Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer explains what took him so long to endorse Hillary Clinton Dylan Stableford Senior editor June 8, 2016Hillary Clinton picked up the endorsement of billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer on Wednesday morning, hours after she was projected to win California’s primary.“Today I am endorsing @HillaryClinton for President,” Steyer, founder of the California-based NextGen Climate advocacy group, announced on Twitter. “Now is the time for us to unite and defeat Trump. #ImWithHer”Steyer, who was one of Clinton’s early backers during her 2008 campaign, hosted a fundraiser last summer for the former secretary of state. But he never came fully on board until this week, when Clinton locked up her party’s nomination.Why the delay in endorsing her this time around?“We really wanted to play a very specific role in this campaign, which was to make sure climate and energy were a central part of the conversation,” Steyer told Yahoo News on Wednesday. “So what we did was try and challenge every single candidate for both parties to come up with solutions to the climate crisis.”Today I am endorsing @HillaryClinton for President. Now is the time for us to unite and defeat Trump. #ImWithHer pic.twitter.com/jymN60VD4z— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) June 8, 2016As for the climate, Steyer said the choice between Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is crystal clear.“We couldn’t imagine a starker choice between candidates than the ones we’re getting here,” Steyer said. “[Trump] is not a policy-driven candidate. He is an attitude-driven candidate, and his attitude is pretty much belligerence.”Last month, Trump outlined an energy policy plan that would roll back environmental protection regulations enacted by President Obama, expand fossil fuel exploration and revive the nation’s coal industry. During a recent campaign stop California, Trump, who once described global warming as a Chinese hoax, declared, “There is no drought.”“As far as I can tell, he’s shown no understanding of the topic, no awareness of what’s going on and no ability to take information and turn it into a forward-thinking policy,” Steyer said, adding that a President Trump “would absolutely be a disaster for the world.”Steyer wouldn’t say how much money he’s willing to spend to make sure that “disaster” doesn’t happen.“There is just a dramatic choice between these two presumptive candidates,” he said. “And it is really important that people rally around Secretary Clinton.”Clinton’s main primary rival, populist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, continues to stay in the race despite the fact that Clinton now has enough delegates to be the nominee. Many observers have speculated that Clinton will need Sanders’ support to ultimately unify Democrats behind her candidacy.Steyer, a former hedge fund manager, dismissed concerns that another “big money” endorsement of Clinton could hinder her efforts to attract supporters of billionaire-averse Sanders, who has railed against Citizens United — the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that opened the doors for so-called super PACs that could spend unlimited sums during elections.“We’ve always been opponents of the Citizens United decision,” Steyer said. “Our role is to empower voter-to-voter contact to ensure there is the broadest possible democracy.”
President Obama formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president Thursday, her campaign announced. The endorsement came right after after the president met with her primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, at the White House.“I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” Obama said in a video released by Clinton’s team. “She’s got the courage, the compassion and the heart to get the job done.”The two will campaign together in Green Bay, Wisc., Wednesday.The president, whose national approval rating hovers around 50 percent, will be a key ally for Clinton going into the general election. Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, as of now, has no former presidents campaigning for him, as both former Bush presidents have indicated they will stay out of the race. Trump tweeted in response Thursday afternoon: “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama—but nobody else does!”Clinton told NPR she’s “thrilled” Obama endorsed her. “We started off as fierce competitors. We’ve ended up as true friends,” she said.Obama has been eager to campaign openly for Clinton against Trump, but wanted to remain neutral during the Democratic primary. “I want us to run scared the whole time,” Obama told a group of donors last week in Miami, according to the New York Times.In his endorsement, Obama congratulated Sanders on running a “great campaign” and said he believed the primary “will make the Democratic party stronger.”Clinton gained enough pledged and unpledged delegates to become the nominee this week, but Sanders has said he will campaign at least until Washington, D.C., votes Tuesday — the final election of the primary. Sanders is under pressure to concede ahead of next month’s Democratic convention.
Sanders keeps campaigning in D.C., but supporters lament the end Jon Ward Senior Political Correspondent June 10, 2016
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in Washington, D.C., June 9, 2016. (Photo: Cliff Owen/AP)Bernie Sanders ignored the approaching end of his presidential candidacy Thursday evening at an outdoor rally in the nation’s capital, seeking to maintain political leverage in the run-up to the Democratic convention in July.But the 74-year-old Democratic presidential candidate signaled earlier in the day that he while he seeks to move the Democratic Party left at the convention, he will not undercut presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as she moves toward a general-election matchup with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.Sanders spoke for an hour to 3,000 supporters at a skate park next to RFK Stadium — the former home field of the NFL’s Washington Redskins — and made no mention of Clinton or of the fact that President Obama had endorsed her candidacy earlier in the day.Around the time that Sanders arrived at the evening rally, news broke that Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a favorite of progressives, was set to endorse Clinton as well.Sanders opened his remarks by thanking the crowd for “being part of a political revolution.”The crowd responded with chants of “Thank you, Bernie!”It was the closest that the 74-year-old Democratic Socialist came to publicly acknowledging the inevitable end of his candidacy, after Clinton crossed the delegate threshold needed to clinch the nomination earlier this week.A moment later Sanders noted that pundits had predicted his campaign would not last long, and said, “Well, here we are — it’s mid-June, and we’re still standing.”Sanders said that the results from the California primary on Tuesday had yet to come in. And he ended by asking the crowd to vote for him in next Tuesday’s D.C. primary election, which will mark the end of the primary process.But after a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid earlier in the day, Reid told reporters that Sanders seemed to have “accepted” that he would not be the nominee.Sanders also met with Obama at the White House Thursday. Afterward he told reporters that he would meet with Clinton “in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and to create a government which represents all of us and not just the 1 percent.”Sanders pledged to “work as hard as I can to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States.”The Sanders supporters who introduced him to the crowd at the evening rally were more transparent.“These last few days have been difficult. … I’ve had to go into my hotel room and just hold on,” said Native American tribal rights leader Deborah Parker.And Cornel West, a professor and public intellectual, urged the crowd to “never allow despair to have the last word.”West made mention of Clinton and Trump, trashing them both but making it clear that Trump represented a far more unacceptable choice.“We know that brother Trump is an narcissistic neofascist. Don’t let corporate media convince you that simply because you’re not crazy about the milquetoast neoliberal sister Hillary, there’s something wrong with you,” West said. “We know the difference between a neoliberal and a neofascist, so you make your own decisions.”Sanders supporters in the crowd were saddened by their preferred candidate’s failure to beat Clinton, but expressed more weary frustration than anger at their options.“His candidacy has shown the depths of frustration. I’m glad he ran,” said Laura Richards, a longtime D.C. political activist.“Now that this is ending, I guess the feminist, civil rights angle is coming out,” she said, referring to Clinton’s historic status as the first woman to be the presumptive presidential nominee of any major political party.Richards shook her head and added, “I’m not there yet.”But she did think the majority of Sanders supporters would get over their disappointment and vote for Clinton, in large part because of Trump.Adam Grachek, a 19-year-old Ohio State student in D.C. for the summer as an intern, said he hoped Sanders would take his candidacy to the convention to make a point and to influence the party’s platform.“If it was any other Republican,” he said, he would vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presumptive nominee. But unless the election is a blowout, he said, he will swallow his displeasure with Clinton and vote for her.“Since it’s Donald Trump, I think the stakes are much higher,” he said. “Donald Trump stands for everything I hate.”
