Sep 30, 2018

Partisan rage over Kavanaugh allegations erupts into midterm campaigns: Politics I The Washington Post

Mike DeBonis
Congressional reporter covering the House of Representatives
The emotional battle over sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh burst into the midterm elections after a dramatic week of wrenching testimony and raw partisan rage on Capitol Hill, tossing an explosive and sensitive issue into the final weeks of the closely fought campaign for control of Congress.
Tight races already hinging largely on how women feel about President Trump have been further roiled by the emotional appearance Thursday by Christine Blasey Ford and the anger-filled response from Kavanaugh.
The issue is resonating in two distinct ways: It threatens to further erode support for House Republicans already struggling to survive in centrist suburban districts, while in Senate races it is giving GOP challengers in pro-Trump states a chance to inspire previously unenthusiastic conservatives.
In Indiana, for example, the Republican challenger to Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who announced opposition to Kavanaugh following the testimony, released a video over the weekend saying the effort to derail Kavanaugh “tells you how Democrats roll” and calling it a “real eye-opener for folks across Indiana” that Donnelly “takes his instructions from [Democratic leader] Chuck Schumer.”
In heavily pro-Trump West Virginia, where Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III remains undecided on the nomination, the president used a Saturday night campaign rally to laud Kavanaugh’s “brilliant and really incredible character, quality and courage.” In a nod to the pressure from both sides on Manchin, Trump added: “A vote for Judge Kavanaugh is also a vote to reject the ruthless and outrageous tactics of the Democrat Party.”
And in Texas, the Democratic challenger in the 31st Congressional District near Austin mentioned the Kavanaugh battle at a Saturday campaign event as she told her story of how hard it was to come forward after she was assaulted while serving in the military.

Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday. (From left to right: Melina Mara; Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
“Normally, I say that these national-headline, political-pundit things aren’t what people in this district pay attention to,” MJ Hegar said during an appearance in Taylor, Tex. “This is an exception. Everywhere I went, I saw people glued to TVs, like they’ve been when we’ve had serious crises in this country.”
The controversy has splashed over a midterm landscape that leaders of both parties have seen as generally favorable for Democrats, with Trump’s unpopularity driving a shift in some parts of the country, particularly suburbs, that voted for Republicans in 2016. Polls had already shown that Kavanaugh was an unusually unpopular Supreme Court nominee, though he has enjoyed overwhelming support from Republicans.
How the issue plays out in the Nov. 6 elections will depend on the drama that will unfold in the coming week — including whether the FBI turns up any new evidence in its probe and what happens if and when Kavanaugh’s confirmation is put to a Senate vote. If centrist Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska vote in favor, that could influence Democratic fence-sitters running in conservative states, including Manchin and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp.
At stake, at least in the battle for the Senate, is the power to block or affirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominees — perhaps even the current one, if Kavanaugh is defeated and an alternative cannot be confirmed before year’s end. Some House Democrats have vowed that, if they win the majority, they would launch an investigation of a Justice Kavanaugh, with impeachment as a potential outcome.
What’s certain is that the emotional and cultural debate about Kavanaugh and his accuser has already inflamed the national divide over Trump, himself accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, that was already driving the cycle.
“It’s too soon to know,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur, a vulnerable Republican from suburban New Jersey who, like other incumbents in challenging races, is trying to steer clear of the issue. “I don’t think anyone won anything [Thursday]. I think it was an unfortunate day for America.”
The reverberations were apparent nationwide after the events unfolded on Capitol Hill.
Scores of advocates for and against Kavanaugh lined up outside senators’ offices on Friday and jammed congressional phone lines and websites. National campaign committees sought to take advantage by issuing urgent calls for action with emails emblazoned with sirens and “donate” buttons. Candidates issued statements and pressed their opponents to do the same. And the issue spilled into the weekend at town halls, on videos posted to the Web and on Twitter.
For Republicans, the intensity surrounding the confirmation battle offers an opportunity to fire up core voters who, according to recent polls, have not been as enthusiastic as the Democratic base. If Kavanaugh’s confirmation fails, that could further motivate conservative voters.
“I just know for the first time there are signs of life,” said Glen Bolger, a Republican campaign consultant advising in dozens of Senate, House and gubernatorial races. “It is hard to motivate voters who aren’t that motivated in a midterm elections. So to have an external event like Kavanaugh to motivate them, that’s much better than relying on campaigns to do it.”
Some Republicans have skirted the issue of Ford’s credibility, instead focusing on accusing Democrats of sitting on Ford’s allegations until the final days before a Senate vote.
Kavanaugh himself adopted partisan rhetoric more akin to a GOP campaign speech than a Supreme Court nomination hearing when he said that opposition to him was based on “apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election” as well as a desire for “revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”
Other GOP candidates in competitive races, including House incumbents fighting a potential Democratic wave in moderate suburbs, are treading more carefully.
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), facing a tough challenge in a district that Trump lost in 2016, said Friday that he found both Kavanaugh and Ford credible. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who is competing against Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema for the Senate seat of retiring Republican Jeff Flake, has cautiously urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to “gather any additional relevant facts, and then act on this nomination.” McSally revealed earlier this year that she was sexually abused by a high school coach.
Democrats, meanwhile, see a chance to galvanize their voters to care about the Supreme Court as much as conservatives typically do.
In 2016, Trump and his GOP allies courted evangelicals heavily with his promise to put conservatives on the bench, with a particular focus on filling the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative hero. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had held the seat open, refusing to allow a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.
Hovering over the Republicans’ complaints about delays in the Kavanaugh nomination have been cries of hypocrisy from Democrats over how Garland was treated.
The issue is even bubbling into the 2020 landscape, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), said Saturday that the Kavanaugh controversy is one reason she is seriously considering a presidential bid against Trump.
“I watched powerful men helping a powerful man make it to an even more powerful position and I thought, ‘Time’s up,’ ” she said at a town hall in Holyoke, Mass. “It’s time for women to go to Washington and fix our broken government, and that includes a woman at the top.”
Erica Werner, David Weigel, Anne Gearan, Aaron Blake and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. contributed to this report.
An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that MJ Hegar is running in the 33rd District in Texas.

Morning mail: Sulawesi toll soars, Kavanaugh investigation, Roosters celebrate: Australia news I The Guardian

Eleanor Ainge Roy

Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 1 October.

