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Feb 19, 2017, 01:13 PM
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 1 
 on: Today at 01:46 AM 
Started by Deva - Last post by marty
Deva,

   thank you for the time you take to teach us. I enjoy reading all the varied responses. what a great group and opportunity.

   in spirit,

   marty

 2 
 on: Feb 18, 2017, 05:52 PM 
Started by Deva - Last post by Deva
Thanks to all who participated in EA study group! The next class is scheduled for Saturday: 4/22/17 starting at 10-11 AM  Pacific Time.
     The study group has recently completed reviewing Pluto in the natal chart through each house/sign (Pluto in Aries/1st house through Pluto in Pisces/12th house) the planetary method of planetary of chart interpretation, and Chiron through the houses and signs.  We will begin a new series which reviews the meaning of the planetary nodes from an EA point of view. To begin the next class We will review core EA principles (open Q and A as needed) and begin to discuss Uranus and it's planetary nodes. (the class will utilize case studies to demonstrate how to apply Neptune and it's nodal axis).

Birth Data: (Neptune and it's nodal axis)

1) Tom Hanks: July 9, 1956, 11:17 AM, Concord (CA) (United States)

2) Ann Frank: June 12, 1929, 7:30 AM, Frankfurt (Germany)


 Dial-in Number:    1-605-475-6333
Participant Access Code:    9890099

Recordings of previous classes are available (please contact Deva via email at devagreen@fastmail.fm).

=====================================================

Deva Green, Jeffrey Wolf Green's daughter, has stated a monthly phone class for all who are interested in learning and discussing the core principles of E.A. These phone classes will be a forum in which we can discuss and apply the main principles of Evolutionary Astrology as an interactive group (study/practice group).

     The first class was Saturday Oct.19th 2013, from 10am- 11am PT.  We began with the core correlations of Pluto and their meaning from an evolutionary point of view in the birth chart.  We discuss Pluto and its correlation to the Soul, its meaning from an individual as well as generational point of view, and practice interpreting specific Pluto placements (house and sign locality) in the birth chart. The classes are open to Q and A as well. We are applying the various components of the “Pluto Paradigm”  using case studies, and review/discuss core principles that students/study group want to develop/understand further. If you would like to participate in these monthly classes, please contact
Deva at devagreen@fastmail.fm.




Dial-in Number:    1-605-475-6333
Participant Access Code:    9890099

Recordings of previous classes are available (please contact Deva via email at devagreen@fastmail.fm).
 
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greenfairy1111
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Re: Deva Green/EA Monthly Phone Class/4/2/16
« Reply #1 on: Mar 31, 2016, 05:30 AM »
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Hi Deva -

Is there a charge for these classes and/or are they open only to those taking the DVD course?

I intend to start the course shortly, as soon as I have the money together, but in the meantime, I came across the posting for the April class on Chiron. I have had a strong interest in Chiron for several years an would love to take part in this.

   Report to moderator   73.11.64.129 (?)
Deva
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Posts: 147


 
 
Re: Deva Green/EA Monthly Phone Class/4/2/16
« Reply #2 on: Apr 01, 2016, 01:25 AM »
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Hi- no there is no charge for the monthly study group. You are welcome to join starting this upcoming class.

Namaste

Deva
« Last Edit: Aug 17, 2016, 02:40 PM by Deva »

 3 
 on: Feb 18, 2017, 10:43 AM 
Started by Deva - Last post by The Otherside
Hi Everyone,

Ok thank you Deva

Heather

 4 
 on: Feb 18, 2017, 09:44 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Presidential historian predicts Pig Trump’s term will last less than 200 days — the second shortest ever

History News Network
18 Feb 2017 at 10:05 ET                   

The news of the forced resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, due to the scandal that he, as a private citizen, spoke to the Russian ambassador in December after President Barack Obama issued sanctions on Russia for their aggressive behavior, has rocked the Donald Trump Presidency.

Trump, already under fire by many conservatives and Republicans for his “bromance” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is suspect as to his loyalty to traditional American foreign policy, as a result of him having hired Flynn in the first place. Critics had observed that Flynn seemed unreliable and had poor judgment. Former colleagues darkly joked that there were “Flynn facts,” a reference to his penchant for making up stuff. Flynn had also been criticized for being too close to Putin. At the Republican convention he joined in a chorus of “Lock her up,” a reference to Hillary Clinton.

Many foreign policy professionals are shaking their head at Trump’s inappropriate behavior and language every time he speaks in public, or issues a Twitter comment, and his instability and recklessness. His having a security meeting over the North Korean missile test in public space at dinner in full vision of other guests is a sign of his failure to act responsibly. His abrupt ending of a phone call to the Australian Prime Minister, our loyal ally in four wars in the past hundred years, is alarming. His inconsistent message in his dealings with China, first indicating he accepted the idea of two Chinas, and then backing off under pressure, is disturbing. His inconsistency on the two-state solution in the Middle East is a major problem, as is his seeming lack of respect for Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, and lack of strong support for NATO.

The fact that Vice President Mike Pence played a major role in pushing Flynn out is a sign that Pence is already asserting himself with Trump, and it seems clear that Pence will not stand by and allow our foreign policy to be damaged, or our national security to be endangered. The American people, ultimately, would not expect anything less.

Mike Pence is an establishment Republican, with 12 years in the House of Representatives, where he served in a leadership position as Republican Conference Chairman in his last four years in the House before running for Governor of Indiana. Pence is a no-nonsense, hard-nosed Republican whose strong Christian convictions have shaped his politics, including his stands on women’s issues, gay and lesbian matters, and his refusal to accept the concept of global warming. His stands on these and other issues alienated moderate Republicans in his state. His poll numbers were low when Donald Trump picked him for vice president. Many doubted Pence would have been able to win a second term as governor.

Pence knows how to play “hard ball” and it is clear by his demeanor and body language that he is often uncomfortable with Trump’s freewheeling and careless behavior. An investigation into the Flynn matter will develop, with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promoting it. Additionally, Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and John McCain of Arizona all are pushing for hearings. As the FBI investigates this situation further, which would be expected to occur as a normal procedure after such a high level and immediate scandal, the earliest ever in any Presidential term (25 days), there will be calls for Trump to resign or be impeached.

Pence will have the difficult job of defending Trump in public appearances, but can be expected to work behind the scenes to insure that Trump stabilizes his utterances and actions, particularly on foreign policy and national security matters. Pence faces now a situation that has some similarity to Gerald Ford under Richard Nixon during a time of trouble and controversy, and the possibility of future Congressional action against Donald Trump if his mental behavior continues to disturb the top leadership of the Republican Party and the foreign policy establishment.

As this author wrote on January 22 on History News Network, Pence could, even if Trump vehemently opposed it, invoke the 25th Amendment, Section 4 with the approval of a majority of the cabinet, which would make Pence “Acting President.” Some might call it a “palace coup” but Pence could make a convincing case that it is too risky to leave Trump in power. Pence faces a great burden, and whether one agrees with his own agenda on domestic and foreign policy, it seems clear that the Vice President would do what he feels compelled to do if the situation further deteriorates.

