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  • Chicago mental health advocates claim Rahm Emanuel flipped out at them
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 8:01 PM:)


    Mental health advocates just accused Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) of losing his composure and screaming at them in a private meeting on Wednesday night.

    The advocacy group Mental Health Movement made its claims about Emanuel in a Facebook post following the event. The post detailed how two of the group's members, Debbie Delgado and Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, confronted Emanuel and sharply criticized him for closing mental health clinics.

    "After trying to keep his cool, he told us that he would speak to us after the event in a separate room. There, we saw the Real Rahm. Now off camera, Rahm's voice raised, his demeanor changed, in no time he was shouting in Matt's face, nose-to-nose," the post read. 

    And that's when things allegedly got out of hand. 

    "YOU'RE GONNA RESPECT ME!" Emanuel is quoted shouting at Ginsberg-Jaeckle, who is no stranger to antagonizing the mayor.

    Reached for comment, Emanuel's government office referred Business Insider to his reelection campaign, which released a statement disputing the advocates' claims about their meeting with the mayor.

    "As Rahm consistently meets with Chicagoans who have a different point of view about the challenges facing the city," said his campaign spokesman, Steve Mayberry. "Rahm spent about an additional 15 minutes in a private discussion with her to take her thoughts into consideration and direct her to resources that can address her needs. Rahm's 15-minute private meeting ended very cordially, with the mayor thanking them for giving him issues and concerns to check into and consider."

    Regardless, the alleged outburst would not necessarily be out of character for Emanuel, a former congressman and White House chief of staff. In one infamous story, Emanuel is said to have sent a dead fish to a pollster who displeased him. In another, Emanuel suddenly pulled out a knife at a dinner table, shouted the name of a political enemy, slammed the knife into the table, and yelled, "Dead!"

    Emanuel, who is in the middle of a heated reelection battle, directly acknowledged his forceful approach in a recent campaign ad.

    "They say your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness. I'm living proof of that," Emanuel says, straight to the camera, in the ad. "I can rub people the wrong way, or talk when I should listen. I own that. But I'm driven to make a difference."

    Watch the ad below:

    (via Fred Klonsky)

    Updated (4:56 p.m.): With additional context and the Emanuel campaign's statement to Business Insider.

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  • Long shot 2016 candidate launches campaign with emotional 16-page letter
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 6:11 PM:)

    attached image

    GOP presidential candidate Mark Everson has an unusual, personal, and emotional pitch to voters.

    Everson, the relatively unknown former IRS Commissioner under George W. Bush, became the first Republican to officially launch a presidential campaign on Thursday. He kicked off his bid by releasing a when he released a 16 page "Letter to America" that focused on both his policy ideas and past personal problems

    In his letter, Everson disclosed his past extramarital affair, divorce and the abortion of his unborn child.

    While Everson served as head of the tax agency from 2003 to 2007, his first wife, Nanette, worked as chief ethics counsel for the Bush White House. They had three children together before their marriage ended.

    Everson's letter described the "dramatic changes" that occurred in his personal life after the Bush administration, During his six-months as CEO of the American Red Cross in 2007, he engaged in an affair with a married subordinate who ultimately became pregnant.

    He left the non-profit after the board requested his resignation in November 2007. He subsequently divorced his first wife and welcomed a fourth child from his extramarital relationship. Everson has not remarried but is raising a five-year-old son with his former mistress in Mississippi.

    "My marriage failed. It was entirely my fault. I am not proud of the job I did as a husband. And like many Americans, my youngest child's mother and I were not married when he was born," Everson wrote in a section of the letter titled "Social Issues."

    In a corresponding YouTube video for his campaign launch Everson also acknowledged his turbulent personal life.

    "I've made mistakes but at 60, I'm wiser and humbler than I once was," he said.

    Everson also used the letter to share his views on abortion in his letter and open up about his own "painful" experience with the subject.

    "Many years ago, an unborn child of mine was aborted, and I still wonder what that man or woman would be like today," he writes.

    Everson opposes the termination of a pregnancy unless the woman's life is at risk.

    While deeply personal in some portions, the letter also presents the rationale behind the six pillars of his campaign platform: his support for providing amnesty to undocumented immigrants, the re-establishment of the draft (which may or may not include women), his pledge to serve only one term in the White House, tax reform, the call for corporate responsibility, and deficit reduction.

    Everson, a native New Yorker, had previously served as deputy commissioner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service under President Ronald Reagan. He entered the private sector in the nineties, before he returned to the government to work for Bush. 

    From 2009-2010, Everson served in the cabinet of Indiana's Republican governor, Mitch Daniels. He is now with the tax services company, alliantgroup.

    Everson's campaign will be based in Mississippi but the bulk of his staff will be in Iowa, his spokesman told Business Insider.

    With a "small staff in place" currently, the spokesman said fundraising efforts will begin Thursday. Additional team members will be added in Iowa to focus on targeting the state’s 99 counties by August.

    Everson told the Associated Press he has an estimated net worth of $3 million and plans to invest $250,000 in his campaign. 

    "I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe I've got a chance," he told the AP, adding, "I think that who becomes president is not up to Wall Street and the fat cats across the country. It's up to the voters."

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  • Here's why the Boston bomber pleaded not guilty even though his lawyer told the court he did it
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 5:52 PM:)

    dzhokhar tsarnaev court sketch boston bombing

    The lawyer for the Boston Marathon bomber admitted at the start of her client's trial this week that he was guilty — even though he already pleaded not guilty two years ago, when he was charged with planting two bombs near the race's finish line.

    This seems like a counterintuitive move made by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's attorney, Judy Clarke, one of the top death-penalty lawyers in the US. But the not guilty plea is part of her larger strategy to get her client a more lenient sentence.

    This strategy worked when Clarke defended Jared Lee Loughner, the gunman who in 2011 shot nearly 20 people at a Tucson, Arizona, supermarket, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. After initially pleading not guilty, Loughner agreed to a deal that took the death penalty off the table.

    Legal expert and Ohio State University law professor Douglas Berman told Business Insider that the defense could be using the trial as a sort of test run to prepare for the penalty phase, which will decide whether Tsarnaev gets the death penalty.

    Tsarnaev's not guilty plea isn't necessarily a claim of innocence but rather an expression that the defense wants to hold the government to its burden of proof in the case, Berman said. Once the prosecution lays out its case, the defense will be better informed on how to argue against a death sentence in the penalty phase.

    The defense "wants to see how the government is going to put its case together, who the witnesses are, what kind of arguments they make about the defendant," Berman said.

    "The best way to do this is to have this trial phase where the government is going to put forward all of its evidence, which is not just about guilt but why the death penalty is appropriate, and then the defense has essentially a preview and can then start from the get-go on developing a corresponding, much more informed strategy for the penalty phase."

    By entering a not guilty plea and going through a trial, the defense gets a look at how the prosecution is going to build a case against Tsarnaev. It also gets to see how the jury will react to its own strategy.

    "In so many ways, it's not just what's forced the government to show their hand, it's also, 'Let's make our point before the main event and see how the jury seems to be responding and what kind of reactions we think we're getting from the judge and the jury as we put forward a variety of suggestions," Berman said.

    Clarke's admission that her client did participate in the bombing could also be a strategic move, allowing her to build credibility with the jury and make them feel as if they can trust what she says.

    Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

    Because there isn't much of a question of whether Dzhokhar helped carry out the plot, the defense will most likely now focus on diminishing his role and emphasizing the part played by his late older brother, Tamerlan.

    On the first day of the trial, Clarke held up two photos of the brothers — one from years before the marathon attack and the second from the scene of the bombing where they're shown carrying backpacks containing explosives, according to the AP. She then asked the jury: "What took Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from this ... to this?"

    There is also still potential for Tsarnaev to seek a plea deal down the line, as Loughner did.

    "Maybe it's a hope on the part of the defense that if they go through the guilt phase, the government will see that they'll have a challenge getting a death sentence," Berman said. "... Given that there's no doubt about guilt and a life sentence is pretty likely regardless, I'm sure the defense is at every stage saying [to the prosecution], either directly or indirectly, 'Is this really worth all your time and energy?'"

    Dzhokhar, 21, has been charged with planting two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013. The attack killed three people and injured more than 200 others. His older brother, Tamerlan, whom the defense appears to be portraying as the mastermind behind the bombing, died in 2013 during a manhunt for the brothers in Watertown, Massachusetts.

    SEE ALSO: Meet the woman who is defending Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in court

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  • America's most prominent group advocating engagement with Iran was hit with a rough court decision
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 5:44 PM:)

    kerry zarif

    The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has emerged as one of the most influential foreign policy advocacy groups in Washington and has helped affect an almost complete reversal in US policy towards Tehran.

    But a Feb 10th decision in the US federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia casts an unsavory light on the organization and its activities.

    In the decision, two circuit judges and a senior circuit judge forced NIAC to pay "$183,480.09 in monetary sanctions" to a blogger named Hassan Daioleslam to reimburse him for the money he's spent fighting a defamation lawsuit NIAC brought against him in 2008, and that was dismissed 4 years later.

    "They sued me, and ran a smear campaign against me," Daioleslam told Business Insider. "They did everything to crush me. But after seven years of the lawsuit they couldn't break me."

    NIAC is on the side of the Iran debate that's winning right now, at least in the executive branch. Its work is predicated on the idea that closer relations between the US and Iran are in the US' interests. The Obama administration clearly agrees, as the US and Iran are reportedly on the brink of a landmark nuclear agreement.

    But when a critic claimed that NIAC was operating under a different mission — that it was lobbying on behalf of the government of Iran's interests — the group sued him. Despite filing that lawsuit, NIAC then used a series of delays that kept its activities hidden from the court.