Top stories

The death toll from the Indonesian tsunami continues to climb and could reach thousands, officials have warned. The confirmed death toll from Friday’s catastrophic 7.5 magnitude quake on the island of Sulawesi stood at 832 on Sunday, as more than 150 aftershocks continued to batter the island. Thousands of homes, hotels, shopping malls and several mosques collapsed, with the city of Palu worst hit. Hundreds of bodies have been found on beaches and authorities fear many may have been washed out to sea. “Many corpses are scattered on the beach and floating on the surface of the sea,” one local resident, Nining, told local media. The identified bodies are being buried in mass graves.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for the BNPB disaster agency, said the area affected was much bigger than originally thought. There was no electricity in Palu and Donggala, while drinking water and fuel were running out. There was limited access to heavy equipment needed to help rescue efforts, so the search for people trapped in the rubble was mostly being carried out by hand.
Plans to dump up to 15m tonnes of salt and other waste near a Queensland creek carry a “considerable” risk of water contamination, a study has found. Approved plans to expand a dump near the town of Chinchilla allow salt waste from coal seam gas operations to be stored less than 100 metres from Stockyard Creek, in the headwaters of the Murray-Darling Basin. Local graziers, community groups and environmentalists are now pushing for the federal environment minister to assess the project under the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Brett Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick is to be excluded from the FBI investigation, highlighting the narrow scope of the agency’s investigation into Donald Trump’s supreme court nominee. Swetnick, the third woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, claimed in a sworn statement that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge engaged in lewd behaviour with young women at high school parties. She alleged the two placed drugs or alcohol in punch to inebriate women so they could be “gang raped” by other partygoers. Swetnick’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, said he was still waiting for the FBI to contact his client.
Big agribusiness is being compensated for giving up access to water under the Murray Darling Basin plan, while communities, graziers, small irrigators and native title holders are having to wear its often harsh effects, a report has found. The report by the Australia Institute found wildly different treatment of stakeholders in the Lower Darling and Menindee region. The large agribusiness company Webster sold its water rights at Tandou in the Lower Darling to the federal government for $38m and was also paid $40m in compensation for the loss of future business opportunities. But other farmers who are directly affected by the changes are not being compensated.
Thousands of UK children and teenagers face a mounting sleeplessness crisis, with the number of admissions to hospital of young people with sleep disorders rising sharply. Experts have described the problem as a hidden public health disaster, putting the surge down to a combination of exploding obesity levels, excessive use of social media before bedtime and a mental health crisis engulfing young people. “We feel that the rise in sleep problems is very much based on anxiety … There is school pressure, peer pressure, social media pressure,” said Mandy Gurney from London’s Millpond Sleep Clinic.


Cooper Cronk made a miraculous return from a shoulder injury as the Sydney Roosters scored an emphatic 21-6 win over his old club Melbourne Storm in the NRL grand final. Cronk’s halfback partner Luke Keary did the damage as the Roosters stopped the Storm becoming the first club to win back-to-back premierships in 15 years, with an electric first-half display at ANZ Stadium in front of 82,688.
After a season of complaints that AFL is in crisis, Saturday’s grand final was the perfect demonstration that the game is far from broken, writes Craig Little. West Coast drew up something counterintuitive to the prevailing demand for “entertainment”, delivering something authentic that most football purists love.

Thinking time

Hundreds of Aboriginal people from across the Kimberley have recreated the historic Noonkanbah march, to mark the 40th anniversary of the protest that led to the formation of the Kimberley Land Council, in the Fitzroy valley community of Ngumpan. Forty years ago, the Western Australian premier Sir Charles Court enforced oil exploration by American company Amax on the Aboriginal-owned cattle station Noonkanbah and its sacred sites, despite strong objections from traditional owners. Forty-five non-unionised drilling rigs were stopped in their tracks when Aboriginal people from across the Kimberley marched and blocked a creek.
Throughout the 1960s and the early 70s, most progressive activists had seen “the people” as the solution to a sexist, racist oppression associated with the wealthy and the powerful. But during George W Bush’s hyper-patriotic presidency, many progressives increasingly identified the masses not as the answer but as the problem – a foolish and slightly terrifying reservoir of cultural and political backwardness. “Politically, such rhetoric was disastrous,” writes Jeff Sparrow in his new book Trigger Warnings: Political Correctness and the Rise of the Right. “By dismissing the people as fools, progressives confirmed everything the culture warriors said: they openly embraced the condescending stereotype of the liberal elitist.”
It’s time to redefine the concept of work-life balance, writes father and moral philosopher Matthew Beard. “We need to permit people to express their domestic identities in the workplace – to redefine what it means to be professional so that it’s not unrecognisable to the people who know us in our personal lives. This isn’t just important for wellbeing … The more we’re encouraged to be competitive, ambitious or whatever else in the workplace, the harder it will be to switch gears and express patience, humility or generosity at home.”

What’s he done now?

Donald Trump has posted a grumpy Twitter rant about why Democrats continue to win the support of African-Americans. “So if African-American unemployment is now at the lowest number in history, median income the highest, and you then add all of the other things I have done, how do Democrats, who have done NOTHING for African-Americans but TALK, win the Black Vote? And it will only get better!”

Media roundup

front page australian 1 october 2018
The Australian navy may be forced to make do with its ageing fleet of submarines for another 30 years, because of long delays with the navy’s new subs, the Australian reports. The ABC says stalkers are using cutting-edge technology such as drones to track their victims, and experts say the law is not keeping up. And the Age interviews top Australian investigator Michael Stefanovic, who says Australia must act to stop genocide against Rohingya muslims and demand a war crimes tribunal in Myanmar.

