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Westlake Legal Group > News Releases (Page 1414)

The U.S. Now Ranks As A ‘Problematic’ Place For Journalists

Westlake Legal Group ap_18181043832809_wide-24a7beecb915d20a6a19b21bbe09030efb3bc8e8-s1100-c15 The U.S. Now Ranks As A 'Problematic' Place For Journalists

The photos of five people, who were slain in the Capital Gazette newsroom last year, adorn candles at a vigil in June. On Thursday, Reporters Without Borders ranked the U.S. no. 48 in its World Press Freedom Index, citing attacks and threats. Jose Luis Magana/AP hide caption

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Jose Luis Magana/AP

Westlake Legal Group  The U.S. Now Ranks As A 'Problematic' Place For Journalists

The photos of five people, who were slain in the Capital Gazette newsroom last year, adorn candles at a vigil in June. On Thursday, Reporters Without Borders ranked the U.S. no. 48 in its World Press Freedom Index, citing attacks and threats.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

The United States has become a less safe place for journalists and the threats they face are becoming the standard, according to a new report by an international press freedom organization.

Reporters Sans Frontières, or Reporters Without Borders, dropped the U.S. to No. 48 out of 180 on its annual World Press Freedom Index, three notches lower than its place last year. The move downgrades the country from a “satisfactory” place to work freely to a “problematic” one for journalists.

“Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection,” the report stated.

Ten journalists have been physically attacked this year, and 46 since 2017. In January, one reporter was punched in the face and her phone stolen, while interviewing voters in California.

Last June, five people were killed while working at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Md. The man accused of shooting them had threatened the publication for years leading up to the attack.

The report also pointed a finger at President Trump who, it said, “exacerbates” press freedom problems with his repeated declarations that journalists are an “enemy of the American people,” his accusations of “fake news,” his calls to revoke broadcasting licenses and his efforts to block specific outlets from access to the White House.

“The president’s relentless attacks against the press has created an environment where verbal, physical and online threats and assault against journalists are becoming normalized,” RSF Interim Executive Director Sabine Dolan tells NPR.

She calls the situation in the United States “unprecedented.” But Trump enhanced an environment that grew worse under former President Barack Obama, she adds. “Even before President Trump, the Obama administration was aggressively using the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute more whistleblowers than any previous administration combined,” she says.

Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists, tells NPR that RSF’s findings are not surprising. Reporters in the United States have been attacked by both police and protesters while covering demonstrations, and others have been targeted at the border by authorities, she says. “The anti-press rhetoric, coming from the highest office, can kind of set this tinder on fire,” says Radsch.

Accusations of fake news have led to exponential increases in imprisoned journalists. In 2016, nine journalists were imprisoned on false news charges worldwide, according to the CPJ. That number rose to 28 in 2018, with an increasing number of authoritarian leaders relying on the term to repress journalists.

The Americas experienced the greatest press freedom corrosion in the world, according to the index, from attacks at protests in Brazil to coordinated killings in Mexico.

Researchers identified the most oppressive countries as North Korea and Turkmenistan, where the governments maintain a strong grip on their countries’ flow of information and silence journalists who defy them through harassment, arrest, torture or killing.

Norway ranked as the safest country for the third year in a row, followed by Finland.

And Ethiopia offered a glimmer of hope under the new leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who released detained journalists. The country rose 40 spots in the index ranking.

Yet only 24% of the 180 countries and territories in the assessment were classified as having a safe or satisfactory environment for the press.

Dolan says that globally, minorities and female journalists under the age of 35 have experienced a growing number of threats and online harassment.

People are consuming information that “already confirms their opinions and views” regardless of veracity, says Dolan. “And so it’s reinforcing these antagonistic feelings that people cultivate against the media, amplifying this discourse for certain segments of the population.”

The report also stated that disinformation, spread on social media, has become a grave problem for journalists and minorities. In Myanmar, hate speech online targeted the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, setting the backdrop for a brutal crackdown and the imprisonment two Reuters journalists who were investigating Rohingya killings.

RSF’s rankings were determined by a multi-language, 87-question survey for media professionals and experts. The responses were then combined with data on abuses against journalists.

“There is this growing trend of this climate of fear for journalists as hate against them from heads of states percolates into large segments of the population and this degenerates into violence,” says Dolan.

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Key Takeaways From The Full Redacted Mueller Report

A redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on Russian interference in the 2016 election was released Thursday, allowing Congress and the American public to read the findings for themselves.

Attorney General William Barr went to bat for Trump at a press conference on Mueller’s report early Thursday — minutes before the report’s public release ― in which he repeatedly echoed the the president’s refrain that there was “no collusion” during the 2016 election. The Trump-picked attorney general’s decision to speak on the redacted report before it was sent to Congress drew fierce criticism from Democratic lawmakers, who then requested that Mueller testify about his findings before the House Judiciary Committee by next month.

Throughout the special counsel’s nearly two-year investigation, six Trump campaign associates and dozens of Russian operatives were charged with various crimes.

Here are some key takeaways from the redacted report released to the public:

1. Mueller looked at 10 instances of possible obstruction by Trump.

The report details multiple instances in which Trump may have obstructed justice by using his authority to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation. Mueller declined to make a determination about whether the president obstructed justice.

“Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations,” the report states. “These incidents were often carried out through on-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels.”

The report pointed to instances like Trump telling former White House Counsel Donald McGahn to fire Mueller as special counsel, and asking political operative Corey Lewandowski to tell then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of the investigation to future elections.

However, an obstruction of justice charge would require the special counsel to determine that Trump’s actions, which may have impeded the Russia probe, were done with that intent, Mueller said in the report. “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the special counsel wrote.

Westlake Legal Group 5cb8db96230000bf026db5ee Key Takeaways From The Full Redacted Mueller Report

Bloomberg via Getty Images Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions at an event at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. — Oct. 25, 2018. 

2. Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice were foiled by his own staff.

Trump may have been saved from an obstruction of justice charge by his own aides’ refusal to follow his orders.

“The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surround the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” Mueller wrote.

Then-FBI Director James Comey, for instance, ignored Trump’s request to stop investigating the president’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who was later convicted of lying to the FBI; McGahn didn’t help fire Mueller, and Lewandowski didn’t pass along Trump’s message to Sessions saying Mueller’s investigation was unfair to the president and to limit its scope.

3. Mueller’s report detailed Russia’s extensive interference in the 2016 election.

“The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a sweeping and systematic fashion,” Mueller wrote in the report.

The report goes into two main operations through which Russians interfered in the election: First a Russian group carried out a social media campaign designed to “sow discord” in the U.S. political system, supporting then-candidate Trump and disparaging Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton; second, Russian intelligence hacked the Clinton campaign volunteers and employees and released stolen documents, infamously through WikiLeaks. 

4. Mueller did not find that Trump’s campaign illegally conspired to aid Russia’s interference in the election.

Mueller’s investigation found extensive links between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials. “The links included Russian offers of assistance to the campaign,” he wrote. “In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away.”

Despite establishing election interference by the Russian government, Mueller wrote that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

The special counsel report specifically said that it was looking at “conspiracy” and not “collusion” (though Barr in his press conference on Mueller’s report echoed the president’s refrain that there was “no collusion”).

Westlake Legal Group 5cb8dc032400002701c898ce Key Takeaways From The Full Redacted Mueller Report

ASSOCIATED PRESS Attorney General William Barr speaks about the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report during a news conference, April 18, 2019.

5. The special counsel found plenty of other criminal leads that were forwarded on to other investigators.

The special counsel found evidence of crimes outside its scope and made 14 criminal referrals to other jurisdictions.

Only two of the referrals are publicly known to date. Mueller found evidence of potential wire fraud and Federal Employees’ Compensation Act violations related to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal fixer, and referred that evidence to federal prosecutors in New York and the FBI’s New York Field Office. Cohen received three years in prison on charges including campaign finance violation and lying to Congress, and gave testimony in February that revealed the inner workings of the Trump campaign.

The second public criminal referral includes potential Foreign Agent Registration Act violations related to Gregory Craig and his former litigation firm, Skadden. A federal grand jury recently indicted Craig on charges of making false statements and hiding information from the Justice Department related to he and his firm’s work on behalf of Ukraine. The charges stemmed from investigating former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his work on behalf of a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

6. When told about the special counsel’s appointment, Trump responded, “I’m fucked.”

“Oh my God,” Trump said. “This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”

That’s how the president reacted in May 2017 to the news that Mueller had been appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to the report. Trump was apparently livid at then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he broke the news of Mueller’s appointment to the president, saying, “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” 

“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything,” Trump said, according to notes taken by Sessions’ chief of staff Jody Hunt. “This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Trump later told The New York Times that he would never have appointed Sessions if he knew the attorney general would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Westlake Legal Group 5cb8dc771f0000c6007f1fb6 Key Takeaways From The Full Redacted Mueller Report

Drew Angerer via Getty Images

7. The Mueller team chose not to subpoena Trump because it wasn’t worth it.

Mueller’s report addresses why Trump was never subpoenaed, which would have forced him to testify as part of the investigation into his campaign and Russian interference in the election.

Essentially, after the president “would not be interviewed voluntarily,” per the report, the special counsel’s office “weighed the costs” of a potentially long legal battle to obtain an interview with Trump versus the value of completing the investigation sooner. Mueller’s team ultimately decided it had gathered enough information from other sources for its investigation.  

Throughout Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation, the special counsel repeatedly sought to interview Trump. Ultimately, Trump ended up submitting written answers to some of Mueller’s questions in November 2018 ― which the report called “inadequate.” The president reportedly only answered questions related to Russia’s interference in the election, and not about whether he tried to obstruct the investigation into his campaign’s potential links with Russian meddling.

8. Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied to the press about circumstances surrounding James Comey’s firing.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that the president only fired FBI Director James Comey because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had recommended it. Mueller’s report, however, indicates that Sanders’ May 2017 explanation for the president’s actions was not true; Trump wanted Comey gone because the director wouldn’t publicly state that the president was not under investigation.

“In the immediate aftermath of the firing, the President dictated a press statement suggesting that he had acted based on the [Department of Justice] recommendations, and White House press officials repeated that story,” Mueller wrote in his report. “But the President had decided to fire Comey before the White House solicited those recommendations.”

