North Korea. At least 20 times more.” Twenty times? The United States is known to have more than 6,000 nuclear warheads. North Korea is believed to have around 10. So Trump’s math was way off in that equation.

And some people were saying, “Oh, well, Trump keeps saying, ‘We don’t want to use it. We don’t want to use it.’” That’s not what’s significant. What’s significant is that Trump says, “This is a madman. We don’t know what he’s going to do. We’d prefer not to go to war. But who knows?” That’s really frightening to hear from someone who is in command of the most lethal and powerful military in the world. He also—and this is sort of sad, on one level, but also frightening—he says, “Rodrigo, let’s talk about Kim Jong-un. Is he stable or unstable?” Huh? I mean, why is the president of the United States asking Duterte about if Kim Jong-un is unstable?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A man whose own stability is in question, Duterte.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right, right, of course. I mean, this is three madmen that are in this equation: Trump, Duterte and Kim Jong-un. And I really don’t know which of these three people is the sort of greater threat to civilization. I mean, it’s probably Trump, but it’s—you know, tough call.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s go to some of the clips of Duterte in his own words. Last September, the Philippines president likened himself to Hitler.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE: Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now, there is 3 million—what is it? Three million drug addicts, there are. I’d be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have [me]. You know, my victims, I would like to be all criminals.

AMY GOODMAN: Last fall, Duterte called then-President Obama “son of a whore” and warned him not to ask about his so-called drug war.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE: I am a president of a sovereign state, and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody. You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. [translated] Son of a whore, I will swear at you in that forum.

AMY GOODMAN: Before he was elected, Duterte admitted he was linked to a death squad in Davao. He spoke on a local TV show in a mix of English and Visayan.

MAYOR RODRIGO DUTERTE: [translated] Me. They are saying I’m part of a death squad.

HOST: So, how do you react to that?

MAYOR RODRIGO DUTERTE: [translated] True. That’s true. You know, when I become president, I warn you—I don’t covet the position, but if I become president, the 1,000 will become 50,000. [in English] I will kill all of you who make the lives of Filipinos miserable. [translated] I will really kill you. I won because of the breakdown in law and order.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, in December, Duterte boasted about having personally killed criminal suspects when he was mayor of Davao City. The Manila Times reported he told a group of business leaders in the Philippines capital, quote, “In Davao, I used to do it personally—just to show to the guys that if I can do it, why can’t you? And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation, so I could kill.” Jeremy—

JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: These comments from a president of the Philippines.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. Well, I mean, you know, those, of course, are of a more serious nature than the kinds of things that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth, but they do have that in common, where, you know, they’ll just sort of say what they’re thinking. And in a way, it’s refreshing, I guess, because most world leaders try to cover up the uncouth actions that they’re taking in their countries.

What I think is really significant for people to understand is that in the Hitler quote, where Duterte is saying Germany had Hitler, and, you know, he underestimates the number of people that Hitler killed—you know, he says 3 million—but he doesn’t say, “We have 3 million narcotraffickers that I want to kill.” He says, “We have 3 million addicts.” And that is—that’s the point here, is that they are not going after the kind of, you know, “Chapo” of the Philippines. Many of the people that have been killed are rank-and-file victims of a drug culture. And that’s who’s paying the heaviest price for all of this.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about something else in those transcripts: the short discussion between Trump and Duterte toward the end about China and Xi Jinping, the president of China, that Trump said, “Oh, I met with him at Mar-a-Lago. He’s a really good guy.”

JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You know, this is after months and months of Trump’s China bashing here during the political campaign. All of a sudden he seems to indicate that he needs to rely on China, China is the critical country in being able to keep North Korea at bay.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, and, you know, that has sort of—you know, under Obama, they called the policy on North Korea “strategic patience.” And I think that all serious observers of Korea politics and the history of Korea know that the North Korean regime is largely dependent on China for basically its survival, in many ways, in addition to the smuggling and organized crime that the North Korean regime is involved with. But on a tactical level, Trump spends, you know, a couple of days with Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, and then he’s saying to Duterte, “Oh, we’ve got to get the Chinese to solve the problem.” And Duterte’s like, “Oh, yeah, I’ll give him a call.” It really shows how out of his depth Trump is, as though he just heard, oh, maybe China could do something about this. I mean, it’s frightening when you’re talking about the presence of nuclear weapons. China plays the United States like a fiddle all the time in international relations.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds before we go to break, and then we’ll also be joined by Glenn Greenwald, but—so, Duterte is coming to the White House? Is that clear?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Donald Trump says to him, you know, “Anytime you’re in Washington, come by. I would love to have you in the White House.” After we published this, Senator Lindsey Graham said that he may join with Democrats who are calling for Trump to postpone that trip, so that they can discuss these issues.

And, I mean, I do think that what’s interesting, he just declared martial law in the south of the country, Duterte did, and he’s doing it in the name of fighting terrorism. That part of what Duterte is doing has long been aided by the United States, the Joint Special Operations Command, the CIA, military intelligence. The U.S. has poured resources into the Philippines in the name of fighting Islamist rebels. Duterte is now adopting that rhetoric, just like Bush and Trump—you know, Obama had different terms for it—are talking about this fight. In a way, it seems as though Duterte is outsmarting Trump in terms of how this is all playing.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill is going to stay with us, co-founder of The Intercept, host of the new weekly podcast, Intercepted. His most recent piece, we’ll link to, “Trump Called Rodrigo Duterte to Congratulate Him on His Murderous Drug War: ‘You Are Doing an Amazing Job.'” Jeremy’s books include Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, more recently, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program. This is Democracy Now! Back with Jeremy and Glenn Greenwald in a moment.

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ISIS Infiltrates the Rukban Refugee Camp at Jordan-Syria Border

ISIS Infiltrates the Rukban Refugee Camp at Jordan-Syria Border

Image: An ariel view of the informal Rukban camp, between the Jordan and Syria borders

A Jordanian military officail estimates that up to five percent of the camp’s residents — about 4,000 people — may be militants. Raad Adayleh / AP

AL RUKBAN REFUGEE CAMP — Some 80,000 people are trapped in a scrub land of hopelessness in a forgotten corner of the Middle East.

Huddling in the wind, walled in by desert sandbanks, they have been driven there by war. Abandoned by governments, they are preyed on by the very ISIS gunmen and suicide bombers they fled their homelands to escape.

NBC News was given unique access to the area where Rukban straddles a rocky, arid no man’s land along the border linking Syria and Jordan — an important American ally, and a key member of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.

Image: Map shows location of Al Rukban refugee camp
A map showing the location of the refugee camp on the Jordan-Syria border. Google

Officially, it is located in a demilitarized zone. However, the pilot of the Jordanian military helicopter used during a recent NBC News visit wouldn’t fly over it for fear of being shot down by ISIS cells in the camp.

Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, commander of Jordan’s army in the area, told NBC News that militants there “have whole weapons systems … small arms, RPGs, anti-aircraft.”

He added: “They consider the camp a safe haven. We consider it an imminent threat.”

President Donald Trump says he wants so-called “safe zones” to keep refugees in or near their own country even as they are displaced by war. It is not clear whether Rukban is what he had in mind, but this makeshift refugee camp offers a stark lesson to those seeking to de-escalate the Syrian civil war and establish secure areas for civilians who’ve been driven from their homes.

Inside Syria’s ‘Safe Zones’: How to Protect Them? 1:58

Syrians who left ISIS-held territory found themselves stranded at Rukban when Jordan closed its entire border with the country last year. The country has also blocked much humanitarian assistance from getting into the camp.

Aid agencies have complained for months that they can’t gain access the site to provide food and essential supplies. Coordinated by the U.N.’s World Food Program, a monthly delivery by a crane located in Jordanian territory makes up the bulk of what keeps men, women and children alive at the ever-growing camp.

According to UNHCR, some 659,000 Syrian refugees and around 63,000 Iraqis have officially registered in Jordan — a country of about 9 million people. Citing the most recent census, state-run media last year reported that at least 1.26 million people in Jordan were Syrians.