Lawyers mock Trump: ‘Too busy to be honest’ about Trump U Michael Isikoff Chief Investigative Correspondent June 9, 2016
(Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Jae C. Hong/AP)Donald Trump is “too busy to be honest” the plaintiff’s lawyers write in a new motion in federal court in San Diego, characterizing the presidential candidate’s legal papers as an argument out of “Bizarro World.”The 26-page motion, filed with U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, is filled with ridicule for what it describes as Trump’s “integrity infirmities.”It was filed in response to a motion by Trump’s lawyers seeking to have the case dismissed. The defense team minimizes some of the real estate tycoon’s claims about the school as “classic examples of sales puffery everywhere” that were not intended to be “interpreted literally.”The dueling motions come just as the lawsuits against Trump University and Trump’s own attacks on the judge have erupted as a major issue in the presidential campaign. Video excerpts of Trump’s depositions in two of the cases were filed with Curiel this week and are due to be publicly released shortly, likely to become fodder for the media and, possibly, the Clinton campaign.The way Curiel rules on the latest motions will be closely watched, as Trump has proclaimed that the judge, whose parents were Mexican, has been “horribly unfair” to him. Curiel has already set a trial date of Nov. 28, three weeks after the presidential election, for a related suit by former students of Trump University who claim they were defrauded out of tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees. The motions this week are in a class-action suit filed under the civil provisions of the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization law, commonly known as RICO, alleging that Trump himself engaged in a pattern of “racketeering activities. If successful, it would entitle the plaintiffs to treble damages — potentially millions of dollars out of Trump’s own pocket.The new motion by the plaintiffs’ lawyers lays out their case that the now defunct Trump University was “one big fraud.” It cites Trump’s claims that he “handpicked” the instructors who would teach students, who had paid tens of thousands of dollars for seminars and “mentoring,” his “master strategies” for profiting in the real estate market.“Handpicking everyone? Trump handpicked no one,” the plaintiff’s lawyers write, contrasting Trump’s own marketing videos for the school and his later deposition in the case. “He could not pick one out of a lineup or come up with a single name. … In addition to not knowing who the instructors were, he had no idea what they were telling the students.”The motion by lawyers for Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, one of the country’s most prominent class-action law firms, was filed in response to an earlier motion by Trump’s own lawyers, unsealed this week, asking that the case against Trump by dismissed on “summary judgment” because it “it epitomizes the pervasive abuse of civil RICO” — a law originally aimed at mobsters, not legitimate commercial businesses, they argue.The plaintiffs have filed their lawsuit against Trump under the civil RICO laws “in an effort to extract punitive money awards and exert undue leverage for settlement,” Trump’s lawyers write in their brief. “Indeed, if this case is allowed to proceed, it would represent an unprecedented and unprincipled expansion of civil RICO and transform virtually every alleged violation of consumer protection laws into a civil RICO claim and subject owners, officers, directors, and others to personal liability for treble damages.”The motion by Trump’s lawyers, led by renowned civil litigator Daniel Petrocelli, also seeks to minimize Trump’s role in the school. While it was named for him and he owned 92 percent of it — personally profiting to the tune of $5 million, according to another lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — Trump’s role in its operations were “necessarily limited” because of his responsibilities as president and chief executive officer of the Trump Organization, “a global enterprise of real estate holdings, hotels, golf courses, interests in entertainment and talent management, among others.”
As evidence, the lawyers submitted a copy of Trump’s financial disclosure form filed with the Federal Election Commission.Trump “delegated management and operational control” of the school to Michael Sexton, its president, the lawyers write, and he relied on its “management team to carry out the business plan for [Trump University], to protect the Trump ‘Brand,” and to comply with the law,” the lawyers write.It is these claims, drawn from the video deposition, that will be made public soon and that the plaintiffs seek to mock in the hard-hitting opening of their brief.“Donald Trump is too busy to be honest. So says Trump himself, who explains that he reviewed his own promises about his Trump University (‘TU’) only ‘very quickly.’ And therefore, he deserves summary judgment. Because he was too busy. To be honest. In addition, Trump explains that he was incapable of being honest because he is ‘not a lawyer.’ And therefore, he deserves summary judgment. Because he was incapable of being honest. Due to not being a lawyer. Due to his integrity infirmities, Trump explains that he resorted to ‘marketing BS’ to induce students to enroll in his Trump University. And therefore, he deserves summary judgment. Because he resorted to ‘marketing BS.’ To induce students to enroll in his illegal ‘Trump University.’“Trump denies operating and managing the ‘fraudulent marketing scheme’ alleged here because he only starred in the marketing materials; signed the marketing materials; corrected the marketing materials; and approved the marketing materials. And therefore, he deserves summary judgment….“Trump wrote his motion for summary judgment for a District Court in Bizarro World,” the plaintiffs write. “In this District Court, however, it is wholly without merit.”