    In that suit, NIAC alleged Daioleslam — who runs a website called Iranianlobby.com, along with the Iranian American Forum — had "defamed them in a series of articles and blog posts claiming that they had secretly lobbied on behalf of the Iranian regime in the United States."

    The accusation highlights a crucial distinction under US law. There's a major difference between lobbying on behalf of a foreign government — something that requires registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act — and advocating in favor of closer ties with a country on the premise that this would advance US interests. 

    NIAC thought it had a case against Daioleslam. The US District Court for the District of Columbia disagreed, finding in 2012 that the work of NIAC president and founder Tritra Parsi was "not inconsistent with the idea that he was first and foremost an advocate for the regime." The judge essentially found it was conceivable that NIAC could reasonably be accused of lobbying on behalf of Iran, so Daioleslam's blog posts weren't defamatory.

    NIAC + J Street Dylan Williams Trita Parsi

    The case was far from over even after its dismissal. Daioleslam filed a motion for sanctions in order to recuperate some of the costs of the discovery process. He claimed that NIAC's various delays in cooperating with court orders had driven up the costs of his legal defense.

    The Feb. 10 decision from the appeals court, written by judge Robert Wilkins, determined that NIAC had "flouted multiple court orders" and improperly delayed its delivery of documents to Daioleslam during the discovery portion of the lawsuit and even withheld certain documents. During the trial, the NIAC provided inconsistent statements about its internal computer system and recordkeeping, and then used those later-disproved claims to drag out the discovery process for years.

    Remarkably, NIAC hoarded and shielded documents during the discovery portion of a lawsuit that it had itself brought to court.

    If NIAC never wanted a federal judge to look over certain aspects of its operations — its member lists, internal emails, meeting schedules, and other documents the court deemed relevant to Daiolelslam's defense — it simply could have chosen not to bring a lawsuit at all.

    But it made the worst possible choice: bringing a losing lawsuit, and then taking what the Feb. 10 finding describes as "inexcusable" action in court in an apparent attempt at protecting itself from the consequences of its own lawsuit. 

    Daioleslam told Business Insider that NIAC was generally uncooperative in providing requested documentation during the trial. "They gave 10% of what we asked for, and even that was enough to show what kind of organization it is," he said.

    For Daioleslam, the decision is further vindication after beating a lawsuit that he claims cost NIAC more than $1 million in legal fees to pursue.

    "They lied to the court and they were punished for it," Daioleslam told Business Insider.

    Parsi disagrees: "The real story here is that Mr. Dai [Daioleslam changed his name to Dai since the suit beganand his neoconservative supporters — whose intent was to 'destroy NIAC' — utterly failed," he wrote in an email to Business Insider. "After spending several million dollars, going through our computers, not only could they not find a shred of evidence supporting their lie that we lobby for the Iranian government, Mr. Daioleslam also retreated from his accusation against us in court and ended up paying for the vast majority of the costs for his fishing expedition."

    Daioleslam (aka Dai), for his part, told Business Insider that the trial's discovery costs came out to a little over $300,000, which means that the $180,000 reward in fact accounted for over half the costs incurred.

    Here's what the court found: 

    NIAC really didn't produce its calendar records. Daiolelslam needed to show that it wasn't libelous to claim that NIAC was involved in lobbying on behalf of the Tehran regime. NIAC's calendar records, which showed what NIAC staffers were doing and who they were meeting with, were crucial to this line of defense. He requested them in March of 2009. One can only guess at the reason NIAC didn't want to hand them over.

    "NIAC failed for ten months to produce Outlook calendar records for any of its employees in response to Daioleslam’s production requests," the opinion states. Even when NIAC obliged him, the records were incomplete. Or worse: "NIAC produced no calendar entries from before 2009. Of the entries it produced, 78 had been altered shortly before production, including two-thirds of those in Parsi’s calendar."

    The judge writes that "a large proportion of the documents were modified shortly before production."

    NIAC initially hid the existence of four of its computers from the court, and wasn't totally honest about what those computers were used for. In July of 2010, the court ordered NIAC to “submit the server on which its Outlook calendars are kept to PricewaterhouseCoopers [“PwC”] for forensic imaging.” Awkwardly for NIAC, the imaging "revealed the existence of four additional computers in NIAC’s network that it had not produced" in court.

    NIAC claimed that these were intern computers. This was false: "The inventory showed that one of the computers NIAC had withheld as an 'intern computer' was actually used by [then-NIAC legislative director Emily] Blout, whose Outlook calendar entries NIAC had produced ... Another one of the 'intern' computers was actually used by NIAC’s co-founder and former outreach director, Babak Talebi."

    (In an email to Business Insider, Blout, who no longer works for NIAC, wrote that "While I am mentioned several times, I was not a party in the lawsuit and was not involved in NIACs legal strategy or decisions.  I do, however, regret Mr. Daioleslams original attacks on my former employer, which in no way represents the Iranian regime.")

    NIAC misrepresented how its computer system was configured. The court ordered NIAC to produce its computer server three times so that it could determine whether the group was withholding or altering documents. The multiple requests were necessary because NIAC initially claimed that such a server did not exist.

    This was also false, and as judge Wilkins notes, "PwC’s forensic imaging of NIAC’s old server revealed hundreds of previously unproduced calendar entries."

    Judge Wilkins is unsparing in his assessment of NIAC's various evasions regarding the architecture of its record-keeping system: "Its resolute failure to produce all relevant drives until over a year after it was first ordered to do so is inexcusable," the court found. 

    According to Wilkins's opinion, in withholding the servers, NIAC had actually "disobeyed a series of written orders" from the court.

    NIAC didn't explain why it withheld 5,500 emails from its co-founder and former outreach director. Daioleslam reasonably believed that emails from Babek Talebi, NIAC's co-founder and outreach director, could help establish the nature of the group's work and aid in his defense. The court agreed, but NIAC delayed its release of the emails and then withheld thousands of them based on criteria that the court couldn't quite identify.

    "NIAC produced virtually no documents from Talebi’s NIAC email address in response to Daioleslam’s production requests prior to late December 2009, even though Talebi had been involved with the organization since 2002," Wilkins writes. "After the court ordered NIAC to search its servers, NIAC located about 8,000 of his emails, but produced only 89 as relevant, and withheld the rest as not relevant."

    The court didn't buy the argument that they were "irrelevant" and ordered NIAC to turn over the rest of them "consistent with [NIAC's] discovery obligations." They handed over an additional 2,500 emails, which means they withheld 5,500.

    The court wasn't sure what criteria NIAC had used to hoard the remaining emails, holding "in an April 5, 2011 order that NIAC had 'totally failed' to assess the Talebi emails for responsiveness." 

    Worse still, when the emails were eventually reviewed by the court in private, "The court observed that many were plainly responsive to Daioleslam’s requests for lobbying-related documents," and that "When Daioleslam finally received the remainder of Talebi’s emails, he noted they included Congress-related communications that he could have used in his depositions of NIAC’s employees. "

    Overall, "the District Court described the Appellants’ withholding of relevant emails as 'indefensible.'"

    NIAC wasn't truthful about the nature of its record-keeping system. As Wilkins' decision recounts, "References to 'SF' in NIAC’s belated April 2010 production of some of its Outlook calendar entries tipped off Daioleslam that it had also withheld meeting notes and membership lists it kept in a program called Salesforce."

    NIAC audaciously responded that it had no idea what Daiolelslam was talking about, with its lawyers claiming the group “ha[d] not employed any such software or system and is therefore unable to comment about this unfounded claim.”

    That wasn't true, and in February of 2011, NIAC turned over Salesforce records that it had initially claimed in court had never even existed.

    NIAC also misrepresented the extent of its Salesforce records when it first acknowledged their existence in September of 2010:

    "NIAC told the District Court that it had only experimented briefly with Salesforce. However, Parsi conceded in his first deposition two months later that NIAC had used Salesforce 'to keep track on members and donations' since before 2006 and that, 'for a few years, we used it as the database in which we kept our membership information.'"

    NIAC took 2 1/2 years to produce its membership lists.  The court agreed with Daioleslam's claim that a list of NIAC's members was relevant to his defense, since the lawsuit hinged on allegedly defamatory and damaging statements about NIAC's nature and activities.

    "Again, NIAC failed to comply meaningfully with the court’s order, producing only a list of 9,000 Convio [a business management program] 'transactions' — mostly donations — from which a complete list of members was impossible to divine. 

    "At long last, in September 2011 — two-and-a-half years after Daioleslam’s request for production of documents related to NIAC’s membership — NIAC produced all its member lists."

    NIAC didn't turn over lots of relevant documents. Awkwardly for NIAC, Daioleslam subpoenaed a number of third parties for NIAC documents that the organization itself had failed to produce in court.

    These documents NIAC didn't produce — but that other parties possessed and were compelled to produce — included "a discussion of legal restrictions on lobbying by nonprofits, emails Parsi wrote to a National Security Council director, emails coordinating a congressional briefing, communications NIAC exchanged with its expert about NIAC events on Capitol Hill and meetings with foreign officials, and 168 emails NIAC received from Iranian-Americans expressing negative views of the organization."

    The decision notes that "The Appellants made no attempt to defend their failure to produce these documents other than to say Daioleslam had found no 'smoking gun' among them."

    An important document was mysteriously altered after the lawsuit was brought. Before launching NIAC, Trita Parsi was "affiliated" with a group called Iranians for International Cooperation. In a 1999 FAQ, Parsi "described IIC as a 'lobby group,'" according to Wilkins' decision.

    That FAQ had a curious alternation.