CNN Video : Katie Couric: One of the most pivotal, impactful interview

6 Months Before Brexit, Many in U.K. Fear ‘It’s Looking Very Grisly’: World I NYT

A demonstration in Liverpool, England, in September calling for a people’s vote on the final outcome of the government’s Brexit negotiations.CreditCreditJeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
LONDON — When Theresa May appears on stage at the Conservative Party’s annual meeting this week, it will take all her determination to drown out the ticking of an invisible clock.
One hundred and eighty days stand between Britain and an uncontrolled exit from the European Union. Then it will be 179, 178. …
After two years of negotiation, Britain has reached a moment of consequence for the process known as Brexit. The insulating layer of time that had protected the country from a potentially failed divorce from the bloc is thinning. Soon, it will be gone.
What this could mean for ordinary Britons has been seeping into the newspapers, sometimes in leaks from secret government reports: Northern Ireland has only one energy link to the mainland, so a no-deal Brexit could lead to rolling blackouts and steep price rises; and the energy system could collapse, forcing the military to redeploy generators from Afghanistan to the Irish Sea.
With an eye toward the March 29 deadline, the government has appointed a minister to guarantee food supplies. Pharmaceutical companies are planning a six-week stockpile of lifesaving medications like insulin and considering flying planeloads of medicine into the country until imports resume. That’s if planes can still land in Britain — something thrown into doubt after the government admitted that aircraft could, in theory, be grounded by a sudden exit.
In many ways, the country is in the same position it was on the morning after the 2016 referendum: without a clear plan.
British leaders remain mired in infighting, still presenting competing visions as the Brexit countdown enters its final stage. On Friday, Boris Johnson, the former foreign minister and standard-bearer for the hard-Brexit faction, proposed starting over with a tougher negotiating approach, hinting that he might try to topple Mrs. May in the coming weeks.
Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition Labour leader, rallied his own troops in Liverpool last week and all but promised that Parliament would vote down any deal that Mrs. May could strike.
In the meantime, there is a strange calm, as if the country is waiting to see if a storm will make landfall. On Twitter, the novelist Robert Harris recently compared the atmosphere to the months before Britain entered World War I, when the authorities watched helplessly as they were dragged toward war by the momentum of events.
“We’re just rolling toward the cliff, and nobody out there is going to stop it,” said Bill Wolsey, who owns a chain of hotels, pubs and restaurants based in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
An abrupt Brexit, he said, would increase the cost of supplies and electricity in Northern Ireland by 20 percent and curtail the flow of tourists from Europe, who are the backbone of his business.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal was blown apart by other European leaders at a summit meeting in Salzburg, Austria, this month.CreditKerstin Joensson/Associated Press
“It’s a strange time,” he said. “How many times have we heard this attitude through history — that it will all be sorted — and then nothing’s sorted? I personally think nothing will be sorted.”
In the two years that have elapsed since the 2016 vote, Britons have been replaying arguments for and against leaving the European Union.
Was Brexit, as Mr. Johnson would argue, an act of emancipation that would breathe life into a once-proud imperial power? Or was it, as his opponents would contend, a gesture of rage by communities that feel left behind by global capitalism, egged on by politicians’ false promises and tabloid-fueled xenophobia?
So deep were the fissures in her cabinet that it took Mrs. May two years to produce a proposal — known as Chequers, after her country residence where it was forged — that would keep some of Britain’s close economic ties to the bloc.
Mrs. May says her ideas would remove the need for checks on the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, which will remain in the European Union. But that plan was blown apart at a summit meeting in Salzburg, Austria, where other European leaders decided it was too much like Mr. Johnson’s boast that, with Brexit, Britain could have its cake and eat it, too.
“Those who explain that we can easily live without Europe, that everything is going to be all right, and that it’s going to bring a lot of money home are liars,” declared President Emmanuel Macron of France. “It’s even more true since they left the day after so as not to have to deal with it.”
On arriving home, the prime minister got no more comfort from a vocal pro-Brexit section of her party.
“Theresa May is in for a rough ride,” Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative member of Parliament, said last week, as the Tory conference approached. “She’s flogging this horse of Chequers. It’s flogging a dead horse. I’m not sure it’s not the last horse she’s got to ride.”
With six months until Britain’s scheduled departure, a void remains, leaving Britain stuck — unable to move forward or to rethink Brexit without risking a backlash from those who voted for withdrawal.
Mrs. May’s supporters say privately that delaying is a good negotiating tactic, and that her leverage will increase as the cliff edge looms closer. There is some truth to this. Other European Union nations would be damaged economically by a disorderly Brexit. And her critics in Parliament, where she has no real majority, may agree to any deal she can bring back if the alternative is imminent chaos.
Her team plays down the dangers, at least for now.
“There are certainly risks of short-term disruption,” Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, said in a recent interview with the international media.
“We can manage down some of those risks, and we can avoid some of them,” he said, though he conceded that this was not completely in his power and that avoiding disruption “will require good will on both sides.”
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, has all but promised that Parliament would vote down any deal that Mrs. May could strike.CreditHannah Mckay/Reuters
Even if Mrs. May ultimately squeaks a deal through — and many believe she will — the spectacle of the two-year Brexit paralysis has permanently shaped international perceptions of Britain, said Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy firm.
“It makes the United Kingdom look like the torn, deeply divided polity that it is,” he said. “It’s a country that is inwardly focused, has infinitely wobbly politics, and will likely have trouble finding direction on many issues going forward. That’s not good. It’s a deeply divided, stuck political system. The cogs are grinding, and they will continue to.”
If Mrs. May can reach a deal with the European Union and then get it through Parliament, that would trigger a 20-month period during which little would change while the details of future trade are worked out. In the meantime, many business owners are preparing for a worst-case scenario.
Charles Owen, who runs bars and restaurants for British tourists in the Alps, made the “deeply painful” decision to sell two of his four venues. Still, the situation remains “scary,” he said, as some of his employees — many of whom are British — could lose their right to work in the bloc after March 29.
“I have no idea of what the legality of those people working in my bars and restaurants will be in the last four weeks of the skiing season,” he said. “It’s scary.”
A report from Barclays Bank suggests that an abrupt departure from the European Union would cost the food and drink industry 9.3 billion pounds, or about $12 billion, in additional tariffs, with a new average tariff of 27 percent.
“It’s looking very grisly,” said Ian Wright, the director general of the Food and Drink Federation, which represents much of that sector. “And there is no evident way out.”
AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company, says it has spent £40 million to duplicate some of its facilities in mainland Europe so that supplies will not be interrupted next spring.
This summer, one of Britain’s top health care regulators jolted diabetics by warning in an interview with The Pharmaceutical Journal that supplies of insulin could run out. Britain manufactures only a small fraction of the insulin its citizens need.
“It’s something that we need to make sure doesn’t happen,” said Michael Rawlins, chairman of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. “It could be a reality if we don’t get our act together. We can’t suddenly start manufacturing insulin — it’s got to be sorted, no question.”
Jim Moore, 47, a journalist who injects himself with insulin four times a day, has written about his anxiety over insulin supplies, notwithstanding the assurances he has received from officials.
“There is still the sense that they’re far too sensible to let something like this happen,” he said in an interview. “There’s a false kind of calm. It’s as if we’re waiting at the station, saying, ‘We’ll get this sorted out in the end.’ And it preys on my mind, because what if it doesn’t?”

