Hurricane and typhoon watch

There are two major hurricanes in action at the moment – Hurricane Florence weakening as it makes landfall in the eastern US, and Super Typhoon Mangkhut currently bearing down on the Philippines.

Super Typhoon Mangkhut made landfall in the northern Philippines early Saturday with maximum sustained winds of 270 kph (165 mph) and gusts as high as 325 kph (200 mph), which is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.

That’s horrendous. The wind is getting very strong here when it gets in the 120-150 kph range, but Mangkhut is twice that.

 

Al Jazeera:  Super typhoon Mangkhut makes landfall in the Philippines

Monster Typhoon Mangkhut has made landfall in the northeastern tip of the Philippines, affecting at least five million people in its path.

Mangkhut, also known as Ompong in the Philippines, made landfall at around 17:40 GMT on Friday (01:40 am Saturday, local time), according to the Philippine weather bureau, PAGASA.

It retained its ferocious strength on Friday, but gained speed while shifting towards a number of densely populated provinces, where a large evacuation was carried out earlier in the day.

The Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center categorised Mangkhunt as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane.

In comparison, Hurricane Florence, which is currently lashing the US East Coast, is classified as category 1 storm.

It is packing winds of up to 205 kilometer per hour and gusts up to 255km/h, PAGASA said. But the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said maximum winds could reach 268km/h and wind gusts of up to about 324km/h.

After it passes the Philippines it will head towards Hong Kong:

In the Us Hurricane Florence wind strengths have eased substantially but widespread flooding and disruption is still expected.

Fox News: Hurricane Florence moving slowly, but ‘wreaking havoc’ across Carolinas

Slow moving and powerful Hurricane Florence is “wreaking havoc” across the Carolinas as the Category 1 storm continues to dump massive amounts of rain that could trigger catastrophic floods inland.

Once a Category 4 hurricane, a weakened but still-dangerous Florence is now making its way south along the Carolina coast at about 6 mph with sustained winds of 80 mph – pushing life-threatening storm surges miles inland, ripping down parts of buildings and knocking out power to more than a half-million homes and businesses early Friday.

The center of Florence made technical landfall at about 7:15 a.m. on Friday near Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

Florence’s storm surge and the prospect of 1 to 3½ feet of rain were considered a bigger threat than its winds, which dropped off from an alarming 140 mph earlier in the week. Forecasters said catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected well inland over the next few days as Florence crawls westward across the Carolinas all weekend.

Forecasters said the terrifying onslaught would last for several hours, because Florence was barely moving along and still drawing energy from the ocean. They said “catastrophic” freshwater flooding was expected along waterways throughout the Carolinas.

“Twenty-four to 36 hours remain of significant threat from heavy rain and heavy surge,” said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Those citizens who did not heed evacuation warnings, it’s time to stay where you are, do the best that you can to protect yourself.”


Weatherwatch: Has NZ ever experienced Cat5 winds?

In 1968 a former tropical cyclone called Giselle was tracking across the North Island.  At the same time a polar storm was racing out of the Southern Ocean.  The two collided over Wellington creating what is known as the “perfect storm”.

It was this storm that sunk the Wahine ferry in Wellington harbour as it blasted the capital with hurricane force winds.  NIWA records show winds gusted to 275km/h – which is equal to a category 5 cyclone.  Around 100 homes lost their roofs.

But the winds were very different to a cat 5 cyclone.  With a cyclone, the strong winds are generated around the eye of the storm over open water.  In this case it was the merger of the two systems and Wellington’s localised topography that created the incredible winds – and they only existed as this strength in one part of Wellington.

It was the first and only time winds of that speed were recorded in New Zealand.

But from a NIWA employee:

The 275 km/h is a reference to a 3-s gust speed from a Munro anemometer located at Oteranga Bay during the storm. I’ve always understood that this reading was highly questionable due to an issue with the anemometer at that site at the time of the storm. I’ve double-checked with Steve Reid (retired employee of NIWA and before 1992 MetService) who was the wind-expert at both institutions for several decades. He had in the past checked the instrument file for Oteranga Bay and noted that the next technical visit to the site after the Wahine storm had remarks that a “substitution resistor was missing from the installation” and this would result in speeds 25% too high.  The resistor was used in installations where no dial was in the circuit. For this reason, the observation is highly questionable at best, and should not really be accepted as a record.  – NIWA

That would make the maximum gust closer to 200 km/h, still very strong but nothing like Mangkhut.

Manafort pleads guilty, to cooperate with Mueller investigation

Signalled yesterday, confirmed today (Friday US time) – Paul Manafort, who was soon to face further charges, has entered a guilty plea after a deal of “full cooperation” with  prosecutors investigating whether any Trump associates played a role in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Manafort already faces a possible lengthy prison sentence after being found guilty on eight counts of federal tax and banking crimes last month.

Fox News:  Paul Manafort pleads guilty, agrees to cooperate in deal with Mueller team

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty in federal court Friday as part of a plea agreement that involves cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and allows him to avoid a second trial.

