Thursday, May 30, 2019

In the wake of Robert Mueller statement, AG William Barr takes a beating in the press -- even from Fox News -- as he fills the shoes of former Trump fixer Roy Cohn

The big loser from Robert Mueller's statement yesterday about the Trump-Russia investigation appears to be Attorney General William Barr, The special counsel, in announcing his resignation and closing his office, made it clear Barr lied to the public in summaries of the Mueller Report -- and absolved Donald Trump on obstruction of justice in a way that was not supported by the evidence.

Even right-wing Fox News blasted Barr in the wake of Mueller's statements. And Andrew Kreig, of the Justice Integrity Project, has a timely and insightful piece that shows, in many respects, history is repeating itself as Barr acts as a protector and fixer for Trump. From the Kreig piece, titled "Trump Found His Roy Cohn In Deep State Fixer Bill Barr":

In protecting President Trump, Attorney General William Barr is meeting the president’s demand for a loyal legal fixer in the radical right mold of the canny, connected and immoral Roy Cohn.

That is the not-so-hidden backstory of the radical gutting of American constitutional government now under way to expand and cover up Team Trump's corruption.

The synergy between Barr's ugly past as a CIA-trained strategist implicated in massive drug, arms and financial crime cover-ups decades ago makes his current alliance with Trump far more dangerous for United States democracy than Cohn's long-ago relationships with the big-talking hotelier Trump of the early 1980s, or even with Cohn's own 1950s mentor, the red-baiting Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy.

Some see Barr as a conservative "institutionalist" committed to a "rule of law" at the Justice Department. Others increasingly regard him as the president's puppet and defender against other law enforcers. We argue in this column that his track record shows a pattern of cynical manipulation of law and rhetoric to enhance the power of the already powerful.

Many of today's Trump-related headlines, Kreig reports, have their roots in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s:

We must note at the outset the shocking failure of society's watchdogs during recent years to refresh public recollection about Iran-Contra.

That's especially harmful when so many of the malefactors are still prominent. These include Barr, the recent National Rifle Association President Oliver North and Presidential Special Envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams.

Barr, who was U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993 as he protected President George H.W. Bush from corruption investigations, had sought the Trump post with a unsolicited 19-page memo to the Justice Department last year arguing for expanded presidential immunities.

Not surprisingly, the embattled Trump then chose Barr to replace Trump's first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who had angered the president by failing to protect him from the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller into claims of 2016 Trump presidential campaign wrongdoing and cover up.

Barr went on to lie at news conferences in spinning his redacted version of Mueller's 448-page report before anyone in Congress or the public could see it.

Trump's move last week to give Barr unprecedented power to declassify U.S. intelligence -- in an apparent effort to show the Trump campaign was the victim of unlawful spying in 2016 -- is particularly troubling, Kreig writes:

Trump's designation of new powers for Barr is an invitation for Team Trump to cherry pick information to argue that Trump is the victim of "spying" and other unfair practices during the 2016 campaign. Scant rebuttal is possible because Team Trump controls much of the classified documentation and has vowed minimal cooperation with Congress or other oversight bodies.

The rest of the public can safely assume -- based on past practices and the indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on May 23 on spy charges for releasing classified documents -- that Team Trump will try to use Barr to thwart independent investigations of the classified materials at issue.

As Barr seems to morph into a modern-day Roy Cohn, it raises this question: Just how seedy was Roy Cohn? Kreig provides plenty of insight:

Cohn became prominent as a federal prosecutor in the early 1950s and then as Sen. McCarthy's chief counsel from 1953-54 as the senator crusaded against supposed Communist and other leftist threats against major U.S. institutions, including the Army, State Department and Hollywood. The blustering McCarthy and his aide Cohn intimidated officials in Washington by inflaming right-wing anger until the Senate censured the hard-drinking McCarthy. He died soon afterward as a lonely, forlorn figure, according to his friend, the liberal Washington Merry-Go-Round columnist Jack Anderson.

As for Cohn, his legal brilliance, ruthless tactics and diverse alliances enabled him to work in private practice as a radical right political operative with such ostensibly different institutions as FBI leaders, organized crime, the Catholic Church and big business.

Roy Cohn and Donald Trump
Cohn . . .  was a member of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society [and] represented three of New York City's most powerful Mafia families. . . . This editor reported on the mob during this era and once interviewed Cohn regarding his representation of Carmine Galante, then head of the Bonanno Mafia Family.

Among other notable Cohn clients were media mogul Rupert Murdoch, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and GOP political operative Roger Stone, who became a close friend of both Cohn and Trump.

Cohn also represented Donald Trump and his father Fred Trump. Trump credited Cohn with teaching him to litigate fiercely and exhaust the resources of opponents, even including the federal government on occasion, by increasing pain for them in any way possible. . . .

Cohn, who was ultra-right wing politically, was also a closeted but active homosexual, according to widespread reporting through the decades that illustrates his hypocrisy. Cohn had also been disbarred for fraud at the end of his career despite his legendary legal ability and high-level connections, including representation of seemingly eminent officials and institutions, including church leaders.

Why is the current investigative focus on Trump's finances? It involves his long-time ties to organized crime, including unsavory characters like Roy Cohn:

Money-laundering is a key skill for all major crime operations because the money has to re-enter the financial system without triggering scrutiny. Condos and casinos are especially popular as conduits.

This helps explain much of the current investigative focus on Trump's financial records as well as his mob connections regarded as relevant to Trump's construction projects, casino gambling and colossal bankruptcies. Major biographies focused on such topics include Trump by Wayne Barrett (1992), TrumpNation by Timothy O'Brien (2005); The Truth About Trump by Michael D'Antonio (2015); and The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston (2016), fleshed out by innumerable investigative and tabloid reports. Russian, Asian and European mobsters would replace the Italian-American hoodlums in Trump's orbit during more recent decades . . .

How do the careers of Roy Cohn and William Barr intersect? Writes Kreig:

One common denominator for those that Barr and Cohn have defended is, of course, the sinister business and crimes of Donald J. Trump.

More generally, both Barr and Cohn have extensive track records in hiding such crimes as massive money-laundering and tax fraud, which typically (and we can strongly suspect in Trump's situation also) involve income derived from foreign-born mobsters and their dope dealing, arms smuggling, massive financial frauds and corrupt relationships with high-ranking officials. . . .

Mob assistance to the CIA for repeated assassination attempts against Cuba's leader Fidel Castro would inevitably require the assistance of fixers both in the private sector and in government. The late Air Force Col. Fletcher Prouty, the top Defense Department liaison to the CIA for covert operations, entitled his breakthrough 1973 memoir The Secret Team to show how what he called "The High Cabal" of U.S. and U.K. oligarchs deploy operatives widely and covertly to manage events and information flow.

Roy Cohn and Bill Barr are part of this tradition. A distress signal is surely warranted at this point.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

How did we get on a rocky path that led to an Alabama doctor facing a wrongful-death lawsuit for treating a miscarriage patient and possibly saving her life?

Nuttiness over abortion rights in Alabama did not begin with the state's recent passage of the most restrictive and unconstitutional anti-choice law in the nation. In fact, the atmosphere regarding reproductive rights for women has been toxic for decades. Birmingham has been the site of annual demonstrations, and the city has been the site of one of the nation's most notorious fatal bombings at an abortion clinic.

