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Trump wave of clemency a stark reminder of his energy to pardon



When Donald Trump stated on Tuesday that he would commute the 14-year jail sentence of Rod Blagojevich, the disgraced former Illinois governor, he invoked the names of former US justice division officers he has lengthy denounced.

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“It was a prosecution by the identical individuals — Comey, Fitzpatrick [sic] — the identical group,” the president stated, referencing James Comey, the FBI director he fired, and Patrick Fitzgerald, Mr Comey’s good friend who prosecuted Mr Blagojevich for corruption because the US legal professional in Chicago.

The feedback gave an unmistakable private and political tinge to a sweep of clemency for high-profile white-collar criminals, together with Michael Milken, the junk bond dealer, shortly earlier than Mr Trump’s longtime good friend Roger Stone is ready to be sentenced in Washington.

The pardons are the newest occasion of Mr Trump granting leniency to well-known and well-connected defendants. They have been additionally a stark reminder of the president’s broad authority to undo federal convictions — together with, probably, associates who helped him win the White Home in 2016.

“I believe he’s written the cheque, and he’s simply ready to place the date on it,” stated Patrick Cotter, a former New York mob prosecutor now at Greensfelder in Chicago.

Mr Trump issued the pardons after setting off controversy over Mr Stone’s case with repeated feedback and tweets that attacked the federal prosecutors assigned to Mr Stone’s case, a juror from his trial and Decide Amy Berman Jackson, who will sentence Mr Stone on Thursday for mendacity to Congress and witness tampering.

Amongst different issues, Mr Trump denounced the justice division’s advice that Mr Stone be sentenced to as much as 9 years in jail as unnecessarily harsh. William Barr, the attorney-general, then reversed that advice, and the 4 prosecutors who secured Mr Stone’s conviction stop the case.

Mr Barr, who has stated he made the choice independently of the president, has urged Mr Trump to cease commenting publicly on justice division issues. He has reportedly stated in non-public that he might stop if the president retains tweeting about justice division investigations.

Mr Stone is only one of a number of associates of the president who both languish in jail or are awaiting sentencing in instances initially introduced by Robert Mueller — the particular counsel who investigated claims of Russian meddling within the 2016 election — that contain mendacity to the federal government in regards to the occasions surrounding the presidential race.

Paul Manafort, Mr Trump’s former marketing campaign supervisor, is serving 7.5 years in jail for tax and financial institution fraud, false statements and witness tampering. His co-operation with the particular counsel’s workplace collapsed after Decide Jackson dominated he had lied in interviews.

Michael Flynn, Mr Trump’s former nationwide safety adviser, remains to be awaiting sentencing after pleading responsible to mendacity to the FBI in 2017. He has sought to withdraw his plea. His legal professional, Sydney Powell, was named by the White Home on Tuesday as one of many individuals who supported a pardon for Bernie Kerik, the previous New York police commissioner convicted of tax fraud and making false statements.

The query of whether or not Mr Trump would pardon associates featured in Mr Mueller’s closing report, which concluded that the president and his allies had used the potential for clemency to steer witnesses within the probe to not co-operate.

Mr Trump, who has issued a slew of pardons all through his first time period in workplace, is way from the primary president to draw controversy for his pardoning selections.

“The historical past of presidential pardons is hardly pristine or inviolate,” stated Jonathan Turley, a constitutional regulation professor at George Washington College who was known as by Republicans to testify earlier than the Home judiciary committee on Mr Trump’s impeachment.

Invoice Clinton, on his final day in workplace, pardoned Marc Wealthy, the Glencore founder who was a fugitive from prices of racketeering, fraud and tax evasion. Wealthy, now deceased, had been married to a Democratic donor.

Barack Obama issued a number of waves of clemency grants all through his two phrases in workplace, primarily for drug offences, though he saved his most controversial commutation — for Chelsea Manning, convicted of leaking army and diplomatic secrets and techniques to WikiLeaks — for his final week in workplace.

