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 1 
 on: Today at 10:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by tashizangmo@yahoo.com
RAD  The commoners typically are ‘sacrificed’ by the rich and powerful for their own superior purposes. Thus, her soul, to recover skipped steps, has desired to be born into a common family in order to atone for the natural guilt that was born in those lifetimes.

Got it.  I see now how my wild imagination* went too far with "sacrifice". 

Looking forward to all the learning... 

*Got once again mired in my Neptune skipped step, with my SoNode conj Uranus.  But it is the resolution node as well - and really reforming my understanding of Astrology to EA - is my goal.  It's ongoing, and I remain committed to eradicating whatever is not EA, so I  look forward to your council.  JWG is the best thing that ever happened to my astrological life. EA is pure, genius and grace, and I hold EA as the holy grail. 

Blessings appreciated and returning...
Tashi

 2 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 08:21 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by dollydaydream
Kristin, thanks for the update on Shaw.  DDD

 3 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 07:28 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
US veterans build barracks for pipeline protesters in cold North Dakota winter

Reuters
02 Dec 2016 at 19:10 ET                   

U.S. military veterans were building barracks on Friday at a protest camp in North Dakota to support thousands of activists who have squared off against authorities in frigid conditions to oppose a multibillion-dollar pipeline project near a Native American reservation.

Veterans volunteering to be human shields have been arriving at the Oceti Sakowin camp near the small town of Cannon Ball, where they will work with protesters who have spent months demonstrating against plans to route the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, organizers said.

The Native Americans and protesters say the $3.8 billion pipeline threatens water resources and sacred sites.

Some of the more than 2,100 veterans who signed up on the Veterans Stand for Standing Rock group’s Facebook page are at the camp, with hundreds more expected during the weekend. Tribal leaders asked the veterans, who aim to form a wall in front of police to protect the protesters, to avoid confrontation with authorities and not get arrested.

Wesley Clark Jr, a writer whose father is retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, met with law enforcement on Friday to tell them potentially 3,500 veterans would join the protest and the demonstrations would be carried out peacefully, protest leaders said.

The plan is for veterans to gather in Eagle Butte, a few hours away, and then travel by bus to the main protest camp, organizers said, adding that a big procession is planned for Monday.

Protesters began setting up tents, tepees and other structures in April and the numbers swelled in August at the main camp.

Joshua Tree, 42, from Los Angeles, who has been visiting the camp for weeks at a time since September, said he felt pulled to the protest.

“Destiny called me here,” he said at the main camp. “We’re committed.”

‘GO HOME’

Those voices have been heard by companies linked to the pipeline as well, including banks that have been targeted by protesters for their financing of the pipeline.

Wells Fargo & Co said in a Thursday letter it would meet with Standing Rock elders before Jan. 1 “to discuss their concerns related to Wells Fargo’s investment” in the project.

There have been violent confrontations near the route of the pipeline with state and local law enforcement, who used tear gas, rubber bullets and water hoses on the protesters, even in freezing weather.

The number of protesters in recent weeks has topped 1,000. State officials on Monday ordered them to leave the snowy camp, which is on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, citing harsh weather, but on Wednesday they said they would not enforce the order.

“There is an element there of people protesting who are frightening,” North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said on Thursday. “It’s time for them to go home.”

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier spoke by phone on Friday with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, but assistance for law enforcement and a timeline for a resolution to the situation were not offered, the sheriff’s office said.

“It’s time for more actions from the federal government, not more words,” Kirchmeier said in a statement.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday he supported the completion of the pipeline and his transition team also said he supported peaceful protests.

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said on Wednesday it was “probably not feasible” to reroute the pipeline but he would try to rebuild a relationship with Standing Rock Sioux leaders.

On Friday, Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz said his office has been working in conjunction with the governor’s office to meet with tribal leaders soon.

FREEZING COLD

Since the start of demonstrations, 564 people have been arrested, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said.

State officials never contemplated forcibly removing protesters, and Dalrymple said his evacuation order stemmed mainly from concerns about dangerously cold temperatures.

The temperature in Cannon Ball is expected to fall to 4 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 Celsius) by the middle of next week, according to Weather.com forecasts.

The 1,172-mile (1,885-km) pipeline project, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP , is mostly complete, except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

Protesters, who refer to themselves as “water protectors,” have been gearing up for the winter while they await the Army Corps decision on whether to allow Energy Transfer to tunnel under the river. The Army Corps has twice delayed that decision.

(Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago and David Gaffen in New York; Editing by Bill Trott and Matthew Lewis)

 4 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 07:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
All,

Unless any of you have more questions, or wish to add to what we have been doing in this current step we are in, we will continue on starting next Monday: December 5th.

God Bless, Rad

 5 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 07:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Hi Tashi,

Let's continue on.

God Bless, Rad

 6 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 07:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Global Warming Alters Arctic Food Chain, Scientists Say, With Unforeseeable Results

Carl Zimmer
NY Times
12/3/2106

The Arctic Ocean may seem remote and forbidding, but to birds, whales and other animals, it’s a top-notch dining destination.

“It’s a great place to get food in the summertime, so animals are flying or swimming thousands of miles to get there,” said Kevin R. Arrigo, a biological oceanographer at Stanford University.

But the menu is changing. Confirming earlier research, scientists reported Wednesday that global warming is altering the ecology of the Arctic Ocean on a huge scale.

The annual production of algae, the base of the food web, increased an estimated 47 percent between 1997 and 2015, and the ocean is greening up much earlier each year.

These changes are likely to have a profound impact for animals further up the food chain, such as birds, seals, polar bears and whales. But scientists still don’t know enough about the biology of the Arctic Ocean to predict what the ecosystem will look like in decades to come.

While global warming has affected the whole planet in recent decades, nowhere has been hit harder than the Arctic. This month, temperatures in the high Arctic have been as much as 36 degrees above average, according to records kept by the Danish Meteorological Institute.

The issue can be overwhelming. The science is complicated. We get it. This is your cheat sheet.

In October, the extent of sea ice was 28.5 percent below average — the lowest for the month since scientists began keeping records in 1979. The area of missing ice is the size of Alaska and Texas put together.

Since the mid-2000s, researchers like Dr. Arrigo have been trying to assess the effects of retreating ice on the Arctic ecosystem.

The sun returns to the Arctic each spring and melts some of the ice that formed in winter. Algae in the open water quickly spring to life and start growing.

These algae are the base of the food chain in the Arctic Ocean, grazed by krill and other invertebrates that in turn support bigger fish, mammals and birds.

Dr. Arrigo and his colleagues visited the Arctic in research ships to examine algae in the water and to determine how it affected the water’s color. They then reviewed satellite images of the Arctic Ocean, relying on the color of the water to estimate how much algae was growing — what scientists call the ocean’s productivity.