Now in its seventh year, the war in Syria has left an estimated 450,000 dead. Aid organizations believe that around half of Syria’s population has been killed or forced to flee their homes in what is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Daily gunbattles

The sea of tattered tents, the barefoot women and begging children, along with the burn victims being treated nearby at Rukban are all proof that the desperate crisis is beyond the reach of aid workers.

Last year, an ISIS suicide bomber killed seven Jordanian soldiers at a military base located less than a mile away.

That resulted in Jordan preventing all but a handful of refugees from crossing its borders — and declared the area a “closed military zone.”

There have been regular attacks this year and daily gunbattles inside the camp, according to Kafawin. He estimates that up to five percent of its residents — about 4,000 people — may be militants.

Syria’s government lost control of this area years ago, and its border posts lie empty. Rebels opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad control the neighboring region.

Image: Syrian women and children living in the Al Rukban cross the only legal border point
Syrian women and children living in the Al Rukban refugee camp cross the only legal border point along the demilitarized zone in eastern Jordan. Despite having closed the area after an ISIS attack on a nearby military base in 2016, the Jordanian government allows refugees with health issues to cross into the country for medical treatment, before they are forced to return. Ziad Jaber / NBC News

Yet parties in the war continue to talk about making areas like this into safe zones.

Trump ordered the Pentagon and State Department to examine how to make such “zones of security” actually safe. While the White House has not released information about the plans, it is clear that true safe zones would require lots of money, boots on the ground and planes in the air.

Making such areas secure was also discussed when Trump met Jordan’s King Abdullah on April 5. On Wednesday, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed establishing such areas, according to the White House. And on Thursday, Iran, Russia and Turkey backed the establishment of safe zones in or around Syria — although the U.S. was not part of the agreement, and said it was concerned about Tehran’s involvement.

So clearly setting up safe zones would will not be an easy task.

It “needs a lot of effort to do it, to maintain it, to secure it,” Kafawin said. “It’s difficult to protect. You need a no fly zone, you need 24-hour patrols and you need, for sure, ground forces.”

And who will provide all of that?

“I don’t think it’s possible without U.S. support,” he said.

Trump already has a lot on his plate including escalating tensions with North Korea and Russia, and a worsening crisis in Afghanistan.

Last month, he launched cruise missiles against a Syrian military airfield to try to prevent further attacks on civilians. Protecting tens of thousands of civilians with no-fly zones in camps like Rukban is a whole lot harder.

Image: Mathoor Yassen Ikhleif
Mathoor Yassen Ikhleif, 14, suffered burns to more than 70 percent of his body after a heater exploded in the Al Rukban refugee camp. He was treated by volunteers at a UNICEF field hospital — the only medical facility for hundreds of miles. Ziad Jaber / NBC News

Donald Trump sounds like he really misses not being president

Donald Trump sounds like he really misses not being president

“I loved my previous life, I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters. “I actually, this is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”
Then, later: “I do miss my old life. This — I like to work. But this is actually more work.”
That sentiment is, in a word, strange. For a few reasons.
It’s absolutely true that all presidents express — privately and then, eventually, publicly — some level of longing for the life they left behind or the life they will return to. But that usually happens after, say, seven or eight years in the White House. Not after 99 days.
The truth is — and even Donald Trump might admit this in his most candid moments — that he had almost zero idea of what being president would entail when he started running for the office almost two years ago now.
When he entered the race in June 2015, there was no reasonable expectation that he would even sniff the top tier of the Republican field. He was seen as a curiosity, a celebrity calling everyone’s bluff who said he never could, should or would run.
Throughout the campaign — even as he improbably rose to the top of the GOP field and stayed there — Trump would always tell his crowds that being president would be easy, and that he would solve the problems of the country so quickly they wouldn’t believe it.
“Together we’re going to deliver real change that once again puts Americans first,” Trump promised a Florida audience last October. “You’re going to have such great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost—and it’s going to be so easy.”
(Nota bene: Republican attempts to even hold a vote on legislation that would reform and replace the Affordable Care Act died Thursday night. For the second time in as many months.)
It’s, of course, true that no president is ever, really, ready for the job when they come into office. But Trump’s understanding of the office — and of the political process was minuscule. He had never run for or served in any elected office. (Say what you will about the relative inexperience of George W. Bush and Barack Obama before ascending to the presidency but they had been elected and served as governor and senator, respectively.) Trump’s experience in politics, by contrast, amounted to giving money when someone asked him to. And that’s about it.
Which is how someone who has been president for the last 99 days can repeatedly express amazement that the job is hard — far harder than he expected — and wax nostalgic about his old life.
Trump’s old life was, without question, easier than his current one. He starred in a reality TV show. He was the brand manager of a company built around his ostentatious personality. He did, basically, what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it.
Now his life is totally and completely proscribed. He has very little agency in all of it. He goes where he is told when he is told. And much of what Trump does on a daily basis is a radical departure from the “being Donald Trump” role that he had been playing for decades prior to winning the White House. He has to confront problems — the Middle East, North Korea, healthcare — in which he can’t just snap his fingers, make a decision and move on. Nothing — or almost nothing– is black and white. It’s all shades of gray. It’s, um, hard.
Given all of that, it’s easy to see why Trump might pine for the simpler life he led prior to being elected president. It’s just very, very odd he decided to say that publicly less than 100 days into his administration.