In fact, I was in the general vicinity of that bomb blast, as I wrote in a post dated Jan. 20, 2008, as the nation recognized the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. From that post:

Reading about those activities took me back to the morning of January 29, 1998. I was sitting in my car reading the newspaper before going into work (at UAB) when I heard an explosion that seemed to come several blocks to the southwest. I thought perhaps there had been an accident at a construction site, and I remember thinking, "I hope no one got hurt."

I had been at work only a few minutes when word quickly spread that a bomb had gone off at the New Woman, All Women health clinic, which is three blocks south and two blocks west of where I had been sitting in my car. The clinic is probably less than 100 yards from Purple Onion, one of my favorite Southside lunch spots.

The blast killed police officer Robert Sanderson and critically injured nurse Emily Lyons. Thanks mainly to the remarkably alert actions of Jermaine J. Hughes, a student at nearby UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham), authorities were able to track down Eric Robert Rudolph.

That was a scary morning, to be sure. If I had been a few minutes later on my journey, and taken a certain path to work, my car (with me in it) would have been in close range of fragments from the bomb. Perhaps just as scary is ongoing activity related to abortion in Alabama courts.

A December 2016 decision from the Alabama Supreme Court found that a physician could be subject to a wrongful-death lawsuit for treating a woman who, court records indicate, was having a miscarriage. The case is styled Kimberly A. Stinnett v. Karla G. Kennedy, M.D., and prominent Canadian and American OB/GYN Dr. Jen Gunter writes about it in a post at her blog Here is the background from a January 2017 post titled "An OB/GYN in Alabama treated a miscarriage. She’s getting sued for wrongful death":

Court documents tell us that on May 9, 2012 Kimberly Stinnett, a resident of Alabama, found out she was pregnant. Two days later, on Friday, May 11, Ms. Stinnett had abdominal cramping and fever and the OB/GYN covering calls, Dr. Kennedy, instructed her to go to the emergency room . Upon admission Ms. Stinnett reported that her last menstrual period was April 1, 2012, so she was approximately five weeks and 5 days pregnant. Her medical history was significant for 2 prior miscarriages and a prior ectopic pregnancy in 2010, which resulted in the rupture and removal of her left fallopian tube (salpingectomy).

An ultrasound in the emergency room revealed fluid in the endometrial cavity that “could be a gestational sac” but the court records do not describe this as definitive nor do they list the size. There was no yolk sac, fetal pole, or cardiac activity. Ms. Stinnett’s beta-hCG was 18,473. At this beta-hCG, there should have been a yolk sac. If there was an intrauterine pregnancy, the available evidence indicated it was not normal.

Dr. Kennedy was concerned about ectopic pregnancy or an inevitable abortion (an abnormal pregnancy destined to miscarry). Her patient had one of the biggest risk factors for ectopic pregnancy, a previous ectopic pregnancy. Failure to promptly diagnose and treat an ectopic pregnancy can cause severe blood loss and even death. If not expertly treated, it could also result in the loss of her one remaining fallopian tube which would require in vitro fertilization for any subsequent pregnancies.

In short, Stinnett's life was in danger, as was her ability to carry a normal pregnancy in the future. Dr. Kennedy conducted a laparoscopy and a dilation and curettage (D and C) to "confirm the intra-uterine placement of what the evidence suggested was a non-viable pregnancy. When pathology results were inconclusive, that meant a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy still was a possibility; it is possible for there to be a pregnancy in the tube and the uterus; this is called a heterotopic. Dr. Kennedy was concerned enough that she recommended methotrexate, a cancer drug and a recommended therapy for ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancy
About three weeks later, Stinnett miscarried, and she eventually sued for wrongful death of her "pre-viable child." A trial-court judge in Jefferson County dismissed the claim, but the eight justices of the Alabama Supreme Court, including Tom Parker ("Roy Moore Lite"), reversed and allowed the wrongful-death claim to move forward. Here is how Dr. Gunter describes the medical evidence, as available in the court record:

With a beta hCG of 18,473 a yolk sac should have be seen on the initial ultrasound on May 11th. In fact, 99% of the time a yolk sac should be seen with a beta hCG of 17,716. The gestational sac wasn’t normal looking so with that pregnancy hormone level and the absence of a yolk sac it is pretty hard to conclude this pregnancy was viable. Remember the fetal pole cardiac activity bills? We often see cardiac activity at 6 weeks, so an irregular gestational sac at 5 weeks and 5 days by with no yolk sac is itself very abnormal.

I asked 3 reproductive endocrinologists what the chances of a pregnancy being normal with a beta hCG of 18,473 and no yolk sac, and they all looked at me like I was nuts.

In other words, the evidence was overwhelming that the pregnancy was non-viable, and Dr. Kennedy acted reasonably to save the mother from the dangers of an ectopic pregnancy. But the Alabama Supreme Court, twisting the law into all sorts of contortions, disagreed.

Here is a summary of the facts and legal issues from a post at

If an obstetrician’s negligence causes the miscarriage of a nonviable fetus—i.e., one that couldn’t live outside the womb–does the patient have a cause of action for wrongful death? In Alabama the answer is yes, according to a unanimous opinion by the state’s highest court.

Kimberly Stinnett alleged that two days after being informed by her OB that she was pregnant, she experienced severe cramping and fever and was seen in the ER by Dr. Kennedy, the OB on call. Stinnett reported that she had experienced two prior miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in removal of a fallopian tube. After testing, Kennedy administered methotrexate, a drug used to treat ectopic pregnancies by terminating them.

Three days later an ultrasound revealed an intrauterine pregnancy, which Stinnett’s OB said was failing as a result of the methotrexate. About four weeks after the ER visit, she miscarried. The fetus had never been viable, but there was a dispute as to whether it could have reached viability if not for the methotrexate.

How did we reach a point where treating a patient with a history of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy -- a patient who again was in the midst of a troubled pregnancy, one that appeared to be non-viable -- could put a physician in legal jeopardy? Court documents suggest three factors are in play:

(1) State courts' longstanding desire to maintain congruence between the state's criminal homicide statutes and the civil Wrongful Death Act. The thinking is that both are designed to prevent homicide, so they need to be in alignment;

(2) A 2006 amendment to the homicide statutes (called the Brody Act), altering Alabama law to include an "unborn child" as a potential victim of homicide; (The federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which President Bush signed in April 2004, covers unborn victims of federal crimes.)

(3) A ruling in Mack v. Carmack, 79 So. 3d 597 (Ala. 2011), based on the Brody Act, holding that the Wrongful Death Act permits an action for the death of a pre-viable fetus.

The Alabama Supreme Court, in Mack v. Carmack, describes the process that turned an "unborn child" into a potential homicide victim -- and thus, the central figure in a wrongful-death lawsuit:

Section 6-5-391, Ala.Code 1975, entitled "Wrongful death of minor" ("the Wrongful Death Act"), provides, in pertinent part, that "[w]hen the death of a minor child is caused by the wrongful act, omission, or negligence of any person ..., the father, or the mother ... of the minor may commence an action."[3] § 6-5-391(a), 600*600 Ala.Code 1975. The issue before us in this appeal is the proper application of § 6-5-391(a).

