Day: January 17, 2020


Fears Trump using DOJ for political gain…


WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors in the District of Columbia have taken steps in recent months to explore a years-old disclosure of classified information to the media, raising some fears that the Justice Department is resurrecting dated instances of possible wrongdoing to support President Donald Trump’s crackdown on leaks and possibly target a source of his ire: former FBI director James Comey, people familiar with the matter said Thursday.

The prosecutors have begun asking questions about news reporting in 2017 about a classified document – thought to be a Russian intelligence product – that described how then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had purportedly assured someone in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state would not push too deep, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

The document was determined to be bad intelligence – possibly a fake meant to dupe the FBI – and those mentioned in it said they do not know each other and did not have any talks like those described. Both The Washington Post and the New York Times reported on the document.

Comey told the Justice Department Inspector General he relied in part on the document when he elected in July 2016 not to tell Lynch that he was recommending the Clinton email case be closed without charges before announcing his decision publicly. He reasoned that if the classified material leaked, it could raise concerns about Lynch’s credibility, according to an inspector general report on the matter released in 2018.

Some former law enforcement officials say they worry Trump or officials at his Justice Department might be ginning up the investigation now because of the president’s hatred of the media – or of Comey. The probe was first reported by the New York Times.

Trump has frequently pushed for probes of his critics and political rivals, and he has been particularly spiteful toward Comey, whom he fired as FBI director in May 2017. Last month, for example, Trump suggested without evidence that Comey had broken the law.

“So what are the consequences for his unlawful conduct,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Could it be years in jail?”

Trump and Justice Department officials have vowed to crack down on leaks. Early in the administration, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions boasted of tripling the number of such probes.

That prosecutors are only now investigating leaks about the document is unusual; typically, such probes begin soon after the material is disclosed.

It was not immediately clear what might have sparked the opening of a case almost three years later. The people familiar with the matter declined to provide those and other details. Spokespeople for the Justice Department, FBI and the District’s U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

The document at issue has been the subject of some government-authorized reporting – which might raise questions about the need for its continued classification at all. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz offered some broad details about the document in his report on the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, noting, for example, that the same classified material “also included an allegation, equally lacking in credibility, that Comey planned to delay the Midyear investigation to aid Republicans.”

But Horowitz included more details in a classified appendix. And when Comey referenced the material in his book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” which was reviewed in advance by the FBI for sensitive information, he seemed to do so cryptically.

“They came from a classified source – the source and content of that material remains classified as I write this,” Comey wrote.

A lawyer for Comey declined to comment. Last year, the Justice Department considered whether Comey might face criminal culpability for the handling of memos he wrote documenting his conversations with Trump but ultimately determined he could not be charged. One person familiar with the investigation said it was “not a close call.”

The District’s U.S. Attorney’s office is also investigating Comey’s former deputy, Andrew McCabe, on allegations of lying to investigators about a media disclosure. The office has faced similar criticism in that case for pursuing a Trump critic, and has yet to bring any charges.

– – –

The Washington Post’s Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

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Antifa Group To March Alongside Pro-Gun Protesters In Virginia…

Antifa Group To March Alongside Pro-Gun Protesters In Virginia...

(Second column, 8th story, link)

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FBI arrests white supremacists ahead of rally…

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Predicted To Bomb Terribly At Box Office…

Robert Downey Jr.’s latest starring vehicle, Dolittle, is projected to bomb terribly during its opening weekend at the box office. For more than a decade, Downey has enjoyed plenty of commercial success thanks to his career-changing role as Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (not to mention, also headlining two Sherlock Holmes films). But, with Avengers: Endgame marking the end of Tony Stark’s journey, Downey is about to start a new era. Up first is the fantasy/adventure Dolittle, which sees the actor play the eccentric title character who can famously talk to animals.

While Dolittle is one of the first high-profile releases of 2020, it isn’t arriving with much fanfare. Reviews for the film are mostly negative, with many critics feeling it’s a generic family film that doesn’t do much to stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately for Universal, it looks like Dolittle’s word-of-mouth is having an impact on the movie’s box office prospects and the year may already have its first prominent commercial bomb.