    "One version of the FAQ that Parsi produced — the metadata of which showed it was last modified in 1999 —retained this description [as a "lobby group']. The second version he produced replaced the word 'lobby' with 'advocacy,' and had last been modified in April 2009." NIAC sued Daioleslam in April 2008.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad ZarifMaybe NIAC's seeming lack of cooperation with the lawsuit wasn't malicious. It could be that NIAC was chronically disorganized. In its press release in response to the decision, NIAC pointed out that the appeals court had overturned some parts of the lower court's decision. (For example, the appeals court didn't uphold sanctions against Parsi for his mysterious alteration of the ICC document, finding there wasn't clear evidence he'd done so in bad faith.)

    Still, the lion's share of the court opinion outlines NIAC's attempts to withhold information that gets to the heart of NIAC's goals and activities. At best, NIAC behaved poorly in court in the pursuit of a failed lawsuit against one of its critics. At worst, it waged a poorly concealed whitewash of what it had been up to for the previous eight years.

    Judge Wilkins has only this to say about NIAC's possible motives: "In view of the Appellants’ failure to explain their withholding of so many relevant documents, some of which they misrepresented to the District Court that they could not locate, we cannot conclude it was clearly erroneous to find the Appellants acted in bad faith."

    Daioleslam has his own explanation for NIAC's actions: "They didn't want to give the documents because didn't want to expose the truth, that's all," he told Business Insider.

    When reached for comment, NIAC president Parsi attempted to portray the ruling as a win for his organization. He claimed that his organization had not acted in bad faith in its slow response to various court orders, and cited another judge's finding that NIAC's delays may simply have been a result of "a lack of resources and carelessness." In an email to Business Insider, Parsi wrote: 

    "The real story here is that Mr. Dai and his neoconservative supporters — whose intent was to 'destroy NIAC' — utterly failed. After spending several million dollars, going through our computers, not only could they not find a shred of evidence supporting their lie that we lobby for the Iranian government, Mr. Dai also retreated from his accusation against us in court and ended up paying for the vast majority of the costs for his fishing expedition." 

    "We are disappointed that Judge Wilkins's opinion did not even address our primary argument:  that Judge Bates overlooked his own ground rules for shifting the forensic-imaging costs, doing so even though Judge Bates determined that there was no evidence that NIAC had altered any of the disputed Outlook calendar entries and that he concluded that the entries Mr. Dai discovered through forensic imaging were not material to his summary judgment motion." 

    "Even Judge Bates, whose final ruling we respectfully disagreed with, still concluded that any alleged discovery failures on our end were "a product of lack of resources and carelessness more than bad faith." We respectfully disagree with the decision that even a small minority of the discovery cost should have been shifted to us, but are content with the moral victory that Mr. Dai had to retreat from his accusation against us in court."

    NIAC expanded upon this defense — essentially that the court did not endorse Daioleslam's claims that NIAC was lobbying for the Iranian regime, thus eliding the fact that it was NIAC that brought the suit in the first place — in a statement published on March 5, roughly 24 hours after Business Insider first contacted Parsi for comment.

    The statement notes that "Some confusion has arisen as to the nature of the opinion filed by Judge Wilkins on February 10, 2015 in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia." That statement went on to point out that the judge who originally ruled on the case attributed its failure to produce documents more to "a product of lack of resources and carelessness more than bad faith.”

    UPDATE: Hassan Dai emailed the following to Business Insider in response to Trita Parsi's statements in this article: "Twice in the article, Parsi claims that during the lawsuit, I retreated from my previous declarations that Parsi lobbies on behalf of Iranian regime. This is an outright lie."

    As proof Dai pointed to several "excerpts from the ruling, our motion and my deposition." In his deposition, Dai said he "believe[s] [Parsi] has worked, he has lobbied in favor of the Iranian regime." In the email, Dai also notes that he maintained the accusation Parsi lobbied on behalf of the regime in two motions filed at the outset of the case.

    Read the entire decision here.

    SEE ALSO: Here's why Iran blew up a life-size model of a US aircraft carrier

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  • Hillary Clinton won't take questions at event honoring journalism
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 5:39 PM:)

    hillary clinton

    Hillary Clinton reportedly will not be taking any questions at an event honoring excellence in journalism.

    Organizers of the March 23 Toner Prize Celebration, which is named after the late New York Times reporter Robin Toner, told the Center for Public Integrity the event would be open to reporters. However, the keynote speaker, Clinton, does not plan to take their inquiries.

    Business Insider reached out to Clinton's office to confirm the report. A Clinton spokesman referred the question back to the event's organizers.

    Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016, is embroiled in a controversy surrounding her exclusive use of personal email addresses while she served as secretary of state. According to The New York Times, this may have violated federal guidelines and could have left state secrets vulnerable on an unsecure server. Both Clinton's email issue and her alleged avoidance of the press have fueled criticism she is insufficiently transparent.

    After days of relentless media coverage since Monday, Clinton addressed the emails in a tweet late Wednesday night.

    "I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible," she wrote.

    However, many questions remain, including why she decided to use a private email server in the first place. For now it doesn't appear Clinton has any intention of answering them. TMZ ambushed her at Reagan National Airport on Wednesday and pressed her on the email controversy. She smiled but didn't respond.

    Watch below:

    Unfortunately your browser does not support IFrames.

    (via Michael Calderone)

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  • House investigators: Hillary Clinton engaged in a 'scheme to conceal' her email
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 5:23 PM:)

    hillary clinton

    The congressional committee dedicated to investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya believes that Hillary Clinton engaged in a "scheme to conceal" her email while she was secretary of state. 

    Jamal Ware, a spokesman for the committee which is chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), issued a statement on Wednesday responding to a tweet Clinton sent the prior night. Clinton wrote that she wants "the public to see" her email and asked the State Department to release her messages. Ware dismissed this and said it "does not answer questions" about Clinton's email "scheme."

    Ware's response highlighted the fact that Clinton's aides reviewed her emails and decided which ones should be turned over to the State Department.

    "As Chairman Gowdy noted, former Secretary Clinton has left herself in the unique position of being the only one to determine what records the American people are entitled to," Ware said. "This has significant negative implications for transparency and government oversight, as well as for media and others who have a legitimate interest in understanding the Secretary's time in office."

    On Wednesday, the committee issued a subpoena in an effort to examine Clinton's email use. The subpoena came after a New York Times article was published on Monday that detailed how Clinton exclusively used a personal address rather than a governmental one during her time leading the State Department.

    According to the Times, Clinton's use of a private address for official business could have violated federal rules. Clinton's team has disputed this and argued her use of personal email went above and beyond regulatory requirements. 

    The Benghazi committee has long sought to obtain Clinton's emails. Gowdy has said he will refrain from calling Clinton to testify before the committee until it is able to examine her email. Republicans have been critical of the State Department's handling of the Benghazi attacks, which left four Americans dead including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

    In recent months, Clinton's team turned over about 55,000 printed copies of her emails to the State Department in response to a request the department has described as part of an effort to update its record-keeping. Ware's statement suggested that the fact that Clinton's aides decided which emails to hand in raises questions about the "integrity" of the records, which necessitated the committee's subpoena. 

    "The former Secretary's tweet does not answer questions about why this was not done when she left office, the integrity of the emails while she controlled them, the scheme to conceal them, or the failure to provide them in logical course," Ware said. "Chairman [Gowdy] has said the former secretary is welcome to and should release all of her emails, but legitimate investigations do not consider partial records. And that is the point of the subpoena issued yesterday by the Benghazi Committee."

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  • Read the angry emails Hillary Clinton's top aide sent to a bunch of reporters
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 4:42 PM:)


    A key member of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton's team sent several angry emails to a group of journalists on Tuesday night.

    The messages criticized a source for being a "lying liar" and what the aide described as a reporter's "cockamamie theory."

    The heated exchange was the latest chapter in the growing controversy over Clinton's use of a private email address for official business when she was secretary of state from 2009 until 2013.

    It began after Gawker writer J.K. Trotter published a story indicating two of Clinton's top aides used "secret email accounts" while they worked for her at the State Department.

    CJ Ciaramella, a reporter for Vice and the Washington Free Beacon, subsequently emailed Philippe Reines, a veteran Clinton communications aide, asking about the Gawker story. In his response, Reines CC'd multiple media critics and Trotter. Among other things, Reines' email criticized Trotter's "creepy" reporting methods and accused him of relying on a source who lied about Clinton.

    Update (March 5, 2014 11:18 a.m.): An internal email Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read sent to Trotter and his executive editor for investigations, John Cook, was published on the site's story about this chain. We included it here to ensure our version of the email chain is complete. 

    Trotter's piece said an unnamed source who "has worked with Clinton in the past" alleged both Reines and another top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, used private email addresses on the domain clintonemail.com when they worked under Clinton at the State Department. The accusation came on the heels of a New York Times report published Monday that suggested Clinton's use of a private clintonemail.com address to conduct official State Department business may have violated federal regulations and prevented the government from preserving her communications.

    Clinton's team has insisted her use of the private email complied with the rules and did not interfere with recordkeeping.

    In his email to Trotter and Ciaramella, Reines vehemently denied he ever used personal email without including his government address.

    84199284Reines provided Business Insider with a copy of the exchange on Wednesday. In addition to Trotter and Ciaramella, Reines included Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple and CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. Reines explained his rationale for bringing Wemple and Stelter in the conversation at the beginning of his message.

    "Since this fundamentally comes down to honesty, transparency and accountability, I thought we'd go through an exercise together - with Erik Wemple of The Washington Post and Brian Stelter of CNN included as observers," Reines wrote.