Is Ukraine’s Joan of Arc Ready for Political Battle? Ian Bateson June 10, 2016During her time in Russian prison, Nadiya Savchenko became a symbol for Kiev’s fight against Moscow. But can she make the jump from martyr to politician?KIEV, Ukraine — Within a few days, Nadiya Savchenko went from a Russian prison cell to the floor of the Ukrainian Parliament. The 35-year-old pilot had spent nearly two years in captivity after Russia charged her with complicity in the deaths of two journalists in eastern Ukraine. Draping a Ukrainian flag over her shoulders and carrying a smaller Crimean Tatar flag, she stoically approached the lectern at the front of the hall and took down the banner that lawmakers had hung there calling for her release. She then replaced it with a different banner—this one for the Ukrainians still being held in Russia. In a glimpse of the political firebrand she could become, Savchenko, channeling the popular disappointment with the government of President Petro Poroshenko, chastised the roomful of politicians.“I won’t let you sitting in these seats in the Verkhovna Rada forget about the guys who started laying down their lives for Ukraine on Maidan and [who] continue to die for her,” she said in her first speech to the national legislature. “They are still standing and won’t lie down in their graves until we get that Ukraine they died for.”Outspoken, strong-willed, and unabashedly blunt, Savchenko is not one to mince her words. Captured by Russian-backed separatists in 2014 while fighting with a volunteer battalion in the Donbass region, Savchenko’s bold defiance throughout her imprisonment made her a national symbol for Ukraine’s larger struggle against Russia and saw her voted into Parliament in absentia in October 2014. Since her release, she has taken the Ukrainian media by storm: making headlines with straight talk about the sad state of the country’s politics, the ongoing war in the east, and the teetering national economy.The day of her return to Ukraine, Savchenko refused to adhere to Poroshenko’s plan and be whisked from Kiev’s airport to the president’s quarters for her first press appearance. Instead, she delivered her first remarks as a free woman barefoot at the airport. The former prisoner has continued to defy convention and to make waves in Ukrainian politics, referring to herself as a “ballistic missile,” warning that the Ukrainian Parliament “fucks people over every day” and that she won’t participate, and telling members of Parliament that they are all aboard the Titanic and headed for disaster.Savchenko’s whirlwind entry into Ukrainian politics became possible after she was finally released following months of negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials. In March, a Russian court sentenced her to 22 years in jail for complicity in the deaths of two Russian journalists killed by artillery. Western governments criticized proceedings as a show trial. On May 25, Savchenko was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin and exchanged for two Russian intelligence officers captured in eastern Ukraine, catapulting her into the center of Ukrainian politics.Her release from Russia and entrance onto the Ukrainian political scene mark a watershed moment. At a time of flagging support for the pro-Western government, many Ukrainians view her as the country’s most influential politician, despite previously never having spent a working day in Parliament. Savchenko’s comments have fired up Ukrainians desperate for a passionate and trustworthy leader, showing an outpour of public support since her arrival.During her time in captivity, local media and activists dubbed her a modern-day Joan of Arc, a martyr role she accepted, taking on the cause of Ukrainian statehood. Savchenko missed the collapse of the grand post-Maidan coalition of all pro-Western parties and the exit of Ukraine’s foreign-born reformers such as former Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who was not reappointed to the new cabinet, and former Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavičius and Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Eka Zguladze, both of whom resigned. So when Savchenko speaks she is still full of the vigor and commitment more reminiscent of the speeches made on Maidan’s main stage during the height of the demonstrations than the uninspired speeches given by Ukrainian politicians in recent months. Her years in confinement not only turned Savchenko into a canonized war hero in the eyes of the public, but they also made her into a relic of the revolutionary enthusiasm from the Maidan protests that ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych. The question that remains, however, is whether the former pilot can make the jump from political symbol to effective politician.That answer may come sooner rather than later. Savchenko has already shown herself to be a potential threat to Ukraine’s establishment. Securing Savchenko’s release was a major victory for Poroshenko at a moment when reforms have stalled. It’s a mark of success on which Poroshenko is looking to capitalize; as he stated proudly in the wake of her release, Ukraine would take back Crimea and eastern Ukraine just as it had Savchenko.And though Ukraine’s political leadership long lobbied for her release, it may not have considered that she had political goals of her own. During her first news conference after being released, Savchenko said that if the Ukrainian people wanted her to run for president she would. Immediately afterward Facebook groups began appearing supporting her presidential run. While releasing Savchenko may have given Poroshenko — whose approval rating has been hovering around 10 percent — a popularity boost, he may have created a long-term political rival.But Poroshenko may not be the only politician to obstruct Savchenko’s rise — resistance to her political aspirations may also come from within her political party. Political observers in Ukraine are forecasting a conflict between Savchenko and her perennial Fatherland party leader, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. “From the first day in the Parliament we saw how Savchenko was accepted by the public and MPs. Yulia Tymoshenko seems sidelined now, which she doesn’t like of course,” said Taras Berezovets, director of Berta Communications, a Kiev-based political consultancy, who once worked as a strategist for Tymoshenko.Before Savchenko’s entry onto the political scene, Tymoshenko, known for her trademark single braid, had been the highest-profile female politician in Ukrainian politics and has repeatedly fought for and failed to win the president’s seat. And, like Savchenko, Tymoshenko was imprisoned on what Western governments considered politically motivated charges. When Tymoshenko was released in February 2014, however, events did not play out as she had planned. Despite her two and a half years in prison and attempts by her party to present her as a martyr, she was booed on Maidan’s stage, with many associating her with corruption from her time as prime minister. Poroshenko later crushed her in the presidential election in May 2014, and then Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk – who had run the party during her imprisonment —broke ranks with Tymoshenko and started his own party. In the aftermath, Tymoshenko offered Savchenko, still in prison at the time, the No. 1 spot on the party list and formed a de facto alliance.Now that Savchenko is back, Ukraine watchers are waiting to see if the war hero follows Tymoshenko’s lead or breaks out on her own. “She has the demeanor to be a good politician,” Berezovets says. “The problem is that she is not experienced and if she allows someone to be her puppeteer this would mean she would lose her place under the sun.” In the past, Ukrainian