George HW Bush pardoned six former officers convicted of crimes within the Iran-Contra scandal shortly earlier than leaving workplace.

Mr Barr, who served as attorney-general below Bush, had advocated for a full sweep of pardons for officers caught up in Iran-Contra, rejecting ideas to solely pardon the previous secretary of defence.

“I stated, ‘No, in for a penny, in for a pound’.” Mr Barr recalled in 2001 in an interview with the Miller Middle.

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Bill Withers’s Life Was as Rich as His Songs



He certainly had an unusual career arc. Withers was in his 30s when he started getting serious about music—and he didn’t stay serious about it for all that long. Born in poor and rural West Virginia to a coal-miner father who died when Withers was 13, he grew up amid rank segregation. As soon as he was of age, he enlisted in the Navy, where he served for nine years. His post-military gigs included delivering milk and working an assembly line. The cover of his 1971 debut album, Just as I Am, shows him holding a lunch pail on a break from the factory; he once recalled of the shoot, “So guys are in the back yelling, ‘Hey Hollywood!’”

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That album arose from a mix of ambition, impulse, and extraordinary talent. Inspired by seeing the singer Lou Rawls perform—and moreover, by noting the money and romantic attention Rawls got for it—Withers bought a used guitar, taught himself to play it, and recorded some demos. They impressed the music exec Clarence Avant, who set Withers up with the pivotal Memphis bandleader Booker T. Jones to cut an album. “The fact is we are born into the situations we were born into,” Withers said in a 2014 WNYC interview, looking back on his early life. “One day you … try to do something with yourself. The best advice anybody ever gave me was very simple: Go make something out of yourself.”

A track from his first studio sessions, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” would rightly launch Withers to orbit. For all the covers the song has spawned over the years, the original recording remains stunning. Withers’s voice—round, rich, and reverberating—is central and godlike. The arrangement seems to drift and coalesce. The overall effect matches the lyrical conceit about loneliness that moves like weather. In obvious ways, the song rates  as “easy listening,” yet it also shows Withers’s genius for graceful extremity. Only a songwriter with a certain bravery and trust in the listener would cast those endless-seeming ripples of “I know / I know / I know.”

Many of his best moments are like that one: stark, graphical, almost confrontational musical choices that don’t disrupt the song’s spell but pull you further into it. There’s the lengthy “daaaay” of “Lovely Day.” There’s the acidic but perceptive take on submissive love on “Use Me.” There’s his knack for bold imagery, whether used for affection means in “Grandma’s Hands” or for political ones in “I Can’t Write Left Handed.” And there’s “Lean on Me,” a song whose gentleness survives and is boosted by brief, jolting tempo changes. Some radio stations truncate the end of that song, when Withers says “Call me” 14 times. What are they thinking?

Withers’s last hit was 1980’s “Just the Two of Us,” a jaunty duet with Grover Washington Jr. The backstory is another example of how Withers’s sweet soul sounds often came with a hidden thorn. Withers had bristled at the manipulations of his record company, Columbia, for years, so he went to work with Washington, who was on a rival label. “Just the Two of Us” was “a ‘kiss my ass’ song to Columbia,” he told Rolling Stone decades later. He’d use his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction speech in 2015 to joke that “A&R” stands for “antagonistic and redundant.”

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A Hacker Found a Way to Take Over Any Apple Webcam



Apple has a well-earned reputation for security, but in recent years its Safari browser has had its share of missteps. This week, a security researcher publicly shared new findings about vulnerabilities that would have allowed an attacker to exploit three Safari bugs in succession and take over a target’s webcam and microphone on iOS and macOS devices.

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Apple patched the vulnerabilities in January and March updates. But before the fixes, all a victim would have needed to do is click one malicious link and an attacker would have been able to spy on them remotely.

