Monday, March 9, 2015

As Nemstov Suspects Nabbed, A Political Game Unfolds: According to Soldatov, Kadyrov's links to one of the key suspects may be a convenient method of stopping the investigation from spreading to more high-profile figures. "This may be a convenient tactic: you blame a Kadyrov ally, and the trail stops there, leaving the real instigators unknown to the public," he said.

According to Soldatov, Kadyrov's links to one of the key suspects may be a convenient method of stopping the investigation from spreading to more high-profile figures.
"This may be a convenient tactic: you blame a Kadyrov ally, and the trail stops there, leaving the real instigators unknown to the public," he said.

As Nemstov Suspects Nabbed, A Political Game Unfolds

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As the man suspected of having gunned down opposition leader Boris Nemtsov steps from the Kremlin allegedly confessed on Sunday, pundits agreed that the truth is likely much more complex than it seems.

Alexander Litvinenko murder suspect failed lie detector test, court hears 

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Andrei Lugovoi, widely suspected of poisoning former Russian spy, gained negative result for answer to question of whether he had handled polonium
The man widely suspected of having murdered the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko failed part of a lie detector test, getting a score of -2 when asked the question: “Have you ever handled polonium?” The public inquiry into Litvinenko’s murder heard on Monday that Andrei Lugovoi took a polygraph test in April 2012. Russian state media reported that the test had emphatically “cleared” Lugovoi of any involvement in Litvinenko’s death.
Lugovoi has consistently denied slipping radioactive polonium into his victim’s tea during a meeting in November 2006 at the Millennium hotel in London. Litvinenko died in hospital 23 days later. On Monday, the inquiry was told that the British polygrapher who administered the private test in Moscow had a previous conviction for perverting the course of justice. Bruce Burgess got a two-year suspended jail sentence for giving the police a “fictitious name” after he was caught speeding.
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Kadyrov adds more questions to Nemtsov murder

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Until Sunday, the investigation appeared to mirror the one into the death of Anna Politkovskaya

Putin gives state medal to Chechnya leader who praised Nemtsov suspect 

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Russian president's spokesman says timing is coincidental following Ramzan Kadyrov's comments, as Mr Putin also awards medal to chief suspect in Litvinenko murder

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Dog Feared Poisoned at Famous Crufts Show; Owners Devastated

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The co-owners of an Irish setter feared poisoned at Britain's leading dog show are devastated by his death but insisted Monday they don't believe that one of the other competitors is responsible.
Three-year-old Thendara Satisfaction, known as Jagger, died Friday, shortly after returning to Belgium following an appearance at the world-famous Crufts dog show in the central English city of Birmingham last week. A veterinarian performed a post-mortem examination and found pieces of meat laced with poison in his stomach.
The vet "found cubes of meat, some sort of beef, like steak, and they had been sewn up with poison inside,'' one of the owners, Jeremy Bott, told the BBC. "She thinks there were possibly two or three different types of poison,'' one of which was a slug killer.
Police in both Belgium and Britain are aware of the incident, but authorities said they haven't been asked to investigate. The Kennel Club, which organizes Crufts, is awaiting a toxicology report on the dog's death - a report that could take days.
Bott said he doesn't know what happened, but he believes the poisoner is someone with a grudge against dogs in general or the Crufts show in particular.
The owners have ruled out any suggestions that another contestant might have poisoned the dog.
"We can't and we won't think that this was the act of another exhibitor. If we thought this, we couldn't go on, and the last 30 years would be a complete waste,'' Dee Milligan Bott said on her Facebook page. "So I ask all of you to unite in finding the perpetrator who did this.''
She told reporters in a brief statement outside her home that Jagger's death shouldn't overshadow "the positive sides of Crufts.''
"I certainly don't want our dog shows - the places we work so hard to get to - to become a ground of finger-pointing and suspicion,'' she said.
She suggested in an article in the publication, "Dog World" that it was possible that the target of the attacker might have been another dog she owns, Thendara Pot Noodle. The second dog won best of breed at Crufts, while Jagger finished second in a preliminary competition.
The Kennel Club, meanwhile, put out a second statement Monday amid reports another dog fell ill after the competition.
"The facts surrounding Jagger's sad death are still being established and we must stress that any other unsubstantiated rumors about dogs being poisoned are just that," it said. "There are any number of reasons why a dog may display symptoms such as sickness and should a dog fall sick there are vets at the show who will examine the dog in question and file a report."
The club insisted, however, that no vets raised concerns about poisoning and "there have been no official complaints from any owners at Crufts 2015."
Irish Setters rest on their benches during the first day of the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham, central England, March 5, 2015.