One would imagine that if such a scenario occurred, that Donald Trump would resign, as Richard Nixon did in 1974 after the House Judiciary Committee approved his impeachment. But with an unhinged person such as Trump, who can say what would happen in such a circumstance?

In any case, it seems likely that Donald Trump will be leaving the Presidency at some point, likely between the 31 days of William Henry Harrison in 1841 (dying of pneumonia) and the 199 days of James A. Garfield in 1881 (dying of an assassin’s bullet after 79 days of terrible suffering and medical malpractice). At the most, it certainly seems likely, even if dragged out, that Trump will not last 16 months and 5 days, as occurred with Zachary Taylor in 1850 (dying of a digestive ailment). The Pence Presidency seems inevitable.

Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, August 2015).

 5 
 on: Feb 18, 2017, 09:04 AM 
Started by Deva - Last post by Deva
Hi, Heather. From my view, the question you are asking is relative the progressive exhaustion of separating desires from the Soul as the Soul begins to unite/merge with the Universal Source. This is addressed in the Book "The Holy Science" by  Swami Sri Yukteshwar. Again, the intention of the practice thread is to apply the EA paradigm.


Hi Priya: The reason the planetary nodes are not included in the examples yet is that we are going step by step through the EA paradigm, and using the planetary nodes now is jumping the gun. Planetary nodes will be included further down the line as we progress through each step of the EA paradigm.

Namaste

Deva

 6 
 on: Feb 18, 2017, 07:34 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
While Pig Trumps crazed and cretin like 'believers' cheer on ...

How to manage the White House cancer

By Ruth Marcus Columnist February 17 at 8:09 PM
Wa Post

On March 21, 1973, White House Counsel John Dean confronted President Richard Nixon about the growing Watergate scandal. “We have a cancer — within, close to the presidency, that’s growing,” Dean warned. “It’s growing daily.”

Dean’s famous metaphor is relevant to the Trump administration — not because the risk is precisely analogous but because it isn’t. In Nixon’s time, cancer was apt to be a death sentence. The tools to combat it were crude and brutal. Today, even as cancer remains a leading cause of death, for many people it can be managed as a chronic illness, capable of being kept under control with an arsenal of treatments.

That view of cancer — not as a metastatic killer but as a dangerous problem requiring vigilant control — may be the best way of understanding, and dealing with, the Trump administration. In the alarming month since he took office, it has become clear, if it were not already, that President Trump is dishonest, unprepared and undisciplined. His presidency poses an enormous risk to the country — to its safety, standing in the world and relations with allies, just for a start.

So the question becomes: Can the chronic disease that is the Trump presidency be managed? Are there tools available, not to cure him, but to keep his worst tendencies in check?

The situation is worrisome, yet the prognosis is decent. Indeed, we have already seen evidence of effective therapies.

First, the courts. For all his railing against “disgraceful” judges, Trump has signaled that he will obey court orders, including in Thursday’s news conference, when he said a new executive order on immigration “is going to be very much tailored to what I consider to be a very bad decision.” Rule of law beats rule of Trump.

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller can take to the Sunday shows to assert that “the powers of the president to protect our country . . . will not be questioned” or that “there’s no such thing as judicial supremacy.” But the evidence suggests that ultimately Trump will comply with court rulings even as he denounces them as “disgraceful” and “political.”

Second, the media. Every president chafes at press coverage and bristles at leaks. Trump is different, quantitatively and qualitatively, in the amount, venom and public nature of his attack. No matter. As Nixon learned, and as the stories leading to the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn underscore, reporters continue to do their jobs in the face of presidential hostility and stonewalling.

Meanwhile, as much as Trump may seek to employ the news conference to berate the “dishonest” media, reporters can effectively use the opportunity to confront Trump on untruths and press him as he dodges straight answers.

When Trump, repeating false claims of an electoral landslide, said his had been “the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan,” NBC News’s Peter Alexander fact-checked him in real time — and Trump, confronted with irrefutable numbers, seemed to crumble: “Well I don’t know. I was given that information. I was given — actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?”

Third and fourth, the public and Congress. They go together because the growing concerns of the former stiffen the limp resolve of the latter. So it matters that Gallup shows Trump’s approval rating falling from 45 percent just after the inauguration — he is the first elected president with initial approval ratings below the 50 percent mark — to 40 percent last week, 21 points below average.

Bad numbers and bad news — the two are interconnected — can help move even the most spineless lawmaker. At week’s end, there were glimmerings of congressional willingness to engage in the more searching oversight essential to get to the bottom of the Russia mess.

Fifth, personnel, a still-open question. Flynn did Trump the favor of doing himself in. Others in Trump’s inner orbit, whether malevolent or incompetent, will not go as easily. But an obvious solution for a White House in trouble is to trade in true believers for more experienced hands. Trump may not yet be willing to make such changes, and the toxicity of his White House may dissuade the best; on this score, retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward’s decision to decline the Flynn job was disheartening.

It’s impossible to predict, after this turbulent first month, where the Trump administration is heading, and there are many reasons to worry. But it is comforting to recall: The body politic has a resilient immune system.

******

John Podesta: Pig Trump’s dangerous strategy to undermine reality

WA Post
2/18/2017

John Podesta, the chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, served as counselor to President Barack Obama and chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

President Trump’s fake-news pivot isn’t subtle. First he benefited from fake news stories during the campaign; then as president-elect and now president, he has constantly used the epithet against mainstream media outlets that dare criticize him.

Any negative polls, he has proclaimed, are “fake news.” So are news stories that put him in a bad light — even if they are corroborated by Trump’s own officials, as with reports that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch termed comments about the judiciary “demoralizing” and “disheartening.”

What’s happening here is more than the simple continuation of Trump’s well-documented tendency as a candidate to lie flagrantly and refuse to back down. It is more than his narcissistic incapacity to receive bad news.

It is more dangerous. Trump is deploying a strategy, used by autocrats, designed to completely disorient public perception. He’s not just trying to spin the bad news of the day; all politicians do that. He seeks nothing less than to undermine the public’s belief that any news can be trusted, that any news is true, that there is any fixed reality.

Trump is attempting to build a hall of mirrors where even our most basic sensory perceptions are shrouded in confusion. He is emulating the successful strategy of Vladimir Putin.

In “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible,” Peter Pomerantsev, a British citizen of Russian origin, chronicles his firsthand experience in Russia’s television industry. Pomerantsev sheds light on Russia’s whirling media landscape and propaganda machine to show how Putin’s political puppet masters prey on the modern appetite for drama and entertainment to blur the line between fact and fiction.

He writes: “The Kremlin has finally mastered the art of fusing reality TV and authoritarianism to keep the great, 140-million-strong population entertained, distracted, constantly exposed to geopolitical nightmares, which if repeated enough times can become infectious.”