Sanders also admitted that when she told reporters the “rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director,” her statement had no basis in fact, as was reported at the time.

9. Yes, Donald Trump did try to cover up the real reason for that Trump Tower meeting.

Donald Trump Jr. eventually ended up tweeting out screenshots of emails setting up the now-infamous June 2016 meeting between himself, senior Trump campaign officials and a Kremlin-linked lawyer said to be offering information that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Before that, though, his father had attempted to cover up the true reason for the meeting, held at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Trump never wanted his son’s correspondence to become public. In the summer of 2017, the president repeatedly told Hope Hicks, then serving as a communications adviser, that he did not even want to speak about the emails, which she believed would be inevitably leaked. Trump did not believe her.

Later, however, the president ended up “edit[ing] a press statement for Trump Jr. by deleting a line that acknowledged that the meeting was with ‘an individual who [Trump Jr.] was told might have information helpful to the campaign’” ― instead, he stated only that the meeting was about adoption. Michael Cohen, at the time still serving as Trump’s personal lawyer, repeatedly denied that the president had helped craft the story given to reporters.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Reese Witherspoon, 43, says she’s ‘earned her gray hair and fine lines’

Westlake Legal Group reese-witherspoon-43-says-shes-earned-her-gray-hair-and-fine-lines Reese Witherspoon, 43, says she’s ‘earned her gray hair and fine lines’ New York Post Melissa Minton fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fnc/entertainment fnc bd581e3e-edc6-5e6c-97b6-809120094b1a article
Westlake Legal Group 10cd93ea-reese-witherspoon Reese Witherspoon, 43, says she’s ‘earned her gray hair and fine lines’ New York Post Melissa Minton fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fnc/entertainment fnc bd581e3e-edc6-5e6c-97b6-809120094b1a article

Reese Witherspoon is okay with wrinkles and gray hair.

The “Legally Blonde” actress, 43, opened up to Allure about why she’s embracing the aging process. “I have a point of view because I’ve been on this planet for 43 years, and I didn’t feel that same way when I was 25,” Witherspoon explained.

DOLLY PARTON REVEALS HER CONNECTION TO RESSE WITHERSPOON

“I didn’t have the same things to say. I’m 43 and I’ve had a whole bunch of experiences, and I can speak with a thoughtfulness about the changes I’d like to see in the world, and … I just feel like I earned that gray hair and my fine lines. I like ’em. I so prefer 43 to 25.”

REESE WITHERSPOON CONFIRMS ‘LEGALLY BLONDE 3’

Despite loving the way she looks, the mom of three does have an extravagant beauty routine. The “Big Little Lies” star said she’s taken a bath — complete with Goop bath salts — every night for the past four years. She also gets her hair highlighted every seven or eight weeks, which takes three hours each appointment. Witherspoon even takes prenatal vitamins to keep her locks looking thick.

Clearly, whatever she’s doing is working.

This article originally appeared in Page Six.

Westlake Legal Group 10cd93ea-reese-witherspoon Reese Witherspoon, 43, says she’s ‘earned her gray hair and fine lines’ New York Post Melissa Minton fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fnc/entertainment fnc bd581e3e-edc6-5e6c-97b6-809120094b1a article   Westlake Legal Group 10cd93ea-reese-witherspoon Reese Witherspoon, 43, says she’s ‘earned her gray hair and fine lines’ New York Post Melissa Minton fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fnc/entertainment fnc bd581e3e-edc6-5e6c-97b6-809120094b1a article

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The Ways William Barr Misled The Public About The Mueller Report

President Donald Trump has long wished for an attorney general who would act as his own private lawyer, protecting him from any potential legal damage. He finally found his man in William Barr.

Barr could have released special counsel Robert Mueller’s report from the beginning. Instead, the attorney general chose to twice present his own interpretation of the special counsel’s findings on foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. election ― before allowing members of the public to see the report and decide for themselves whether Trump and his associates did anything improper. 

The report, which finally came out on Thursday, paints a much more complicated picture of whether Trump obstructed justice than Barr let on. 

The first time the public received a glimpse of what was in the Mueller report was on March 24, when Barr sent a four-page letter to congressional leaders summarizing his conclusions from the report the special counsel team had submitted to Barr two days earlier.

The second time the public heard about the report’s content was in a Thursday morning press conference when Barr went out of his way to echo Trump talking points, attacking the media and the president’s “political opponents.”

To the Justice Department’s credit, the redactions in the Mueller report were relatively light ― allowing the public to see a substantial amount of the content. 

But still, in his public comments, Barr made sure to paint as positive a picture of Trump before the report became widely available.

Here’s how the attorney general misled the public: 

He left out the Trump campaign’s expectation of benefiting from hacked material.

In his letter to Congress on March 24, Barr wrote: 

The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: ”[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election inference activities.”

While it’s true that the Mueller report did reach that conclusion, that quote is incomplete. Barr left out the first part, which was less complimentary to the Trump campaign.

Below is the full quote from the Mueller report, with the part Barr omitted in bold:

Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities. 

He said it was up to him to make a decision on obstruction of justice.