    Reines proceeded to offer a point-by-point rebuttal of Trotter's article. In the story, Trotter wrote that Lexis Nexis records indicated Abedin had a clintonemail.com address. He also noted he wrote to the address listed in Nexis and the message did not bounce back. Reines dismissed this as "creepy" and questioned whether Trotter attempted to use similar techniques to check if he also had a clintonemail.com address.

    "Did you attempt to verify your source's assertion of my use of such an email using the same creepy methods you did with my close friend and colleague Huma Abedin? Assuming you did, why doesn't your piece note the results of your creepy methods?" Reines wrote, adding, "Did you attempt to send an email to me at that domain, and if so did it go "through without bouncing"? Assuming you did, why don't you note the results of your test?"

    Reines went on to question whether Trotter's unnamed source had been able to provide email exchanges proving Clinton's aides used the private addresses.

    "If your lying liar pants on fire source worked with me at a federal agency as you and they contend, did you ask them to provide even a single email exchange with my using that account?" Reines asked in the email, which was first reported by The Washington Post.

    On Wednesday, Trotter sent a response to Reines, which he posted on Gawker. In it, he addressed each of the criticisms and defended his work.

    Trotter's initial story said the source's claim that Reines and Abedin used private email addresses might explain "the State Department’s puzzling response to several FOIA requests filed by Gawker in the past two years." The first of those requests was sent by Gawker in September 2012. Trotter said the request sought correspondence between Reines and a "variety of reporters" in the wake of a memorable, expletive-filled exchange Reines had with the late BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings in 2012.

    "That request was confoundingly denied on the grounds that the State Department had no record of Reines—whose job it was to communicate with reporters—emailing Hastings or any other journalists (Gawker is currently appealing the rejection)," Trotter wrote.

    Trotter also claimed a 2011 FOIA request from Gawker to the State Department asking for copies of Abedin's correspondence was also denied.

    In his email, Reines suggested the idea private email addresses would prevent the State Department from responding to FOIA requests for his communications with the media was a wild "conspiracy."

    "Is your cockamamie theory that the reason there is no record of my emailing with reporters is because I improperly used my personal email address to email with those reporters in an attempt to circumvent FOIA, and that every one of the many reporters you reasonably assume I emailed with are in on this conspiracy of having only emailed with me on my non-official email?" Reines asked. "All sorts of media outlets reached out to me, including FOX and The Daily Caller. Are they in on it? Is everyone in on it aside from Gawker?"

    Last March, Business Insider filed our own FOIA request asking the State Department for records of Reines' communications with several news organizations from the start of 2012 until after Clinton left her position as secretary of state in February 2013. A response sent to Business Insider by the State Department on March 21, 2014 indicated they would "being processing" the request and that they do have records of Reines' emails with the media.

    "Unusual circumstances (including the number and location of Department components involved in responding to your request, the volume of requested records, etc.) may arise that would require additional time to process your request," the State Department response said.

    The State Department, which has been criticized for failing to respond to records requests related to Clinton in a timely manner, rejected Business Insider's request for expedited processing and has not returned any records of Reines' communications.

    Ciaramella responded to Reines and began with a greeting for the many reporters CC'd on the exchange.

    "Hi Philippe, And hello JK and Erik and Brian and Nick. It's wonderful that we can all be here, together," he wrote.

    Ciaramella went on to note that, if Reines' claim he "didn't use private email" is correct, then the State Department was "either lying through its teeth or wildly incompetent" in its response to Gawker's FOIA request.

    hillary clinton blackberryBusiness Insider reached out to the State Department on Wednesday to ask about its response to Gawker. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki did not immediately respond.

    Ciaramella concluded by pointing out that BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith tweeted a claimed that Reines used a private Gmail account for his exchange with Hastings. This would seem to be solid evidence Reines was indeed using private email for State Department business.

    Reines responded with another email where he looped in Smith.

    "Let me welcome Ben to our little party, because, well, he’s flat out wrong," Reines wrote. "Michael emailed me that morning on my State account, I responded from my State account, I even added a second State person’s State account to that exchange, and it entirely remained on our State accounts without my personal account being referenced or used in any way. ... But hey, why let truth or facts get in the way of a good Tweet."

    Smith answered with an apology for the tweet, which he said was incorrect.

    "Hey guys: this is my fault. I misremembered. I'm sorry for sewing confusion," Smith wrote. "I have corresponded with Philippe on his gmail, but this was not that."

    Read the entire email exchange Reines sent to Business Insider below. It was lightly edited for consistent formatting and to remove all personal contact information.

    Email 1:

    From: CJ Ciaramella
    To: Philippe Reines
    Date: Tuesday, March 3, 6:47 p.m.
    Subject: Comment on private email address at State Dept

    Hi Philippe,
    This is CJ Ciaramella, a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon and Vice. Wondering if you have any response to this Gawker article alleging that you and Huma Abedin used private email addresses to conduct official government business while at the State Dept: http://gawker.com/source-top-clinton-aides-used-secret-email-accounts-at-1689246408

    As I'm sure you well know, not archiving official business conducted on a private email address is a violation of the Federal Records Act. A FOIA request for your State Dept. emails is also currently being appealed. Please email or call: [phone number redacted]


    CJ Ciaramella

    Email 2:

    From: Philippe Reines
    To: CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
    Date: Tuesay, March 3, 9:57 p.m.
    Subject: Email

    Hi CJ. And hi JK.

    Since this fundamentally comes down to honesty, transparency and accountability, I thought we'd go through an exercise together - with Erik Wemple of The Washington Post and Brian Stelter of CNN included as observers.


    In your piece, which CJ references below, you wrote:

    “'Her top staffers used those Clinton email addresses' at the agency, said the source, who has worked with Clinton in the past. The source named two staffers in particular, Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, who are said to have used private email addresses in the course of their agency duties."

    That's a pretty clear assertion by you through your source that they had firsthand knowledge of my having and using an email account on the clintonemail.com domain. You then wrote:

    "We were able to independantly [SIC] verify that Abedin used a ClintonEmail.com address at some point in time. There are several email addresses associated with Abedin’s name in records maintained by Lexis-Nexis; one of them is huma@clintonemail.com. An email sent to that address today went through without bouncing."

    A few questions:

    1) Did you attempt to verify your source's assertion of my use of such an email using the same creepy methods you did with my close friend and colleague Huma Abedin? Assuming you did, why doesn't your piece note the results of your creepy methods?

    2) Did you attempt to send an email to me at that domain, and if so did it go "through without bouncing"? Assuming you did, why don't you note the results of your test?

    3) If your lying liar pants on fire source worked with me at a federal agency as you and they contend, did you ask them to provide even a single email exchange with my using that account?

    4) Better yet, in the off chance they don't have every single email they ever sent or received, have you availed yourself of the same FOIA laws to petition the lying liar's agency for any email between them and me that you have with our email?

    I mean, you either naively or knowingly swallowed quite the whopper. Not sure which is worse. Actually, that's not true.

    Now, on the subject of FOIA...

    You have to ask State about your requests, appeals, etc.

    But while I have you I'm really hoping you can explain something to me. You wrote that "The use of private email addresses may explain the State Department’s puzzling response to several FOIA requests filed by Gawker in the past two years," continuing, "That request was confoundingly denied on the grounds that the State Department had no record of Reines—whose job it was to communicate with reporters—emailing Hastings or any other journalists."

    So, is your cockamamie theory that the reason there is no record of my emailing with reporters is because I improperly used my personal email address to email with those reporters in an attempt to circumvent FOIA, and that every one of the many reporters you reasonably assume I emailed with are in on this conspiracy of having only emailed with me on my non-official email? All sorts of media outlets reached out to me, including FOX and The Daily Caller. Are they in on it? Is everyone in on it aside from Gawker?

    Now, to answer your question: email is a two way street. You'd be surprised how many reporters deliberately email government officials to their personal accounts. You'd be equally surprised to know that when they did, I moved the exchange to my state.gov account because, between you and me, my personal account is about the last place I want to be emailing reporters or conducting work.

    Which brings me to my last question(s) - for both JK & CJ:

    Have either of you ever deliberately emailed a US Government official anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so, why? Have you ever received an email from a US Government official from anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so did you ask them why?

    Looking forward to your responses!


    Email 3:

    From: CJ Ciaramella
    To: Philippe Reines, CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
    Date: Wednesday, March 4, 2:30 a.m.
    Subject: Re: Email

    Hi Philippe,

    And hello JK and Erik and Brian and Nick. It's wonderful that we can all be here, together.

    JK can speak to his article, but the reason I'm interested in your response is because if, like you say, you didn't use private email and copied any work messages to your state.gov account, then State is either lying through its teeth or wildly incompetent, and flouting the Freedom of Information Act either way. That's a distinct possibility, although I'd note that Ben Smith tweeted out tonight that your exchange with Michael Hastings was conducted over a Gmail account.


    CJ Ciaramella

    Email 4:

    From: Philippe Reines
    To: Ben Smith, Josh Gerstein, CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
    Date: Wednesday, March 4
    Subject: Re: Email

    Good Morning All,

    And let me welcome Ben to our little party, because, well, he’s flat out wrong.

    Michael emailed me that morning on my State account, I responded from my State account, I even added a second State person’s State account to that exchange, and it entirely remained on our State accounts without my personal account being referenced or used in any way.

    But hey, why let truth or facts get in the way of a good Tweet.

    And along those lines, I’ve also added Josh Gerstein of Politico since I’m now noticing that he is simply swallowing JK's dreck whole and stating it as fact. And so Gawker will be repeated over and over because someone flat out lied to them about my email habits, claiming firsthand knowledge that I had an account that I never did. Which was why I originally initiated this group exchange. Still looking forward to JK’s answers.

