How many U.S. passports can you really own? – Nov. 1, 2017

Eyebrows were raised after a court filing Tuesday revealed former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, now under federal indictment, has three U.S. passports.

On top of that, he had filed for 10 passport applications in as many years, according to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s alleged meddling during the 2016 presidential election.

Three passports? We wanted to find some answers.

Can you have more than one passport?Yes. U.S. citizens are allowed to have more than one valid U.S. passport at the same time, according to the National Passport Information Center, which is a division of the U.S. State Department.

But in most cases, you are only allowed to have two valid passports at a time, according to the NPIC.

As NPIC notes on its website, holding a second passport “is the exception to the rule.”

It remains unclear why Manafort has three.

Source: How many U.S. passports can you really own? – Nov. 1, 2017

Women rescued by Navy defend their account of ordeal at sea

HONOLULU (AP) — Two women from Hawaii who were rescued after being lost at sea defended their account of the ordeal Tuesday, insisting that a storm was whipping up 30-foot waves and near hurricane-force winds on the night they set sail, despite records that show no severe weather in the area.

The Coast Guard is reviewing records from the days after Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava put to sea in a 50-foot sailboat, but NASA satellite images for the days around their departure show no organized storms in the region where they planned to travel.

There was a tropical cyclone, but it was near Fiji, thousands of miles west of Hawaii. Localized squalls are known to pop up, but a storm lasting three days would have been visible on satellite and would have elicited mass warnings to the public to brace for the weather.

“We got into a Force 11 storm, and it lasted for two nights and three days,” Appel said.Coast Guard officials told The Associated Press on Monday that the two women had an emergency beacon but never turned it on because they did not fear for their lives. If they had, rescue would have been headed their way in a matter of minutes.

The woman “stated they never felt like they were truly in distress, like in a 24-hour period they were going to die,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle said Monday.

The women said Tuesday that they did not use the beacon because they never felt they were in immediate danger, yet they have been quoted as saying they did not think they would survive another day, and that they were fearful during a dramatic tiger shark attack that lasted for six hours. Furthermore, the pair said they had been flagging vessels and sending distress signals for at least 98 days.

“We knew we weren’t going to make it,” Appel said. “So that’s when we started making distress calls.”

The Coast Guard outlined other inconsistencies, most notably on the timing of events.

Source: Women rescued by Navy defend their account of ordeal at sea

Lost Hawaii sailors’ survival story ‘doesn’t add up’ | Daily Mail Online

Questions have been raised over the story of two Hawaii women who say they were lost at sea for six months  – after it emerged they never activated their emergency beacon, sailed past an inhabited island and were caught in a seemingly non-existent storm. Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fiava were rescued by the US Navy 900 miles southeast of Japan last Wednesday after setting sail from Hawaii on May 3.They told a harrowing tale of survival after their rescue, but many of their claims have now been called into question including:

  • The woman claimed they did not have a standard Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on their vessel. The Coast Guard found one on board and say it was never activated.
  • The ‘Force 11 storm’ they claimed they encountered at the start of their journey, featuring 30-foot high seas and 60 mph winds over three days, was not recorded by meteorologists
  • They claim that they considered turning back after the storm but could not because the islands of Maui and Lanai did not have harbors deep enough for their boat. There are several places they could have docked
  • They also claim that, days later, they could not stop at a nearby island to fix their boat because it was ‘uninhabited’ – but Christmas Island, part of Kiribati, is home to over 2,000 people and often welcomes huge commercial ships
  • Instead of stopping at Christmas Island, they set a new destination of 1,000 miles away in the Cook Islands – also hundreds of miles beyond their original destination of Tahiti
  • When off Tahiti in June, the captain of the ship was reported to have told the Coast Guard they were fine and expected to land next morning – but months later they ended up in the western Pacific 

Source: Lost Hawaii sailors’ survival story ‘doesn’t add up’ | Daily Mail Online

How the Russians pretended to be Texans — and Texans believed them – The Washington Post

With each new story of the Russians creating fake online support for Trump I suspect more and more that it was Russian actors behind the fake Mitt Romney Facebook likes of the last election.

In early 2016, while researching some of the most popular U.S. secession groups online, I stumbled across one of the Russian-controlled Facebook accounts that were then pulling in Americans by the thousands.