Westlake Legal Group 5cb8b536240000030a4f6da3 The Ways William Barr Misled The Public About The Mueller Report

ASSOCIATED PRESS Attorney General William Barr went to bat for Trump in a Thursday morning press conference.

In his March 24 letter, Barr said Mueller’s team did not come to a conclusion on whether Trump had obstructed justice in the course of the investigation. Therefore, Barr claimed, it was now up to him to make that determination.

“The Special Counsel’s decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime,” he wrote. 

Barr said he concluded that the evidence “is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

But Barr never had to make that legal conclusion, as Matt Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department under President Barack Obama, pointed out. And Mueller never asked Barr to so.

Indeed, the report said the special counsel’s team couldn’t come to such a conclusion: 

[I]f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.

The report also said that ultimately, the obstruction call wasn’t for Mueller to make. The special counsel decided not to make a decision on whether to prosecute Trump because the Justice Department’s position, according to an Office of Legal Counsel memo, is that a sitting president cannot be indicted. 

“Given the role of the Special Counsel as an attorney in the Department of Justice and the framework of the Special Counsel regulations … this Office accepted OLC’s legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction,” the report states.

Furthermore, it seems clear that Mueller and his team expected that ultimately, Congress would make the decision on obstruction of justice.

NBC News reported earlier that some in Mueller’s office had said “their intent was to leave the legal question open for Congress and the public to examine the evidence.” 

“[W]e concluded that Congress can validly regulate the President’s exercise of official duties to prohibit actions motivated by a corrupt intent to obstruct justice,” the report says.

In other words, Congress can impeach the president if it wants to do so.

He gave an incomplete picture of Trump’s actions that could be construed as obstruction of justice.

“In cataloguing the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct,” Barr wrote in his March 24 letter. 

The report doesn’t let Trump off the hook quite so easily. It says Trump tried to obstruct justice ― but he didn’t succeed because his staff refused to follow his orders.

“The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” the report reads. 

The report detailed 10 acts by Trump that could amount to obstruction of justice.

He said Mueller found “no collusion.”

Westlake Legal Group 5cb8cc331f000053017f1fa6 The Ways William Barr Misled The Public About The Mueller Report

ASSOCIATED PRESS Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been called to testify before Congress about his report.

One of Trump’s favorite phrases is that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and the Russian government in the 2016 elections. He has tweeted it 84 times.

Barr used the phrase four times in his 18-minute remarks in Thursday’s press conference: 

  • “Put another way, the special counsel found no ‘collusion’ by any Americans in the IRA’s illegal activity.”

  • “But again, the special counsel’s report did not find any evidence that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its hacking operations. In other words, there was no evidence of Trump campaign ‘collusion’ with the Russian government’s hacking.” 

  • “After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the special counsel’s report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the president could amount to obstruction of the special counsel’s investigation.”

  • “At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion.”  

But the Mueller report never actually said the investigation found no collusion. In fact, the report explains specifically why it doesn’t use the term “collusion.” The word only appears in the report as part of this explanation or in quoting someone else. 

Westlake Legal Group 5cb8aab82a0000e8044f920b The Ways William Barr Misled The Public About The Mueller Report

Mueller Report The Mueller report avoided using the term “collusion,” and explains why here.

Therefore, Barr repeatedly saying Mueller found “no collusion” was simply the attorney general adopting a Trump talking point.

He said Trump fully cooperated with the investigation.

Barr was extremely sympathetic to Trump in Thursday’s press conference. He tried to paint a picture of a president under extreme ― and unfair ― pressure, telling reporters, “As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates.” 

He said Trump was “frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,” so it’s not surprising if he may have lashed out a bit. And, he added, Trump deserved credit for “fully cooperat[ing]” with the special counsel at all: 

Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. 

Trump, however, didn’t fully cooperate. He refused repeated requests to give an interview to Mueller and his team. The report said the special counsel’s team considered issuing a subpoena for Trump to testify but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth it: 

Westlake Legal Group 5cb8d214240000df01044cd0 The Ways William Barr Misled The Public About The Mueller Report

Mueller Report The Mueller report says Trump refused to be interviewed by the special counsel and his team.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

‘Concreteberg’ The Size Of A Blue Whale Plagues London’s Sewers

Westlake Legal Group concrete-1-4-_custom-38e45480b716a6a67814725169799b34b253279b-s1100-c15 'Concreteberg' The Size Of A Blue Whale Plagues London's Sewers

Thames Water says it is removing a massive “concreteberg” from London’s sewer system. Thames Water hide caption

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Thames Water

Westlake Legal Group  'Concreteberg' The Size Of A Blue Whale Plagues London's Sewers

Thames Water says it is removing a massive “concreteberg” from London’s sewer system.

Thames Water

A London water provider is asking people to please, please, stop pouring concrete down their drains.

The consequences are heavy: Thames Water says a “concreteberg” the weight of a blue whale is blocking three Victorian-era sewers. “It goes without saying that pouring concrete down the drains into our sewers isn’t going to do any good,” said Thames Water.

The mass is longer than a football field and weighs a whopping 115 tons (or 105 metric tonnes).