“I plead guilty,” Manafort, 69, told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman in Washington.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge that Manafort’s deal includes a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, who are investigating whether any Trump associates played a role in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. That could include interviews with prosecutors and testifying in court.

A defense attorney for Manafort told Fox News the deal includes “full cooperation.”

Manafort, in a trial set to begin Sept. 24, had been facing seven counts of foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering in federal court in Washington.

Manafort faces up to 10 years on these charges in Washington.

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing told reporters after the court hearing it was a “tough day” for his client, “who has accepted responsibility.” He said Manafort “wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life.”

The case was brought by Mueller’s team, which is probing potential crimes related to the 2016 election. But Manafort has not been charged with anything related to the campaign.

There were the predictable denials and distancing from Trump spokespeople:

“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in a statement to Fox News. “The reason: the president did nothing wrong.”

Bloomberg: Mueller Wins Manafort’s Cooperation in Plea Deal

The White House, which has repeatedly played down Manafort’s role on the campaign, responded to news of his guilt. “This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated,” said Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary.

Perhaps this is because Trump is innocent of any electoral crime. Perhaps thou doth protest too much.

Manafort certainly worked with at least one foreign government (before he worked for Trump).

After a year of withering financial pressure and a jury conviction in another case, Manafort admitted Friday that he laundered more than $30 million earned over a decade while working as a consultant for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, cheated the U.S. government of $15 million in taxes and tampered with a witness.

As part of his plea, Manafort admitted that he conspired to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act by not telling the Justice Department about a multimillion-dollar campaign to improve the image of Yanukovych and his Party of Regions in Europe and the U.S. Prominent U.S. firms like the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs LLC were hired to help him, along with several European former elected officials.

Manafort organized the European politicians, known as the Hapsburg Group, to lobby U.S. senators in a campaign to defeat a resolution that criticized Yanukovych’s treatment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was convicted and imprisoned. Manafort never told the senators that the lobbyists or Hapsburg Group members were paid by Ukraine.

In May 2013, one Hapsburg Group member met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office. They also met with senior U.S. officials in the executive and legislative branches, according to the filing.

One of the potential witnesses against Manafort was Sam Patten, who pleaded guilty on Aug. 31 to failing to register as a Ukrainian agent. He also helped a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch gain access to Trump’s inauguration.

Manafort’s legal team had repeatedly challenged Mueller’s authority to investigate business activities related to Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign. Prosecutors said they had to examine whether Russia-backed politicians and oligarchs served as a back channel to members of the Trump campaign.

The investigation looked at such interactions “before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications,” prosecutors wrote. “And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort’s Ukrainian consulting activities.”

Prosecutors will ask Manafort about his months running Trump’s campaign. In June 2016, he attended the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which Kremlin-backed attendees promised to offer damaging information about Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended the meeting.

Manafort faced the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. Perhaps he still will, but hoovering over this is the possibility that Trump will pardon him.

As part of his guilty plea, Manafort agreed to brief prosecutors, produce documents and testify if warranted. Asked by the judge whether he understood that his deal with the government required him to cooperate “fully and truthfully,” Manafort replied, “I do.”

Trump may (or may not) be innocent of anything, but some of his family at least may be feeling a tad more nervous now that Manafort has agreed to full cooperation with the Mueller investigation.

More US views (from RealClear Politics):

Catholic Church abuses under increasing scrutiny internationally and locally

Pope Francis and the Catholic Church are under increasing pressure for their woefully inadequate handling of sexual abuse by priests, and their many failures in trying to keep the abuses secret within the church.

This is happening in many countries around the world, and has been highlighted as an insidious problem locally as well. It seems to be a systemic problem within the Catholic Church.

A recent damning report in the US has prompted action there – Stirred by Sexual Abuse Report, States Take On Catholic Church

Attorneys general across the United States are taking a newly aggressive stance in investigating sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, opening investigations into malfeasance and issuing subpoenas for documents.

On Thursday alone, the New York State attorney general issued subpoenas to all eight Catholic dioceses in the state as part of a sweeping civil investigation into whether institutions covered up allegations of sexual abuse of children, officials said. The attorney general in New Jersey announced a criminal investigation.

The new inquiries come several weeks after an explosive Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed the abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of priests over decades. With Catholics clamoring for more transparency from their church, demanding that bishops release the names of accused priests, civil authorities are beginning to step up to force disclosure.

In the three weeks since the release of the Pennsylvania report, the attorneys general of Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and New Mexico have also said they will investigate sex abuse by Catholic priests in their states and have asked local dioceses for records. Most bishops have been saying they will cooperate.

Cooperation by bishops has been badly lacking in the past.

And criticism goes right to the top of the church – What has Pope Francis covered up?

The Catholic Church is confronting a series of interconnected scandals so shameful that its very survival is threatened. Pope Francis himself is accused of covering up the activities of one of the nastiest sexual predators ever to wear a cardinal’s hat: his close ally Theodore McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington, DC.