Mack concedes that, in two decisions issued by this Court in 1993 concerning wrongful-death claims arising out of the death of a fetus, this Court held that no cause of action for wrongful death exists if the fetus was not viable at the time of death. See Gentry v. Gilmore, 613 So.2d 1241, 1242 (Ala.1993) (concluding that "the Wrongful Death Act does not provide a cause of action for the death of a nonviable fetus"); and Lollar v. Tankersley, 613 So.2d 1249, 1252 (Ala.1993) (concluding that "a cause of action for death resulting from a pre-natal injury requires that the fetus attain viability either before the injury or before death results from the injury"). Largely on the basis of a recent legislative enactment, Mack now asks this Court to overrule Gentry and Lollar.

In pertinent part, the so-called "Brody Act," Act No. 2006-419, Ala. Acts 2006, codified as Ala.Code 1975, § 13A-6-1, changed the definition of the term "person" in the article of the Alabama Code defining homicide offenses. Before its amendment in 2006, this article defined the term "person" as "a human being who had been born and was alive at the time of the homicidal act." § 13A-6-1(2), Ala.Code 1975. As amended by the Brody Act, § 13A-6-1(a)(3), Ala.Code 1975, now defines the term "person" as "a human being, including an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability."

In essence, the Brody Act started the ball rolling toward the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling in Stinnett, where a doctor faces possible liability for wrongful death in treatment of a miscarriage. That raises this question: Is the Brody Act sound law? An amended version of the Brody Bill, the one that was signed into law, can be found here -- and we see no sign that it is based on fact, science, legal precedent, or anything else of substance. It appears to be a piece of arbitrary legislation that has little or no legitimate purpose and was created mostly for political expedience. Former State Rep. Spencer Collier drafted the bill, and we found this in a report at

Collier said that, starting July 1, it would be up to a prosecutor to prove a woman was pregnant and that the accused person injured or killed the child she was carrying.

He said a district attorney might try to use the Brody bill to prosecute someone for criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter if the person caused a traffic accident that killed an unborn child.

Not only would the law not apply in the case of legal abortions, it also would not apply to the mother. Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said he wanted that provision added to ensure that a woman who miscarried could not be prosecuted. It also would not apply to health care providers if an unborn child were injured or killed by medical care.

Collier's bill as first written would have applied to "an unborn child at every stage of gestation (in the uterus) from conception to birth, regardless of viability."

At Smitherman's request, that phrase was rewritten to apply to "an unborn child (in the uterus) at any stage of development regardless of viability."

Collier said he believed the new language had the same meaning as the original language. "I do think it accomplishes the same thing," he said.

But Smitherman said it would be up to a judge to decide whether the bill applied from conception. "I don't know what a judge would say," Smitherman said.

Clearly, the act had its origins in the notion that "life begins at conception," even though that is demonstrably untrue -- as should be apparent to anyone with a sixth grader's knowledge of human biology. Apparently, the Alabama legislators who approved the Brody Bill -- and former Gov. Bob Riley, who signed it into law -- lack that level of scientific knowledge.

That means the Brody Act, and its progeny, are very bad law, and we will show why in upcoming posts.

As for the Stinnett case, it was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings, and we have seen no updates in the press.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

U.S. probe of TN developer Franklin Haney and his nuclear money pit could unmask Trump swindlers and the Alabama swamp creatures who help them flourish

Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant

Federal investigators in New York are scrutinizing a Tennessee developer's $1-million donation to the Trump inaugural committee, and the probe ultimately could shine light on the toxic, greed-fueled political environment that has enshrouded Alabama for at least a quarter of a century, according to a report from Associated Press.

Franklin Haney, of Chattanooga, apparently made the donation in hopes of gaining support from the Trump administration for his plan to resurrect the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in northeast Alabama. Haney's plan, at least initially, is to sell energy to one customer -- Memphis Light Gas and Water Division (MLGW).

Haney has a history of dumping cash on Alabama governors, including Robert Bentley and Bob Riley. In fact, sources tell Legal Schnauzer that several crooked Alabama political figures are hoping to benefit from a Bellefonte deal.

To add several extra layers of sleaze to the project, it has ties to . . . of course, Russia. So far, Haney has little to show for his Trump gift other than the attention of U.S. prosecutors. From the AP report:

Real estate mogul Franklin Haney contributed $1 million to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee and all he’s got to show for the money is the glare of a federal investigation.

The contribution from Haney, a prolific political donor, came as he was seeking regulatory approval and financial support from the government for his long-shot bid to acquire the mothballed Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in northeastern Alabama. More than two years later, he still hasn't closed the deal. . . .

Haney’s hefty donation to Trump’s inaugural committee is being scrutinized by federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating the committee’s finances. Their probe is focused in part on whether donors received benefits after making contributions.

Former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen could play a major role in turning over dirt to the feds. Reports AP:
Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has given prosecutors information regarding Haney, his son and business associate, Frank Haney Jr., and the nuclear plant project, according to a person familiar with what Cohen told the authorities. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

Haney had briefly hired Cohen to help obtain money for the Bellefonte project from potential investors, including the Middle Eastern country of Qatar. Cohen is now serving a three-year prison sentence for tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations.

Prosecutors also are examining whether foreigners unlawfully contributed to the committee. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan issued a subpoena last year seeking a wide range of financial records from the committee, including any "communications regarding or relating to the possibility of donations by foreign nationals."

Where might those international money trails lead? One destination, as we reported last September, is Russia. In fact, our sources say Gov. Kay Ivey likely is playing fast and loose with Alabama taxpayer dollars in an effort to help promote a Bellefonte deal. Could that lead federal investigators to cast an eye toward Montgomery, Alabama? From our September 2018 report:

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is providing a taxpayer-funded defense for former Gov. Robert Bentley in the Spencer Collier lawsuit probably because she is trying to pave the way for a plan to resurrect the dormant Bellefonte nuclear plant in northeast Alabama, says a state political insider. Like much of Alabama's corruption, the shady deal appears to involve Russian interests, from a country notorious for its rampant organized crime.

Bill Britt, editor of Alabama Political Reporter (APR), reported earlier this week that Bentley's high-priced lawyers from Maynard Cooper and Gale of Birmingham are playing hardball on discovery, stonewalling on producing the names of donors to the ACEGOV nonprofit, which has become known as Bentley's "Girlfriend Fund" because it was used to pay his mistress and senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Why the determination to stiff the Collier legal team on discovery? Jill Simpson -- opposition researcher, whistle blower, and retired attorney -- says it likely is because Chattanooga real-estate mogul Franklin Haney was a prominent donor to ACEGOV. And he is the money man behind the Bellefonte project.

So, Bentley has been out of office for more than two years, but the swamp he left behind still is dragging Alabama down. Bob Riley, who could be called Alabama's "Creature from the Black Lagoon," had sticky fingers when it comes to Haney cash, and Riley's swampy ways continue to infest Alabama:

Why is the Ivey administration so doggedly defending Bentley instead of putting the matter to rest? Simpson says it's likely because Ivey supports the Bellefonte project on behalf of what Simpson calls the "Alabama Gang" of corrupt right-wing politicos -- including such luminaries as "Luv Guv" Bentley, former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, former Gov. Bob Riley, and former Business Council of Alabama (BCA) president Bill Canary.

As for the Bellefonte project's ties to Russia, that's not just a guess; it's a matter of public record. From our September 2018 report:

Haney has reached an agreement with SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian engineering firm, to finish at least one of two reactors at Bellefonte -- with the assistance of federal loan guarantees.

