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Mar 24, 2018, 08:04 AM
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 on: Today at 06:47 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The TV president, pundit staff and Fox News echo chamber

Agence France-Presse
24 Mar 2018 at 08:16 ET                  

Donald Trump is burnishing his status as America’s ultimate TV president by peppering his administration with cable news pundits who play to his base and condense complex issues into soundbites.

This week, the former reality TV star stunned Washington by hiring John Bolton, the hawkish former UN ambassador and current Fox contributor who opposes the Iran nuclear deal and has advocated military action against North Korea, as national security advisor.

A week earlier, he made CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow and former investment bank economist, chief economic advisor, in place of former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn.

“In the past, presidents have reached for the Harvard University faculty or academically-oriented think tanks. Trump uses cable television news,” says Rich Hanley, associate professor journalism at Quinnipiac University.

“This is how he sees the world, this is his filter, so this is what he goes back to. He doesn’t go to the Washington establishment, which rejected him before he got the nomination,” agreed Mark Lowenthal, an intelligence expert who used to work at the CIA.

Looking and sounding good on television has been vital to US political success since John F. Kennedy in 1960. But Trump takes love of the medium to the next level.

“The qualifications that Trump seeks are the capacity to translate his impulses into sentences,” said Hanley.

“The president likes me as a media communicator,” Kudlow explained to CNBC. “He said, ‘You’re on the air,’ and he said ‘I’m looking at a picture of you,’ and he said ‘very handsome.’ It’s so Trump-ian.”

This is a president who not only found fame on reality show “The Apprentice,” but reportedly carves out “executive time” to watch TV and fires off tweets strikingly similar to commentary on Fox News, long considered the power behind his throne.

– Strategist TV –

Only on Friday, he threated to veto the budget and shut down the government after a Fox News host pilloried the deal as a “swamp budget.” That host, Pete Hegseth, is reportedly on the shortlist to become the next secretary of veterans affairs.

“We enter the uncharted waters of having a president whose chief strategist is the television,” writes Edward Burmila, assistant political science professor at Bradley University, in The Nation. “The new power behind the throne is Fox & Friends’.”

“This trend is likely to continue,” he told AFP. “Other than his immediate family, it’s entirely possible that people on Fox News as regular guests or as network personalities really are the only people he trusts.”

Trump’s love of TV talent is legendary.

Who can forget the shortest-serving White House communications director in US history, Anthony Scaramucci, a former Fox Business host and CNBC contributor.

Last week, the White House promoted former Fox News anchor Heather Nauert from State Department spokeswoman to acting undersecretary following the sacking-by-twitter of her boss, Rex Tillerson.

Reality TV star Omarosa Manigault was an inaugural member of the Trump team, until she was fired and turned up on “Celebrity Big Brother.”

Cabinet members Linda McMahon, head of the small business administration, was thrown around by wrestlers on television as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2016.

– Good for ratings –

Then there are the Fox News personalities whose advice Trump solicits behind the scenes, such as Sean Hannity, who hosts the most watched show in cable news, and Jeanine Pirro, who once interviewed for the job of deputy attorney general.

“For the president, Fox News is agenda setting,” said Dan Cassino, associate professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

“When Fox News talks about something, that makes the president talk about it. And the president talking about it means that everyone has to want to talk about it.”

But it’s not just content. The hiring and firing of staff — a chaotic revolving door of staff — delivers constant soap opera style cliffhangers.

“To keep the drama going, and by sowing such discord and chaos, he keeps the beast fed and he keeps himself in the news and he keeps himself at the forefront of the narrative… while maintaining contact with his base,” said Hanley.

The Trump presidency has been good for ratings, not just for Fox but for perceived “opposition” channel MSNBC.

Fox News ended 2017 as the most-watched cable network for a second year with 1.5 million viewers, up eight percent, and MSNBC came third with 890,000, a reported growth of 48 percent.

And what of Fox in all this?

“It’s an echo chamber and I think they understand that we have this tremendous influence on the president so let’s use it,” ventured Lowenthal.

 on: Today at 06:23 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Stormy Daniels: porn star primed to tell all about alleged Trump affair

The adult star who flirted with a Senate run goes public on Sunday night in an interview that should prove TV gold

Lucia Graves in Washington
Sat 24 Mar 2018 05.00 GMT

Stormy Daniels got her start in politics the same way most people get a used dresser – from a post on Craigslist.

“Seeking a female candidate to challenge David Vitter in the Republican primary for the United States Senate in 2010. We are looking for a candidate with a history in some aspect of the adult entertainment industry,” read the ad placed in 2008.

Vitter, the Republican senator from Louisiana who championed family values, had been ensnared in a prostitution scandal and some cheeky pranksters wanted to troll him on it.

But soon, what started as a gonzo prank idea was turning into something if not serious then at least real. “WE HAVE FOUND OUR PORN STAR,” read a follow-up post.

The porn star in question was Daniels, and in no time she was grabbing national headlines with her slogan that promised “Screwing People Honestly” – unlike her male opponent.

As wild as that was, that turned out to only be the prelude to Stormy Daniels’ main event. She currently faces a much more powerful male adversary, the president of the United States, as she prepares to go public on Sunday in a TV interview to give details about her alleged 2006 affair with Donald Trump.

The interview with Anderson Cooper, which is expected to break viewership records for CBS’s venerable 60 Minutes news magazine show, is easy to dismiss as frivolity. But her allegations, and the legal maneuvers Trump’s allies have employed to try to keep them quiet, could have implications spanning not just sex and sexual politics – but campaign finance laws and violence against women.

“You don’t know who become the pivotal players in history,” said Jonathan Tilove, who chronicled Daniels’ first steps in politics as a correspondent for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

‘My daughter’s name is Stephanie, not Stormy’

Born Stephanie Gregory Clifford in Baton Rouge in 1979, Daniels grew up with her mother, who worked as a trucking company manager. Her dad was seldom around. As a girl she loved dancing and horses, but if her parents hoped she might pursue a childhood dream of becoming a vet, it was not to be. She left home and began stripping at 17; by 21 she was performing in adult films under the stage name Stormy Daniels.

She considers it her real name, but her mother, Sheila Gregory, can’t abide it.

“My daughter’s name is Stephanie, not Stormy,” she said when the Guardian reached her at home Tuesday. “Please forgive me if you think I’m being rude,” she added, before hanging up.

Gregory may not have made peace with her daughter’s career, but by any measure, Daniels is extremely successful at what she does, both in front of the camera and behind it. She started directing in her mid-20s, and won best new starlet at the 2004 AVN awards, referred to as the “the Oscars of porn”. The following year, she made a number of cameos in mainstream film, including Judd Apatow’s blockbuster hit The 40-Year-Old Virgin. (On social media, Apatow has said he admires her work.)

    It was clear she was smart, prepared and comfortable with the media frenzy
    Bradley Beychok on Stormy Daniels

In 2009, when her Louisiana campaign began, Daniels was living in Florida and not registered with either party. And as those who worked with her, most of whom did not want to speak on the record, quickly realized, she was not going to be a prop, but sensed opportunity. “She was smart enough to know that we weren’t trying to drag her through some college prank, that maybe this was an avenue to explore,” said a person with knowledge of the campaign.

Her platform, thin though it was, was socially liberal and fiscally conservative. But mainly it was about trolling Vitter, and she was a master provocateur. Asked if she was pro-life, for instance, she said she was “pro-condom”. Asked if she really just wanted to embarrass Vitter, she replied flatly: “I don’t see how I could possibly embarrass him more than he’s already embarrassed himself.”

Most notable though, was her ability to stay in the public eye, despite her never formally entering the race. “It was clear she was smart, prepared and comfortable with the media frenzy,” said Democratic operative Bradley Beychok, who met with Daniels during a “listening tour” in Baton Rouge.