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI are also implicated; they did nothing, or almost nothing, while McCarrick was seducing every seminarian he could get his hands on. (‘Hide the pretty ones!’ they used to say when he visited seminaries.) Yet powerful cardinals kept quiet and are now suspected of lying their heads off after McCarrick’s crimes were recently made public.

McCarrick is the world’s only ex-cardinal. He was forced to resign in July when sexual abuse allegations against him were found to be ‘creditable and substantiated’ by American church authorities. But now the Pope is also being urged to step down — by his own former apostolic nuncio to the United States. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò says he told Francis in 2013 that McCarrick had ‘corrupted generations of priests and seminarians’. The Pope ignored him and lifted sanctions that Benedict, who’d been told the same thing, had imposed.

Last month – Pope in Ireland: Francis speaks of Church’s failure to tackle clerical abuse ‘scandal’

The pope has spoken of his pain and shame at the failure of Church authorities to tackle the grave scandal of clerical abuse in Ireland.

On the first day of his historic Irish visit, the pontiff said people had a right to be outraged at the response of senior figures in the Catholic Church to the “repugnant crimes” inflicted on young people.

But:

Responding to the pope’s speech at Dublin Castle, victims advocacy group BishopAccountability.org said the pontiff’s remarks “gave little comfort to heartsick victims and Catholics hoping that he has a plan for ending the abuse and cover-up crisis.

“The pope again chose to commit to no specific solutions. Nor did he acknowledge his own responsibility for the crisis.”

And a day later – ‘I won’t say a word about it’: Pope silent on abuse claim letter

Pope Francis has declined to confirm or deny claims by the Vatican’s retired ambassador to the United States that he knew in 2013 about sexual misconduct allegations against the former archbishop of Washington.

The pope was dismissive of the 11-page text by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, saying that it “speaks for itself” and that he would not comment on it.

Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation as cardinal last month, after a US church investigation determined that an accusation he had sexually abused a minor was credible.

Since then, another man has come forward to say McCarrick began molesting him starting when he was 11, and several former seminarians have said McCarrick abused and harassed them when they were in seminary.

The accusations have created a crisis of confidence in the US and Vatican hierarchy.

Here in New Zealand over the last month the Otago Daily Times has published a series of articles revealing that abuse has also been perpetrated and hidden within the Catholic Church in Dunedin, around New Zealand and Australia. It appears to have been a deliberate plan to cover up abuses over decades.

Yesterday: Scale of abuse, suffering revealed

It started with one bad apple – a paedophile priest from Dunedin who abused four boys and was jailed for his crimes. But the story of Fr Magnus Murray’s crimes has opened the floodgates, releasing a torrent of torment and abuse held back for decades.

Mr Klemick can still recall every detail of four years of abuse at the hands of Ian Thompson, a teacher at St Paul’s High School, beginning in 1979 when he was just 12 years old.

The memories are of sodomy and sex acts, including the ones he was forced to perform on another young boy, also a victim of Mr Thompson.

The experience has left him battling post-traumatic stress disorder and, despite counselling, the urge to try to take his own life again.

Michael Haggie has a similar story of torment to share.

There is much more.

Now, after a months-long investigation by ODT Insight, a clearer picture of the scale of sexual offending within the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin is emerging.

It began with revelations Fr Magnus Murray, a paedophile priest from Dunedin, had many more victims than previously thought.

Fr Murray was jailed in 2003 for offences against four Dunedin boys, but ODT Insight found he could have up to 15 victims on the Taieri alone, as well as others in Australia and the North Island.

But, when ODT Insight also revealed offending by Br Desmond Fay and a second Christian Brother – who cannot be named for legal reasons – in Dunedin, more victims soon came forward.

Br Fay was accused by the mother of one victim of driving her son to suicide, but the story prompted three more men to reveal they, too, had been targeted by Br Fay.

But Br Fay, who has since died, was not alone, the man said.

He also recalled being punished by former St Edmund’s principal Br Vincent Sullivan, who “put me over his knee and gave me a light spanking and then fondled my buttocks while Br Fay watched”.

The man fondled in the swimming pool by Br Fay had also learned, years later, three of his friends had been abused by Christian Brothers in Dunedin.

Two had, separately, confided in him that they had been molested by Br Francis Henery, a teacher and rugby coach at St Paul’s High School in the 1970s, he said.

THIS week, ODT Insight has confirmed another paedophile priest from Dunedin, Fr Kevin Morton, was quietly stripped of his priestly faculties in 2002 after allegations of historic abuse emerged.

A complaint in 2002 prompted the then-Dunedin Bishop Len Boyle to strip Fr Morton of his priestly faculties, but he did not defrock him.

It was the same sanction handed down to Fr Magnus Murray, who also remained a priest in retirement despite his conviction.

Dunedin Bishop the Most Rev Michael Dooley, asked about Fr Morton this week, confirmed the diocese had “full records” of the complaint and Fr Morton’s punishment.

He would not elaborate, citing privacy, but Fr Morton was “dealt with through the approved complaints procedure”.

The procedure seems to have been to keep it covered up within the church, and allowing perpetrators to continue to offend elsewhere.