Following his inauguration, Trump has worked to create an American media landscape with an eerily similar pattern of obfuscation and drama. We now see a toxic overlap between sensationalist politics and media manipulation. Each presidential stroke of bombast plunges the media, the administration and the public into a frenzied scramble for the truth, with the phrase “fake news” nonchalantly thrown around, adding a heaping spoonful of cynicism to the whole mess. These episodes distort our understanding of reality and put us in danger of experiencing an information void like Russia’s.

If Trump succeeds, something fundamental will be lost. Russians hear something on TV and assume it’s a lie. That attitude of reflexive cynicism makes it impossible to know the death toll from an industrial accident or a terrorist incident, or the risk to their kids of drinking the water, or even the results of the last election. It ruins everything.

Our American democracy has been built on a foundation of a press free of government interference and governed by strong professional ethics. Of course, the media occasionally get stuff wrong, and whenever they do they need to put it right, but they are the foundation of an informed democratic dialogue. Our president is throwing mud all over that — deliberately, with malice aforethought. He’s telling us we are being lied to all the time. That has a corrosive effect, deepening public distrust of the media and other institutions at a time when they already enjoy historically low levels of confidence. We cannot let that happen.

In this context, Americans should maintain a heightened vigilance and think more carefully about the veracity of the information they consume. They need to be aware that some of the information pumping through social media is indeed fake and sometimes malicious. Social-media platforms should find ways to guard against hyping discernible lies at the expense of credible sources. But Americans must also be wary of any effort, particularly from the White House, to disorient or discredit reliable information.

And a heavy burden falls on American journalists to fact-check a president and a White House staff that is setting records for peddling false information and not to be afraid to call a lie a lie. The recent ouster of Michael Flynn as national security adviser demonstrates that lying still carries consequences. But journalists must go further and provide context and analysis for what motivates Trump, Stephen K. Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and the others to constantly distort reality. In so doing they have the opportunity to reestablish their own credibility and American democratic norms.

 7 
 on: Feb 18, 2017, 07:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
USA........look what you have done

McCain attacks Trump administration and inability to 'separate truth from lies'

Republican senator uses Munich speech to reflect on ‘disarray’ in Trump White House, saying president contradicts himself

Staff and agencies
Saturday 18 February 2017 08.46 GMT

John McCain said on Friday that Donald Trump’s administration was in “disarray” and that Nato’s founders would be alarmed by the growing unwillingness to “separate truth from lies”.

The Republican Senator broke with the reassuring message that US officials visiting Germany have sought to convey on their debut trip to Europe, telling a Munich security conference the resignation of the new president’s security adviser, Michael Flynn, over his contacts with Russia reflected deep problems in Washington.

“I think that the Flynn issue obviously is something that shows that in many respects this administration is in disarray and they’ve got a lot of work to do,” said McCain, a known Trump critic, even as he praised Trump’s defence secretary. “The president, I think, makes statements [and] on other occasions contradicts himself. So we’ve learned to watch what the president does as opposed to what he says,” he said.

Without mentioning the president’s name, McCain lamented a shift in the US and Europe away from the “universal values” that forged the Nato alliance seven decades ago. McCain also said the alliance’s founders would be “alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.”

The chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said “more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticising it as our moral equivalent”. The senator also regretted the “hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims”.

European governments have been unsettled by the signals sent by Trump on a range of foreign policy issues ranging from Nato and Russia to Iran, Israel and European integration.

The debut trip to Europe of Trump’s defence secretary, Jim Mattis, and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, to a meeting of G20 counterparts in Bonn, went some way to assuaging concerns as they both took a more traditional US position.

But Trump is wrestling with a growing controversy at home about potential ties between his aides and Russia, which he dismissed on Thursday as a “ruse” and “scam” perpetrated by a hostile news media.

Mattis made clear to allies, both at Nato in Brussels and in Munich, that the US would not retreat from leadership as the European continent grapples with an assertive Russia, wars in eastern and southern Mediterranean countries and attacks by Islamist militants.

US vice-president Mike Pence will address the Munich conference on Saturday with a similar message of reassurance. Pence will say Europe is an “indispensable partner”, a senior White House foreign policy adviser told reporters.

Mattis told a crowd that included heads of state and more than 70 defence ministers that Trump backed Nato. “President Trump came into office and has thrown now his full support to Nato. He too espouses Nato’s need to adapt to today’s strategic situation for it to remain credible, capable and relevant,” Mattis said.

Mattis said the US and its European allies had a shared understanding of the challenges ahead. Trump has alarmed allies by expressing admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Mattis, however, has spoken out strongly against Russia while in Europe. After talks with Nato allies in Brussels on Thursday, he said he did not believe it would be possible to collaborate militarily with Moscow, at least for now.

The Europeans may need more convincing that Washington stands with it on a range of security issues. “There is still a lot of uncertainty,” Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s foreign minister, told reporters. “The big topic in Munich is looking to the USA to see which developments to expect next.”

European intelligence agencies have warned that Russia is also seeking to destabilise governments and influence elections across Europe with cyber attacks, fake news and propaganda and by funding far-right political parties.

British defence minister Michael Fallon said: “We should be under no illusions about the step-change in Russian behaviour over the last couple of years, even after Crimea”, referring to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

“We have seen a step-change in Russian military aggression, but also in propaganda, in misinformation and a succession of persistent attacks on western democracies, interference in a whole series of elections including ... the United States.”

Nato’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, held talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Munich, seeing progress on encouraging Moscow to be more open about its military exercises that the alliance says are unpredictable.

Russia says it is the western alliance, not Moscow, that is destabilising Europe by sending troops to its western borders. “We have different views,” Stoltenberg said of the crisis in Ukraine, where the west accuses the Kremlin of arming separatist rebels in a conflict that has killed 10,000 people since April 2014. Russia says the conflict is a civil war.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report

*************

Asshole Pence widens US rift with Europe over Nato defence spending

On first visit to Europe since taking office, US vice-president tells Munich conference Nato allies must step up their contributions

Ewen MacAskill in Munich
Guardian
Saturday 18 February 2017 10.29 GMT

The US vice-president has delivered the most uncompromising message yet from the Trump administration to Nato allies that they have to step up financial contributions towards defence spending.

On his first visit to Europe since taking office, Mike Pence said “some of our largest allies do not have a credible path” towards paying their share of Nato’s financial burden. Although he did not name individual countries, his targets included Germany, France and Italy. “The time has come to do more,” he said.

This section of his speech to the Munich security conference, which is being attended by 500 delegates including government leaders and defence and foreign ministers from around the world, was greeted with lukewarm applause.

He was speaking immediately after the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, made it clear she would not be bullied by the US over defence spending. She said Germany had made a promise to increase defence over the next decade and would fulfil that commitment rather than be forced into the faster rises that Trump is looking for.

