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Apr 30, 2017, 10:25 PM
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 10
 1 
 on: Today at 12:11 PM 
Started by soleil - Last post by Helena
Hi Rad and All,

Rad, thank you for the Macron/Le Pen charts. Although i didn't have the time to look at it thoroughly yet, my first impression is how this is such clear example, symbol, of the duality we face. I look at them as mirroring this two opposite realities so distinctly that choice becomes the crucial bottom line, who people choose and why.
Saturn is now at 27 sagittarius, so power and power structures will ultimately revolve around truth and lies, and any power place will be given to either the one that speaks the actual truth of what mankind needs to survive and evolve (nn exactly leaving virgo) or the total delusion of evil behind old power structures, patriarchal institutions and the destruction of the earth.

What i think is actual evil work here is the fact that now, so 'conveniently' there is a 'woman' doing the lying/deceiving work... A woman that embodies all the system perversions behind appearances of a 'powerful woman' in charge and the one that can make the 'difference'...

And Macron, well, what more can be of that symbol? I have no idea of his soul intentions and karmic reasons to be in this position, but what we get is a man that apparently desires to listen to others, include everyone, and the personal life that he shares is on the opposite spectrum of the showing off Melanias of this world. He simply seems he couldn't care less of other's opinions about having a partner 20 years older than him, or looking menaced by that at all, helping raise her children. So that obviously challenges any if not all the patriarchy view on women, specially by what's expected from a powerful status and what people, deluded man and women, wish to see portrayed in a leader (to feed their own projected fantasies)... A very powerful symbol in my opinion to make people see what's at stake, what is the choice and where they and the world stand at this point.

Since Macron's own sun and mercury is conjunct that saturn, i so wish too that what we listen this time is other tune... Let's see.

All the best,
Helena



 2 
 on: Today at 11:32 AM 
Started by Deva - Last post by Helena
Hi Deva,

Thank you for your comments and words of encouragement.
And yes, I can continue tomorrow as proposed.

All the best,
Helena

 3 
 on: Today at 06:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Shitstain Trump’s first 100 days: ignorant, thuggish, insecure - a president as would-be oligarch

Hari Kunzru

His vanity and neediness show a man more concerned with promoting his own brand than helping his country

Sunday 30 April 2017 00.04 BST
Guardian

One could find 100 symbols for President Trump’s first 100 days in office, 100 different entrance points to the chaos, but for simplicity’s sake, I’ll go with Nikki Haley’s facial muscles. At a White House lunch on 24 April, Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, sat next to the most powerful man in the world as he greeted a group of ambassadors from countries that have seats on the UN security council.

In an administration of absentees, golfers, feuders and wreckers, Haley has turned up for work and doesn’t seem to be an agent of a foreign power, which is enough to mark her as a rising star. At times, she has appeared to be making policy rather than following Trump’s own wandering line. “He has given me a lot of leeway to just say what I think and interpret what he thinks,” she boasted in an interview with CNN.

Trump opened his address with a compliment. “You’re a really important and powerful group of people,” he said. Important is good for Trump. Powerful is good. After a drift through some stuff about “the spouses”, how “they were going to leave out the spouses”, but he, Trump, told them not to leave out the spouses because otherwise there would be a lot of angry spouses, he used the phrase “it’s a great honour”, which usually indicates that the speaker is about to be humble.

It turns up a lot on Trump’s lips, speechwriter boilerplate that ought to end in “for me” or “for us” and sometimes does. In this case, Trump turned it round. “It’s a great honour for those of you that brought your wife, it’s beautiful,” he said, his sentence trailing away as if he knew he’d gone off script. He had inadvertently returned to the topic uppermost in his mind: the number of covers. He was the one with the power and the nice dining room and the ambassadors owed him for getting them a plus one for lunch. By his side, Haley carved out an enormous orthodontically perfect grin. Her eyes were hyper-vigilant, like a soldier on foot patrol in a hostile city. Then Trump started talking about Haley. First, he helped himself to a little credit for her performance. “She’s acting as my personal envoy on the security council.” Personal is good for Trump. Personal means he owns something and you ought to admire it. It was not technically true, because as permanent resident, Haley is charged with representing her nation rather than her boss, but we have learned not to expect mastery of diplomatic protocol from an elderly man who is, we are told, a “visual learner” and appears to have problems concentrating and organising his thoughts.

“She’s doing a good job,” he said. Haley dug deeper into her grin, the scaffolding of muscle on her face holding firm, pulling back the lips securely over the teeth. When Trump likes something, it’s a “great job”. A “good job” is, well, not so good. Then came the threat. A former reality TV host knows about audience participation. “Does everybody like Nikki?” he asked. Nervous laughter from the diplomats. Haley’s eyes began to roll like marbles in their sockets, but still the muscles held firm. “Because if you don’t like Nikki…” He pointed and winked at someone across the table, “she can easily be replaced”.

“Does everybody like Nikki?” he asked. Nervous laughter from the diplomats. Haley’s eyes began to roll like marbles in their sockets, but still the muscles held firm.

Haley convulsed with mock hilarity, but behind her rictus, she must have been experiencing the same queasy blend of disorientation, precariousness and fear that has become the signature Trump effect, the feeling he has induced in much of the world for the last 100 days. Trump is a destabilising force, one that could be tipped in various directions. He is courted by several factions, all of whom believe they can own him, but his very inconsistency has so far protected him from full co-option by any one of them.

The Bannon-Miller white nationalist axis is one of the more frightening and, in the first few weeks, it seemed to be in the ascendant, until the fiasco of the “Muslim ban” and Trump’s irritation at Saturday Night Live’s portrayal of him as Bannon’s puppet slowed their progress. Establishment conservatives (the Ryan-Priebus faction) seem caught in a cycle of hubris and chastisement, as the White House swings in and out of alignment with them.

In the weeks after the inauguration, a point of view took hold among the more supine kind of establishment centrist that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump would be a “moderating force”, sprinkling a little sparkly social liberalism (don’t worry so much about bathrooms!) on to the chaotic whirling blades of the machine. This was based, as far as I could see, on the reasoning that they collected art and probably wanted to be able to eat out in New York without the waiter spitting in their food. They have subsequently shown no inclination towards moderating anything at all, taking major but obscure roles inside the black box that is the administration’s decision-making.

There are several other groups or tendencies, including the Silicon Valley interests orbiting around the libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel (note the president’s recent woolly imaginings of a human mission to Mars), the energy interests around Rex Tillerson and east coast finance capital. Goldman Sachs alumni are now in various prominent positions in the administration, which is anathema to the far righters and “don’t tread on me” populists who lapped up Trump’s antisemitic campaign dogwhistles.

A man whose interest in policy could charitably be described as intermittent, Trump’s main concern appears to be burnishing his personal brand. Staff loyalty is important. It’s equally important not to overshadow the star, as Nikki Haley found to her cost. The president is known to spend much of his working day watching cable news and had surely noticed Haley’s rise. The United Nations lunch was an exercise in public humiliation, a crude warning of what would happen if she failed to toe the line. What could she do but grin?

The last 100 days have exposed many of Trump’s election promises as bluster and silenced the more paranoid of his liberal critics who saw a Svengali-like master psychologist at work behind the storm of lies and inconsistencies. We now know that he is what he appears to be – a vain and needy old man who leans on his daughter and resents the world for not loving him as he thinks it should.

His ignorance, thuggishness and insecurity are weaknesses, in that they have damaged his country and the integrity of the office he holds, but they are also part of what makes him a successful politician. He has a nose for the raw dynamics of power. His capriciousness puts his opponents off balance and he reframes debates around his own simple binaries: great/not so great, beautiful/terrible. He has reset the bar to an absurdly low level and as other politicians hop back and forth over it like performing dogs, they are stripped of dignity. The news media offer an almost daily spectacle of officials contorting themselves to cover for his latest incoherent pronouncement. Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, is a spectacle in abjection, squirming as he lies to a scornful press corps.

If Trumpism means anything, it is as an ideological prelude to oligarchy. The president has demonstrated that he intends to use his office to enrich himself and Congress appears to be resigned to letting him do it. The judiciary has emerged as the only serious check on an executive branch that is at best erratic, at worst actively corrupt. The Russia inquiry, which various Republican-run committees are currently trying to lose in the weeds, is gradually exposing a network of connection to Russian state interests within Trump’s inner circle. If it ever touches on the president’s personal financial obligations, the picture could get much uglier.

But Russia has distracted a lot of the “resistance”’, who are busy researching conspiracies in the hope that this will be a short cut to the president’s impeachment and removal. The unpalatable truth is that their elected representatives are unlikely to move for impeachment in the near future. Establishment Democrats have revealed their own corruption, the shameful fact that for all their talk, they are more invested in the maintenance of order than in opposing a presidency whose only saving grace is the incompetence and confusion that prevents it rolling out its pernicious agenda with greater efficiency.

Hari Kunzru’s latest novel is White Tears

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

Shitstain Trump blames constitution for chaos of his first 100 days

The president is learning the limits of power

Public cynicism towards Trump is growing – in a new Gallup poll, 36% declared him honest and trustworthy, down from 42% in February.