The sea’s productivity was rapidly increasing, Dr. Arrigo found. Last year he and his colleagues published their latest update, estimating that the productivity of the Arctic rose 30 percent between 1998 and 2012.

But Mati Kahru, an oceanographer at the University of California, San Diego, was skeptical. As an expert on remote sensing, he knew how hard it is to get a reliable picture of the Arctic Ocean.

The ocean is notoriously cloudy, and algae are not the only thing that tinting the water. Rivers deliver tea-colored organic matter into the Arctic Ocean, which can give the impression that there’s more algae in the water than is actually there.

Dr. Kahru and his colleagues decided to take an independent look, scouring satellite databases for images taken from 1997 to 2015 — “every image available,” he said.

The scientists used a mathematical equation to determine how the color in each pixel of each image was determined by algae, runoff, and other factors. Dr. Kahru decided that Dr. Arrigo was right: The Arctic Ocean has become vastly more productive.

Marcel Babin, an oceanographer at Université Laval in Quebec who was not involved in the new study, said that the researchers had done “very careful work” that confirmed the earlier studies. “It’s an important finding,” he said.

Not only is the Arctic Ocean producing more algae, but it’s doing so sooner each year. “These blooms are coming earlier, sometimes two months earlier,” Dr. Kahru said.

Every week, we’ll bring you stories that capture the wonders of the human body, nature and the cosmos.
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In fact, the bloom may be coming even sooner than satellites can record. On research cruises, Dr. Arrigo and his colleagues have found that open water is no longer a requirement for algae to grow.

The ice has gotten so thin that sunlight reaches through it. “Now they’re not even waiting for the ice to melt,” said Dr. Arrigo said of algal organisms.

If we stay on our current course, pouring more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the Arctic will only get warmer, perhaps becoming ice-free in the summer. If algae can find more nitrogen and other nutrients in the ocean, its productivity may continue to rise.

Scientists can’t yet say what the ecological effects of this transformation will be. “It is probable it will have an impact on the whole food web,” Dr. Babin said.

Dr. Babin and his colleagues have been studying that impact over the past two summers on an expedition called the Green Edge Project, which has studied the ecology in Baffin Bay off the coast of northern Canada. They hope to present the first results of the survey next year.

Some species may thrive because they can graze on the extra algae. But if the ecosystem comes to life earlier in the year, many species may be left behind.

Fish larvae may not be able to develop fast enough. Migrating whales and birds may show up too late. A lot of the extra algae may drop to the sea floor by then, untouched.

“It’s going to be a different Arctic unless we turn things around,” said Dr. Arrigo.

 7 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 07:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Narwhals, Tusked Whales of the Arctic, See With Sound. Really Well.

By JOANNA KLEIN
12/3/2106
NY Times

The narwhal is not an aquatic unicorn. It’s not magical, or mythical. It’s just a whale with two teeth, one of which happens to be really long on males. But it’s not just its snaggletooth — which can be up to nine feet long — that makes this Arctic sea creature unbelievable. The narwhal sees with sound — and it’s exceptionally good at it too, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.

Like any whale, the narwhal needs to surface to breathe — on average, every four to six minutes. But unlike most whales, narwhals spend all of their lives in extreme Arctic conditions, primarily in waters off Eastern Canada and Greenland, where there’s more darkness than light, and more ice than open sea. Somehow, this blubbery bundle finds its way to cracks in the ice to breathe. Somehow, it can also hunt for squid and dive down more than a mile into pitch black water to capture fish and other prey.

“You don’t see open water for miles and miles and suddenly there’s a small crack, and you’ll see narwhals in it,” said Kristin Laidre, an ecologist at the University of Washington who led the study. “I’ve always wondered how do these animals navigate under that, and how do they find these small openings to breathe?”

Wondering how climate change and the prospect of an ice-free Arctic might affect narwhal behavior in the future, scientists tracked these whales over the ice in helicopters. Knowing that whales use echolocation — sending out clicks of sound that bounce off objects in the environment around them — they placed microphones underwater and listened.

They found that with clicks of sound, like a flashlight switching on and off, the narwhals scanned their underwater world to receive narrow snapshots and reconstructed them into a larger acoustic picture — one with more resolution than any other animal on the planet, with the possible exception of beluga whales.

Interactive Feature...A Conversation With Whales. They surrounded the divers and started clicking — they seemed to be saying hello. Read and then take a swim with whales in a virtual reality feature. OPEN Interactive Feature: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/16/opinion/sunday/conversation-with-whales.html

The clicks, produced in organs known as phonic lips at rates of up to 1,000 clicks per second, are inaudible to the human ear, but detectable through special, underwater microphones. They exit through the narwhal’s head, which works like a glass lens, bundling the sound together and sending it out in a narrow beam that travels through the water, hitting anything in its path, said Jens Koblitz, a bioacoustician with the BioAcoustics Network in Germany who worked on the study. When echoes bounce back, the animal perceives them with fatty pads in its lower jaw.

Dr. Koblitz thinks the narwhal can narrow its beam like an adjustable flashlight on open ice at the sea surface or prey deep in the ocean, and then widen it as it gets closer to track its prey, a skill that has been observed in other echolocating animals like bats.

Other scientists who study whales have praised the work for managing tough conditions to reveal the importance of the narwhal’s navigation system. “It is not like a singing humpback whale that spreads the sound widely and can be heard over long distances,” Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen, an ecologist at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email. “Narwhals are living a secretive life in the Arctic, but this study has unveiled one of the secrets from the deep waters in the Arctic.”

Indeed, the narwhal has long evoked mystery since the Vikings brought their tusks back to Europe with stories of unicorns. But there’s one thing you should know about the tusks, Dr. Laidre said: Males and tuskless females appear to be equally good echolocators. The tusk is likely just for sexual display, like a peacock’s feathers or a lion’s mane. So it’s highly unlikely to be used as an antenna for sending and receiving.

 8 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 07:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
USA

The post-truth world of the Trump administration is scarier than you think
 
By Margaret Sullivan Media Columnist
WashingtonPost
December 2 at 12:57 PM

You may think you are prepared for a post-truth world, in which political appeals to emotion count for more than statements of verifiable fact.

But now it’s time to cross another bridge — into a world without facts. Or, more precisely, where facts do not matter a whit.

On live radio Wednesday morning, Scottie Nell Hughes sounded breezy as she drove a stake into the heart of knowable reality:

“There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, of facts,” she declared on “The Diane Rehm Show” on Wednesday.

Hughes, a frequent surrogate for President-elect Donald Trump and a paid commentator for CNN during the campaign, kept on defending that assertion at length, though not with much clarity of expression. Rehm had pressed her about Trump’s recent evidence-free assertion on Twitter that he, not Hillary Clinton, would have won the popular vote if millions of immigrants had not voted illegally.

What matters now, Hughes argued, is not whether his fraud claim is true. No, what matters is who believes it.