The Craigslist post turned what should have been a low-key election into a national spectacle, and Louisiana is just quirky enough of a place that national election forecaster Nate Silver didn’t rule her out. “She’s certainly not without her, um, charms,” Silver wrote at the time.

Daniels’ campaign would prove quite literally explosive. At the height of her political momentum, the Audi belonging to her political manager burst into flames, and though no one was ever apprehended, blurry surveillance footage showed someone loitering around the car and getting into it shortly before it detonated.

Soon after that, and amid a domestic violence arrest, Daniels opted out of the race. Vitter would go on to win, riding the wave of anti-Obama backlash in 2010. But when he ran for governor a few years later, his Democratic opponent won in an upset by reviving the prostitution scandal that Daniels had worked to highlight.

Target on her back

Today, as she prepares to take on the president, Daniels is – improbably, perhaps, at 39 – on top of her industry, with a confidence and acerbic Twitter profile to match.

Her second foray into politics began in February, when the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her story just before the 2016 election.

In response to the bombshell, the tabloid In Touch Weekly published an interview with Daniels it had been sitting on since 2011, kept under wraps due to legal threats from Trump’s circle. In the interview, Daniels describes in explicit detail a consensual, nearly year-long sexual dalliance with Trump, allegedly begun weeks after his wife Melania gave birth to their son, Barron.

Sunday’s interview, however, will be the first time Daniels has spoken about the matter since Trump forged his own political career, and the first time she will address the efforts to muzzle her, which she has been fighting in court.

Details from Daniels’ account further shape the narratives that first emerged about Trump and his relationship with women during the 2016 election. More than a dozen women came forward to accuse Trump of sexual harassment and assault in the lead-up to the election. And while Daniels’ alleged affair with Trump was consensual, the context is nonetheless informative about how he views women.

And Daniels is not alone. Another adult film star, Jessica Drake, who accused Trump of trying to buy sex from her, claims she also has “confidential information” about Trump’s relationship with Daniels, according to a 2016 non-disclosure agreement or NDA.

On Tuesday, the former Playboy model Karen McDougal became the second woman this month to challenge Trump’s efforts to silence her, announcing she was suing the president to be released from a 2016 legal agreement that restricted her ability to speak about her alleged affair with the future president.

Separately, a judge this month ruled that a defamation suit brought by former Apprentice star Summer Zervos, who accused Trump of harassing her, may go forward, clearing the path for other sexual misconduct allegations against the president to be aired.

“It is settled that the president of the United States has no immunity and is ‘subject to the laws’ for purely private acts,” the judge declared, citing the precedent set by a lawsuit brought against Bill Clinton by his alleged mistress Paula Jones two decades ago.

Meanwhile, the president, who has denied all the claims brought against him, remains committed to keeping Daniels quiet.

Daniels’ legal team, in a clever bit of maneuvering, has offered to pay back every dollar she was paid in the NDA for the chance to speak freely. Her team claims the agreement is null and void because Trump never signed it, and they are moving ahead with the CBS interview despite a threat from Trump’s camp of up to $20m in damages.

Daniels now has a target on her back, and her lawyer has said she’s been physically threatened and is under 24-hour security. But her background in adult entertainment may give her a rare liberty other women Trump has tried to shame into silence do not possess. Namely, she is not easily embarrassed and she doesn’t care if people don’t like her.

“Slut and whore are words used by people who feel threatened,” she responded to a troll on Twitter who accused her of promiscuity. “I find power in them.”


Stormy Daniels attorney reveals ‘thuggish’ acts by Trump fixer ‘delivered in person’ — and warns DVD ‘contains evidence’

Bob Brigham
Raw Story
23 Mar 2018 at 20:19 ET                   

During a Friday MSNBC appearance, the attorney for Stormy Daniels revealed offered more details about the physical threat his client allegedly received and his nature of the cryptic insurance policy he posted on Twitter.

“President Trump is under siege from three separate lawsuits filed by an adult film actor, a former Playboy model and a former contestant on his show The Apprentice,” Matthews reminded. “It doesn’t look like it’s about to let up.”

Matthews noted the “cryptic picture” posted by Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti on Twitter.

    If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” how many words is this worth?Huh?#60minutes #pleasedenyit #basta pic.twitter.com/eCkU0JBZaR

    — Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 23, 2018

“For more, I’m joined by Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels,” Matthews noted. “I think you’re a match for the president, sir. I’ve been watching you, I never seen it done quite so well.”

“This is a picture, I assume, a tape of her taking the lie detector test?” Matthews asked. “Would that be a good guess?

“No, that would not be a good guess, Chris, I appreciate the compliment,” Avenatti answered.

“We’re getting close, it is a DVD?” Matthews followed-up.

“Let me tell you this, Chris, that DVD contains evidence of this relationship.”

“How vidid and how threatening was the bodily threat, the threat of bodily harm?” Matthews asked. “Was it delivered in person or on the phone?”

“Chris, here’s what I’ll tell you, the threat was delivered in person, my client is going to describe it in detail on Sunday,” Avenatti answered. “It was very frightening to her and I think [viewers] are going to come away with a firm understanding after that interview of exactly what happened here.”

Matthews also asked if the threat of harm influenced her decision to sign the non-disclosure agreement.

“I think absolutely,” he replied. “When the president’s fixer exerts pressure on you to sign a document, you don’t ask a lot of questions, you do as you’re told.”

“Chris, it has nothing do with infidelity. I know people are interested in the salacious details, et cetera, I get it,” Avenatti explained. “It’s much bigger than that.”

“It’s about the cover-up. It’s about people in positions of power abusing that power, putting people that are less fortunate, that don’t have a many resources as they do, under their thumb threatening them, intimidating them and engaging in thuggish tactics,” he continued. “Those days as it relates to my client are over!”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYZo5_AABcU


CNN panel marvels at Trump morals: ‘Not only cheating on his wife — he was cheating on his mistress’

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
23 Mar 2018 at 16:13 ET                   

As the women who engaged in consensual sexual relationships with President Donald Trump while he was married continue to come forward, all political panels can marvel at the hubris and questionable morality.

During a panel discussion with CNN’s Gloria Borger and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Wehle found Trump’s predicament remarkable.

“She made him seem more human in a way than I’ve ever heard him described,” Borger described Karen McDougal’s interview with Anderson Cooper. “But she was also describing a man who was not only cheating on his wife, but he was cheating on his mistress at the same time. And so it was a remarkable story.”

Borger explained that she covered former President Bill Clinton and has covered presidents who cheated on their wives in the past, but this, seemed different somehow.

“It’s kind of remarkable, the level of detail that is coming out from these women, because we are living in a different time now than we were during the Clinton days,” Borger continued. “So now it’s just all coming out there. At some point, the president is going to have to talk about it, either in court or to the American public.”

Wehle, who worked on the Whitewater prosecution case noted that when Clinton dealt with his affair, he ultimately was forced to talk about it to the American people. Ironically, Trump brought Clinton’s accusers to a press conference prior to the final presidential debate.

“These hush money deals took place around the time of the campaign and there are some potential legal liability here with respect to the campaign finance laws,” Wehle said. “So, this is beyond just the sordid details, which is really debasing the presidency, kind of in a more historic level. But it also has legal implications for this president that just compounds the problems he has, in light of [special counsel Bob] Mueller’s investigation.”

 on: Today at 06:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Bombs away: John Bolton's most hawkish views on Iran, Iraq and North Korea

A hawk among hawks, Bolton has advocated for pre-emptive strikes against North Korea and Iran, and pushed anti-immigration rhetoric

Jamiles Lartey
24 Mar 2018 18.53 GMT

Fifteen years ago to the week, the US began its invasion and occupation of Iraq. Among the war’s many architects and cheerleaders was John Bolton, at the time a senior adviser to George W Bush on issues of arms control and international security. And while many early invasion supporters have, in the clear view of hindsight, conceded that the decade-plus long odyssey was at least misguided, Bolton has reached no such conclusion.

