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Israelis ‘demanded bribes at Gaza crossing,’ WikiLeaks cables reveal

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OSLO — US firms complained in 2006 of corruption by Israeli officials at the Karni crossing into Gaza, then the Palestinian territory’s main commercial transit point, a leaked US diplomatic cable showed Thursday.

According to a cable from the US embassy in Tel Aviv and consulate in Jerusalem, US firms complained to embassy officials of a “lack of a clear and predictable truck registration system” which enabled “widespread corruption at Karni crossing.”

The companies included Coca Cola, Procter and Gamble, Caterpillar, Philip Morris, Westinghouse, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, Aramex and Dell.

“The deeply problematic procedures and allegations of endemic corruption at Karni terminal constitute a major non-tariff barrier to trade,” the cable, posted online by Norwegian daily of reference Aftenposten, read.

The cable said Coca Cola distributor Joerg Hartmann informed embassy officials that trucks were stalled at the crossing if firms did not pay bribes, in a scheme largely run by a high-level Israeli official with the help of others, including two soldiers.

“Hartmann also alleged that he has been asked to pay as much as 13,000 to 15,000 shekels ($2,889 to $3,333) per truckload, which includes a flat fee plus an additional two shekels per case charge, which is not recorded on the invoice,” the cable said.

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“Hartmann said that for that price, your truck is promised the first place in line or a spot near the head of the so-called ‘Israeli line’ which does move,” it added.

Some of the companies who had complained of corruption at the crossing refused to pay the bribes, the cable said.

At the end of May 2006, “34 shipments of American goods, amounting to nearly $1.9 million (had) been waiting three to four months to cross into Gaza,” it added.

Israel shut the Karni crossing when the radical Hamas movement took control of Gaza in June 2007. Only a minimum of goods are now let through, using a conveyor belt.

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Aftenposten said last month it had obtained all the diplomatic documents leaked to WikiLeaks and that it would publish stories based on them independently of the whistleblowing website’s own releases.

WikiLeaks has so far only made public around 2,000 of the some 250,000 cables in its possession, in cooperation with publications El Pais, The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde and Der Spiegel.

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Trump jumped to Speaker Pelosi’s defense in marathon Fox News interview

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In a strange twist, President Donald Trump appeared to defend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity Wednesday.

Hannity began by saying to Trump that he believes Pelosi has lost control of her own party, as officials like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) continue to call for impeachment.

"I say Nancy Pelosi is the speaker in name only," Hannity told Trump, calling Ocasio-Cortez the real start.

But what Trump said was the unusual point.

"I think Nancy Pelosi probably has control of it, I hear different things, but I think she does," Trump said, appearing to defend the Speaker. "She knows what she's doing. We will see how it all comes out."

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Trump spokesperson goes down in flames up against progressive reporter: ‘All you do is lie!’

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President Donald Trump's spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany went down in flames up against Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks during a CNN panel Wednesday.

McEnany went on to try and spin the president as some sort of great leader for Black Americans. She said that the campaign is very "proud" of the president's record on issues involving people of color.

"He also just said he wouldn't change his position on the Central Park Five," cut in Cuomo.

McEnany tried to cut in, but Cuomo cut in. "Now, he said we'll leave it at that. Come on."

"Chris, you come — come on, you," McEnany shot back. "We've been talking about the Central Park Five and racism and all of these things going back to the 2016 election, problem -- American people didn't believe it."

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‘It’s just insane’: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow breaks down the Trump administration’s latest Russia scandal

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On Wednesday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow delved into the latest stunning revelations surrounding Maria Butina, the admitted Russian agent at the heart of a plot to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party — and the connections to a high-ranking State Department official in charge of arms negotiations with Russia.

"Josh Rogin at the Washington Post reports tonight that Maria Butina also turned up at the wedding of Mike Pence's national security adviser," said Maddow. "Mike Pence's national security adviser, Andrea Thompson, got married that summer of 2017, first summer of the Trump Administration. She's got that awesome new job. Getting married and Maria Butina was at the wedding. Why was she at the wedding? U.S. Person One, her boyfriend, Paul Erickson, was officiating the wedding. Oh. It also turns out that the man who Mike Pence's national security adviser, the man who Andrea Thompson was marrying at the wedding that day, he had recently given Paul Erickson $100,000."

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