“This is not the first time damage has been caused by people pouring concrete into our sewers but it’s certainly the worst we’ve seen,” Alex Saunders, the operations manager of Thames Water, said in a statement.

And it’s going to be a huge pain to remove. Thames Water says it’s expecting a two-month process that will cause traffic disruptions in London’s Islington neighborhood, around the corner from City, University of London.

Tankers are going to be standing by around the clock to pump out raw sewage so that the area doesn’t get flooded with waste, the company says.

London’s sewer system has seen numerous blockages in recent years – though typically they are “fatbergs” — masses of fat, oil, and wet wipes. In 2017, workers discovered a 143-ton (130 metric tonne) fatberg in London’s Whitechapel area.

And as the BBC reports, “last year Thames Water was called to clear 42,000 blockages caused by fat and non-biodegradable matter, a 6% increase on 2017.”

But this one is expected to be particularly complicated because it’s made of concrete. The workers will need to literally chip away at the giant block, using a number of tools including jackhammer pneumatic drills and high-pressure jets.

The company has made it clear that being forced to deal with concrete blockages is a waste of time and money. It’s expected to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to unblock.

“It’s very frustrating and takes a great amount of time and effort to resolve,” said Saunders. “We’re now doing everything we can to deal with it as quickly as possible, making sure our customers don’t have to suffer because of this mindless abuse of our network.”

The company says investigators are looking into how the concrete got into the sewer and hopes recover some of the costs. “This is money which could have been spent on investing in the network and helping customers in vulnerable circumstances,” the company says.

Fatbergs have become objects of fascination for some members of the public in London – last spring, the Museum of London actually put part of the Whitechapel fatberg on display. It’s now a part of the museum’s permanent collection and is continuously livestreamed.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

I.P.O. Day for Pinterest and Zoom Ends With Shares Sharply Higher

Westlake Legal Group i-p-o-day-for-pinterest-and-zoom-ends-with-shares-sharply-higher I.P.O. Day for Pinterest and Zoom Ends With Shares Sharply Higher Venture Capital Stocks and Bonds Social Media Silbermann, Ben Pinterest Initial Public Offerings
Westlake Legal Group 00pinterestlisting-1-facebookJumbo I.P.O. Day for Pinterest and Zoom Ends With Shares Sharply Higher Venture Capital Stocks and Bonds Social Media Silbermann, Ben Pinterest Initial Public Offerings

SAN FRANCISCO — The rush of so-called unicorn start-ups toward the public markets had a rocky start. But Thursday indicated that investors remain eager to get a piece of them.

Shares in Pinterest, the digital pin board, jumped over 28 percent on its first day of trading as a public company. The company’s stock began trading at $23.75, above the initial public offering price of $19, and finished the day at $24.40.

The company’s fully diluted market capitalization totaled over $16 billion, making it more valuable than Macy’s or Nordstrom, the retail chains. More important to investors, the price put the company’s value above its last private valuation of $12 billion, avoiding a disappointing outcome.

Zoom, a videoconferencing company, also went public to tremendous investor demand on Thursday. Shares in the company, which was last valued by private investors at $1 billion — the threshold for unicorn status among private start-ups — skyrocketed 80 percent in early trading. The shares ended the day up more than 72 percent, closing at $62. The company’s fully diluted market capitalization now exceeds $18 billion.

Eric Yuan, chief executive and founder of Zoom, said the spike created pressure for his company to deliver on investors’ high expectations.

“I looked at the price this morning and I thought, ‘Wow, I better go back tonight to get back to work,’” he said.

Ahead of the companies’ I.P.O.s, there were many questions about whether investors were willing to swallow the risk of the latest crop of tech companies. The ride-hailing company Lyft, which went public in March, has had a troubled start. Lyft shares surged, then quickly sank below their initial price.

Pinterest almost became an “undercorn” — a company that goes public for less than its private market valuation — but public market investors warmed to the company during its pitches ahead of its I.P.O., leading it to raise its proposed share price before its stock offering. The company’s debut bodes well for Uber, Slack and others, which are expected to go public this year.

Jeremy Levine, a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, Pinterest’s biggest shareholder, said a combination of investor optimism and low volatility was helping tech I.P.O.s.

“The market is moody, but right now it’s in a good mood,” he said.

One investor concern about the tech companies heading for the public markets is their lack of profits. One of the exceptions is Zoom.

The demand for Zoom stock, and the leap in its share price, showed that investors are just as eager to back lesser-known enterprise software companies — particularly profitable ones — as they are to support high-profile apps geared toward consumers. Shares in PagerDuty, a smaller software start-up, soared 60 percent on its first day of trading last week.

Pinterest is closer to turning a profit than Uber and Lyft. It lost $63 million on revenue of $756 million last year, a sharp contrast to the nearly $1 billion Lyft lost and the $1.8 billion Uber lost in the same period.

Pinterest’s chief executive and co-founder, Ben Silbermann, has avoided the pizazz that has led many of his Silicon Valley peers to become minor celebrities. But as the leader of a publicly traded company, he will need to woo Wall Street investors and analysts.

Mr. Silbermann said in an interview that he planned to celebrate by taking a nap. He said he had told his colleagues that the I.P.O. was a little like graduating from school.