Merkel said the focus on defence spending could be misleading. Even if Germany was to spend more, there was not the military capacity available to invest in. She added that Germany saw spending on development in countries in Africa and elsewhere as vital to security as military spending.

The conference marks the first major meeting between the Trump administration and leaders from across Europe since Trump took office.

Pence went further than the US defence secretary, James Mattis, at Nato headquarters on Wednesday in warning Nato allies to stump up more. He said: “As of this moment, the US and only four other Nato members meet that basic standard.”

Those four countries are the UK, Estonia, Greece and Poland. The other 23 Nato members do not meet the target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.

In a thinly veiled warning, Pence said that while the US was bound by Nato’s article five– an attack on one member would be an attack on all – he also reminded the audience that article three contained a commitment to sharing the financial burden, echoing Trump’s warning last year that he did not feel bound to come to the defence of countries that did not pay their share.

Pence peppered his speech with regular references to Trump, stressing that he was delivering messages from the president. He softened his criticism of allies with assurances that the president, in spite of rhetoric about isolationism, valued Nato “The US strongly supports Nato and will be unwavering in our support of this transatlantic alliance,” he said.

Pence also attempted to square the contradictory comments made by Trump towards Russia. While the US wanted a new relationship with Russia, he said that the US expected Russia to honour the 2015 Minsk peace agreement aimed at ending violence in Ukraine.

“Know this: the United States will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground which, as you know, President Trump believes can be found.”

After the meeting, Pence was scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Merkel and also with the leaders of Ukraine and the Baltic states.

Merkel made the case for more multilateralism rather than a retreat into “parochialism” because of the dangers posed by “no fixed world order”.

With Pence in the room, she avoided direct references to Trump even though many of her comments during her speech and in a question-and-answer session afterwards were aimed at him.

Asked about attacks on the media, Merkel said: “Freedom of the press is a pillar of democracy.”

*******

Paul Krugman discloses a far scarier possibility than the alleged Pig Trump-Pig Putin axis

AlterNet
17 Feb 2017 at 13:49 ET    

Rand Paul summed it up best when he explained: "We'll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we're spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans."

There it is in a nutshell. The hard-liners in the Republican party are not going to let the little whiff of the possibilty that Americans are being governed by a man taking his cues from Moscow get in the way of depriving millions of healthcare, demolishing the safety net and letting polluters pollute freely again.

Paul Krugman boils down the story so far in his Friday column:

    A foreign dictator intervened on behalf of a U.S. presidential candidate - and that candidate won. Close associates of the new president were in contact with the dictator's espionage officials during the campaign, and his national security adviser was forced out over improper calls to that country's ambassador - but not until the press reported it; the president learned about his actions weeks earlier, but took no action.

    Meanwhile, the president seems oddly solicitous of the dictator's interests, and rumors swirl about his personal financial connections to the country in question. Is there anything to those rumors? Nobody knows, in part because the president refuses to release his tax returns.

Maybe it's all perfectly kosher, but an awful lot of reasonable and knowledgeable people think it merits a little looking into. One would think the uber-patriots in Congress, who endlessly investigated Hillary Clinton for the Benghazi raid might cock an eyebrow. But no, Ryan, Chaffetz, Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and company are all ready to move on for apparently the precise reason that Paul laid out. They've got other things to do.

There will likely not be an investigation into s scandal that has the potential to dwarf even Watergate. Watergate, as Krugman points out, "took place before Republicans began their long march to the political right, so Congress was far less polarized than it is now." Back in those seemingly quaint olden times, there was some actual agreement between the parties, certainly about holding a lawless president accountable.

"The polarization of the electorate also undermines Congress's role as a check on the president: Most Republicans are in safe districts, where their main fear is of primary challengers to their right," Krugman continues. "And the Republican base has suddenly become remarkably pro-Russian. Funny how that works."

Krugman, like many others, wonders how this unprecedented crisis will end? How indeed a president who already lacks legitimacy can be allowed to send American troops to die, or be permitted to shape the Supreme Court for years to come. The depth of the rot goes beyond Putin. As in any horror movie, the villain is in the house with us. A few Republican legislators willing to demand the truth no matter where it leads is all that it would take, a seemingly small ask. Are there enough "people of conscience" in the modern GOP?

Krugman suspects not, concluding that this fact is even "scarier than the Trump-Putin axis."

************

Pig Trump sets internet ablaze after calling the media ‘the enemy of the American people’

Elizabeth Preza
Raw Story
17 Feb 2017 at 17:03 ET                  

Donald Trump on Friday posted, then deleted, a tweet once again berating the “fake news media” and insisting the press “is the enemy of the American people.”

“Sick!” Trump added in the post.

Several minutes later, the President of the United States reposted the tweet, this time without “Sick!” and with an expanded list of media outlets. That new tweet remains on his timeline.

    The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017

Alas, the internet is forever; Huffington Post’s Eliot Nelson posted a screengrab of the original post on Twitter.

    By the transitive property I’m pretty sure the president of the United States just accused us of treason. pic.twitter.com/5N0ObYd7y5

    — Eliot Nelson (@eliotnelson) February 17, 2017

Trump’s latest musing on the fourth estate comes one day after his wide-reaching and widely criticized press conference wherein the president tried—and failed—to explain why he spreads false information while simultaneously demonizing the press for writing what he calls “fake news.”

And for good measure, some reactions:

    .@realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/IBWif5wexa

    — Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) February 17, 2017

    Need a good designer for my ENEMY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE tattoo

    — Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) February 17, 2017

    the correct interpretation of the president's deleted anti-media tweet is that it is time to go to happy hour

    — Justin Sink (@justinsink) February 17, 2017

    Newsrooms rn pic.twitter.com/ogp0biWMPP

    — Sarah Mimms (@SarahMMimms) February 17, 2017

    Mr. President, media is plural. "The FAKE NEWS media ARE the enemy of the American people." https://t.co/sbiNvdyiUE

    — Jonathan Weisman (@jonathanweisman) February 17, 2017

    Sick! was def the problematic part of that tweet.

    — Kate Nocera (@KateNocera) February 17, 2017

    The media is "the enemy of the American people." … Well, at least I got a new Twitter bio.

    — Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) February 17, 2017

    Do I get any benefits as an enemy of the American people? Maybe a dramatic sable cloak, or a foreboding soundtrack, or some money maybe?

    — Kelly Weill (@KELLYWEILL) February 17, 2017

    tbh you are all my enemy

    — Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) February 17, 2017

    Step 1: Declare the media and the Intelligence Community your enemy.

    Step 2: …

    Step 3: Unity!

    — Ben (@BenHowe) February 17, 2017

    btw I have always been very clear I was an enemy of the American people, so, jokes on him

    — i have died (@ChrisCaesar) February 17, 2017

    …Jefferson said nice-ass things about us so for all you typically founding-father-idoloizing fools who like to cheer on "media-is-bad-ism"

    — Asawin Suebsaeng (@swin24) February 17, 2017

    And here I was thinking it was more Joseph McCarthy https://t.co/EaYjkZ0DaP

    — Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) February 17, 2017

    imagine being so insecure that when you're not doing so hot you MAKE A CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED INDUSTRY AN ENEMY. that'd be my play too.