Pentagon Investigating Michael Flynn for Foreign Payments

Pentagon Investigating Michael Flynn for Foreign Payments

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the highest ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, released a Defense Intelligence Agency letter sent to the former Army lieutenant general as he entered retirement which specifically says Flynn cannot accept fees and gifts from foreign governments “unless congressional consent is first obtained.”

Cummings Releases Documents Showing Flynn Inaction on Russia Payment

“The Pentagon’s warning to Gen. Flynn was bold, italicized and could not have been clearer,” Cummings told reporters.

A second letter released by Cummings shows the Inspector General of the Department of Defense is investigating whether Flynn received proper permission to take the funds. A Defense Department spokesman confirmed the Flynn probe opened April 4.

Flynn, who resigned in February after misleading Trump administration officials about his conversations with Russian officials, is under fire for receiving nearly $34,000 in December 2015 for speaking at a gala celebrating Russian TV, and more than $500,000 for lobbying work on behalf of the Turkish government.

Another Defense Intelligence Agency released Thursday also revealed they could not locate any records of Flynn “seeking permission or approval for the receipt of money from a foreign source.”

Earlier this week Cummings, joined by Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, said Flynn may have violated the law by not disclosing the payments.

“I see no information or no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz, chair of the oversight committee, told NBC News on Tuesday.

A lawyer for Flynn said in a statement this week that the former Trump adviser “extensively” briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency “both before and after the trip” to Moscow.

Chaffetz and Cummings released a joint statement this week revealing the White House had denied their request for documents relating to Flynn. Chaffetz said he believes the administration simply does not possess the documents, while Cummings has said they are intentionally withholding information about Flynn.

“I don’t understand why the White house is covering up for Michael Flynn,” Cummings said Thursday.

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS . ..

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS . ..

Blood Money
Senator Ted Cruz thinks he’s found a great way to pay for President Trump’s border wall: drug money. According to the Dallas Morning News, Cruz introduced a bill on Tuesday called the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act, which, spectacularly, reduces to the acronym EL CHAPO. The bill suggests that the government tap into the $14 billion in assets currently being sought from Joaquin Guzman, the elusive longtime kingpin of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel. El Chapo is currently incarcerated in Brooklyn. “Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way toward building a wall that will keep Americans safe and hinder the illegal flow of drugs, weapons, and individuals across our southern border,” Cruz said in a statement, according to the Morning News. He also made an online petition, so you can sign your name in support of the bill to “build the wall and make El Chapo pay for it!

Air Uber
Uber has ruled the ride-hailing market when it comes to ground transportation, and now it’s aiming to conquer the skies too. The company badly wants to make “intra-urban flying vehicles” happen, with the air above North Texas as its testing course. According to the Texas Tribune, Uber announced at its “Uber Elevate Summit” in Dallas on Tuesday that Dallas and Fort Worth are the first of its partner cities in its “Uber Elevate Network.” They hope to have a flying car demonstration over DFW within three years. “This is an opportunity for our city to show leaders from around the world and across industries why Dallas should be a part of building a better future for urban mobility,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a statement, according to the Tribune. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Uber has tapped Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter to develop its fleet. The helicopter manufacturer is working on propulsion technology to build electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that will supposedly be quieter than your average helicopter.