“Safari encourages users to save their preferences for site permissions, like whether to trust Skype with microphone and camera access,” says Ryan Pickren, the security researcher who disclosed the vulnerabilities to Apple. “So what an attacker could do with this kill chain is make a malicious website that from Safari’s perspective could then turn into ‘Skype’. And then the malicious site will have all the permissions that you previously granted to Skype, which means an attacker could just start taking pictures of you or turn on your microphone or even screen-share.”

The bugs Pickren found all stem from seemingly minor oversights. For example, he discovered that Safari’s list of the permissions a user has granted to websites treated all sorts of URL variations as being part of the same site, like,, and fake:// By “wiggling around,” as Pickren puts it, he was able to generate specially crafted URLs that could work with scripts embedded in a malicious site to launch the bait-and-switch that would trick Safari.

“I just kind of hammered the browser with really weird cases until Safari got confused and gave an origin that didn’t make sense,” he says. “And eventually the bugs could all kind of bounce from one to the next. Part of this is that some of the bugs were really, really old flaws in the WebKit core from years ago. They probably were not as dangerous as they are now just because the stars lined up on how an attacker would use them today.”

Courtesy of Ryan Pickren

A hacker who tricked a victim into clicking their malicious link would be able to quietly launch the target’s webcam and microphone to capture video, take photos, or record audio. And the attack would work on iPhones, iPads, and Macs alike. None of the flaws are in Apple’s microphone and webcam protections themselves, or even in Safari’s defenses that keep malicious sites from accessing the sensors. Instead, the attack surmounts all of these barriers just by generating a convincing disguise.

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Wisconsin Braces for an Election Day Amid the Coronavirus Crisis



In Congress, Senators Ron Wyden, of Oregon, and Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, have introduced legislation to fund voting by mail across the country. But the proposal’s prospects in Washington—with its own dysfunctional partisan politics—are uncertain at best. And, in any case, election administration in the United States isn’t a national affair but a state-by-state, county-by-county, and, in some ways, precinct-by-precinct operation. “The use of absentee balloting is key,” Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of “Election Meltdown,” said. “I worry about those places where it’s harder to vote by absentee.” Wendy Weiser, the vice-president for democracy at the Brennan Center, said that debates like the one taking place in Wisconsin “are good early-warning signs for November,” because delaying the general election is out of the question. “States have different levels of preparedness and different levels of infrastructure that allows them to pivot more or less quickly,” Weiser said. “But we need a lot of changes. So part of the delay-or-not-delay debate is a recognition of all the changes that need to be made.”

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In Wisconsin, the debate about postponement wasn’t strictly a partisan fight, at least initially. Although the Wisconsin Democratic Party was among the groups that filed lawsuits to push for modifications to the upcoming election—and it successfully convinced a judge to push the voter-registration deadline to March 31st—the Party’s chairman, Ben Wikler, was not initially on board with the calls to postpone the election altogether. “Primary elections are one thing,” he said. “But Wisconsin has a general election scheduled. If local offices become vacant, if there’s a crisis of legitimacy for people who are wielding power, that is a profound problem.” Joe Zepecki, a top Democratic political operative in the state, told me that exercising the right to vote should be considered at least as essential as going out to get groceries. “This is as essential as it gets,” he said, adding that, in the age of Donald Trump, “I think we have to be really, really careful about doing things like moving election dates.” (On Wednesday night, after Judge Conley’s hearing, Wikler issued a statement saying that the state Party now endorsed the calls to postpone. “It became clear that the least worst option was to delay the election,” he told me.)

Eric Genrich, the Democratic mayor of Green Bay, has been among the most prominent voices calling for an election delay in the state. “What we’re headed toward is both going to be a logistical train wreck and a public-health travesty,” he said. In March, Green Bay filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to force changes, only to have the effort tossed out by a judge, who said that the city wasn’t allowed to sue the state. “We are not suggesting we should cancel this election,” Genrich said. “We’re just saying the way it’s administered needs to be modified. There just has not been any response that matches with the gravity of the situation.”

