Did Giuliani just send Manafort a smoke signal to keep his mouth shut and wait for a pardon?

The former New York Mayor, who now serves as President Trump’s personal lawyer, told the Daily News that “When the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons.”:

Giuliani’s stunning remark came hours after a Washington, D.C., judge revoked Manafort’s bail and ordered him to remain behind bars while awaiting his September trial on charges relating to his shady pro-Russian business dealings in Ukraine. The ruling came after Mueller’s investigators alleged the ex-Trump campaign chairman had attempted to secure false testimony from potential witnesses in the Russia probe.

Giuliani, who worked as a federal prosecutor for nearly a decade, claimed he had seen no evidence to warrant locking up Manafort.

“I don’t understand the justification for putting him in jail,” Giuliani, 74, said. “You put a guy in jail if he’s trying to kill witnesses, not just talking to witnesses.”

Rudy Giuliani knows better than that. So you have to wonder what was really going down. Some would say Giuliani was sending a smoke signal to Paul Manafort to keep his mouth shut — that a pardon is coming.

U.S. insists sanctions will remain until North Korea denuclearizes — but China shows signs of breaking ranks

China’s foreign minister, while saying “China was intent on playing ‘a constructive role’ in connection with the North, declined to answer a question about China’s intentions on the sanctions.”

According to The New York Times, via msn news:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Asian powers on Thursday that President Trump was sticking to demands that North Korea surrender its nuclear weapons, as he sought to hold together a fragile consensus on maintaining tough sanctions against the North despite Mr. Trump’s declaration that it was “no longer a nuclear threat.”

At a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, Mr. Pompeo softened some of the president’s recent comments — but did not retract them — and insisted that United Nations sanctions would remain in place until North Korea had accomplished “complete denuclearization.”

“We are going to get the complete denuclearization,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters. “Only then will there be relief from sanctions.”

He made the same point later Thursday in Beijing, where he met with China’s president, Xi Jinping. But China had already shown signs of breaking ranks on tough enforcement of the sanctions against its neighbor and trading partner, saying that with North Korea now at the negotiating table, they could legitimately be eased.

Read the whole thing …

It remains to be seen how things play out further down the road, but China already seems intent on asserting itself into the process in furtherance of its own interests over those of the United States.

Was this a strategy Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping agreed upon when they met in Beijing recently?

Most probably how a nuclear attack on an American city would be carried out

If America is attacked, the strike probably won’t come from North Korea nor is it likely the nuke would be delivered by an intercontinental ballistics missile.

More than likely, a nuclear attack on an American city would be carried out by a terrorist group using an off-the-shelf nuclear bomb left in a parked vehicle.

In 2002, “without resorting to any illegal activities or drawing on classified information, and using only commercially available parts,” several nuclear laboratories “built a nuclear bomb that was ‘bigger than a breadbox but smaller than a dump truck.’”

According to New York Magazine:

When such a bomb explodes, everyone within 100 feet of ground zero is instantaneously reduced to a spray of atoms. There are photos from Hiroshima and Nagasaki showing eerie silhouettes of people cast against a flat surface, such as a wall or floor. These are not, as is sometimes claimed, the remains of vaporized individuals, but rather a kind of morbid nuclear photograph. The heat of the nuclear explosion bleaches or darkens the background surface, except for the spot blocked by the person, leaving a corresponding outline. In some cases the heat released by the explosion will also burn the patterns of clothing onto people’s skin.

Near the center of the blast, the suffering and devastation most closely conform to the fictional apocalypse of our imaginations. This is what it would look like within a half-mile of Times Square: Few buildings would remain standing. Mountains of rubble would soar as high as 30 feet. As fires raged, smoke and ash would loft into the air. The New York Public Library’s stone guardians would be reduced to pebble and dust. Rockefeller Center would be an unrecognizable snarl of steel and concrete, its titanic statue of Prometheus — eight tons of bronze and plaster clad in gold — completely incinerated.

Within a half-mile radius of the blast, there would be few survivors. Those closest to the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have described the horrors they witnessed: People with ripped sheets of skin hanging from their bodies; people whose brains were visible through their shattered skulls; people with holes for eyes. Sakue Shimohira watched her mother’s charred body crumble into ash as she tried to wake her. Shigeko Sasamori’s father cut off the blackened husk of skin all over her face, revealing pools of pus beneath.