“You have to throw your hat in the air and take a moment,” he said. “But it’s not like when you graduate, all your problems are solved.”

Rick Heitzmann, managing director at FirstMark Capital, one of Pinterest’s first investors, said Pinterest’s understated culture served it well in the I.P.O. process. Pushing for a higher share price in its offering would not have been a good long-term strategy, he said.

“You don’t want to overhype anything,” Mr. Heitzmann said. “You want to set reasonable expectations and work really hard to exceed them.”

Pinterest is not a social media app for interacting with celebrities or broadcasting one’s life, the company said in its I.P.O. prospectus. It is meant to be personal instead. Its 250 million monthly active users, or pinners, use the site to plan important aspects of their lives, including home projects, weddings and meals.

The focus on personal growth and planning, rather than on comments and interactions with others, has helped Pinterest sidestep much of the bullying, toxic behavior and disinformation that have plagued other social platforms in recent years.

But Pinterest, which makes money from advertising, faces heavy competition from those companies, including Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary. Other rivals include Allrecipes, a recipe website; Houzz, a home-improvement website; and Tastemade, a cooking content company.

As a private company, Pinterest raised $1.5 billion from investors, many of whom will reap outsize paydays. Bessemer Venture Partners, FirstMark Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, which invested in the company’s early days, will score big. Fidelity and Valiant Capital Partners also hold significant stakes.

In addition to providing a way for Pinterest’s investors and employees to cash out, Mr. Silbermann said, the money that Pinterest raised in its I.P.O. will allow the company to look at potential acquisitions and new lines of business.

“Should there be an opportunity to acquire a business or invest in an opportunity we see that looks really great, it’s a little easier,” he said.

He said he didn’t identify his company with the pack of unicorns racing to the public market, including Slack, Uber and Lyft, because the companies are in different industries like transportation and business software.

“In a few years, people might remember it as a moment in time, but the companies will be judged very differently five years down the line,” Mr. Silbermann said.

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Biden joins striking union members in Boston as speculation mounts over 2020 run

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6022946792001_6022945765001-vs Biden joins striking union members in Boston as speculation mounts over 2020 run fox-news/us/economy/labor-unions fox-news/politics/executive/white-house fox-news/politics/elections/democrats fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/kamala-harris fox-news/person/joe-biden fox-news/person/elizabeth-warren fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox news fnc/politics fnc article Andrew O'Reilly 0a7e2149-5aea-5f80-b994-d8f1cf70ae91

Former Vice President Joe Biden made an appearance on Thursday at a rally for striking grocery store workers in Boston, where he expressed his solidarity with the union members and his anger at corporate America.

Biden, who is widely expected to soon announce a run for the presidency, highlighted his working-class upbringing in Pennsylvania and his disdain for unfair labor practices.

“Wall Street CEOs and bankers did not build America, you built America,” Biden told a crowd of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union gathered outside a Stop & Shop market in the Dorchester neighborhood.

TRUMP PREDICTS BIDEN, SANDERS, WILL BE THE TWO DEM 2020 FINALISTS

More than 30,000 UFCW Stop & Shop workers have been on strike since April 11 as they fight the company over what they’ve called unreasonable contract and benefit cuts.

“This is morally wrong what is going on around the country, and I’m sick of it, and I’ve had enough of it,” Biden said. “We’ve got to stand to together, and we will take back our country.”

While Biden has not officially declared that he plans to challenge President Trump for the White House, recent polling indicates that he is considered one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination, alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. A recent poll by Fox News shows that Biden holds a seven-point lead in a head-to-head race against Trump, while Sanders holds a three-point lead over Trump.

POLLS SUGGEST VOTERS SHRUGGING OFF BIDEN INAPPROPRIATE TOUCHING CONTROVERSY

Looking ahead to his re-election campaign, Trump predicted in a tweet earlier this week that he would face either Biden or Sanders in the general election next year.

Sanders is leading a crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field in fundraising so far, raising $18 million.

Winning back working class voters is of major importance to the 2020 Democratic after the party suffered major losses in union-heavy states like Michigan and Pennsylvania in the 2016 election. Biden has already been courting union voters even before he has officially entered the race.

“You are coming back,” he told the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers last week. “We need you back.”

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Biden is not the only potential candidate courting union votes: Sanders’ campaign became the first in U.S. history with a unionized workforce, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined striking Stop & Shop workers on a picket line in New Hampshire last Friday and California Sen. Kamala Harris hired a top Service Employees International Union executive for her campaign and made her first proposal one to raise teacher’s pay.