    — Zack Stovall (@ZStovall) February 17, 2017

    To be fair, if a group was proving day in and day out that I was a huge piece of shit liar, I would call them an enemy too.

    — Germain Lussier (@GermainLussier) February 17, 2017

Even “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough went off on Trump on Twitter:

    Only a FAKE PRESIDENT would declare the First Amendment to be the enemy of the American people. https://t.co/ZFZvlTf8Az

    — Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) February 17, 2017

    It's not even Saturday morning and someone is already losing his shit. https://t.co/ZFZvlTf8Az

    — Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) February 17, 2017

    Someone is cranky that Gallup has him at 38% and Pew has him at 39%. So now he's resorting to FAKE TWEETS. SAD! https://t.co/ZFZvlTf8Az

    — Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) February 17, 2017

    NOT FAIR! NO PRESS! NO COURTS! NO BAD POLLS!!!! #38% #39% #1stAmendment #JudicialReview #ChecksAndBalances #Madison #Hamilton #USA pic.twitter.com/ExnhrbymoU

    — Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) February 17, 2017

**************

Congress explores options for removing an unfit president as Pig Trump’s ‘disturbing’ behavior worries GOP

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
17 Feb 2017 at 12:28 ET                  

Several Democratic lawmakers, and a number of pundits, have openly questioned President Donald Trump’s mental health — but Republicans are literally laughing at the suggestion.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) called for a congressional review this week of the constitutional process for removing a president who is mentally or emotionally unfit for office, and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) told CNN that some of his GOP colleagues were worried about the president’s stability, reported The Hill.

“It’s not normal behavior,” Blumenauer said. “I don’t know anybody in a position of responsibility that doesn’t know if they’re being rained on, and nobody I work with serially offers up verifiably false statements on an ongoing basis.”

Another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), plans to introduce a bill that would require a psychiatrist or psychologist to work at the White House.

Even if Trump were diagnosed with some type of mental illness or cognitive impairment by a White House physician, experts question how the process for removal would actually work in practice.

“Regrettably, our current political climate makes it unlikely that such a measure will be invoked, even when necessary,” Dr. Jacob Appel, a Mt. Sinai School of Medicine psychiatrist who has studied the health of politicians and presidents, told NPR. “Until the system is fixed, and the political culture changes, medical information is rather useless. To one side, it will be a smoking gun, and to the other side it will be fake news or alternative facts.”

No GOP lawmakers have publicly questioned Trump’s mental health, but former Republican congressman and current MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said they’re privately terrified by the president’s behavior — especially his bizarre and combative Thursday news conference.

    In one word: How would Congress describe Trump's press conference? @kasie reports. https://t.co/UL7Y0TkLuM

    — Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) February 17, 2017

On the record, Republicans criticized their Democratic colleagues for questioning the president’s emotional stability.

“It’s divisive,” complained Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN). “The bottom line is, if Trump doesn’t succeed, we all fail. It’s time to give the guy a chance.”

Two other Republicans, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), actually burst out laughing when The Hill questioned them about their colleague’s concerns.

“Are you serious?” Hunter told the website. “Yeah, I don’t care what they say.”

“I think that’s a stretch,” Simpson said, although he conceded that it was reasonable to question Trump’s judgment. “The behavior is somewhat disturbing.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment, the website noted.

Blumenauer said at least a half-dozen lawmakers have expressed interest in joining a working group to review constitutional procedures for removing an unfit president, and Lieu said Trump’s behavior was a legitimate issue.

“I am not a mental health professional, so I don’t know in terms of any sort of medical expertise on this,” Lieu told The Hill. “But I do see and hear the same things that other people see and hear, and a lot of people have concluded that what’s going on is not normal. So what do I do with that as a member of Congress?”

“Anyone who can launch 4,000 nuclear weapons in minutes absolutely should be questioned on any matter related to their physical and mental health,” Lieu added.

***********

Here’s why Pig Trump’s Russia scandals could get much, much worse

The Conversation
18 Feb 2017 at 07:16 ET                  

Whatever one thinks of the Trump administration’s policies, it is difficult to ignore that the new president’s tenure has so far been characterised by incompetence and carelessness. And while it’s easy to laugh at daft missteps such as an aide plugging Ivanka Trump’s clothing line in a TV interview, the indications are that Trump also struggles to handle national security.

The most public indication was his decision to grapple with North Korea’s missile test, an incredibly sensitive moment, in the dining room of his private club at Mar-a-Lago while surrounded by astonished guests and journalists. And then came the still-developing definitive story of this presidency’s early weeks: after only 24 days in office, Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, resigned in disgrace.

Flynn was driven out by allegations that before he took office, he illegally discussed the possibility of scaling down sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador. Along with the vice-president, Mike Pence, he had publicly denied that any such conversations had taken place – but the US intelligence services had been intercepting the ambassador’s calls and now have transcripts of his discussions with Flynn.

Even more alarmingly, the White House was apparently notified weeks before Flynn resigned that his calls and behaviour were being investigated by the FBI; former acting attorney-general Sally Yates reportedly warned the White House in January 2017 that Flynn (as well as other members of the Trump team) had extensive contacts with the Russians. (Trump famously fired Yates after she declined to defend his “travel ban”.)

The story is still developing, and it seems Flynn’s resignation might be only the start – not least since Trump’s preferred replacement for him has already declined to take the job.

Shocking stuff indeed. But is it really so exceptional? After all, this is hardly the first time that members of an incoming administration have been accused of unbecoming or illegal contacts with foreign officials.

During the 1968 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Richard Nixon sent a message, via envoy Anna Chennault, to the South Vietnamese authorities, in which he asked them to resist a peace agreement then being discussed in Paris. Nixon feared that were an agreement reached, it could help elect his Democratic rival, Hubert Humphrey. Instead, Nixon promised South Vietnam more favourable terms; the South Vietnamese government duly refused the agreement, Nixon won the election, and the war continued – claiming a further 20,000 American lives.

Along similar lines, Gary Sick, former member of the National Security Council during the Carter administration, has argued that members of the Reagan 1980 presidential campaign – in particular Reagan’s future director of the CIA, William Casey – established contacts with Iranian authorities to convince them to delay the release of the US hostages in exchange for military equipment. The hostages were famously released a few minutes after Reagan’s inauguration. While there is some dispute over Sick’s claims, they are not manifestly baseless.

Both these cases demonstrate that presidential candidates and their teams have been known to put electoral victory above even concerns of national security. And in both cases, this type of transaction supposedly occurred on a quid-pro-quo basis, with foreign officials promised help in exchange for a more or less direct contribution to electoral victory.