As the fireball travels outward from the blast, people, buildings, and trees within a one-mile radius would be severely burned or charred. Metal, fabric, plastic, and clay would ignite, melt, or blister. The intense heat would set gas lines, fuel tanks, and power lines on fire, and an electromagnetic pulse created by the explosion would knock out most computers, cell phones, and communication towers within several miles.

Traveling much farther than the fireball, a colossal pressure wave would hurtle forth faster than the speed of sound, generating winds up to 500 miles per hour. The shock wave would demolish the flimsiest buildings and strip the walls and roofs off stronger structures, leaving only their naked and warped scaffolding. It would snap utility poles like toothpicks and rip through trees, fling people through the air, and turn brick, glass, wood, and metal into deadly projectiles. A blast in Times Square, combined with the fireball, would carve a crater 50 feet deep at the center of the explosion. The shock wave would reach a diameter of nearly 3.2 miles, shattering windows as far as Gramercy Park and the American Museum of Natural History.

All this would happen within a few seconds.

Read the whole thing …

Raccoon released into wild after successful skyscraper climb

A heartwarming story that would have been heartbreaking, but for the good ending.

From the Guardian:

A daredevil raccoon that became an online sensation when it spent almost 20 nail-biting hours scaling a 25-storey office tower in Minnesota has been safely rescued and released back into the wild after making it to the top of the building unscathed.

The animal’s ascent on the outside of the UBS building in downtown St Paul city was watched across the world on social media on Tuesday, with updates on its progress posted regularly by the Minnesota Public Radio under the hashtag #MPRraccoon. Crowds also gathered at the scene to watch.

Despite widespread concern for its safety – as well as Spider-Man and Mission Impossible jokes – it reportedly reached the roof at 3am local time yesterday, where cat food was waiting inside a humane trap.

Read the whole thing and watch the video …

Biden sees scant cause to celebrate the Trump-Kim summit results

Former Vice President Joe Biden is reportedly disturbed by the results of the summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. To paraphrase Biden’s statement Tuesday, Trump has given North Korea numerous wins up front, including an easing of pressure on Pyongyang, the suspension of U.S.-South Korean military exercises and the summit itself which has elevated Kim from international pariah to the level of a legitimate head of state with a relevant voice on the world stage.

Legitimacy bestowed upon a murderous dictator, a man who has no regard for human rights, “who executed his uncle and dozens of other officials, had his half-brother killed and starved his people in favor of building up a nuclear arsenal.”

And what did Trump get for launching “Little Rocket Man” to such a dizzy height? Virtually nothing, you could argue, just vague promises to begin negotiations on denuclearization, a tactic North Korea is notorious for.

Well yes, that’s a feasible point. But then again, it’s equally feasible to suppose that Kim realizes the danger of trying to pull a similar stunt on an unpredictable man like President Trump.

Unless he’s confident Xi Jinping has his back.

At the very least, for now — Biden’s misgivings notwithstanding — tensions have been reduced.

French President Emmanuel Macron rewards migrant hero who saved dangling child

From USA Today:

PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron on Monday lauded as a hero a migrant from Mali who scaled an apartment building to save a young child dangling from a balcony, and rewarded him with French nationality and a job as a firefighter.

“Bravo,” Macron said to 22-year-old Mamoudou Gassama during a one-on-one meeting in a gilded room of the presidential Elysee Palace that ended with Gassama receiving a gold medal from the French state for “courage and devotion.”

Gassama’s feat went viral on social media, where he was dubbed “Spiderman” for climbing up five floors, from balcony to balcony, and whisking a four-year-old boy to safety Saturday night as a crowd screamed at the foot of the building in Paris’ northern 18th district.

The young man said he has papers to legally stay in Italy, where he arrived in Europe after crossing the Mediterranean, ending a long, rough stay in Libya. But he came to France last September to join his older brother, who has lived in France for decades.

Gassama, dressed in tattered blue jeans and white shirt, recounted his experience which took place at around 8 p.m. Saturday when he and friends saw a young child hanging from a fifth-floor balcony.

“I ran. I crossed the street to save him,” he told Macron. He said he didn’t think twice. “When I started to climb, it gave me courage to keep climbing.”

God “helped me,” too, he said. “Thank God I saved him.”

Read the whole thing …

The untold story of Robert Mueller’s time in combat

“Robert Mueller’s job is to make sense of how Russia hacked the 2016 election. But to make sense of Mueller, you have to revisit some of the bloodiest battles of Vietnam.”