“Mr. Trump’s tweet, amongst a certain crowd, a large — a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some — in his — amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there’s no facts to back it up.”

Yes, it’s a fact: I heard it live, as did Rehm, Politico’s Glenn Thrush, and the Atlantic’s James Fallows, who wrote about it, citing a recording of the show.

One might be tempted, though, to dismiss it as one woman’s opinion: Maybe Hughes, the political editor of RightAlerts.com, was just having a hallucinatory day.

But at a high-profile event the next evening, two other Trump surrogates echoed this sentiment. Ousted Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, speaking during an election post-mortem at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, blamed journalists for — yes — believing what his candidate said.

“You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally,” said Lewandowski, who was another ill-advised CNN hire. “The American people didn’t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes — when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar — you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.”

Yes, Corey, but Trump is not a guy at a bar; he was the Republican nominee for president of the United States and will pretty soon be the leader of the free world, such as it is.

So, how should Trump’s statements during the campaign have been covered? Should reporters have added something like this in the second paragraph of every news story? “Trump probably didn’t mean that he would appoint a special prosecutor/build a wall/deport millions of immigrants. His statements are not meant to be taken literally but rather as broad suggestions of a feeling he was experiencing on a particular day.”

There was more from the Harvard event. When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway about the same election-fraud claim discussed above — specifically, whether disseminating misinformation was “presidential” — it was clear that she and Hughes got the same memo.

“He’s the president-elect, so that’s presidential behavior,” Conway said, using mind-bending pseudo-logic, reminiscent of the Nixonian “When the president does it, that means that it’s not illegal.”

These surrogates’ disdain for facts should not be surprising, given Trump’s own casual relationship with verifiable truth.

It’s time to dust off your old copy of “1984 ” by George Orwell and recall this passage: “The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink.”

And be vigilant.

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

Trump's phone call with Taiwan president risks China's wrath

Diplomatic experts predict fraught start to US relations with Beijing after president-elect’s conversation with Tsai Ing-wen

    China lodges complaint with US over Trump’s Taiwan phone call

Tom Phillips in Beijing, Nicola Smith in Taipei and Nicky Woolf in San Francisco
AFP
Saturday 3 December 2016 10.19 GMT

Donald Trump looked to have sparked a potentially damaging diplomatic row with China on Friday after speaking to Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen on the telephone in a move experts said would anger Beijing.

The call, first reported by the Taipei Times and confirmed by the Financial Times, is thought to be the first between the leader of the island and a US president or president-elect since ties between America and Taiwan were severed in 1979, at Beijing’s behest.

The US closed its embassy in Taiwan – a democratically ruled island which Beijing considers a breakaway province – in the late 1970s following the historic rapprochement between Beijing and Washington that stemmed from Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.

Since then the US has adhered to the so-called “one China” principle which officially considers the independently governed island part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland.

Trump’s transition team said Tsai, who was elected Tawain’s first female president in January, had congratulated the billionaire tycoon on his recent victory.

“During the discussion they noted the close economic, political, and security ties that exist between Taiwan and the United States,” a statement said. “President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming president of Taiwan earlier this year.”

Beijing sought to play down the importance of the phone call, with foreign minister Wang Yi dismissing it as “just a small trick” by Taiwan.

In an interview with Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV Wang said he hoped Trump’s conversation would not damage or interfere with the US’ longstanding adherence to the “One China” policy.

“China doesn’t want to see any disturbance [to US-China relations],” Wang added, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper.

An editorial in the Global Times, a state-run tabloid, echoed the foreign minister’s words, calling the phone call a “petty gesture” from Taiwan to which Trump had mistakenly responded.

The newspaper warned that by siding with Taiwan, Trump would “destroy Sino-US ties”. “That means the current pattern between Beijing and Washington as well as international order will be overturned. We believe this is not what Trump wants.”

Experts said the unanticipated call would infuriate China’s leaders.

“This is going to make real waves in Beijing,” said Bill Bishop, a veteran China watcher who runs the Sinocism newsletter from Washington DC. “I think we will see quite the reaction from Beijing … this will put relations from day one into a very difficult place.”

Evan Medeiros, the Asia director at the White House national security council, told the Financial Times: “The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions.

“Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for US-China relations.”

In an indication that Trump’s team had grasped the potential damage caused to relations with Beijing, the US president-elect later tweeted:

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!
    December 3, 2016

However, even that 17-word tweet threatened to further inflame the situation. The traditional US diplomatic formulation for referring to Taiwan’s leader - one specifically designed not to upset Beijing - is “the president on Taiwan” rather than “the president of Taiwan”.

In a second tweet addressing criticism of the call Trump wrote:

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.
    December 3, 2016

Bishop said it was hard to know whether the call was the result of a deliberate policy move by Trump or merely an intervention by a member of his staff who was friendly towards Tsai Ing-wen and Taipei.

Trump adviser Peter Navarro, an economics professor, travelled to Taiwan in the first half of this year at the invitation of its ministry of foreign affairs.

In a recent article for Foreign Policy magazine, Navarro said Barack Obama’s treatment of Taiwan had been “egregious”, adding: “This beacon of democracy in Asia is perhaps the most militarily vulnerable US partner anywhere in the world.”

Paul Haenle, the head of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in Beijing, said the call would serve as “a reality check” for many in Beijing who had expected Trump would be transactional and pragmatic leader who might begin a US retreat from Asia and would not challenge China on issues such as human rights.

Trump’s unpredictable moves now threatened to inject fresh uncertainty into Washington-Beijing ties.

“Former president George W. Bush, who I worked for as China director on the National Security Council staff, always operated from a principle of ‘no surprises’, which he believed was a key stabilising feature in the relationship with China,” said Haenle, a veteran US diplomat.

“The alternative – catching China by surprise on some of the most sensitive and longstanding areas of disagreement in our relationship – presents enormous risks and potential detriment for this consequential relationship.”

Bishop said Beijing’s immediate reaction would be a “rhetorical explosion” but that the longer-term consequences were altogether more unpredictable. “If the US starts to change the ‘one China’ policy, that puts US-China relations into uncharted territory,” he said.

Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway defended the president-elect’s unorthodox move.

“I’m pretty certain that president-elect Obama spoke to world leaders in preparation for taking over as commander-in-chief,” she said. Pressed that Obama never broke with US diplomatic policy in this way, Conway said Trump was “fully briefed and fully knowledgeable about these issues”.

In a statement on Saturday morning, President Tsai’s office confirmed that the call had taken place at 11pm local time on Friday, and that the conversation had lasted about 10 minutes.

Taiwan’s National Security Council secretary general Joseph Wu, foreign minister David Lee, and acting secretary general Liu Shih-fang, were all present during the call.

The statement said Tsai congratulated the president-elect on his election and was certain his performance would be “outstanding” in office.

The two leaders exchanged “views and ideas” about future governance, in particular focusing on economic development and “strengthening” national defence.