So is the current situation more of the same, or something even more sinister – perhaps even treasonous? The story is still unravelling and it’s too soon to tell, but what we know so far is disquieting enough.

Too close for comfort

We already knew that during the election, Russia helped steal and release emails that damaged Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration later responding with new sanctions. Around the same time, several members of Trump’s team were reportedly in touch with Russian intelligence officials.

Flynn’s ties with Russia were well known even before the election. Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort resigned before the election due to his pro-Russia stance and business ties. Trump is known to have business ties in Russia – and he has many times praised Vladimir Putin while refusing to criticise even his more repressive practices.

Even after all this, Trump seemed to care little for the potential political or security fallout. For secretary of state he picked Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil, a company which would stand to gain if the sanctions on Russia were lifted. Tillerson is a noted recipient of Russia’s Order of Friendship, the highest honour it confers on foreign citizens.

The evidence on the administration’s connections to Russia is certainly of concern. Even more worrying is the fact that Republicans in Congress have so far shown little desire to formally investigate them. That includes the same Republicans who spent several years and millions of dollars doggedly investigating Hillary Clinton over the Benghazi attacks and her use of a private email server.

After months of reporting information that predates Trump’s inauguration, the press corps is now in a position to cover the Flynn/Russia scandal as it develops. As proposed inquiries are stonewalled by Congress and ridiculed by the White House, the president’s tweets have tried to distract from the story by suggesting that the real issue is leakers in the intelligence agencies, not potential treason.

It will be up to the media and Democrats in Congress to request more clarity regarding these ties and what was involved in any potential quid-pro-quo. It will be up to them, especially, to ask again what the president knew and when did he know it?“

The Conversation

Luca Trenta, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Swansea University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 8 
 on: Feb 18, 2017, 06:57 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Emmanuel Macron: the French outsider who would be president

Centrist maverick, who is expected in London next week, says France has lacked a true leader ever since the revolution

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
AFP
Friday 17 February 2017 13.34 GMT

At a stadium rally in Lyon, Emmanuel Macron, the maverick centrist outsider who has become a leading contender in the French presidential race, lowered his normally fervent tone and looked earnestly out at the crowd. “I’m a child of provincial France,” he declared. “Nothing pre-destined me to be here today.”

If the French presidential race is often seen as a battle to elect a republican monarch, the enigmatic Macron’s life-story is crucial to his bid. The 39-year-old has never stood in any kind of election before and only three years ago was a complete unknown. He has staked his campaign on a personal crusade to reinvent what he calls the “vacuous” and failing French political system, while refusing to be defined by any fixed ideology.

Macron’s carefully crafted personal story is worthy of the florid, unpublished novels he wrote as a teenager. Born into a bourgeois family of doctors in the northern city of Amiens in the Somme, at 16 he began a relationship with his drama teacher who was 24 years older. Banished to Paris to stop their romance, he vowed he would one day return to marry her, and he did. “I make no concessions to conformism,” he likes to say — not just of his relationship, but of his political project.

After two years as economy minister under the unpopular Socialist president, François Hollande, Macron had the political instinct to seize on a mood of distrust and despair with the French political class in a fractured country marred by decades of mass unemployment and a new terrorist threat. In less than a year he built a movement, En Marche! (Forward), which he defines as “neither left nor right”. Economically liberal and pro-business, he is firmly on the left on social issues. But he hates the term centrist, preferring to call himself someone “of the left” open to ideas from the right.

After once likening his rebellious streak to France’s 15th-century saint and saviour Joan of Arc, Macron’s premise is to side-step the old party machines and build a direct relationship with the French people. He believes that ever since King Louis XVI’s head was chopped off in the revolution, France has been trying to compensate for the lack of a true leader figure who could personify France. The postwar president General de Gaulle fitted the bill, he has argued, but since then, the increasingly “ordinary” characters who served as president have left a kind of “empty seat at the heart of political life”.

Macron’s quest to fill that void has seen critics accuse him of staggering presumptuousness. His political opponents call him a “guru”, and he himself has described politics as “mystic”. But his supporters are looking for a new type of pragmatic politics that can hold back the progress of the far-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen.

‘A genius for human relationships’

At the start-up-style headquarters of En Marche!, young volunteers sit on sofas working on laptops greeted occasionally by Macron coming down from his top-floor office to chat. Laurence Haïm, a former French TV correspondent in Washington who recently joined the team after covering Barack Obama’s early rise and Donald Trump, described Macron as “unbelievably down to earth”.

His childhod in Amiens, the northern Picardy city dominated by its Gothic cathedral, was a far cry from the working class red-brick terraces and factories. The eldest of three children from a family of hospital doctors – his father was a neurologist, his mother a paediatrician – Macron lived in a townhouse in a smart neighbourhood near a tennis club.

But his refuge was the flat of his grandmother Manette, where he went after school and at weekends. Manette’s mother, a cleaner, had been illiterate, and education had become a family obsession. Manette, who had worked as a headteacher, spent hours having her grandson read aloud. “After school, we’d drink hot chocolate and listen to Chopin,” he recalled. “His self-confidence comes from his grandmother,” said François-Xavier Bourmaud, Macron’s biographer. “She was a reformist socialist who coloured his political engagement very young.”

Macron went to a private Jesuit school in Amiens where he was top of the class, a prize-winning pianist and actor, who preferred the company of teachers. When talk began circulating of a relationship with Brigitte Trogneux, the French and Latin teacher who ran his theatre group, she was 40 and married with three children, the eldest of whom was not far off Macron’s age of 16.

He was sent away by his parents to a prestigious lycée in Paris, but the relationship continued and the pair married when he was 30. They are constantly together on the presidential campaign trail. Such is the fascination for their marriage that their frequent, carefully staged appearances on the cover of celebrity magazines always prompts a rise in sales.

When a social media rumour grew — helped along by quips from certain political opponents — that Macron had a secret gay relationship, paparazzi searched but found no evidence it was true. The rumour had been dismissed by journalists as false, but Macron this month publicly raised it anyway, dismissing it on stage at a campaign team meeting. “It can’t be me; it must be my hologram,” he said.

At the prestigious Henri IV lycée in Paris, Macron was known for having the gift of the gab, said Jean-Baptiste de Froment, a classmate who was later an advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy and is now a Paris councillor for the right-wing party Les Républicains. Macron could stand at the blackboard and win over his audience in mathematics even if he didn’t actually have the solution to an equation, de Froment said. “What was already clear was that he was fascinated by networking and he was a genius at human relationships,” he added.

In French politics, where aloof arrogance has come to be seen as the norm, Macron’s devotion to the art of seduction stands out, even to his opponents. “His handshakes go on for ages,” said Bourmaud, his biographer. “He puts a hand on your arm and looks into your eyes. He listens to you, asks you questions and gives you the impression that the future of the world depends on what you’re saying. He makes everyone he meets feel important. On the ground, it’s quite rare to find a political personality that gives everyone the impression they’re intelligent. He has a lot of empathy.”
Of the left – but ‘not a Socialist’

Macron describes himself as a product of French meritocracy, but the elite graduate colleges that he rose up through remain a privileged microcosm. By his mid-20s he had joined the highest ranks of the senior civil service, after studying politics and philosophy — working on Hegel and Machiavelli. He attended the École National d’Administration, seen as a factory of the French elite.