Julian Borger
Guardian
Sunday 30 April 2017 11.44 BST

On his 100th day in office on Saturday, facing historically low popularity ratings, a succession of intractable foreign crises and multiple investigations of his links with Moscow, Donald Trump reminded the nation that 1 May was Loyalty Day.

The day is a US tradition dating back to the cold war, when it was a bolster to stop May Day becoming a rallying point for socialists and unionised workers, but for an embattled president learning politics on the job it has an added resonance.

In an interview with Fox News to mark the 100-day mark, he declared himself “disappointed” with congressional Republicans, despite his many “great relationships” with them.

He blamed the constitutional checks and balances built in to US governance. “It’s a very rough system,” he said. “It’s an archaic system … It’s really a bad thing for the country.”

The Loyalty Day announcement came amid a flurry of other proclamations to mark the milestone at which the early stages of American presidencies are traditionally measured. The coming seven days were named both National Charter Schools Week and Small Business Week. May has been burdened with being simultaneously: National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, Older Americans Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, National Foster Care Month, as well as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Such announcements help a president look busy, especially at such heavily scrutinised milestones as the 100-day mark, and particularly for an inexperienced politician rapidly learning the limits of presidential power, even with a solid Republican majority in Congress.

He has failed to get any of his priorities turned into legislation in the face of party disunity, and his attempt to rule by executive order has been largely hollow. His decrees have been either meaningless, like his one-page, detail-free tax reform plan, or have been blocked by the courts, such as his travel ban for Muslim countries and refugees.

Trump’s approval ratings have remained mired at historic lows for a presidency in what is supposed to be a honeymoon period, hovering around – and frequently below – the 40% mark, well below his recent predecessors at this stage in their presidencies.

But his core supporters have remained faithful, choosing to believe that the mainstream media are purveyors of fake news, rather than accept that the Trump presidency has not been the unrivalled success the president has claimed. They have also accommodated Trump’s affinity for Vladimir Putin. The percentage of Republicans who see Russia as an unfriendly state has fallen from 82% in 2014 to 41% now, according to a CNN/ORC poll.

On his 100th day, Trump turned to this loyal base to sound off on the issue that bonds them most tightly – economic nationalism. On an otherwise leisurely Saturday, during which his only other engagement was a call with the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, the president was due to attend an evening rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where disenchanted workers defected from the Democrats in droves in the 2016 election. While visiting the town, he was also due to sign an executive order to establish an office of trade and manufacturing policy, which will help push his drive for import substitution.

In his weekly presidential address, he also focused on jobs, pointing to evidence of an economic revival that has been previously contested as a result of corporate decisions made before Trump came to office. He claimed that car companies were “roaring back in”, an apparent reference to General Motors’ plans and Ford’s decision to expand in Michigan, which both appeared to be part of their long-term strategy.

Trump also claimed that his approval of the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada would create tens of thousands of jobs. That will be true in the short term, during the construction phase, but after that keeping the pipeline going is expected to employ 35 people on a permanent basis.

The gap between the extreme bravado of Trump’s claims and the daily realities of governing has deepened public cynicism. In a new Gallup poll, just 36% declared him honest and trustworthy, down from 42% in early February. His general approval rating stood at 40%.

There is strong evidence, however, that the fact-checking of presidential claims is having a small and dwindling impact on true Trump loyalists. His support remains strong in traditional blue collar areas and evangelical strongholds, where there is more trust in the president than the mainstream media. The president has relentlessly assaulted the media, launching an attack per day on average since he took office, denouncing negative news as fake news, and there are signs the relentless offensive has inflicted wounds. One poll released on Friday found that more people trusted the White House than political journalists.

Against that background there were reports yesterday that Steve Bannon, the champion of economic and ethnic nationalism, was making a political comeback in the White House, and that he remained a bulwark of Trump’s strategy to secure his core support and win again in 2020.

His hand has been seen behind the rapid-burst issue of protectionist moves in the run up to the 100th day, picking fights with Canada over milk and softwood imports, and measures to shield the aluminium industry from foreign competition.

“All of these people who say the president doesn’t have an ideology, they’re wrong,” one unnamed Bannon ally told political news site The Hill. “He does have an ideology, and it’s Bannon’s ideology. They are just now figuring out how to implement it.”

Bannon was also said to have drafted an executive order withdrawing the US from the North American Free Trade Area (Nafta), but on Thursday Trump decided simply to issue a call for its renegotiation reportedly after having been shown a map showing it would cost the most jobs in states that had supported him in the election. The battle between countervailing factions in the Trump White House continues to ebb and flow, but the president’s reflexes in times of adversity lead him to fall back on the “America First” narrative that got him elected in the first place.

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

GOP insiders slam Shitstain Trump’s desperate, ‘totally insane’ last-minute push for 100-days accomplishments

David Ferguson
Raw Story
29 Apr 2017 at 17:41 ET                   

President Donald Trump’s last-minute push to rack up some achievements to show for his first 100 days in office sent some of his closest aides reeling and further alienated the president from leaders within his own party, said Politico on Saturday.

“The last-minute moves have frustrated some of Trump’s allies, caused a scramble across his government and proved once again that decisions are made by one man on his whims — and often with an eye to his media coverage,” wrote Josh Dawsey, Tara Palmeri and Ben White.

Trump’s vague, hastily-written tax plan and his doomed push for a second “Trumpcare” vote this week were both poorly-planned, desperate attempts, insiders say, to have something to boast about in addition to the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Eight days ago, when Trump announced that his tax plan was nearly complete, no one was more surprised than chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.

“Not a single word of a plan was on paper, several administration officials said, and Treasury officials worked all weekend to draft a one-page summary of his principles with a news conference the president demanding the action,” Politico reported.

“This was all about doing something in the first 100 days and really it’s doing the process backwards,” said one unnamed official.

Trump’s call for a second healthcare reform vote in the House of Representatives came as a total surprise to Congress. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was traveling in Europe when the news broke. Neither he nor the leaders of key Congressional committees had any warning that the White House would be mounting the initiative this week.

“It was totally insane,” one senior GOP aide told Politico. “It made no sense. There was no reason to say a vote was happening this week.”

Sources in Congress say that former RNC head Reince Priebus was furiously trying to whip up votes earlier in the week on the effort to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, but that House members balked, particularly when the administration put forth the idea of holding the vote on Saturday, a day House members typically have off.

The abruptly announced and then just as abruptly withdrawn decision to leave NAFTA — which came as a complete shock to the nations involved, including officials within Trump’s administration — was yet another failed attempt on Trump’s part to put some points on the board for his term so far.

“The looming 100-day marker has sent the White House into overdrive this week. Senior administration officials — chief of staff Reince Priebus, son-in-law Jared Kushner, legislative affairs head Marc Short, chief strategist Steve Bannon and Cohn — have held late-night sessions with reporters to sell the 100 days,” said Politico. “Trump repeatedly asked aides for ideas with the marker in mind and has demanded plans for the event and lists of his accomplishments to highlight every single day of the week, administration officials said.”

It appears to have been largely for naught, as Pres. Trump prepares to hold a campaign-style rally in Harrisburg, PA on Saturday, he will have little to tout aside from the Gorsuch nomination.

One unnamed White House official told Politico, “I can’t wait for the 100-day sh*t to be over.”

 4 
 on: Today at 05:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
EPA wipes its climate change site as protesters march in Washington

Website ‘undergoing changes’ to reflect agency’s ‘new direction’, as tens of thousands protest inaction on climate in cities across the US

Jessica Glenza in New York and agencies
Guardian
Saturday 29 April 2017 21.27 BST

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s main climate change website is “undergoing changes” to better reflect “the agency’s new direction” under Donald Trump.

The announcement, made late Friday evening, left empty what was previously the “official government site” providing “comprehensive information on the issue of climate change and global warming”.

The change came a day before thousands gathered in Washington DC and other US cities to protest inaction on climate change, and hours before the symbolic 100-day mark of the Trump administration.

At the marquee climate protest, the Peoples Climate March in Washington, tens of thousands made their way down Pennsylvania Avenue in sweltering heat on their way to encircle the White House.

Organizers said about 300 sister marches or rallies were being held around the country, including in Seattle, Boston and San Francisco. In Chicago, marchers headed from the city’s federal plaza to Trump Tower. In Denver, marchers were met with a dose of spring snow.

Some of the marches drew celebrity attendees, including former Vice President Al Gore and actor Leonardo DiCaprio in the capital and senator and former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Bernie Sanders at an event in Montpelier, Vermont.

“Honored to join Indigenous leaders and native peoples as they fight for climate justice,” DiCaprio tweeted.

Any marchers who used their phones to look at the EPA climate change website would have been greeted with a message from the new administration: “This page is being updated.”

“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” said JP Freire, an associate administrator for public affairs.

Previously, the website housed data on greenhouse gas emissions from large polluters and reports on the effects of climate change and its impact on human health.

“We want to eliminate confusion,” Freire said, “by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”

Information from previous administrations is archived as a link from the EPA’s website.
Demonstrators march in Chicago.

The EPA is currently led by Scott Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who has denied that carbon dioxide causes global warming.

The Trump administration has called for budget cuts of nearly one-third at the EPA and has sought to weaken protections for human health. For instance, the White House has proposed cutting funding and regulations regarding lead poisoning prevention and is considering rewriting regulations concerning smog.

