Donald Trump answers prank call aboard Air Force One

A US comedian claims he tricked President Donald Trump aboard Air Force One with a prank call in which he pretended to be a Democratic senator, discussing immigration, his Supreme Court nominee, and a public scandal.

Comedian John Melendez posed as Senator Bob Menendez for the joke and says he actually spoke to the president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, while posing as an assistant, before receiving a call back from the president on Thursday.

Melendez, also known as Stuttering John, uploaded a recording of the four-minute conversation to his podcast, in which Trump can be heard revealing his plans to nominate a new Supreme Court judge in “10 to 14 days,” following Anthony Kennedy’s decision to step down next month.

In the recording, the man identified as Trump also congratulated Senator Menendez for his acquittal in a 2017 bribery case. Menendez was accused of accepting gifts from a Florida eye doctor in exchange for political clout.

Melendez said that he and a friend initially called the White House and were honest about their identity, but they were told the president was busy. When the comedian called back with an English accent pretending to be “Shawn Moore,” a fake assistant to Menendez, they were successful.

READ MORE: ‘Generally conservative’ candidates on Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist, nomination coming soon

CNN reported that the White House confirmed the gaffe on Saturday, admitting: “The president wants to be accessible to members and likes engaging them and wants them to have the opportunity to connect. The downside of that is sometimes the channels are open too widely and mistakes like this happen.”

The comedian said that if the administration had asked him about Senator Menendez’ party affiliation or even the state for which he is a senator, his cover would have been blown: “But they didn’t ask me any of this,” he told CNN.

I just could not believe that it took us an hour and a half to get Jared Kushner and Donald Trump on the phone from Air Force One,” he added.

It appears that Kushner will be shouldering the blame for the embarrassing blunder. According to Politico, when Legislative Affairs got word of the call, they contacted Menendez’s chief of staff and learned that the senator was not trying to contact the president. However, the call was still put through by Kushner.

Democratic Senator Menendez is an avid campaigner for immigration reform. President Trump and his administration have been under intense scrutiny lately over the long-standing US policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the Mexican border.

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How the Officers Who Shot Stephon Clark May Have Violated the Department’s New Lethal Force Policy

The Sacramento Police Department officers who fatally shot unarmed 23-year-old Stephon Clark in his grandparents’ backyard earlier this month may have violated several department policies governing conduct during officer-involved shootings, John Burris, a prominent San Francisco Bay Area civil rights attorney, tells Mother Jones.

Burris was involved in drafting the Sacramento City Council mandate that would inform changes made last year to the Sacramento PD’s polices on use of force after he represented the family of Joseph Mann, a 51-year-old who was shot by local police officers in July 2016. Cell phone and police dash cam videos of the incident showed police shoot Mann 14 times times after first trying, but failing to hit him with their car. Relatives of Mann, who was homeless, have said he struggled with mental health issues. 

The case prompted changes to department rules on when officers can discharge their firearms and how officers should offer aid to injured suspects. Sacramento’s City Council also subsequently required the police department to release police body camera footage of incidents involving the use of lethal force within 30 days of the incident.

Now, with the shooting of Clark, the departments rules on when officers can use force will be revisited again, Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said at a Tuesday press conference. The shooting occurred, police officials have said, after Clark extended his arms toward the two officers on site holding an item that they believed to be a gun. Officers ultimately found only a phone near Clark’s body, and no gun was recovered. In the two body camera videos released four days after the shooting, Clark can’t be seen until moments before the shooting. Before he’s visible, an officer can be heard commanding him to stop and show his hands as they enter the house’s backyard. Moments later, another officer yells, “Show me your hands—gun!,” and both officers take cover behind a wall of the house. An officer again yells, “Show me your hands—gun, gun, gun!,” and then a flurry of shots ring out. Just before officers begin firing, Clark can briefly be seen standing on a patio area toward the back of the yard.

Burris told me he believes the officers involved, who both fired 10 shots at Clark, according to the Sacramento Police Department, specifically violated three key policies governing conduct in police shooting incidents:

Officers did not warn Clark that they intended to use lethal force before shooting

A Sacramento PD policy requires officers to give clear warning “when feasible” that they intend to shoot a suspect before doing so. But Burris notes that officers only commanded Clark to show his hands—an insufficient precursor to firing their weapons at him. “If you think a person is creating danger, potential danger, you want to tell them ‘Show me your hands. Stop. If you don’t, I’m going to shoot,’” Burris says. “You have to give the warning and then you have to give him time to comply.” He adds, “There’s nothing about [the video] that suggests they didn’t have time to do that.” 