While Green Bay was mounting its lawsuit, activist groups and unions—including Souls to the Polls, a Milwaukee-based alliance of pastors whose founding president, Greg Lewis, was recently diagnosed with COVID-19—were mounting their own, demanding a range of remedial measures, from postponing the election to relaxing Wisconsin’s strict proof-of-residency requirements for voter registration. Their case was eventually consolidated with others and wound up before Judge Conley. Angela Lang, the executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, which is also a party in the lawsuit, told me that people are hearing conflicting messages right now. On the one hand, there’s the stay-at-home order. On the other hand, they’re being told to figure out how to vote. “We’re walking this balance of, yes, we want people to know the most up-to-date information about the election, but, at the same time, people are checked out,” Lang said. “The election is going to be on the back burner if you’re trying to feed your kids who are now home from school, or if you lost your job.”

In Milwaukee, as in other cities, early-voting sites have closed for safety reasons. Lang worries about the closure of those sites in neighborhoods with large black or Hispanic populations. She worries about people who can’t afford a computer or an Internet connection and about people who can’t navigate the technology necessary to request an absentee ballot or submit a photo I.D. online. And she worries about the confusion and information gaps that the coronavirus crisis has produced. The surge in absentee-ballot requests is a good thing, in terms of public health, but navigating the request process is easier for people with time and means. “I think we’re just going to end up turning out the super voters,” Lang said. “They’re privileged folks, they’re affluent folks. It’s possible to paint a picture of who will participate. And it’s possible to paint a picture of who will get left out.”

Albrecht, Milwaukee’s election administrator, shares Lang’s fears and is already seeing signs that they will be borne out. “I think that there are people in this city right now who don’t even know what it means to request an absentee ballot,” he said. In the run-up to the November election in 2016, Milwaukee sent out some twelve thousand absentee ballots, according to Albrecht. By early this week, for this upcoming election, his office had already issued seventy-two thousand. But requests for ballots were lagging “in those areas of the city with the highest concentration of people in poverty,” he said. “This is not what democracy looks like. Democracy should be a level playing field.” People in low-income neighborhoods who don’t vote absentee may not have the opportunity to vote easily in person on Election Day, either. For safety, and because of a lack of volunteers, Albrecht had been forced to consolidate polling places. In a normal election, the city has a hundred and eighty polling locations open; on Tuesday, Albrecht expects to have ten or fewer.

In Madison, Witzel-Behl is facing similar problems, but she’s also getting a lot of calls from elderly and homebound people having trouble navigating the absentee process. During the weekend, county clerks in Dane and Milwaukee Counties issued guidance advising municipal clerks to encourage people to declare themselves “confined” to their homes, which would make them exempt from some of the state’s voter-I.D. requirements. Republicans accused the clerks of breaking the law. But, for people who are home alone, Witzel-Behl said, just getting a witness signature on their ballot envelope is a burden, and, in any case, seeking out another person could be an infection risk. “The state has said, ‘Well, they could go to the grocery store, or the bank,’ ” she said. “But if they’re not able to leave their homes, that’s not an option.” Judge Conley’s ruling on Thursday loosened these restrictions somewhat, allowing absentee voters to skip the witness signature if they provide a statement saying that they tried and failed to safely get one.

Then there’s the poll-worker issue. On Tuesday, the state election commission released a document showing that Wisconsin has at least seven thousand fewer poll workers lined up for next Tuesday than it needs to properly conduct an election. More than a hundred of the state’s eighteen hundred and fifty election jurisdictions report not having enough staff to open even a single polling place. There are questions about how to maintain safe distances between people and how to keep facilities sanitized. In Madison, the vast majority of poll workers are over the age of sixty—putting them in the demographic most at risk of serious illness from the coronavirus. On election night, the city will have tens of thousands of absentee ballots to count, and each absentee has to be examined by two poll workers, work that is traditionally done in close quarters. “We are getting a lot of calls from poll workers saying, ‘How are you going to guarantee that I won’t get the coronavirus?’ ” Witzel-Behl said. “And I can’t make that guarantee.”

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