He was on a civil service work placement at the French embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, when he watched on TV what he called “the defining political moment of my generation”: the far-right Front National’s Jean-Marie Le Pen reaching the final round of the presidential election in 2002. He feared, as he says now, that if mainstream political parties didn’t radically change, the far-right would progressively inch closer to power.

In 2006, Macron briefly joined the French Socialist party on the special cheap membership rates put in place before Ségolène Royal was chosen as presidential candidate. But he never renewed, and today says: “I am not a Socialist.” When the rightwing Sarkozy became president, Macron was appointed to help coordinate a commission to produce a pro-business road map for boosting growth and economic competition.

There he met the top tier of French industrialists, bankers, business leaders and trade union figures, building up one of the most extensive personal address books in Paris. “He had an unusual talent for behind-the-scenes diplomacy,” one commission member said, recalling how he privately bartered between the different political sensibilities on the board.

Macron left the civil service for the Rothschild investment bank, where his role was the art of persuasion and brokering deals. “You’re sort of a prostitute,” he later told the Wall Street Journal. “Seduction is the job.” His biggest deal was arranging Nestlé SA’s $11.8bn purchase of Pfizer Inc’s baby-food business, which made him €2.8m. He has since complained of being unable to shake off the “scarlet letter” of having been a banker in a nation where money can be a taboo.

“Money is not the final aim for him,” argued his close friend, the economist Marc Ferracci, who was his best man. “He doesn’t collect watches, he’s not into consumerism. The principal purpose of money for him is that it gives you freedom. The best way to understand Emmanuel Macron is to know that what determines him is freedom, liberty. When he left Amiens it was because he wanted to be free to live his relationship with Brigitte. When he was at Rothschild it was to have financial freedom. And later when he left his position as economy minister, it was to have a type of political freedom. That’s what guides his choices.”

Ever since their friendship in university days, when they gifted each other the novels of Émile Zola on their birthdays, he and Macron had talked about inequality in France, Ferracci said. “Poverty and inequality is something he wants to bring an answer to but not necessarily the traditional answer of the French left that is redistribution and benefits payments. I think he’s convinced that you fight poverty by giving opportunities rather than in giving money. Equal opportunities matter.”

While a banker, Macron was a behind the scenes economic adviser on the Socialist Hollande’s bid for the presidency – pushing a pro-business line. As president, Hollande made him deputy chief of staff, where he was a sherpa at international talks and during the eurozone crisis. But he became frustrated at what he saw as Hollande’s limited appetite for pro-market reform. He quit in 2014, hoping to launch a start-up and teach at the London School of Economics. But he was out cycling near his grandiose holiday villa in Le Touquet on the northern French coast when he got a surprise call from Hollande asking him to take over as economy minister.

Appointing Macron was a massive gamble. Hollande had just sacked a group of leftwing rebels for opposing his economically liberal shift. Bringing in an ex-banker who had never been elected was seen as the ultimate snub to the left. When Macron, who likes to debate with demonstrators in the street, convinced he can win over anyone in an argument, was caught on camera telling a protester, “the best way to afford a suit is to work”, it hardened leftwing dissent. And yet Macron swiftly became the most popular politician in France.

It was Macron’s exasperation in government that led him to jump ship and launch a presidential bid. His showcase “Macron law” was a diverse package of liberalising and deregulatory measures – from Sunday opening hours to introducing competition on long distance bus routes – which seemed mild by most European standards but was always going to be difficult to get past rebel Socialist MPs.

After more than 200 hours of parliament debate and behind-the-scenes horse-trading with the opposition, Macron was convinced he could swing it. But the government instead decided to controversially ram through the law without a parliament vote by using a rare and controversial form of decree. Macron balked at what he felt was self-serving political party machines blocking any real discussion about change.

“He was wounded,” Ferracci said. “It was very clearly the start of his thinking about a political movement and trying to build a new political offering.”

Another point of dissent was Hollande’s response to the November 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people. The president’s knee-jerk reaction was to promise to change the constitution to strip French citizenship from dual-nationality citizens convicted of terrorism. That plan caused havoc on the left and right and Hollande was later forced to abandon it. Macron broke ranks, insisting the government would be better off trying to understand and deal with why French gunmen had killed French citizens. The prime minister Valls attacked Macron, saying “to explain was to excuse”.

Observers describe Macron as a man in a hurry. His rise since quitting the economy ministry last year has come on a run of staggering luck and circumstance. Hollande’s decision not to run again for office and the defeat of the moderate Alain Juppé in the right’s primary race opened up the centre ground. Next the rightwing favourite François Fillon was hit by scandal, allowing Macron to overtake him in the polls. When the leftwinger Benoît Hamon won the Socialist ticket, Macron could take a chunk of the centre left.
You make your own luck – Macron’s aides

But his deliberate flexibility on policy has been met with growing calls to spell out exactly what his “progressive vision” means. Macron doesn’t like what he sees as an age-old formula of setting out dozens of manifesto pledges that are later ignored in office, but he is under increasing pressure to spell out concrete proposals. Over the past year, he has shifted his views on the notion of the 35-hour week and the French wealth tax leading one old Paris contact to observe bitterly that he needs to “set out his convictions”.

Macron once observed that “what’s missing in politics today is a bit of the transcendence that literature and philosophy bring”. He has likened a leader’s role to being the nation’s “therapist” – listening to and explaining away the country’s woes. Last year he sent volunteer door-knockers out around France to listen and gather up testimony about what was wrong with France.

For now, he reads a least a few pages from essays, poems or graphic novels every day. He saves literary novels for weekends. “I need all those emotions,” he has said. “I don’t know how to live without them.”

 9 
 on: Feb 18, 2017, 06:54 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
German parents told to destroy doll that can spy on children

German watchdog classifies My Friend Cayla doll as ‘illegal espionage apparatus’ and says shops and owners could face fines

Philip Oltermann
AFP
Friday 17 February 2017 16.53 GMT

Germany’s telecommunications watchdog has ordered parents to destroy or disable a “smart doll” because the toy can be used to illegally spy on children.

The My Friend Cayla doll, which is manufactured by the US company Genesis Toys and distributed in Europe by Guildford-based Vivid Toy Group, allows children to access the internet via speech recognition software, and to control the toy via an app.

But Germany’s Federal Network Agency announced this week that it classified Cayla as an “illegal espionage apparatus”. As a result, retailers and owners could face fines if they continue to stock it or fail to permanently disable the doll’s wireless connection.