SNC-Lavalin has a history of working on various projects with Russian interests, via the VEB Bank, which has close ties to Vladimir Putin. reputed mobster Oleg Deripaska, and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort (who has been found guilty of financial crimes.)

See what we mean about the "Russification of Alabama"?

Could the Haney probe send shock waves through Alabama government? Well, his pet nuclear project is in our state. And he has a history of greasing the palms of Alabama governors, as we reported in May 2016:

The Haney Cash Caravan started with Bob Riley, who after receiving lots of Tennessee dough, suddenly started pushing for a deal regarding the old Social Security Building in Birmingham--a deal that proved awfully sweet for Mr. Haney (not to be confused with the lovable greaseball character from Green Acres). . . . 

Haney, according to the Alabama Secretary of State's office, passed at least $130,000 to Riley through PACs run by noted PACman Clark Richardson, much like he did last year with the Birmingham City Council. . . .

Riley, later, would become a big advocate for Haney and the Birmingham building.

One of his last acts as governor was to sign a lease that would consolidate Jefferson County's Department of Human Resources and move that agency into 290,000 square feet of Haney's building. Annual rent on that building began at $1.2 million a year, according to the lease, but rises this year to $5 million for the remainder of the term, plus possible extra costs for operational expenses.

That's higher than any of the 63 state tenants in any of David Bronner's newer and shinier RSA buildings, according to state records. It appears to be the highest rental rate for any state agency.

Riley not only signed the lease as he left office, he lobbied for Haney in Birmingham.

What about Bentley's ties to the Haney Gravy Train? Well, it looks like Mr. Haney, from Tennessee, might have helped pay for the "Luv Guv's" mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason:

Franklin Haney
Haney has resurfaced under the Bentley regime. This time, Haney dumped cash on Bentley--possibly even helping support a slush fund to pay Bentley's mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason--and wound up getting support for a project involving a partially built nuclear reactor in northeast Alabama. Haney also got more support for his office building.

Just the traceable donations from Haney's businesses to Bentley's last campaigns total about $300,000, much of which moved into Bentley's campaign account after the last election was over. . . . That campaign account subsequently paid the salary of Rebekah Caldwell Mason, the governor's senior political advisor with whom he is accused of having an affair.

Could this possibly get any sleazier? Perhaps U.S. prosecutors from New York will help answer that question -- and maybe "Cowgirl Kay Ivey" and a few of her predecessors as Alabama governor could wind up in a tight spot. And it could come from a project that, experts say, has limited value for producing modern-day energy. From the AP report:

Stephen Smith, executive director of the nonprofit Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said Haney faces too many technical and financial hurdles to overcome.

For example, Bellefonte’s never-completed nuclear reactors are decades old and are of a unique design that has never received an operating license in the U.S. before. He compared Bellefonte to a Ford Pinto, a 1970s-era vehicle with serious engineering flaws. Smith said it’s “extraordinarily unlikely” Bellefonte will be allowed to operate.

Maybe the "stable genius" in the White House can help sort all of this out.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dr. Jen Gunter, an influential gynecologist (and blogger) unmasks Donald Trump as a preposterous con man on the issue of abortion and infanticide

Of all the lies Donald Trump has told since entering the White House -- and CNN puts the number at about 10,000 -- perhaps the most flagrant involved the issue of abortion rights. Given that Alabama recently passed the nation's most restrictive abortion law, which is wildly unconstitutional and contrary to biological facts and proper language, this should hit home to many of our readers -- as our blog nears its 12th birthday, after receiving the breath of life in Birmingham.

What Trump lie was so fantastic that it stands out above a crowded field -- and made an influential Canadian and American gynecologist want to flip her lid, stethoscope and all? It came in late April at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin (See video above), and here is how HuffPost's Sanjana Karanth reported it:

President Donald Trump continued to tell dangerous lies about abortion on [April 28], this time falsely claiming to his supporters in Wisconsin that mothers and doctors conspire to commit infanticide after a baby is born.

“The baby is born, the mother meets with the doctor, they take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully,” he said in an off-the-rails rally in Green Bay. “Then the doctor and mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”

Yep, the president of the United States claims infanticide is routinely practiced in American clinics and hospitals. The notion so outraged Dr. Jen Gunter that she did not even have to wait for Trump to speak his words in order to call b---s--t. The canard apparently had been going around in right-wing extremist circles to the point that Gunter was able to respond to it in a blog post dated March 7, 2019, titled "I'm an OB/GYN, and infanticide is not part of abortion care. Here's why" From the post:

The propaganda about infanticide and abortion is offensive and ridiculous. It insinuates that somehow abortion involves delivery of a viable infant and then that viable infant is killed.

This isn’t what is happening. At all.

A legal, non-back alley abortion does not lead to infanticide.

Anyone who says otherwise has no idea what happens at an abortion, has a forced-birth agenda and to further that goal is attempting to equate a fetus with an infant, is purposely trying to get a health-care provider hurt with inflammatory lies. Or all three.

Just like the myth of “late-term abortions,” there are a few lies layered in, so let’s unpack them so people have the right talking points. And the truth.

The first key point: A live birth is required for infanticide -- and that means the definition of a live birth, which Donald Trump almost certainly does not know, is kind of important. Writes Dr. Gunter:

I can’t believe I have to say this, but here we are.

I’m going to repeat this again.

You need a live birth for infanticide.

This is the definition that most states use for live birth:

‘Live Birth’’ means the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of human conception, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy, which, after such expulsion or extraction, breathes, or shows any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached. Heartbeats are to be distinguished from transient cardiac contractions; respirations are to be distinguished from fleeting respiratory efforts or gasps.

That last paragraph is likely to leave many lay eyeballs glazed over -- so Dr. Gunter adds some explanation:

The key part is the last sentence: Heartbeats are to be distinguished from transient cardiac contractions; respirations are to be distinguished from fleeting respiratory efforts or gasps.

Movement or cardiac activity does not equate life, by the medical and the legal definitions.

Whether a birth is recorded as “live” in situations of extreme prematurity or fetal anomalies — the kind of situations we are talking about — is not cut and dried. . . .

The take away — a live birth does not mean a life is possible. There is a huge difference. And, the recording of a live birth can be fluid based on parental wishes.

The second key point: Most abortions can't possibly end in a live birth that can actually result in a life:
Only 1.3% of abortions are performed at or after 21 weeks and most of these happen by 24 weeks. So right off the bat, 98.7% of abortions can’t possibly end in infanticide because they are performed before any chance of viability. There can never be a live birth no matter how much bad technique or malpractice is involved in the care. 
Most states limit abortion to under 24 weeks. So it is clear there are very few places where the mythical “live birth” abortions could actually happen. Some states allow for abortions after 24 weeks when there are lethal fetal anomalies. Let’s be super clear here — lethal fetal anomalies can’t have a life.

Maternal health is a part of the equation in many states:

Some states have a maternal health exemption. Abortions for maternal health are super rare at or after 24 weeks. They are almost always a catastrophic combination of events where fetal outcome is also deemed to be not possible or very improbable. These are wanted pregnancies, so if there is any realistic chance of fetal survival a c-section or vaginal delivery is done. The ONLY time a surgical abortion would be done is when maternal health is deteriorating quickly due to the pregnancy and fetal survival is deemed to be highly unlikely or impossible — again, for those in the back, a lethal situation cannot become a live birth. And obviously if you are pro life the life of the person that should matter the most is the maternal one, even if you just consider the mother a host. A dead mother is bad for fetal life. (I can’t believe I have to write that, but again, here we are).