In 1993, Fr Robin Paulson, a fourth-form teacher at St Peter’s College in Gore, admitted six charges relating to historic offences against three boys in Southland.

He was sentenced to periodic detention, then returned home to England, where he remains a member of the Rosminians, the Catholic order beset by their own abuse scandals in Britain.

Teaching alongside Fr Paulson in Gore at the time was another man also later convicted of offences against boys.

In 1977, Patrick Thwaites was a deacon at Holy Cross College in Mosgiel, studying to be a priest, when he was dispatched to St Peter’s in Gore to teach third and fourth-formers.

In 1999, Fr Thwaites was a priest in Christchurch when he was found guilty of offences against schoolboy parishioners in Christchurch and on the West Coast, dating back to the 1980s.

Fr Thwaites has been removed from public ministry, but also remains a priest in retirement.

But ODT Insight has also been told of other allegations, including one by three men who shared the same story of abuses committed by a former top-level, long-serving member of the Dunedin diocese, who has since died.

There seems to have been many bad apples in the Catholic barrel.

And many victims are still suffering as the church fails to take anything like full responsibility.

BISHOP Dooley, speaking to ODT Insight last month, responded to the revelations of historic abuse within the Dunedin diocese by apologising to the city.

But, asked how big the list of offenders could be, he doubted it would mirror the revelations seen in other countries.

“I don’t believe that’s our case here, certainly not in the Dunedin diocese. I see no evidence for it and I’d be very surprised if their are further offenders.”

He confirmed the diocese kept records of every complaint received, but would not say how many there were or how much money the diocese had paid to victims.

The dirty secrets are being uncovered, but the Church still seems reluctant to deal with it openly or adequately.

Victims said the sexual offending in Dunedin was only part of a wider picture of violence at St Paul’s and other schools at the time.

Men like Br Fay, Br Wellsmore and Mr Thompson were notoriously bad-tempered and violent towards boys at the schools where they taught, they said. Several men have described how Mr Thompson would erupt over the smallest infractions and beat those responsible.

Chris Gamble, a St Paul’s pupil, remembered Mr Thompson as “the most heinous, violent man”.

And Suicide to avoid exposure

A Catholic school in Dunedin has been accused of a historic cover-up, after a teacher who sexually abused pupils for more than a decade took his own life when finally confronted, victims say.

Three men – all former pupils at St Paul’s High School in Rattray St – have told ODT Insight the teacher, Ian Thompson, targeted pupils at the school throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s.

The Christian Brothers had employed Mr Thompson after he was forced out of a Marist Fathers seminary in the North Island, allegedly after affairs with other seminarians, a third pupil said.

That seems to be a common pattern – moving a problem priest to fresh pastures where abuses continued.

Another article today – What victims want most: justice

Dunedin’s new Catholic Bishop, the Most Rev Michael Dooley, seems like a good and honourable man.

He has fronted media and his parishioners, expressed shock and pain at recent revelations, apologised to victims and the city for past events and urged those still suffering in silence to come forward.

But he remains reluctant to answer some tough questions.

Bishop Dooley won’t say how many complaints have been received, or how many past offenders he is aware of, within the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin.

That information will only be revealed to police or the Royal Commission, not to media, the bishop  says.

He is also not yet prepared to discuss some allegations levelled against clergy, including those aimed at one of the most senior figures within the diocese in recent times.

Instead, he has insisted Dunedin’s problem remains small compared with  the shocking revelations seen in other countries, from the United States and Ireland to Australia.

But, as he does so, the list of alleged offenders from the Deep South keeps growing.

The pattern is repeated elsewhere, including in the North Island, where Hamilton Bishop the Most Rev Steve Lowe also remains tight-lipped.

The Catholic Church still seems reluctant to address a massive issue that is severely damaging the church.

For men like Paul Klemick, abused as a young pupil by a Catholic teacher at St Paul’s High School, what happened is not historic.

It remains an everyday reality  and as painful as it was when they were innocent children.

But as they speak, one word keeps coming up.

Justice.

Men like Paul Klemick want their experiences acknowledged and they want compensation.

But, most of all, they want the Catholic Church to answer for what happened.

Which is exactly why the Catholic Church, and churches of all stripes, need to be part of the Government’s pending Royal Commission into historic abuse.

But the Government is moving slowly on the Royal Commission: Cabinet yet to hear abuse inquiry proposal

Three months after receiving a report on its proposed terms of reference, Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin is yet to complete the next step in the Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse in state care.

Martin, alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, announced the inquiry as the “final commitment” of the coalition Government’s 100 day plan at the beginning of February. At the time, the stated time-frame for it to begin to consider evidence was mid-to-late 2018.

However, in a letter addressed to law firm Cooper Legal – which represents more than 900 people with claims of abuse under state care – Martin reveals she is yet to finalise her proposal to Cabinet on the inquiry. The proposal is supposed to take into account Commission chair Sir Anand Satyanand’s report on public submissions about the draft terms of reference. While Satyanand submitted his report on May 30, Martin is yet to follow this up with a proposal to Cabinet.