Canine competitions have long been hit by claims of unscrupulous behavior - including the owners of rivals slipping dogs drugs. In 1996, a breeder was banned for giving Valium to a Chihuahua at another British show.
Crufts is Britain's most famous dog show, attracting more than 21,000 competitors from 43 countries this year. It was founded in 1891, about 14 years after New York's Westminster dog show.
The stakes can be high. Though the prizes for such shows are small - the Best in Show title carries a purse of just 100 pounds ($150) - puppies from winners can fetch thousands.
The Botts, who run a dog breeding operation in England, were part owners of Jagger. The dog lived as a family pet with their co-owners in Belgium, where he visited care homes so elderly residents could pat him on the head.
The co-owner in Belgium, Alexandra Lauwers, wouldn't answer questions about the dog's death when she arrived at her home in Lauw, Belgium on Monday. She referred all questions to a statement by the dog's co-owner in Britain.
"He was a typical Irish Setter, totally trustworthy and so loved," Milligan Bott said. "We are devastated."
(Associated Press Writer Lorne Cook contributed to this story from Lauw, Belgium.)
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Putin Bestows Controversial Awards

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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Monday conferring awards on several people, including the chief suspect in the murder of dissident Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko.
Putin awarded a medal for "services to the fatherland" to Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB bodyguard who is now a member of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament.
The government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported Monday that Lugovoi was decorated for his "contribution to the development of Russian parliamentarism and energetic legislative activity."  Lugovoi is the deputy chairman of the Duma's security and anti-corruption committee.
In May 2007, British prosecutors asked Russia to extradite Lugovoi to face charges for the murder of Litvinenko, who died in London in November 2006 as a result of exposure to the radioactive isotope polonium-210. Russian authorities refused, citing the country's constitution, which prohibits the extradition of Russian citizens.
Also in Monday's decree, Putin conferred an order of merit on Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin leader of the Russian region of Chechnya.  According to Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Kadyrov was awarded for his professional achievements along with his "active public service and longstanding conscientious work."
Both Russian and international human rights groups have accused Kadyrov and the security forces loyal to him of widespread human rights abuses in Chechnya. Chechen opponents of Kadyrov have been murdered in Russia and abroad.
One of the five men detained for the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was a deputy commander in the "Sever" (North) battalion of Chechnya's police force. Zaur Dadayev and the four other suspects, all of them Chechens, appeared in a Moscow court Sunday, where the judge said Dadayev had confessed to his involvement in the killing.
Nemtsov was shot four times in the back on February 27 as he walked across a bridge with his girlfriend in sight of the Kremlin.
President Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told the Russian news website RBK on Monday that the timing of award for Kadyrov was a coincidence, saying it takes "several months" to draw up the documents for such awards.  
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Obama, EU Chief Meet in Washington for Talks on Ukraine

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U.S. President Barack Obama is meeting Monday in Washington with the head of the European Council for talks on strategy aimed at countering Russian efforts to redraw the borders of Ukraine.
Ahead of the meeting, the White House accused Moscow and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine of blocking European truce observers from fully monitoring a cease-fire near the Russian border.
In an interview with the New York Times, European Council chief Donald Tusk, the former prime minister of Poland, said Europe is not yet ready to further tighten sanctions against Moscow for its role in the rebellion, despite continuing provocations near the cease-fire line.
In a related development, the Pentagon announced Monday that some 750 U.S. Army tanks, fighting vehicles and other armament has arrived in the Baltic nation of Latvia.  About 3,000 troops from the army's 3rd Infantry Division are also set to deploy in the Baltics next week as part of a training mission with armed forces from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
A Pentagon spokesman described the 90-day deployment as a training mission aimed at reassuring NATO allies worried the possibility of Russian aggression elsewhere in Europe.