political leaders have used other high-profile figures — athletes and celebrities — to give the illusion of change in their parties while continuing politics as usual.For now, at least, Savchenko seems to be playing along with her party, says Alex Ryabchyn, a lawmaker with the Fatherland party who entered politics after Maidan. “She is a team player. She knows what she knows and what she doesn’t and asks when she doesn’t. She learns quickly.”Though Savchenko has tremendous public support, it remains unclear what she, a single member of Parliament, can achieve with her two highly publicized banner causes: the release of prisoners from Russia and Russian-backed separatists, and curtailing military corruption. But she appears, for the moment, confident in her newfound status. “Before I had to knock to get to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine; now they knock on mine,” she told television Channel 112 Ukraine. Having successfully petitioned the Defense Ministry to make her the first woman allowed to attend an elite air force university after serving as a Ukrainian peacekeeper in Iraq, she is used to pressuring Ukrainian military bureaucracy and seeing results.That military experience, as well as having fought with the volunteer Aidar battalion in eastern Ukraine, is another gold star on Savchenko’s pre-political resume and earned her credibility on the war with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. During her first news conference, Savchenko said that “peace is possible only through war,” leading experts to worry that she would push for renewed fighting and an end to the unpopular Minsk peace accords, which are seen by many Ukrainians as saddling the country with the financial cost of rebuilding the east while leaving it under de facto Russian control. But she quickly walked back that statement a few days later on the political talk show “Shuster Live.”Since then, Savchenko has continued to surprise her political detractors and chart her own course. She went to the front in the Donbass to meet with far-right former Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh but has also said she is prepared to negotiate peace with Russian-backed separatist leaders directly, a move Ukrainian leaders have previously categorically refused.With her popularity rising and because she is shielded from criticism due to her status as a national symbol, Savchenko’s star can only rise. But even her sister, Vira Savchenko, worries about the personal toll her ordeal in Russia and a budding public career will take. “I am just sorry for her that she can’t even take time for herself,” said Vira, who was a persistent advocate for her sister’s release. “She can’t relax because everyone wants to get her involved with their programs.”But beyond the sleepless nights, Savchenko’s weakened health from her hunger strikes and time in prison, Vira believes her sister possesses the inner strength to endure and overcome the challenges ahead.“We have lost so much time and are losing our lives,” Vira Savchenko said. “[My sister] understands that there needs to be action.”Photo credit: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
With women in combat, taking the ‘man’ out of job titles JENNIFER McDERMOTT June 9, 2016
FILE – In this Feb. 21, 2013 file photo, female recruits stand at the Marine Corps Training Depot on Parris Island, S.C. U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said in an interview on June 3, 2016, that the Navy and Marine Corps will be dropping „man” from some of their job titles to make them inclusive and gender-neutral. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith, File)NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Engineman? Yeoman? Not so fast. Now that women will be allowed to serve in all combat jobs, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are dropping „man” from some of their job titles to make them inclusive and gender-neutral.Much like the term „fireman” has evolved to „firefighter” and „policeman” to „police officer,” an engineman could be called an engine technician and a yeoman could be called an administrative specialist.”This is one more step in how our force has changed,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said in an interview Friday. „Our force has evolved, our force is different. And I believe it’s stronger and better.”Some Army and Air Force titles end in „man,” too, but the services aren’t considering changing them. The names are historically significant, and the focus now is on bringing women into the jobs rather than on what to call them, both services said.Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the military in December to open all military jobs to women, including the Marine Corps and special operations forces like Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets.During a visit to Newport, Rhode Island, in late May, Carter was asked by The Associated Press whether job titles that end in „man” should change throughout the military. Carter spoke about the benefits of opening jobs to women to make „full use of the wonderful talents of half of the population of the country.””Signifying that in all appropriate ways is, I think, exactly that, very appropriate and needed,” he said.Carter said that he didn’t offhand have a good alternative for titles that were stripped of „man,” but that someone smart was going to figure it out.Mabus called in January for a review of Navy and Marine titles. There are nearly two dozen in the Navy that end in „man” and roughly a dozen in the Marines.Mabus said he wants titles that more accurately convey who is doing the job and what the job is.”In the overall scheme, it’s a small thing, but I think it’s important because it’s what sailors and Marines call each other, and words do matter,” he said.Mabus, who is reviewing the services’ recommendations now, said the Navy and Marines will announce changes this summer.Some iconic titles will stay the same, and others will change to make the jobs easier to understand outside of the military, which will help when sailors and Marines are looking for civilian jobs, he added.For example, few civilians know what a hospital corpsman does, Mabus said. A corpsman could be called a medic or an emergency medical technician, much like „messman” was previously changed to culinary specialist, he added.A female yeoman told a senior Navy official that „administrative specialist” would be a better title than yeoman, Mabus said.Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain, said that there are fairly easy substitutes for many of the titles, and that they should be brought up to date.”It’s time for us to let go of telling women, ‘You’re just included. We don’t call you out by sex, but just know you’re part of mankind,'” said Manning, a senior fellow at the Service Women’s Action Network. „When you hear that ‘man’ at the end, the image is a male image.”Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk said his service branch might consider such changes in the future if it helps accomplish missions. The bigger challenge is that the Army will start to train the first female soldiers to serve in the front-line combat branches later this summer, including the infantry, he added.Infantrymen have walked the battlefields and engaged the nation’s enemies for centuries, and „there are a lot of emotions around that,” Pionk said.National Infantry Museum Director Frank Hanner served as an infantryman.”No matter what they call us, we’ll do the job,” Hanner said.Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Brooke Brzozowske said a job title review is not currently underway or being considered in the Air Force.The Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, is monitoring efforts, spokesman Lt. Cmdr. David French said.