It has already rolled back a law that prevented coal mining companies from dumping waste in streams.

In an op-ed piece for the Guardian published on Saturday, Sanders made an economic case for a focus on industries meant to ameliorate the effects of climate change, rather than those which contribute to it.

The senator from Vermont wrote: “No matter what agenda President Trump and his administration of climate deniers push, it is clear that jobs in clean energy like wind and solar are growing much more rapidly than jobs in the coal, oil and gas sectors.”

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

The American people – not Big Oil – must decide our climate future

We must aggressively transition our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy solutions. And we need to do so now

Bernie Sanders and Mark Jacobson
Guardian
Saturday 29 April 2017 11.00 BST

The debate facing our world today is not whether we need to address climate change. That debate is far, far behind us. The issue is how to address climate change – as quickly and effectively as possible.

Virtually the entire scientific community – more than 99% of peer-reviewed studies – has concluded that climate change is real. It is caused by human activity. And the impacts are devastating.

According to a study published Monday by the National Academy of Science, climate change is already causing severe weather events like prolonged droughts, record-high temperatures, and rising sea levels because of melting Artic sea ice. And while everyone will be affected by climate change, the people who had least to do with causing the problem will be impacted the most, including low income families and communities of color across America.

That is why we must aggressively transition our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy solutions like energy efficiency, solar, wind and geothermal energy, and electric vehicles.

Here’s the good news: the global community is moving in the right direction. Solar panels cost 80% less today than they did in 2008. The solar industry has grown every year for the past decade. In fact, nearly one fifth of the world’s electricity today comes from clean, renewable resources like the sun and wind.

No matter what agenda President Trump and his administration of climate deniers push, it is clear that jobs in clean energy like wind and solar are growing much more rapidly than jobs in the coal, oil and gas sectors. The number of workers maintaining wind turbines in the US is set to more than double between 2014 and 2024, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Around the world, more than 9.4 million people already work in the renewable energy sector. These are the jobs of the future.

Not only does renewable energy help fight climate change and create jobs, but it’s also good for public health. Cutting carbon pollution emissions by just 32% by 2030 would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 1,700 heart attacks each year.

We’re beginning to transition to a clean energy economy – but scientists say we need to do it faster to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

University researchers and the non-profit Solutions Project have mapped out how we can achieve a 100% clean, renewable energy future for all 50 US states and 139 countries by 2050. With their research, governments in the US and around the world can learn exactly how to break dependence on fossil fuel, why we don’t need fracking and how we can move aggressively in terms of sustainable energy and energy efficiency.

Now is the time for taking swift, aggressive action.

This week, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and I, Bernie Sanders, together with Senators Ed Markey and Cory Booker, introduced a bill that is a major step forward in addressing the climate crisis. The bill, which is strongly supported by the Solutions Project and other major environmental organizations, would transition the US toward a completely clean energy system for electricity, heating, and transportation.

Not only is this possible and affordable, but it will also create millions of decent-paying, long-term and full-time jobs that our economy desperately needs. It would clean-up our air and water. And it would decrease our dependence on foreign oil and improve national security.

Most Americans know that Congress is way out of touch with where the American people are. The Koch brothers and the fossil fuels industry are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaign contributions to keep it that way. Too many members of Congress now worry more about the interests of the oil, gas, and coal companies than the interests of their constituents and the wellbeing of the planet.

The only way we will defeat organized money is to organize through people power. We must stand up and demand that Congress put people over the profits of the fossil fuel industry. That’s why the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC and all over the world on Saturday is so enormously important.

When millions of people in every country in the world demand that their government work to transition our energy systems away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy, we will win. That’s what today is about, and that’s what tomorrow must be about. We must keep up the fight for our children and future generations to come.

 5 
 on: Apr 29, 2017, 06:42 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
USA

UK spy documents: Shitstain Trump Organization paid Russian hackers who took orders from Putin

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
28 Apr 2017 at 21:43 ET

The Guardian reported former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s infamous dossier about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was first given to the UK intelligence services. These documents reportedly contain records of payments from the Russian campaign to banks of Russian cyber trolls tasked with spreading disinformation ahead of the 2016 election.

Court filings confirmed earlier this month that Steele passed along the information because he felt it was “of considerable importance in relation to alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election.”

Steele outlined how four Trump campaign representatives traveled to Prague in the Czech Republic in August or September to have “secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers.” The group discussed how they would pay hackers for breaking into the Democratic Party’s computers and developing a “contingency plans for covering up operations.”

The memo reported that hackers were paid by the Trump Organization, however, the hackers were under the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is said to have attended the meeting in Prague, though he has described the memo as “totally fake, totally inaccurate.” He also claimed he’d never been to Prague.

Steele produced 16 memos using Russian sources to describe the web of collusion between Trump aides and Russian intelligence or other officials. A copy of the memos was given to the news outlet Fusion but instructed them not to disclose the material to anyone without approval. They agreed and Steele agreed to provide a copy to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) after McCain learned the memos existed from the UK ambassador to Moscow.

The Guardian reports that the court documents revealed Steele continued to get “unsolicited intelligence” on the links between Trump and Russia. As a result, Steele drew up another memo from Dec. 13. He turned that memo to a senior British national security official and gave encrypted versions to Fusion to give to McCain.

Court statements argue Steele was under an obligation to give the information to the UK and US “at a high level by persons with responsibility for national security.” However, Steele said he never gave a copy to any news organizations, merely off-the-record briefings about the dossier to some journalists in the fall of 2016. They argue they had no involvement in BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the document.

The dossier wasn’t delivered to former President Barack Obama and then-President-elect Donald Trump until January.

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

Mike Pence Is Going Down For The Russia Scandal Because He Never Vetted Mike Flynn

By Jason Easley on Fri, Apr 28th, 2017 at 12:03 pm
PoliticusUSA

For those who are worried that if Trump goes down for the Russia scandal, Vice President Mike Pence will be in charge, keep in mind that Pence in was in charge of the transition that never vetted Mike Flynn. The entire Trump administration is knee deep in the Russia scandal.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer admitted that Pence and the transition never vetted Flynn before naming him as Trump’s national security adviser:

Every individual who came into this White House either applied for a security clearance or had one. Everyone in the government goes through the same SF-86 process — every single person. And so why would you re-run a background check on someone who was the head of the department — the Defense Intelligence Agency that had and did maintain a high-level security clearance? That’s it.

There’s no difference between administrations — when you come in from one, they rerun it. The reason they grant them for five years is that it’s a very extensive background where they check your contacts, your places of residence, your employment. They go out into the field, they do a lot of that work, and then you’re required to maintain updates to that clearance. They re-adjudicate it every five years. That occurred in this case. And now the Department of Defense’s Inspector General is looking into it.

Guess who was running the transition? Vice President Mike Pence.

If the transition didn’t vet Flynn, that is on Pence. No one in the Trump administration is clean on the Russia scandal. When it all finally blows up on this White House, Mike Pence is not going to emerge unscathed. The Mike Pence part of the White House’s story on Flynn and Russia has never made sense.

The reason why is because this White House has left out key details about how involved Pence was, but slowly, little by little, the details are coming out, and they are going to be a big problem for Mike Pence.

********

Here’s how Michael Flynn got security clearance despite flags

Newsweek
28 Apr 2017 at 18:17 ET      

Years back, when I was researching a story about how the CIA had overlooked Russian moles in its ranks, I applied for my own security file. I wanted to know what investigators had dug up when they delayed granting me a top-secret clearance for a slot in Army Intelligence during the Vietnam War. As it turned out, they had discovered an alarming piece of information: I had been fired from a summer job years earlier at Sugarman’s shoe store in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

According to my declassified file, the agents rushed down to Cape Cod to interview the proprietor. Mr. Sugarman gave the agents the shocking story: He’d fired me because I “was no good with women’s shoes.” That derogatory item, along with a one-time visit to my campus shrink the previous year for counseling after my girlfriend dumped me, held up my clearance for weeks.
Related: Flynn Likely Broke the Law With Paid Russia Trip, Chaffetz Says

If only the FBI had been so zealous in the case of Michael Flynn, the ousted White House national security adviser. More wreckage from Flynn’s career surfaced on April 25, when the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Oversight Committee said he had failed to disclose what had been reported for months: payments totaling more than $65,000 in 2015 from companies linked to Moscow, including its propaganda arm, Russia Today, or RT. Flynn had also failed to register as a foreign agent after accepting a $600,000 contract with a lobbyist linked not only to Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan but also to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman the committee, “and it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for a violation of law.”

The obvious question is: How did Flynn get a security clearance? The foreign payments were just the latest vexing chapter in the retired general’s vexatious career. In 2014, he’d been forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for his “chaotic” and “toxic” management style, according to several reports. He had an affinity for conspiracy theories and made-up “Flynn facts,” his closest aides said. And yet, even as reports piled up after the November election about Flynn’s Moscow visits and secret meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, there he was in January, at President Donald Trump’s side, with unfettered access to the government’s most closely held secrets.

How did he slip through the security net and into the White House? The FBI refuses to comment. But former FBI agents and intelligence analysts with experience in vetting presidential appointments tell Newsweek the explanation is at once very simple and complicated—because the Flynn case was linked to the shadow world of Russian spies and Team Trump’s Moscow contacts.