The most common scenario for abortion for maternal health at or after 24 weeks is severe fetal growth restriction and severe maternal hypertension (pre eclampsia). The fetus is not considered viable due to the growth restriction, even though it is past 24 weeks. The mother is very sick and needs not to be pregnant ASAP, and an abortion is deemed the fastest way to save her life. A c-section is riskier, so if there is someone skilled to do surgical abortions at this gestational age that is the recommendation.

Determinations about fetal abnormalities cannot always be made at 24 weeks:

Sometimes the conclusion about severe fetal anomalies is not reached until 25-26 weeks or later. These are typically situations where a live birth may result in a few days of life with multiple, painful interventions or perhaps a few months of abject misery due to medical interventions. These are conditions that after birth, should these anomalies have gone undetected prenatally, we would typically allow parents to withdraw care. Withdrawing care in utero or after delivery are the same thing.

Dr. Jen Gunter
In this situation, an abortion might be accomplished by induction of labor or by surgical methods. Sometimes an induction is not possible as a c-section would be needed for obstetrical indications (meaning labor is not safe medically). Many women elect for the surgical abortion as they do not want the major surgery. A surgical abortion by a skilled provider, even in the 3rd trimester, is safer for the pregnant person.

Abortions at or after 24 weeks are VERY expensive. Typically $20,000 or more. If there are no fetal anomalies or severe maternal health indications, insurance will not cover them. Even in medically indicated situations — maternal or fetal health — the amount covered can be low or non-existent. People don’t pay tens of thousands of dollars cash on a whim.

The third key point: Most abortions can’t possibly end in a live birth because they are abortions:

I can’t believe I have to spell this out either. I mean, really?

The idea that abortions at or after 23-24 weeks — the only theortically possible “live birth scenario” — are done by two methods: surgical or induction of labor.

A surgical abortion does not in any situation result in a live birth. It’s not possible. The end.

So that leaves induction of labor. Again, these are almost always severe fetal anomalies, so the live birth scenario is preposterous and, quite frankly, offensive to those patients who are living the tragedy. Many patients have a procedure to stop fetal cardiac activity before the induction, so fetal demise has already occurred. Some providers think this may shorten the time it takes for induction. And some patients prefer it. Often there is fetal demise during labor, because that is what happens with severe fetal anomalies. In the rare scenario where there is a live birth, parents hold their baby for comfort care.

The fourth key point: Most states don’t allow abortions after 20-24 weeks without extreme exceptions:

Only 7 states have no gestational age restrictions, meaning places where the mythical healthy 32 week pregnancy that results in the, “Oh my gosh I forgot to get my 8 week abortion abortion!” could happen. For all the mental masturbation from forced birthers about New York allowing abortions at term, the law applies only after 23 weeks and 6 days for situations where maternal health is in jeopardy or lethal fetal anomalies (both of which we have spelled out above and are not going to result in live births).

So there are only 7 states where this mythical infanticide could actually happen. Again in these states the scant abortions happening after 24 weeks (and most are before 26 weeks) are almost always for severe fetal anomalies or a combination of severe anomalies and maternal health. Again, no survival is possible.

Are there some abortions that happen for rape after 24 weeks? Likely a few. Maybe 1 or 2 a year? Are there a few procedures for less than lethal anomalies in these states? Perhaps. However, these will all be surgical procedures, so no infanticide is possible as a fetus isn’t an infant and a surgical abortion can’t result in a live birth.

Trump is such an ignoramus on so many topics that full-time journalists struggle to correct him. But on the subject of abortion, I would say Dr. Jen Gunter has done an outstanding job of unmasking Trump in a way that most anyone can understand. That is quite a public service. Her final thoughts on the subject:

So why the infanticide claims?

Lies and ignorance. Propaganda. Accomplished by perverting the narrative of babies born to die.

The forced birthers are trying to rename a fetus a baby or an infant or a person. This is to raise funds off the misery of women. If they cared about fetal life and the survival of newborns they would advocate for free maternity care, mandatory vaccines, gun control, and banning tobacco. This is also about power and controlling women’s bodies.

Legal, available, affordable abortion prevents back alley and clandestine procedures. If you want to prevent infanticide from predators, stop writing laws that restrict abortion.

It’s that simple.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The "Russification of Alabama": Edmund LaCour Jr., state's new solicitor general, has worked at two law firms with ties to Russia and represented Gazprom, natural-gas producer with $350 billion in revenue

Edmund LaCour Jr.
Alabama's recently appointed solicitor general has worked for two law firms with strong connections to Russia. In fact, SG Edmund LaCour Jr. directly represented one of Russia's major energy companies while working for a law firm in Texas.

LaCour's appointment by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall -- replacing Andrew Brasher, who was confirmed as a Trump nominee to a U.S. judgeship in the Middle District of Alabama -- is just one sign of the "Russiafication" of Alabama's political and "justice" systems. Others came to light recently.

As usual, greed related to the gaming industry is at the heart of Alabama corruption, and the latest manifestation of it reportedly has attracted attention from the Trump Department of Justice (DOJ), probably because the president's buddies in the gambling industry are concerned about losing market share to Alabama's Poarch Creek Indians.

Russian influence on Alabama politics is not new, and it appears to have originated with former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and his alliance with Russian oligarch and mobster Oleg Deripaska and future Trump-campaign criminal Paul Manafort in an effort to win a $40-billion Air Force refueling-tanker contract for a European consortium that was to build tankers partly in Mobile, AL. The battle over that contract started roughly in 2000, and the ultimate winner in 2011 was Seattle-based Boeing (which also has a major presence in and around Huntsville, AL).

Sessions and Co. were losers on that deal, but the LaCour appointment is just one of several signs that the Russiafication of Alabama -- perhaps the state will become known as "Moscow on the Cahaba" -- is advancing apace.

LaCour, who grew up in Alabama's Wiregrass Region, came to the SG position from the D.C.-based law firm of Kirkland and Ellis, which also produced U.S. Attorney General and Trump protector William Barr. In fact, one of the most overlooked aspects of the Robert Mueller investigation is Barr's ties to Russia. It's possible Barr's recent actions on the release of the Mueller Report were only partially about protecting Trump; Barr might also have been trying to protect himself. From our recent post about Barr's ties to Russia, based largely on a report from Newsweek:

On Barr’s public financial disclosure report, he admits to working for a law firm that represented Russia’s Alfa Bank and for a company whose co-founders allegedly have long-standing business ties to Russia. What’s more, he received dividends from Vector Group, a holding company with deep financial ties to Russia.

These facts didn’t get much attention during Barr’s confirmation hearing, as Congress was hyper focused on an unsolicited memo Barr wrote prior to his nomination, which criticized the special counsel’s investigation—and whether he would release an unredacted Mueller report to Congress. Much of the information is public, but it has so far been unreported in relation to Barr. . . .

On his financial disclosure report, Barr notes that he earned anywhere from $5,001 to $15,000 in dividends from the Vector Group.