A high-profile Snowden ally is being disowned by the privacy community over sexual assault allegations Michael Kelley June 10, 2016
American cybersecurity activist Jacob Appelbaum, now under scrutiny by U.S. law enforcement, speaks at a 2014 conference on digital society in Berlin. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)A top online-anonymity service, a renowned hacker collective and a privacy organization employing Edward Snowden all recently broke ties with security researcher Jacob Appelbaum amid numerous allegations of sexual harassment and assault.Appelbaum, 33, is an outspoken privacy activist and confidant of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Rolling Stone dubbed him “the American WikiLeaks hacker” in 2010, a few months after Appelbaum filled in for Assange at the HOPE hacker conference, where Appelbaum gave a speech supporting Army private Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning’s leak of more than 700,000 classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks. In 2013, Appelbaum vetted NSA contractor Edward Snowden for journalist Laura Poitras. He then worked with Poitras at Der Spiegel, where they pored over documents provided by Snowden.On Saturday, the Tor Project, a nonprofit that maintains software for the anonymous-communication Tor web browser, announced Appelbaum’s resignation. Executive director Shari Steele wrote that Appelbaum, who had worked for Tor as a developer since 2004, stepped down after the nonprofit learned of “sexual mistreatment” allegations that were “consistent with rumors some of us had been hearing for some time.” Steele added that “the most recent allegations are much more serious and concrete than anything we had heard previously.”This may have been a reference to a website where pseudonymous users allege that Appelbaum committed sexual assaults and intimidated victims from speaking out.Appelbaum denied all of the allegations, issuing a lengthy statement calling them part of a plot to smear him. “Vague rumors and smear campaigns against me are nothing new,” Appelbaum wrote. “As a longtime public advocate for free speech and a secure internet, there have been plenty of attempts to undermine my work over the years.”Appelbaum further claimed that he was the “target of a fake website in my name that has falsely accused me of serious crimes” and was “prepared to use legal channels, if necessary, to defend my reputation from these libelous accusations.”U.S. journalist and internet activist Jacob Appelbaum at a demonstration in support of freedom of press on August 1, 2015, in Berlin. (Photo: Britta Pedersen/AFP)Two Tor staffers, Andrea Shepard and Alison Macrina, said they spoke to some of the people who accused Appelbaum on the website and vouched for their stories.“[The website is] related to something that started happening in earnest about three or four months ago,” Macrina told the Daily Dot. “People stopped being afraid to talk to each other about Jake. That’s how I heard from some victims.”Security engineer Leigh Honeywell, who said she was sexually involved with Appelbaum in 2006 and 2007, publicly detailed alleged abuse by Appelbaum. Honeywell wrote that he “violated boundaries I set as though they were a game, particularly at times when I was intoxicated. There were a number of times I felt afraid and violated during interactions with Jacob.”Other members of the information activist community acknowledged that Appelbaum’s alleged behavior had been an open secret. “This isn’t new or recent behavior.” Violet Blue, a journalist who said she has known Appelbaum since 2005, tweeted. “Many of us are just surprised it took this long to come out.”Asher Wolf, an Australia-based information activist who previously worked with WikiLeaks and organized events to teach people how to use Tor, told Yahoo News: “There were whispers [about Appelbaum’s inappropriate conduct] for years. But it was only last year I heard allegations directly from people. The thing that is problematic is finding a way to work on [sexual assault] issues. It’s a community that often distrusts law enforcement.”
‘Values are undermined for a three-ring circus’ Given the sudden volume and intensity of the allegations against Appelbaum, prominent members of the community are now calling for people who feel victimized to speak out.The Cult of the Dead Cow, a legendary hacker collective to which Appelbaum has belonged since 2008, announced that it was “troubled to hear the allegations of sexual abuse, manipulation and bullying leveled against one of our members, Jacob Appelbaum, aka ioerror.” The group “decided to remove Jake from the herd effective immediately” and encouraged others with relevant testimony to come forward and work with authorities if appropriate.“We know that it may be scary, but we also encourage victims to contact their appropriate local authorities,” the statement said. “We understand the complicated relationship we all have with law enforcement, but there is a time and place for government intervention.”Wolf explained that while the hacktivist community avoids institutional governance, it also lacks any alternative mechanism for dealing with alleged sexual mistreatment or assault. “In hackerspaces and activist communities, often the guidelines are not formalized and no one is tasked with implementing those standards,” she said.The result, a sort of responsibility anarchy, isn’t working because “vigilante action against serial boundary-crossers, harassers, … is also highly problematic,” Wolf said. “There’s a failure of leadership in formal organized spaces such as hacker conferences and working spaces.”Furthermore, according to Wolf, the halo of “hero worship” surrounding influential members of the male-dominated community makes it difficult for people to act on their accusations. Consequently, Appelbaum is merely the most high-profile example of a culture that has seemingly run amok.“We talk a lot about how ethics should underpin the fight for privacy, encryption and free communication. But often in the hero worship of media-pumped activists employed by NGOs, these values are undermined for a three-ring circus, a party culture or a bro-fest,” she said. “We see the same circle of individuals time and time again on the conference circuit. … To speak up [against alleged sexual assault] means taking on cliques linked to potential employment and support networks.”WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, second from left, at a 2011 news conference in London with Jacob Appelbaum, third from left. (Photo: Luke MacGregor/Reuters) Vetting SnowdenAppelbaum played an underappreciated role in the Snowden saga, helping Poitras early on and throughout the initiative to receive and peruse an estimated 200,000 documents provided by Snowden in Hong Kong in early June 2013.But now it seems that the organization closest to Snowden has seemingly disavowed Appelbaum.The Freedom of the Press Foundation, originally created to raise money for WikiLeaks, dropped Appelbaum from its technical advisory board on Wednesday in light of “the serious accusations made against him.” Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, the two American journalists who famously met Snowden in Hong Kong, helped found the Freedom of the Press Foundation in December 2012. Poitras began communicating with Snowden in January 2013.At some point, Poitras, who had often worked with WikiLeaks and Appelbaum, asked Appelbaum to vet a then anonymous source. Appelbaum said that Poitras contacted him in mid-May, as Poitras was “in the process of putting questions together and thought that asking some specific technical questions was an important part of the source verification process.” On May 20, Snowden flew from Hawaii to Hong Kong with up to 1.7 million U.S. documents and waited to meet the Poitras and Greenwald.From left, Trevor Paglen, artist, geographer and author; Jacob Appelbaum, computer security researcher, hacker and photographer; and Laura Poitras, documentary filmmaker, attend the Transmediale festival for art and digital culture on January 30, 2014 in Berlin. (Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images)In July 2013, after Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Russia, where he currently lives, Poitras and Appelbaum published an interview with Snowden. Also that month, Appelbaum explained that he decided to move to Berlin in case the authorities decided to target him in connection with Snowden. It turned out Appelbaum had coincidentally traveled to Hawaii in late March 2013, while Snowden prepared his massive data dump, and his high profile as Assange’s right-hand man during the Manning leak made him wary of staying in the U.S.I’m in Berlin right now because I had the really f***ing awful unfortunate mistake of my whole life dreaming to go to Hawaii, to go swimming with manta rays and dolphins and like all this other like, you know unicorns and rainbows and all that stuff, right? … So I was in Hawaii for my 30th birthday, and 20 of my friends came. … The problem with data retention is it tells a story about you which is not necessarily true … but it’s made up of facts. …So let’s say an analyst, looking at your data trail because of a grand jury, let’s say related to WikiLeaks, or other things, let’s say the largest national security leak in human history. Well, can you imagine what that analyst is thinking, now that I’ve had the misfortune of finally living this childhood dream? Only to have two months later, a guy … being stationed in Hawaii, leaking these documents. So here’s a great threat: I don’t actually trust that my country is a safe enough place. … So I came to Berlin because I thought it would be a much better place to write about some of the things that are taking place now.Appelbaum served as the lead reporter on several Snowden stories for Der Spiegel, including a report about the NSA allegedly tapping one of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphones. Another report discussed a top secret catalog detailing NSA hacking tools. Appelbaum also accepted an award on Snowden’s behalf in Germany.Snowden and Appelbaum officially became colleagues in March 2014, when Appelbaum joined the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s technical advisory board in March 2014. Snowden had joined Poitras and Greenwald on the board of directors in January 2014. Snowden, Poitras and Greenwald have not yet commented individually on the allegations against Appelbaum.Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald accept the award for best documentary feature for “Citizenfour” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (Photo: John Shearer/Invision/AP)Yahoo News contacted Appelbaum, Freedom of the Press Foundation and Tor for additional comment but did not receive any responses.‘These issues aren’t new or confined to one individual’For a decade, Appelbaum influenced the hacker scene and privacy community. He was a force of nature for Tor, the Cult of the Dead Cow, WikiLeaks and the people surrounding Snowden. But as of this week, most prominent members of the privacy-rights community are no longer Appelbaum’s allies.“We have been working with a legal firm that specializes in employment issues, including sexual misconduct,” Tor said in the Saturday statement. “They are advising us on how to handle this, and we intend to follow their advice. This will include investigations of specific allegations where that is possible. We don’t know yet where those investigations will lead or if other people involved with Tor are implicated.”Meanwhile, some say Appelbaum’s downfall is casting a harsh light on a broader sexual mistreatment problem within the hacktivist community. What impact it has remains to be seen.“This isn’t just about any of the allegations made recently,” Wolf told Yahoo News. “It’s about the cultures that organizations foster, it’s about willingness to address these issues — not just in online missives, but also in physical gatherings.”Wolf added that the culture, including the organizations and individuals fostering it, must first realize that the problem goes beyond the disturbing allegations against Jacob Appelbaum.“These issues aren’t new or confined to one individual,” Wolf said. “Solving them requires an acknowledgement these issues exist, and leadership in action.”