    As for your requests, I understand your point — and even your frustration — but I simply can’t address or explain any of that, the Department has to. That however doesn’t mean I and others shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt. As I think we can all agree, USG officials are permitted to use non-official accounts in the course of their job. There are reasons that happens. An outsider could email you at your personal account, maybe because they only have that address. Maybe their official email is on the fritz. Maybe they lost their device. Maybe they made a mistake. I don’t know. But again, there are legitimate non-nefarious reasons, and there should be a measure of benefit of the doubt afforded to people. In four years, I must have sent and received nearly half a million email. The vast vast vast vast majority, maybe four ‘vast’s, the overwhelming majority, whatever term means closer to 100% than 99%, that’s where I’m guessing my average is. If you want to skewer me over a non-100% rate, I can’t do much about that.

    From my perspective, if I were emailing with a reporter, I had to assume that it could end up in the public domain, as the exchange with Michael reminded me the very hard way. That’s just the nature of the beast, and what email account you use isn’t going to prevent that. Not to mention that much of what’s written to reporters is purposefully meant for the public domain since that’s the job. And believe me, I’d be far happier with you all having a field day poring through my largely boring and tedious email, than unfairly and erroneously reading that I intentionally undermined or circumvented the process. That frustrates me as much as State responses are frustrating you.

    Anyway, hope this helps.


    Email 5:

    From: Max Read
    Date: Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 7:16 AM
    Subject: Re: Re: Email
    To: Keenan Trotter
    Cc: John Cook

    This seems fun! I’m feeling left out!

    Email 6:

    From: Ben Smith
    To: CJ Ciaramella, Philippe Reines, CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
    Date: Wednesday, March 4, 7:37 a.m.
    Subject: Re: Email

    Hey guys: this is my fault. I misremembered. I'm sorry for sewing confusion.

    I have corresponded with Philippe on his gmail, but this was not that.



    Update (6:40 p.m.): Here are more emails in the thread that Reines forwarded to Business Insider:

    Email 7:

    From: J.K. Trotter
    To: Ben Smith, CJ Ciaramella, Philippe Reines, CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill, Huma Abedin
    Date: Wednesday, March 4, 1:26 p.m. 
    Subject: Re: Email 

    Hi Philippe, thanks for the email. Here are the answers you requested.

    1) Did you attempt to verify your source's assertion of my use of such an email using the same creepy methods you did with my close friend and colleague Huma Abedin? Assuming you did, why doesn't your piece note the results of your creepy methods?

    Yes. I looked for but could not find a ClintonEmail.com listed under your name on Lexis-Nexis. That is why I asked your spokesperson, Nick Merrill, about whether you actually possessed a ClintonEmail.com address. He said you did not, and I included his statement in the same article to which you refer.

    2) Did you attempt to send an email to me at that domain, and if so did it go through without bouncing? Assuming you did, why don't you note the results of your test?

    No, because I didn¹t find a ClintonEmail.com under your name and because your boss's email address, hdr22@clintonemail.com, was deliberately obscure. I decided to hold off on trying to email easily guessable usernames (e.g., philippe@clintonemail.com) until we had heard back from Merrill. Only after Merrill denied that you had a ClintonEmail.com address did I discover that Huma Abedin had a ClintonEmail.com address.

    For reasons that remain unclear, however, Merrill only addressed questions concerning you; he repeatedly refused to address questions about Abedin the one Clinton staffer whose possession of a ClintonEmail.com account has been publicly confirmed.

    3) If your lying liar pants on fire source worked with me at a federal agency as you and they contend, did you ask them to provide even a single email exchange with my using that account?

    Neither I nor my source contended that they worked at a federal agency with you. They only claimed to be aware of the fact that Clinton's closest aides used private email accounts to conduct official government business, based on their experience working with Clinton. I worked to confirm that the source was correct, and reported Merrill's claim that you did not have a ClintonEmail.com address. Again, I included all of this in the very article to which you refer.

    4) Better yet, in the off chance they don¹t have every single email they ever sent or received, have you availed yourself of the same FOIA laws to petition the lying liar's agency for any email between them and me that you have with our email?

    No, I didn't file a FOIA request for emails between you and the source. Doing so would have put the source's name on the public record, and as you know, the State Department often takes years to respond to even the most simple requests. It is unlikely that such a request would have been fulfilled by deadline.

    So, is your cockamamie theory that the reason there is no record of my emailing with reporters is because I improperly used my personal email address to email with those reporters in an attempt to circumvent FOIA, and that every one of the many reporters you reasonably assume I emailed with are in on this conspiracy of having only emailed with me on my non-official email? All sorts of media outlets reached out to me, including FOX and The Daily Caller. Are they in on it? Is everyone in on it aside from Gawker?

    My theory is that, if the State Department has been repeatedly unable to locate records of known email exchanges for a reason other than institutional incompetence‹then the reason might have to do with the the deliberate flouting of record-keeping regulations by State Department staffers. Nobody has provided an alternative explanation.

    Now, to answer your question: email is a two way street. You'd be surprised how many reporters deliberately email government officials to their personal accounts. You¹d be equally surprised to know thatwhen they did, I moved the exchange to my state.gov account because, between you and me, my personal account is about the last place I want to be emailing reporters or conducting work.

    This is not, in fact, an answer. You were employed by the State Department when Gawker filed a FOIA request for correspondence between you and Michael Hastings. You were also employed by the State Department when your agency denied that request. And yet you refuse to clarify why the State Department could not locate a record of your exchange with Hastings.

    Have either of you ever deliberately emailed a US Government official anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so, why? Have you ever received an email from a US Government official from anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so did you ask them why?


    Now that I've addressed your questions, would you mind answering these?

    1. Were you made aware of Gawker's FOIA request for correspondence between you and 34 media outlets, which was submitted and later denied, on the grounds that no record of the correspondence was found‹when you were a State Department employee? If not, when did you become aware of the request?

    2. Why have several FOIA requests for known email exchanges been rejected, because no records of them were found, when Clinton was secretary of state?

    3. Why were you not given a ClintonEmail.com address, but Huma Abedin was?

    4. How many people have ClintonEmail.com addresses, and what are their names?

    5. You wrote that you received emails from reporters to your personal email while you were at State. Did you take steps to ensure those records were preserved under the rules set by the National Archives and Records Administration and the Freedom of Information Act?

    6. Did you conduct any other State Department business on an email account other than your @state.gov one? If so, did you take similar steps to preserve those emails as well?

    7. In your September 2012 exchange with Michael Hastings, he wrote in a message to you: I now understand what women say about you, too! Any new complaints against you lately? What was he referring to?

    I also have a few questions for your colleague Huma Abedin (whom I've CC'd on this email):

    1. Why were you given a ClintonEmail.com email address?

    2. What do you use this email address for?

    3. Did you use this email address for official State Department business?

    4. Why do two of your colleagues, Nick Merrill and Philippe Reines, refuse to answer any questions about your possession of a ClintonEmail.com account?

    Thanks again,

    Email 8:

    From: Philippe Reines
    To: J.K. Trotter, Ben Smith, CJ Ciaramella, CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erik Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill, Michael Calderone, Dylan Byer
    Date: Wednesday, March 4, 5:42 p.m. 
    Subject: Re: Email


    I didn’t ask why you didn’t include Nick’s statement. I asked you why you didn't include the results of your Lexis-Nexis search. Implication being you intentionally omitted anything that would refute your thesis. And they say spokespeople are evasive!

    Completely understandable given how very difficult and costly email is to send and you only have so many you can send a day. Not to mention the horrific consequences of a bounceback. Glad you didn’t take risk.



    (NOTE: How about you, me and lying liar source take a trip to the polygraph store. The three of us strap in and we let the needle decide. Loser pays and issues a public apology. I don’t need to know their identity until they lose.)

    Cockamamie Theory: Is it your belief that I orchestrated this from private life months after leaving my job at State? If yes, is it your belief that my long reach would rig something as implausibly stupid as the reply you got? That’s just insulting. I mean, it put me in a worse light than if they had just ignored you.

    Non-USG Email Use: Talk about implausibly stupid replies, you would have to be the only reporter in America to claim that. If true though, very impressive.

    To Your Questions:

    Sometime after I left State, can’t recall the specific date. Probably from your reporting actually. Will surprise you to know that you & I are in complete agreement on this ludicrousness.

    You can ask me this over and over and I still can’t answer why. Again, I’m with you on this one. I sent email, I received email, lots of email – so you have to ask the FOIA people what the problem is. If you find out, let me know – because it’s as frustrating to me as you. And I’m suffering from it more than anyone.

    Simple. I didn’t need a personal address, I had one.

    I’m not their IT guy. But nobody else at State.

    Michael Calderone, cc’d, Tweeted what was my preferred practice. And as Erik Wemple wrote, he emailed me several times at State in 2012 and I replied from State every time. My personal email was the last place I wanted reporters intruding. No offense.

    I addressed this in my email to you. Biggest reason people used a personal account was because their work email was down, which happened maddeningly not infrequently. And often in those cases you’d be emailing another State person whose email worked so it would be retained. And then when yours came back up, you’d revert.

    Thank you, I’m really glad you asked, for two reasons: 1) My third biggest regret about that exchange — the first being having it at all, second being losing my cool — was not replying one last time to respond to that remark. I don’t know what he was referring to. And given his death I’m reluctant to guess. But I think he was referencing a rumor that stemmed from State’s FOX reporter being removed from the State beat because of a sexual harassment charge against him by a colleague, and said reporter tried to blame me. Which never made sense why he thought that would work. But I guess it kinda did if you’re asking me more than two years later.