From Wired:

ONE DAY IN the summer of 1969, a young Marine lieutenant named Bob Mueller arrived in Hawaii for a rendezvous with his wife, Ann. She was flying in from the East Coast with the couple’s infant daughter, Cynthia, a child Mueller had never met. Mueller had taken a plane from Vietnam.

After nine months at war, he was finally due for a few short days of R&R outside the battle zone. Mueller had seen intense combat since he last said goodbye to his wife. He’d received the Bronze Star with a distinction for valor for his actions in one battle, and he’d been airlifted out of the jungle during another firefight after being shot in the thigh. He and Ann had spoken only twice since he’d left for South Vietnam.

Despite all that, Mueller confessed to her in Hawaii that he was thinking of extending his deployment for another six months, and maybe even making a career in the Marines.

Ann was understandably ill at ease about the prospect. But as it turned out, she wouldn’t be a Marine wife for much longer. It was standard practice for Marines to be rotated out of combat, and later that year Mueller found himself assigned to a desk job at Marine headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. There he discovered something about himself: “I didn’t relish the US Marine Corps absent combat.”

So he headed to law school with the goal of serving his country as a prosecutor. He went on to hold high positions in five presidential administrations. He led the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, overseeing the US investigation of the Lockerbie bombing and the federal prosecution of the Gambino crime family boss John Gotti. He became director of the FBI one week before September 11, 2001, and stayed on to become the bureau’s longest-serving director since J. Edgar Hoover.

And yet, throughout his five-decade career, that year of combat experience with the Marines has loomed large in Mueller’s mind. “I’m most proud the Marines Corps deemed me worthy of leading other Marines,” he told me in a 2009 interview.

Today, the face-off between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and President Donald Trump stands out, amid the black comedy of Trump’s Washington, as an epic tale of diverging American elites: a story of two men — born just two years apart, raised in similar wealthy backgrounds in Northeastern cities, both deeply influenced by their fathers, both star prep school athletes, both Ivy League educated — who now find themselves playing very different roles in a riveting national drama about political corruption and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The two men have lived their lives in pursuit of almost diametrically opposed goals — Mueller a life of patrician public service, Trump a life of private profit.

Those divergent paths began with Vietnam, the conflict that tore the country apart just as both men graduated from college in the 1960s. Despite having been educated at an elite private military academy, Donald Trump famously drew five draft deferments, including one for bone spurs in his feet. He would later joke, repeatedly, that his success at avoiding sexually transmitted diseases while dating numerous women in the 1980s was “my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

Mueller, for his part, not only volunteered for the Marines, he spent a year waiting for an injured knee to heal so he could serve. And he has said little about his time in Vietnam over the years. When he was leading the FBI through the catastrophe of 9/11 and its aftermath, he would brush off the crushing stress, saying, “I’m getting a lot more sleep now than I ever did in Vietnam.” One of the only other times his staff at the FBI ever heard him mention his Marine service was on a flight home from an official international trip. They were watching We Were Soldiers, a 2002 film starring Mel Gibson about some of the early battles in Vietnam. Mueller glanced at the screen and observed, “Pretty accurate.”

His reticence is not unusual for the generation that served on the front lines of a war that the country never really embraced. Many of the veterans I spoke with for this story said they’d avoided talking about Vietnam until recently. Joel Burgos, who served as a corporal with Mueller, told me at the end of our hour-long conversation, “I’ve never told anyone most of this.”

Yet for almost all of them — Mueller included — Vietnam marked the primary formative experience of their lives. Nearly 50 years later, many Marine veterans who served in Mueller’s unit have email addresses that reference their time in Southeast Asia: gunnysgt, 2-4marine, semperfi, ­PltCorpsman, Grunt. One Marine’s email handle even references Mutter’s Ridge, the area where Mueller first faced large-scale combat in December 1968.

The Marines and Vietnam instilled in Mueller a sense of discipline and a relentlessness that have driven him ever since. He once told me that one of the things the Marines taught him was to make his bed every day. I’d written a book about his time at the FBI and was by then familiar with his severe, straitlaced demeanor, so I laughed at the time and said, “That’s the least surprising thing I’ve ever learned about you.” But Mueller persisted: It was an important small daily gesture exemplifying follow-through and execution. “Once you think about it — do it,” he told me. “I’ve always made my bed and I’ve always shaved, even in Vietnam in the jungle. You’ve put money in the bank in terms of discipline.”