The company’s president, Howard Lorber, brought Trump to Moscow in the 1990s to seek investment projects there. The trip is widely seen as the first of many attempts to establish a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Barr's ties to Russia do not end there:

Barr’s former law firm Kirkland Ellis LLP, where he was counsel from March 2017 until he was confirmed as attorney general in February 2019, represented Russia’s Alfa Bank. (Barr earned more than $1 million at Kirkland.)

As for Edmund LaCour Jr., it's clear that during his time at Kirkland and Ellis, he worked for a Russia-connected firm. But LaCour has more direct ties to Russia from his days at the Houston, TX, office of Baker Botts. That's where he helped represent a Russian energy giant in a case styled Moncrief Oil International v. OAO Gazprom.

How important is Gazprom in Russia? It is a central player in plans for a $500-billion Arctic oil-drilling project; the company wants to build man-made islands to support the drilling. The project has been stalled by U.S. sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. In fact, the desire to have those sanctions lifted might be the No. 1 reason Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to get Donald Trump in the White House.

From our post on Russia's drilling plans and its ties to two energy giants, including Gazprom. The post revolves around a USA Today report about FBI director Christopher Wray and his Russia-related conflicts from his work at the Atlanta law firm King and Spalding:

The most troubling issue that Wray may face is the fact that his law firm — King and Spalding — represents Rosneft and Gazprom, two of Russia’s largest state-controlled oil companies.

Rosneft was prominently mentioned in the now infamous 35-page dossier prepared by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele. The dossier claims that the CEO of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, offered candidate Donald Trump, through Trump’s campaign adviser Carter Page, a 19% stake in the company in exchange for lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia. The dossier claims that the offer was made in July while Page was in Moscow.

Rosneft is also the company that had a $500 billion oil drilling joint-venture with Exxon in 2012, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon’s CEO. However, the deal was nixed by President Obama in 2014, when he imposed the sanctions that crippled Russia’s ability to do business with U.S. companies. The lifting of sanctions by the Trump administration would enable Exxon to renew its joint venture agreement with Rosneft, and the law firm of King and Spalding could end up in the middle of the contract negotiations between those two companies.

What about Gazptom's role in all of this? Here are details:

The law firm’s representation of Gazprom raises even more serious conflict issues for Wray. Gazprom was a partner in RosUkrEnergo AG (“RUE”), which is controlled by Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash. He is under federal indictment in Chicago for racketeering charges, has had numerous financial dealings with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and is generally considered to be a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

Though there is no indication that Wray personally worked on any of the Rosneft or Gazprom legal matters handled by his law firm, he might well have an ethical and legal conflict of interest that would prevent him from any involvement in the FBI’s Russian probe. When a law firm such as King and Spalding represents clients, then all of the partners in that law firm have an actual or potential conflict of interest, preventing them from undertaking any representation of any other client that has interests clearly adverse to those of these two Russian companies. These conflict rules continue to apply even after a lawyer leaves the law firm, so Wray could be ethically barred from involving himself in a federal investigation that includes within its scope a probe of Rosneft, Gazprom, and affiliated companies.

Christopher Wray might not have personally worked on Gazprom legal matters, but new Alabama SG Edmund LaCour Jr. definitely did, as this press release makes clear. How substantial is Gazprom's international footprint? This 2015 article from spells it out, along with details of the Moncrief Oil case:

Moncrief Oil International Inc. unexpectedly dropped its $1.37 billion case Monday against Russia’s national energy company, one month into its trial.

The decision abruptly ended Moncrief’s decade-long trade secrets legal battle against Gazprom after the Fort Worth company discovered lethal holes in its case.

Lawyers for Moncrief told Tarrant County District Judge Melody Wilkinson over the weekend that they wanted to dismiss its claims against OAO Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas producer with revenue exceeding $350 billion. The judge informed the jury of six women and six men Monday morning that the case was over.

What about other signs that Alabama is becoming a subsidiary of Russia Inc., answering to Vladimir Putin and his associates? One such sign came with an article from Alabama Political Reporter (APR) about the Poarch Creek Indians alliance with a Russian oligarch to help the tribe establish a gaming monopoly. Writes APR's Bill Britt:

A former Russian banker’s company is now offering software to the state that would take screen captures of contractor PCs at least once every three minutes and also track keystrokes and mouse activity.

Poarch Creek’s lobbyist, Barton and Kinney, LLC, is pushing legislation similar to that being hawked in New Jersey and 20-plus other states that would require any company doing at least $100,000 worth of work for a state to “use software to verify that all hours billed for work under the contract for services performed on a computer are eligible charges.”

Barton and Kinney, LLC, comprised of former Republican Rep. Jim Barton and Phillip and Allison Kinney has become a powerhouse lobbying firm based on their relationship with Poarch Creek’s Vice President Robbie McGhee. McGhee and the Kinneys have been nearly inseparable during past legislative sessions. However, this year McGhee has only shown his face at the State House on rare occasions when the tribe has felt its gaming monopoly was being threatened.

Who is the Russian seeking to interfere with state contracting in Alabama? Writes Britt:

The lobbying outfit now represents TransparentBusiness, Inc, which is pressing state lawmakers across the nation to pass legislation that would demand the type of monitoring software it offers.

The company was founded by Alex Konanykhin, a Russian national who, according to his Wikipedia profile, was granted political asylum in the United States in the early 2000s.

Russian Time Magazine reported that Konanykhin was considered one of the most wealthy and influential men in post-Soviet Russia. They said, “You could call him an oligarch, or a genius.”

Three days after that article was published, APR followed up with a report titled "Poarch Creeks subject of multiple federal probes, White House is watching." Writes Britt:

Federal authorities are actively investigating the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama.

APR recently learned from a former federal prosecutor with deep ties to D.C. that President Donald Trump’s administration now has the Poarch Creeks on its radar after several news reports focused on the tribe’s monopoly in Alabama and its expansion plans.

A former White House insider confirmed to APR on background that the Trump administration is watching what is happening in the State Legislature as the Indians are interfering in gaming and lottery legislation to ensure the tribe’s monopoly grows at the expense of private gaming interests.

“Stories citing the president’s disdain for Indian underhanded tactics are always an interest to the White House,” said the former White House insider. “Trump forgets nothing … what the tribe is up to in Alabama is being heard in Washington.”

I don't agree with Trump on much of anything, but it's about time someone in law enforcement started taking a look at the rampant sleaze in Alabama. Of course, if Trump realizes his beloved Russia is helping drive much of the crookedness, he might call off any investigation.

Then, Alabama might be well on its way to becoming "Moscow on the Cahaba."

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"Fetal heartbeats" actually are "embryonic cardiac activity," and pro lifers use such fraudulent language to boost their "babyfication of the embryo" campaign

Dr. Jen Gunter

Alabama has passed a "fetal heartbeat" law that even televangelist Pat Robertson says has "gone too far." Who knew something could be so far right that it would make Pat Robertson retch? But that has happened, and a prominent gynecologist saw this coming several years ago because of what she calls the "babyfication of the embryo."

Dr. Jen Gunter, who practices in Canada and the United States and publishes the blog, addressed the babyfication issue in a 2015 post after the Ohio House passed a "fetal heartbeat" bill. Why are such bills generally so dishonest? Because, at six weeks, there is no fetus and there is no heartbeat, Gunter says. The proper term would be "embryonic cardiac activity," which is essentially a throbbing, but not from a heart. That term isn't catchy enough to rile up the right-wing fundies, so someone created the bogus term "fetal heartbeat." Writes Gunter (again, this is in 2015, before Donald Trump added his toadies to the U.S. Supreme Court):

The Ohio House just passed a “fetal heartbeat” bill, which is the first step on the road to legislation that would ban abortion after embryonic cardiac activity.