Putin Recounts How He Gave Orders to ‘Save’ Yanukovych, ‘Return’ Crimea

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Russian President Vladimir Putin says he ordered security officials in February 2014 to make plans to "save the life" of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's then-president, and to start planning for Russia's annexation of Crimea.
In a trailer aired Sunday on state television channel Rossiya-1 for an upcoming documentary, Putin said he called the officials, including the heads of Russia's security agencies and military, to the Kremlin and ordered them to make preparations to take Yanukovych out of Ukraine, claiming the pro-Russian president would otherwise have been killed.  
Yanukovych was forced out of office following a wave of pro-Western opposition demonstrations.
"We prepared to take him right out of Donetsk (where Yanukovych is said to have had gone into hiding after fleeing Kyiv), by land, by sea and air," Putin said, noting that "heavy machine guns were mounted there so that there wouldn't be much discussion about it." Putin said the operation to take Yanukovych out of Ukraine took place over February 22-23, 2014.
Putin said that at the end of the Kremlin meeting, he told the security and military officials: "We are obliged to start working to return Crimea to Russia."
The trailer was shown on state television as the first anniversary of Russia seizure of Crimea from Ukraine approaches. The Black Sea peninsula was officially annexed by Russia on March 21, 2014.
Putin had been denying that Russian troops were involved in the seizure of Crimea, saying the secession was led by what he called local self-defense forces.

Russian paramedic Tatiana Kulikova who took pictures with dying patients is fired

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  • ParamedicTatiana Kulikova, 25, took sick selfies with dying patients
  • Images were taken inside emergency ambulance in Kirov, Russia 
  • Branded an accident victim 'another moron' as she gave him the finger
  • Kulikova admitted taking the pictures and was fired by ambulance service
  • Actions were branded 'callous' by health campaigners in Russia
Published: 08:13 EST, 9 March 2015 Updated: 09:48 EST, 9 March 2015
This is one of a series of sick selfies that a paramedic took with dying patients in Russia.
Callous Tatiana Kulikova, 25, has now been sacked by health officers after she posted the pictures she snapped in the back of an ambulance online.
In one image, captioned 'another moron,' the blonde is flipping the bird at a badly injured accident victim.
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Behaving badly: Paramedic Tatiana Kulikova, 25, was sacked by officials in Russia after posting a series of sick selfies online
The 25-year-old blonde has outrage locals in Kirov Russia with her sick selfies taken in the back of an ambulance
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The 25-year-old blonde has outrage locals in Kirov Russia with her sick selfies taken in the back of an ambulance
In another she sticks two fingers up to a heart attack patient and titled the image, 'How I hate my job.'
Now emergency service officials in Kirov have sacked the health worker after she admitted taking the pictures.
Kulikova's shocking selfies have outraged locals who had family members featured in her grim gallery.
Local health campaigner Artem Golubev, 40, said: 'It is clear that while she was taking these photographs she was not looking after her patients.'
He added: 'She shows a callous disregard for the welfare of her patients, some of whom died after those pictures were taken.
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In this picture Kulikova sticks two fingers up at a heart attack victim and captioned the image, 'How I hate my job'
'I would not be surprised if their families sue both her and the emergency services.'
A spokesperson for the city's emergency services said: 'As soon as we were alerted to these images online we suspended the paramedic in question. After an investigation was carried out, the employee was fired.'
Kulikova has made no comment following the incident.

