Was Jeffrey Epstein working for the FBI?

Jeffrey Epstein, who died in prison while awaiting trial for pedophilia, had earlier received an extraordinarily lenient plea deal for charges related to sex with minors, with one of the federal prosecutors who negotiated that deal, U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, ending up as a cabinet member for Donald Trump. Questions had been raised as to why Epstein off so easily and most answers were that he had used his money to buy favors from influential people.
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Harvey Weinstein found guilty on two of five charges

This guy who is truly a monster was immediately handcuffed and taken into custody after the guilty verdict. He faces a range of 5 to 25 years in prison to be announced by the judge later after a sentencing hearing. Ed Pilkington lists the charges he was accused of and those on which he was found guilty.

Count 1: Predatory sexual assault which involves sex crimes against at least two victims, in this count relating to former Project Runway production assistant Miriam Haley and former Sopranos actor Annabella Sciorra. The charge carries a maximum sentence life in prison and a minimum sentence of 10 years.

Count 2: Criminal sex act in the first degree for forcing oral sex on Miriam Haley which carries a maximum sentence 25 years and a minimum sentence 5 years.

Count 3: In this count relating to a woman whom the Guardian has decided not to name and Annabella Sciorra. This charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a minimum sentence of 10 years.

Count 4: First-degree rape of the victim the Guardian has decided not to name which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years and a minimum sentence of five years.

Count 5: Third-degree rape of the victim the Guardian has decided not to name which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison and no minimum, though a conviction would require Weinstein to register as a sex offender.

Counts 1 and 3 were more serious and could have led to a life in prison, though given Weinstein’s age (67), a maximum sentence of 25 years would be effectively the same.

Of course his lawyers will appeal both the verdict and whatever sentence he gets, unless it is the minimum one that the judge can give.

DOJ career officials resign after Stone reversal

Four career prosecutors have resigned from the case following a direct intervention by the attorney general Bill Barr overruling their judgment in the case of Donald Trump’s friend, the shady Roger Stone. It is clear that Barr was obeying the dictates of Trump.

Four lawyers who prosecuted political operative Roger Stone have resigned in protest after their sentencing recommendation was overruled and slashed by Donald Trump’s justice department.

Aaron Zelinsky, Jonathan Kravis, Adam Jed and Michael Marando quit the case while Democrats demanded an independent investigation into what they described as a dangerously politicised and corrupt justice department.

The growing crisis raised fresh questions over the role of William Barr, the attorney general who has been criticised as a partisan Trump loyalist.
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NOW argues against full decriminalization of sex work

I have written before about how I felt that sex work should be decriminalized. Although there had been concern in feminists circles in days gone by that legalizing sex work would lead to greater exploitation of women’s bodies, I thought that the issue had been settled and that decriminalizing sex work was now a fairly uncontroversial position on the part of people who would consider themselves on the liberal and progressive end of the political spectrum. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a new survey that gave welcome news that public opinion about sex work had moved in a positive direction.
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Judge uses RFRA to throw out conviction of humanitarians

You may recall the case of Scott Warren of the humanitarian group No More Deaths who was charged by the federal government because he provided food, water, clothing, and shelter to the undocumented people who crossed the southern border and then undertook a grueling and dangerous trek through the desert. A jury acquitted him of all those charges but in a different case a judge found him guilty on a misdemeanor charge of illegally operating a motor vehicle in a wilderness area in the course of delivering the supplies.
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Catholic church and lack of transparency about abuses

Despite the fact that the Catholic church keeps promising to increase transparency after each successive scandal about abusive priests who have been shielded by the church, ProPublica reports that some bishops continue to be opaque.

Over the last year and a half, the majority of U.S. dioceses, as well as nearly two dozen religious orders, have released lists of abusers currently or formerly in their ranks. The revelations were no coincidence: They were spurred by a 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report, which named hundreds of priests as part of a statewide clergy abuse investigation. Nationwide, the names of more than 5,800 clergy members have been released so far, representing the most comprehensive step toward transparency yet by a Catholic Church dogged by its long history of denying and burying abuse by priests.
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Views on sex work change in a positive direction

Sometimes, especially in reactionary times like the one we are living in in the US at this moment when social progress seems to be in retreat under a determined assault from Donald Trump and his Republican party and supporters, it is easy to become discouraged. At such times, I remind myself that major social changes on race and gender and sexuality have been achieved in my own lifetime and these are irreversible because they involve changes in social attitudes.

Natasha Lennard reports on another area in which a major change has been quietly occurring and that is with the move to decriminalize sex work.
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Update on the impeachment proceedings

I have not been writing much about the impeachment trial in the US senate because I view it as political theater with a predetermined outcome since Trump and the Republicans are working together to make sure that no new information comes out, no witnesses are called, and no new documentary evidence presented, so that they can vote on acquittal as quickly as possible. All the posturing by a few Republican senators that they might vote to call witnesses is just that, posturing, so that they can pretend to be thoughtful people rather than hacks and craven Trump toadies.
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How big oil exploits the legal system to intimidate critics

Sharon Lerner details the story of how the oil company Chevron is using the US legal system to hit back against a US lawyer Steven Donziger who won a big environmental case against them in Ecuador brought by the indigenous people there whose land had been massively contaminated by the oil giant.

LAST AUGUST, DURING the second-hottest year on record, while the fires in the Amazon rainforest were raging, the ice sheet in Greenland was melting, and Greta Thunberg was being greeted by adoring crowds across the U.S., something else happened that was of great relevance to the climate movement: An attorney who has been battling Chevron for more than a decade over environmental devastation in South America was put on house arrest.

Few news outlets covered the detention of Steven Donziger, who won a multibillion-dollar judgment in Ecuador against Chevron over the massive contamination in the Lago Agrio region and has been fighting on behalf of Indigenous people and farmers there for more than 25 years.
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The list of old-style Republican conservative defections grows

The list is growing of old-style Republican conservatives, people who used to think that the party stood for certain conservative principles, who are appalled at what it has become, a lawless cult focused on pleasing a clearly deranged leader. Charles Fried, the person who served as Solicitor General in the administration of Ronald Reagan, is the latest to decide to speak his mind and in an interview with Newsweek, has some utterly brutal words for the current president and for his Attorney General Bill Barr for enabling the worst excesses of the president.
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