Even in the war-happy neoconservative Bush administration, Bolton stood out - a hawk among hawks - and his post-Bush career as a public commentator certainly didn’t see those leanings tempered. He has advocated, to various degrees, pre-emptive strikes and wars against North Korea and Iran, and overall an aggressive military interventionist programme around the world, coupled with staunch anti-immigration rhetoric.

Late Thursday, Bolton, who is scheduled to takeover for HR McMaster as Trump’s national security advisor on 9 April, said on Fox News that all those pronouncements were behind him as he prepares for his new role in the White House.

“During my career, I have written I don’t know how many articles and op-eds and opinion pieces. I have given I can’t count the number of speeches, I have countless interviews ... in the past 11 years. They’re all out there in the public record. I have never been shy about what my views are,” Bolton said, adding later, “Frankly, what I have said in private now is behind me.”

He concluded: “The important thing is what the president says and the advice I give him.”

Still, here are some of Bolton’s most aggressive published views in recent memory which may offer window into exactly what kind of advice he may be about to give to Trump.

Don’t talk to North Korea

In August, when defense secretary Jim Mattis and former secretary of state Rex Tillerson co-published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal outlining their philosophy on North Korea, Bolton said he was “appalled” by the tack.

“Time is not a neutral factor here. Time is an asset for the proliferator,” he said on Fox News. “More negotiation with North Korea? I think they’d say bring it on. More time to increase the size and scope of their ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities.

“The object of our peaceful pressure campaign is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Tillerson and Mattis had written. “Diplomacy is our preferred means of changing North Korea’s course of action.”
Preemptive strike on North Korea

In a seeming retread of Dick Cheney’s infamous insistence that we not wait until the “smoking gun” is a “mushroom cloud” with respect to Iraq, Bolton argued in the Wall Street Journal in February that a lack of intelligence about North Korea’s missile program could justify a military first strike.

“The threat is imminent, and the case against pre-emption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from prenuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times,” he wrote. “Given the gaps in US intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation. It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first.”
Preemptive strike on Iran

In a 2015 op-ed in the New York Times headlined To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran, Bolton wrote: “The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure…

“An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but by breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its program by three to five years. The United States could do a thorough job of destruction…

“Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.”

The piece was published about three months before Barack Obama’s secretary of state John Kerry helped successfully negotiate a non-proliferation deal that saw Iran agree to a 98% reduction in its enriched uranium stockpile and a 15-year pause in the development of key weapons infrastructure. That deal is now in peril under Trump.

No humanitarian obligation to accept Syrian Refugees

“We have no obligation to bring them into this country,” Bolton told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro in 2015 as millions were fleeing the ongoing civil war. Bolton added that in his estimation the US can refuse to allow Syrian refugees entry “without in any way violating our humanitarian obligations”.

The only mistake made in Iraq was leaving Iraq

In the Daily Telegraph in 2016, Bolton wrote that: “Iraq today suffers not from the 2003 invasion, but from the 2011 withdrawal of all US combat forces. What strengthened Iran’s hand in Iraq was not the absence of Saddam [Hussein], but the absence of coalition troops with a writ to crush efforts by the ayatollahs to support and arm Shi’ite militias. When US forces left, the last possibility of Iraq succeeding as a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state left with them. Don’t blame Tony Blair and George W Bush for that failure. Blame their successors.”

Terrorism is a war, not a crime

In the wake of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris Bolton opined for Fox News that “This is not a matter for the criminal law, as many American political and academic leaders, including the President [Obama], have insisted… This is a war…

“The mechanism of response must be to destroy the source of the threat, not prosecute it, not contain it, not hope that we will ‘ultimately’ destroy it. ‘Ultimately’ is too far away.

“Knee-jerk, uninformed and often wildly inaccurate criticisms of programs (such as several authorized in the wake of 9/11 in the Patriot Act) have created a widespread misimpression in the American public about what exactly our intelligence agencies have been doing and whether there was a ‘threat’ to civil liberties. Now is the time to correct these misimpressions, and to rebut the unfounded criticisms.”

Nobody tell Bolton’s new boss, who has dabbled in “deep-state” conspiracy thinking throughout his administration.


Joe Biden blast Trump’s new NSC pick John Bolton for fudging intelligence facts to Intel Committee in the past

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
24 Mar 2018 at 18:18 ET                   

During an interview with the political podcast “Pod Save America,” former Vice President Joe Biden lambasted John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s recent choice for National Security Council.

While the hosts brought up the appointment, Biden covered his face with his hands.

“I can document for you that Bolton has two modus operandi: When he was at [the] State [Department], what he would do was he would shade intelligence to move it in the direction where he wanted to go,” Biden said. “There who disagreed with him, he’d try to get rid of them.”

Bolton, who has been criticized for being a war-hawk, specifically when it comes to Iran and North Korea. In the past he has told Fox News that there should be preemptive military strikes on North Korea.

Biden, who served on the Foreign Relations Committee while in the U.S. Senate, called it a “a virtual disaster.” He explained that Bolton wouldn’t give a straight forward answer on what the intelligence actually said.

“That’s in the record, and that’s why Republicans joined me and defeated him,” Biden said. “The single worst place in the world to have John Bolton — I mean this sincerely — is at the place where it requires somebody who will not impose their view, will make sure the president knows every perspective in his government… it is not to cut off access, and this guy has a history of cutting off access.”


‘We’re in trouble’: Malcolm Nance sounds the alarm on ‘democracy under attack’ by conservatives ‘owned by the Kremlin’

Sarah K. Burris
24 Mar 2018 at 22:43 ET                   

Author and security expert Malcolm Nance sounded the alarm on a growing existential threat on liberal democracies across the globe and the increase of conservative parties that are “owned by the Kremlin.”

“Democracy is in retreat all around the world,” Nance warned. “And you know what? There is a threat going on right now in Europe. Conservative parties are owned lock, stock and barrel by the Kremlin. They fund them and they are all about destroying the Atlantic alliance, globalization and America’s standing in the world. They want an end to democracy.”

MSNBC host Chris Hayes noted that it is important to note that there is a constituency ready and willing to join the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his leadership.

“They are embracing it and that’s what sort of gives these movements their power,” Hayes said.

Mona Charen, a columnist and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, noted that Putin supports both the extreme left and the extreme right, because what he seeks is destabilization, regardless of the side.

Nance explained the strange way in which people like Libertarians who would come all the way around on the other side, but that Putin is done with that strategy and has gone all in on the far right.

“They own the neo-Nazi movement in Europe,” Nance said. “Anders Behring Breivik, the guy who mass murdered 69 school children in Norway — he did that because he was part of this conservative underbelly. He said that he did it to eliminate the next generation of liberals in Norway. These people exist everywhere in Europe. The United States, in Charlottesville, that was to be the American alt-right’s coming out to join that global network. We’re in trouble.”

Watch the full segment: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6gruo4


‘America is being run by Steve Doocy’: Maher compares Fox News controlling Trump to the way Putin controls state TV

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
23 Mar 2018 at 22:59 ET     

During Friday’s “Real Time” panel, host Bill Maher called it downright “scary” the way that President Donald Trump is so impacted by what appears on Fox News each day.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin has state TV but Putin isn’t an idiot,” Maher began. “So, state TV does what Putin wants. I think it’s the other way in this country. I think we’re being — America’s being run by Steve Doocy!”

