Tag Archives: history

White House had big plans to promote serial wife beater Rob Porter before his history went public

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Rob Porter was so exemplary, he was up for a promotion. That news came just after FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed Tuesday during testimony that the White House knew for months about the former staff secretary’s history of domestic violence. Nonetheless, he was in “serious discussions” to take on bigger roles in Donald Trump’s West Wing, writes CNN:

Porter had been actively lobbying to take on new policy portfolios outside the traditional scope of the staff secretary, one person familiar with the matter said, which included speechwriting duties and a role in planning policy rollouts. Neither of those tasks is traditionally carried out by the staff secretary.

One of the areas Porter was set to delve further into was trade policy, according to the person. Porter was a regular attendee at a weekly trade meeting among top-level administration officials.

He was also being considered for the deputy chief of staff position, another source familiar with the situation said.

John Kelly was reportedly one of Porter’s biggest fans and wanted to be sure he was “being used to his full potential.”

Kelly “definitely wanted to expand his role,” a source familiar tells CNN.

Trump will almost surely have someone’s head over this, as he doesn’t look kindly on bad press generated by others. He prefers being he sole source of his own humiliation.

As the fallout from the Porter scandal has stretched into a new week at the White House, a frustrated President Donald Trump has spent his days phoning allies and associates for advice on how to handle negative coverage, sources familiar with the conversations say.

Trump’s also got that sads that the main focus of his “agenda” might be hampered by the exit of key abusers on his staff.

He is particularly concerned with advancing his immigration proposals, a policy objective that has been helmed by Kelly.

And by “immigration proposals,” he means “deportations.” 

American Luger Chris Mazdzer Makes History With Silver as Leslie Jones Gushes About Him on Twitter

Less than a month ago, luger Chris Mazdzer took to Facebook to share his mounting frustration over a persistent rut he had fallen into — and from which it seemed he may never escape.

“What kills me on the inside is not the fact I made a few small mistakes,” he wrote, “what kills me and has been driving me wild for over a year now is the fact that no matter what I do my top speed and ability to be with the top guys in the world has disappeared, and I don’t know why.”

That was on Jan. 21. Then on Sunday — exactly three weeks later and in his third Olympic appearance — Mazdzer won a silver medal in men’s singles luge at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, the first American to ever make the podium in that event.

“It’s 16 years in the making,” he told reporters after his victory, which he traces back to watching the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

“What you dream about as a young child and 20 years later you’re finally on the podium — I don’t know how to describe it,” he said. “All I know is that I have my friends and family here celebrating with me and this is validation for everything I’ve done. All the sacrifices, it’s worth it.”

The U.S. now stands at four total medals, thanks to Mazdzer, 29, as well as gold-medalists and snowboarders Jamie Anderson and Red Gerard and the bronze-medaling figure skating team.

On Instagram, alongside a celebratory photo of himself, Mazdzer called it a “hell of a ride” as he thanked his teammates, coaches and his family.

Keep Following PEOPLE’s Complete Coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics

“I think this gives luge in the United States a huge boost,” he said at a news conference after finishing the competition, referring more broadly to a sport in which America has been historically weak. “We have a strong team coming up. I can see some good things in the future for USA luge.”

Under the rules of Olympic luge — in which competitors slide feet-first and face-up on a sled down a track, navigating at high speeds around curves with the subtlest physical motions — the top three finishers are selected based on their cumulative time over four runs.

In below-freezing Pyeongchang, the weather worked to Mazdzer’s advantage.

“The really cold conditions here, with luge that’s the great equalizer,” he said, according to the Denver Post.

“When the ice is that hard, when it’s basically marble, that’s when it comes down to experience,” he said. “I really was out of control all four runs, but I held on … I look back at all those below-zero mornings , where I did not want to train at 8 in the morning, and that was a big part of it.”

Speaking to PEOPLE last fall, Mazdzer explained how luge, separate from other sliding sports, hinged on experience. And coming into these Games, he had more than two decades on the track.

“I’m going to be the best that I can possibly be and I hope it’s a medal,” he said then. “I don’t want to say the word ‘hope,’ I actually think it’s a terrible word to say. I’m very confident in my ability, I’ve put all the time in, and I’m going to execute.”

During his competition, Mazdzer was reportedly joined by his girlfriend and his sisters, who stripped down to their patriotically colored sports bras and leggings.

Fans were also seen waving giant cut-outs of his (notably handsome) face — a mug that did not go unnoticed by Saturday Night Live‘s Leslie Jones, providing color commentary on social media while watching on TV.