Stanford students to protest sexual assault sentence at graduation June 9, 2016
Students hold up a sign about rape during New Student Orientation on the Stanford University campus on Sept. 16, 2015. (Photo: Tessa Ormenyi / Associated Press)Stanford University students are planning to protest the outcome of Brock Allen Turner’s sexual assault case at graduation this weekend.Protesters will carry signs and wear decorated caps to show their support for Turner’s victim during the “Wacky Walk,” a university tradition in which graduating students parade around the Stanford Stadium in colorful costumes, waving balloons, posters and other props ahead of the commencement ceremony.The demonstration is just one example of the growing backlash over what many argue is an insufficient sentence for Turner, the former Stanford swimmer who was arrested in January 2015 after two other students pulled him off an unconscious woman outside a fraternity party. In March, the 20-year-old was convicted on three counts of felony sexual assault.Under California law, the suggested penalty for Turner’s charges is a minimum of two years in prison, but the prosecutors in this case recommended that Turner receive a six-year sentence. Last week, however, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail with probation, a decision that has prompted widespread outrage. On Thursday, news broke that Turner was slated to serve only three months of that sentence — a revelation sure to stoke even more outrage.“I saw the same sort of verbiage being used: ‘What was she wearing? What was she drinking? What about this, and what about that?’” senior Brianne Huntsman told the Stanford Daily of Turner’s trial. Huntsman has been leading the effort to organize Saturday’s demonstration in cooperation with Turner’s victim. She told the campus paper that the objective of the protest is to pay tribute to the survivor in this case, as well as all survivors of sexual assault, and to urge university administrators to conduct a new campus climate survey to determine the prevalence of sexual assault.“This is a place where we’re tackling big issues,” she said. “Yes, we’re having fun, but we’re also facing this broader issue affecting Stanford.”Huntsman’s mission echoes similar requests outlined in a petition created by the student-run Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP). The petition, which has garnered more than 65,000 supporters at Change.org, calls on the university to publicly apologize to the survivor — who was not a Stanford student when she was assaulted by Turner — and also to offer her counseling and other services, issue a new campus climate survey on the frequency of sexual abuse at fraternities, and devote more school resources to sexual assault prevention.ASAP co-founder Matthew Baiza told the Stanford Daily that, after reading the powerful letter Turner’s victim had delivered in court, “we realized the survivor didn’t get justice at all.”“It sends the wrong message to survivors, students and the nation as a whole,” Baiza said.On Monday, the university released a statement in response to what it called “a significant amount of misinformation circulating about Stanford’s role” in the Turner case.“[The university] did everything within its power to assure that justice was served in this case, including an immediate police investigation and referral to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office for a successful prosecution,” reads the statement. “This was a horrible incident, and we understand the anger and deep emotion it has generated. There is still much work to be done, not just here, but everywhere, to create a culture that does not tolerate sexual violence in any form and a judicial system that deals appropriately with sexual assault cases.”The backlash against Turner’s light sentence extends far beyond the Stanford campus.In the wake of last week’s sentencing, a number of petitions have been created calling for Judge Persky to be removed from the bench. One of the petitions alone had received more than 900,000 signatures as of Thursday morning.Persky had pointed to the former Stanford swimmer’s age and clean criminal history in explaining his decision.“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” he told the court. However critics questioned whether Persky’s own background as a Stanford alumnus and former captain of the university’s lacrosse team may have motivated him to go easy on the promising athlete.“Judge Persky failed to see that the fact that Brock Turner is a white male star athlete at a prestigious university does not entitle him to leniency,” reads the Change.org petition, which was created by Maria Ruiz of Miami. “He also failed to send the message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender or other factors. Please help rectify this travesty to justice.”Outrage over Turner’s sentencing sparked the creation of other similar petitions by the advocacy group UltraViolet as well as Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber. However, whether any of these efforts have a chance at success remains unclear.“Persky is technically up for reelection this year — but he is running unopposed, so his name will not appear on the ballot for California’s primary Tuesday, nor for the general election in November,” reads a recent BuzzFeed report in which several legal experts suggest that Persky’s dismissal, whether by recall vote or disciplinary action, is not likely. “Barring a write-in candidate, of which there are none right now, he will continue to occupy the seat he’s held since 2003.”Persky has yet to comment publicly on the case since last week’s sentencing, but the bids for his dismissal might be the least of his worries. According to the New York Times, the judge and his family have also been inundated with threats of violence.“People have been calling the court and leaving messages, and if someone answers, they say, ‘Tell your judge he can go to hell, and I hope his kids get raped and he rots in hell,’ ”Gary Goodman, an attorney with the Santa Clara County public defender’s office, told the Times. “He’s getting threats over this, him and his family, from all over the country. Is that right?”Indignation over the case’s outcome has also resulted in ramifications for Turner’s family and friends.Over the weekend, New York Magazine’s The Cut published a letter that Turner’s childhood friend Leslie Rasmussen had written to Judge Persky in defense of the convicted rapist. Rasmussen, it turns out, also plays drums in a band called Good English, which had been scheduled to perform at a number of Brooklyn venues during the upcoming Northside music festival. By Tuesday afternoon, however, all of the band’s Brooklyn gigs had been canceled in response to an onslaught of complaints.“We do not support victim blaming or rape apologists of any kind,” read a statement issued by Bar Matchless, announcing that Good English would no longer be performing at the venue.Good English deactivated its Facebook account amid the fallout, and Rasmussen issued a lengthy statement about the character letter which, she wrote, “has now provided an opportunity for people to misconstrue my ideas into a distortion that suggests I sympathize with sex offenses and those who commit them or that I blame the victim involved.”Rasmussen’s statement can be read in full at Brooklyn Vegan.The Guardian also published excerpts from several other letters written to Judge Persky by Turner’s friends, relatives, former coaches and classmates. Another character witness, Turner’s high school guidance counselor, Kelly Owens, has also since apologized for writing a letter of support to the judge.