Iranian Official Says Oil Deal With Europeans Is Close Despite Threat of U.S. Sanctions I Politics I NYT

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in August. He said on Saturday that United Nations resolutions have given countries the legal right to trade with Iran.CreditCreditAtta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Saturday that Tehran was closing in on an agreement to sell oil to European nations despite American threats of sanctions against any countries that do business with Iran.
If the arrangement comes to fruition — some British and French officials say they have their doubts — it would constitute the most open break between President Trump and European allies that objected vociferously to his decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Several of those nations openly confronted Mr. Trump on Wednesday, when he led a United Nations Security Council meeting about weapons of mass destruction. They argued that he was throwing away the best chance the world has to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons in coming years.
In an hourlong conversation with reporters, Mr. Zarif, who negotiated the nuclear accord with John Kerry, who was then the secretary of state, sounded far more optimistic than he had in recent months that he could peel away America’s traditional allies to break Mr. Trump’s effort to cut off Iran’s revenues.
Mr. Zarif is capitalizing on a renewed enthusiasm among some of the allies to push back at what they term bullying by Washington to sever ties with Iran simply because Mr. Trump decided to forsake the nuclear pact. All the other signatories to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia — have vowed to stand by it.
“No sovereign country or organization can accept that somebody else decides with whom you are allowed to do trade with,” Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign policy chief, said this past week. She predicted that the financial arrangements could be in place before Mr. Trump issues the next set of sanctions in November, aimed at banks, businesses and countries that conduct business with Tehran.
At the core of the agreement that Iran and Europe are trying to forge is a mechanism for paying for Iran’s oil in barter and local currencies, rather than in American dollars. The idea is to route around the United States and prevent it from blocking financial transfers — and perhaps from identifying those involved in the transactions.
“This is for us to sell our oil and get the proceeds,” Mr. Zarif said, noting that under the United Nations resolutions passed once the 2015 agreement was reached, countries have the legal right to trade with Iran.
Trump administration officials argue that the agreement was deeply flawed because it does not permanently ban Iran from producing nuclear fuel — it is free to do so after 2030 — and does nothing to stop Iran’s missile exports, its activity in Syria and its support of terrorist groups.
Mr. Trump’s aides, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, argue that the effort to route around American sanctions will not work. Mr. Trump has threatened to bar companies engaged in buying Iranian oil, or other goods, from doing business in the United States. The threat has led companies to flee Tehran, sending Iran’s currency plummeting.
British and French officials say it is possible Mr. Trump will prevail, with European firms from Airbus to Total, the French oil giant, already canceling billions of dollars of investment in Iran in anticipation of the additional American sanctions.
Two weeks ago, Brian Hook, the State Department envoy for Iran, said the United States was seeking “the new deal that we hope to be able to sign with Iran, and it will not be a personal agreement between two governments like the last one; we seek a treaty.”
Mr. Zarif, who is American-educated and has a deep interest in the workings of United States politics, seemed on Saturday to have no interest in such a deal. He conceded that Mr. Trump may win the opening rounds of what has essentially become a litmus test of whether countries will follow the president’s confrontational approach.
He and the country’s president, Hassan Rouhani, have said Mr. Trump is trying to bait them into violating the accord, setting the stage for a resumption of the long-running crisis that the 2015 deal was supposed to de-escalate.
“You are just another country,” he said at one point. “Just act as a normal country.” Mr. Pompeo has said essentially the same about Iran.
Mr. Zarif was dismissive of Mr. Trump’s escalating verbal attacks on Iran’s missile sales and its support of Hezbollah, Hamas and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. He laughed when asked whether the United States could bring down the current Iranian government with mounting financial pressure — a regime change strategy that Rudolph W. Giuliani, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, recently said was the real goal. (The State Department denied Mr. Giuliani’s characterization.)
Nor did Mr. Zarif expect the United States to attack key Iranian facilities, he said.
“If the U.S. believed it would have succeeded in such an attack, it would have done so already,” he said. (In fact, the United States has mounted an attack, using computer code to destroy Iranian centrifuges at the end of the Bush administration and the first years of the Obama administration.)
Asked about his recent conversations with Mr. Kerry, whom Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo have accused of undermining American foreign policy, Mr. Zarif said the messages were simple.
“What he has done is encourage us to stay in the deal,” he said. As for the threats by Mr. Trump to investigate Mr. Kerry, he said: “I didn’t realize you still had witch hunts going on in the United States” — a nod to one of Mr. Trump’s favorite phrases about the Russia investigation.
On the subject of claims by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Thursday that Iran had hidden nuclear-related components in a warehouse in Tehran, Mr. Zarif said he believed that it was a cleaning facility for Persian rugs. But he would not commit to letting inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visit.
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: Iran Says Oil Deal With Europe Is Close. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Sep 29, 2018

SEC I Press Release - Elon Musk Settles SEC Fraud Charges; Tesla Charged With and Resolves Securities Law Charge I SEC

Settlement Requires Musk to Step Down as Tesla’s Chairman; Tesla to Appoint Additional Independent Directors; Tesla and Musk Agree to Pay $40 million in Penalties