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Related: Wait, Why Does Robert Downey Jr’s Dolittle Movie Have A Dragon?

According to Box Office ProDolittle is projected to earn just $16.9 million domestically in its first three days. That figure would be good enough for third place this weekend, behind action sequel Bad Boys for Life ($40 million) and Oscar frontrunner 1917 ($25 million).

Robert Downey Jr. in Dolittle
Robert Downey Jr. in Dolittle

Obviously, nobody expected Dolittle to post Marvel-esque numbers (even with Downey’s involvement), but this is still a disappointing development for Universal. Dolittle cost $175 million to produce, so the studio was at least somewhat confident it’d be able to draw in sizable crowds after the holiday season. Going by the general rule of thumb, Dolittle would need to gross at least $350 million worldwide just to break even, and that seems highly unlikely to happen. In addition to the lack of buzz surrounding Dolittle, it’s also facing competition from the Christmas holdovers and newcomer Bad Boys for Life. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s return to their fan-favorite franchise is scoring excellent reviews and is poised to be a hit.

Universal was probably hoping Dolittle could kickoff a new series and become Downey’s next trademark role, but the odds of that are slim. Fortunately for the studio, they do have surefire smash Fast and Furious 9 on the way in May to soften the blow a bit. Plus, Universal’s horror lineup this year (including The Invisible Man and Halloween Kills) should produce some highly profitable titles. Still, that doesn’t change the fact Dolittle was a highly questionable investment just in concept alone, and these box office projections all but confirm that. It looks like Downey will have to hang his hopes on Sherlock Holmes 3 to get some of his mojo back.

More: Why Robert Downey Jr.’s First Post-MCU Role Is Dr. Dolittle

Source: Box Office Pro

MCU Spider-Man 3 Kraven the Hunter SR

MCU Spider-Man 3 Location May Hint At Villain, Filming Starts This Summer

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Wolf puppies play fetch too, scientists find…

Washington (AFP) – It’s a game familiar to most people: you throw an object a short distance, and wait as your joyful canine companion leaps to intercept and return the missile, encouraged by words of praise or a pat on the head.

Such scenes have no doubt played out over millenia, symbolizing the unshakeable bond of friendship between humanity and our “best friends” ever since dogs were domesticated from their wolf ancestors at least 15,000 years ago.

But a new study in the journal iScience shows that some wolf puppies also know how to play fetch, upending the long-held hypothesis that the ability to interpret subtle human social cues is unique to dogs and arose as a result of selective breeding.

The finding was made by chance as researchers in Sweden subjected 13 wolf puppies born to three different litters to a series of behavioral tests.

The team was raising wolf and dog puppies from the age of 10 days old in order to answer fundamental questions about how the two species differ, and what they have in common.

It wasn’t until the third year of the program that lead author Christina Hansen Wheat, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Stockholm noticed that some eight-week-old wolf pups actually paid attention to a stranger throwing a ball and asking them to return it — despite no prior training.

“When I saw the first wolf pup fetch the ball, I got goosebumps — whoa, that’s unexpected,” she told AFP. “Then I had two more doing the same thing, and so that was pretty exciting.”

The pups were subjected to consecutive videotaped trials, with a total of three of the 13 showing the ability to play the game consistently, all from the third litter.

– New piece in puzzle –

This suggests that, while rare, variation among wolves in so-called “human directed behavior” was a key factor in which ones were selected by prehistoric people for further breeding.

Hansen Wheat believes the finding adds an intriguing “new piece to the puzzle” to the story of dog domestication, one of the oldest and most significant interspecies partnerships in human history, yet a deeply contested area of study.

Scientists disagree over everything from when exactly it took place to where, what conditions led to it, and how it first happened: Did a stray gray wolf approach a human camp for scraps? Or did our hunter gatherer ancestors kidnap a group of pups?

Recent years have seen researchers focus on the genetic differences between dogs and wolves to try to tease out which markers are responsible for different traits.

But Hansen Wheat said her study showed that very large numbers of wolves would need to be tested to identify the gene or genes responsible for behavioral differences, since a particular trait may be absent in most wolves but present in a few.

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