As the Post‘s Kiszla wrote on Sunday night: “Mazdzer went from just another face in the crowd to a sex symbol at 80 mph.”

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“Damn he is fine. Mmm, Chris, please God, Chris, oh God I’m so scared for you Chris,” Jones said in one video she posted on Twitter. (Don’t worry, Mazdzer knows about his celebrity fan.)

In another post as she watched him race, Jones said, “Yes, baby. Create history, Chris. On that little skateboard with — Lord have mercy Jesus, that’s got to be the most dangerous thing in the world.”

The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.

23 Of The Most Powerful Pictures In Olympic History

Betty Robinson becomes the first woman to take gold in a track and field event in 1928.

Betty Robinson becomes the first woman to take gold in a track and field event in 1928.

American athlete Betty Robinson (second from left) wins the final of the women's 100-meter event during the Olympic Games in Amsterdam on July 31, 1928.

Central Press / Getty Images

Jesse Owens beats the Nazis in 1936.

Jesse Owens beats the Nazis in 1936.

The medalists in the long jump competition salute from the victory stand at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin on Aug. 8, 1936. From left, Japan's Naoto Tajima (bronze); American Jesse Owens (gold), who set an Olympic record in the event and offers an American-style salute with his hand to his forehead; and Germany's Luz Long (silver) giving a Nazi salute.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

The Olympic team from Formosa (Taiwan) take a stand in 1960.

The Olympic team from Formosa (Taiwan) take a stand in 1960.

The Olympic team from Formosa, now Taiwan, protest after they were forced to change their name from the Republic of China to Formosa on Aug. 25, 1960.

Douglas Miller / Getty Images

Cassius Clay wins Olympic gold for light heavyweight boxing in 1960.

Cassius Clay wins Olympic gold for light heavyweight boxing in 1960.

The 1960 Olympic medalists for light heavyweight boxing take the winners' podium at Rome: Cassius Clay, gold; Zbigniew Pietrzykowski of Poland (right), silver; and Giulio Saraudi (Italy) and Anthony Madigan (Australia), joint bronze.

Central Press / Getty Images

Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia runs the men’s marathon final while completely barefoot in 1960 — and wins.

Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia runs the men's marathon final while completely barefoot in 1960 — and wins.

Abebe Bikila crosses the finish line while barefoot on Sept. 11, 1960, at the Olympic Games in Rome.

Keystone-france / Getty Images

PE teacher Ann Packer of Britain returns to her students as an Olympic champion in 1964.

PE teacher Ann Packer of Britain returns to her students as an Olympic champion in 1964.

British athlete Ann Packer is cheered on by students at the Coombe County Girls School, after winning the 800 meters at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and setting a new world record in the process.

J. Wilds / Getty Images

Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos of the USA each extend a gloved fist in racial protest in 1968.

Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos of the USA each extend a gloved fist in racial protest in 1968.

American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists and give the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. The move was a symbolic protest against racism in the United States. Smith, the gold medalist, and Carlos, who took bronze, were subsequently suspended from their team for their actions.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

A hostage situation unfolds at the Olympic Village in 1972.

A hostage situation unfolds at the Olympic Village in 1972.

A masked PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) terrorist is seen in the Olympic Village after taking hostages and later killing nine members of the Israeli Olympic Team during the 1972 Summer Olympics.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz of Poland sticks it to the Soviet Union in 1980.

Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz of Poland sticks it to the Soviet Union in 1980.

Poland's Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz joyfully claims the gold medal after clearing the best height and setting a new world record in the Olympic pole vault event on July 30, 1980, in Moscow. In Poland, the gesture was viewed as a symbol of resistance against Soviet dominance.

Anonymous / AP

An extreme entrance to the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

An extreme entrance to the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

A stuntman attempts to parachute into the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony.

Simon Bruty / Getty Images

Britain’s Derek Redmond is helped across the finish line by his father in 1992.

Britain's Derek Redmond is helped across the finish line by his father in 1992.

Britain's Derek Redmond grimaces as he is helped across the finish line by his father in Barcelona's Olympic Stadium on Aug. 3, 1992. Redmond was injured when he fell during the semifinals of the men's 400-meter race.

Denis Paquin / AP

The “greatest collection of basketball talent on the planet” takes home gold in 1992.

The "greatest collection of basketball talent on the planet" takes home gold in 1992.

From left: Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, and Karl Malone stand victorious with the American flag after winning the final game in Barcelona on Aug. 8, 1992.