Officers initially took a position of cover behind a wall of the house, Burris notes, but then moved out from behind the wall into the yard, at which point they begin shooting at Clark. Had officers remained behind the wall for a longer time, he says, they could have remained in a protective position and also warned Clark that they were going to shoot, especially given the distance between Clark and the officers. 

They did not appropriately assess what kind of threat Clark posed

Officers may also have violated a policy requiring them to “continuously re-assess the perceived threat” to determine what level of force is necessary, Burris says. The key here, he notes, is that officers in this situation had initially taken cover behind the house. They then moved out into the yard where they made themselves more exposed to what they apparently believed was a man with a gun. That decision to move from behind the wall created a circumstance that likely lessened their ability to assess what kind of threat Clark actually posed, as well as how many shots they needed to fire. It also increased the likelihood that they would need to shoot, had Clark actually been armed with a gun, Burris says. “Time, distance, and space are critical aspects in a police evaluation. If you’re in a position of cover, you’re in a position to assess better, you can give commands and take the time to see whether or not there’s an effort to comply,” he says. “But if you don’t, and you feel that you’re exposed because you’ve broken cover, then you may react more quickly and [be] quicker [to] use deadly force than you would have if you had been in a position of cover.”

Each officer fired 10 shots at Clark, for a total of 20. It’s unclear how many times Clark was hit, but Burris says the shooting is a clear example of an excessive use of force. “It looked like each officer emptied their guns, and was going to reload,” Burris says. One officer did, in fact, reload his weapon. “That to me was pretty shocking, particularly when you have not received any fire back.”

They didn’t render first aid quickly enough

Officers were too slow to give Clark first aid after the shooting, Burris says—a potential violation of a department mandate that they render first aid “when it can be done safely.” Officers waited approximately five minutes after they stopped shooting before allowing a medic to treat Clark, a decision Burris says flouts the department’s first aid mandate given how obvious it would have been that Clark needed medical attention. After back-up arrives at the scene, officers can be heard in the videos expressing that they want to be sure Clark is not still a threat before approaching him. But Burris says such a concern was unreasonable at that point. “Given the number of shots that were fired, and there was no response to those [shots], that should have lead them to believe that he was probably disabled, and they should have went and approached the situation more expeditiously than they did,” Burris says.

In a remarkable moment, one of the officers who shot Clark can be heard telling another officer, “Let’s hit him with a baton,” in order to determine whether Clark was disabled. Before that, another officer can be heard saying that an officer should bring a non-lethal weapon “just in case he’s pretending.” At this point, Clark had already been on the ground for several minutes. “I actually have never heard or seen anything like that occur in the past ever, and I’ve been involved in well over 50 police shooting cases in my career,” Burris says.

Crime and Justice – Mother Jones

Autopilot may force rates of borrowing elevated, the latest results wraps up

REAL interest rates in the developed world have been low ever since the financial crisis of 2008-09 (see chart). The global economy might have struggled to recover had that not been the case; higher rates would have caused many more companies and homeowners to default.

Central banks are now starting to push rates slightly higher. And according to a new paper* from Bain, a management consultancy, the trend towards robotics will push them higher still—at least for a decade. That could be a shock for the financial markets.

Bain estimates that by 2030 American companies will have invested as much as $ 8trn in automation. As companies scramble to borrow money in order to buy machinery and robots, the resulting investment boom will drive up rates.

Automation will boost productivity, which has grown sluggishly in recent years. This slowdown may have been caused by the shift from manufacturing to services, where productivity gains are harder to achieve. Between 1993 and 2014, the American…Continue reading

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Ban on plastic microbeads comes into force in the UK

Tiny microbeads are too tiny to be filtered out using waste-water treatment processes

Tiny microbeads are too tiny to be filtered out using waste-water treatment processes

Science History Images / Alamy Stock Photo

A UK-wide ban on the manufacture of cosmetics and care products containing tiny pieces of plastic known as “microbeads” has come into force.

The move is aimed at protecting the marine environment from one source of plastic pollution, as microbeads are washed down the drain and can enter the seas and be swallowed by fish and crustaceans with potentially harmful effects.

Manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products will no longer be able to add the tiny plastic pieces to rinse-off toiletries such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels. The ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads will be followed by a ban on the sale of such products in July.