Before the inquiry can proceed to evidential stage, Cabinet must decide on its final terms of reference, additional commission members, and budget. That decision-making process is due to begin once Martin makes her formal proposal on the inquiry to Cabinet.

In the meantime, the many victims continue to suffer.

 

 

 

Denials as Trump train wreck continues

When quotes from ‘White House sources’ were published in advance of the public release of from Bob Woodward’s book on Donald Trump there were some denials from those claimed to have said to have provided quotes (Woodward claims to have recordings of all his sources).

Following the New York Times publishing of an anonymous op-ed by a ‘senior White House official’ – see The White House ‘resistance’ and what the hell is happening – there have been a number of inevitable public denials from senior White House officials.

New York Times: It Wasn’t Me: Pence, Pompeo, Mattis and Mnuchin Deny Writing Anonymous Op-Ed

A day after a senior administration official described President Trump as amoral, impetuous, petty and ineffective in an anonymous essay, the denials from the upper echelon of the administration started to roll in.

The mystery writer is not Vice President Mike Pence, a spokesman said Thursday. “Our office is above such amateur acts,” the vice president’s spokesman, Jarrod Agen, said

“It is not mine,” Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said.

“Patently false,” said Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, responding to rumors that he or his principal deputy wrote the piece. “We did not.”

Press officers for the secretaries of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development also issued denials on behalf of their bosses.

They will feel bound by principles of journalism to publish these denials, but a few at the NY Times knows who it is.

The author, whose identity is known to The Times editorial page but was not shared with the reporters who cover the White House, describes him or herself as one of many senior officials in the Trump administration who are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

Predictably Trump has tweeted on it.

Typical bluster and attempted diversion by attacking NYT, but he has attacked the media so many times because he hasn’t liked what they say about him it comes across as wailing wolf, again.

Bloomberg: Pence’s Office Says He Didn’t Write the Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed

Mike Pence’s office said the vice president wasn’t the author of an anonymous New York Times op-ed claiming key administration officials were secretly working against President Donald Trump, calling the article false and “gutless,” as Trump demanded the paper reveal the writer’s identity.

The denial by Pence came as other Republicans, notably Trump’s Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Senator Marco Rubio, came to the president’s defence and said the writer should have resigned before making the accusations.

Fair call – if Trump is as bad as the editorial writer suggests (and Bob Woodward’s book suggests) then it should be untenable for them to work there.

However given the attack they would have faced from Trump and others it is perhaps justifiable to keep their identity out of it in the short term. It seems inevitable their identity will become known anyway, probably soon.

“America has one duly elected president. Anybody serving at his pleasure should do so faithfully,” Rubio said in a Twitter posting. “When they feel they no longer can, they should resign & speak in their own name so the country can evaluate their insights with a full understanding of where they are coming from.”

On Wednesday evening, before demanding that the Times unmask the writer, Trump tweeted one word: “TREASON?”

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” he said in tweet early Thursday. “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

That is playing to the conspiracy theory crowd, but it is unlikely to convince others that he is of sound mind.

And in other news yesterday: Kim Kardashian West visits White House to discuss clemency reform

Does she qualify as a senior White House official?

One thing is indisputable – something highly unusual is going on with Trump’s presidency. If Woodward’s book  and the op-ed are coincidental it suggests major problems, and if they were coordinated it also suggests major problems.

Mixed trade deal and financial news

It is difficult to predict what the longer term effects of all this might be.

Whether trade deals or agreements can be reached between the US and Canada and also with China, and also with the EU, will make a difference. In the meantime, the trade wars over tariffs with US subsidies to compensate will continue to disrupt markets.

Tributes for McCain, tribulations for Trump

There have been many tributes for John McCain, from across the political spectrum in the US to around the world. He was widely respected person and politician.

Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.): John McCain Was a Legend Even Before He Was a War Hero. His Legacy Is Vital in Today’s World

All of that matters in understanding the man. But what is most important to me about John McCain — more than every other aspect of his long and eventful life — is how well he represented the seemingly forgotten center in American politics. We are so bitterly polarized today, but McCain could credibly reach out to both the left and the right. He could see both east and west, but he resolutely followed his own compass to true north. There are precious few in the American body politic who could claim that so truly as John McCain, and we are poorer for his passing in that regard above all else.

He is being accorded high honours:  John McCain to lie in state at U.S. Capitol, an honor bestowed on only 30 other people

Sen. John McCain will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, a rare honor bestowed on only 31 people in 166 years.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the decision of congressional leaders from both parties Sunday, calling McCain “a great American patriot, a statesman who put his country first and enriched this institution through many years of service.”

The last person to lie in state at the Capitol was Sen. Daniel Inouye, president pro tem of the Senate, who died in office in December 2012. Others have included 11 U.S. presidents dating to Abraham Lincoln, including four who were assassinated; two vice presidents; six other members of Congress; three military leaders; and the unknown soldiers from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

However McCain had a rock relationship with President Donald Trump, and that was bound to come up.

Guardian: Trump-McCain rift clear as president sends brief tweet and heads to play golf

The rift between Donald Trump and John McCain remained painfully evident on Sunday, as tributes for the late senator poured in from world leaders and past presidents.

