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Jewish lawyers back Texas death row inmate's retrial push

Jewish lawyers back Texas death row inmate's retrial pushSome one hundred Jewish lawyers and Jewish law organizations offered their support Thursday to a Texas death row inmate who wants a retrial because he says the judge who presided over his original trial was anti-Semitic. Randy Halprin is set to be executed on October 10. According to those claims, Judge Vickers Cunningham, who presided over the trials of some of the gang members in 2003, made anti-Semitic and racist comments about the defendants.



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Trump shows fake map in effort to back his false claim Hurricane Dorian may hit Alabama

Trump shows fake map in effort to back his false claim Hurricane Dorian may hit AlabamaDonald Trump presented an altered National Hurricane Centre map that expanded Hurricane Dorian’s official forecast so it would include Alabama, a state he incorrectly and repeatedly said would be hit by the storm.Speaking to media in the Oval Office on Wednesday, the president asked acting department of homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan to retrieve a large map from behind him showing the hurricane’s potential path over the US after it pummelled the Bahamas throughout the week.



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Storming Back to the Impeachment Charade

Storming Back to the Impeachment CharadeElections have consequences. This was a point we tried to make many times in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections. The Democrats won control of the House fair and square. That means they get to drive the agenda.Their agenda, kinda sorta, is the impeachment of President Trump — which is to say, the quixotic quest to build political support for it. According to the Washington Post, that effort is about to sink deeper into farce: Hearings on Stormy Daniels and the hush-money payments to conceal trysts that Donald Trump had — allegedly, of course — a decade before he ran for president.Such a quest is a two-edged sword, though. If this is how the Democrats choose to spend the public’s time and money, they must be accountable for it. They must be pressured to demonstrate the courage of their anti-Trump convictions. So far, for all the bluster, they’ve gotten away with cowardice.Most of the impeachment quasi-action is in the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.). We have to qualify the word “action” because, while Nadler claims to be conducting an impeachment inquiry, his committee has never actually voted to have one.This reflects the political needle Democrats cannot thread.Their control of the House hinges on 41 seats that, after the 2018 victory, they hold in Trump-friendly districts. Constituents in those districts do not want Trump impeached. Even most of those opposed to Trump take the sensible position that he should be opposed at the ballot box, and the country spared a rabidly partisan, substantively scant, and inevitably futile removal effort. And because, unlike in 2018, the president will be on the ballot in 2020, the pro-Trump voters will be out in force. An unpopular impeachment push could spell electoral doom.Yet, also because Trump will be on the ballot, the hard-left progressives are making their influence felt. They are the Democratic party’s energetic base, and they punch way above their weight in presidential-primary season. And they want Trump impeached, yesterday, irrespective of whether he can be removed (a prospect made impossible by the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds majority favoring removal in the Senate, now controlled by the GOP). The base knows Democrats have the numbers to get impeachment done in the House, and its members are ballistic that it hasn’t been done yet.So ballistic that the 72-year-old Nadler, an Upper West Side fixture who got to be a powerful committee chairman because he has been in Congress for 27 years, is facing a real primary challenge. So are a number of the old-line lefties. They are finding that years of governing, which requires compromise, have left them out of step with the AOC avant-garde — such that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the very model of a 20th-century left-wing Democrat, is now a “moderate.”Nadler needs to push for impeachment, but Pelosi can’t let him put the Trump-district Democrats on the spot. Hard votes could cost control of the House. Nadler is trying to thread the needle by pretending his committee has already established a formal impeachment inquiry, and is now simply following through with consideration of potential high crimes and misdemeanors. He hopes you won’t notice that he left out a step: He has not actually called for an impeachment inquiry. Sure, he probably has the votes. But Pelosi does not want vulnerable Democrats put in the position of casting votes that Republicans and the president will hammer them over next year.Amid all this gamesmanship, an important point is easy to miss: This is only a problem because there is no objectively viable impeachment case against Trump.If Trump had committed some offense that a goodly portion of the country believed was impeachable, then the mere commencement of an impeachment inquiry would not pose a difficult vote for anyone. Virtually all Democrats (and probably more than a smattering of Republicans) would be for it. No person of good will would hold it against any lawmaker who voted in favor of calling for an examination of the relevant facts.But because there is no impeachment case, Democrats have to make one up.The hush-money payments are a perfect example. Omitted from the Post’s coverage is a fundamental flaw: Even if it were clear-cut that Trump had committed a campaign-finance violation — and it’s not — it would almost certainly not be an impeachable offense. Election-law violations are sufficiently trivial, relatively speaking, that the Justice Department often declines prosecution and allows them to be disposed of by administrative fine. As we have pointed out, this is what the Obama Justice Department did with 2008 Obama-campaign violations, which, in dollar terms, dwarf the money involved in the Trump situation.Then there is the fictional framing of the Michael Cohen case. It is claimed that Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and self-described “fixer,” has gone to jail based on crimes in which he has implicated Trump. That’s ridiculous.As his plea agreement with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) shows, Cohen’s prison sentence was driven by his guilty pleas to tax- and bank-fraud charges. Trump had nothing to do with those felonies. They involved over $ 1 million in fraud, and bank fraud carries a possible incarceration sentence of 30 years. If it were not for these serious crimes, Cohen would not have been prosecuted, much less imprisoned.The plea to two campaign-finance violations was an add-on. The charges were inconsequential as far as Cohen’s criminal liability and prison exposure were concerned; they were valuable only to prosecutors, who appear to have been trying to make a case, regardless of how weak, on Trump. Usually, defendants want to avoid additional criminal convictions; here, Cohen readily agreed to plead guilty because being a potential accomplice witness against Trump increased the likelihood that prosecutors would argue for a lenient sentence.It was for naught, however. The SDNY closed the case without additional charges because treating the hush-money payments as campaign-finance crimes was, at best, overkill, and probably wrong as a matter of law.In a nutshell, there is nothing per se illegal about non-disclosure agreements, which are a staple of civil litigation. And as I’ve explained, there is profound legal debate over what constitutes an “in-kind” campaign contribution — to the point that even the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department have been at loggerheads. Even if we assume arguendo that the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal were unlawful as to Cohen and American Media Inc. (which paid McDougal), they were not necessarily illegal as to Trump. As the candidate, different campaign-finance rules applied to him; and he had reasons unrelated to the campaign (e.g., avoiding both damage to his marriage and family relationships and encouragement of similar lawsuits) to keep the matter quiet.Critics are quite right to observe, as our Jim Geraghty does, that everything relevant about the Stormy episode has already been, er, laid bare. Trump is Trump, and people have already made up their minds about this aspect of his character. That said, though, Democrats have the power, and the privilege that goes with it, to make an issue of the president’s fitness for office. They have the right to call for an impeachment inquiry, and to spend their legislative time pursuing it.But they should have to do it in the light of day.Republicans should be using every means available to them, from procedural motions, floor and hearing speeches, and media outlets, to force Democrats to vote on convening an impeachment inquiry. Nadler, Pelosi, and House Democrats want to avoid the vote because they know impeachment is not what the country wants. They want to put an impeachment show on for their base without being accountable for an actual impeachment effort.Time to call out this sham for what it is.