Washington D.C., Sept. 29, 2018 —
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that Elon Musk, CEO and Chairman of Silicon Valley-based Tesla, Inc., has agreed to settle the securities fraud charge brought by the SEC against him last week.  The SEC also today charged Tesla with failing to have required disclosure controls and procedures relating to Musk’s tweets, a charge that Tesla has agreed to settle.  The settlements, which are subject to court approval, will result in comprehensive corporate governance and other reforms at Tesla—including Musk’s removal as Chairman of the Tesla board—and the payment by Musk and Tesla of financial penalties.
According to the SEC’s complaint against him, Musk tweeted on August 7, 2018 that he could take Tesla private at $420 per share — a substantial premium to its trading price at the time — that funding for the transaction had been secured, and that the only remaining uncertainty was a shareholder vote.  The SEC’s complaint alleged that, in truth, Musk knew that the potential transaction was uncertain and subject to numerous contingencies.  Musk had not discussed specific deal terms, including price, with any potential financing partners, and his statements about the possible transaction lacked an adequate basis in fact.  According to the SEC’s complaint, Musk’s misleading tweets caused Tesla’s stock price to jump by over six percent on August 7, and led to significant market disruption.
According to the SEC’s complaint against Tesla, despite notifying the market in 2013 that it intended to use Musk’s Twitter account as a means of announcing material information about Tesla and encouraging investors to review Musk’s tweets, Tesla had no disclosure controls or procedures in place to determine whether Musk’s tweets contained information required to be disclosed in Tesla’s SEC filings.  Nor did it have sufficient processes in place to that Musk’s tweets were accurate or complete.
Musk and Tesla have agreed to settle the charges against them without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations.  Among other relief, the settlements require that:
  • Musk will step down as Tesla’s Chairman and be replaced by an independent Chairman.  Musk will be ineligible to be re-elected Chairman for three years;
  • Tesla will appoint a total of two new independent directors to its board;
  • Tesla will establish a new committee of independent directors and put in place additional controls and procedures to oversee Musk’s communications;
  • Musk and Tesla will each pay a separate $20 million penalty.  The $40 million in penalties will be distributed to harmed investors under a court-approved process. 
“The total package of remedies and relief announced today are specifically designed to address the misconduct at issue by strengthening Tesla’s corporate governance and oversight in order to protect investors,” said Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division.
“As a result of the settlement, Elon Musk will no longer be Chairman of Tesla, Tesla’s board will adopt important reforms —including an obligation to oversee Musk’s communications with investors—and both will pay financial penalties,” added Steven Peikin, Co-Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division.  “The resolution is intended to prevent further market disruption and harm to Tesla’s shareholders.”
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Walker Newell, Brent Smyth, and Barrett Atwood and supervised by Steven Buchholz, Erin Schneider, and Jina Choi in the San Francisco Regional Office and Cheryl Crumpton in the SEC’s Home Office.

FBI reaches out to second woman who has accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct: National Security I The Wall Street Journal.

Matt Zapotosky
National security reporter covering the Justice Department

Tom Hamburger
Investigative reporter focused on the intersection of money and politics in Washington
The FBI has begun contacting people as part of an additional background investigation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, including a second woman who alleges that the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her, according to people familiar with the unfolding investigation. 
The bureau has reached out to Deborah Ramirez, a Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh’s who alleges that he shoved his genitals in her face at a party where she had been drinking and become disoriented, her attorney said Saturday.
“She has agreed to cooperate with their investigation,” Ramirez attorney John Clune said in a statement. “Out of respect for the integrity of the process, we will have no further comment at this time."
President Trump ordered the new background investigation of his nominee on Friday under pressure from key members of his party. 
The FBI also is following up on allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, who testified to the Senate this week that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s when they were in high school in suburban Washington, D.C. 
Ford recounted in detail how Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge allegedly attacked her in a bedroom during a small gathering at a house when the teen boys were both drunk. Ford said the alleged attack had caused her lasting trauma, and she was visibly anguished as she recalled the events Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 
Following Ford’s testimony, Kavanaugh vigorously denied the allegations before the committee and accused Democrats of launching a last-minute attempt to derail his nomination. He decried the confirmation process as a “circus.” 
Each of the people Ford identified as being at the gathering — Judge, Leland Keyser and Patrick J. Smyth — has said they will cooperate with the FBI.
An attorney for Keyser, a friend of Ford’s, emphasized that Keyser has no recollection of the party where Ford alleges Kavanaugh assaulted her. 
“Notably, Ms. Keyser does not refute Dr. Ford's account, and she has already told the press that she believes Dr. Ford's account,” the attorney, Howard J. Walsh III, wrote in an email to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “However, the simple and unchangeable truth is that she is unable to corroborate it because she has no recollection of the incident in question.” 
Judge, the high school friend of Kavanaugh who Ford says was in the room during the alleged assault, has also agreed to cooperate with the FBI. His account has been particularly sought after because, unlike Kavanaugh, Judge has not denied Ford’s allegations but has said he has no memory that such an assault occurred. 
Ford told the Judiciary Committee that some weeks after the alleged assault, she ran into Judge at a local grocery store where he was working for the summer. 
“I said ‘hello’ to him. His face was white and very uncomfortable saying ‘hello’ back,” she said. “He was just nervous and not really wanting to speak with me, and he looked a little bit ill.”
According to Ford, a boy named “PJ” was also at the gathering but not in the room where the alleged assault occurred. 
Last week, Patrick J. Smyth, who attended Georgetown Prep high school with Kavanaugh, told the judiciary committee that he had no knowledge of the gathering or of any improper conduct by Kavanaugh. On Friday, Smyth said through his lawyer that he was “happy” to cooperate with the investigation.
In addition to Ford and Ramirez, another woman, Julie Swetnik, who said she knew Kavanaugh in high school, alleged in a sworn statement this week that Kavanaugh and Judge got teenage girls drunk at parties, where the girls were sexually assaulted, sometimes by groups of boys. 
Swetnik claimed that she was raped by such a group at a party where Kavanaugh and Judge were present. She has not accused Kavanaugh of raping her. Swetnik described Kavanaugh as a “mean drunk” in high school who was physically and verbally aggressive with girls. 
Swetnik’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, said that she had not yet been contacted by the FBI but that he hopes to hear from investigators.  
“I don’t know how this investigation could be called complete if they don’t contact her,” Avenatti said.
Kavanugh has denied the accusations by Ramirez and Swetnik and has said emphatically that he never abused or assaulted anyone. He has also pointed to half a dozen other background checks the FBI conducted on him for other federal positions over the years, none of which surfaced evidence or allegations of sexual assault. 
On Friday, Republicans on the committee voted to proceed to a full Senate vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, but a series of back-room negotiations led to a surprise twist in what has already been a wrenching confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee, among the most polarizing in recent memory. 
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a key swing vote to confirm Kavanaugh, said he would vote to proceed to a full Senate vote, but that the Senate vote should be preceded by a new, expanded FBI investigation of the allegations against Kavanaugh. 
Recognizing that Flake and a handful of other senators’ votes appeared contingent upon the investigation, Republican leaders and the White House relented. Later that day, President Trump ordered the investigation and that it be limited in scope and completed by next Friday. 
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday afternoon said the supplemental FBI investigation would be limited to “current credible allegations.” Committee spokesmen did not return a request for comment to elaborate on what specifically those allegations are. 
Lawmakers and Trump administration officials had few expectations that the FBI would settle Ford and Kavanaugh’s dueling accounts. A background investigation is, by its nature, more limited than a criminal probe, and FBI agents will not be able to obtain search warrants or issue subpoenas to compel testimony from potential witnesses. The FBI’s interviews, which will take a few days to conduct, won’t turn into a sprawling inquest of everyone Kavanaugh went to a party with in high school, said a person familiar with the investigation. 
The FBI’s findings will not necessarily become public. When investigators have completed their work, anything they’ve discovered will be turned over to the White House as an update to Kavanaugh’s background check file. The White House would then likely share the material with the Senate committee. 
At that point, all senators, as well as a very small group of aides, would have access to it.
The White House or the Senate would decide what, if anything, should be released publicly. The bureau’s work will likely consist mostly of reports of interviews with witnesses and accusers. The bureau will not come to a conclusion on whether the accusations are credible and will not make a recommendation on what should become of Kavanaugh’s nomination. 
Aaron Blake, Emma Brown and Alex Horton contributed to this report. 