“In the statement I submitted to the Judge during the criminal proceedings and before sentencing referencing Brock’s character, I made a mistake,” Owens wrote in a letter to her Ohio school district. “Of course he should be held accountable. I pray for the victim, her family and all those affected by this horrible event. I am truly sorry for the additional pain my statement has caused. I tell my students they have to be accountable, and Brock is no exception.”Persky noted that his decision to sentence Turner to a mere six months in jail was, at least in part, influenced by these letters. But it was another letter, read in court by Turner’s victim and later published by BuzzFeed, that really sparked renewed attention and outrage over a case that has received sporadic media coverage since Turner’s arrest in January 2015.Though the 23-year-old, who has chosen to remain anonymous, pleaded with Judge Persky to not make “a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults” by issuing a lenient sentence, the backlash suggests that her words have influenced at least some of the public.“I’m worried that my heart is going to grow too big for my chest,” the woman told the Guardian Monday in response to the support she’s received. “I’ve just been overwhelmed and speechless.”
US firm scraps plan for China to build LA-Vegas rail line June 9, 2016Las Vegas-based XpressWest said a deal with China Railway International to build high-speed rail from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is off (AFP Photo/Gou Yige)Los Angeles (AFP) – A private US company said Thursday it had cancelled a deal with a Chinese rail consortium that was to build a high-speed rail line linking Los Angeles to Las Vegas.Las Vegas-based XpressWest said the deal with China Railway International was called off primarily because of „difficulties associated with timely performance and CRI’s challenges in obtaining required authority to proceed with required development activities.”XPressWest said its biggest challenge in implementing the project, which was announced nine months ago, was a federal government requirement that high-speed trains must be built in the United States.”As everyone knows, there are no high-speed trains manufactured in the United States,” the company said in a statement. „This inflexible requirement has been a fundamental barrier to financing high-speed rail in our country.”For the past 10 years, we have patiently waited for policy makers to recognize high-speed rail in the United States is a new enterprise and that allowing trains from countries with decades of safe high-speed rail experience is needed to connect the Southwest region and start this new industry.”XPressWest said it would now pursue other partnerships to bring the project to fruition, but did not elaborate.The deal with CRI was announced in September, just days ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States.The two sides said at the time that CRI would provide $100 million in initial capital, but few other details about the project were given.The United States has lagged far behind China, Japan and Europe in high-speed rail development.China has blazed ahead, building 17,000 kilometers (about 10,600 miles) of railway in the 12 years since it began constructing bullet trains.
U.S. Spy Plane Intercepted by Chinese Jets Over Asian Waters Nash Jenkins June 8, 2016U.S. military officials called the maneuver „unsafe” and „excessive”A U.S. spy plane conducting a routine patrol over international waters in the East China Sea on Tuesday was intercepted by two Chinese fighter jets.U.S. military officials in the Pacific told Reuters that one of the Chinese planes came within “an unsafe excessive rate of closure” to the U.S. aircraft, but blamed the incident on “improper airmanship, as no other provocative or unsafe maneuvers occurred.”The altercation underscores the geopolitical power struggle in maritime Asia between the U.S. and China. Beijing has claimed most of the contested reefs, rocks and islets of the South China Sea as its own territory. But Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have competing claims to various parts of the region.Beijing responded to the incident by accusing Washington of “deliberately hyping up the issue of the close surveillance of China by U.S. military aircraft,” according to a statement quoted by Reuters.“Chinese military pilots consistently carry out operations in accordance with the law and the rules, and are professional and responsible,” China’s Defense Ministry said.The U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement it was addressing the issue with Beijing.The incident is not without precedent. On at least two occasions in the last year — once in September 2015 and again last month — Chinese jets came dangerously close to U.S. aircraft over Asian waters.[Reuters]
President Obama Will Not Attend Muhammad Ali’s Funeral Nash Jenkins June 8, 2016He’ll be watching Malia graduate from high school President Obama will not be traveling to Kentucky for Muhammad Ali’s memorial service later this week as it conflicts with his daughter Malia’s high school graduation, the White House said.Ali, who died last Friday of septic shock at the age of 74, will be put to rest on Friday in his hometown of Louisville. Obama has offered his condolences to Ali’s widow Lonnie in a phone call, the BBC reported, but will spend Friday at the high school commencement ceremony at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., where Malia is a graduating senior and his younger daughter, Sasha, just finished freshman year.Obama and his wife Michelle have also written a letter to Ali’s family, which will travel to Kentucky with White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who knew the late boxer. Former President Bill Clinton will speak at the funeral, and numerous other dignitaries — including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — will be among the congregation.[BBC]For much more on Muhammad Ali, see TIME’s ALI: The Greatest, a 112-page, fully illustrated commemorative edition. Available at retailers and at AMAZON.COM
U.S. Navy Sends Two Aircraft Carriers to the Med in Throwback to Iraq Invasion Paul McLeary June 8, 2016Two carriers, ready to bomb ISIS in Iraq, 13 years after the U.S. invasion The Obama administration has deployed two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The ships are expected to launch strikes on the Islamic State across Syria and Iraq — the very country President Barack Obama promised to disentangle the United States from when he was running for office in 2008.The returning double punch brings some much-needed firepower against the Islamic State as U.S. aircraft back up Iraqi forces in reclaiming the cities of Fallujah and Mosul, and Sunni rebels and Kurdish fighters who are battling it out with the Islamist group across northern Syria.The presence of two carrier strike groups will “support European allies and partners, deter potential threats and are capable of conducting operations in support of the counter-ISIL mission,” Lt. Col. Dave Westover, U.S. European Command spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday. ISIL is an acronym for the Islamic State.Thirteen years ago, the USS Harry S. Truman and USS Theodore Roosevelt bombed Iraqi army targets from the Med in the opening days of the U.S. invasion. They were part of a force of six U.S. carriers in Mideast waterways for the battle. Now the Truman is back in the Med, where