Get Well Soon
Former President George H.W. Bush is in the midst of another lengthy hospital stay. Bush was admitted to Houston Methodist on April 14 after he couldn’t shake a cough, and he was diagnosed with a case of mild pneumonia. His spokesman said last week that Bush would be fine, but twelve days later he’s still in the hospital, where doctors will keep him under observation for at least a few more days because of chronic bronchitis, according to the Houston Chronicle. The forty-first president is in the hospital for the second time this year. He spent sixteen days at Houston Methodist in January, including a scary stint in the ICU, while fighting a bout of pneumonia. But he recovered completely, and was well enough to take part in the coin toss at the Super Bowl in Houston in February. He is once again expected to recover just fine. “We continue to monitor his cough and breathing, and expect to discharge him by the end of the week,” Bush’s doctor said in a statement. “Once President Bush is home, we will continue aggressive respiratory treatments to help minimize the effects of the chronic bronchitis.”

DALLAS POLICE ARE RESPONDING TO A POSSIBLE ACTIVE SHOOTER SITUATION AT AN OFFICE BUILDING

Dallas police said officers are responding Monday to reports of a person with a gun at an office building in the north of the city.

Police provided no other details, including whether any shots were fired or any injuries reported in 911 calls Monday morning.

Television footage showed a heavy police response, including a SWAT team, at the multi-story office building along an interstate. A broken window can be seen on one of the upper floors of the mirrored tower.

Dallas Fire-Rescue said they dispatched three rescue units to the scene. A Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman could not confirm whether there were any fatalities.

Hannah Greenhaw was among the workers evacuated safely from the offices near a multi-level highway interchange known as the High Five.

Greenhaw told KXAS-TV that people from an office across the hall came over to warn them to lock the doors because there had been reports of an active shooter. Everyone in her office hurried to a corner in the back and turned out the lights, she said.

Armed tactical police officers then arrived, entered her office and told the workers to put their hands up, according to Greenhaw. Officers helped evacuate everyone from the building, she said, with some people allowed to use elevators.

“There was a few of us who couldn’t actually walk down 10 flights of stairs,” Greenhaw said.

Syria’s chemical program: Rubio ‘gravely concerned’ about Iran & Russia complicity

Syria’s chemical program: Rubio ‘gravely concerned’ about Iran & Russia complicity

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News he’s “gravely concerned” about the Iran’s role in helping Syria develop its chemical welfare program that ended up killing dozens of people weeks ago.

Rubio, a Republican, said he was troubled by reports that both Iran and Russia were complicit in Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons program. While the Trump administration accused Moscow of covering up the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S government has not mentioned Iran’s possible role.

“Congress and the White House should work together to hold the Assad regime accountable for its war crimes and impose harsh sanctions against its enablers,” Rubio told Fox News.

Mounting evidence shows Iran’s regime enabled Assad to develop a lethal gas program that he used on civilians earlier this month and in 2013. Assad’s Air Force dropped the poisonous gas sarin on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April, killing more than 80 people, many of them children.

IRAN ISSUES THREAT OVER US STRIKES IN SYRIA

In response to Assad’s chemical attack, the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat Air Base, which served as the departure point for planes carrying the deadly nerve agent. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah have long used the Shayrat Air Base, experts say.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Ahmet Uzumcu, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said the attack in Khan Sheikhoun “indicate that sarin or a sarin-like substance was used.”

Iran sided with Russia’s denial that the Syrian regime did not use chemical weapons.  Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the “unilateral action is dangerous, destructive and violates the principles of international law.”

Assad first used sarin nerve gas to attack the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013, killing nearly 1,500 civilians, including 426 children.

Last July, Fox News reported exclusively that Iran sought chemical and biological weapons technology, according to multiple German intelligence documents.