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Kevin Hart Could Require Back Surgery After Malibu Horror Crash, But Docs Are Optimistic

Kevin Hart Could Require Back Surgery After Malibu Horror Crash, But Docs Are OptimisticInstagram / KevinHart4realComedian Kevin Hart is being assessed to see if he will require back surgery following his dramatic crash in the Malibu hills in the early hours of Sunday morning. Hart, miraculously, walked away from the crash, and was able to go back home before checking himself into an L.A.-area hospital, where he is now under observation. The other two passengers in the car appear to have also had lucky escapes, despite being trapped in the vehicle for some time: Hart’s friend Jared Black (who was driving) and personal trainer Rebecca Broxterman are both expected to make full recoveries.Hart could, however, need surgery for major back injuries he suffered in the crash, which saw his vintage Plymouth Barracuda veer off a Mulholland Highway canyon, crashing to the ground ten feet below. Pictures showed the roof of the car completely sheared off. Doctors are optimistic that Hart will make a full recovery as he has not suffered “a spinal cord injury,” The Blast reports, adding that he is “able to walk and move his extremities.”Hart was a passenger in the vintage muscle car, which he bought in July to mark his 40th birthday, when it went off the road and rolled down an embankment.California Highway Patrol officers said the driver was not under the influence of alcohol at the time of the collision, which happened at around around 12:45 a.m. Sunday.The car was turning when the driver “immediately lost control of the vehicle, and the Plymouth left the road and rolled over down the northern embankment,” TMZ said, quoting cops.Just hours before the crash, Hart had posted a video on Instagram of himself sitting in the car. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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Washington's giant pandas could be sent back to China in latest casualty of US-China trade war