it was joined Wednesday by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which U.S. defense officials expect will soon begin striking the Islamic State.The Truman left the Persian Gulf last week after a seven-month tour and was stationed in the eastern Mediterranean by Friday. Over the weekend, it began hitting Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, and its aircraft have flown 40 sorties and dropped 35 bombs on insurgent positions, a Navy official told Foreign Policy. The Truman is scheduled to head back to Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, in July. The Eisenhower, meanwhile, will take over the Truman’s mission, but based in the Gulf.During its tour in the Gulf, the Truman contributed about 25 percent of the firepower in the ongoing air war, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told reporters at the Pentagon last month. It was so critical that earlier this year, the Navy extended its deployment by 30 days, which it is now finishing up with its handoff to the Eisenhower.The two ships operating together comes just months after Washington ran out of flattops to send to the fight. After the Roosevelt left the Gulf in October, there was a two-month gap — the first since 2007 — between carrier deployments there. Navy officials said the gap was necessary to shorten sailors’ deployments after years of extending them, and to do critical repairs and refitting that were prevented earlier by requirements to have two carriers continuously stationed in the Persian Gulf between 2011 and 2013.Photo Credit: U.S. Navy/ Michael W. Pendergrass/Getty Images
Pan-Orthodox synod in doubt amid inter-church wrangling VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV June 8, 2016FILE – In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 file photo, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians listens during an Epiphany ceremony at the Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey. Plans to bring together leaders of all the world’s Orthodox churches for the first time in more than a millennium appear in jeopardy amid the wrangling over the meeting’s agenda, with the Russian Orthodox Church warning that the gathering would make no sense if at least one church fails to attend. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, file)MOSCOW (AP) — Plans to bring together leaders of all the world’s Orthodox churches for the first time in more than a millennium appear in jeopardy amid the wrangling over the meeting’s agenda, with the Russian Orthodox Church warning that the gathering would make no sense if at least one church fails to attend.Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who ranks as „the first among equals” hoped that the gathering of leaders of 14 independent Orthodox churches later this month on the Greek island of Crete could promote unity among the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians.However, after 55 years of preparation, the fate of the Holy and Great Council appears in doubt now after the Bulgarian Orthodox Church last week declared its refusal to attend citing differences over the agenda.Unlike the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox churches are independent and have their own leadership.Bartholomew I’s Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople — which has been the driving force behind efforts to convene the pan-Orthodox synod — said Wednesday that no church has yet notified that they will not be participating.But the Moscow Patriarchate, which leads the world’s largest Orthodox flock of an estimated 100 million believers, warned that the decision of the Bulgarian church and similar moves being considered by some other churches presented a serious obstacle to holding the synod.Hilarion, a bishop who heads the Moscow Patriarchate’s department of external church relations, said Tuesday in televised remarks that the Council should help unity and not present „any unpleasant surprises.”He noted that the Moscow Patriarchate had proposed holding a preliminary meeting to discuss the controversial issues raised by the Bulgarian church and others.”If these issues are resolved, it means that the Council will be held,” Hilarion said. „If they are not, it will be better to postpone it.”As the Moscow Patriarchate has insisted, decisions made by the synod will require unanimous approval. Hilarion argued that if at least one church fails to attend the gathering, „it will mean a lack of consensus.””What kind of legitimacy will the Council have? How will its decisions be seen by a church refusing to attend?” he asked.Orthodox church leaders haven’t held such a meeting since the year 787, when the last of the seven councils recognized by both Orthodox and Catholics, was held. The „great schism” that divided the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox followed in 1054 amid disputes over the Vatican’s power.Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida warned that the Constantinople Patriarchate’s failure to date to heed the Moscow Patriarchate’s call for a preliminary meeting before the council means that the differences remain unresolved.”It represents a crisis in preparations for the pan-Orthodox event, since the Council makes no sense without full participation,” he said in Wednesday’s remarks carried by the Tass news agency, stopping short of saying how the Moscow Patriarchate will act.
Test runs start for Panama Canal expansion June 10, 2016A Malta flagged cargo ship named Baroque navigates the Agua Clara locks as the first test of the newly expanded Panama Canal, in Agua Clara, Panama, Thursday, June 9, 2016. The canal’s expansion project will be inaugurated on June 26. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)AGUA CLARA, Panama (AP) — The first test runs along the newly expanded Panama Canal began Thursday as tugs nudged the bulk cargo carrier Baroque into the first level of locks on the Atlantic side of the canal.The expanded locks have increased the technical difficulty of maneuvering larger ships through the canal. But some of the challenges were eased by the weather during the test run, with it being a sunny day without much wind.And the Baroque, at 836 feet in length, is not as big as the New Panamax behemoths, which measure up to 1,200 feet and which will begin transiting the waterway when it is opened.The Baroque, rented for the operation, wasn’t carrying cargo on the first run through the Agua Clara locks, which took about three hours.”The test went very well,” said engineer Giuseppe Quarta of Salini Impregilo, one of the firms contracted to build the expansion. „Today, we weren’t worried about the time.”Workers and canal administrators were on hand to witness the tests, and workers unfurled a banner that read, „We built the canal.”The formal opening of the expanded canal is scheduled for June 26, about a year and a half behind schedule.The $5.25 billion expansion is expected to double the canal’s capacity, tap new markets such as liquid natural gas shipments and cut global maritime costs by an estimated $8 billion a year.Under the new system, tugboats have to engage in tricky maneuvers in a confined space inside the locks themselves to keep the bulky New Panamaxes from banging into the walls or even crushing the tugs if they lose control.Under the old system, tugboats’ engagement with ships had been limited to guiding them in open waterways and to the entrance of the locks, where powerful locomotives known as „mules” took over, latching on and keeping the vessels in place as the water level is raised or lowered.