The White House issued no statement and Trump followed up a brief Twitter condolence to McCain’s family – sent amid the first rush of tributes on Saturday – with complaints about the Russia investigation and boasts about the economy. Then he headed for the golf course.

McCain’s wish that Trump not receive an invitation to his funeral, made public some months ago, remained unchanged upon his death from brain cancer on Saturday, at his home in Arizona and with his family by his side.

Instead, George W Bush, who beat McCain for the Republican nomination in 2000, and Barack Obama, who beat him soundly for the White House in 2008, have been asked to speak at the event, which will take place at the United States Naval Academy in Maryland on a day as yet unannounced.

In a statement on Saturday, Obama saluted McCain’s “fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed”.

Bush praised a “man of deep conviction” and a “public servant in the finest traditions of our country”.

News Corp (Australia): Donald Trump slammed for ‘narcissistic’ tribute to Senator John McCain

DONALD Trump has been hung out to dry by furious social media users over his “narcissistic” and “fake” condolences in response to the tragic passing of US Republican Senator John McCain.

Taking to Instagram to express his sympathy to the grieving family of Senator McCain, who died overnight at 81 years old after a battle with brain cancer, the US President wrote: “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!”

But the message lost any good intention when Mr Trump accompanied it with a photo of himself.

Next to the words, the President featured a full-length photo of himself looking pensively into the distance — and people are disgusted.

McCain’s death was always going to be a difficult thing for Trump to deal with.

That doesn’t sound flash but will be to do with complying with McCain’s wishes – one of the United States most respected politicians didn’t want trump at his funeral.

This is even more awkward now that McCain will lie in state.

Shooting at Florida video game tournament in Florida

There has been another mass shooting in the US, this time at a national video game tournament that was being live streamed. Two people have been murdered, and the gunman also killed himself.

Reuters: Multiple fatalities in shooting at video game tournament in Florida: sheriff

There was a mass shooting at a video game tournament that was being streamed online from a restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida, on Sunday, and the local sheriff’s office said there were multiple fatalities.

“Stay far away from the area. The area is not safe,” the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter. “We can’t stress enough to stay away. Many blocks away.”

Local media, citing police sources, said four people were killed and about 10 wounded.

The sheriff’s office said one suspect was dead at the scene and that it was unknown whether there was a second suspect. “Searches are being conducted,” the sheriff’s office said.

The shooting took place at a restaurant at Jacksonville Landing, a waterfront dining, entertainment and shopping site in downtown Jacksonville, according to local media.

The business was livestreaming a tournament for a Madden football video game when several shots rang out, according to video of the stream shared on social media.

This will no doubt reignite debate over gun laws in the US, in a now familiar pattern of outrage, subsidence, another shooting, outrage and so  on with nothing much changing.

This particular attack is also likely to prompt further debate on the possible effects of gaming – which often involves shooting – on people’s attitudes to shooting people for fun, despite this tournament being focussed on football.

The Gun Violence Archive current statistics for 2018:

  • Number of deaths: 9,501
  • Mass shootings: 234

Incidents in 2018

Trump claims risk of market crash if he is impeached

It’s odd to see Trump talking of impeachment. It’s been a tough week for him, but while the guilty verdicts of Paul Manafort and guilty pleas of Michael Cohen reflect poorly on Trump’s choice of campaign leader and personal lawyer look questionable, the degree of legal jeopardy he faces is debatable.

I don’t think things are anywhere near impeachment yet, especially given that Congress still has a republican majority, as does the Senate.

This looks like a pre-emptive warning by Trump.

Fox News: Trump declares ‘market would crash’ if Democrats impeached him

President Trump, in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt, warned that the “market would crash” if he’s ever impeached — while questioning why Democrats would even consider that course in the future.

“I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job,” Trump said, in the interview which aired Thursday on “Fox & Friends.”

The president argued that he’s done a great job in office, despite the critical coverage in connection with the Cohen case and other controversies.

Further, he warned, “If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor, because without this thinking, you would see — you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.”

The president touted his economic accomplishments, claiming that the economy was going to be “down” if he hadn’t been elected.

“Had Hillary and the Democrats gotten in, had she been president, you would have had negative growth. We picked up $10 trillion worth.”

And added a huge pile of debt, which increases future financial risks.

It’s probably at least as likely that trump could precipitate a market crash if he stays unimpeached.

The US stock market has actually been on a record bull run since well before Trump took office.

Image result for us stock market bull run

Fox Business: US stock market sets record-long bull run

The current bull market began on March 9, 2009, when the S&P 500 was at 676 points, hard hit by the Great Recession.

Nine and-a-half years later, and the S&P 500 has rallied about 323 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite has been the biggest winner, with a 611 percent gain, a clear testament to the strength of the tech sector. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has appreciated about 300 percent.

So the market may be overdue for a correction – or crash – regardless of a possible future impeachment.

Also from the Fox & Friends interview – from CNN: Jeff Sessions finally punches back at Donald Trump — hard

“I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department. Jeff Sessions never took control of the Justice Department and it’s a sort of an incredible thing.”