They also discussed the regional situation in Asia and the strengthening of bilateral relations between Taiwan and the US, with Tsai expressing the hope that Washington would continue to support Taipei internationally.

Reaction in Taiwan was muted on Saturday morning, with people completely taken by surprise, said analysts.

“Obviously for Taiwan it’s a good sign as some Taiwanese politicians were a bit worried that the Trump administration would ignore Taiwan,” said Jonathan Spangler from the Taipei-based South China Sea think tank.

The call could also help boost Tsai’s ratings, which have plummeted in her first six months in office. “It shows that she does have the capacity and courage to lead Taiwan,” said Spangler.

Beijing has been scrambling to understand what a Trump White House might mean for already fraught US-China relations since his election last month, with some predicting an unexpected rapprochement and others a trade war.

On Friday Xi Jinping held a 90-minute meeting with Henry Kissinger, a longstanding go-between for Washington and Beijing, in the Chinese capital to discuss relations between the two countries.

According to Xinhua, China’s official news agency, Xi told Kissinger: “China will work closely with the United States at a new starting point to maintain the smooth transition of ties and stable growth”.

“The two countries should properly handle their different views and divergences in a constructive manner,” Xi reportedly added.

That relationship is likely to be come under sudden and renewed strain in the wake of Trump’s call with Tsai.

“This adds a level of risk to US-China relations that we haven’t seen in a very long time,” said Bishop.

“This is the third rail of US-China relations. For Trump to come in and basically look like he is setting aside decades of US policy towards [China/Taiwan] relations has to be quite worrisome for them. There is a lot of uncertainty about what Trump is going to do.

“It’s unclear who his advisers are, although certainly the ones who have been named have argued over the years for the US to change the relationship we have with Taiwan; to make the US-Taiwan relationship more important and upend the one China policy that we have had in place since the 1970s. So this could set off a lot of alarm bells in Beijing.”

In the lead-up to Friday’s call with Tsai, Trump’s team had reportedly been looking into the possibility of investing in luxury hotels in Taiwan.

In mid-November the mayor of Taoyuan, a city in northwest Taiwan, confirmed that a representative of the president-elect had flown into his city to examine business opportunities at Aerotropolis, a sprawling development of luxury waterside homes and industrial parks near its international airport.

The Taiwan News website reported that Eric Trump, the incoming president’s son, was also planning a trip to Taiwan this year.

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

China lodges complaint with US over Trump's Taiwan phone call

Conversation with Tsai Ing-wen thought to be first between US and Taiwanese leaders since ties cut in 1979 at China’s behest

Tom Phillips in Beijing
AFP
Saturday 3 December 2016 10.55 GMT

China has lodged “solemn representations” with the US over a call between the president-elect, Donald Trump, and Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen.

Trump looked to have sparked a potentially damaging diplomatic row with Beijing on Friday after speaking to the Taiwanese president on the telephone.

The call, first reported by the Taipei Times and confirmed by the Financial Times, is thought to be the first between the leader of the island and a US president or president-elect since ties between the two countries were severed in 1979, at Beijing’s behest.

The US closed its embassy in Taiwan – a democratically ruled island which Beijing regards as a breakaway province – in the late 1970s after the historic rapprochement between Beijing and Washington that stemmed from Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.

Since then the US has adhered to the “one China” principle, which officially considers the independently governed island to be part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said in a statement on Saturday: “It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory. The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China.”

Geng added: “This is a fact that is generally recognised by the international community.”

The statement did not describe the details of China’s complaint to the US, or say with whom it had been lodged.

It said China urged “the relevant US side” – implying Trump’s incoming administration – to handle Taiwan-related issues “cautiously and properly” to avoid “unnecessary interference” in the China-US relationship.

Experts believe Beijing will have been infuriated by Trump’s move although China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, sought to play down the importance of the telephone conversation, dismissing it as a “petty action”.

The Global Times, a government-controlled tabloid which sometimes echoes official views, took a harder line, using an editorial to warn Trump that he should think twice before destroying US-China relations by further engaging with Taiwan’s government.

“If Trump wants to overstep the One China principle, he will destroy Sino-US ties,” the newspaper warned.

“That means the current pattern between Beijing and Washington as well as international order will be overturned. We believe this is not what Trump wants.”

The strongly nationalist newspaper also urged Taipei not to cross Beijing.

“If the Taiwan government ever does anything to break the status quo, it must pay the price. Beijing should better communicate with Trump’s team and be prepared to respond to Trump’s moves after he assumes office,” it said.

In a more diplomatically-worded article, Xinhua, China’s official news agency, urged Trump not to damage the “stability and maturity” of US-China relations.

“China and the United States are not destined rivals. They can be partners for peace if they do not veer off this course,” it said.

The Global Times blamed the fact that Trump “was not familiar with foreign relations” for his decision to hold a conversation with Tsai – the first such contact between leaders of Taiwan and the US in almost 40 years.

However, China experts believe Trump’s unexpected decision to engage with Tsai was the result of advice from several influential advisers who are known for their hardline stances on China policy.

They include Stephen Yates, a former aide to Dick Cheney, who defended Trump’s telephone conversation with Tsai on Twitter, writing: “It’s great to have a leader willing to ignore those who say he cannot take a simple call from another democratically elected leader.

Daniel Blumenthal, another Trump adviser, wrote on Twitter: “Maybe folks hyperventilating over Trump-Tsai call will finally learn something about our important friendship with Taiwan”.

Trump’s transition team said Tsai, who became Taiwan’s first female president in January, had congratulated the billionaire tycoon on his recent victory.

“During the discussion they noted the close economic, political and security ties that exist between Taiwan and the United States,” a statement said. “President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming president of Taiwan earlier this year.”

China experts said Beijing would have been enraged by the unexpected move.

“I would imagine Xi Jinping would be angry,” said Bill Bishop, a veteran China watcher who runs the Sinocism newsletter from Washington DC. “This is going to make real waves in Beijing. I think we will see quite the reaction from Beijing … this will put relations from day one into a very difficult place.”

Evan Medeiros, the Asia director at the White House national security council, told the Financial Times: “The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions.

“Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for US-China relations.”

In an indication that Trump’s team had grasped the potential damage caused to relations with Beijing, the US president-elect later tweeted:

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!
    December 3, 2016

However, even those 17 words threatened to further inflame the situation. The traditional US diplomatic formulation for referring to Taiwan’s leader – one specifically designed not to upset Beijing – is “the president on Taiwan”.

In a second tweet addressing criticism of the call, Trump wrote:

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.
    December 3, 2016

Bishop said it was hard to know whether the call was the result of a deliberate policy move by Trump or merely an intervention by a member of his staff who was friendly towards Tsai and Taipei.

Taiwan’s official Central News Agency said on Saturday that the former head of a conservative US thinktank played a “crucial” role in the lead-up to the call.