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Countersuit filed by Rick Bell and sons against Kendrick Johnson's parents in Georgia

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  • Kendrick Johnson, 17, was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia, in January of 2013 
  • His parents Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson filed a civil lawsuit after death
  • State autopsy ruled death was accident but parents insist it was foul play 
  • Wrongful death suit asked for $100million in damages from 38 defendants 
  • FBI agent Rick Bell and sons Brian and Branden were named in the suit
  • They have filed a $1million defamation countersuit against the Johnsons  
Published: 13:42 EST, 8 March 2015 Updated: 05:45 EST, 9 March 2015
Three family members named in a $100million wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a Georgia teen who was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat have countersued with a $1million defamation suit. 
Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson filed the wrongful death suit after their son Kendrick was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia, in January of 2013.
The suit lists 38 defendants and claims that brothers Brian and Branden Bell as well as their father Rick, an FBI agent, were behind the 17-year-old's death. 
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Brian Bell (left) and older brother Branden (right) filed a $1million defamation suit along with their father Rick
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Brian Bell (left) and older brother Branden (right) filed a $1million defamation suit along with their father Rick
The suit, which seeks $1 million in damages, was filed against Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson (pictured)
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The suit, which seeks $1 million in damages, was filed against Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson (pictured)
The Johnsons filed a wrongful death suit after their son Kendrick, 17, was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat

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The Bells' countersuit denies any of the three family members were involved in Kendrick's death, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.  
It states the wrongful death suit lacks 'substantial justification' and contains 'a complete absence of any justiciable issue in law or fact'.
Kendrick's parents say the Bells attacked him after their father instructed them to do so
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Kendrick's parents say the Bells attacked him after their father instructed them to do so
The countersuit also addresses the Johnson family allegedly asking Florida State University to take a football scholarship offer away from younger brother Brian. 
The Bells claim the Johnsons directed a Facebook post at FSU officials which stated Brian 'exhibited violent tendencies and a highly unusual appetite for fighting'.
The post also reportedly said Brian's 'social media activities expose the likelihood of him being a psychopath'.
FSU pulled its offer to the linebacker off the table.
The suit claims similar slanderous statements were made to the University of Louisville and Clemson University.
The Bell brother were notified by US Attorney Michael Moore a federal grand jury's investigation into Johnson's death is targeting them, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. 
The Johnsons' suit, which was filed in DeKalb County Superior Court just after the second anniversary of their son's death, alleges the brothers were 'seeking revenge' after one of them had been in a fight with Kendrick.
It also says the boys acted on a 'parental command' from their father to assault Johnson
The countersuit claims the Johnsons interfered with Brian's chances to play football at Florida State University 
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The countersuit claims the Johnsons interfered with Brian's chances to play football at Florida State University 
A state autopsy ruled Johnson's death was an accident but his parents have always insisted foul play was involved and there was a cover-up by law enforcement authorities and school officials.
The lawsuit states: 'Defendants from the various law enforcement agencies deliberately and maliciously mishandled the subject investigation in such a way that anyone who might ever be charged with (Johnson's) death would never be convicted.'
Requests for comments from representatives from both families on Sunday did not get a response. 
An attorney for the Bells, Brice Ladson, previously said the lawsuit against his clients was 'frivolous'.
He said: 'The Johnsons know the allegations against my clients are completely baseless.' 

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Amtrak train bound for Washington derails in N.C.

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Several injured in Amtrak train, truck collision in N.C.(1:04)
An Amtrak train derailed in North Carolina after colliding with a truck. Authorities said several people were hurt, though none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening. (Reuters)
The engine of an Amtrak train bound for Washington’s Union Station struck a tractor trailer at a grade crossing and derailed in rural North Carolina early Monday afternoon, authorities said.
It was unclear whether train crew, passengers or people in the truck were injured. It was the third time in recent weeks that a passenger train has collided with a vehicle at a grade crossing.
The train, which Amtrak calls the Carolinian, struck the truck just in Halifax County, N.C., south of the Virginia border, slamming into the flat-bed trailer but leaving the cab intact.
The train’s engine was splayed almost at right angles to the track on which it had been operating, and the baggage car directly behind it also derailed but remained upright.
Local authorities said that injuries appeared to be minor, and that uninjured passengers were being transferred to buses.
Witnesses said the tractor-trailer was attempting to make a turn from U.S. Route 301 onto a more narrow two-lane road that was bisected within a matter of yards by the railroad tracks.
They said the truck driver was having trouble negotiating the turn because of the length of his vehicle, which carried a large load covered by a blue plastic tarp on the flat bed portion.
One witness said the driver had been struggling to make the turn for about 15 minutes, and a state trooper had arrived to assist at the time the train came down the track and struck the trailer, separating it from its load and pushing the load down the rail bed.
The Federal Railroad Administration said it was sending a team to the accident scene.
The Carolinian, also designated train number 80, was due to arrive in Union Station at 4:37 p.m. before heading north toward Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.
Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.

