By Robert A. Vella

Two additional revelations have emerged since Sunday night’s leak of a soon to be published tell-all book by former National Security Advisor John Bolton.  First, it appears likely now that the leak of information from Bolton’s manuscript damaging to President Trump’s impeachment defense originated from the White House.  Second, Bolton reportedly had a conversation last year with Attorney General William Barr in which both officials expressed concern about Trump’s cozy relationship with autocratic leaders around the world.

In the U.S. Senate’s impeachment trial of the president, the Bolton revelations have thrown a monkey-wrench into GOP plans to conduct a speedy sham trial without witness testimony and documentary evidence which are being obstructed and concealed by the White House.  As much as Republican senators want to sweep the Ukraine coercion scandal under-the-rug and exonerate Trump as quickly as possible, it is becoming increasingly more problematic for them to take that political risk.  Meanwhile, the Trump defense team will conclude its arguments today and the questioning phase of the trial will probably begin tomorrow.  On Friday or Saturday, votes on individual witnesses will likely take place;  and, that is when we’ll find out how much impact the Bolton revelations (and also the earlier Lev Parnas revelations) had on Senate Republicans.  Yesterday, the Trump defense team conducted a lengthy and rather embarrassing diatribe of Trump talking-points which irrationally intended to subvert the constitutional basis for impeachment, label Joe Biden and even Barack Obama as criminals, obscure the central role of Rudy Giuliani in the scandal, and largely ignore the pivotal figure of John Bolton.  In fact, Alan Dershowitz was the only one of them to mention Bolton at all;  and, in his impeachment undermining rationale, he curiously admitted that his opinion was not shared by most legal scholars.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has retaliated against National Public Radio (NPR) for asking him uncomfortable questions about impeachment in a scheduled interview, and for releasing email evidence of his prior knowledge of the questions after he had berated the journalist in public.  What a scumbag!

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s embattled prime minister, has abandoned his attempt to seek criminal immunity from parliament after his own political party (i.e. Likud) threatened to boycott the proceedings.  “Bibi” is in Washington D.C. meeting with President Trump ostensibly to formulate an Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan” which triggered angry protests in the contested West Bank.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued an order allowing the Trump administration to deny green card applications to immigrants deemed likely to qualify for federal benefit programs.

One of the initial climate change observations which caused concern among the scientific community decades ago was the mounting evidence of ocean acidification.  Simply put, as human activity pumps carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere (primarily through the burning of fossil fuels), the world’s oceans absorb it as a chemical balancing mechanism.  Unfortunately, we are emitting CO2 at a much greater rate.  Consequently, atmospheric CO2 levels are dramatically rising and the absorption of it is causing the oceans to become increasingly acidic.  As pH levels in the oceans decline, it damages the ecosystem for many marine species and especially for those near the base of the food chain.  Invertebrates, such as clams, mussels, shrimp, crabs, and lobsters, have difficulty growing their shells when the acidity of the water rises too high.  Prior research had indicated that some of these species were more resistant to low pH conditions (e.g. crabs), but new research shows that even those species are now suffering from the adverse affects of climate change.


From:  Bolton book leaked after the White House made copies of the single manuscript they were given: report

NBC News correspondent Carol Lee reported Monday that one copy of Bolton’s manuscript was given to the White House — where copies were made.

Bolton reportedly believes that “the process was corrupted” by the administration.

“So it suggests that there are multiple copies floating around, and from the Bolton team’s perspective, they’re saying we gave them one copy — what they did with it, we don’t know, but clearly it’s gotten out there and it’s not coming from us,” Lee reported. “They really want to distance themselves from the idea that he is somehow behind leaking this.”

From:  Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says

WASHINGTON — John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, privately told Attorney General William P. Barr last year that he had concerns that President Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Barr responded by pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations of companies in those countries and said he was worried that Mr. Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries, according to the manuscript. Backing up his point, Mr. Barr mentioned conversations Mr. Trump had with the leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Xi Jinping of China.

Mr. Bolton’s account underscores the fact that the unease about Mr. Trump’s seeming embrace of authoritarian leaders, long expressed by experts and his opponents, also existed among some of the senior cabinet officers entrusted by the president to carry out his foreign policy and national security agendas.


Leaked Bolton book threatens to upend Senate impeachment trial

Trump lawyers to wrap up defense in Senate impeachment trial

4 takeaways from the Trump team’s day on defense

Trump Defense Finale Puts GOP Near Moment of Reckoning on Bolton

Sen. Graham backs plan to make Bolton manuscript available to senators


From:  NPR reporter removed from Pompeo trip in ‘retaliation’, says press group

The state department has removed an NPR reporter from the pool of journalists traveling to Europe and Asia with Mike Pompeo, following the secretary of state’s public feud with the news organization.