Mueller’s former Princeton classmate and FBI chief of staff W. Lee Rawls recalled how Mueller’s Marine leadership style carried through to the FBI, where he had little patience for subordinates who questioned his decisions. He expected his orders to be executed in the Hoover building just as they had been on the battlefield. In meetings with subordinates, Mueller had a habit of quoting Gene Hackman’s gruff Navy submarine captain in the 1995 Cold War thriller Crimson Tide: “We’re here to preserve democracy, not to practice it.”

Discipline has certainly been a defining feature of Mueller’s Russia investigation. In a political era of extreme TMI — marked by rampant White House leaks, Twitter tirades, and an administration that disgorges jilted cabinet-level officials as quickly as it can appoint new ones — the special counsel’s office has been a locked door. Mueller has remained an impassive cypher: the stoic, silent figure at the center of America’s political gyre. Not once has he spoken publicly about the Russia investigation since he took the job in May 2017, and his carefully chosen team of prosecutors and FBI agents has proved leakproof, even under the most intense of media spotlights. Mueller’s spokesperson, Peter Carr, on loan from the Justice Department, has essentially had one thing to tell a media horde ravenous for information about the Russia investigation: “No comment.”

If Mueller’s discipline is reflected in the silence of his team, his relentlessness has been abundantly evident in the pace of indictments, arrests, and legal maneuvers coming out of his office.

His investigation is proceeding on multiple fronts. He is digging into Russian information operations carried out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. In February his office indicted 13 people and three entities connected to the Internet Research Agency, the Russian organization that allegedly masterminded the information campaigns. He’s also pursuing those responsible for cyber intrusions, including the hacking of the email system at the Democratic National Committee.

At the same time, Mueller’s investigators are probing the business dealings of Trump and his associates, an effort that has yielded indictments for tax fraud and conspiracy against Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, and a guilty plea on financial fraud and lying to investigators by Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates. The team is also looking into the numerous contacts between Trump’s people and Kremlin-connected figures. And Mueller is questioning witnesses in an effort to establish whether Trump has obstructed justice by trying to quash the investigation itself.

Almost every week brings a surprise development in the investigation. But until the next indictment or arrest, it’s difficult to say what Mueller knows, or what he thinks.

Before he became special counsel, Mueller freely and repeatedly told me that his habits of mind and character were most shaped by his time in Vietnam, a period that is also the least explored chapter of his biography.

This first in-depth account of his year at war is based on multiple interviews with Mueller about his time in combat — conducted before he became special counsel — as well as hundreds of pages of once-classified Marine combat records, official accounts of Marine engagements, and the first-ever interviews with eight Marines who served alongside Mueller in 1968 and 1969. They provide the best new window we have into the mind of the man leading the Russia investigation.

Read the whole riveting thing …

The Uber Air flying car that will transport passengers of the future

“Uber has promised to get its flying cars into the air over Dallas, Dubai, and Los Angeles by 2020.”

From Fortune:

For now, the concept vehicle is slated to have a cruising speed of between 150 miles per hour and 200 miles per hour, Uber said in a statement. It’ll also fly at between 1,000 and 2,000 feet and can last up to 60 miles before the electric vehicle’s battery needs to be recharged. It’ll take only five minutes to recharge the battery, Uber said. The flying cars will likely be refueled at the thousands of rooftop “skyports” Uber hopes to erect in cities across the U.S. Those skyports will be able to accommodate 200 liftoffs and landings each hour.

Uber has been working on a flying car concept for quite some time. The company believes that with drone technology advancing and urban transportation not the easiest for travelers to overcome, taking to the air is a reasonable solution.

Read the whole thing …

How self-driving cars are poised to move into the mainstream and upend the automotive industry

“This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service.”

From Business Insider:

The self-driving car is no longer a futuristic fantasy. Consumers can already buy vehicles that, within a few years time, will get software updates enabling them to hit the road without the need for a driver.

This autonomous revolution will upend the automotive sector and disrupt huge swaths of the economy, while radically improving energy efficiency and changing the way people approach transport around the world.

Automakers and tech companies are racing to develop the technology that will power self-driving cars in the coming years. That tech is advancing, but leaves observers with a bigger question: will consumers trust driverless car tech, and will they want to use autonomous cars?

In a new report from Business Insider Intelligence, we analyze the self-driving car market, forecasting vehicle shipments and market penetration, profile the players expected to take on a prominent role in the autonomous future, examine the barriers to autonomous car development and adoption, review developments in technology, regulation, and consumer sentiment, before finally analyzing the impact the introduction of autonomy will have on various industries and transport trends.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

Read the whole thing …