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White House Faults G.O.P. Senators’ Letter to Iran’s Leaders

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WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday sharply rebuked nearly four dozen Republican senators who sent a letter to Iranian leaders just as nuclear negotiations reach a pivotal moment, characterizing the correspondence as an illegitimate interference in President Obama’s foreign policy.
The letter, signed by 47 Republican senators and addressed to “leaders of the Islamic Republic ofIran,” suggested that the Iranian leaders might not understand the American system and warned them that any deal Mr. Obama and other world leaders might reach on the future of its nuclear program would be reversible without congressional approval.
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said the senators were trying to “essentially throw sand in the gears here” in a way that went beyond the role envisioned for Congress in foreign policy by the authors of the Constitution. He said the White House wanted to send a “forceful” rebuttal to the letter because it seemed intent on torpedoing the talks.
What the United States and Iran want out of discussions over Iran’s nuclear development.
OPEN Graphic
“Writing a letter like this that appeals to the hard-liners in Iran is frankly just the latest in a strategy, a partisan strategy, to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy and advance our national interests around the world,” Mr. Earnest said. He linked it to the decision by Speaker John A. Boehner to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel without consulting the White House to denounce a possible Iran deal in a speech to Congress last week.
The letter, drafted by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and signed by most of the Republican majority in the Senate, suggested to Iran that reaching a deal with Mr. Obama might not stick because Congress would not approve it.
“The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen, and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time,” said the letter, which was disclosed earlier by Bloomberg News.
Mr. Cotton said on Monday that he had drafted the letter because Iran’s leaders might not understand the American constitutional system. Unlike a treaty, which would require a two-thirds Senate vote for ratification, the agreement Mr. Obama and other world leaders are negotiating with Iran would not automatically go to Congress, but members of both parties are seeking a vote.
Mr. Cotton said the terms of the emerging deal made it too risky and noted that a Republican president succeeding Mr. Obama could decide not to honor it. Speaking on Fox News, Mr. Cotton noted that the agreement under discussion would expire after 10 years. That alone would “make this deal unacceptable, dangerous to the United States and dangerous to the world.”
Mr. Cotton said he hoped that Democratic senators might also sign the letter. “And for that matter, I’d encourage Hillary Clinton to join us in saying that Congress must approve any nuclear deal with Iran,” Mr. Cotton said.
The letter came just days after Senate Republicans abandoned an effort to push for a vote on legislation intended to force Mr. Obama to submit any eventual deal to Congress for a vote. Several Senate Democrats who support the legislation balked at voting on it before the talks wrapped up.
Democratic senators quickly criticized Mr. Cotton’s letter. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the party’s No. 2 leader in the chamber, called the letter “a cynical effort” to undermine negotiations that would ultimately make a peaceful resolution less likely and therefore possibly lead to a military confrontation.
“These Republican senators should think twice about whether their political stunt is worth the threat of another war in the Middle East,” he said.
Iran reacted with scorn, saying the letter would have no impact on the talks and suggested that the authors were the ones who did not understand the American system of government in which the president conducts foreign policy.
“In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy,” Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said in a written statement. “It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”
Mr. Zarif added that a change in administration would not relieve the United States of its obligations under any agreement. “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with ‘the stroke of a pen,’ as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law,” he said.
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Republicans are beginning to act as though Barack Obama isn’t even the president

