By Robert A. Vella
The unholy trinity of U.S. president Donald Trump, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, are apparently preparing for a coordinated war against archrival Iran. What could possibly go wrong? Meanwhile, China is retaliating against Trump’s trade war against them with more tariffs of their own in an escalating economic conflict which historically tends to trigger military conflict. We all have good reason to worry about this.
“The Trump administration has significantly increased tensions in the region and has therefore increased the odds of some sort of inadvertent or even deliberate military clash with Iran,” said International Crisis Group (ICG) Iran project director Ali Vaez.
“The odds of a clash occurring, even without provocation, are quite high.” he told AFP.
He said a belief on both sides that the other does not want a conflict “creates plenty of room for miscalculation” especially at a time when both sides have no direct communication channels.
The war in Yemen also intensifies the risk of an incident between Iran and Saudi Arabia — such as an attack by Tehran-backed Huthi rebels on Saudi interests — being magnified and then pulling in the United States.
Drone attacks on Tuesday, claimed by Iran-aligned Yemen rebels, shut down one of Saudi Arabia’s main oil pipelines, further ratcheting up Gulf tensions.
China said Monday it will impose higher tariffs on a range of U.S. goods, striking back in its trade war with Washington shortly after President Donald Trump warned it not to retaliate.
China’s finance ministry said it plans to set import tariffs ranging from 5 percent to 25 percent on 5,140 U.S. products on a target list worth about $60 billion. It said the tariffs will take effect on June 1.
The announcement came less than two hours after Trump warned Beijing not to retaliate after China said it “will never surrender to external pressure.”
SCOTUS rejects precedent
Legal precedent is a doctrine intended to support judicial integrity in three basic ways: 1) that court rulings should be respected as generally warranted and impartial, 2) that the respect for previous court rulings provides continuity and stability in the judicial system, and 3) that any previous court rulings which are overturned are done so with great care and deliberation to ensure that new legal precedents are not diminished as biased or overtly partisan. However, the current U.S. Supreme Court has just rejected this important doctrine.
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned a 41-year-old precedent Monday, prompting a pointed warning from liberal justices about “which cases the court will overrule next.”
The issue in Monday’s 5 to 4 ruling was one of limited impact: whether states have sovereign immunity from private lawsuits in the courts of other states. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to such immunity, although states are free to extend it to one another and often do.
But the court’s conservative majority overruled that decision, saying there was an implied right in the Constitution that means states “could not be haled involuntarily before each other’s courts,” in the words of Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote Monday’s decision.
Thomas acknowledged the departure from the legal doctrine of stare decisis, in which courts are to abide by settled law without a compelling reason to overrule the decision.
Money trumps justice
In one of the most brazen court decisions in recent memory, which sends the strong message that social status supersedes the concept of equal application of the law (see: Equal Protection Clause), incriminating evidence against billionaire businessman and NFL team owner Robert Kraft has been tossed out in a criminal solicitation case. Would defendants without the wealth, power, and fame of Mr. Kraft (who is a personal friend of Donald Trump) been afforded such leniency or favoritism?
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Prosecutors cannot use secretly recorded video allegedly showing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft engaging in massage parlor sex, a judge ruled Monday, striking a serious blow to the case charging him with soliciting prostitutes.
In his 10-page ruling, Judge Leonard Hanser wrote that Jupiter police detectives and the judge who issued the search warrant allowing the secret installation of cameras at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter did not do enough to minimize the invasion of privacy of other customers, some of whom received only legal massages.
Kraft’s attorneys are expected to file a motion to dismiss the case based on lack of evidence as soon as Tuesday. Prosecutors have the options of appealing the decision, dismissing the charges or going ahead to trial without the only evidence they’ve presented.
The Justice Department on Monday welcomed a federal judge’s ruling that a Washington, D.C., radio station must register as an agent of the Russian government, saying Americans “have a right to know if a foreign flag waves behind speech broadcast in the United States.”
Except for the five seconds every hour during which it identifies itself, WZHF-AM has broadcast Radio Sputnik around the clock since December 2017.
Radio Sputnik is part of Rossíya Segódnya, the government news agency created in 2013 by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A trove of what appear to be internal NRA documents were anonymously posted online over the weekend, raising more questions about longtime CEO Wayne LaPierre’s leadership amid mounting allegations of financial mismanagement within the powerful gun lobby.
The leaked documents, the authenticity of which ABC News has not been able to verify, included letters that appear to show former NRA president Lt. Col. Oliver North raised serious concerns with the organization’s audit committee about $24 million in legal fees paid to the firm of outside counsel William Brewer over the last year. North was recently ousted as president amid a dispute with LaPierre.
These latest revelations have arrived during a period of rising internal tensions at the organization, as media scrutiny of the NRA and its finances has prompted action by law enforcement and lawmakers.
Another mosque burned
A blaze that engulfed a New Haven mosque Sunday was intentionally set, the city’s supervisor of fire investigations, Ray Saracco, told CNN.
The fire at the Diyanet Mosque in Connecticut broke out Sunday, during the holy month of Ramadan.
Monsanto in trouble
(Bloomberg) — Bayer AG was ordered to pay more than $2 billion in damages to a California couple that claimed they got cancer as a result of using its Roundup weedkiller for about three decades, raising pressure on the company to settle thousands of similar lawsuits. The stock plunged to the lowest level in almost seven years.
It’s the largest jury award in the U.S. so far this year and the eighth-largest ever in a product-defect claim, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Bayer has now lost three trials in a row over claims Roundup causes cancer and it’s scheduled to face similar claims this summer in St. Louis.
Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann faces increased shareholder pressure over the litigation it inherited from Monsanto Co., acquired for about $63 billion last June. Bayer has lost more than 40 percent of its value since the transaction. On Tuesday, its shares fell as much as 5 percent in German trading.
A progressive champion
SEATTLE — That Washington state boasts a booming economy is hardly a shock. The state is home to Amazon.com, after all, and a mature tech sector led by Microsoft. Washington apples, wheat, hops and grapes feed and inebriate the world. Boeing Co. aircraft circle it.
But Washington has a supercharger: power.
Cheap, climate-friendly electricity drives Washington’s economy, the nation’s fastest growing, according to the U.S. News’ Best States ranking of economic growth. The tech-heavy state’s expectedly strong broadband network sits atop one of the nation’s best electrical systems, one well-positioned as the country shifts away from coal- and natural gas-generated electricity. The state expects to be coal-free by 2025, while still charging rates among the nation’s lowest.
Aging hydroelectric dams provide most of the electricity Washington uses or exports, but windmills and solar arrays are increasingly common sights on the arid rolling hills east of the Cascade Mountains. Gov. Jay Inslee, the state’s leading clean energy evangelist-turned-presidential hopeful, describes those projects as doubly fruitful: Customers get clean energy, and rural residents get economic opportunity.
“Washington state is an example of how climate action and a strong economy go hand in hand,” Inslee told U.S. News & World Report.