MSNBC host Chris Hayes noted that Friday morning someone said, only half joking, that how Fox News covered the omnibus spending bill would determine whether or not Trump would sign it or the government would ultimately shut down.

Maher also wonderd if the GOP was really going to follow Trump down in flames as he claims he is “clean” while special counsel Robert Mueller is “dirty.” Hayes noted what the GOP has decided to do is simply “crazy.”

“But I think this question about what Republicans do when the chips are down,” Hayes continued. “What’s crazy to Republicans have signed up for a cover-up without knowing what they’re covering up. Which is bizarre and reckless. The problem for them right now is that they’re sort of caught. They’re like a runner taking too big of a lead off of first base and they can’t get back. They have to run forward. So, they’re in this bizarre no-man’s land where they’re like, ‘What are you going to do? Do you throw him over now?’ Like, what does that get you? I think they’ve got to take the plunge together.”


Author of Trump dossier moves closer to testimony in lawsuit

McClatchy Washington Bureau
24 Mar 2018 at 16:44 ET 

 WASHINGTON — The U.S. lawyer for a Russian tech mogul suing online news site BuzzFeed will travel to London to take testimony from the former British spy at the center of the allegations of possible Trump campaign collusion with the Kremlin.

A British court on Wednesday accepted a compromise between lawyers that compels narrow testimony from Christopher Steele, who produced the so-called Trump dossier that prompted congressional and federal investigations in the United States.

Aleksej Gubarev and his Cyprus-based company XBT Holdings, who are suing BuzzFeed for defamation, will be permitted to question Steele about the final page of the document, where both are mentioned.

Gubarev's lawyers brought separate suits early last year in South Florida and London, alleging BuzzFeed should have given him an opportunity to comment when it published the dossier on Jan. 10, 2017, setting in motion political drama in London, Moscow and Washington, D.C.

"We are going to do (the deposition) ourselves," Valentin Gurvits, a Boston-based lawyer representing XBT and Gubarev, said Friday. "We're going to videotape him. BuzzFeed's counsel will be there." Steele agreed not to appeal the London court's decision.

The timing of the session, however, is unclear because attorneys for BuzzFeed have appealed in London, arguing that questions to Steele should not be limited to just the part about XBT and Gubarev.

"Now that the court has ordered this deposition, we believe Mr. Steele should be able to tell the full story behind his work on the dossier," said Matt Mittenthal, a BuzzFeed spokesman.

The 35-page dossier's final section alleged that Gubarev and his company, over a period from March to September 2016, were instrumental in the hacking of leaked Democratic Party emails embarrassing to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats during the presidential campaign. The dossier was paid for initially by Republican opponents and later a lawyer tied to the Democratic National Committee and Trump's Democratic rival for the White House, Hillary Clinton.

The document didn't detail how this information was learned and Gurvits said in an interview that he wants to ask Steele what is meant by later descriptions of information in the dossier being "raw and unsolicited."

BuzzFeed maintains it published the dossier under what's known as fair-report privilege, meaning it can't be sued because it was reporting about an official document, action or proceeding. It argues the dossier already was been in the hands of the FBI and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at the time of publication.

"We fully expect the information contained in Mr. Steele's deposition to reaffirm our decision to publish the dossier, which was at the center of official investigations and circulating at the highest levels of government," said Mittenthal.

Gurvits counters that the version of the dossier that the FBI and the senator had did not include the final memorandum from December 2016 that made the allegations about XBT and Gubarev.

"The document that the government was looking at was not the version that BuzzFeed published," he insisted.

Gubarev is a venture capitalist who owns Florida-based Webzilla Inc., Cyprus-based XBT and other tech companies that collectively are involved in web hosting, online storage and internet services.

A McClatchy profile of the company last year detailed XBT's complicated ownership structure and found that its hosting of file-sharing sites had made it a target of anti-piracy advocates.


Noam Chomsky: ‘The Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in human history’

Lynn Parramore, AlterNet
24 Mar 2018 at 08:57 ET                   

This interview originally appeared on the blog of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

To help make sense of where we stand as an economy, as a country, and as human beings, Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Laureate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona, shares his thoughts with Lynn Stuart Parramore on the Age of Trump, foreign policy, dissent in the internet age, public education, corporate predation, who’s really messing with American elections, climate change, and more.

Lynn Parramore: You’ve been looking at politics and international relations for quite a long time. Over the decades, what are the continuities in these areas that stand out in your view?

Noam Chomsky: Well the continuities are the message of the Athenians to Melos: “the powerful do what they wish and the weak suffer what they must” [from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War]. It’s often disguised in humanitarian terms. The modalities and the context change. The situations change, but the message stays the same.

LP: What do you see as the most significant changes?

NC: There are some steps towards imposing constraints and limits on state violence. For the most part, they come from inside. So for example, if you look at the United States and the kinds of actions that John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson could carry out in Vietnam, they were possible because of almost complete lack of public attention.

I don’t know if you know, but as late as 1966 in Boston we could barely have an anti-war action because it would be violently broken up with the support of the press and so on. By then, South Vietnam had been practically destroyed. The war had expanded to other areas of Indochina. The Reagan administration, at the very beginning, tried to duplicate what Kennedy had done in 1961 with regard to Central America. So they had a white paper more or less modeled on Kennedy’s white paper that said the Communists are taking over. It was the usual steps, the propaganda, but it collapsed quickly. In the case of the Kennedy white paper, it took years before it was exposed as mostly fraudulent, but the Wall Street Journal, of all places, exposed the Reagan white paper in six months. There were protests by church groups and popular organizations and they had to kind of back off. What happened was bad enough but it was nothing like Indochina.

Iraq was the first time in the history of imperialism that there were massive protests before the war was even officially launched. It’s claimed by people that it failed, but I don’t think so. I mean, they never began to do the kinds of things that they could have done. There were no B-52 raids on heavily populated areas or chemical warfare of the kind they did in Indochina. By and large, the constraints come from inside, and they understood that. By the time you got to the first Bush administration, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they came out with a national defense policy and strategic policy. What they basically said is that we’re going to have wars against what they called much weaker enemies and these have to be carried out quickly and decisively or else there will be embarrassment—a way of saying that popular reaction is going to set in. And that’s the way it’s been. It’s not pretty, but it’s some kind of constraint.

There are increasingly conditions in international law, like the Rome Treaty [the 1957 treaty that established the European Economic Community] and so on, but great powers just ignore them if they can get away with it, and getting away with it means ignoring the constraints of other states, which, in the case of, say, the U.S., don’t amount to much. Or internal constraints from changes inside the society, which have put in conditions of some significance, I think.

It’s almost unimaginable now that the U.S. could carry out the kind of war it did in Indochina, which is something recognized by elite opinion. A typical example is Mark Bowden’s op-ed in the New York Times the other day about [Walter] Cronkite and how he changed everything. Well, what did Cronkite say? He said, it doesn’t look as if we’re going to win. That’s the criticism of the war. That’s the way it was perceived at the time, and that’s the way it’s still perceived by intellectual elites. But if you look at public opinion—which doesn’t really get investigated much so it’s not too clear what it means, but it’s interesting—the Chicago Council on Global Affairs was running polls on all sorts of issues in the ’70s and ’80s, and when the Vietnam War ended in 1975, about 70 percent of the population described the war as fundamentally wrong and immoral, not a mistake. That stayed pretty steady for several years until they stop asking the question. The director of the study, John Rielly, interpreted that as meaning too many American were being killed. Maybe. There’s another possible interpretation of “fundamentally wrong and immoral,” which is that the U.S. was carrying out a crime against humanity. But it was never investigated because there’s too much cognitive dissonance. Elite intellectuals can’t perceive that possibility.