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It’s safe to say that no president in modern times has had his legitimacy questioned by the opposition party as much as Barack Obama. But as his term in office enters its final phase, Republicans are embarking on an entirely new enterprise: They have decided that as long as he holds the office of the presidency, it’s no longer necessary to respect the office itself.
Is that a bit hyperbolic? Maybe. But this news is nothing short of stunning:
A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.
Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.
“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
It’s one thing to criticize the administration’s actions, or try to impede them through the legislative process. But to directly communicate with a foreign power in order to undermine ongoing negotiations? That is appalling. And just imagine what those same Republicans would have said if Democratic senators had tried such a thing when George W. Bush was president.
Republicans warn Iran against nuclear deal(1:12)
Forty-seven Republican senators signed a letter to the government of Iran, warning that any deal they make with President Obama can be rolled back after a new president takes power. (Reuters)
The only direct precedent I can think of for this occurred in 1968, when as a presidential candidate Richard Nixon secretly communicated with the government of South Vietnam in an attempt to scuttle peace negotiations the Johnson administration was engaged in. It worked: those negotiations failed, and the war dragged on for another seven years. Many people are convinced that what Nixon did was an act of treason; at the very least it was a clear violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits American citizens from communicating with foreign governments to conduct their own foreign policy.
This move by Republicans is not quite at that level. As Dan Drezner wrote, “I don’t think an open letter from members of the legislative branch quite rises to Logan Act violations, but if there’s ever a trolling amendment to the Logan Act, this would qualify,” and at least it’s out in the open. But it makes clear that they believe that when they disagree with an administration policy, they can act as though Barack Obama isn’t even the president of the United States.
And it isn’t just in foreign affairs. In an op-ed last week in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Mitch McConnell urged states to refuse to comply with proposed rules on greenhouse gas emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency. Never mind that agency regulations like these have the force of law, and the Supreme Court has upheld the EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions — if you don’t like the law, just act as though it doesn’t apply to you. “I can’t recall a majority leader calling on states to disobey the law,” said Barbara Boxer, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “and I’ve been here almost 24 years.”
The American political system runs according to a whole series of norms, many of which we don’t notice until they’re violated. For instance, the Speaker of the House can invite a foreign leader to address Congress for the sole purpose of criticizing the administration, and he can even do it without letting the White House know in advance. There’s no law against it. But doing so violates a norm not only of simple respect and courtesy, but one that says that the exercise of foreign policy belongs to the administration. Congress can advise, criticize, and legislate to shape it, but if they simply take it upon themselves to make their own foreign policy, they’ve gone too far.
But as has happened so many times before, Republicans seem to have concluded that there is one set of rules and norms that apply in ordinary times, and an entirely different set that applies when Barack Obama is the president. You no longer need to show the president even a modicum of respect. You can tell states to ignore the law. You can sabotage delicate negotiations with a hostile foreign power by communicating directly with that power.
I wonder what they’d say if you asked them whether it would be acceptable for Democrats to treat the next Republican president that way. My guess is that the question wouldn’t even make sense to them. After all, that person would be a Republican. So how could anyone even think of such a thing?
Paul Waldman is a contributor to The Plum Line blog, and a senior writer at The American Prospect.
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Amtrak train derails in North Carolina | Video |

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U.S. declares Venezuela a threat, sanctions top officials