    But the real reason I am thrilled you asked is because in one sentence you’ve revealed your lack of professionalism, low standards and sheer cruel intent. It’s the purest window into your subjectivity, motivations and credibility you could possibly have invoked. Better than anything I’ve highlighted so far. So again, thank you.

    But I’ll sign off by reiterating our common ground: your FOIA request should be resolved in a manner far less ridiculous than it has been to date. If there’s such thing as an amicus brief for FOIA requests, count me in. Or better yet, I’ll jointly sign a new request for my email.



    P.s. To your questions about Huma: I just don’t understand what the big deal is. What do you care if she had that one or gmail or Erols? Makes no difference to anything you’re asking.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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  • This video of medics dragging and beating a unconscious patient is scandalising Russia
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 4:01 PM:)

    A video of two medics dragging an apparently unconscious patient out of an apartment building in St Petersburg, beating him with a wet cloth and then throwing him into an ambulance is causing outrage in Russia.

    The shocking CCTV footage of 29-year-old Denis Kolpikov's ordeal received extensive coverage in Russian media, with broadcasters calling it a scandal. The medics found him unconscious on a stairwell in the apartment where he lived and decided to drag him into the lift and then down a flight of concrete stairs onto the street.

    Upon his eventual arrival at hospital, Kolpikov was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and, although he has since regained consciousness, he remains in intensive care and claims to have no memory of the events in question.

    The two medics in the video have since been fired and investigators opened a criminal case into whether it constituted as a "failure to provide medical aid to the patient".

    Here's the horrifying video in full:

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  • Iran's military mastermind is 'a more stately version of Osama bin Laden'
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 3:49 PM:)

    General Suleimani

    The US-led fight against the Islamic State relies increasingly on Iran and its proxies, and that has created an uncomfortable de facto alliance with an Iranian military mastermind with American blood on his hands.

    Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran's Quds Force, the foreign arm of the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has been pictured on the frontlines for the past couple of months.

    Most recently he has been seen in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein now controlled by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), which is under siege by Iran-backed militias. US assistance is nowhere to be found.

    "There's just no way that the US military can actively support an offensive led by Suleimani," Christopher Harmer, a former aviator in the United States Navy in the Persian Gulf who is now an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, told Helene Cooper of The New York Times. "He's a more stately version of Osama bin Laden."

    Nevertheless, the US military sees Iranian involvement as "a positive thing" — as long as Shia-Sunni tensions don't get out of hand.

    "This is the most overt conduct of Iranian support, in the form of artillery and other things," Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. "Frankly, it will only be a problem if it results in sectarianism."

    Screenshot 2015 03 05 09.52.14Ali Khedery, who served as a special assistant to five US ambassadors and a senior adviser to three heads of US Central Command between 2003 and 2009, notes that the "fundamental identity" of the Shia militias "is built around a sectarian narrative rather than loyalty to the state."

    During the Iraq War, Suleimani directed "a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq," as detailed by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker.

    And Suleimani's Iraqi allies — such as the powerful Badr militia led by commander Hadi al-Ameri (pictured) — have allegedly burned down Sunni villages and used power drills on enemies.

    Despite evidence that the US and Iraq already have a sectarianism problem, "American war planners have been closely monitoring Iran's parallel war against the Islamic State ... including conversations on radio frequencies that each side knows the other is monitoring," according to The Times.

    American warplanes have provided support for the so-called special groups over the past few months. Ameri told Eli Lake of Bloomberg that the US ambassador to Iraq offered airstrikes to support the Iraqi army and the Badr ground forces. Ameri added that Suleimani "advises us. He offers us information, we respect him very much."

    Lake notes that the overall situation "has placed the US in the strange position of deepening an alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran for its war against Islamic extremists."


    Making the alliance even stranger is that Suleimani, who has run the Quds force since 1998, is actually connected to bin Laden through Iran's dealings with Al Qaeda.

    As Thomas Joscelyn reports, citing documents captured by the Navy SEALs who raided bin Laden's safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, top Al Qaeda operative Yunis al Mauritani "asked bin Laden for permission to relocate to Iran in June 2010 as he plotted attacks around the world."

    In February 2014, the US Treasury accused Tehran of allowing senior Al Qaeda members in Iran to move Sunni fighters into Syria — even though those Sunni extremists were fighting to oust the regime of staunch Iranian ally Bashar Assad. 

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  • Here are photos of Iran's military mastermind drinking tea on the front lines of the war against ISIS
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 3:38 PM:)

    General Suleimani

    Iran's shadowy military mastermind has posed for photos drinking tea on the front lines in the battle against ISIS in Iraq.

    General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran's Quds Force, has been spotted drinking tea and leading operations against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Tikrit. The city, which is the birthplace of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, has been under militant control since June 2014. 

    The battle for Tikrit is being conducted by a mixed coalition of Iraqi forces, Iranian-backed (and controlled) Shiite militias, and air cover from Iranian and Iraqi forces, AFP reports. Overseeing all of this is Suleimani, one of Iran's strategic masterminds. 

    The New York Times notes that pro-militia websites "circulated photographs of General Suleimani on Wednesday drinking tea on what was said to be the front line, dressed in black and holding his glass in one hand and a floral patterned saucer in the other."

    In the images, Suleimani is seen taking a tea break with members of the Iraqi Badr Shiite militia. The Badr organization was created by Iran's Revolutionary Guard during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. The militia was used by Iran during the US occupation to seize territory, carry out political assassinations, and intimidate government officials.

    Human Rights Watch included the Badr Group in a recent report that recounts atrocities committed by Iraqi militias.

    The presence of both Suleimani and the Badr Organization on the front lines of the battle against ISIS in Tikrit points to Iran's extreme influence over its neighbor and its growing sway throughout the Middle East. 

    General SuleimaniSuleimani is thought to be behind a number of operations over the past twenty years that have expanded Iran's power in the region.

    As commander of the Quds force, Suleimani directed Iranian proxies fighting against US troops during the second Iraq War. At the height of Iraq's insurgency, Iran was estimated to have upwards of 30,000 agents in the countries helping to plant IEDs and carry out attacks on coalition troops. 

    Likewise, Suleimani helped to turn the tide of the Syrian civil war in order to keep Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally, in power. Suleimani is thought to have directed forces comprised of Hezbollah militants, Syrian military members, and Iranian-trained Iraqi Shiite militias. 

    Suleimani's continued presence on the ISIS front foreshadows Iran's increased ability to dictate events on the ground in Iraq. 

    SEE ALSO: 7 times when Iran's strategic mastermind reshaped the Middle East

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  • Here's why so many people hate the Common Core
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 3:37 PM:)

    Common Core protest

    The Common Core State Standards Initiative — a controversial set of nationwide education standards — took another hit this week when hundreds of New Mexico high school students staged a walk-out on their exams.

    Some of those students reportedly carried signs that read "More teaching, less testing," and "Out the door with Common Core."

    These demonstrations follow closely on the heels of Florida Governor Rick Scott taking a hard stance on Common Core testing last week by suspending testing for 11th graders in the state.

    This latest batch of criticism is hardly new. There has been vocal opposition ever since states adopted the Common Core, an effort to raise education standards across the US.

    So why do so many people hate the Common Core?

    The Common Core was developed in 2009 through a joint effort between state leaders and private Washington groups with the intent to strengthen standards and improve learning outcomes of students across the US.

    "State school chiefs and governors recognized the value of consistent, real-world learning goals and launched this effort to ensure all students, regardless of where they live, are graduating high school prepared for college, career, and life," the Common Core website reads.

    While the goals of Common Core are laudable, many parents and teachers don't think they had a seat at the table when standards were developed. To parents and teachers who feel they were entirely left out of the process, the standards may feel heavy-handed.

    In a letter on the National Education Association (NEA) website, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel recently urged policy makers to include teachers and education associations in discussions. 

    "Common Core implementation plans at the state and local levels must be collaboratively developed, adequately resourced, and overseen by community advisory committees that include the voices of students, parents, and educators," he wrote.

    The Common Core also gets a lot of flak over what educators and parents describe as its lack of consideration for non-traditional learners. The Washington Post recently reported on a special education teacher who loves teaching, but was quitting because of the Common Core. Staciee Star, a ninth grade intervention specialist and winner of the "Top Teacher" award by the “Live with Kelly and Michael” show, discussed her reasons for leaving the classroom behind.

    Speaking about her students Star said, "They have a learning disability and they may struggle with reading… It is extremely upsetting.. These children are being demoralized on a daily basis. We are making them feel worse about themselves ... Our curriculum is going way too fast, and these students, we are losing them.”

    As for the actual classroom experience, teachers voice dismay over the lack of creativity in the classroom they feel is a direct result of the Common Core. Lesson plans without flexibility, coupled with the sheer amount of lesson concepts educators must fit into their year, result in less fun in the classroom, some teachers argue. Teachers argue that removing joy from the learning process hurts students.

    Lisa Rodrick, a veteran Jersey City teacher of 21 years laments the lack of enjoyment she feels is a direct result of the Common Core. "It's taken the joy out of reading, just for reading, to learn a lesson out of the story," she told NJ.com.

    In fact, Monday the Washington Post reported that many schools are rescheduling the Dr. Seuss birthday fests that they have every year so that they can take Common Core tests.

    The celebration of Dr. Seuss's birthday has been an annual tradition where students nationwide join together reading Dr. Seuss classics in what is called "Read Across America Day." The postponement or cancelation of such an event is precisely why some educators hate the Common Core.

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  • Presidential hopeful is sorry if you were offended by his comments about gay men and prisons
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 2:49 PM:)


    Ben Carson, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, issued a lengthy apology Wednesday night after he made a controversial comment on homosexuality and the prison system earlier in the day. 