Citing anonymous sources, the agency said on Saturday that Edwin Feulner, the founder of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, was a “crucial figure” in setting up communication channels between the parties.

Trump’s adviser Peter Navarro, an economics professor, travelled to Taiwan earlier this year at the invitation of its foreign ministry.

In a recent article for Foreign Policy magazine, Navarro said Barack Obama’s treatment of Taiwan had been “egregious”, adding: “This beacon of democracy in Asia is perhaps the most militarily vulnerable US partner anywhere in the world.”

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

Trump's Taiwan phone call preceded by hotel development inquiry

Woman who talked to mayor about airport expansion plans said she was associated with Trump Organization, official says

Nicola Smith in Taipei
AFP
Saturday 3 December 2016 12.14 GMT

Weeks before President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial phone call with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, a businesswoman claiming to be associated with his conglomerate made inquiries about a major investment in building luxury hotels as part of the island’s new airport development.

The woman, known only as Ms Chen arrived from the US in September to meet the mayor of Taoyuan, Cheng Wen-tsan, one of the senior politicians involved in the Aerotropolis project, a large urban development being planned around the renovation of Taiwan’s main airport, Taoyuan International.

“She said she was associated with the Trump corporation and she would like to propose a possible investment project in the future, especially hotels,” said an official familiar with the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official described the talks, conducted in both English and Mandarin, as a routine meeting with a potential investor. It took place in Taoyuan city hall, on the outskirts of the capital, Taipei, and lasted 15-20 minutes. Chen had not been in touch since.

“One thing quite sure from her side was that she would like to bring the Trump corporation here to build the hotel,” said the official, who did not know if Chen had a Trump Organization business card.

The claims about Chen’s visit, which were confirmed by the mayor’s spokesman and the Aerotropolis corporation, add to growing concerns about potential conflicts of interest between Trump’s business empire and US foreign policy.

Although the president-elect has confirmed he will leave his conglomerate once he takes office, the decision to turn over the business to his children has raised fears that the family’s financial ties with foreign players could shade US policy.

The Aerotropolis project is in the early stages of planning, with consultations continuing with residents who live close to the airport. The area marked out for development is largely made up of fields and small settlements. Building contracts are not expected to be granted for at least two years.

Chen’s association with the Trump Organization remains unconfirmed and little more is known about her, although she is believed to travel between Taiwan and the US.

In November, the Taiwanese press reported that a Chen Si-Ting, a US citizen of Taiwanese origin, had given a speech at a Friends of Trump banquet in central Taipei. Chen claimed at the event on 1 November that Trump’s company was interested in investing in Taiwan and that his son, Eric, would visit the island before the end of the year.

One man accused her of fraudulently claiming to raise money for Trump, a charge she strongly denied.

In a separate development, Anne-Marie Donoghue, who describes herself as the global head of transient sales and Asia at Trump Hotels, was confirmed to have been in Taiwan in October.

In a Facebook exchange with a friend on 15 October, Donoghue said: “OMG I’m in Taipei now and love it here. Flying to Hong Kong in a few hours. Miss you too!!”

Her friend asked: “Are you on a fun trip or work trip? You will love HK too … They have great food!”

To which Donoghue replied: “Work trip but it has been so fun!!!”

A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, Amanda Miller, told the New York Times the company had “no plans for expansion into Taiwan”, and there had been no “authorised visits” to push a Trump development project.

However, Miller did not dispute that Donoghue, a sales manager, had visited Taiwan in October.

Trump’s 10-minute call on Friday with Tsai was an unprecedented move that broke decades of US-China protocol and prompted Beijing to lodge a diplomatic complaint with the US.

Although Taiwan has its own government, currency and military, China views the island of 23 million as a province that will eventually be reunited with the mainland. It strongly objects to any country having formal diplomatic ties with Taipei.

Since 1979, the US has acknowledged Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China, with relations governed by the “One China” set of protocols.

In Taiwan, both analysts and opposition leaders said they had been surprised by the call.

“Somebody called Tsai, the president of Taiwan, and that’s good to hear,” said Antonio Chang, a Taipei-based political analyst. “But people are worried about the backlash from China. On one hand people are happy and on the other they have a kind of angst.

“People tend to forget that Taiwan is a country. It’s not Hong Kong. This is a reminder for the world.”

China has frozen ties with Taiwan because of Tsai’s refusal to acknowledge the “One China” policy since her inauguration in May.

Given the tension with Beijing, some analysts questioned the wisdom of the Tsai administration’s decision to go ahead with the call.

Francis Hu, the head of politics at Taichung University, said it was not “prudent” to talk for so long and portray it as a diplomatic breakthrough in US-Taiwan relations.

“If you want to call someone to offer congratulations this is not a mistake, but for other things, it may not be so prudent because we’re now in a delicate situation,” he said.

Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang party [KMT], which has traditionally taken a pro-China stance, expressed its reservations about the call in a statement released on Saturday.

While welcoming US support, it urged Tsai’s government, currently ruled by her Democratic Progressive party, to implement a “no surprises” foreign policy.

Eric Huang, the KMT’s international spokesman, said the party hoped the DPP “will implement foreign policies that consider regional and cross-strait political relations, have our country’s best interests as the primary strategic consideration, rather than engage in events that merely offer foreign policy public relations value”.

******

Gaffe or provocation, Donald Trump's Taiwan phone call affects global stability

US president-elect’s ill-considered dealings with Taipei illustrate inexperience that could be exploited by China, say experts

Julian Borger in Washington
AFP
Saturday 3 December 2016 05.24 GMT

Not for the first time, and almost certainly not for the last in this two months of shadow government by Twitter, it is far from clear whether Donald Trump has made US foreign policy by accident or on purpose.

As has also become normal in the “post-truth” aftermath of the bitter election, the facts surrounding his telephone conversation with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen are in dispute. Reacting to the wave of alarm caused by the call, upending 37 years of US diplomatic practice in a few minutes, the president-elect protested in a tweet that it was Tsai who had called him, implying he just happened to pick up the phone.

According to the Taipei Times however, the call had been orchestrated by the Trump transition team, several members of which have strong leanings towards a more pro-Taiwan policy.

On the same day as the call, Trump met John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN, a candidate for the secretary of state job, and a fierce advocate of stronger commitment to Taiwan as a way of exacting a price for China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea and elsewhere.

Bolton wrote in the Wall Street Journal in January: “The new US administration could start with receiving Taiwanese diplomats officially at the State Department; upgrading the status of US representation in Taipei from a private ‘institute’ to an official diplomatic mission; inviting Taiwan’s president to travel officially to America; allowing the most senior US officials to visit Taiwan to transact government business; and ultimately restoring full diplomatic recognition.”

Stephen Yates, a former White House aide to Dick Cheney now advising the Trump transition was in Taiwan at the time of the call. “It’s great to have a leader willing to ignore those who say he cannot take a simple call from another democratically elected leader,” Yates tweeted.