Richard Mackson / Getty Images

Tonya Harding of the USA gets emotional after a problem with her skate in 1994.

Tonya Harding of the USA gets emotional after a problem with her skate in 1994.

Harding leaves the ice in tears at the Lillehammer Winter Olympics on Feb. 23, 1994. After consulting the judges, she was allowed more time to repair her boot lace and returned to finish her program.

Chris Cole / Getty Images

Muhammad Ali returns with the Olympic flame in 1996.

Muhammad Ali returns with the Olympic flame in 1996.

Muhammad Ali lights the Olympic flame during the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Getty Images

An injured Kerri Strug takes home gold for the USA in 1996.

An injured Kerri Strug takes home gold for the USA in 1996.

Unofficial US woman's gymnastics team coach Bela Karolyi lifts Strug in his arms after the US won their first Olympic team gold medal ever.

Mike Blake / Reuters

North and South Korea march under a single, unified banner in 2000.

North and South Korea march under a single, unified banner in 2000.

Flag bearers Eun-Soon Chung and Jang-Choo Pak lead the Korean Olympic Teams from the North and South together in a gesture of reconciliation during the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Eric Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea competes alone in 2000 for the first time in an Olympic-size pool.

Eric Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea competes alone in 2000 for the first time in an Olympic-size pool.

After all other competitors were disqualified for false starts, Moussambani completed the men's 100-meter freestyle at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in a time of 1:52.72, over a minute behind the world record for the distance. This was his first time swimming in an Olympic-size pool.

Billy Stickland / Getty Images

Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil is sabotaged by an Irish former priest in 2004.

Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil is sabotaged by an Irish former priest in 2004.

The Brazilian was attacked by a spectator in the latter stages of the marathon on Aug. 29, 2004. De Lima who was expected to win the gold, finished in third place and earned the bronze medal.

AFP / Getty Images

Ángel Valodia Matos of Cuba lands an illegal kick on the referee in 2008.

Ángel Valodia Matos of Cuba lands an illegal kick on the referee in 2008.

Ángel Valodia Matos kicks referee Chakir Chelbat after he lost his bronze medal contest in the men's +80 kg taekwondo competition during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on Aug. 23, 2008.

Jung Yeon-je / AFP / Getty Images

Weightlifter Janos Baranyai of Hungary experiences a horrific injury in 2008.

Weightlifter Janos Baranyai of Hungary experiences a horrific injury in 2008.

Janos Baranyai of Hungary screams in pain after an injury during the men's 77kg weightlifting competition on Day 5 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Phil Walter / Getty Images

Michael Phelps of the USA brings home an astonishing eight gold medals in 2008.

Michael Phelps of the USA brings home an astonishing eight gold medals in 2008.

Michael Phelps reacts after winning the men's 100-meter butterfly swimming final during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing.

Martin Bureau / AFP / Getty Images

Usain Bolt of Jamaica secures his place as the fastest man in the world in 2016.

Usain Bolt of Jamaica secures his place as the fastest man in the world in 2016.

Usain Bolt of Jamaica competes in the men's 100-meter semifinal on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Aug. 14. Bolt took home his third consecutive gold.

Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Black History Month: Loiza—the African heart of Puerto Rico and the arts that portray it

One of the areas of Puerto Rico struggling to survive after the devastation of back-to-back Hurricanes Irma and Mara is the town of Loiza, known as a center of Afro-Puerto Rican history, music, dance, and culture. 

When Irma and Maria hit, I immediately went to the news and Twitter and YouTube to see if there was anything about Loiza, and continued to look every day. I found scenes of rescues as well as drive-throughs assessing damage.

I remember smiling when I saw this tweet; FEMA wasn’t there feeding the people, but Chefs for Puerto Rico were on the job.

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Our #ChefsForPuertoRico food trucks in action!! @YummyDumplings visited Loiza which was hit hard by Irma & Maria. We will keep going back! pic.twitter.com/2rDgZMJciT

— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) October 6, 2017

Though Loiza has always been poor, it is swimming in cultural riches. It is poor because it was the home of freed slaves, and poor because darker-skinned people still suffer under the yoke of prejudices, even on an island where many of the inhabitants have both indigenous brown and black African ancestry. 

Loíza is known as “El Pueblo de la Cacica”. Loíza was proclaimed a town officially in 1692 and named in honor of Yuisa or Luisa, one of the women caciques on the island when the Spanish conquerors arrived. It was not until 1719 that the Spanish government declared it as an official town. It was founded by Gaspar de Arredondo.