Everybody had a comment when the war ended, and so the hawks said, “stab in the back” [i.e., civilian critics undermined the military] and “if we’d fought harder we would have won.” The doves went kind of like Anthony Lewis of the New York Times, who was maybe the most extreme. In 1975 when the war ended, he said the war began with blundering efforts to do good. “Efforts to do good” is virtual tautology, facts irrelevant; and “blundering” means it failed. He said that by 1969 it was clear that it was a disaster because the U.S. could not bring democracy to Vietnam at a cost acceptable to us. That’s the far left critique of the war in 1975. And Bowden, who is writing from a critical point of view, basically reiterated that point a couple days ago: Cronkite’s great contribution was to say, “look, it looks as if we can’t win, and if we can’t win…” I mean, Russian generals said the same in Afghanistan. We don’t honor them for that.

LP: When you talked about protests in Understanding Power before the digital age, you mentioned that it was difficult for dissenters and protesters to connect with each other. How has the internet changed that? Protesters are obviously under surveillance when they are online, but they are able to connect with each other more quickly. Has there been a net gain to those who want to object to wars and oppression? Or is this illusory?

NC: You may remember, during the Tahrir Square demonstrations in Cairo, which were being organized through social media, at one point [Hosni] Mubarak actually closed down the internet. That increased the mobilization. People just started talking to each other. It’s a different kind of communication. It means a lot more. So I think, yes, social media do offer opportunities for quick organization and transmission, but typically at a pretty superficial level. Face-to-face organizing is something quite different. The same, incidentally, has been found in electoral politics. Andrew Cockburn had an interesting article in Harper’s during the [2016] campaign in which he compared studies on the effect on potential voters of advertising, you know, TV, and the effect of knocking on doors and talking to people. It was overwhelming that the latter was more effective. We’re still human beings.

LP: Companies like Google and Facebook increasingly control the information we can access. They’ve even been enlisted to vet stories, to weed out fake news, though there’s evidence that they may be weeding out legitimate dissent. Yet they are often applauded as if they’re doing a service. How is this sort of thing affecting our freedom?

NC: It’s service for a bad reason. The younger people just don’t read much, so they want something quick, fast, easy. You go through a newspaper, it takes time. You have to see what’s at the end of the column, not just what’s in the headline. So this kind of instant gratification culture is drawing people to these quick summaries. Practically everybody’s on Facebook (except me).

The other thing they’re doing which is kind of interesting has to do with microtargeting, which is being used for electoral manipulation. There are some cases, which have not been discussed as far as I know outside the business press. During the last German election, there was a lot of talk of potential Russian interference, you know, it’s gonna swing the election. Well, it turns out there was foreign interference, but it wasn’t Russian. It was a combination of the Berlin office of Facebook and a media company in the U.S., which works for Trump, Le Pen, Netanyahu, other nice guys. They used Facebook in Berlin to get a demographic analysis of parts of the population to allow them to microtarget ads to individuals in favor of AfD, the neo-Nazi party, which may have been a factor in their unexpectedly high vote in the election. This was reported in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. This was a real case of electoral manipulation but somehow it doesn’t make the headlines.

LP: Which brings us to the narrative of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. I understand you’re not very impressed with this line.

NC: Well it’s very hard to take seriously for a number of reasons. One reason is the work of Thomas Ferguson and his colleagues [“How Money Won Trump the White House”]. There really is manipulation of elections, but it’s not coming from the Russians. It’s coming from the people who buy the elections. Take his study of the 2016 election [“Industrial Structure and Party Competition in an Age of Hunger Games: Donald Trump and the 2016 Presidential Election”]. That’s how you interfere with elections. Or the pretty spectacular study that he and his colleagues did about a year ago on Congress “How Money Drives US Congressional Elections,” where you just get a straight line [correlation between money and major party votes in Congress]. You rarely see results like that in the social sciences. That’s massive manipulation. Compared with that, what the Russians might be doing is minuscule. Quite aside from the fact that the U.S. does it all the time in other countries.

LP: It’s clear from leaked emails that the Democratic National Committee meddled with Bernie Sanders in his quest for the 2016 presidential nomination by favoring Hillary Clinton when it was supposed to be unbiased towards all candidates. What do you think it would it take for a real reformist candidate, a true populist, to ever win the presidency?

NC: What it would actually take is popular organization and activism. With all its flaws, the U.S. is still a pretty free country. In this case, Democratic Party managers had to manipulate to keep Sanders from winning the nomination. His campaign, I think, was really spectacular. I couldn’t have predicted anything like it. It’s a break with over a century of American political history. No corporate support, no financial wealth, he was unknown, no media support. The media simply either ignored or denigrated him. And he came pretty close—he probably could have won the nomination, maybe the election. But suppose he’d been elected? He couldn’t have done a thing. Nobody in Congress, no governors, no legislatures, none of the big economic powers, which have an enormous effect on policy. All opposed to him. In order for him to do anything, he would have to have a substantial, functioning party apparatus, which would have to grow from the grass roots. It would have to be locally organized, it would have to operate at local levels, state levels, Congress, the bureaucracy—you have to build the whole system from the bottom.

It’s kind of intriguing now; I’m sure you’ve seen the polls where he turns out to be the most popular political figure. Well, in a functioning democracy, the person who is the most popular political figure should appear somewhere. But nothing he does gets reported. It’s taking place, it’s having effects, but from the point of view of the liberal media, it’s as if it doesn’t exist.

LP: What about recent events in California with Senator Dianne Feinstein, who got a big surprise by failing to win the state Democratic Party endorsement for a sixth term? Is this like the Sanders phenomenon, where people who want basic things like universal health care and worker protections are making their preferences heard by refusing to support candidates who are unresponsive?

NC: She was voted down, and like the Sanders campaign or [Jeremy] Corbyn in England, there is a groundswell, and if it could be turned into something sustained and with a serious base, it could mean a lot. Traditionally, this has always been built around the labor movement, and that’s why the corporate sector is so dedicated to destroying the unions. It’s coming up in the Janus case, which was heard the other day, which will probably be voted in favor of Janus, which will be a lethal blow to public unions. [Mark Janus is the plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME involving the issue of whether government employees represented by a union must pay dues to cover the cost of collective bargaining and resolving grievances.]

The whole U.S. private sector is passionate about destroying the union movement. This has been going on for a long time, but now they really think they can strangle it because it’s the core of activism for almost anything. Take a look at, say, health care. In Canada, in the ’50s, it was the unions who were pressing hard for national health care, and kind of interestingly, in the U.S. the same unions were pressing for health care for themselves, auto workers in Detroit. These are two pretty similar countries, but with this striking difference in outcomes on health care.

A more interesting case is England. There’s a pretty good article that just came out in the latest issue of Jacobin, which runs through the history of British health care, and it’s quite interesting. It began in England under Bevan in the late ’40s. They got what was the best health care system in the world—still is, probably, and certainly was then. It started with mine workers in Wales who developed their own cooperative health system on a small scale. Aneurin Bevan was a Welsh mine worker. The cooperative system was picked up by the Labour Party as a program, and the Labour Party actually won the election in 1945, and Bevan pushed it through, and they got the National Health Service.

Well, there’s two points that are critical for the U.S. It’s the unions. That’s why you have to destroy the unions. You destroy solidarity. It’s the same reason for the attack on public schools, the attack on social security. These are all based on the idea that somehow you care about others, the community, and so on, and that’s completely unacceptable in a culture where you want to try to concentrate wealth and power. You don’t want people to have anything to do except to try to gain whatever they can for themselves. In that case, they’ll be very weak, of course. It’s only when you organize together than you can confront private capital.