The third now familiar transition theme illustrated by the Taiwan call is that it is unclear where Trump’s business interests end and his presidential intentions begin. A Trump representative had reportedly visited the north-west city of Taoyuan to inspect investment opportunities at a new luxury development there. And the president-elect’s son Eric Trump is expected in Taiwan on business next year.

As is bound to happen in relations with the 20 or so countries around the world where the Trump Organisation has business interests – unless Trump decides to sell his holdings and set up a genuine blind trust – decisions will have both commercial and geopolitical implications and it will be hard to disentangle one from another.

Isaac Stone Fish, a senior fellow at the Asia Society’s Centre on US-China Relations, said it mattered whether the call was a careless gaffe or well-prepared provocation, especially when it came to Beijing’s perceptions.

“I don’t know whether Trump and his advisers understood the unprecedented nature of this phone call, or how much he debated the effect this may have with his advisers beforehand,” Fish said in an email. “But the issue of whether or not they knew is hugely important. It helps determine how much trust and respect Americans, and governments around the world, should have in Trump and his team’s competence in handling US foreign policy – if he and his team didn’t know this would cause a stir, then they deserve less respect and trust.”

He added: “It’s far more worrying for global stability if Beijing believes that Trump and his advisers just didn’t understand US policy towards Taiwan. If they view this as a blunder, they could decide to move quickly to exploit Trump’s inexperience and incompetence in foreign affairs, and Obama’s lame-duck status.”

Christopher Hill, a former assistant secretary of state for east Asian and Pacific affairs said in a tweet the call looked to be an “example of winging it in the extreme” and he said he hoped “Trump doesn’t feel he has to double down on this judgment error.”

That is what appeared to be happening late on Friday, as new battle lines were drawn around the call. The president-elect defended his decision saying that the US sells Taiwan “billions of dollars of military equipment”, and his aide Kellyanne Conway, insisted he was “well aware of what US policy has been” toward Taiwan.

Republicans piled in on Trump’s side. Senator Tom Cotton, issued a statement saying: “I commend President-elect Trump for his conversation with President Tsai Ing-wen, which reaffirms our commitment to the only democracy on Chinese soil.”

Democratic senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut argued that, even if Trump wanted to change US policy, this was no way to do it.

“What has happened in the last 48 hours is not a shift. These are major pivots in foreign policy [without] any plan. That’s how wars start,” Murphy tweeted. “And if they aren’t pivots – just radical temporary deviations – allies will walk if they have no clue what we stand for. Just as bad.”

Aaron Friedberg, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, said he was an advocate of closer ties with Taiwan but said “this seems ill-considered [and] pointlessly provocative”.

“Strategy involves thinking more than one move ahead. No evidence of that here,” Friedberg said, adding that whatever the circumstances of the call, Beijing was more likely to see it as a deliberate provocation and a test than a blunder.

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

Click and elect: how fake news helped Donald Trump win a real election

Hannah Jane Parkinson

The ‘alt-right’ (aka the far right) ensnared the electorate using false stories on social media. But tech companies seem unwilling to admit there’s a problem

12/3/2106
AFP

In the early months of 2004, a Harvard student called Mark Zuckerberg got so drunk, he tripped over a coiled snake of cables in his dorm room, smashed through his ground floor window and ended up face down in the wet grass, whereupon the girl he had admired came round the corner, arms linked with her friends, who, all three, had to step over the fallen norm-core future billionaire before he puked on himself. It was, Zuckerberg has noted, the most humiliating moment of his life.

None of that is true. But what does it matter? We are fully ensconced in the post-truth world. The greatest editor this paper ever had, CP Scott, had it that “facts are sacred”. CP Scott, by the way, apparently used to have this thing where he brushed his teeth a certain way so the flecks of toothpaste would make a rude shape as they hit the bathroom mirror.

Zuckerberg has said: “Personally, I think the idea that fake news – of which it’s a small amount of content – influenced the election is a pretty crazy idea.” Let’s address these comments. Comments that were made using the method of letters written on A4 cards lit up by fairy lights, a la Stranger Things.

The influence of verifiably false content on Facebook cannot be regarded as “small” when it garners millions of shares. And yes, it runs deep. The less truthful a piece is, the more it is shared. In Zuckerberg’s follow-up statement, he seems to have shot himself in the foot, by saying it was “extremely unlikely” fake news on Facebook had an impact on the election, but also boasting that Facebook was responsible for 2 million people registering to vote. So which is it, Zuck? Does Facebook have influence or not?

    Where do these stories originate? Well, some are created by teenagers in Macedonia. That isn't a joke

Where do these stories originate? Well, some are created by teenagers in Macedonia. Wait, that one isn’t a joke – non-partisan kids looking for cash just catering to demand. Many more come from people we now term the “alt-right”, who cook up stories on boards such as 8chan, 4chan and social media, and are then co-opted either by genuine right-leaning sites or shill sites, and are then shared again on social media by accounts with Pepe the Frog or eggs as their avatars. It’s a bit like the water cycle, but if the water cycle were diarrhoea.

Some of these stories are frankly ridiculous (myth busted: Hillary Clinton is not the leader of an underground paedophile ring), and cater to an increasing number of conspiracy theorists. But others are relatively benign if wildly inaccurate. They have still begun on message boards created by the same people who – and I will not sugarcoat this – refer to people who are not white as “shit-skins”.

A better term for many of the alt-right, therefore, might be “far-right”. For “alt-right” is an ambiguous term and encompasses many forms. Sure, they are internet-savvy millennials who reject mainstream conservatives and despise Paul Ryan. But they’re also far-right lurkers who probably bid on Nazi memorabilia and have moved from white supremacist sites such as Stormfront. Then there’s the Russian faction; online commenters bought in bulk. And on social media, there are the bots and sockpuppet accounts to inflict automated insult to injury.

But let’s be clear: the internet alt-right is more successful as an In Real Life political force than the online left. Years ago I wrote about how filter bubbles and Facebook likes did not translate to direct political change. And yet, in 2015, I was writing about whether Trump’s social media strategy would take him all the way to the White House.

Things have changed, at least for the right. The silent Trump vote? Many board discussions in the lead up to 8 November advocated this as a strategy. In fact, alt-rightists worried sometimes that Trump’s rhetoric was too strong, and might jeopardise his chances. They had a gameplan. What the alt-right collective does is the opposite of trolling. Trolling – a term misused often – originally referred to winding people up for the “lulz”. The alt-right had an end game; it wasn’t for the lulz, and, unlike the left’s efforts, it extended to snaring the general electorate.

Unfortunately, the left cannot combat this online rise of the right, of fake news and social media vitriol, without the help of tech companies. The problem is, to use ex-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s term, they “suck” at it. Twitter is a company whose abuse problem might have been the reason nobody would buy it.