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Monday declared Venezuela a national security threat and ordered sanctions against seven officials in the worst diplomatic dispute with the oil-rich country since socialist President Nicolas Maduro took office in 2013.
President Barack Obama issued and signed the executive order, which senior administration officials said did not target the energy sector or Venezuela's broader economy. The move raises tensions between Washington and the OPEC member just as U.S. relations with Cuba, another longtime U.S. foe in Latin America, are set to be normalized.
Declaring a country a national security threat is the first step in starting a sanctions regime. The same process has been followed with countries such as Iran and Syria, U.S. officials said.
The White House said the executive order targeted people whose actions undermined democratic processes or institutions, had committed acts of violence or abuse of human rights, were involved in prohibiting or penalizing freedom of expression, or were government officials involved in public corruption.
"Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of U.S. financial systems," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.
"We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government's efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents. Venezuela's problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent," he added.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told reporters that Caracas would respond to the U.S. move soon.
The seven individuals named in the order, which included top domestic security and intelligence officials, would have their property and interests in the United States blocked or frozen and would be denied entry into the United States. U.S. persons would also be prohibited from doing business with them.
The White House also called on Venezuela to release all political prisoners, including "dozens of students," and warned against blaming Washington for its problems.
"We've seen many times that the Venezuelan government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela," Earnest said in the statement.
"These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan government to deal with the grave situation it faces."
U.S. officials told reporters in a conference call that the executive order did not target the Venezuelan people or economy and stressed that upcoming legislative elections should be held without intimidation of the government's opponents.
The sanctions effectively confirm Venezuela as the United States' primary adversary in Latin America, a label that was for decades applied to Communist-run Cuba until Washington and Havana announced a diplomatic breakthrough in December.
Washington said last week it would respond through diplomatic channels to Venezuela's demand for a cut in the U.S. Embassy's staff in Caracas after the government called for a plan within 15 days to reduce staff to 17 from 100 at the American facility.
Commercial ties between Venezuela and the United States have, however, been largely unaffected by diplomatic flare-ups, which were common during the 14-year-rule of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
The United States is Venezuela's top trading partner, and Venezuela in 2014 remained the fourth-largest supplier of crude to the United States at an average of 733,000 barrels per day - despite a decade-long effort by Caracas to diversify its oil shipments to China and India.
Opposition leader and twice-presidential candidate Henrique Capriles told Reuters the sanctions were a problem for a corrupt elite in the Maduro government, but not ordinary Venezuelans.
"It's not a problem with Venezuela or with Venezuelans; it's a problem for the corrupt ones. It doesn't affect we Venezuelans."
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton, additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas; editing by G Crosse)
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Supreme Court rejects cases on Guantanamo detainee treatment

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WASHINGTON Mon Mar 9, 2015 11:40am EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday spurned two appeals involving U.S. treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees, barring a Syrian man from suing the United States over alleged torture and blocking the release of images purported to show evidence of a Saudi man's mistreatment.
The justices in both cases left intact lower-court rulings in favor of the U.S. government.
In one case, the court left in place a January 2014 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit against a Syrian former detainee, Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al Janko. He had sought to sue the United States for damages stemming from his treatment during seven years at the U.S. facility in Cuba.
Janko says he was tortured and suffered physical and psychological degradation at Guantanamo from 2002 to 2009 after being detained in Afghanistan in 2001. Janko was seeking damages for the way he was treated.
The appeals court said that based on what Congress has directed, courts do not have the authority to hear lawsuits like the one filed by Janko.
Separately, the court handed a victory to the CIA by declining to take up a case in which a Washington-based civil liberties group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, was seeking access to videos and photographs of another detainee, Saudi citizen Mohammed al-Qahtani.
The justices left in place a September 2014 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the images are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, a law intended to facilitate the release of information held by the government.
The appeals court said releasing the images could harm U.S. national security by inciting anti-American sentiment.
Al-Qahtani is known as the "20th hijacker" over his alleged intention to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The Center for Constitutional Rights said the images would show evidence that al-Qahtani was tortured.
He is still in being held at Guantanamo.
Janko was released from Guantanamo in October 2009 after a successful legal challenge to his detention. Prior to his detention by U.S. forces, Janko had been imprisoned and tortured by the then-Taliban-led Afghan government as a suspected U.S. spy.
The United States opened the Guantanamo detention facility in 2002 to hold what it described as foreign terrorism suspects. The treatment of detainees there has drawn international criticism.
The cases are Janko v. Gates, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-650 and Center for Constitutional Rights v. CIA, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-658.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)
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Puerto Rico crisis needs more than bankruptcy tweak | TheHill

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Puerto Rico crisis needs more than bankruptcy tweak

FBI — Former Puerto Rico Police Officer Sentenced for Civil RIghts Violations Related to Fatal Beating