Major union endorsements are likely several months away, especially because the labor movement is treading carefully after complaints that its leadership was too quick to back Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary over Sanders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6022946792001_6022945765001-vs Biden joins striking union members in Boston as speculation mounts over 2020 run fox-news/us/economy/labor-unions fox-news/politics/executive/white-house fox-news/politics/elections/democrats fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/kamala-harris fox-news/person/joe-biden fox-news/person/elizabeth-warren fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox news fnc/politics fnc article Andrew O'Reilly 0a7e2149-5aea-5f80-b994-d8f1cf70ae91   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6022946792001_6022945765001-vs Biden joins striking union members in Boston as speculation mounts over 2020 run fox-news/us/economy/labor-unions fox-news/politics/executive/white-house fox-news/politics/elections/democrats fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/kamala-harris fox-news/person/joe-biden fox-news/person/elizabeth-warren fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox news fnc/politics fnc article Andrew O'Reilly 0a7e2149-5aea-5f80-b994-d8f1cf70ae91

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National Enquirer to be sold to Hudson News mogul, parent company says

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Westlake Legal Group national-enquirer-front National Enquirer to be sold to Hudson News mogul, parent company says Samuel Chamberlain fox-news/entertainment/media fox news fnc/entertainment fnc article 49dbf4bd-90fc-53ff-8e7b-fba534e25ed5

The National Enquirer tabloid is being sold to James Cohen, the owner and CEO of newsstand company Hudson News, its parent company announced Thursday.

The deal announced by American Media Inc. also includes two other supermarket tabloids, Globe and the National Examiner. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The sale comes after the Enquirer was caught up in a federal investigation of illegal campaign contributions to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. In September of last year, American Media reached a “non-prosecution” agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in which it admitted to paying former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in order to “suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”

AMI also admitted that it made the payment to McDougal “in concert with [Trump’s] presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman [McDougal] did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.”

The Enquirer has also been accused by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos of trying to blackmail him by threatening to publish explicit photos of him. The tabloid denies the charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Brian Kilmeade: Trump was ‘right’ to appear angry after Mueller’s appointment

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Westlake Legal Group AP19103003813878 Brian Kilmeade: Trump was 'right' to appear angry after Mueller's appointment Talia Kaplan fox-news/us fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/person/william-barr fox-news/person/robert-mueller fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/news-events/russia-investigation fox news fnc/politics fnc bcd7bacc-fe00-5733-a01a-83bf353f3878 article

Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade said Thursday President Trump was “right” to appear angry after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment, adding “It’s been two years of hell for him.”

Kilmeade made the statement while joining Fox News chief national correspondent Ed Henry on “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino” and in response to an excerpt in the Mueller report that Perino said could be “misinterpreted” by some of President Trump’s opponents.

According to the excerpt, which was released to the public on Thursday morning, Trump said his presidency was finished, going so far as to state he was “f—ed”, after being told of Mueller’s appointment by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

TRUMP THOUGHT PRESIDENCY WAS OVER WHEN TOLD OF MUELLER’S APPOINTMENT: ‘THIS IS THE END… I’M F—ED’

“According to notes written by (Sessions’ chief of staff Jody) Hunt, when Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair, and said, ‘Oh my God.  This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f……’,” the report reads.

“The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, ‘How could you let this happen, Jeff?’

“I think the critics are going to pounce on this,” said Henry, adding that the excerpt could be misinterpreted to mean that it was at this point the President knew he was in trouble because “he did criminally bad things and he’s going to get caught.”

MUELLER REPORT SHOWS PROBE DID NOT FIND COLLUSION EVIDENCE, REVEALS TRUMP EFFORTS TO SIDELINE KEY PLAYERS

Henry added, “That’s not what the President was saying based on the rest of the report in the full context. In fact, there are other lines right after that that suggest what we’re saying, that the president knew politically, this is going to be so damaging and he couldn’t believe that Jeff Sessions had recused himself.”

“By the way, he (President Trump) was right. It’s been two years of hell for him,” Kilmeade said.

“Two years of wasted parts of his presidency,” said Henry in agreement. “Meanwhile the economy is still doing pretty well. He’s still trying to crack down on immigration.”

Henry then brought up what the president said at a news event on Thursday, shortly after Barr held a press conference discussing the Mueller report.

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“He (President Trump) talked about the acting defense secretary and wiping out ISIS. All of that has been going on while Washington and others have been consumed by this (the Mueller investigation) which turns out to be a whole lot of nothing,” said Henry.

“I don’t want to say nothing all together, there’s some troubling information about alleged obstruction. But we’ve been told for two years by Adam Schiff and others, there’s evidence, not allegations, evidence of collusion and there’s not.”

Westlake Legal Group AP19103003813878 Brian Kilmeade: Trump was 'right' to appear angry after Mueller's appointment Talia Kaplan fox-news/us fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/person/william-barr fox-news/person/robert-mueller fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/news-events/russia-investigation fox news fnc/politics fnc bcd7bacc-fe00-5733-a01a-83bf353f3878 article   Westlake Legal Group AP19103003813878 Brian Kilmeade: Trump was 'right' to appear angry after Mueller's appointment Talia Kaplan fox-news/us fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/person/william-barr fox-news/person/robert-mueller fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/news-events/russia-investigation fox news fnc/politics fnc bcd7bacc-fe00-5733-a01a-83bf353f3878 article

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Mueller report lifts curtain on White House chaos as aides ignore, manage Trump

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USA TODAY Justice Correspondent Kristine Phillips on three things to look for in the redacted Mueller report. USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The long-awaited report from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation did not find conspiracy between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Moscow, but it painted a vivid picture of chaos inside the White House as the president scrambled to react to those allegations.

The report brings to light new details about the frantic first months of Trump’s presidency, as senior aides were ordered to carry out presidential instructions that made them uncomfortable. Sometimes senior aides simply ignored his orders, or tried desperately to change his mind. 

