By Robert A. Vella

The news this week is coming at a fever pitch and I’m sure everyone is struggling to keep up.  In America, it must seem like a terrifying horror flick or a really bad dream as the most powerful nation on Earth teeters on the edge of fascism.  In Europe, the worrisome prospect of a “no deal” on Brexit looms on the horizon as the E.U. and U.K. continue to spar over a resolution.  But, this blog is trying to keep you informed of the most important stories.  Here’s the roundup for this Thursday:

Democrats and Republicans issued threats against each other this morning during the confirmation hearings for President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.  Democratic senators told GOP leaders they might release secret documents to the public concerning Kavanaugh’s career which they believe will expose him as a partisan hack who will protect Trump from any criminal prosecution among other criticisms.  Republicans responded by warning Democrats that such a move could get them expelled from the Senate.  Dems then reacted to the warning with defiance.  Indeed, Kavanaugh’s record is highly suspect and it appears likely he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade as well as continue to vote against consumer rights, workers’ rights, social services, and virtually all other issues opposed by conservative ideology.

From:  Kavanaugh hearing: New set of documents highlight Roe v. Wade, race

The fight over access to Kavanaugh’s records from his time in the Bush White House intensified in the opening moments of the hearing Thursday morning. Booker said he is prepared to violate Senate rules and release confidential committee documents — and to risk the consequences.

Booker had questioned Kavanaugh Wednesday night about his use of the term “naked racial set-aside” and said he would make public documents backing up that assertion.

“I openly invite and accept the consequences of releasing that email right now,” Booker said. “The emails being withheld from the public have nothing to do with national security.”


After Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said he was willing to violate Senate rules and release confidential documents, Senate Democrats on the committee appeared in open revolt as Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) read aloud from the rules on expulsion. Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, also tweeted the rules on Thursday morning.

Cornyn read aloud from rules stating that a senator who discloses “the secret or confidential business” of the Senate could be “liable … to suffer expulsion.”

Booker responded by saying: “Bring the charges.” His comment was echoed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who said: “Apply the rule, bring the charges. All of us are ready to face that rule.”

“This is about the closest I’ll ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment,” Booker said.

From:  ‘The sleeper cells have awoken’: Trump and aides shaken by ‘resistance’ op-ed

President Trump and his aides reacted with indignation Wednesday to an unsigned opinion column from a senior official blasting the president’s “amorality” and launched a frantic hunt for the author, who claims to be part of a secret “resistance” inside the government protecting the nation from its commander in chief.

The extraordinary column, published anonymously in the New York Times, surfaced one day after the first excerpts emerged from Bob Woodward’s new book, in which Trump’s top advisers painted a devastating portrait of the president and described a “crazytown” atmosphere inside the White House.

Taken together, they landed like a thunder clap, portraying Trump as a danger to the country that elected him and feeding the president’s paranoia about whom around him he can trust.

Trump reacted to the column with “volcanic” anger and was “absolutely livid” over what he considered a treasonous act of disloyalty and told confidants he suspects the official works on national security issues or in the Justice Department, according to two people familiar with his private discussions.

From:  Putin’s ‘Friend’ Had Early Access to Trump’s Infamous Pro-Russia Speech

More than two years later, Maria Butina, who once wrote for the center’s magazine and occasionally emailed with Simes, was arrested as an accused Kremlin agent. Subsequently, the person provided the photos to The Daily Beast. The photos’ metadata confirm they were taken on a cellphone in the morning of April 21, 2016. A second former staffer told The Daily Beast that he saw the same documents on Simes’ desk.

The pictures provide new insight into the creation of Trump’s historic foreign policy speech. They also indicate that Simes was closer than previously known to the drafting of that speech. (Jacob Heilbrunn, the editor of the center’s magazine, wrote for Politico shortly after the speech that he didn’t know what was going to be in it. “I was curious as anyone to see what Trump would actually say,” he wrote.)

It isn’t unusual for a think tank chief to preview drafts of a speech presented at their invitation. But Simes’ proximity to the speech shows that a person Vladimir Putin once called a “friend and colleague” had an early view into the crafting of a speech that would have historic significance for American foreign policy. Democrats on the House intelligence committee tried to investigate Simes’ relationship to Trump’s campaign, but Republican committee chairman Devin Nunes blocked their efforts.

From:  Mistrial declared in U.S. murder case of Blackwater security guard charged in 2007 Iraqi civilian massacre

The retrial of a Blackwater security guard convicted of first-degree murder in 2014 resulted in a hung jury Wednesday, dealing a blow to the Justice Department’s long pursuit of accountability for a 2007 shooting of unarmed civilians that drew international condemnation during the Iraq War.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District declared a mistrial after a jury of seven women and five men said it was deadlocked on the 16th day of deliberations in the case of Nicholas A. Slatten. Slatten, 34, was accused of unleashing the first shots that set off machine gun and grenade fire that killed or injured 31 civilians in stopped traffic at Baghdad’s Nisour Square on Sept. 16, 2007.

It was the second time Slatten faced trial for murder in the shooting rampage that outraged diplomatic and humanitarian circles and sparked calls to end the U.S. government’s use of private military forces.

From:  Campaigners celebrate as India decriminalises homosexuality

Celebrations erupted in India on Thursday as the country’s supreme court unanimously ruled to decriminalise homosexual sex in a landmark judgment for gay rights.

A five-judge bench of the country’s highest court ruled that a 160-year-old law banning sex “against the order of nature” amounted to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and was unconstitutional.

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