Settled by Nigerian slaves of the Yoruba tribe in the 16th century, Loíza is a center for African-inspired traditions, retaining one of the highest percentages of African descendants of all island towns.

This Spy’s History Shows How Russian Recruiting Is A Family Matter

Artem Zinchenko at his sentencing hearing in May 2017

Kaitsepolitseamet / Ekspress Meedia

Artem Zinchenko always looked up to his great-grandfather. He had served in a pair of Soviet units during World War II, so when Russian military intelligence approached Zinchenko, he was more than willing to listen.

Zinchenko was arrested by the Estonian Internal Security Service, known by its Estonian acronym as KAPO, on January 9, 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison that May for spying on Estonia and its NATO allies. On Saturday, he managed to leave prison years ahead of schedule, as part of a prisoner swap between Estonia and Russia.

In a country that has long been a target for Russia’s espionage, Zinchenko was the tenth convicted spy in nine years and the first among them who had been recruited by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service. His case illustrates how Russian military intelligence relies on family traditions and uses the vast number of former Soviet military personnel still living in or connected with former Soviet countries as a recruiting pool for new spies.

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According to the state prosecutor’s office, Zinchenko was recruited in 2009 and began spying in Estonia in 2013. His main task was gathering intelligence about the country’s military and other critical infrastructure. He also provided information to Russia about the military equipment and movement of NATO troops in the country. Much of the case against Zinchenko is still classified. What little of the verdict against him remains unredacted describes only the sentence and a list of evidence — two laptops, four mobile phones, an external hard drive and a paper notebook — to be returned to Zinchenko.

The GRU decided to recruit Zinchenko despite his lack of military service or training. “His recruiters had all the right cards to play,” Aleksander Toots, the deputy head of KAPO, said in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “His father Igor had served in the army, his grandfather Albert had served in the army and his great grandfather Grigori worked in the military counterintelligence unit Smersh during World War II.”

According to Toots, Zinchenko was especially inspired by his great-grandfather, Grigori Gutnikov. “That helped him develop a romantic feeling about being a spy and that the fatherland needed him,” he said.

Zinchenko’s tale is a prime example of how Russian spy recruiters operate, Toots said. “They find young people who can be easily manipulated with either family ties or the general notion of becoming a spy like the legendary Stirlitz from Soviet time spy movies.”

Grigori Gutnikov joined the Soviet army in 1936 as a driver, according to archived documents seen by BuzzFeed News. Two years later he was accepted to the NKVD, the secret police predecessor to the KGB. During the war, Gutnikov served in an elite unit inside the NKVD, including in 1942 during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Gutnikov later joined Smersh, the military counter-intelligence unit, that spun-off from the NKVD. “Their main task was to detect enemy spies, but often they operated as a secret police under the cover of counter-intelligence,” explained historian Meelis Saueauk, whose research focuses on military and intelligence history. “Of course they were known for violence. They had long experience of getting the needed statement out of suspects by using ‘physical means of influence,’” he added.

After the war Gutnikov was well decorated: he received the Order of the Red Star for the defense of Stalingrad, an award for the conquering of Berlin, and a third for winning the Great Patriotic War — Russia’s name for World War II. Soviet propaganda later used Smersh agents in numerous movies where they were depicted as outmaneuvering the German spies.

“I have seen that trend reemerge during recent years, when several new TV series and movies about heroic Smersh agents have been published in Russia,” said Saueauk.

Zinchenko family first settled in Estonia in 1966, when his grandfather Albert — also a Soviet Army officer — was stationed to work there. Albert, who was put in charge of a repairs and recovery battalion, and his wife Tamara were given an apartment in 1967 in a newly built residential area of the capital city Tallinn. Even though he later also served in other countries, like Vietnam and East Germany, Estonia became home.

By the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Albert Zinchenko had already retired from the army at the rank of podpolkovnik — equal to the US rank of a lieutenant colonel. Like roughly 15,000 other retired officers living Estonia and thousands more living in other countries outside of Russia, he was given the chance to apply for a permanent residency permit in Estonia. The Zinchenkos grabbed the chance.

Artem Zinchenko, just five years old at the time, lived in Russia with his parents. His father Igor was making a career in the army, ending up as the head of a tank factory in the Far East town of Ussuryisk. (He retired in 2006 after an investigation by the Russian military’s special prosecutor’s office.)