Under German law it is illegal to manufacture, sell or possess surveillance devices disguised as another object. According to some media reports, breaching that law can result in a jail term of up to two years.

The ruling comes after Stefan Hessel, a student at Saarbrücken University, raised concerns about the device, which was voted one of the top 10 toys of the year in 2014 by the German toy trade association.

“Access to the doll is completely unsecured,” Hessel told Saarbrücker Zeitung. “There is no password to protect the connection.”

The student said hackers could access the doll via its bluetooth connection from a distance of up to 15 meters, listening in on conversations as well as speaking directly to the child playing with it.

The German ruling could potentially have EU-wide consequences for toymakers. The EU’s commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, Vera Jourová, said: “I’m worried about the impact of connected dolls on children’s privacy and safety.”

While the monitoring and the enforcement of the data protection rules are the responsibility of the national data protection authorities, the national consumer authorities work together under the Consumer Protection Cooperation network.

The commission is organising a workshop bringing together the consumer authorities and the data protection authorities in March to further discuss the problem with smart toys and appliances.

Vivid Toy Group has not responded to a request for a comment on the German ruling. Previously the company has said examples of hacking were isolated and carried out by specialists, but it was looking into upgrading the app used along with the doll.

 10 
 on: Feb 18, 2017, 06:52 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Hope for Hanoi? New bus system could cut pollution … if enough people use it

A new $53m BRT (bus rapid transit) system has the power to reduce Hanoi’s dreadful air pollution. Persuading residents of Vietnam’s rapidly expanding capital to ditch their motorbikes and private cars, however, will be another story

Zung Nguyen in Hanoi
AFP
Saturday 18 February 2017 10.58 GMT

From his high-rise office building in Hanoi, Tran Dung can barely see his city’s skyline behind the thick layer of smog. Before leaving work, the 25-year-old executive assistant checks the pollution reading on his AirVisual app, which provides real-time measurements of PM2.5 – the tiny particles found in smog that can damage your throat and lungs.

Hanoi’s PM2.5 levels typically range from 100 to 200 micrograms per cubic metre – regularly within the globally acknowledged “unhealthy” category. But on 19 December last year, they hit “hazardous levels” at 343μg/m3, which was higher than Beijing.

Shocked by this reading, Dung shared a screenshot with his friends on Facebook, writing: “I can’t believe my eyes. Stay safe folks!”

He’s aware of the limitations of air quality data, which can vary between different parts of the city, but apps like this are the best tools he has.

According to the independent data measurement site AQIVN, there were at least 15 days in 2016 where average PM2.5 levels in Hanoi were “hazardous”, at 300μg/m3 or higher. On 5 October last year Hanoi had the worst air pollution among major cities across the world, generating widespread outcry over public health.

Dinh Nam, a lecturer at the Vietnam National University in Hanoi, does not need an app to tell him that the air quality is bad. “Every day I motorbike over 8km to get to work,” he says. “I can see the smog sitting on my clothing and my skin every night.”

Nam moved to Duong Noi, a new urban area far from the city centre, four years ago hoping to escape the pollution and traffic that the dense centre brings. However, as Hanoi continues its aggressive expansion policy, smog has caught up to his family; the area, which is close to the Yen Nghia industrial zone, has seen a simultaneous boom in high-rise construction and industrial development. The fumes from motorbike exhausts, construction and industry have made breathing a source of fear for Nam’s family. Aside from flimsy face masks, he has no other means to protect himself and his children.

When Hanoi joined a growing group of global cities to launch its first bus rapid transit route on the last day of 2016, it should have been good news for Nam. It was hoped that the new BRT would take some of the 5 million motorbikes and scooters off the roads and reduce congestion and pollution in the city.

Despite now having a BRT stop 500 metres from his house, Dinh Nam remains skeptical of the $53.6m development, funded by loans from the World Bank. “When the project was initiated 10 years ago, this area was much less congested than it is now. Now, the roads are so crowded it can’t be effective,” he says.

Dinh Nam’s skepticism represents the backlash BRT has faced in Vietnamese media since its launch. Many are angry that the BRT’s exclusive lane takes up almost half of some roads, exacerbating congestion for other motorbikes and cars. Others have predicted that BRT would never achieve the promise to cut travel time in half, given the challenges faced by keeping the lane free. But long before the launch, questions were already raised on whether the loan would be worth it.

The media’s declaration that BRT was dead upon arrival indicates declining trust towards the government’s handling of environmental and infrastructural challenges.

An ongoing struggle

Despite the brouhaha, many have already incorporated BRT into their daily routine. The 5pm bus towards Kim Ma on Thursday had all of its seats occupied and a handful of people standing. A dozen more gathered behind the shiny automated doors at the Giang Vo station, waiting to get in.

An official report from Hanoi’s transport document concluded that BRT passengers had risen over 62% in the first 12 days of its launch, averaging 41 passengers per trip. However, this means BRT is still operating under capacity, as can hold up to 90. Furthermore, it seems most passengers are students or retirees who are probably already accustomed to using public transport.

Given the low adoption, it is still too early to say whether BRT will have a positive impact on Hanoi’s air quality. The average monthly PM2.5 reading for January 2017, calculated using historical data collected at the US embassy directly on the BRT route, even shows an uptick in air pollution compared with December. However, it could be to do with the changing traffic patterns during the Vietnamese new year at the end of January.

Dr Hoang Xuan Co, an expert at the Research Centre for Environmental Monitoring and Modelling in Hanoi, says: “In theory, implementing BRT should improve air quality by reducing the amount of private transportation. However, there are ongoing challenges with implementing BRT: the infrastructure in Vietnam is still incomplete [for example, there are no hard dividers between the BRT lane and the regular street], and people’s transportation habits are unchanged. It has been almost one month, the people have yet to see BRT really impacting air quality.”

Hanoi currently has a declining 1.3 million daily bus users, a small number in comparison to the millions of motorbike drivers. The city also has a growing appetite for cars. It is worrying that many motorbike drivers who live within the BRT route and are highly critical of its construction say they have not even considered trying it.

Motorbike culture has engrained a need for flexibility and control in many Hanoians – some do not even get off their bikes when picking up meat and produce at wet markets. Dinh Nam is afraid that transitioning to BRT would reduce his flexibility in taking care of his family. “BRT is not for me because I sometimes have to pick up my kids,” he says.

Nguyen Dung, meanwhile, avoids the BRT as she does not want to walk to and from the bus stop.

Vu Anh Tuan, director of the Vietnamese-German Transport Research Centre, believes BRT faces the challenge of promoting public transport in a motorbike and car culture.

“BRT is a wise investment because it can complement the planned metro system to form routes throughout the city, while keeping costs low. Its impact needs to be assessed by what the entire public transit network can do in the long term,” he writes in a passionate Facebook post.

“The media … will cause people to develop false perceptions about public transportation, especially BRT.”

It seems Hanoi’s new BRT system will only be able to make an impact on both reducing congestion and air quality if people are willing to change their habits.

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