The State Department Correspondents’ Association says that Michele Kelemen, an NPR diplomatic correspondent, has been denied a seat aboard Pompeo’s plane during his trip, which includes a visit to Ukraine.

In a statement, the association described the move as retaliation for a contentious interview with another NPR journalist, Marie Louise Kelly.


From:  Netanyahu pulls request for immunity on corruption charges

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu withdrew his request for immunity from prosecution on Tuesday, hours before parliamentary proceedings were set to begin.

In a statement issued on his official Facebook page, Netanyahu, who was visiting Washington ahead of the launch of President Donald Trump’s peace plan, said he “decided not to let this dirty game continue.”

Israel’s parliament, called the the Knesset, was set to convene to discuss the formation of a committee to debate the prime minister’s request for immunity from prosecution.

Netanyahu was indicted on counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in November in three separate cases. He has denied any wrongdoing.

From:  Palestinians protest, Israel braces ahead of Trump plan

GAZA CITY/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated against U.S. President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan on Tuesday hours before its scheduled release at a ceremony in Washington.

Israeli troops meanwhile reinforced positions near a flashpoint site between the Palestinian city of Ramallah and the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

While Israeli leaders have welcomed Trump’s long-delayed plan, Palestinian leaders rejected it even before its official release. They say his administration is biased toward Israel.


From:  In 5-4 ruling, Supreme Court allows Trump plan to deny green cards to those who may need gov’t aid

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court issued an order Monday allowing the Trump administration to begin enforcing new limits on immigrants who are considered likely to become overly dependent on government benefit programs.

The court voted 5-4. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said they would have left a lower court ruling in place that blocked enforcement while a legal challenge works its way through the courts.

The Department of Homeland Security announced in August that it would expand the definition of “public charge,” to be applied to people whose immigration to the United States could be denied because of a concern that they would primarily depend on the government for their income.

Ocean acidification

From:  The Pacific Ocean is so acidic that it’s dissolving Dungeness crabs’ shells

The Pacific Ocean is becoming more acidic, and the cash-crabs that live in its coastal waters are some of its first inhabitants to feel its effects.

The Dungeness crab is vital to commercial fisheries in the Pacific Northwest, but lower pH levels in its habitat are dissolving parts of its shell and damaging its sensory organs, a new study found.

Their injuries could impact coastal economies and forebode the obstacles in a changing sea. And while the results aren’t unexpected, the study’s authors said the damage to the crabs is premature: The acidity wasn’t predicted to damage the crabs this quickly.

More news

From:  Trump administration resolves fentanyl dispute but congressional support needed for broader crackdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration has resolved an internal dispute over how to handle new variants of fentanyl that it believes can beef up the fight against the deadly synthetic painkiller without hindering research to ease the opioid crisis, according to a draft agreement seen by Reuters.

The administration had hoped the deal, a copy of which was turned over to the Senate in the fall, would pave the way for Congress to pass their draft legislation into law, but so far it has failed to do so.

The measure would allow the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to permanently place all fentanyl analogues into the same legal category as heroin and cocaine. That could make it easier for law enforcement officials to prosecute people who sell any chemical look-alike of the drug.

At the same time, the agreement would ease some of the strict rules governing research around fentanyl analogues, according to the text seen by Reuters and confirmed by officials from the Justice and Health and Human Services departments.

From:  J&J CEO Relied on Internal Experts for Claim Baby Powder Is Safe

(Bloomberg) — Johnson & Johnson Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky told a New Jersey jury weighing punishment for the company over cancer claims that he relied on internal experts when he went on national TV to insist the company’s baby powder was safe and didn’t contain asbestos.

With J&J facing almost 17,000 lawsuits from users of talc-based powders, Gorsky testified Monday for the first time in court for the punishment phase of a trial in the company’s hometown of New Brunswick. In October, a separate jury awarded $37.2 million in damages to four people.

Gorsky told jurors his public statements defending the product weren’t based on his personal knowledge of the science but rather “experts with deep knowledge” about testing, including company analysis that showed no traces of asbestos, a known carcinogen.

Still, the CEO acknowledged he can no longer say that, because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found traces of asbestos in one lot of Baby Powder three months ago. The government ordered the world’s largest maker of health-care products to recall 33,000 bottles.

From:  Kellogg pledges to phase out glyphosate by 2025

US cereal giant Kellogg has set a goal of phasing out the controversial weedkiller glyphosate from its supply chain by 2025, the company confirmed Monday.

Kellogg, which makes “Corn Flakes” cereal, Pop Tarts and other breakfast products, does not own or operate farms but some suppliers have used the herbicide as a “drying agent a few weeks before harvest, particularly with wheat and oats,” the company said on its website.

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