According to several previous and current neighbors, Artem began visiting his grandparents in Estonia when he was young, spending his summers there. Artem was especially close with his grandfather, according to Ilse Mikko, a neighbor of his, and liked to stay in the family dacha by the sea. “He really liked to be here in Estonia. He didn’t want to stay in Russia,” said another neighbor.

By the time the GRU recruited Artem, his father had retired and his grandfather had died.

Zinchenko at his sentencing hearing

Kaitsepolitseamet / Ekspress Meedia

“He had never had a personal relationship with the army, but he was given the opportunity to continue the family’s [military] tradition,” Toots, the deputy KAPO chief, said. “At the age of 22 one might not yet know what to do in his life. Such people are comfortable and cheap to recruit.”

Toots acknowledged that Estonia wasn’t Zinchenko’s first target but wouldn’t reveal the countries where Zinchenko first operated. Shortly before receiving his first orders from the GRU, Zinchenko applied for a residency permit in Estonia to run a business, which was granted.

Together with a partner he started a company Dana Investment, named after his wife Dana, and started designing and producing baby strollers. (His business partner Anton Mihhailov declined to talk to BuzzFeed News.) Though a real business, it provided Zinchenko a solid cover for his intelligence operations. Since it was oriented towards the Russian market, he had a valid reason to travel frequently between Tallinn and St Petersburg in Russia, with visa-free travel thanks to his residency permit.

After Zinchenko was convicted, his father Igor took over the baby stroller business. When approached for a comment, he declined to speak with a journalist.

The man who bought Zinchenko his freedom from an Estonian prison was an Estonian businessman named Raivo Susi. Susi was arrested in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on February 10 2016 when he was on the way to an unspecified Central Asia country. He was charged with espionage and last December sentenced to 12 years in prison. There is little public information about the businessman, but he was involved in several aviation companies. After Susi’s arrest, KAPO declined from comments regarding Susi’s alleged relationship with the service.

Zinchenko’s story is one that’s likely to play out again in Estonia, so long as there are young men who believe that helping Russia can be their path to glory. “These people develop the idea that they are the chosen ones to receive such an offer,” he said. “But their exercise is usually weak and sooner or later they’ll get caught. Then the romantic idea of being a spy vanishes.”

Voting Rights Roundup: Pennsylvania's GOP congressional gerrymander is history

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Pennsylvania: On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt Republican gerrymandering a crippling blow when it refused to block a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that struck down the GOP’s congressional map for illegally discriminating against Democratic voters. The state court had ordered the Republican-controlled legislature to draw and pass a new map by Feb. 9, but GOP leaders have only reluctantly begun drawing a new map after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf promised to veto any new gerrymander. As a result, the state court itself will likely draw new nonpartisan districts, which could lead to major Democratic gains this fall.​

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​In an important backdrop to this decision, Democrats won a pivotal majority on the state Supreme Court in the 2015 elections, giving the plaintiffs a fairer shot at invalidating the GOP’s map. And following its initial order last month, the state Supreme Court also released a more detailed opinion in the case. Critically, it found that gerrymandering violated the state constitution’s “free and equal” elections clause, which it pointedly notes is distinct from the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause.

The court relied on the absurdly large number of divided cities and counties, along with GOP legislators throwing any semblance of compactness out the window, as sufficient evidence that neutral redistricting criteria had been subordinated to partisan interests. However, the court also held that these criteria aren’t the only way to measure a gerrymander, and it rightly noted that even pretty-looking maps could still be gerrymandered. The court further used statistical tests to demonstrate the GOP’s partisan advantage, but it did not rely on any particular one. Instead, the court adopted a broad standard, saying that maps are unconstitutional when they “artificially entrench[] representative power”; statistics merely serve as evidence.

Since the state court relied solely on its interpretation of Pennsylvania’s own constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court had very little room to override it. Republicans nevertheless forged ahead with a long-shot appeal, but the Supreme Court rejected it. At the same time, because the state Supreme Court’s case is based on Pennsylvania law, this case can’t set a legal precedent for other states. However, the standard that the judges have established could influence state courts in other states that have their own version of a “free and equal” clause, and indeed, the Pennsylvania justices even pointed out several such states in their ruling.

SpaceX aims to make history 3 more times in 2018

 Tuesday’s Falcon Heavy launch made history, not only becoming the highest capacity rocket platform since the Saturn V but accomplishing the first double autonomous booster landing. And that’s just the start of what could prove to be an epic year for SpaceX — if Elon Musk’s ambitious timeline isn’t delayed, say by high winds. Read More