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A report in 2016 found that more than a third of fish in the English Channel are contaminated with microscopic plastic debris from exfoliating skin scrubs, synthetic fabrics and other everyday products. Between 16 and 86 tonnes of plastic microbeads from facial exfoliants are washed down UK drains every year, said the report published by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said: “The world’s seas and oceans are some of our most valuable natural assets and I am determined we act now to tackle the plastic that devastates our precious marine life.

“Microbeads are entirely unnecessary when there are so many natural alternatives available, and I am delighted that from today cosmetics manufacturers will no longer be able to add this harmful plastic to their rinse-off products.

“Now we have reached this important milestone, we will explore how we can build on our world-leading ban and tackle other forms of plastic waste.”

Read more: Plastic Age: How it’s reshaping rocks, oceans and life

More on these topics:

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US Air Force Base RAF Mildenhall on lockdown following a ‘security incident’

A US Air Force base in the UK is in lockdown after a “significant security incident.” The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed that an incident is currently unfolding at “the entry point of RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk.”

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

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Ohio officers accused of excessive force after tasering men in domestic dispute call-out (VIDEO)

Two law-enforcement officers in Ohio are being accused of police brutality after footage emerged of them tasering suspects during a domestic dispute call. One of the victims suffered a collapsed lung as a result of the incident.

The video, captured on a bodycam, shows two officers responding to a domestic dispute in Cincinnati. The call was made by Angela Brown, who said her two sons – who are half-brothers – refused to get out of her house.

The situation is initially somewhat calm. However, Brown can be heard saying: “Here they at – disrespecting me and everything,” referring to 24-year-old Richard Coleman and 25-year-old James Crawley.

When Coleman gets up to speak to the officers and explain the situation, he is immediately met with a command to “sit down.” A small scuffle breaks out between the brothers when one jumps up in anger at the fact that the police were called. It doesn’t take long for one officer to point his taser at Crawley.

It escalates from there, and Crawley is tasered less than two minutes into the video. Coleman is also tasered at least four times soon afterwards. One brother pleads for the officer to listen to what he has to say. They refuse, and one shouts “Get on the ground…I’m gonna put you on the f**king ground!”

A third officer eventually arrives at the scene, and the cops physically force both brothers to the ground. One officer can be seen pulling Crawley’s hair. “We’re not doing nothing!” one of the brothers shouts.

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North Charleston police officer Michael Slager (R) is seen shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back as he runs away, in this still image from video in North Charleston, South Carolina  © Reuters

Coleman suffered from a collapsed lung following the incident. He was recovering from back-fusion surgery at the time. Both brothers received their first criminal convictions as a result of the event, according to Cincinnati.com.

However, at no point in the video were they informed that they were under arrest, nor were they read their Miranda rights. This is particularly notable because Cincinnati Police Department policy states that tasers are only to be used on those who are “actively resisting arrest.”

The brothers were charged with resisting arrest and trespassing. Crawley faces an additional felony charge of assaulting a police officer, and could receive between two and eight years in prison and/or a fine of up to $ 20,000.

The footage has prompted an extraordinary intervention by the Hamilton County prosecutor, who has instigated an external city investigation into the use of force, according to Cincinnati.com. An internal investigation by the department is also reportedly taking place.

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© United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

It’s not the first time that police in the US have come under fire for their heavy-handed use of tasers. RT spoke to Jordan Norris, who last year was repeatedly tasered by police after being detained on drug charges, despite being strapped to a chair and therefore not posing any threat.

“I’ve recovered physically, but mentally I’m just…it’s hard to think about still,” he said. “They just repeatedly did it over and over… the way they were laughing and pretty much having fun with it, I was afraid that they were going to try and kill me.”

Norris sued Cheatham County following the incident. A settlement was reached in September.

“The question that the law asks is whether or not the use of force had a legitimate law enforcement purpose…in this situation where he’s already fully restrained, he’s being tased anyway, I didn’t see any legitimate law enforcement reason for that force to be used. And if they’re using painful force against this young man without any reason, I can’t really think of a better word than ‘torture’ to describe that,” Norris’ attorney, Benjamin Raybin, told RT.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has long expressed concerns regarding the use of tasers by US police, writing a statement to the US Justice Department in 2007 and urging stricter limits on police taser use in 2012. 

More than 1,000 people in the US have died after being stunned by police tasers, a Reuters investigation revealed in August. Nine out of 10 of those who died were unarmed. Nearly all of the deaths occurred since 2000.

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