The simple parts: “The background investigation is basically a credit check,” says Aaron Arnold, an FBI counterintelligence analyst from 2008 to 2013. That is, a person can be “cleared” for top-secret documents in less time than it takes an ordinary person to get a mortgage, he and other specialists say. “With your Social Security number, they check the banks and so forth,” says Joe Navarro, a retired special agent who conducted so-called Special Presidential Investigations, or SPINs, of Cabinet appointees during the Reagan administration.

“The biggest thing, I have to tell you, that we look for is not the financial stuff, but it's in the interviews that we do from the people that the person has put down as relatives or acquaintances or recommendations,” Navarro says. “We usually only check what the person has put down.” Since Flynn never “put down” his payments from foreign income, the DIA informed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on April 7, FBI vetters would not have seen them.

With the FBI facing a crush of Cabinet and White House appointments after an election, not only are its resources stretched thin but most of the checking is carried out by agents with little to no national security background or training, the bureau veterans say. Even if Flynn had declared large foreign payments into his own or his company’s bank accounts—he was paid over $500,000 by a Washington, D.C., lobbyist for Turkey—their “national security significance could be missed” because the records checkers “are on a special squad at Tysons Corner and all they do is background investigations,” says former senior FBI special agent David Gomez, who spent nearly 30 years conducting, supervising, managing and auditing SPINs in the field and at headquarters.

In the post-election rush, the FBI vetting teams also wouldn’t have been trying to look into what Flynn omitted when he filled out Section 20 of his SF-86, the federal government’s national security questionnaire, he and other FBI veterans say. “No one from the FBI is going around making sure that every ex-government executive is properly registering their activities,” says Arnold, who specialized in complex financial investigations into nuclear weapons smuggling. “The system is somewhat based on self-reporting.”

“In any case,” says Gomez, now a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security, “presidential appointments are different in that the bureau will only report facts and leave the vetting decision to the White House staff.

“You can see the problem there,” he added. Indeed, the Justice Department warned the White House about Flynn’s Russia problems in January, but it stayed mum and he continued in his job until he was fired in February amid the burgeoning scandal. The White House is still stonewalling the House Oversight Committee on what it knows about Flynn, the panel’s top Democrat, Maryland congressman Elijah Cummings, complained Thursday.

The Counterspy Game

On Monday, March 20, FBI Director James Comey confirmed in hours-long testimony before the House Intelligence Committee that as far back as July his agents had been investigating Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, including any cooperation between Trump’s campaign associates and Russian agents or officials. Ironically, say FBI veterans, the fruits of such an investigation—even its existence—would have been tightly compartmented away from agents tasked with conducted a background check of Flynn, who had somewhat notoriously been seated at Putin’s side at an anniversary banquet for RT.

Had one or more of the vetting agents, their curiosity whetted by the mounting headlines about Flynn’s Russia contacts, asked for a green light to dig deeper, the answer from FBI headquarters may well have been silence. In the FBI’s secretive realm, counterintelligence section, or CI, is the heavily guarded queen, to be protected at all costs. “The CI investigation would be separate from the White House security and background investigation, which would have occurred after Flynn was named as [national security adviser] in November 2016,” says Andrew Bringuel, who retired last month after 27 years in the FBI, the last dozen spent in its Behavioral Science Unit, made famous in The Silence of the Lambs. “Any derogatory evidence would go to the security division for follow-up and adjudication.”

As is now well known, U.S. intelligence intercepted Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak before and after President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 alleged Russian spies and the imposition of sanctions in response to Moscow’s election meddling. Only much later did the White House acknowledge that Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner had also met secretly with Kislyak in Trump Tower in December. Judging by Comey’s testimony, Bringuel says, “Flynn was not the focus of the [Russia] investigation, but when he was implicated, it would be [standard operating procedure] to spin off a CI assessment on his activities and, if warranted, an intelligence or criminal investigation,” the details of which were probably not shared with the FBI’s vetting project.

But they were shared, eventually, with Team Trump, because Flynn was lying about his meetings with the Russian ambassador to people outside the president-elect’s immediate circle—and, most important, lying to Vice President Mike Pence, according to reports. Pence had gone on to TV to deny that Flynn had discussed Obama’s Russia sanctions, and that left the president’s national security adviser open to blackmail by the Russians, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates decided, according to The Washington Post’s February 13 report. Flynn resigned soon after.

The FBI’s investigation of Russian subversion and Trump associates continues, along with congressional probes. They could well continue into the last months of Trump’s term.

Might the bleeding have been stanched far earlier by denying Flynn a security clearance at the outset of the administration, or even far earlier? Only in theory. With so many Trump officials implicated by their Russia dealings, the situation was unprecedented. “Other than the POTUS-elect” says Gomez, “there was no one to brief the investigation to, and Trump didn't want daily intel briefs” from the CIA, which he’d mocked throughout the campaign for its mistaken reports on Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Plus, how could the FBI reveal the progress of an investigation in which the president’s aides could be targeted?

“The bureau maintains a healthy mistrust of briefing internally compartmented CI material to campaign aides who themselves haven't necessarily been cleared,” Gomez points out.

Flynn's problems were far deeper than my security issue from being fired from a shoe store job. But if he’d just slinked away after he’d been fired from the DIA and avoided nefarious dealings with the Russians (and Turks), he wouldn’t be facing the problems he has today. Nor would the president and his men.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave,” Gomez joked, invoking Sir Walter Scott to sum up their plight, “when first we practice to deceive.”

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

Shitstain Trump pledges fealty to NRA gun lobby

Reuters
28 Apr 2017 at 15:51 ET                  

President Donald Trump pledged to uphold Americans’ right to possess guns on Friday in a speech that he used to revisit some 2016 election campaign themes from his vow to build a border wall to dismissing a Democratic senator as “Pocahontas.”

Trump pledged his allegiance to the powerful National Rifle Association, the country’s leading gun-rights advocacy group, at a convention attended by thousands. Elected in part on a law-and-order platform, Trump was the first sitting president to address the NRA since fellow Republican Ronald Reagan in 1983.

“As your president, I will never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” Trump told thousands of people attending the NRA’s annual convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Trump, whose candidacy last year was endorsed by the NRA, marks his first 100 days in office on Saturday with no major legislative achievements but with a long litany of actions to loosen federal regulations and review free trade agreements.

Stymied by his initial bid to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border when Congress balked at funding the initiative, Trump vowed he will sooner or later build the wall, which had been a signature campaign promise.

“We need a wall. We’ll build the wall. Don’t even think about it,” he said.

Politics and his unexpected election victory on Nov. 8 over Democrat Hillary Clinton also featured prominently in his remarks.

Speculating on who might run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, Trump brought up the name of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and used a derogatory nickname he had adopted for her last year.

“It may be Pochahontas, and she is not big on the NRA,” Trump said of Warren, who had once said she had some Native American ancestry.

Pocahontas is a legendary Native American figure from the 1600s.

Trump later attended a fund-raiser for Republican candidate Karen Handel, who will face Democrat Jon Ossoff on June 20 to determine who will win a House of Representatives seat to replace Tom Price, who became Trump’s health and human services secretary.

Trump, at the NRA event, returned time and again to the theme of responsible gun ownership.

“You have a true friend and champion in the White House,” he said. “We want to assure you of the sacred right of self defense for all of our citizens.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Tom Brown)

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

Krugman: Shitstain Trump is like the monster child who terrorizes a town in an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’

David Ferguson
Raw Story
28 Apr 2017 at 13:17 ET                  

Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman compared President Donald Trump on Friday to an evil child with supernatural powers as portrayed in an episode of the late 1950s and early 60s TV show, “The Twilight Zone.”

“Fans of old TV series may remember a classic ‘Twilight Zone’ episode titled ‘It’s a Good Life,'” wrote Krugman. “It featured a small town terrorized by a 6-year-old who for some reason had monstrous superpowers, coupled with complete emotional immaturity. Everyone lived in constant fear, made worse by the need to pretend that everything was fine. After all, any hint of discontent could bring terrible retribution.”

Such is Pres. Trump’s relationship with his administration and, by extension, the rest of the world, Krugman said.

“What set me off on this chain of association?” he said. “The answer may surprise you; it was the tax ‘plan’ the administration released on Wednesday.”

Krugman said he’s using scare quotes on “plan” because “the single-page document the White House circulated this week bore no resemblance to what people normally mean when they talk about a tax plan. True, a few tax rates were mentioned — but nothing was said about the income thresholds at which these rates apply.”

The document — which Whoopi Goldberg on Thursday joked was “originally written in crayon” — mentions that it will eliminate “tax breaks,” but provides no information about which ones.

“So if you were looking for a document that you could use to estimate, even roughly, how much a given individual would end up paying, sorry,” said Krugman.

“So why would the White House release such an embarrassing document? Why would the Treasury Department go along with this clown show?” he asked.

Because our president is “like a temperamental child, bored by details and easily frustrated when things don’t go his way.”

Desperate for some kind of win to hold up to mark his first 100 days, Pres. Trump reportedly ordered the Treasury Department to put out some kind of document, no matter how vague or mathematically improbable.

“According to The Times, this left Treasury staff  — who were nowhere near having a plan ready to go —  ‘speechless,’” Krugman reported. “But nobody dared tell him it couldn’t be done. Instead, they released … something, with nobody sure what it means.”