That was far from the only time Trump ran down Sessions in the Fox interview. He told Earhardt that “even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself and then you wouldn’t have put him in.” Trump added that the only reason he gave Sessions a job in his administration was because he was loyal. And, in perhaps the most cutting and personal attack, Trump said this of Sessions: “He took the job and then he said, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said, ‘What kind of a man is this?'”

“What kind of man is this” — a shot at both Sessions’ masculinity and his ethics.

What kind of a man, let alone president attacks the Attorney General like this?

Sessions has been attacked by Trump before, quite a lot. Unusually, this time he responded with this statement:

“I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda — one that protects the safety and security and rights of the American people, reduces violent crime, enforces our immigration laws, promotes economic growth, and advances religious liberty.

“While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action. However, no nation has a more talented, more dedicated group of law enforcement investigators and prosecutors than the United States.

“I am proud to serve with them and proud of the work we have done in successfully advancing the rule of law.”

This looks very messy.

Lame predictable responses from Trump under increasing pressure

Donald Trump is facing increasing pressures after Paul Manafort and especially Michael Cohen are now guilty of fairly serious crimes, and face years in prison. Manafort was locked up before his trial, and Cohen has made an agreement with prosecutors of a 4-6 year prison sentence.

Manafort has kept a distance between his problems and Trump, and Trump has done likewise.

Not so Cohen, who along with his lawyer has directly implicated Trump in electoral crime. So Trump has been predictable in attacking Cohen on Twitter in response, attack is his usual form of defence.

I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!

A large number of counts, ten, could not even be decided in the Paul Manafort case. Witch Hunt!

The ‘witch hunt’ claims are getting stale. Eight guilty verdicts, on top of other successes, are signs of a successful Mueller investigation so far.

Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!

Either ignorance or lying about the campaign finance violations, and then the usual diversion to another target.

Mueller and various investigators won’t care about what Trump tweets, unless they gather than as further evidence. The President is flailing futilely on Twitter.

Fox News kept cheerleading Trump yesterday on Twitter and via sycophants like Hannity, but also looked at the serious side of what Trump faces.

Their current headline article:

Will Cohen’s bombshell admissions sink Trump? Here’s what top legal experts say

UNCOMMON PLEAS

Will Cohen’s bombshell admissions sink Trump? Here’s what top legal experts say

Michael Cohen’s plea deal chucked a live political grenade into the debate over President Trump’s legal exposure – but that debate is far from settled, as experts clash over whether his implication of the president in campaign finance violations will amount to anything.

The president’s former longtime personal attorney and self-described “fixer” entered a guilty plea with federal prosecutors on Tuesday, admitting to violating campaign finance laws by arranging hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal “at the direction” of then-candidate Trump.

Trump, though, claimed the move to pay off the two women was not a crime — while suggesting such allegations can be settled by fine.

Trump has now notably not denied the payments were made, and has switched to claiming it isn’t a crime and it can be easily settled.

But Lanny Davis, Cohen’s attorney, argued there is little room for interpretation here.

“There is no question that he’s committed a federal crime,” Davis told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” on Wednesday. He also argued that it’s never been settled whether a sitting president can be indicted, despite suggestions to the contrary from Trump allies.

Davis added that his client, under oath on Tuesday, admitted to making the “donations to keep quiet two women” at Trump’s direction.

Mr. Trump wasn’t willing to sign those checks himself. He directed Mr. Cohen to make those hush money payments, [which is] a federal crime,” Davis said. “If Michael Cohen agreed to that, then certainly Donald Trump is guilty of the same crime.”

But Fox found people who backed Trump’s claim.

But former commissioner at the Federal Election Commission, Hans von Spakovsky, said that Cohen’s decision to plead guilty does not necessarily mean Trump violated the law.

“This is not a violation because this was not a campaign-related offense,” Spakovsky told Fox News on Wednesday. “Yes, Cohen pleaded guilty to it, yeah Cohen paid it, but then Cohen was reimbursed by Trump.”

The plea deal states that the payments were in fact meant to influence the election, though that could be argued by Trump’s lawyers if it ever came to that. Spakovsky said Trump had a history of making these kinds of payments before he was a candidate.

Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, a frequent defender of the president, made a similar argument.

“You have to show that it’s a crime,” he told “Fox & Friends.” He said it’s “not a crime” for a candidate like Trump to contribute to his own campaign, and probably not even a crime to direct someone else to contribute if he plans to pay that back.

Further, Dershowitz said, “The only evidence that the president did anything that might be unlawful … comes from a man who’s admitted to be a liar.”

“There are a lot of barriers,” he said, “We’re far away from [an] impeachable offense or a criminal offense on the part of the president.”

Still, at this stage, it doesn’t look flash for Trump. His denials keep changing as information is revealed.

Who can trust Trump’s claims there was ‘no collusion’. He’s well known as a liar, and has just been proven to have lied again over the hush money.