Secondly, there was a political party. The American political system probably wouldn’t be accepted by the European Court of Justice as a legitimate system. There’s no way for independent parties to enter the system. The Labour Party in England started as a very small party. But because the system allows—as most democratic countries do—small parties to function, they were able to develop and work within Parliament and expand and get political figures and the government and finally ended up being a big party. That’s almost impossible in the U.S. If you look at a ballot in the U.S., it says Democrat, Republican, Other. Nobody can break in. It’s a political monopoly. It’s two things that aren’t really political parties. You can’t really be a member of the Democratic Party, you can’t participate in designing its programs. You can be a member of the Labour Party. These are big differences, so I think two huge problems in the U.S. are the deficiencies of the political system, which shows up in the kind of things that Tom Ferguson and his colleagues study—you know, the enormous power of concentrated wealth in determining the outcome of elections and then the policies afterwards. That’s one, and the other is the destruction of the labor movement.

LP: Let’s talk about the attack on public schools, which Gordon Lafer has outlined in his book, The One Percent Solution.

NC: Yes, a very interesting book.

LP: He discusses efforts by ALEC and other corporate-backed groups to dismantle public education, to get legislation passed to replace teachers with online education, increase class sizes, replace public schools with privately funded charters, and so on. You’ve talked about the history of mass education. How do you see this corporate agenda for American schools?

NC: You know, mass public education was, with all its flaws, one of the real contributions to American democracy. It was way ahead of other countries all the way through, including the college level with land grant colleges and so on. Europe just began to match that after World War II. Here it was happening in the late 19th century. Now there’s a real concerted effort to destroy the whole public education system. ALEC and Koch Brothers just recently announced a campaign taking Arizona as the test case because they figure Arizona is probably an easy one since it has probably the lowest per capita expenditure for education and a very right-wing legislature. What they’re trying to do—they describe it openly—is to try to essentially destroy the public education system, turn everything to vouchers and charter schools. It’ll be an interesting battle, and if it works in Arizona they want to do it elsewhere.

It’s a huge corporate offensive. It’s very similar to attacks on unions. First the Friedrichs [Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, in which the Supreme Court deadlocked on the issue of the right of public-sector unions to collect fees from workers they represent, including those who don’t join the union, to cover bargaining and other activities], now the Janus case, and they’ll probably succeed. This right-to-work legislation is just unacceptable in other countries. In fact, in the NAFTA negotiations, at one point Canada proposed that part of a revision should be to ban measures that undermine labor rights like the right-to-work legislation. It’s kind of like using scabs. It’s just not heard of. But Reagan introduced it here—I think the U.S. and South Africa were the only countries that allowed it. In fact, the U.S. has never even ratified the first principle of the International Labour Organization, the right of association. I think the U.S. must be alone, frankly. It’s very much a business-run society.

LP: What are students being trained for now in the corporate vision of education that is taking over the country? What kind of future will they have? And what does it do to the idea of a democracy?

NC: Students will be controlled and disciplined. The education doesn’t leave any room for interaction, for creative activity, for teachers to do things on their own, for students to find a way to do things, I’ve talked to teacher’s groups. I remember once I was giving a talk and a sixth-grade teacher came up to me describing experiences. She said that after one class a little girl came up and said that she was really interested in something that came up and wanted to know how she could do some more on it. And the teacher had to tell her, you can’t do it. You have to study for the MCAS, the Massachusetts version of the regular exam [Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System]. Everything depends on that. Even the teacher’s salary depends on that. So you can’t do anything creative as an individual. You follow the rules. It’s the Marine Corps. You do what you’re told. No associations. It’s a perfect system for creating a deeply authoritarian society.

It’s also kind of a two-tiered system. It’s a little bit like what Sam Bowles and Herb Gitnis [co-authors of Schooling in Capitalist America] discussed when they wrote about early mass education. For the general worker, turn them into industrial workers, but for the elite, you have to have creativity: MIT, Harvard. You have to have people to create the next stage of the economy.

LP: In the last several years, we’ve had a number of protest movements, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and the #MeToo movement, which have often met with hostility or dismissal in the liberal press. Take #MeToo: the protest against workplace sexual harassment and violence has shown solidarity along class lines and across countries. For example, Latina farmworkers and Indian feminists back it. Yet some in the liberal press compare #MeToo protesters to McCarthyites and warn of witch hunts, despite the fact that the movement is helping to shift power away from oppressive management towards workers in challenging things like forced arbitration clauses that deny workers the right to take charges to court.

NC: It’s a very valid protest and it’s an important movement. Charges do have to be subject to some kind of verification. Just allegation is not enough. As far as I know, the left-oriented groups like EPI [Economic Policy Institute] are in favor of ending forced arbitration, which also affects many other kinds of charges. I think they’re focusing on labor rights.

LP: That’s true, but it seems that some may not be recognizing #MeToo as really part of the labor rights struggle.

NC: That’s interesting. Yes.

LP: Let’s talk about the broader issue of economic inequality. This year, wealthy elites polled at the World Economic Forum in Davos listed inequality as number 7 on their list of global worries. They’re more worried about other things, like data breaches and involuntary migration. Do you think that they may be comforted by the fact that they’ve avoided some scary scenarios, like, for example, a real populist president in the U.S., and can therefore relax a bit? Should they be more worried?

NC: The danger that they perceive is that it might lead to a popular uprising, so you have to control that. There are the standard excuses about merit, which is a joke when you look at the details. I mean, take Bill Gates—a perfectly admirable person, but, as I’m sure he’d be the first to say, he based his fortune on two things, one, decades of work in the state sector which created the technology—the creative, risky work which was done since the ’50s. He picked it up and marketed it. The second is the World Trade Organization, which gives him monopoly-pricing rights. I mean, that’s great but…

LP: Kind of goes against the Horatio Alger myth [the belief that anybody can get rich just by working hard].

NC: Yes.

LP: Finally, as you look ahead, what do you consider to be the biggest threats to human beings in the future? What should we be most concerned about?

NC: Climate change and nuclear war. These are really existential threats. And what’s happening now is just astonishing. If media were functioning seriously, every day the lead headline would be this amazing fact—that in the entire world, every country is trying or committed to doing at least something. One country—one!—the most powerful country in history—is committed to trying to destroy the climate. Not just pulling out of the efforts of others, but maximizing the use of the most destructive means.

There’s been nothing like this in history. It’s kind of an outrageous statement, but it happens to be true, that the Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in human history. Nobody, not even the Nazis, was dedicated to destroying the possibility of organized human life. It’s just missing from the media. In fact, if you read, say, the sensible business press, the Financial Times, BusinessWeek, any of them, when they talk about fossil fuel production, the articles are all just about the prospect for profit. Is the U.S. is moving to number one and what are the gains? Not that it’s going to wipe out organized human life. Maybe that’s a footnote somewhere. It’s pretty astonishing.

 on: Today at 05:53 AM 
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At least 10 EU nations to expel Russian diplomats in spy row

Emmanuel Macron condemns ‘attack on European sovereignty’ as EU leaders back Theresa May

Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin in Brussels
24 Mar 2018 16.04 GMT

Russian intelligence agents and diplomats across the European Union will be expelled next week in response to the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury, described by Emmanuel Macron as an “attack on European sovereignty”.

At least 10 EU member states will order Russian officials to leave, with the number of countries answering the UK’s call for action expected to rise in the coming weeks.

“What happened in Great Britain has clearly never been seen before,” the French president told reporters, at the end of a summit where EU leaders agreed unanimously that Moscow was “highly likely” to be responsible for the assault. “It is an aggression against the security and the sovereignty of an ally, today a member of the European Union, which demands a reaction.”

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she agreed there should be further measures, beyond the recall earlier on Friday of the EU’s ambassador to Moscow.

France and Germany were among the first countries to back the UK and do not expect the investigation by experts at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to change their conclusions.