At the time, I was writing on Russia’s relationship with American secessionists from Texas, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These were people who had hitched flights to Moscow to swap tactics, to offer advice and to find support. They had found succor in the shadow of the Kremlin.That was how I eventually found my way to the “Heart of Texas” Facebook page (and its @itstimetosecede Twitter feed as well). Heart of Texas soon grew into the most popular Texas secession page on Facebook — one that, at one point in 2016, boasted more followers than the official Texas Democrat and Republican Facebook pages combined. By the time Facebook took the page down recently, it had a quarter of a million followers.

The page started slowly — just a few posts per week. Unlike other secession sites I’d come across, this one never carried any contact information, never identified any of the individuals behind the curtain. Even as it grew, there was nothing to locate it in Texas — or anywhere else, for that matter. It was hard to escape the suspicion that there might be Russian involvement here as well.

Source: How the Russians pretended to be Texans — and Texans believed them – The Washington Post

How We Found Tom Price’s Private Jets – POLITICO Magazine

A great story on how two dogged reporters uncovered former HHS Secretary Tom Price’s overindulgence of private jet travel.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/APPRIMARY SOURCEHow We Found Tom Price’s Private JetsA tantalizing tip, followed by months of painstaking reporting, revealed the HHS secretary’s extravagant travel habits.

The first tip came from a casual conversation with a source back in May: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was using private jets for routine travel, possibly in violation of federal travel rules that allowed such flights only when commercial options weren’t available.

But it was a tip and little else—no times, no names of charter services and not even a schedule from a notoriously secretive Cabinet secretary.

So we embarked on a months-long effort to win the trust of sources, both in and outside of HHS, who were in a position to know about the secretary’s travel. This required numerous meetings and phone calls, sometimes after hours, seeking to confirm what the original source acknowledged was just secondhand information. Neither of us had ever reported a story of this difficulty before.

Source: How We Found Tom Price’s Private Jets – POLITICO Magazine

Sonic attacks on diplomats in Cuba: lots of questions, few answers | Miami Herald

The dark arts of intelligence and diplomacy are often compared to a chess match. But a former U.S. diplomat this week turned to a less sophisticated, but perhaps more apt, pastime as a metaphor for the weird, murky confrontation going on between the United States and Cuba.

“Remember that old board game Clue?” mused a former U.S. diplomat earlier this week. “You had to solve a murder by identifying the killer, the weapon and the venue: It was Colonel Mustard, with a knife, in the ballroom.“Well, we’ve got a victim — U.S.-Cuban relations — and a venue, various houses and hotel rooms in Havana. But we haven’t got a suspect or a weapon yet. Not to make a pun, but we don’t have a clue.”

The expulsion of 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington announced on Tuesday, following a State Department decision to pull most personnel out of the American embassy in Havana, leaves diplomatic relations between the countries at half-staff.

Source: Sonic attacks on diplomats in Cuba: lots of questions, few answers | Miami Herald

State Department pulls out diplomats, families in wake of Cuba sonic attacks – CNNPolitics

So … who would most benefit from a breakdown in US-Cuba relations? Anyone know? Anyone?

If you said Vladimir Putin, you might be on your way to solving this mystery!

In November, following the US presidential election, American diplomats began to experience a series of strange incidents. As CNN first reported in August, diplomats were awoken late at night in their homes feeling unwell and hearing sounds that resembled insects or metal dragging across the floor.

They were unable to determine the source of the sound, but when they left the room or area they were in the incidents stopped immediately, two US government officials said.

By February, the State Department had concluded their diplomats were the targets of a campaign of harassment and they needed to raise the issue with Cuban officials.

The devices used in the incidents have never been found, two US officials said, but appeared to be a type of sonic weapon that emitted sound waves capable of inflicting physical harm.

But the physical symptoms that people exhibited varied greatly, preventing doctors consulted in the United States from reaching a conclusion about what caused the trauma, two US officials said.

US government technical experts were also baffled. Some affected diplomats had lines of sight to the street in their homes, while others had shrubbery and walls that blocked views of their homes. Some heard loud sounds when the incidents took place, while others heard nothing.

Source: State Department pulls out diplomats, families in wake of Cuba sonic attacks – CNNPolitics