And like the 6-year-old boy in “It’s a Good Life,” everyone around Trump lives in terror of his wrath or of upsetting him. Krugman pointed to Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about former Pres. Barack Obama wiretapping Trump Tower or the failed healthcare bill that died in Congress without ever reaching a vote.

“Clearly, Trump and company should just let it go and move on to something else. But that would require a certain level of maturity — which is a quality nowhere to be found in this White House. So they just keep at it, with proposals everyone I know calls zombie Trumpcare 2.0, 3.0, and so on,” he said.

“In any case,” Krugman concluded, “I’d like to make a plea to my colleagues in the news media: Don’t pretend that this is normal. Let’s not act as if that thing released on Wednesday, whatever it was, was something like, say, the 2001 Bush tax cut; I strongly disapproved of that cut, but at least it was comprehensible. Let’s not pretend that we’re having a real discussion of, say, the growth effects of changes in business tax rates.”

“No, what we’re looking at here isn’t policy; it’s pieces of paper whose goal is to soothe the big man’s temper tantrums. Unfortunately, we may all pay the price of his therapy,” he said.

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

Bernie Sanders Wakes America Up By Warning That Shitstain Trump Is Talking About Nuclear War With N. Korea

By Jason Easley on Fri, Apr 28th, 2017 at 1:39 pm
PoliticusUSA


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is sounding the alarm that Donald Trump could be taking the United States into a nuclear war with North Korea.

Video of Sen. Sanders on CBS This Morning:

    .@BernieSanders on North Korea: When you talk about a major, major conflict… you’re talking about a nuclear war. pic.twitter.com/WZ5TGgf8HY

    — CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) April 28, 2017

Sanders said, “When you’re talking about a ‘major, major conflict,’ what you’re talking about is a nuclear war. Obviously, I think the goal now is to work as strongly as we can with China. China is, I think, receives about 80 percent of the exports from North Korea. They are in a position to tighten the screws on North Korea and tell them they cannot continue their missile program or their nuclear program.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump demonstrated an infatuation with using nuclear weapons. As a candidate, Trump refused to take using nuclear weapons off of the table. Experts are warning that a preemptive strike on N. Korea would provoke a catastrophic response.

Just as voters should have paid attention to Trump’s pro-nuclear weapons rhetoric during the campaign the American people should be paying close attention to Trump’s threat of a major, major conflict.

Bernie Sanders is trying to wake people up. There have been protests nearly every weekend since Donald Trump took office, but an urgent issue that has yet to be protested is the real potential for war in North Korea.

**********

Frustrated Dictator Shitstain Trump Says ‘Archaic’ Constitution is a Bad Thing for the Country

By Hrafnkell Haraldsson on Sat, Apr 29th, 2017 at 8:00 am
PoliticusUSA

Donald Trump doesn’t like the whole concept of government of, by and for the people, the idea that political power derives from the will of the people rather than gods or kings or priests or…dare we say, political strongmen, real and imagined.

Per Fox News, Trump’s sole intelligence source and enthusiastic feedback loop:

    .@POTUS on getting things done in government: "It's a very rough system. It's an archaic system…It's really a bad thing for the country." pic.twitter.com/knhtzL1LGP

    — Fox News (@FoxNews) April 28, 2017

Archaic means “old-fashioned” and “obsolete” and “out of date” and, perhaps wistfully here for would-be dictator Donald Trump, “no longer used.”

You know, because we have this whole thing about three co-equal branches of government and checks and balances that prevent the president from ruling like a king – or a Putinesque banana republican dictator.

It’s inefficient, he says. In other words, he’s frustrated that he can’t do anything he damn well pleases without appeal to all those pesky and inconvenient laws. He can’t try to rule by fiat without somebody saying “un-Constitutional!”

Joe Scarborough of MSBNC’s Morning Joe isn’t having any of this, tweeting,

    Your party has a monopoly on power. How clueless to be politically impotent with such an advantage. Don't blame America's Constitution. https://t.co/QQeI8E7kl6

    — Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) April 29, 2017

Of course, Trump doesn’t want any of that, having to work with people and persuade them with intelligible arguments (foot-stomping tantrums don’t count). He wants people to just do what he says because he’s “kind of a smart guy” and he’s the only guy who can fix it. Just ask him. Why does he have to bother with all these lesser beings who just get in the way of his brilliance?

If Trump’s tears were just excuse-making it would be bad enough. Sure, he needs to explain why he hasn’t done anything in his first hundred days (cutting back on the golf game might seem an obvious solution) but the real problem here is that Donald Trump honestly thinks his word should be law.

Even though it is the word of a guy who hasn’t made the slightest attempt to learn a single thing while he’s been in office and leaves it at every opportunity to play.

His executive orders and his reaction to judicial oversight as mandated by the United States Constitution verifies his dictatorial leanings. Judges are unelected, he says. What right do they have to “set policy” – in reality, of course, to question his judgment?

Trump is used to ruling like a king in the corporate world. A government isn’t like that, outside a monarchy or a dictatorship. Trump thinks it’s inefficient. What it is is safe. It protects us from people like, well…Donald Trump.

The Constitution was set forth to protect us from dictators and kings. And as Trump’s frustrated and whiny rants have shown, it is a protection we very badly need.

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

‘We live in a nightmare’: How Trump turned America upside down in 100 days

Neal Gabler, Moyers & Company
29 Apr 2017 at 08:48 ET                   

“Don’t you want God to show up and say He’s kidding?” Louis C.K. asked Stephen Colbert on The Late Show a couple of weeks back.

Of course we do. Instead, during these past 100 days, God seems to have doubled down on the prank. Although optimists predicted that once he faced the reality of governing, Donald Trump would be thwarted and even tamed into a more conventional politician, and although the media scoff at Trump’s claims of unprecedented presidential accomplishment, for once Trump may almost be right when he boasts, with his customary mangling of English, “I don’t think that there is a presidential period of time in the first 100 days where anyone has done nearly what we’ve been able to do.”

While Trump’s legislative achievements have been less than meager, he has nevertheless succeeded in doing something profoundly consequential. Call it the Great Inversion. In just 100 days, he has turned America and the world upside down, so much so we may never be able to right ourselves again.

Many of us suspected that this would be the consequence of a Trump presidency.  I wrote here the morning after his election that the idea of America had died. We didn’t just think that he was wrong on policy, though he was. We didn’t just think that he was psychologically unfit to occupy the White House, though he clearly is. We weren’t just afraid that he was an incurious lout who made decisions based on what fed his ego at the moment, though he is and does. And we weren’t just terrified at the political havoc he would wreak, though he has. We felt that he posed a mortal danger to everything that forms of the basis of our modern world, everything that knit us together as a society: reason, logic, language, values, science, history, common decency, community and democracy. And he is.

Donald Trump hasn’t just sought to destroy these bonds that united us, however tenuously; he has sought to invert them, to create a world in which each of these has been replaced by its opposite so that we can no longer tell up from down or day from night or truth from lies. Trump, using the buzzword of contemporary business, promised to disrupt the country. He has. And more.

But he has not disrupted the system, if by “system” you mean the prevailing social order. If anything, it is more ensconced than at any time since Calvin Coolidge, more in the hands of the rich and powerful. His disruption has been of the epistemological and moral sort. Not for nothing is the key adjective of Trump’s new America “fake,” as in fake news, fake history, fake photos, fake charitable contributions, fake promises and fake achievements.

We used to be bolted to certain verities. We used to agree on the idea of truth, the verifiability of facts, even if we disagreed on what constituted each. We used to agree on the basis of morality, even when we disagreed about particulars. We knew that groping women, leering at little girls, lying, stealing, bullying, hurting people whose only crime was powerlessness — we knew these things were wrong, and we gave them our opprobrium. Our society could not have existed without this general consensus.

Now Donald Trump has blown the bolts off the verities that anchored us. And in doing so, he performed his inversion, elevating lies over facts and bluster over moral values. That is a lot to accomplish in 100 days — to shatter not only what made us proud Americans, but what also made us human.

The counterargument, I realize, is that Trump’s 100 days have exposed him. He is historically unpopular — an aberration rather than a turning point.

People, we hear, are already regaining their senses. Even some Republican officeholders are distancing themselves from him, and the recent special elections — basically referenda on his early presidency — have indicated a sharp turn toward the Democrats.

I fear, however, that this is wishful thinking. Trump could be an aberration and a turning point. You cannot unring a bell. You cannot pretend that Trump was just some oddity or mistake and that we can and will expunge him from history once buyer’s remorse sets in. We now know an awful truth: It can happen here. It has.

So, yes, Trump is historically unpopular, but before you get too sanguine, he still has the allegiance of nearly 90 percent of rank-and-file Republicans, many of whom also don’t seem to regard those old verities as terribly significant. He is only a nuclear attack on North Korea away from seeing his popularity soar, and only a terrorist attack away from being granted near-dictatorial powers.

This is how he has changed our bearings. Progressive friends of mine pray for his impeachment, even though that means elevating a rabid homophobe and an antediluvian to the presidency. Trump makes Pence imaginable in the Oval Office because he himself is so unimaginable. His transgressions have even managed to rehabilitate George W. Bush, who, a friend confided, doesn’t seem so bad by comparison.