Facebook, meanwhile, like a child standing over a broken vase declaring that he didn’t break the vase and that the vase isn’t broken and also, what vase, continues to maintain that it is not a media company. This, despite the fact that 66% of Facebook users get news from the site. If that isn’t a media company, then what is?

The friction here is that if one says that companies such as Facebook and Twitter need to make editorial judgments, then people shout censorship. Except that, well, Facebook already censors. Instagram, owned by Facebook, removes any photograph with a female nipple in it (although if you run it through the Prism app so it looks like a painting, that’s fine). Thanks to this policy, Facebook removed one of the most famous journalistic photographs of all time. Twitter removes Isis propaganda videos. All journalism, if it’s a decision of what to publish and not to publish, of what stories are worth pursuing and which aren’t, is, if you want to call it such, censorship. Anything else is stenography.

Getting better at social media and online activism (previously disparagingly known as clicktivism) is imperative at a time when trust in mainstream media is low. To rebuild that trust is partly down to the media itself: by diversifying for a start, becoming more reflective of demographic makeups. But also, sensible citizens should fight back online. Don’t just read sources that align entirely with your worldview, but equally don’t indulge bullshit. Question sources. Read closely. No, a picture that clearly shows the Champions League Liverpool winners from 2005 is not a Jeremy Corbyn rally in 2016. No, Corbyn is not dancing at the Cenotaph. No, that picture widely shared of a disgruntled looking bunch of White House staffers was not them watching Obama greet Trump. But a retweet is a retweet is a retweet.

We now have, in Stephen Bannon, a chief of strategy to Trump who has overseen, as executive chairman of Breitbart, articles such as “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy” and thinks nothing of building a whole piece on casual antisemitism. We have a president-elect who penned in journalists at his rallies, has continued to goad the press even after his election win, and who has history of threats against journalists. Yet his team ran a highly successful social media operation, which took advantage of targeted Facebook ads and scooped up millions of email addresses in the process.

We have Silicon Valley-types having the smug gall to call for a secession of California after Trump’s win, despite tech companies, by their sheer inactivity, contributing to his win. We have Peter Thiel still on Facebook’s board and Amazon/Washington Post’s Jeff Bezos sucking up to Trump. The surge of the internet right has taken the orange one all the way to the Oval Office, and the left … well, I guess the left had #milifandom.

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

Trump Suffers Two Big Defeats As His Efforts To Stop Michigan And Wisconsin Recounts Fail

By Jason Easley on Fri, Dec 2nd, 2016 at 7:35 pm
PoliticusUSA

Donald Trump tried to get the recounts stopped in Wisconsin and Michigan, and he has failed in both states.

In Wisconsin, “U.S. District Judge James Peterson on Friday rejected their request for a temporary restraining order to immediately halt the recount, saying there was no harm in allowing it to continue while the court considers their lawsuit. A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Dec. 9.”

Earlier in Michigan, the Secretary of State announced that the State Board of Canvassers rejected Trump’s objection to the recount:

These are the first two rounds in what is certain to be an intense legal battle over the recounts. However getting the recounts halted looks like it will be much more difficult that Trump allies hoped.

In a statement, Jill Stein asked what Trump is so afraid of, “In an election already tainted by suspicion, previously expressed by Donald Trump himself, verifying the vote is a common-sense procedure that would address concerns around voter disenfranchisement. Trump’s desperate attempts to silence voter demands raise a simple question: why is Donald Trump afraid of these recounts?”

Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania has been cut nearly in half, and his margin is close to triggering an automatic recount. The odds are still long that recounts will flip the election to Hillary Clinton, but it looks like the Republicans are in for a fight that they never expected on the recounts.

Rounds one and two went to the American people, but more battles will need to be won if the American people are to get the recount that they deserve.

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

Here are the 6 biggest media failures in 2016 campaign coverage

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
03 Dec 2016 at 07:46 ET                  

Pretty much everyone agrees the media failed to adequately cover the most contentious presidential election in recent memory — but what exactly did they get wrong?

Donald Trump would tell you the media provided unfair coverage of him and his campaign, and he’s right — though not quite in the way he thinks. The team at Data Face examined nearly 22,000 articles written about the election between July 2015 and August 2016 by eight major media outlets, including the New York Times and Fox News. They set up an algorithm to evaluate whether coverage was positive or negative toward either candidate, and whether that tone shifted during the campaign. The researchers were astonished by the sheer number of headlines — 14,924 — featuring Trump’s name. The tone of that coverage varied at times, but according to one analysis, the constant barrage of Trump news amounted to $3 billion in free airtime before he’d even won the nomination. Even when the coverage was negative, Trump agreed that “all press is good press.” Trump, who essentially tricked reporters into promoting his hotel in Washington, D.C., admitted the media fascination with his campaign offered a huge advantage. “I just don’t think I need nearly as much money as other people need because I get so much publicity,” Trump said in June.

The media compensated for their Trump obsession with “false balance” hyping Hillary Clinton’s alleged or perceived misdeeds as equivalent to her Republican rival’s conspicuous blunders. The Tyndall Report analyzed nightly network news coverage of the election through Oct. 24 and found they had devoted 100 minutes to reporting on Clinton’s emails. The networks spent 333 minutes on Donald Trump during that same period, but just 32 minutes total on all issues coverage — compared to 220 minutes in 2008. “No trade, no healthcare, no climate change, no drugs, no poverty, no guns, no infrastructure, no deficits,” the report’s authors lamented. Even when campaign issues such as terrorism, LGBT rights and foreign policy were mentioned, the reporting was largely on the candidates’ terms. That could have benefitted Clinton — whose website offered 38 detailed policy proposals, compared to Trump’s seven lightly sketched outlines — but those discussions were usually drowned out by debates over whether her opponent’s plans were constitutional, realistic or contradicted his previous statements.

“False balance” allowed the media to normalize an abnormal candidate running an abnormal campaign. Trump opened his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants rapists, proposed unconstitutional bans on Muslim immigrants, personally insulted women who challenged him, accused his GOP rival’s father of conspiring to kill John F. Kennedy, refused to release his tax returns and threatened to trigger a constitutional crisis if he lost the election. His primary opponents denounced Trump as a “pathological liar,” “cancer,” “menace” and “delusional narcissist” — language far outside the traditional bounds of political discourse. But many journalists felt uncomfortable communicating those abnormalities. “Covering Mr. Trump as an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate is more than just a shock to the journalistic system,” wrote Jim Rutenberg, a media columnist for the New York Times. “It upsets balance, that idealistic form of journalism with a capital ‘J’ we’ve been trained to always strive for.” Joe Scarborough, the conservative host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” shared an anecdote, months after it allegedly happened, about Trump asking a “foreign policy expert” why the U.S. maintains a nuclear arsenal if the weapons can’t be used. Scarborough later said the private revelation had terrified him, but he didn’t share it with his audience until the topic came up during an on-air conversation. Then there was the grim spectacle of “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon tousling Trump’s hair.