Trump has for two years brushed aside media reports and tell-all books describing West Wing chaos, suggesting those stories were based on disgruntled former aides and anonymous sources. Though most of the anecdotes included in Mueller’s report were previously reported, they will now be harder to explain away as politically motivated fictions.

Mueller’s report suggests that, in some instances, Trump’s aides were attempting to protect the president by not carrying out his requests. The murkiness around their motivations – and his – are a central reason why it was difficult for the special counsel’s team to determine whether the president attempted to obstruct justice. 

“The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” Mueller wrote in the report. 

In some cases, Mueller said, top White House officials consulted their own personal lawyers before deciding whether to carry out an order from the president.

The report pulls back a curtain on a president who was frustrated and angry by developments taking place beyond his control, and searching for a way to get a handle on an investigation that threatened to consume his presidency and stymie his agenda. 

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed the president that Mueller was appointed as special counsel, Sessions recalled Trump slouching in his chair and lamenting his fate. “This is the end of my presidency,” Trump said. “I’m f—ed.”

McGahn under pressure

One pivotal moment came on a Saturday in June, 2017. Trump was on his first visit to Camp David for what was ostensibly a family retreat but was really a damage-control session after press reports Mueller was investigating obstruction of justice.

Trump called White House Counsel Don McGahn at home twice, asking him to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can’t be the Special Counsel,” Trump said, according to McGahn’s statement to Mueller.

McGahn told Trump he didn’t want to be like “Saturday Night Massacre Bork,” referring to Nixon solicitor general Robert Bork who fired a special prosecutor investigating Watergate. Both the attorney general and deputy attorney general refused Nixon’s order and resigned. President Ronald Reagan later nominated Bork to the Supreme Court, though he was not confirmed.

McGahn told colleagues in the White House that he planned to resign, but wouldn’t say why because he didn’t want to involve them. He told then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus only that Trump had asked him to “do crazy sh–.” Priebus convinced McGahn to stay.

When the New York Times reported on the episode months later, Trump called it “a typical New York Times fake story.”  Privately, he pressured McGahn to deny the story in writing. He called his White House counsel a “lying bastard” and told Staff Secretary Rob Porter, “If he doesn’t write a letter, then maybe I’ll have to get rid of him.”

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Trump also asked McGahn why he told Mueller that he had threatened to fire the special counsel. “What-about these notes? Why do you take notes?” Trump said. “Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes.”

Trump react: Trump thought Mueller would ‘end’ his presidency 

Main story: Mueller report documents links between Trump campaign and Russia

‘I called him anyway’ 

As official Washington flipped through the 400-page document, the culmination of a nearly two-year investigation, they were confronted with the details of a president scrambling to deal with a probe he grasped would be politically damaging, even if he believed he had done nothing wrong during the 2016 presidential election. 

Similar anecdotes have for years popped up in books and media coverage, which Trump has almost always dismissed as politically motivated hit jobs. Veteran reporter Bob Woodward chronicled an episode in his book “Fear” last year in which former economic adviser Gary Cohn removed a draft of a document from the president’s desk to prevent the administration from ending a trade agreement with ally South Korea. 

Cohn resigned last year. 

Anecdotes in Mueller’s report suggest the president’s effort to question the investigation often backfired, and occurred over the advice of close aides. 

White House attorneys had advised the president not to call then FBI director James Comey in 2017 for fear it would create a perception he was attempting to interfere in the initial stages of the Russian investigation. But Trump made those calls anyway, and told his senior aides after the fact that Comey informed him the FBI could say publicly that the president was not personally under investigation.

“I know you told me not to, but I called Comey anyway,” Trump told his aides in April 2017, according to the report. 

Less than a month later, Trump fired Comey. 

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Uncomfortable orders

The Monday after the Camp David visit, Trump met with his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, in the Oval Office. Lewandowski had no formal role in the administration, but Trump asked him to give Sessions a directive.

“Write this down,” Trump said.

Lewandowski wrote it down, and later gave it to Mueller.

Trump directed Sessions to give a speech saying Trump “didn’t do anything wrong except he ran the greatest campaign in American history.”

He also wanted Lewandowski to tell Sessions to limit the special counsel to only investigating future Russian election meddling – and not obstruction.

But Lewandowski didn’t want to tell Sessions over the phone, and he didn’t want to visit the Justice Department because that would create a record. So Lewandowski and Sessions never met. Instead, Lewandowski asked Rick Dearborn, then the White House deputy chief of staff, to do it.

But Dearborn said the message made him uncomfortable. He told Lewandowski he would take care of it, but didn’t.

Aides push back 

A month later, aboard Marine One, Trump told Priebus that Sessions should resign. “I need a letter of resignation on my desk immediately,” he said.

Priebus and McGahn agreed that they would refuse to carry out the order.  Trump bugged Priebus about it later in the day. “”Did you get it? Are you working on it?” Priebus said that if Sessions resigned, his top two deputies would also resign.

Instead, Trump stepped up his public criticism of Sessions. For the rest of the year, Sessions had a letter of resignation prepared and carried it with him in his pocket every time he went to the White House.

 

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