Sep 28, 2018

Gerald Celente Video: Avoid Media False Flgs, These Warning These Warning Signs Are Flashing Market Crash.

Facebook discovered 'security issue' affecting 50 million accounts I CNBC News

Michelle Castillo

Facebook discovered a security issue that allowed hackers to access information that could have let them take over around 50 million accounts, the company announced Friday.
"This is a very serious security issue, and we're taking it very seriously," said CEO Mark Zuckerberg on a call with reporters.
Facebook shares, which were already down about 1.5 percent before the announcement, extended losses after the disclosure and ended down 2.6 percent.
The company said in a blog post that its engineering team found on Tuesday that attackers identified a weakness in Facebook's code regarding its "View As" feature. Facebook became aware of a potential attack after it noticed a spike in user activity on Sept. 16.
"View As" lets users see what their profile looks like to other users on the platform. This vulnerability, which consisted of three separate bugs, also allowed the hackers to get access tokens — digital keys which let people stay logged into the service without having to re-enter their password — which could be used to control other people's accounts.
Almost 50 million accounts had their access tokens taken, and Facebook has reset those tokens. The company also reset tokens for an additional 40 million accounts who used the "View As" feature in the last year as a precautionary measure, for a total of 90 million accounts. Facebook had 2.23 billion monthly active users as of June 30.
The reset will require these users to re-enter their password when they return to Facebook or access an app that uses Facebook Login. They will also receive a notification at the top of their News Feed explaining what happened.
In addition, the company suspended the "View As" feature while it reviews its security. Facebook said it fixed the issue on Thursday night and has notified law enforcement including the FBI and the Irish Data Protection Commission in order to any address General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) issues.
Facebook said it has just begun its investigation and has not determined if any information was misused, but the initial investigation has not uncovered any information abuse. The hackers did query Facebook's API system, which lets applications communicate with the platform, to get more user information. The company is not sure if the hackers used that data, nor does it know who orchestrated the hack or where the person or people are based.
The company said there is no need to change passwords. If additional accounts are affected, Facebook said it will immediately reset those users' access tokens. Facebook is doubling the number of employees who are working to improve security from 10,000 to 20,000, the company reiterated.
"Security is an arms race, and we're continuing to improve our defenses," Zuckerberg said. "This just underscores there are constant attacks from people who are trying to underscore accounts in our community."
Zuckerberg addressed the issue in a Facebook post on his account. Read it below:

Kavanaugh confirmation hits major snag after Flake seeks FBI probe: Magazine I Politico

By POLITICO Magazine

UPDATE 3:58 p.m.:
The Senate on Saturday will vote on a motion to proceed with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn.
Story Continued Below
There will also be a “supplemental” FBI background investigation into sexual assault allegations made against Kavanaugh, Cornyn said. The probe will last a week, he said.
Cornyn’s announcement indicates GOP leaders are assenting to a call from Sen. Jeff Flake and others to hold an FBI inquiry before a final vote — but keeps the nomination on track to proceed pending the outcome of that investigation.
"The supplemental FBI background investigation would be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today,” the Judiciary Committee said.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Friday brought Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination to the brink of victory, then into significant uncertainty, in a matter of hours.
The swing-vote senator announced his support for President Donald Trump’s high court pick Friday morning. But after a dramatic series of closed-door meetings with senators from both parties, he said that he would “only be comfortable” voting yes in the end after the FBI investigates a sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh.
“I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI do an investigation, limited in time and scope,” Flake told fellow senators on the Judiciary Committee. The committee voted to advance Kavanaugh's nomination.
The latest head-spinning twist may not stop Kavanaugh’s nomination from coming to the Senate floor by this weekend. But Flake’s maneuver drops a political land mine in the lap of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the White House, which now must decide whether and how to initiate the FBI inquiry Flake sought.
“This country is being ripped apart here,” Flake told fellow senators as national anger flares over Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh.
Senate GOP leaders were rattled by the move, and unsure of the next twist. The Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans met with McConnell privately about Flake's request as they deliberated over whether to hold a floor vote on Saturday.
“It’s still our intention subject to change” to vote tomorrow, said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Cornyn said he felt "very positive" about Kavanaugh's prospects, but Flake said after the committee vote that "there has to be some follow up by the FBI in order for me to feel comfortable voting on the floor."
Key undecided senators joined Flake's calls minutes after he made his move. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he supported Flake's call for an FBI investigation "so that our country can have confidence in the outcome of this vote," as did Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
As he made his way to the hearing room earlier in the day, the Arizonan was confronted by female protesters who asked him how he could support Kavanaugh after Ford’s wrenching testimony of the day before. Flake mostly nodded and stayed silent as the women urged him to not vote for Kavanaugh.
“You have power when so many women are powerless,” one of the women said.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a close friend of Flake’s, said in an interview that he and the Republican had “a number of conversations” about Kavanaugh following Thursday testimony from both the judge and Ford.
Flake made his move Friday, Coons said, “after having reassurances from some other senators in his party” about his interest in an FBI probe of Ford’s claim.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Murkowski, two swing votes subjected to intense pressure from both sides, have yet to announce how they’ll vote on Kavanaugh.
While the opening of an FBI investigation into the Kavanaugh claim would depend on the White House’s buy-in, Trump indicated Friday that he could support the move if GOP senators agree to it. Trump told reporters that he would be “totally reliant on what Senator Grassley and the group decides to do.”
Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told fellow senators after Flake made his announcement that he couldn’t guarantee the FBI inquiry his colleague was seeking but that he would support the request.
“Flake is sincere. He would feel better if there was a little more time,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Kavanaugh’s stoutest defenders throughout the sexual misconduct scandal facing him. “I don’t question his motives. I’m ready to go [to a vote], but this is called democracy.”
Before Flake’s remarkable move, Kavanaugh’s path to confirmation appeared smoother, if narrower, despite multiple Democrats coming out against him.
Soon after Flake announced his yes vote in the committee, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) said he opposes the nomination. With Kavanaugh still short of 50 votes, that leaves just two moderate Republicans and two moderate Democrats still undecided.
Donnelly called the sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh "disturbing and credible" and called for an FBI investigation that Republicans are not calling for.
“While I would gladly welcome the opportunity to work with President Trump on a new nominee for this critically important position, if Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination comes before the full Senate for a vote under these circumstances, I will oppose it," Donnelly said.
The 53-year-old appeals court judge delivered an emotional and defiant defense amid sexual misconduct allegations on Thursday, a showing that successfully rallied many Republicans behind him.
Ford's testimony nonetheless has begun pushing red- and purple-state Democratic senators off the fence on the nomination. Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) all announced their opposition to Kavanaugh in the hours after Ford's testimony, although the GOP did not consider any Democrat a legitimately swayable vote in the end.
Manchin, one Democrat the GOP is heavily courting, huddled with Flake, Collins, and Murkowski on Thursday night before a private meeting of majority-party senators on the nomination.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) is also publicly undecided. Heitkamp’s reelection campaign has taken aim at her challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) for his comments on the allegation against Kavanaugh as she fights for her political life, but Democratic sources see her as a genuine toss-up.
Republicans may still take the judge's high court nomination to the Senate floor as soon as this weekend. The judiciary committee advanced
GOP leaders seemed increasingly confident that moderates Collins and Murkowski will come around to Kavanaugh on the floor.
"There are some people who haven't stated their intentions," said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 GOP senator. "If this is a process based on facts and evidence and truth it's hard to feature how people could come to the conclusion based upon his emphatic denial and the absence of any absence to contrary, that he wouldn't be supported and confirmed."
If a Saturday vote happens, it may not indicate whether Kavanaugh will be confirmed. Historically, Murkowski and Collins generally believe nominees should be advanced to a final vote on the Senate floor.