Washington's giant pandas could be sent back to China in latest casualty of US-China trade warWashington's National Zoo may be left without any giant pandas amid fears Donald Trump's ongoing trade war with China could see the bears become a political tool.  The Smithsonian National Zoo’s panda bears are one of the main draws for its two million annual visitors but the current lease of its two adults, male Tian Tian and female Mei Xiang, is due to expire next year.  The zoo's only other panda, Bei Bei, turned four this month – the age where pandas fully mature and are able to breed – and will be sent back to China for a breeding programme within the next few months under a prior agreement. China's giant pandas have often been used to sweeten relations with international partners; Washington's National Zoo received its first pair in 1972 to commemorate President Richard Nixon's successful visit to China. Those bears were a gift, but the current pair were sent over under a lease agreement which has since been extended multiple times but is now set to expire on December 7 2020. Giant panda Bei Bei eats his frozen 4th birthday cake at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington Credit:  ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP But there are now fears that the two pandas could be drawn into the tit-for-tat trade war which has seen tensions between America and China escalate in recent months.  Mr Trump has repeatedly rebuked the country for treating America "unfairly" and his administration is poised to impose 15 percent tariffs on some $ 112 billion of Chinese imports today/SUN.  Beijing has warned that it has "ample" means to retaliate but has also signalled its willingness to continue negotiating. The zoo said it has not started discussions with the Chinese about Mei Xiang and Tian Tian's lease but hope the pandas will be able to stay. However there is some speculation the Chinese government may wish to hold off negotiations until closer to the November 2020 US presidential election, when the political landscape becomes clearer.  “Our agreements are based on science surrounding the giant pandas,” Pamela Baker-Masson, a spokeswoman for the zoo, told the Washington Post. “We’ve accomplished a lot over the last 40-plus years. Now both sides have to take a look at what the future science goals should be, and they go from there.” China sent Mei Xiang and Tian Tian in 2000 on a 10-year, $ 10 million lease to the zoo, the lease was renegotiated in 2011 for five years at a cost of $ 500,000 a year. Another agreement was struck in 2015 to extend the lease until the end of 2020.  To add to the tension around the panda's fate, the zoo is currently waiting on tenter hooks to establish whether Mei Xiang is pregnant. The panda's behaviour has changed in the last month, suggesting she may be pregnant, but she has had several false pregnancies in recent years.



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Outrage mounts over Harvard student turned back at airport

Outrage mounts over Harvard student turned back at airportThe story of an incoming Harvard freshman who was denied entry into the United States after his laptop and cellphone were searched at the airport last week has immigration and free speech advocates sounding the alarm over the Trump administration’s increasingly restrictive immigration policies and how they are enforced.



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Hezbollah to hit back at Israel but war unlikely: deputy chief

Hezbollah to hit back at Israel but war unlikely: deputy chiefHezbollah will respond with a “surprise” strike against Israel after drones crashed in Lebanon, but a new war remains unlikely, the Iran-backed movement said, amid heightened fears of a full-scale confrontation between the longtime adversaries. Israel has not claimed responsibility for the two drones that crashed at the weekend in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut. One of them exploded, causing some damage to Hezbollah’s media center in the district, but nobody was hurt.



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Montana is back among states without state-funded preschool

Montana is back among states without state-funded preschoolMontana enters the upcoming school year back among the handful of states without publicly funded preschool, and the unions and education groups that are otherwise staunch allies of Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock are a big reason why his fledgling pre-kindergarten program fizzled. The state briefly broke from those ranks with a 2017 budget item that provided funding for preschool programs through 10 school districts and seven private providers. Bullock, who is now running for the Democratic nomination for president, touted it as a major win for one of his top priorities of his final term: early childhood education.



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An innocent man spent months in jail after customs officials thought honey he brought back from Jamaica was liquid meth

An innocent man spent months in jail after customs officials thought honey he brought back from Jamaica was liquid methLeon Haughton told The Washington Post he was jailed for 82 days after customs officials in Baltimore alleged that the three jars of honey were meth.



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Beijing hits back after Trudeau vows to stand up to China

Beijing hits back after Trudeau vows to stand up to ChinaBeijing on Thursday accused Ottawa of worsening bilateral relations after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to stand up to China amid deepening diplomatic and trade disputes. The two countries have been locked in a feud since last December, when Canada detained top Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and — in apparent retaliation — China detained two Canadian nationals over espionage-linked accusations. On Wednesday, Trudeau pushed back against Beijing in a speech that promised to “always defend Canadians and Canadian interests” and to not “back down”.



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