Embryonic cardiac activity is typically seen by 6 weeks gestation (42 days into the pregnancy or about 2 weeks after a missed period), which is before many women know they are pregnant and certainly before many have really had time to consider what being pregnant means for them. Thus this kind of legislation really has one goal – to eliminate abortion.

This type of bill has been tried elsewhere and while it hasn’t become law anywhere, typically because some politician decides it won’t hold up to in the Supreme Court against Roe. With that in mind, why keep churning these things through State Legislatures wasting tax payer dollars?

If Dr. Gunter sounds disgusted with the "pro life" crowd, it might be because she has spent considerable effort (and money) to master a challenging discipline, only to see know-nothings abuse its facts and language in order to score political points:

Possibly the “pro-life” forces that support this legislation think that if they keep throwing enough garbage that something is going to stick. If the balance of the Supreme Court changes to an even more conservative bench we’ll see a flurry of these things, so testing out the kinks in advance might be a useful strategy. Also, chest thumping about anti-choice zeal is helpful to raise money for campaigns. But there is also something more insidious about these bills and it is the terminology “fetal heart beat,” because at 42 days it’s an embryo and it doesn’t have a “heart beat;” it has cardiac activity.

We encourage you to let that last sentence sink in: "But there is also something more insidious about these bills and it is the terminology “fetal heart beat,” because at 42 days it’s an embryo and it doesn’t have a “heart beat;” it has cardiac activity." So, it's an "embryo" (not a fetus), and it has "cardiac activity" (not a heartbeat) -- but that's not a distinction you will hear from the Republicans (mostly white and male) who passed the Alabama law that disturbed even Pat Robertson. Here is more from Dr. Gunter:

Using terms like fetus and “beating heart” conjures up an image of a tiny human almost able to live on its own . . . . Cardiac activity can be detected when an embryo is 3 mm and the actual visual isn’t very baby-like at all. (See image of an actual embryo at the end of this post.) 
To the average person who a fetal heart beat bill sounds a lot more like preventing a 2nd trimester procedure and a greater number of Americans oppose those. The majority of voters support 1st trimester abortion, so if you want the average person to think you are limiting 2nd trimester procedures repetitively talking about a fetal heart beat would be one way to do that. The more “baby like” the image the better, and so fetal heart bills sound more like saving close to term “babies” than restricting access to 1st and 2nd trimester abortion.

In short, "pro lifers" are conning the American public, and Dr. Gunter is brave enough to call them on it:
The imprecision also contaminates legal cases, if a 6 week embryo with cardiac activity becomes a fetus with a heart beat to the general pubic then at 23 weeks a fetus seems a lot closer to term than the reality of being barely on the cusp of viability even with intensive neonatal care. This what happened in Purvi Patel’s case. The pretrial motions indicated her fetus was 30 weeks when it was 23-24, but the damage was done. The image that this was a 3rd trimester pregnancy was set. Shifting the paradigm of what sounds like a baby earlier and earlier has lots of anti-choice payoffs. 
Using incorrect terminology isn’t just sloppy, it has a purpose – the babyfication of the embryo and it’s just one more back door way to erode choice.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Deutsche Bank officials ignored warnings of suspicious activity in Trump and Kushner accounts, adding fire to an already smoky story of possible money laundering

Deutsche Bank office in Jacksonville, FL

Officials at a German bank ignored employee warnings about possible money laundering involving members of the Trump family and overseas entities (including some in Russia), according to a report yesterday at The New York Times. An employee at a Deutsche Bank branch in Jacksonville, Florida, was fired after raising concerns about the transactions.

Tammy McFadden was terminated last year after raising concerns about Deutsche Bank's lax enforcement of anti-money laundering practices, especially when high-level clients were involved. McFadden since has filed complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators. Writes Times reporter David Enrich:

Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog.

The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes.

But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government.

The nature of the transactions was not clear. At least some of them involved money flowing back and forth with overseas entities or individuals, which bank employees considered suspicious.

The flagged activity at Deutsche Bank coincides with the 2016 presidential campaign, The Times reports:

In the summer of 2016, Deutsche Bank’s software flagged a series of transactions involving the real estate company of Mr. Kushner, now a senior White House adviser.

Ms. McFadden, a longtime anti-money laundering specialist in Deutsche Bank’s Jacksonville office, said she had reviewed the transactions and found that money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals. She concluded that the transactions should be reported to the government — in part because federal regulators had ordered Deutsche Bank, which had been caught laundering billions of dollars for Russians, to toughen its scrutiny of potentially illegal transactions.

Ms. McFadden drafted a suspicious activity report and compiled a small bundle of documents to back up her decision.

Typically, such a report would be reviewed by a team of anti-money laundering experts who are independent of the business line in which the transactions originated — in this case, the private-banking division — according to Ms. McFadden and two former Deutsche Bank managers.

That did not happen with this report. It went to managers in New York who were part of the private bank, which caters to the ultrawealthy. They felt Ms. McFadden’s concerns were unfounded and opted not to submit the report to the government, the employees said.

Ms. McFadden and some of her colleagues said they believed the report had been killed to maintain the private-banking division’s strong relationship with Mr. Kushner.

Did bank officials take the money-laundering concerns more seriously after Mr. Trump became President Trump? No, they did not:

After Mr. Trump became president, transactions involving him and his companies were reviewed by an anti-financial crime team at the bank called the Special Investigations Unit. That team, based in Jacksonville, produced multiple suspicious activity reports involving different entities that Mr. Trump owned or controlled, according to three former Deutsche Bank employees who saw the reports in an internal computer system.

Some of those reports involved Mr. Trump’s limited liability companies. At least one was related to transactions involving the Donald J. Trump Foundation, two employees said.

Deutsche Bank ultimately chose not to file those suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department, either, according to three former employees. They said it was unusual for the bank to reject a series of reports involving the same high-profile client.

The Trump relationship with Deutsche Bank already was in the news when yesterday's story broke:

Deutsche Bank’s decision not to report the transactions is the latest twist in Mr. Trump’s long, complicated relationship with the German bank — the only mainstream financial institution consistently willing to do business with the real estate developer.

Congressional and state authorities are investigating that relationship and have demanded the bank’s records related to the president, his family and their companies. Subpoenas from two House committees seek, among other things, documents related to any suspicious activities detected in Mr. Trump’s personal and business bank accounts since 2010, according to a copy of a subpoena included in a federal court filing.

Mr. Trump and his family sued Deutsche Bank in April, seeking to block it from complying with the congressional subpoenas. The president’s lawyers described the subpoenas as politically motivated.

Deutsche Bank already has been under scrutiny for its willingness to deal in dirty money. Reports The Times:
In the past few years, United States and European authorities have punished Deutsche Bank for helping clients, including wealthy Russians, launder funds and for moving money into countries like Iran in violation of American sanctions. The bank has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and is operating under a Federal Reserve order that requires it to do more to stop illicit activities.