Macron said the OPCW work would be “useful, but is not going to change our vision of things”.

Donald Tusk, the European council president, said the Russians had stooped to a level to which the EU could never follow, but that it was up to leaders to do what they could to illustrate Europe’s condemnation.

The former Polish prime minister conceded there were different interests and attitudes to Russia among the member states, and not all would take measures against the Kremlin, but said the bloc’s response would still be without precedent.

Tusk said: “It is very difficult to prepare an adequate reaction to this kind of behaviour like a nerve agent attack. We will never have the real chance to respond adequately because we are completely different to the perpetrators of this attack, if you know what I mean.

“This is why I was focused yesterday on for me the most important political goal ... to keep the whole community united as possible in this very dramatic moment and situation and we reached this goal ... As a result of our decision yesterday I expect a number of member states will take additional measures against Russia on Monday. It is not the end of our actions.”

He added: “In these difficult circumstances I am personally especially pleased that despite the tough Brexit negotiations, the European Union has demonstrated unanimous and unequivocal unity with the UK in the face of this attack.”

Speaking as she departed from the meeting of leaders in Brussels, Theresa May confirmed that fresh evidence presented to the 27 other member states had encouraged them to endorse the UK’s analysis of the incident earlier this month, which left the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, fighting for their lives.

“We have been sharing throughout, sharing on intelligence channels what we can with our colleagues,” the prime minister said.

Italy is traditionally seen as having warmer relations with Moscow than most EU countries, but the country’s Europe minister, Sandro Gozi, said there was no hesitation from Italy “once things became clearer thanks to the information we got from [the British] prime minister”.

He said the recall of the EU’s ambassador “does not have immediate political or economic consequences”, but he hoped would “help the Russians to have a more constructive attitude”.

The situation highlighted the “Brexit paradox” of “the growing awareness in London of the need to develop a common approach that I hope will turn into a [post-Brexit] strong partnership on security, defence and foreign affairs”, Gozi added.

Member states understood to be preparing to oust diplomats include France, Germany, Poland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Denmark.

In response, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, accused the UK of trying to make “the crisis with Russia as deep as possible”.

In London they “are feverishly trying to force allies to take confrontational steps”, he told reporters on a visit to Hanoi, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

 on: Today at 05:51 AM 
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Martín Vizcarra sworn in as Peru's new president as embattled Kuczynski exits

    Vizcarra, former regional governor, vows to tackle corruption
    Congress accepts resignation of scandal-hit Kuczynski, 79

Dan Collyns in Lima
24 Mar 2018 20.04 GMT

A low-profile former regional governor has been sworn in as Peru’s president after his predecessor became the latest of the country’s leaders to resign amid corruption scandals and public repudiation.

Martín Vizcarra promised to fight corruption “head on” before he was sworn in on Friday, hours after congress voted overwhelmingly to accept the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

Kuczynski, known as PPK, abruptly tendered his resignation on Wednesday after it became clear he would not survive a second attempt to impeach him over a new corruption scandal.

The 79-year-old said he had been the victim of malicious campaign by the dominant political opposition and denied any wrongdoing.

Less than two years into a five-year term, Kuczynski is the first sitting president in Latin America to be forced out over ties to the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which has been at the centre of the continent’s biggest corruption scandal.

It has tainted nearly all of Peru’s main political players of the last two decades.

Kuczysnki is accused of repeatedly lying about decade-old business ties to the Brazilian firm. He narrowly escaped impeachment for “permanent moral unfitness” in December after apparently striking a backroom deal with Kenji Fujimori, a dissident from the majority opposition party led by his sister Keiko.

Three days later, Kuczynski pardoned the Fujimoris’ father Alberto, the former president who was jailed in 2009 for authorising death squads, overseeing rampant corruption and vote-rigging.

But the move failed to appease Keiko Fujimori, whose party released the secretly filmed videos this week which showed Kuczynski’s allies attempting to buy votes from opposition lawmakers to save him from impeachment.

“It was a gigantic error,” Martin Tanaka, a political scientist at the Institute of Peruvian Studies, told the Guardian. “It did nothing to improve his relationship with the Fujimoristas and earned him the hatred and emnity of the anti-Fujimoristas who had supported him throughout the previous attempt to oust him.”

Among those former allies, the leader of the leftist Nuevo Peru party Veronika Mendoza, who called for PPK to be ousted and new elections to renew Peru’s corruption-ridden system.

“Our traditional political class has plundered our state,” she told supporters on Wednesday. “PPK is not a victim, he’s going because he’s corrupt and immoral.”

It was an embarrassing end to a presidency which began with high hopes that the Oxford and Princeton-educated technocrat could modernise Peru and fight graft.

But for many Peruvians, some of whom protested in downtown Lima on Thursday night, PPK represented the corrupt political class. Amid clashes with police, protesters chanted to “get rid of them all”.

Vizcarra, the incoming president, faces many challenges – not least his own low profile: an opinion poll earlier this month showed 81% of Peruvians didn’t recognise his name.

 on: Today at 05:49 AM 
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Spanish court remands Catalan presidential candidate in custody

Judge says 13 Catalan leaders, including Jordi Turull and Carles Puigdemont, will be charged with rebellion

Sam Jones in Madrid
24 Mar 2018 10.50 GMT

A Spanish supreme court judge has charged Jordi Turull, Catalonia’s presidential candidate, with rebellion and ordered him to remain in custody less than 24 hours before he was due to attend an investiture debate.

On Friday morning, Judge Pablo Llarena announced that 13 senior Catalan leaders – including Turull and the deposed regional president, Carles Puigdemont – would be charged with rebellion over their roles in last year’s unilateral referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.

The judge later ruled that Turull and four others – among them the former speaker of the Catalan parliament – would be denied bail and remanded in custody.

The decision came hours after Marta Rovira, the general secretary of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left party, failed to appear in court and fled to Switzerland. She was also charged with rebellion.

Llarena said the five detainees posed a serious flight risk and could seek to push ahead with their plans for unilateral independence if allowed to remain at liberty.

The decision was met with calls for demonstrations on the streets of Catalonia.

Puigdemont, who has been in self-imposed exile in Brussels for five months and faces immediate arrest should he return to Spain, said his former colleagues had been jailed for “their ideas and their commitment”, adding: “The anti-democratic Spanish state shames Europe.”

Announcing the rebellion charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment, Llarena said Catalan separatist politicians and grassroots groups had “colluded” for the past six years to draw up a plan for regional independence in defiance of Spain’s legal and constitutional order.

Among those also charged with the same offence are the former Catalan vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, and the senior civil society group figures Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez.

The judge ordered a total of 25 Catalan leaders be tried for rebellion, misuse of public funds or disobeying the state.

In a 70-page ruling, Llarena noted that, from 2012 onwards, the Catalan government had been “drawing up a route map for Catalonia’s transition process towards becoming an independent country” and co-ordinating the campaign with Cuixart and Sànchez’s influential grassroots groups.

“Despite repeated warnings that these parliamentary initiatives were unconstitutional and invalid … and despite the suspension and invalidation of the referendum decrees, the executive organs of the Catalan government pressed on with a permanent and obsessive agenda,” said the judge.

Llarena cast doubt on whether the former Catalan government had abandoned its independence drive, saying it appeared to be “latent and awaiting reactivation”.

The announcement of the charges followed Thursday night’s investiture debate in the Catalan parliament, in which Turull’s first attempt to be elected was scuppered by the region’s most hardline pro-independence party.

Turull, Puigdemont’s former chief of staff and the third candidate to be proposed for the presidency since the elections last December, failed to win the support of the regional parliament after the far-left, anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy (Cup) announced that it would no longer work in coalition with the two larger pro-independence parties.