    In a Facebook post, the retired neurosurgeon and conservative darling said, "I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended."

    "In a recent interview on CNN, I realized that my choice of language does not reflect fully my heart on gay issues," he said. "I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation. I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive."

    Carson was responding to backlash from an appearance he made on CNN Wednesday morning where he claimed homosexuality is "absolutely" a choice and cited prisons as his evidence. 

    "Because a lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight. And when they come out, they're gay. So did something happen while they were in there?" Carson asked. "Ask yourself that question."

    His comments were widely condemned by gay rights advocates. The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement saying, as a doctor, Carson should know the medical community strongly disagrees with his theory. 

    "The only thing that’s really been proven here is that when Ben Carson says what he really thinks, he reveals himself as utterly unfit for office," said Fred Sainz, a HRC vice president. "As a doctor, Carson surely knows that countless mental health and medical organizations have condemned the idea that you can change a person’s sexual orientation."

    For his part, however, Carson claimed medical professionals have yet to definitively figure out whether or not people are born gay.

    "I'm a doctor trained in multiple fields of medicine, who was blessed to work at perhaps the finest institution of medical knowledge in the world. Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality. We do know, however, that we are always born male and female. And I know that we are all made in God's image, which means we are all deserving of respect and dignity," he said.

    Carson also described himself as humbled by the controversy. 

    "I am not a politician and I answered a question without really thinking about it thoroughly," he said. "No excuses. I deeply regret my statement and I promise you, on this journey, I may err again, but unlike politicians when I make an error I will take full responsibility and never hide or parse words. As a human being my obligation is to learn from my mistakes and to treat all people with respect and dignity."

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  • Here's why this Texas Republican's dreams to send people to a star is equally ridiculous and important
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 2:34 PM:)

    milky way

    If ever there were an agency that thinks big, it's NASA. The first and only agency to send people to the surface of the moon, NASA has now been asked to develop the technology to send manned missions beyond our solar system, to distant stars.

    During a NASA budget hearing on Wednesday, Texas Republican and Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, John Culberson questioned NASA administrator Charles Bolden on the future of NASA, its budget, and its goals.

    "I'd encourage you to focus on the development of the next-generation of the rocket propulsion," Culberson said. "The fact that we're still flying rocket engines that's fundamentally been designed by Robert Goddard in the 1920s is just inexcusable."

    Specifically, Culberson was asking about NASA's Asteroid Redirection Mission to capture an asteroid. The mission requires new technologies including a long-lasting form of rocket propulsion to haul an asteroid through space.

    "The lessons we learn and new technologies we prove through the Asteroid Redirect Mission will put humans one giant leap closer to Mars," according to this NASA video.

    But Mars is just the beginning for Culberson. He has far grander aspirations. Quite literally, he wants NASA to reach for the stars.

    "Let us ... leave for future generations the development of the first interstellar rocket propulsion system that would carry us to Alpha Centauri and beyond," Culberson said.

    Keep dreaming

    alpha centauriAlpha Centauri is the closest star to Earth besides our sun. It floats in space about 4.37 light years from Earth, and would therefore take 4.37 years for a spacecraft traveling at the speed of light to get there.

    But today's spacecraft, and most likely the spacecraft of future generations, travel at speeds much slower than that.

    The fastest spacecraft humans have ever created is the New Horizons mission, which, right now, is headed toward Pluto at a speed of about 36,000 miles-per-hour.

    At that speed, it would take about 80,500 years to reach Alpha Centauri.

    And New Horizons isn't even a manned mission!

    Sending humans to other stars would require two things we've never done before:

    • Live longer in space than anyone in history - 14 months is the longest consecutive amount of time a single human has spent in space
    • Reproduce in space, so that there are actually humans aboard the spacecraft when it reaches Alpha Centauri

    Even with next-generation rocket propulsion systems, we can't hope to reach Alpha Centauri within a single generation.

    While we joke that this is an impossible dream, Culberson's hopes for advanced rocket propulsion systems are encouraging and hopefully mean that NASA will be funded well enough to develop some amazing new technologies that we're going to need to meet NASA's goal of setting the first astronauts on Mars by the 2030s.

    "We'll certainly do everything we can to support you," Culberson said. "It’s a real privilege for me to be in this position to help make some of those dreams of future young people come true."

    CHECK OUT: NASA spacecraft 'is about to make history'

    SEE ALSO: Scientists have a plan to make breathable oxygen on Mars for the first time

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  • Only 6% of Americans who make over $100,000 say they're upper class
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 2:12 PM:)

    picket fences house

    Very few people in America are willing to identify as upper class, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

    About 94% of people in that income bracket (over $100,000) identified as middle class, upper middle class, or lower middle class while only 6% called themselves upper class.

    Here are the results of the survey:

    Pew class income survey

    While a family of three with an income of up to $122,000 is still considered "middle income," the over-$100,000 range also includes families with much higher salaries than that.

    Pew middle class

    And although only 6% of survey respondents identified as upper class, Pew's data shows that 20% of American adults are in the "upper income" bracket.

    Income classes US

    The reason why so many Americans identify as middle class when almost half o them are actually in a higher income bracket is because "in a self-defined classless society, people will naturally not want to separate themselves from their fellow citizens," according to The Brookings Institution.

    Economic inequality continues to grow in America. Pew notes that only families in the upper-income bracket have seen a significant increase in wealth since the early 1990s, while the share of adults living in middle-income households is falling.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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  • Dashcam video allegedly shows spot where Putin critic Nemtsov was shot dead 3 minutes after it happened
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 1:17 PM:)

    Boris Nemtsov

    A Russian journalist published a video on YouTube that allegedly shows the scene where Putin's critic Boris Nemtsov was killed just 3 minutes after the murder. 

    Tonia Samsonova, who works in London as a foreign correspondent for Radio Echo Moscow, uploaded the video yesterday, and since then the footage has been watched more than 2 million times. 

    According to the Guardian, which also ran the video, Samsonova has already handed the video to the Russian Investigative Committee, which is conducting the murder investigation. 

    The video is taken from a vehicle driving through downtown Moscow in the early hours of February 28, when Nemtsov was killed.

    About 48 seconds into the video, the car drives over Bolshoi Moskovoretsky bridge, where Nemtsov's body was found, and overtakes a white vehicle and a lorry. There are not many people around the scene, but according to the Guardian, that is the spot where the murder took place.

    Here is a screengrab of the scene, with the timestamp in the bottom left corner:

    Nemtsov Murder Video Screenshot

    This map shows the scene from above. The car was leaving the Red Square in the upper part of the map and was driving south on the bridge when it apparently passed by the crime scene. 

    Nemtsov Murder Video Map

    Nemtsov, a loud critic of Russia's president Vladimir Putin, was killed just meters away from the Kremlin, the presidential palace. It is possible that the Kremlin's security cameras captured footage from the scene of the murder, but details regarding this issue have not been made public yet. 

    Yesterday, Russia's finance minister admitted that a car used in the murder belonged to an "in-house security service" of the ministry, prompting allegations that Nemtsov was killed by people from within Putin's inner-circle. 

    Here is the full video that Samsonova uploaded on YouTube:

    Join the conversation about this story »

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  • This is what happens when countries default on their debts
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 1:02 PM:)

    So 2015 looks set to be a difficult year for countries struggling under heavy debt burdens. Only two months in and we have already seen precarious economic situations in states, including Greece and Ukraine, worsen substantially. Few would bet against the likelihood of a major debt restructuring in the near future.

    But have we become too afraid of the word lenders hate to hear — "default?"

    Here are the key points:

    • The 1980s oil price shock caused widespread defaults in South America, hitting banks hard and freezing affected countries out of international credit markets
    • Europe's crisis 2010-present saw default risk transferred from banks to taxpayers
    • The lessons of history are that support for troubled economies is important, but so too is the ability to restructure debt

    Well, the first thing to note is that we are coming out of a period of historically low levels of sovereign defaults. Since the Second World War the percentage of all states in default on their debts, as indicated by defaults on foreign currency bonds, has fallen sharply.

    Sovereign defaults

    Of course, using a simple percentage of states that are in default on bonds in any given year is a rather crude measure. This due in large part to the (rather unsurprisingly) poor quality of data that we have for 19th Century debt.

    What is, perhaps, of greater interest is the shift in who takes the hit in sovereign defaults. As the chart above shows, while defaults on foreign currency bonds have fallen sharply, there was an equally sharp increase in sovereign defaults on bank loans starting in the 1980s.

    Fed funds rate 1970-1983

    This was caused in large part by the oil price spike of 1973 providing a cash windfall for commodity exporters. A number of governments in these countries, especially large economies in South America, took advantage of the situation to borrow heavily in international financial markets in order to fund industrialisation and infrastructure.

    However, a combination of a further oil shock in 1979-1981, the consequent sharp rise in interest rates in the US and Europe, and the global recession that followed meant that servicing the huge debt burdens governments had taken on became impossible.

    The result? Huge pain for commercial banks as they were forced to take losses on bad loans.

    The results were far from painless for the countries involved as well. As Ben Bernanke points out, defaults left much of South America cut off from international credit markets. This, in turn, meant that "currencies were sharply devalued as current accounts were forced to adjust, rising fiscal deficits were again financed by money creation, and inflation soon rose to new heights".

    However, after undergoing deep economic reforms in the early 1990s much of the region emerged in a stronger position to grow again unencumbered by the financial folly of the past.

    Contrast this with Europe's experience since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. Once again governments were able to sustain relatively high debt levels over the boom years, as the creation of the single currency allowed smaller countries to borrow at lower interest rates on the (flawed) assumption that their debts were fully backed by larger neighbours.