On two palm-tree-lined campuses in Jacksonville, Deutsche Bank has thousands of employees who vet customers and transactions. Six current and former bank employees there said the operations were deeply troubled.

Anti-money laundering workers were pressured to quickly sift through transactions to assess whether they were suspicious, the employees said. As a result, they often erred on the side of not flagging transactions.

Two former employees said that they had raised concerns about transactions involving companies linked to prominent Russians, but that managers had told them not to file suspicious activity reports. The employees were under the impression that the bank did not want to upset important clients.

Where is this story headed? It's probably too early to say with any certainly, but Grant Stern, of Washington Press, says it has bombshell potential:

Deutsche Bank is notorious for skirting the wrong side of the law when it comes to money laundering scandals, especially when the clients are Russian oligarchs. Perhaps coincidentally, they’re also the only major bank willing to do business with perpetual disaster Donald Trump, lending both he and his son-in-law’s family real estate companies billions of dollars over the past few years. . . .

McFadden believed that the independent anti-money laundering experts at the bank would review her work and report it to the Treasury Department’s clearinghouse for those reports, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

In fact, its Jacksonville based Special Investigations Unit did look at its history with Trump and recommend the bank should file anti-money laundering SARs.

But Deutsche Bank routed the review back to the private banking division who handles Donald Trump’s accounts, where he worked with the son of former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy as his personal account representative until recently. Trump’s businesses have borrowed $2.5 billion from Deutsche Bank to fund prominent properties like the Washington Trump hotel and a Miami golf course.

The story of possible Trump ties to money laundering is not likely to go away soon. Writes Stern:

Tammy McFadden alerted the S.E.C and an alphabet soup of bank regulators who can all investigate her story.

It’s no wonder that the House Financial Services Committee led by Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) just subpoenaed Deutsche Bank last month to find out more about their relationship with President Trump. The bank had reportedly already been cooperating with House Dems, but today’s news adds a lot more smoke to what appears to be a real fire under the entire White House.

The President has a lot to fear from House Democrats revealing the truth about both his transactions with Deutsche Bank and the details of their relationship.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Alabama's "fetal heartbeat" bill is built on a mountain of deceitful language and medical ignorance, but mostly white, male lawmakers don't seem to care

Ultrasound of fetal cardiac activity at 6 weeks and 1 day.

The Alabama Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that effectively would outlaw all abortions in the state, with the votes of 25 white, male (Republican) senators leading the way. That speaks to rank hypocrisy that long has held center stage in the "pro life" movement. But more concerning should be the stupidity and dishonesty involved in the process. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law yesterday.

A group of prominent gynecologists has said "fetal heartbeat" bills, which tend to ban abortions after six weeks, often are based on medical and biological ignorance and fraudulent use of the English language. Dr. Jen Gunter, a Canadian gynecologist who writes the influential blog has been pointing this out for years. Consider this 2016 post titled "Dear Press, stop calling them “heartbeat” bills and call them “fetal pole cardiac activity” bills": Warning: Dr. Gunter has a tendency to use blunt, foul language at times.)

Ohio is the latest state to attempt to pass a medically illiterate abortion “heartbeat” bill.

It’s bad enough that these bills exist, but the press needs to do a better job of calling them what they are. If politicians want to play doctor they should be using medical terms. If they refuse to use the correct terminology, the press should correct them. People who vote for the assholes who write these shit shows know them as “heartbeat bills” not because they follow them as they groan through committee, but because that is how they read or hear about them in the news. The politicians know exactly what they are doing as a “heartbeat” bills is a way of making a 4 mm thickening next to a yolk sac seem like it is almost ready to walk.
Anti-choice embryo
Fetal cardiac activity can be detected as early at six weeks from the last menstrual period. The ultrasound [above] shows an image at 6 weeks and 1 day. (See image at the top of this post.)

The fetal pole is between the two markers and is a thickening at the end of the yolk sac (the yolk sac is the circular blob) and contains the earliest ultrasound evidence of cardiac activity. I know some have wondered why not use the term embryo, but as it’s the fetal pole that is being measured I think the term “fetal” is technically fine.
However, when most people think of a heartbeat they don’t think of a 4.3 mm thickening next to a blob they think of something like this. (See image, above right.)

The image (above, right) is an anti-choice version of an embryo, obviously not a faithful representation of size or appearance. If you want a real picture for comparison, check out this link. (See image at the end of this post.)

Is the "pro life" movement designed to deceive? Absolutely, and Dr. Gunter has seen it firsthand:

I expect nothing less than a campaign of misinformation from the misogynistic degenerates who hold office in these places. I worked in Kansas for many years and after a restrictive law passed I found myself in a three-way phone call with the hospital attorney and the politician playing doctor who tacked on the abortion rider to the bill that turned the governance of Kansas University Medical Center (KUMC) to a private authority. Yes, that’s right the State legislature in Kansas held the hospital’s financial future hostage over abortion and the Dean and the University caved. The politician who added the abortion rider to the bill was simply shocked that an abortion could actually be needed for health reasons. I mean he was gobsmacked. He believed the lie hook, line, and sinker that pregnancy never maims or kills. He was also somewhat shocked that the hospital attorney had tracked him down at night and that he had to explain what he meant by “the life of the mother being in danger” to a doctor. Dear Reader, the hospital attorney was worried we would be sued if this non-doctor didn’t think the woman was sick enough so I had to call and explain modern OB/GYN to Chance the gardener.

After some silence and muttering he said something like, Oh my, just do your doctoring of course. I am sure that even before the receiver hit the cradle the drop of truth that I had forced him to drink was rapidly diluted by the poison he’d been supping since birth and that woman and every single one like her dropped like chaff from his narrow little mind.

If Dr. Gunter sounds disgusted with the "fetal heartbeat" crowd, it's probably because she knows what she is talking about -- and they don't:

No one passing these laws gives a shit about the medicine or the science or the statistics. Really, they don’t. If they did, these laws wouldn’t exist and there would be laws providing free long-acting reversible contraception because that’s actually what works. I really believe the assholes in Ohio who voted for the fetal pole cardiac activity bill truly believe that the more than 21,000 women in Ohio who get abortions each year are just doing so because the greedy doctors who run the abortion spa at the mall have frequent BOGOs on pleasure abortions and if these little women just had a firmer hand from the patriarchy they would see the error of their ways. As pregnant women needing abortions won’t be picketing their offices they will take the silence as tactic approval, but who has time to picket and march when it’s tic toc. Women will be panicked making calls to find an out-of-state clinic and many will be raising money. Anyway, even if you do have the cash on hand, do you want your face in the paper so your rapist can see you got pregnant? Maybe you don’t want your parents to know, not because your are a teen, but because you are a grown-ass woman and it’s no one else’s fucking business what you do with your body?

In short, bills like the one in Alabama are based on "fetal heartbeats" that don't exist. That's because there is no heart at six weeks, and in medical terms, it isn't yet a fetus; it's an embryo. Writes Dr. Gunter:

While the press doesn’t write bills or pass laws they do pass on information or in this case subtle misinformation. Using “heartbeat” anywhere in a piece, but especially in the headline, even in quotations is not appropriate. It’s no different from allowing a neo Nazi to self identify as alt-right.

The earliest cardiac activity is seen in a fetal pole and using any other term means that you are lock step with a campaign of misinformation and it’s wrong.

The politicians who write these bills are dealing in misinformation and the press should refuse to play the game.