Kavanaugh vote: Senate Republicans agree to new FBI background investigation of nominee: Politics I The Washington Post

By Seung Min Kim and Seung Min Kim White House reporter Email Bio Follow

John Wagner
National reporter leading The Post's breaking political news team
Senate Republican leaders agreed Friday to reopen the FBI background investigation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh after two key Republicans suggested they would not vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court without additional information on his alleged sexual misconduct while he was a teenager.
The announcement followed a vote along party lines by the Senate Judiciary Committee to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination, after securing a vote from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who asked for a delay of up to a week before the full Senate decides the judge’s fate.
Another senator considered a swing vote on the floor, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), said she agrees with Flake, leaving GOP leaders little choice but to slow down the process, given their slim 51-49 margin in the chamber.
Republican leaders said they still plan to move ahead with a procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Saturday but will postpone a final vote on his confirmation that they had hoped would take place Tuesday.
The 11-to-10 committee vote came a day after hearing riveting testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused President Trump’s nominee of sexual assault at a house party in Maryland in the early 1980s.
Following Flake’s announcement, both Murkowski and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) indicated that they support his call for a delay.
“The American people have been pulled apart by this entire spectacle and we need to take time to address these claims independently, so that our country can have confidence in the outcome of this vote,” Manchin said in a statement. “It is what is right and fair for Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, and the American people.”
While the timing of the floor vote is up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said he would advocate for Flake’s request.
“This is all a gentlemen’s and women’s agreement,” Grassley said after the committee vote.
Speaking to reporters at the White House after the committee vote, Trump said he would defer to Senate leaders on how to proceed with his nominee. “Whatever they think is necessary is okay,” Trump said. “They have to do what they think is right.”
He continued to stand by Kavanaugh, saying he had not thought “even a little bit” about a replacement but also said he found Ford a “credible witness.”
How Senators plan to vote on Kavanaugh
The move by Flake, a frequent Trump critic who is retiring from the Senate after this year, was cheered by several Democrats, including Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), a fellow member of the Judiciary Committee.
“He and I don’t share a lot of political views but we share a deep concern for the health of this institution and what it means to the rest of the world and the country,” said Coons, who huddled with Flake before he announced his position.
Flake is “someone who is willing to take a real political risk and upset many in his party by asking for a pause,” Coons said.
As Kavanaugh’s nomination heads to the floor, his prospects remain unclear in the full Senate.
Two other senators considered swing votes — Susan Collins (Maine) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) — remained silent about their intentions Friday.
Meanwhile, another red-state Democrat, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) announced Friday that he would oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. Republicans had been courting Donnelly, one of three Democrats, along with Manchin and Heitkamp, who supported previous Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil M. Gorsuch.
“I have deep reservations about Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to this lifetime position and ... we have been unable to get all the information necessary regarding this nomination, despite my best efforts,” Donnelly said in a statement. “Only 113 people have ever served on the Supreme Court, and I believe that we must do our level best to protect its sanctity.”
Mark Judge, a friend and high school classmate of Kavanaugh, is likely to be a prominent figure in any inquiry by the FBI. Ford claims he was present when Kavanaugh allegedly attacked her. Another Kavanaugh accuser also alleges that Judge and Kavanaugh sought on multiple occasions in high school to drug inebriated girls for nonconsensual sex with multiple boys — an accusation Kavanaugh has strongly denied.
“If the FBI or any law enforcement agency requests Mr. Judge’s cooperation, he will answer any and all questions posed to him,” Judge’s lawyer Barbara Van Gelder said.
Judge met with his lawyer Friday morning in Washington, after returning from being holed up in a Bethany Beach, Del., home. The Post found him there on Monday, where his lawyer said he had fled to try to avoid an avalanche of press requests and criticism.
Judge told the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday he either does not recall or flatly rejects the allegations about his and Kavanaugh’s behavior in high school.
At the committee vote neared Friday, senators on both sides of the aisle took turns giving their reasons for supporting or opposing Kavanaugh, many in impassioned terms.
“He does not have the veracity nor temperament for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in our nation,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said of Kavanaugh. “And no such nominee should be confirmed in the face of such serious, credible and unresolved allegations of sexual assault.”
“I’ve never heard a more compelling defense of one’s honor and integrity,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) countered, referring to Kavanaugh’s performance at Thursday’s hearing.
Graham declared that judicial confirmations would now be starkly different going forward, noting the “process before Kavanaugh, and the process after Kavanaugh.”
“I can say about Ms. Ford, I feel sorry for her, and I do believe something happened to her, and I don’t know when and where,” Graham said. “But I don’t believe it was Brett Kavanaugh.”
Shortly after the Judiciary Committee convened Friday, the panel voted down a motion on party lines by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to subpoena Judge, who had said he does not want to be part of a committee hearing.
The committee then voted, again along party lines, to decide on Kavanaugh’s nomination at 1:30 p.m. The votes prompted outrage from Democrats.
“This is just totally ridiculous. What a railroad job,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
Several Senate Democrats — including Blumenthal, Hirono, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) — walked out in protest.