And, yes, you may think we can return to some sanity, some moral revivification, if and when Trump leaves the presidency. But consider this: It has taken us decades to make the progress we have made in stigmatizing racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, nativism and homophobia. Slow but steady. That progress led us to hope that three or four generations from now, perhaps, these might even vanish, the hatred in the American soul might be extirpated and we would be the country we purport to be.

This didn’t mean we had all undergone some miraculous transformation. It simply meant that social censure — yes, even that dreaded political correctness — compelled us to be better than we wanted to be until the day came when that compulsion would no longer be necessary. And therein lies a terrible sadness: Trump’s most heinous accomplishment in my estimation is that he has removed that social censure. Acts of hatred have spiked, and we don’t have to look very far to see why. Trump has normalized the very worst in us. He has inverted social censure so that hatred is not only acceptable; it is considered a form of honesty.

And that is the real tragedy and danger of these 100 days and of the 1,300 of his presidency to come. Trump didn’t change who many of us were. He revealed it. He showed that there were, indeed, millions of Americans for whom the flipping of sense and values took precedence over their own interests, and they will not give him up — even if, as he once famously said, he shot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue. Can there be any more damning indictment of his supporters than that, any more damning indictment of the country he rules?

These 100 days have prompted some of Trump’s opponents to perform odd contortions in coming to terms with the inversion. As I wrote here last week, The New York Times has added a climate change denier to its op-ed page as a way of making a truce with the non-Trump right, though if we have learned nothing else these last 100 days, we have learned that the notion of a serious conservative is a chimera, like a unicorn. The Times got a goat with a horn on its nose. And others, like Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, protest that we must embrace Trump supporters, woo them, because they are our neighbors. To which I say that there were neighbors in Germany and Cambodia and Bosnia and Rwanda, too.

Still, all is not lost. The resistance movement has been surprisingly effective. And the people who have campaigned successfully to rid the airwaves of the noxious gases of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly give one hope that there is some vestige of decency left, even if the spur for expulsion had less to do with revolting behavior than with nervous sponsors. And yet, without Trump’s own inexcusable behavior, these facilitators might not have been smoked out. There are now tens of millions of people fighting the good fight to resuscitate those verities Trump has upended. Theirs isn’t only a political resistance. It is a resistance of conscience and character and coherence. The world may be broken, but there are thankfully plenty of people who are intact and who know what truth, facts and morality are.

Which leaves us with this: God isn’t kidding. Our country is a parody of a democracy, our leader a parody of a president. We live in a nightmare. Nothing is the way it was. Trump only wins, though, if he and his cohorts manage to normalize this abnormality, to make the Orwellian seem commonplace. I think he may have already done so. Tens of millions of good Americans seem to think he hasn’t. I hope and pray they are right.

 6 
 on: Apr 29, 2017, 06:28 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Piglet Le Pen, Pig Putin, Shitstain Trump: a disturbing axis, or just a mutual admiration society?

The French presidential hopeful has made no secret of her admiration for Russia’s strongman leader, but her relationship with Trump is less clearcut

Jon Henley European affairs correspondent
AFP
Saturday 29 April 2017 09.00 BST

The week after Donald Trump won the US presidential election last November, Marine Le Pen was inaugurating the headquarters of her own election campaign in Paris, less than a mile from the Elysée Palace she hopes to move into soon.

The far-right, anti-immigration Front National leader had been the only French political leader to back Trump in his bid for the White House. She has also made no secret of her admiration for Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.

Unveiling her campaign symbol, a blue rose, she said that her election as France’s president would form a trio of world leaders that “will be good for world peace”, leading “a worldwide movement that rejects unchecked globalisation, destructive ultra-liberalism, the elimination of nation states, the disappearance of borders”.

Last month, Le Pen was in Moscow for a personal audience with Putin. “A new world has emerged in these past years,” she said. “It’s the world of Vladimir Putin, it’s the world of Donald Trump in the US. I share with these great nations a vision of cooperation, not of submission.”

Clearly, there is ideological common ground between the three leaders: variations on a theme of nation-first politics, support for economic protectionism and immigration controls, mistrust of international alliances and institutions such as Nato or the EU, and a rejection of globalism and the liberal consensus.

But Le Pen’s actual ties with the two leaders differ significantly. With Russia, at least, they go beyond the ideological to the personal and the practical. Her meeting with Putin in March was reported to be their first; but according to French investigative journalists, it is possibly their third.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father and an admirer of authoritarianism and ultra-nationalism, told the BBC in an interview recorded before last month that his daughter had previously met the Russian president, and her former foreign affairs adviser Aymeric Chauprade said in 2014 unofficial talks had taken place.

Unless she thinks media attention will serve her, Le Pen’s trips abroad are often conducted discreetly. She has, though, visited Russia in 2011 – when she told the daily Kommersant: “I won’t hide that, in a certain sense, I admire Vladimir Putin” – and in June 2013 and April 2014.

Front National aides and MEPs have been to Moscow far more often – and two ruling-party Russian MPs were honoured guests at the 2014 party conference that re-elected Le Pen party leader with a 100% mandate.

In further shows of sympathy, Le Pen has called for “completely stupid” EU sanctions against Russia to be lifted, said there was “no invasion” of Crimea because it had “always been Russian”, and argued Ukraine had undergone “a coup d’état”.

Nor has the party been shy about accepting Russian money, claiming no French bank will lend to it. The party borrowed €9m in 2014 from the First Czech Russian Bank (which later lost its licence) and acknowledged seeking €3m from Russia’s Strategy bank in 2016.

The FN has always denied the Russian loans had bought Moscow any influence with the party. Le Pen told Le Monde the suggestion was “ridiculous” and “outrageous”, adding: “So because we get a loan, that dictates our foreign policy? We’ve held this [pro-Russian] line for a long time.”

There seems little doubt that for its part, Russia is attempting to influence the outcome of France’s presidential election, whose final round on 7 May will pit Le Pen against the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron. Current polls suggest she will lose.

Japanese cyber-security group Trend Micro said in a 41-page report this week that the Russian hackers known as Pawn Storm or Fancy Bear APT28 – thought by US spy agencies and private cyber-security firms to be an arm of Russian intelligence – had targeted Macron’s En Marche! using exactly the same tactics employed against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the operation which US authorities believe helped sway the election in Trump’s favour.

Macron’s campaign team confirmed they had been the target of at least five sophisticated cyber-attacks since January aimed at accessing sensitive data. “Emmanuel Macron is the only candidate in the French presidential campaign to be targeted,” the campaign said in a statement. “It’s no coincidence.”

Le Pen’s relations with Trump are less clearcut. She has said she would have voted for him if she could, and he has come close to endorsing her, telling AP on the eve of the first round that the far-right leader was “the strongest on borders, and the strongest on what’s been going on in France”.

In January, Le Pen was photographed drinking coffee in Trump Tower with her partner, the party’s vice-president Louis Aliot, and Guido “George” Lombardi, a businessman neighbour of Trump’s who has portrayed himself as a kind of European far-right fixer for the president.

Lombardi was known to have held a fundraising party for the Front National the previous evening, and most of the efforts by Le Pen’s entourage in the US are so far believed to have been directed towards securing much-needed contributions to party funds.

But Trump and Le Pen did not meet, staff from both sides have insisted. Nor did the Front National’s European affairs adviser, Ludovic de Danne, or its US representative, Denis Franceskin, get to see Trump in November, when Lombardi invited them to Trump Tower for the election night party.

The FN representatives were told the president-elect did not have security clearance to come down to the lobby. But in pre-election remarks to the Hollywood Reporter, Trump said there was “no common ground to be explored” with Europe’s far right and he did not want to “establish alliances beyond the Atlantic”.

Some of his backers are less reticent. Le Pen has met leading Trump supporters including congressman Steve King, a Republican from Iowa who has courted controversy for making incendiary comments about immigrants.

And while Steve Bannon’s star may now be waning, the former Breitbart CEO and Trump’s chief strategist has made no secret of his admiration for the French far right.

Bannon told French website Radio Londres last summer that he saw Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, Le Pen’s niece, as “the new rising star”, and predicted France’s 2017 elections would be “historic”. Maréchal-Le Pen has praised “alternative media” and said she would be delighted to work with Breitbart if it opened a Paris bureau, as it has promised – but so far failed – to do.

Bannon has also drawn inspiration from some of the Front National’s favourite literature, including the works of Charles Maurras, a far-right Catholic theorist seen as the founding father of French ultra-nationalism, and Jean Raspail, author of The Camp of the Saints, a highly controversial 1973 novel depicting a France submerged by immigration and often described as racist.

The far-right candidate is also backed by a ruthless, highly organised and very popular web and social media campaign that echoes the successful online agitprop techniques used by Trump’s “alt-right” supporters during the US presidential campaign. US-based far-right internet warriors are reportedly helping out by pretending to be French.

Le Pen herself, however, seems to think that if the Trump-Le Pen nexus is an inspiration for anyone, it is for the US president.

“I do not take Trump as a model,” she told La Voix du Nord newspaper in January. “He is the one who is applying what I have been proposing for years.”