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Former Puerto Rico Police Sergeant Erick Rivera Nazario was sentenced today to serve 96 months in prison followed by three years’ supervised release for violating the civil rights of Jose Luis Irizarry Perez, 19, by striking him with a police baton during a fatal police-involved beating, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez of the District of Puerto Rico and Special Agent in Charge Carlos Cases of the FBI San Juan Field Office.
Rivera Nazario pleaded guilty to one count of depriving Irizarry Perez of his civil rights by striking him with a police baton while the young man was injured, restrained, and not posing a threat to others. Two other former Puerto Rico police officers have already been sentenced for their obstructive conduct during the federal investigation into the incident, while three other former Puerto Rico police officers, who also pleaded guilty, are awaiting sentencing for their roles in the beating and subsequent obstruction of the investigation. According to documents filed in connection with the guilty pleas, Rivera Nazario and another former Puerto Rico police officer violated the constitutional rights of Irizarry Perez by striking him with their police batons while another former police officer physically restrained Irizarry Perez during an election evening celebration at the Las Colinas housing development in Yauco, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 5, 2008.
U.S. District Court Judge Juan M. Perez Gimenez issued the sentence, which will be followed by three years of supervised release. During the three-year term, the defendant will be under federal supervision, and risks additional prison time should he violate any terms of his supervised release.
“The department remains steadfastly committed to prosecuting excessive force by police officers and today’s sentence reflects the severity of such criminal conduct,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “Although nothing can replace the tragic loss of life that resulted from the police-involved beating, I hope that this sentence helps to provide some sense of closure for Jose Luis Irizarry Perez’s family.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to defend the civil rights of the people of Puerto Rico,” said U.S. Attorney Rodriguez-Vélez. “It is appalling that law enforcement officers choose to violate their oath of office and abuse their position to deprive people of their civil liberties.”
This case was investigated by the FBI’s San Juan Division and is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorneys Shan Patel and Olimpia E. Michel of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose A. Contreras of the District of Puerto Rico.
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N.Y.-bound Amtrak derails in eastern North Carolina

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In this frame grab from video provided by WTVD-11, authorities respond to a collision between an Amtrak passenger train and a truck on March 9 in Halifax County, N.C.(Photo: WTVD-11 via AP)
A New York-bound Amtrak train derailed Monday in eastern North Carolina after colliding with a tractor-trailer that was apparently trying to turn onto a highway. A local police official reported that there were injuries but that none was considered life-threatening.
One passenger on the train said there were "a lot of ambulances" on the scene, according to WRAL-TV. "There was a massive jerk and we were kind of thrown forward a little bit, and the train came to a sudden stop," said Charlotte Story, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "I couldn't tell you if it was trying to slow down or not. There was no whistle. It came completely out of the blue."
Story said many passengers had what appeared to be minor injuries. Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp told the Daily Herald in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., that no life-threatening injuries were reported.
The collision took place in Halifax, N.C., about 80 miles northeast of Raleigh.
Amber Keeter, an occupant traveling in a car directly behind the tractor-trailer, told WRAL-TV that the vehicle was trying to turn left onto U.S. 301 when the train rumbled into view and hit collided with the bed of the truck, which was hauling a large structure covered in a blue tarp.
Keeter said the tractor-trailer had been trying to negotiate the turn for about 15 minutes. A state trooper was there to help, she said. "It wasn't so much they got stuck. They could not make the turn. They were too long."
The truck was carrying a mobile home, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. "The train ran right though it," train passenger Patrick Narmi, 21, told the newspaper. Narmi said he had just settled into his seat for the 10-hour trip to New York's Penn Station when the train "braked harder than usual."
"A few seconds later I heard the impact," he said. He was thrown head-first from his seat into the seat in front of him. Narmi ended up on the floor.
North Carolina Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said he was "relieved that there are no fatalities reported at this time, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured."
The Daily Herald reported that the train struck a large truck around noon on Monday. Aerial video of the crash site showed the Amtrak train's engine on its side, along with several cars lying beside the tracks.
On its Twitter feed, the National Transportation Safety Board said it was "aware of reports of an Amtrak train accident in Halifax County, N.C., and are gathering additional information."
The crash caused the closure of two nearby highways.
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Air of Mystery Surrounds an Unlikely Source in Britain: the Crufts Dog Show

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LONDON — In a land that loves its pets as much as, if not more than, its people, it was a death that provoked outrage and tears, headlines and head-scratching.

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