Underscoring the acrimony surrounding Friday’s proceedings, a dozen House Democratic women who gathered to watch the Judiciary Committee stood up in the room in protest.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) later told reporters that she thinks President Trump “is trying to break the MeToo movement” with his continued support for Kavanaugh.
Meanwhile, shortly after Flake announced his support for Kavanaugh, two women tearfully and loudly confronted the Arizona senator in an el­e­va­tor, tell­ing him that he was dis­miss­ing the pain of sex­ual as­sault survivors.
“What you are doing is al­low­ing some­one who ac­tu­al­ly vio­lat­ed a woman to sit in the Su­preme Court,” one woman shout­ed during a live CNN broadcast as Flake was making his way to the Judiciary Committee meeting. “This is hor­rible. You have chil­dren in your fam­i­ly. Think a­bout them.”
Flake lis­tened quietly, then told the women: “Thank you.”
Before the committee meeting, White House officials fanned out across morning television shows to tout Kavanaugh’s fiery performance in Thursday’s hearing and press the Senate to vote.
“I think he was incredibly powerful and very clear,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of Kavanaugh during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
She suggested that Ford was mistaken about her attacker and said Kavanaugh has “been unequivocal since Day One that this did not take place by him.”
During a television appearance Friday morning before the committee vote, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said he is “optimistic we’ll confirm the judge.”
Asked about Republican holdouts on “Fox & Friends,” Cornyn said, “They have not publicly committed, but we’ve been engaging in personal texts, conversations, face-to-face visits. It’s the norm for how thing happen here . . . I respect their right to make their own announcement, which I’m sure they’ll do in due course.”
The votes of several red-state Democrats have also been in play.
Late Thursday, one of them, Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), said in a tweet that he would vote no if the chamber presses ahead with consideration of Kavanaugh the day after hearing from Ford, whom Jones said he found “credible & courageous.”
With her voice shaking at times, Ford described in stark detail Thursday being pinned on a bed at a house party by a drunken Kavanaugh, who she said groped her, tried to take off her clothes and put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams. She said she was “100 percent” certain that Kavanaugh was her attacker.
In his tweet, Jones repeated a call for the Senate to postpone the vote and hear from Judge, who Ford said was in the room when Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted her in 1982.
“What message will we send to our daughters & sons, let alone sexual assault victims?” Jones said in his tweet. “The message I will send is this — I vote no. #RightSideofHistory”
Late Thursday, the American Bar Association, which had previously rated Kavanaugh “well-qualified” for the Supreme Court, called on the Judiciary Committee to halt the confirmation vote, saying it should not move forward until an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against him can be completed.
During her appearance on ABC, Sanders suggested that was unnecessary, saying the FBI has conducted six previous background checks on Kavanaugh for federal positions.
“These allegations took place long before any of those background checks would have taken place,” she said, adding that senators had asked questions Thursday similar to what the FBI would ask if it reopened its process.
Rachel Mitchell, the outside counsel hired by Republicans to question Ford, told GOP senators in a closed-door meeting Thursday night that she would not have prosecuted the matter because there was no corroborating evidence, according to two GOP sources familiar with her presentation. She also told the senators that Ford was a compelling witness who had clearly suffered trauma.
Mitchell, a registered Republican, has not commented about the case. Republicans have rebuffed repeated requests from Democrats to call other witnesses who might have corroborated Ford’s account and also rejected Democratic calls for an FBI investigation.
Mitchell’s comments reassured Republicans who have been wavering about the nomination, according to GOP sources who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
During Thursday’s hearing, Kavanaugh angrily assailed Democrats for pushing what he said were false charges to “blow me up and take me down.”
The 53-year-old federal judge was often tearful and paused for gulps of water as he spoke about the toll that the allegations by Ford and two other women have taken on his wife, his children, his parents and his friends.
“This has destroyed my family and my good name,” he said, adding: “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election.”
It remained unclear whether an FBI review would include two other Kavanaugh accusers.
Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale University, told the New Yorker magazine that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when they were both first-year students.
Julie Swetnick, a Washington resident, said in a declaration that Kavanaugh was physically abusive toward girls in high school and present at a house party in 1982 where she says she was the victim of a “gang” rape. She is being represented by Michael Avenatti, whose clients also include Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who was paid to remain silent about an alleged decade-old affair with Trump.
Carol D. Leonnig, Sean Sullivan, Mike DeBonis, Paul Kane, Robert Barnes and Elise Viebeck contributed to this report.

Land of the Rising Robots (Originally published on September 27, 2018) I IMF

Listen to the brightest minds in the field of economics and development discuss their latest research and deconstruct global economic trends. IMF Podcasts are also available on digital platforms such as iTunes, SoundCloud and Libsyn, and free to use for broadcasters, educators and institutions.

Japan: Land of the Rising Robots

September 27, 2018

Robots help travelers find their way in Japan’s airports and train stations. (iStock by Getty Images/ TeerawatWinyarat)
In Japan, deaths outnumber births by 1,000 people per day on average. The population in some regions is now smaller than what it was in the 1950’s. The combination of its rapidly declining labor force—expected to fall even faster than the overall population, and the limited influx of immigrants, creates a powerful incentive for robots and artificial intelligence. In this podcast, IMF economists Todd Schneider and Gee Hee Hong say Japan has no choice but to embrace robots and automation to help the shrinking workforce become more productive. Schneider and Hong coauthored Land of the Rising Robots, an article featured in the June 2018 edition of Finance and Development Magazine.
Todd Schneider, is a Deputy Division Chief, and Gee Hee Hong, is an economist, both in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

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