The British publication Jane’s Defense Weekly reported in 2005 that the Islamic Republic of Iran worked with Assad’s regime to build an “innovative chemical warfare program.” According to the report, Iran provided crucial know-how to build equipment to produce “hundreds of tons of precursors for VX, sarin nerve agents and mustard blister agent.”

According to a WikiLeaks cable on the Iran-Syria chemical warfare activities, “New Zealand assesses that the cooperation is mainly driven by Iran’s desire for increased strategic importance in the region. New Zealand also assesses that Iran’s biotechnology sector is far more advanced than Syria’s, and Iran does not mind sharing its knowledge with Syria.”

US LAUNCHES MISSILES INTO SYRIA IN RESPONSE TO CHEMICAL WEAPONS ATTACK

In 2007, a joint Iran-Syria project accidentally caused an explosion while attempting to load a chemical warhead onto a Scud-C missile, wrote Jane’s Defense. The deadly test killed dozens of Syrian military personnel and Iranian engineers.

Sarin gas, along with mustard gas and VX nerve gas, were cited as the lethal toxins during the 2007 explosion at an Aleppo factory.

Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the Washington D.C-based American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News that Iran has long viewed Syria as a partner.

“The thing that makes Iran so dangerous is it not only exports its weapons to proxies in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, but it brags about exporting the ability to manufacture weapons,” Rubin said.

Rubin, who has written about Iran’s chemical weapons program, said it makes strategic sense for Iran to help other countries obtain chemical agents.

“Plausible deniability has always been central to post-revolutionary Iran’s strategic calculation,” he said, “and so to proliferate unconventional weapons enables Iran to avoid accountability by raising the number of suspects every time they are used.”

Fox News reported last week that defected Syrian Brig. Gen. Zaher al-Sakat,  who oversaw the regime’s chemical weapons, said Bashar Assad  would not “completely give up” his chemical weapons arsenal.

The recent chemical attack debunked former Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion in 2014 that the U.S. “got 100 percent of the chemical weapons [out of Syria].

A 2017 Congressional Service report released this month said Iran not only has the capability to produce chemical warfare but probably “has the capability to produce some biological warfare agents for offensive purposes, if it made the decision to do so.”

The report notes that “this raises questions about Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which Iran signed on January 13, 1993, and ratified on June 8, 1997.”

The emergence of Iran’s role in enabling Syria’s use of chemical weapons comes on the heels of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying: “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods.” Tillerson said this week, however, that a recent review shows Iran has been compliant with its 2015 nuclear deal.

During the Iran-Iraq war 1980-1988, both Iran’s Islamist regime and Saddam Hussein’s secular Baath party employed poisonous gas on soldiers.

Iran’s UN diplomatic missions in New York and Geneva did not immediately respond to requests from Fox News for comment.

Hunter Shoots Two Partners Who were Hiding Behind Turkey Fan

Hunter Shoots Two Partners Who were Hiding Behind Turkey Fan

We’ve also covered many stories through the years that highlight the turkey hunting tactic called “reaping” or “fanning,” and one of the most amazing featured an entire hunt filmed by a drone.

At the end of my DIY fan article, I wrote: “To my knowledge, no turkey hunter has died while reaping, but I don’t think it’s a matter of ‘if,’ it’s only a matter of ‘when.’ ”

Well, it almost came true last week in Kansas.

According to this report from The Joplin Globe, three buddies were hunting new land. Two of the shotgun hunters began searching for turkeys on one side of the leased private property, and the other man started hunting elsewhere on the land. Somehow they ended up moving into each other’s space. It appears likely that they were calling to each other, both parties thinking that the other was a real gobbler. While two of the hunters hid behind a turkey fan on the edge of the woods, the third man shot at the fan, hitting his hunting partners.

According to the news story: “Sheriff Dan Peak said the sheriff’s office learned of the matter when the shooter drove the two injured hunters to the hospital in Girard with potentially life-threatening shotgun wounds to their faces and upper bodies. They later were flown by medical helicopter to Freeman Hospital West in Joplin.”

This story serves as a grim reminder of the dangers of reaping/fanning a turkey, even on private land. Be careful out there!