Richard Painter, former White House chief ethics counsel under former President George W. Bush, said that while Cohen’s guilty plea gives Trump “exposure” to criminal prosecution, these types of cases “can be difficult to win.”

“It is not entirely clear how these cases turn out, as we found out with Edwards,” Painter told Fox News. He added, though, that he felt the Cohen-Trump payments were “more serious” than former President Bill Clinton lying about Monica Lewinsky, as “campaign finance is more important to our democracy than the president lying under oath in a civil case.”

Painter added that while there is “potential criminal liability,” it is “not cut and dry.” He suggested Trump’s problems go beyond Cohen.

“If you had a president with no other legal problems, who just had the Cohen problem, I would say the outcome of a criminal trial for Trump, based on that alone, is a maybe, maybe not situation,” Painter explained.

“But Trump’s problem is not just this. He has the whole Russia thing. He has two big problems. One, is what his own involvement or knowledge of collusion was, and the second, where he has much more exposure, and is digging his own grave, is obstruction of justice.”

The Paul Manafort guilty verdicts were distant enough to Trump’s campaign to be easy to dismiss as just a poor choice of campaign manager – if they were the only thing in the news.

But added to the Cohen please and claims, and all the other guilty please and bargaining, Trump’s legal problems are snowballing. His persistent lying peppers the snowball with stones.

Professor of law at George Washington University Jonathan Turley, though, said Trump could end up an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Cohen matter.

On Wednesday, he agreed that the Cohen plea alone would not make “a particularly strong case,” but suggested there’s more to come.

“You have the president’s lawyer implicating him in a federal crime. How Trump responds to that is going to be very key,” Turley said on “America’s Newsroom” Wednesday. “But the Justice Department certifies that they believe these allegations are accurate. That should be quite chilling, because this isn’t some immaculate crime committed by Cohen alone.”

Turley said that federal prosecutors, now, will likely pursue other “collateral or central players.”

This is only an escalation in legal exposure for Trump. The snowball keeps growing, and his tweets are legally impotent, and potentially legally damaging.

Cohen, Manafort guilty, increased jeopardy for Trump

The Jury in the Paula Manafort trial returning eight guilty verdicts was bad for Manafort, who could also face retrial on the other ten charges and has another trial booked in next month on yet more charges.

On it’s own I don’t think it would have been particularly bad for Donald Trump, despite him having had Manafort manage his campaign for three months in 2016. The offending was prior to this association.

But there was a near simultaneous double whammy, with Trump’ ex personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleading guilty to eight charges in an agreement with prosecutors that will ‘limit’ his sentence to somewhere between four and six years in prison.

This on top of the Manafort verdicts looks bad for Trump, with the total whammy amounting to more than the sum of the parts.

And it gets worse, as Cohen has implicated trump in illegal actions during the election campaign.

Fox News: Michael Cohen admits violating campaign finance laws in plea deal, agrees to 3-5 year sentence

The precise range of sentence varies in reports, but it’s somewhere around that. For someone with no priors, used to a good standard of living and with a young family, that is a substantial penalty.

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney, admitted Tuesday to violating federal campaign finance laws by arranging hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal “at the direction” of then-candidate Trump.

In entering the plea, Cohen did not specifically name the two women or even Trump, recounting instead that he worked with an “unnamed candidate.” But the amounts and the dates all lined up with the payments made to Daniels and McDougal.

In a statement, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said: “There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen. It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”

Guilani seems to be fibbing or mistaken. Trump wasn’t named as co-conspirator in court, but he was by Cohen’s lawyer afterwards.

Cohen attorney Lanny Davis said his client had pleaded guilty “so that his family can move on to the next chapter.

“This is Michael fulfilling his promise made on July 2nd to put his family and country first and tell the truth about Donald Trump,” Davis added. “Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

Separately, Davis told Fox News that Cohen’s involvement in the Trump-Russia investigation does not end with the plea deal, but in fact “it is only the beginning.”

Davis added that Cohen will speak with whoever is investigating the president to make sure the truth about Trump gets out.

Cohen has been labelled a rat by Trump supporters, so they are obviously concerned about where this might go.

MSNBC:  Cohen more than happy to tell Mueller all that he knows: attorney

Lanny Davis, attorney for former Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen, tells Rachel Maddow that Cohen has knowledge that should be of interest to Robert Mueller and he is happy to tell Mueller what he knows…

“Mr. Cohen has knowledge on certain subjects that should be of interest to the special counsel and is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows”.

“Not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election, which the Trump Tower meeting was all about, but also knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”

So Trump may be sweating on that for a while, until Cohen reveals everything he knows, and until Mueller plays his next legal hand. It looks certain that this saga is far from at it’s conclusion.

This puts Trump in potentially very tricky position. I doubt he will be charged or any serious attempt will be made to impeach him while president, but it must be getting increasingly difficult for Republicans to continue supporting Trump or tolerating his fecklessness and recklessness, especially those who face mid term elections in November.

There will be some interest in how Trump responds on Twitter overnight. He has been becoming more verbose with his claims, fibs and attacks lately – this could push him further, or he could heed advice and at least become somewhat more cautious.