 7 
 on: Apr 29, 2017, 06:24 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Emmanuel Macron: I'll renegotiate Le Touquet border treaty

Presidential hopeful’s comments on French TV raise the possibility of migrant camp springing up to the UK
Macron signing autographs

Anushka Asthana Political editor
AFP
Friday 28 April 2017 22.50 BST

Emmanuel Macron, the favourite in the race to become the next French president, has suggested that he would want to renegotiate an agreement that allows British border police to operate in Calais.

The centrist politician, who will go head to head against Marine Le Pen in the final round of the election on 7 May, said: “I want to put the Le Touquet border deal back on the table. It must be renegotiated, especially the parts that deal with the fate of isolated child migrants.”

In an interview with the French TV channel TF1, he added: “There is no easy solution to the migrant crisis. If there was one, it would have been found.”
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The politician previously raised the issue when he was economy minister, suggesting that his country could tear up the treaty if the UK left the EU.

His comments, which then raised the possibility of migrant camps springing up in the UK, were dismissed by other French government ministers.

A Conservative spokesman said: “This just shows that we need the strong and stable leadership of Theresa May, and why voters need to give her the best possible hand to negotiate in Europe.

“We have always been very clear that protecting and enhancing the shared border between the UK and France at Calais is in both the UK and France’s best interests. By contrast Jeremy Corbyn is not strong enough to keep our borders secure.”

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Brigitte Macron: ever present beside France's presidential hopeful

Emmanuel Macron’s drama coach when he was 15 is set to break new ground by having a formal job description as first lady

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
AFP
Friday 28 April 2017 15.46 BST

Last July, when Emmanuel Macron was economy minister in François Hollande’s government and his barely hidden presidential ambitions were dismissed as a naive fantasy by the political class, he held his first rally at a smart venue on Paris’s Left Bank.

Before the crowds arrived, he took to the stage to rehearse his speech in front of a handful of volunteers from his new political movement En Marche! (On the Move), a “neither right nor left” grouping he said would revolutionise French politics. “We are the party of hope,” he told the almost empty auditorium, captured by the film-maker Pierre Hurel, who was discreetly documenting his rise.

A voice interjected: “Your voice is falling, you need to lift your voice.” Brigitte Macron, his wife, was giving him advice as a theatre director would to an actor on stage. “What’s wrong darling? Are there bits that are too long?” he gently asked her about another speech. “Brigitte tells me I always go on too long,” he once told a crowd.

Brigitte Macron’s advice on stagecraft, honed as a school drama coach, has been central to the French presidential frontrunner’s thunderous performances at campaign rallies. He met her when he was a 15-year-old pupil and she a 40-year-old drama teacher running his school theatre club.

Now that Macron, an independent centrist, is favourite to win the presidency against the far-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen next weekend, he wants to go further than any president before him in giving his wife an official role. If elected, he will hold a consultation to define the ambiguous status of first lady in France and draw up a job description for the first time. Brigitte Macron “won’t be paid by the taxpayer”, he promised this week, but he said that as president, “the person who lives with you must have a role”.

Brigitte Macron knows better than anyone else the pitfalls of being a partner at the Elysée Palace, where spouses have never had an official role. Macron was deputy chief of staff at the presidential palace in 2014 when Hollande was photographed sneaking out on a motorbike to meet a lover. The president’s jilted partner, the journalist Valérie Trierweiler, published a damning tell-all account of their relationship’s implosion, with catastrophic consequences for his image.

In private, Brigitte Macron, 64, a French literature and Latin teacher who has always worked at exclusive Jesuit schools, would rather the media stopped obsessing about the 25-year age gap between her and her husband, roughly the same as that between Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, with the genders reversed.

Like her husband, Brigitte Trogneux, known as “Bibi”, was born in the northern city of Amiens in the Somme. Both are from bourgeois backgrounds. She was the youngest of six children – her closest brother was 20 years older – in a family that have been the city’s most famous chocolatiers and confectioners for generations.

At 20, she married Andre-Louis Auzière, who later became a banker, and they had three children. She briefly worked as a press officer in the chamber of commerce of the Pas-de-Calais area before training as a teacher and taking a post at the prestigious private Jesuit school in Amiens.

When Brigitte Auzière first met Macron, her middle daughter was in his class at school. She never taught him, but ran the school theatre group where he was an aspiring actor, and they adapted a play together.

“I never considered him a pupil,” she told the writers Caroline Derrien and Candice Nedelec, who recently published a book about the couple, Les Macron. When word began to spread about the time they were spending together, Macron was sent away by his parents for sixth-form at a prestigious lycée (secondary school) in Paris to put distance between them, but the relationship never stopped.

More than a decade later, after divorcing her husband, she and Macron married. Their wedding took place at the town hall of the smart northern beach resort of Le Touquet, where she inherited a grand villa that is now their second home.

Macron made a wedding speech thanking Brigitte’s family and children for standing by them. He said they were not a “normal couple – even if I don’t like that word – but we’re a couple that exists”. Brigitte’s seven grandchildren do not call Macron grandpa, but use the English word daddy.

Brigitte Macron first appeared on the public scene when her husband was appointed economy minister in the Socialist government in 2014. At first, she maintained her teaching job at one of Paris’s leading Catholic schools, telling pupils: “You’ll hear remarks, true and false, I’ll never talk about them.”

Then she quit in 2015, saying she wanted to support his career. Brigitte Macron appeared at his ministerial diary planning meetings and became a regular fixture at the ministry, where the couple had a flat. Macron told surprised journalists: “Her view matters to me.” He implied that her presence beside him was non-negotiable. “One can’t work when one’s not happy,” he said.

When her husband was a minister, Brigitte Macron, whose main interests are literature and education, would regularly attend Paris theatres and fashion shows. She also helped him network, at one point reportedly even organising two dinners a night. Her constant presence has persisted into his presidential campaign. She is very protective of him, one Macron insider said.

Macron opted to be photographed with his wife in organised paparazzi shots, pushing his private life into the spotlight in a way not seen since the rightwinger Nicolas Sarkozy decided to “imitate the Kennedys” by letting the cameras in on his second marriage to Cécilia, before their very public divorce.

For Macron, photographs with Brigitte were a way of setting himself apart and making himself known. Her presence on numerous celebrity magazine covers, holding hands with him on holiday or walking down the beach in swimwear, inspired a fascination with and curiosity about their unconventional relationship, allowing him to grab the attention of ordinary voters. It worked. Magazine sales would soar every time she was on the cover.

With the publicity, however, came speculation about their relationship. Rumours grew, helped by quips from certain political opponents, that Macron had a secret gay relationship. Journalists searched, but found no evidence it was true. Macron then publicly denied it. He recently said the gay rumours were an example of the “rampant homophobia” in French society, as well as the “rampant misogyny” against older women.

“If I was 20 years older than my wife, no one would have questioned it being a legitimate relationship,” he told readers of Le Parisien. “It’s only because my wife is 20 years older than me that people say it’s not tenable.”

The French economist Marc Ferracci, who was best man at their wedding and is on Macron’s campaign team, said: “They are not a conventional couple, but they fell in love 20 years ago and it has lasted. Their story is very simple. You just have to accept that people can fall in love and it’s so intense that it lasts.”

It is not clear how Brigitte Macron wants to shape her first lady role. At a rally at Strasbourg in October, she said her place was at her husband’s side. “I’ve been involved in everything at his side for 20 years. You always seem surprised that spouses are beside their husbands. It’s time for things to evolve. That’s where we belong,” she said.
Potted profile

Age: 64

Born: 13 April 1953

Career: Teacher of French literature and Latin at private Catholic secondary schools in France. School theatre coach.

High point: Appearing on stage with her husband after he topped the first round of the French presidential election, while his supporters chanted “Brigitte! Brigitte!”

Low point: Disapproval from her older siblings when she decided to leave her first husband. She said her family later fully backed her relationship with Macron.

What she says: “I was captivated by his intelligence.”

What he says: “We don’t have a classic family, that’s an undeniable reality, [but] there is no less love in our family.”

 8 
 on: Apr 29, 2017, 06:21 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Rare victory for persecuted journalist highlights Mexico's press freedom crisis

Pedro Canché has finally won an apology for being jailed after he criticized a state governor. But, he asked, what about the 104 journalists killed since 2006?

David Agren in Mexico City
AFP
Saturday 29 April 2017 11.00 BST

Pedro Canché, an indigenous journalist and activist in the southern Mexico state of Quintana Roo, had a hunch the local authorities were closing in on him for his coverage of angry protests over rising water rates in local Mayan communities.

So he filmed a video criticizing the intensely image-conscious state governor, Roberto Borge, and uploaded it to YouTube in August 2014. Just a few days later, police pulled Canché from his car and threw him in prison on charges that he had sabotaged a local waterworks.

The charges were eventually thrown out after nine months as a judge ruled no damage had been caused, and Canché had no relationship with the protest ringleaders.

The National Human Rights Commission later ordered the state government to publicly apologize to Canché and pay compensation, but Borge refused.

This week, a new state administration apologized to Canché – who took the opportunity to highlight Mexico’s ongoing crisis of press freedom, and the unpunished murders of scores of journalists.

“Who will ask for public apologies for the 104 journalists killed [since 2006]? Canché asked. “The Mexican state owes them and their family an enormous debt.”

Canché became a cause célèbre in Quintana Roo and across Mexico as yet another symbol of the country’s struggle for a free press.