    This convergence ended abruptly when it became apparent to financial markets that the support for struggling countries by fellow eurozone countries was limited and conditional — sending interest rates in Europe's periphery soaring and forcing smaller countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal into debt crises.

    Sadly for those seeking a moral lesson, it was not really a tale of reckless governments borrowing to provide rocket fuel to unsustainable economic booms. Most countries in the Eurozone's periphery had, what looked like, sustainable debt-to-GDP trajectories if you extrapolated from their pre-crisis trend growth, low interest rates and government debt burdens, encouraging them to borrow and creditors to lend.

    Yet, rather than letting the banks take the pain, as they had done in the 1980s, a large proportion of troubled countries' debt transferred to official creditors including the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other Eurozone governments.

    And here's what happened — there was a huge spike in sovereign defaults in 2013 that "results entirely from the restructuring of official loans to Greece, Ireland and Portugal agreed by their European Union partners", according to the Bank of Canada:

    Sovereign defaults

    In other words, Europe's banks managed to pass the risk of sovereign default to the region's taxpayers rather than taking the pain themselves. But if the aim was to maintain these countries' access to international credit markets, it failed. Instead it left Greece in particular even more reliant on more loans from its official creditors as a life-support mechanism.

    Moreover, unlike it's South American counterparts Greece did not have the option of devaluing its currency to make its goods and services more competitive so that it could export its way out of trouble.

    In part the policies decided on by the so-called Troika are likely to reflect Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff's observation that people had come to believe "countries do not need to resort to the standard toolkit of emerging markets, including debt restructurings and conversions, higher inflation, capital controls and other forms of financial repression".

    Rather than accepting that the debt trajectory of some countries hit by a crisis had become unsustainable, international bodies and other advanced countries elected to "extend and pretend." This meant that they piled new debt onto existing debt in the hope that these states could simply grow or reform their way out of a crisis. Unfortunately it has repeatedly proven to be a triumph of hope over experience.

    Reinhart and Rogoff's work aims to demonstrate that "extend and pretend" policies rely on a belief in the ability of countries to shrug off their debt overhangs. They claim this is "at odds with the historical track record of most advanced economies." Instead history shows countries have relied on debt restructurings, inflation and financial repression in the past as key tools to escape from debt crises.

    They suggest that the need to service debt built up in the years before a crisis can hold back growth and prolong the impact of a financial crash on societies. As such, by preventing countries from taking advantage of traditional means to escape unsustainable debt burdens, official creditors are potentially increasing the long term damage while also leaving themselves open to even greater losses.

    Recent history should teach us that austerity and structural reform programmes may simply not be enough to get badly damaged countries such as Greece and Ukraine back onto a sustainable fiscal footing. The bailout announced by the IMF for Ukraine last month, which amounts to £26.2 billion over the next four years with the US and the EU also contributing, and the tense negotiations between Greece and its European partners over extending another tranche of loans in exchange for commitments to full repayment, suggests that these lessons still haven't been learned.

    It's too late to reverse the decisions already taken and the anger that taxpayers will feel at being on the hook for another country's debt. Yet at some point creditors will have to accept that credibility is better secured by acknowledging reality rather than maintaining a suspension of disbelief.

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  • Police search former Conservative MP's house as part of investigation into historic child abuse allegations
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 10:31 AM:)

    Harvey Proctor

    Detectives from London's Metropolitan Police are searching the home of former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor as part of an investigation into historic child abuse claims. Proctor has not been accused of wrongdoing.

    The detectives are part of Operation Midland, launched last November to look into fresh allegations that a number of prominent individuals had been involved in an alleged paedophile ring accused of abusing boys in the 1980s in flats on Dolphin Square in Westminster.

    Proctor, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1987 for engaging in sexual relations with men under the age of 21 (the age of consent at the time, which has since been lowered to 16), has denied the claims. On a call to the BBC Radio 4's Today programme he said: "I have never attended sex parties at Dolphin Square or anywhere else. I have not been part of any rent boy ring with Cabinet ministers, other MPs or generals or the military."

    Home Secretary Theresa May has warned that allegations surrounding historical cases of child abuse linked to Westminster could be merely "the tip of the iceberg" on the issue. She spoke after fresh allegations surrounding the murder of an 8-year-old boy by a paedophile ring, which allegedly included politicians, emerged in recent weeks. The ring organised a series of parties attended by two Conservative MPs, according to a man who claims to have been victimised at the gatherings as a child.

    Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told the Metro in November that there were "40 detectives looking into these relatively new claims".

    Proctor told the Today programme that the allegations against him were "pure and utter fantasy".

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  • Meet the woman who is defending Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in court
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 9:13 AM:)

    Judy Clarke

    The lawyer who is defending Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in court has a well-known track record of getting her clients life sentences instead of the death penalty.

    Prominent death penalty lawyer Judy Clarke previously defended Susan Smith, who drowned her two children, Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, and Tucson shooter Jared Loughner.

    They all got life in prison instead of the death penalty.

    She's now defending 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who has been charged with planting two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The attack killed three people and injured more than 200 others in 2013.

    Clarke spoke about her previous work defending death penalty clients two years ago at a legal conference.

    "I got a dose of understanding human behavior and I learned what the death penalty does to us," she said at the event, according to the Associated Press. "I don't think it's a secret that I oppose the death penalty."

    Clarke said that most of her death penalty clients have suffered from severe trauma.

    "Many suffer from severe cognitive development issues that affect the core of their being," she said.

    In some cases, Clarke has to convince her clients to plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty.

    "Our job is to provide them with a reason to live," Clarke said.

    Leading Tsarnaev's defense team is a public defender who has represented other accused terrorists. Miriam Conrad is known for defending "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and Rezwan Ferdaus, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison after admitting he plotted to blow up the Pentagon and the Capitol.

    Conrad told Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly why she represents such defendants.

    "If you scratch the surface, many have had difficult lives, and, as their lawyer, I sort of see them whole — not just as a person charged with a crime," she said in the interview. "No one has ever stood up for them, and that is a very powerful, emotional thing."

    Although Tsarnaev entered pleaded not guilty to the charges against him in 2013, in court on Wednesday, Clarke admitted that he was guilty of participating in the attack.

    She told the court: "The evidence will not establish and we will not argue that Tamerlan put a gun to Dzhokhar's head or that he forced him to join in the plan, but you will hear evidence about the kind of influence that this older brother had."

    Clarke also held up two photos of the brothers — one from years before the marathon attack and the second from the scene of the bombing where they're shown carrying backpacks containing explosives, according to the AP. She then asked the jury: "What took Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from this ... to this?"

    Tsarnaev's defense team appears to be focusing solely on saving him from the death penalty. His older brother Tamerlan, whom the defense appears to be portraying as the mastermind behind the bombing, died in 2013 during a manhunt for the brothers in Watertown, Massachusetts.

    Authorities say anger over US wars in Muslim lands motivated the brothers, both ethnic Chechens who moved to the US from Russia more than 10 years ago, to carry out the plot, according to the AP.

    SEE ALSO: Boston bomber's defense attorney: 'It was him'

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  • The 10 most important things in the world right now
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 7:48 AM:)

    RTR4S1KSGood morning! Here's what you need to know for Thursday.

    1. Russia's finance ministry says the car being sought in connection with the killing of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov belonged to an "in-house security service" for the ministry.

    2. US Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert was attacked with a knife by a pro-unification activist in Seoul.

    3. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the country's economy faced more difficulties this year than in 2014 and projected growth of 7%, the lowest expansion rate in 25 years. 

    4. Australia has proposed a swap deal with Indonesia, offering to send over three convicted Indonesian drug criminals in return for two Australian prisoners set to be executed by firing squad.

    5. Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson said he expected the price of oil to remain low over the next two years, with an average price per barrel of $55 (£36).

    6. The US effort to help Syrian rebels fight forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad is struggling after the collapse of a CIA operation to arm insurgents.

    7. An Italian photographer who won first prize in the World Press Photo contest has been stripped of his award for staging a photo.

    8. Two new fossils suggest the Homo genus emerged half a million years earlier than once thought.

    9. Apple is reportedly postponing production of a larger, 12.9-inch iPad until September.

    10. A new study found that last year the number of people worldwide worth $30 million (£19.7 million) or more increased to 172,850

    And finally ...

    There's a scientific reason Indian food tastes so good.

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  • Hillary Clinton says she asked the State Department to release her emails
    (Politics - March 05 2015 - 4:49 AM:)

    Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton has responded on Twitter to the widespread criticism she received this week for using a personal email account to conduct state business.

     That comes after three days of political rebuke Clinton received for using a personal email address while she served as Secretary of State under the Obama administration.

    The story has only added to the numerous criticisms Clinton has faced for her alleged lack of transparency.

    It didn't take long for Clinton's potential 2016 challengers to comment on the story Monday night. Jeb Bush (R-Fl.) weighed in on Twitter and posted a link to the site where emails from his time as Florida governor can be downloaded.

    Now, after much talk about the how and why of the matter – including a heated email exchange Wednesday between one of Clinton's top aides and some journalists – Hillary has finally spoken up:

    I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.

    — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 5, 2015

    The New York Times first reported Clinton's email practices Monday evening. There have also been questions about whether Clinton broke federal FOIA regulations for shunning a government-issued email address and whether she placed herself or the State Department at risk in the process.

    For its part, the Clinton camp has told Business Insider "Clinton was careful to use the address in a manner that went above and beyond regulatory requirements and ensured her communications were preserved."

    It's unclear when, or how many of Clinton's emails the State Department will release.

    SEE ALSO: Hillary Clinton's private emails are getting subpoenaed

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