A second investiture debate is due to be held on Saturday morning.

The debate on Thursday has started the constitutional and electoral clock ticking. Parties have two months to propose and elect a presidential candidate. If none is successful within that time, fresh Catalan elections will be held in mid-July.

Catalonia has been under direct rule from Madrid since the end of October, when Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, responded to the unilateral independence declaration by sacking Puigdemont and his government and calling a snap election.

 on: Today at 05:47 AM 
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One in five women have been sexually assaulted, analysis finds

Official analysis from latest Crime Survey of England and Wales lays bare extent of problem

Alan Travis Home affairs editor

One in five women in England and Wales have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, according to official analysis of violent crime figures.

The latest release of findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales shows more than 510,000 women – an estimated 3.1% of all women aged 16 to 59 – experienced some type of sexual assault in the past year.

The figures show women are five times more likely than men to have experienced some type of sexual assault, including unwanted touching or indecent exposure, in the previous 12 months.

The Office for National Statistics said the scale of sexual assaults against women, as measured by the crime survey, had changed little since 2005. More than 80% of victims did not report their experiences to police, the ONS said.

The annual ONS focus on violent crime shows deaths from knife crime among people aged 16 to 24 at a nine-year high, with 61 fatal stabbings in the year to March 2017 – the highest figure since 2008-9.

They also show an estimated 4.3 million women (26%) and 2.4 million men (15%) have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16. An estimated 1.2 million women (7.5%) and 713,000 men (4.3%) experienced some form of domestic abuse in the past year.

The detailed ONS analysis estimates that more than 443,000 women experienced at least one sexual assault involving indecent exposure or unwanted touching in the 12 months to March 2017. An estimated 144,000 experienced rape or an attempted rape or assault by penetration.

The crime survey findings show an estimated 138,000 men experienced some type of sexual assault in the past year and 646,000 have experienced some type of sexual assault since they were 16.

The vast majority of these involved unwanted touching or indecent exposure rather than rape or assault by penetration.

The figures, which come after a string of allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others, show women are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual assault.

Less than 4% of men have experienced sexual assault in their adult lives, meaning women are five times more likely to have experienced it.

The police-recorded crime figures show 121,187 sexual offences were reported in the year to March 2017. This represents a 14% increase in the number of sexual offences recorded by police, which the ONS said is partly due to improved recording. There remains a high level of under-reporting.

The ONS said the crime survey is its preferred measure of trends in the prevalence of violent crime as it is unaffected by changes in police practices, recording practices or the willingness of victims to report attacks.

It said the estimated number of crime survey violent crime incidents was 1.2m in the year ending March 2017, which showed no statistically significant change from the previous year.

However, the police-recorded homicide figures, which are covered by the crime survey, show a continuing underlying rise of 8% to 709 killings.

Half of all female homicide victims – 82 women – were killed by their partners or ex-partners, the figures show, while 3% of male victims were killed by their partner or a former partner.

John Flatley from the ONS said : “The data shows the complexity of measuring crime in all its different forms. Even offences under the heading of ‘violence’ vary enormously, from minor assaults such as pushing and shoving, to homicide. We need to be careful that our perceptions and understanding of crime levels are shaped by appropriate data, and not overgeneralised.”

    The two sources of figures are the Crime Survey for England and Wales and police-recorded crime data. The ONS said the two sources can sometimes suggest differing trends, so care needs to be used when drawing conclusions.

 on: Today at 05:38 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Keep off our land, indigenous women tell Ecuador's president

Women’s movement demand an end to unrestricted oil drilling and mining on indigenous lands and action on violence against land defenders in first meeting with president Lenin Moreno

Dan Collyns in Lima
24 Mar 2018 16.11 GMT

Amazon indigenous women leaders have told Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno to limit oil drilling and mining in their territories and combat the sexual violence and death threats they claim accompany the industries.

The delegation of women dressed in traditional tunics and with intricately painted faces were granted a meeting with Moreno after nearly 100 of them camped in Quito’s central plaza in front of the Carondelet government palace for five days, earlier this month.

“We gave him our demands, which was what we intended to do. We will return to our communities and wait for a response from the government. If we do not receive a response in two weeks, we will be back,” said Zoila Castillo, vice president of Ecuador’s principal Amazon indigenous federation CONFENIAE.

In the first presidential meeting granted to the women’s movement, Moreno assured them he would heed their demands and try to find consensus but added “it’s almost impossible for a world to exist without oil and mining.”

In December, Moreno agreed to a moratorium on new auctions of oil and mining concessions without the prior and informed consent of local communities, following a two-week march by hundreds of indigenous people from the Amazon to Quito.

But in February his government announced a new oil auction and handed out several new mining concessions. Moreno was praised by environmentalists last year after promising the United Nations he would do more to protect the Amazon.

“Your government cannot permit that our rights continue to be violated,” Patricia Gualinga, an indigenous Kichwa from Sarayaku, told the president during the meeting. “Ecuador has to change its energy policy. It could be an example for the world,” she said.

Gualinga, who received death threats in January, said environmental defenders, particularly women, were increasingly at risk in Ecuador.

“The threats against women are a consequence of extractivism,” Nina Gualinga, a 24-year-old activist from the same community, told the Guardian. “Women don’t want more oil and mining exploitation. It is women who care for the children, who care for the land so it should be women making these decisions.”

Ecuadoreans voted overwhelmingly in favour of rolling back mining in urban and protected areas and curbing oil drilling in the biodiverse Yasuni national park in a February referendum.

“After two months of planning and two weeks of mobilisations, the voices and demands of Amazonian women defenders of the Amazon against extraction were finally heard,” said Leila Salazar-López executive director of the NGO Amazon Watch.

 on: Today at 05:35 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
The week in wildlife – in pictures

A thirsty wolf, an albatross chick and a family of capybaras are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

Compiled by Eric Hilaire
Fri 23 Mar 2018 14.18 GMT

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2018/mar/23/the-week-in-wildlife-in-pictures

 on: Today at 05:30 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Norway Aims for Electric Planes to Help Slow Climate Change


Norway—home to the world's highest per capita number of all-electric cars—is also planning to go emission-free in the friendly skies.

The Scandinavian country aims to be the first in the world to switch to electric air transport.

State-owned Avinor, which operates most of the country's airports, plans to adopt battery-powered planes in the coming years to help slow climate change, Reuters reported.

"In my mind, there's no doubt that by 2040 Norway will be operating totally electric" on short-haul flights, Dag Falk-Pedersen, head of Avinor, said at an aviation conference in Oslo.

The long-held dream of electric airliners has been stymied by battery technology and limited range. However, the aviation industry is stepping up to make this dream a reality.

Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens announced plans last year to collaborate on a hybrid-electric commercial airplane that the companies aim to test by 2020. Seattle-based startup Zunum Aero—backed by the venture capital arms of Boeing and JetBlue Airways—is also working on bringing a 12-seater, hybrid-electric commuter aircraft to market by 2022.

Thanks to generous tax breaks and incentives such as free parking and recharging points, more than half of all new cars sold in Norway last year were electric or hybrid—the first country in the world to reach that landmark. Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen told Reuters that the government wants the same success with electric planes.

Paradoxically, despite being a global leader in electric transport, Norway is western Europe's biggest oil producer and is falling behind on its 2015 Paris climate agreement to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Electric-powered flight would not only help Norway reduce emissions and meet its climate goals, it will make flying cheaper, as Jan Otto Reimers, special adviser in Avinor, told Norway Today.

"What's particularly exciting is that you'll reduce costs to passengers to a much lower level. The planes will become similar to buses, and will be far more effective than trains or other means of transport. Simultaneously, they'll have a fantastic environmental profile," said Reimers.

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