His is one of the few positive stories: four journalists have been murdered in Mexico in 2017, including Miroslava Breach, who covered organized crime and drug cartels and was shot dead in March as she drove her son to school in the northern city of Chihuahua. Norte, the Ciudad Juárez newspaper she wrote for, decided to close after her murder, citing journalist safety.

Journalists in Quintana Roo – a state popular with tourists visiting Cancún and Playa del Carmen – complain that the harassment against them came from politicians, who control the press through agreements to provide newspapers with advertising, but allow the government to control their editorial line.

“In the case of Quintana Roo, media harassment always came from the government, not organized crime,” said Vicente Carrera, founder of Noticaribe, an online news organization in Quintana Roo.

Carrera speaks from experience. Noticaribe caught Borge lying about his whereabouts and not disclosing he travelled to the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley. Noticaribe was hit by denial-of-service attacks for the rest of Borge’s term in office, which ran from 2010 to 2016.

Luces del Siglo, a muckraking magazine in Cancún, had its covers “cloned” during Borge’s administration, with covers featuring negative headlines replaced with covers featuring positive headlines and spread online. Staff say stores selling the magazine had their liquor licenses threatened, leaving them few places to sell copies.

Sergio Caballero, Cancún correspondent with newsweekly Proceso, was hit by accusations of being involved with a drug dealer – charges quickly disproven.

“They invented crimes rather than killing you,” Caballero said of the situation in Quintana Roo, where corruption has grown rife as construction in a tourist mecca mushroomed.

“The Quintana Roo coast is a jackpot,” he said. “They tried to present their government as impeccable. Anyone questioning that was persecuted and attacked.”

Canché started a news website after his time in prison and started fighting for compensation; he had a business manufacturing deck beds and outdoor furniture for hotels in the state, which ceased operating while in prison.

His notoriety led to people slipping him information on scandals. He says it also prompted Borge’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to try striking a deal: the PRI’s 2016 gubernatorial candidate would publicly apologise and indemnify him so long as Canché publicly endorsed the PRI.

Canché declined.

“It’s complicated practicing journalism in a corrupt place,” he said. “They corrupt you and pay you off and eventually you stop pointing out their mistakes … This is what has allowed the government to be corrupt as it is.”

 9 
 on: Apr 29, 2017, 06:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Montenegro ratifies Nato membership in historic shift to western alliance

Politicians voted 46-0 in favour, but pro-Russian lawmakers boycotted session and outside parliament hundreds of anti-Nato protesters gathered

Associated Press in Cetinje
Friday 28 April 2017 21.19 BST

Montenegro’s parliament has supported the Balkan country’s membership in Nato in a historic turn toward the west amid protests by Russia and the pro-Russia opposition.

Politicians voted 46-0 to ratify the accession treaty with the western military alliance. They then stood up and applauded the decision.

The parliament has 81 members, but pro-Russia opposition politicians boycotted the session. Several hundred opposition supporters gathered outside the hall before the vote.

Montenegro has a small military of about 2,000 troops, but it is strategically positioned to give Nato full control over the Adriatic Sea. The other Adriatic nations – Albania, Croatia and Italy – are already in the alliance.

Russia has been angered by Nato’s expansion to Montenegro, which is in Moscow’s traditional area of interest. Russia’s foreign ministry denounced the Montenegrin parliament’s ratification of membership on Friday as “a demonstrative act of trampling all democratic norms and principles”.

The ministry took a dismissive swipe at the country’s size and military capability, saying that “given the potential of Montenegro, the north Atlantic alliance is unlikely to receive significant ‘added value’”.

Montenegro has accused Russia of being behind a foiled election day coup in October allegedly designed to throw the country off its path toward Nato. Russia has denied the accusation, but has actively supported the opposition.

Prime minister Duško Marković told parliament that Nato membership was a guarantee for Montenegro’s future security, economic progress and regional stability.

“This assembly and its members have a historic privilege to make a decision that will be remembered as long as there is Montenegro and Montenegrins,” Marković said. “This day will be marked among the brightest in our history.”

His predecessor, Milo Đukanović – who was the head of government during the alleged coup attempt that reportedly included plans for his assassination – said joining the organisation was the most important decision in recent history.

“After long suffering and roaming through history, [Montenegro] is finally in the position where it logically, historically, civilisation-wise and culturally belongs,” Đukanović said.

Anti-Nato demonstrators chanted “treason” and “thieves” and burned a Nato flag during the protest outside parliament before peacefully dispersing. A banner read: “Nato murderers, your hands are bloody!”

“I feel humiliated because others are making a decision in my name,” former Montenegrin president Momir Bulatović said. “What is happening now is triumph by force and lies.”

Opposition leaders said they don’t recognise the parliamentary ratification of the Nato accession and will call a referendum on the issue, if they come to power in the future.

The country of 620,000 has been historically divided between pursuing pro-western policies and sticking to an alliance with Orthodox Christian allies Serbia and Russia.

Both Russia and the pro-Russia opposition in Montenegro also have evoked the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, which included Serbia and Montenegro at the time, as a reason to stay out of the alliance.

Marković said Montenegro was drawn into Serbia’s war with Nato and that membership in the alliance would help prevent anything like that from happening again.

“Nato and the EU have always been and remain a guarantee of stability and security and cooperation and the main basis for peace in Europe,” he said. “It is about what kind of future we choose for us and generations to come.”

Montenegro was formally invited to join Nato in December 2015. Marković said 27 out of 28 NATO member states have ratified Montenegro’s entry protocol and Spain would do so in the coming weeks.

Montenegro gained independence from Serbia in 2006.

 10 
 on: Apr 29, 2017, 06:13 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Cruelty or keeping it in the family? What I learned from India's slaveholders

Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick

To eradicate slavery we need to understand what drives slaveholders, says American sociologist and academic – and it’s not always just about money

Friday 28 April 2017 07.00 BST
Guardian

It took hours to arrange my first conversation with Paratapa. He agreed to an interview for my research on contemporary slaveholders, but he wasn’t free until late evening. When he finally greeted me on his sprawling estate, I learned why. He balances the demands of his large farm in India with the presidency of a local agricultural bank that makes loans to farmers like him.

I met Paratapa while travelling across India to interview men whose businesses rely on bonded labour, a form of modern-day slavery. During our conversation, it became clear that where I saw human rights and labour violations, he saw something else. He explained that, in his father’s and grandfather’s time, his family “used to keep bonded labourers, and they used to stay here, even their children and their wives”.

In exchange for their work in the fields, Paratapa’s family provided the labourers with food, housing, even wedding planning. “Even if they required many things from my house, I would lend to them,” he said.

He was clearly upset that this way of life had changed. He once considered his bonded labourers part of his family, but all that changed once they started taking him to court.

Thanks to a growing abolitionist movement, labourers and their allies worldwide are working towards eradicating slavery in all its forms. These labourers are increasingly finding the law on their side, and organisations are on hand to help them overcome corruption and discrimination and see justice served.

My interviews with slaveholders in India revealed that they regard the emancipation of labourers as an injustice, the loss of a “family feeling”. They perceive the upholding of these human rights as a gross violation of communal and social bonds, ties rooted in a history that, they insist, runs deeper than new laws.

The men I spoke to while researching my book represent just one variety of perpetrator. A diverse range of people keep operations running across the many forms of exploitation involved in trafficking and slavery. Finding, breaking and controlling fellow human beings requires a division of labour.

There are women, mothers among them, who traffic infants. There are women who, once trafficked into prostitution, now work as brothel madams, an upward move seen as a sort of empowerment and freedom. There are powerless and unemployed workers, arrested for introducing other vulnerable workers to trafficking networks. Of course, there are also sadists who delight in the harm of others: this is a brutal truth.

For me, the fact that many perpetrators are otherwise ordinary people is far more unsettling. Some are doing anything to get by; others, like Paratapa, are engaged in economic activities inherited from previous generations. Born at the top of India’s caste hierarchy, members of Paratapa’s family have enjoyed the privileges of status for generations. No wonder he opposes change.

If estimates of contemporary slavery are reliable – about 46 million people are victims currently – we cannot simply rely on the law and the power of arrest to end the problem. More sophisticated and sustainable approaches to emancipation will emerge as donors and policymakers recognise the diverse motives and mindsets of involved in slavery.

The crude caricature of such people as “evil villains” obscures more than it illuminates. Perpetrators of slavery and trafficking are rights violators and lawbreakers. But ending the practice requires recognising that modern slavery is a complex phenomenon that exists in a wide range of social, political, and economic contexts.

Brutal enforcers threaten and resort to violence. Recruiters, facilitators and brokers work to find and secure victims for exploitation. Trafficking for sexual exploitation is driven by people who pay for sex, who are likewise perpetrators.

Unfortunately, those who benefit most from these operations are often never caught: corrupt police and unscrupulous corporations with dirty supply chains are prime examples. Even ordinary investors who never bother to ask what’s in their mutual funds must share blame.

For that to change, we must not only end slavery in places like Paratapa’s farm but also purge our investment portfolios of links to the practice. This requires fresh thinking.

A good start would be recognising that although many slaveholders belong in jail, some could simply be redirected into sectors of the economy that don’t rely on the violation of human rights.

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