Coverage of Trump’s obvious personality flaws outweighed coverage of his potential conflicts of interest, which remained underreported until after his election. It’s easy to see why: Daily examples of his outrageous behavior are easily digestible and certainly newsworthy, while his tangled business dealings require a commitment from both reporters and their audience. That’s not unusual — a lot of important stories suffer from the same problem. Some of the campaign’s best reporting dug deep into Trump’s shady charitable foundation and his tangled business involvement in other countries — including Russia, whose election meddling also went underreported during the campaign — but the mainstream media failed to explain how those associations might prove problematic if he won. Let’s take the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits elected officials from accepting compensation from “any king, prince or foreign state” without congressional approval. Trump and his family-run business would run afoul of that constitutional requirement immediately upon inauguration, according to a former Bush ethics lawyer, and the formerly obscure clause has been cited since the election as a possible basis for impeachment. Before the election, the long-slumbering emoluments clause was hardly ever awoken — except to whack Clinton over her family’s charitable foundation.

Cable networks paraded hapless and dishonest Trump surrogates onscreen in the name of balance, and CNN was the biggest offender. The network even hired Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, over the objections of other employees and kept him on even after it was revealed he was still being paid to coordinate with the GOP candidate. CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker, worked with Trump at NBC, and the “Apprentice” star believes his recommendation got him the top job at the news network. CNN’s ratings skyrocketed during the campaign, and Zucker credits Trump. “We recognized … there was a little bit of a phenomenon to Donald Trump,” Zucker said. “We did give him quite a bit of coverage.” The network also hired Trump surrogates Kayleigh McEnany, Scottie Nell Hughes, Jeffrey Lord and the aforementioned Lewandowski — who each found no rhetorical bar too low to stoop beneath to defend their boss. “These aren’t normal political commentators,” said Carlos Maza of Media Matters. “They are professional bullsh*t artists. They argue in circles, they change the subject (and) bring the segment to a screeching, unwatchable halt.”

News consumers share some of the blame for incentivizing bad behavior by media organizations, because they have more power to shape coverage than ever before. There was plenty of great reporting on important issues, but many readers and viewers skipped over that content in favor of less weighty topics. In a click-based media environment, there’s a clear incentive to deliver what consumers want. Social media gives even greater influence to consumers, because the content they share will be seen by a larger audience and generate more clicky ad revenue. This distorts coverage by elevating the noisiest voices and most attention-grabbing headlines, rather than the most important stories as determined by experienced editors and weighed against the other events of any given day. “Media consumers voting with their eyeballs for ever-dumber political coverage creates the biggest imbalance in reality,” wrote Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi. That’s how “fake news” corrupted the final weeks of the presidential campaign. A Buzzfeed analysis found the top-performing bogus stories on Facebook generated more engagement in the campaign’s final three months than the top stories from major U.S. news outlets. That’s prompted a lot of journalistic hand-wringing, and mainstream media outlets have all-too-eagerly led the charge against fake news for their own branding purposes. Many proposed solutions to the scourge of phony or willfully misleading stories risk stifling independent media or opening the door to partisan gamesmanship — so let’s all start being better news consumers. Click on (or better yet, read) investigative reporting from credible sources, subscribe to outlets you appreciate, pay for premium content sometimes and — most important — take a moment to check the credibility of your sources before sharing stories on social media. Why not? You’re already on the internet.

 9 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 06:44 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Italy referendum defeat would complete Matteo Renzi's rapid downfall

After taking office with hopes of enacting change, the PM has failed to gain the trust of voters who see politics as a scapegoat

Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Pontassieve
AFP
Saturday 3 December 2016 07.00 GMT

When Matteo Renzi strode into the Italian prime minister’s residence of Palazzo Chigi 34 months ago, having outmanoeuvred the old guard in his party to become the country’s leader, he was widely regarded as Italy’s last best hope.

The former mayor of Florence was a maverick reformer with big plans to turn around Italy’s moribund economy and – if he played his cards right – would stand at the helm of a centre-left majority that seemed strong enough to crush the rising Five Star Movement (M5S) and its angry anti-establishment rhetoric, and bury conservatives who were still reeling from the political demise of Silvio Berlusconi.

“Today we have to have a huge ambition, which is to think that Italy cannot exist for the coming months and coming years in a situation of uncertainty, instability, quagmire, hesitation,” Renzi said at the time.

But somewhere along the way, even as Italy saw slight improvements in the economy and rebuilt its international reputation after years of damage wrought by Berlusconi, Renzi appears to have failed to gain the trust of an overwhelming majority of Italian voters.

“He is liked by Europe – now a little less – and by the Italian elite. He’s an emblem of rich Tuscany, of the good life, of eating well,” said Marta, a middle-class, middle-aged woman from Pontassieve, the Tuscan town where Renzi lives.

Renzi faces a critical referendum on 4 December on constitutional reform that is likely to end in his defeat and resignation from office. It is a contest he probably could have won quite easily 18 months ago.

After crisscrossing the Italian peninsula for weeks trying to rally support for a yes vote, Renzi ended his campaign in Florence on Friday, where his career in politics began. The day started with good news, after it was reported that 40% of eligible Italians abroad cast ballots in the race, a voting bloc that is believed to heavily favour the prime minister. Renzi also made a last-ditch effort to win momentum in southern Italy, with stops in Reggio Calabria and Palermo, where the sì (yes) camp hoped it could sway undecided voters.

Renzi is famous for extolling the culture of his native Tuscany, but in interviews with locals here, he is hardly celebrated as a hero. Instead, some told the Guardian they lacked faith in a man who is seen as a “marketing executive”, rather than a solid statesman.

On the international stage, Renzi has become an important voice in defence of European unity and ideals, and the importance of the relationship with the US, but at home he has not been capable of turning around an abiding mistrust in him and in government generally.

Standing beside Marta was her friend Cecilia – neither wanted to give their full names – who recalled her disappointment that Renzi did not do more to cut perks for government officials. Even though he curtailed the use of “blue cars”, the chauffeured vehicles reserved for politicians, Cecilia criticised Renzi’s decision to lease a new presidential jet at a reported cost of €1m (£840,000) a month.

“Trust in them? In the left, in the right? Not at all. Nothing,” she said.

The prime minister could still pull off a surprise win on Sunday. The latest official polls before a blackout showed he had a five percentage point deficit, but one-quarter of Italian voters were still undecided about whether or not to support sweeping changes to Italy’s parliamentary system that Renzi has argued would make the country more stable and put it on a stronger footing to adopt reforms.

On the campaign trail, Renzi seems to relish the challenge, but it is clear that he is somewhat exasperated by the attacks that have been wielded against him by the populistM5S.

At a rally in Pisa in front of a friendly crowd, a jovial, joking Renzi last week unveiled an elaborate PowerPoint presentation with arguments defending the constitutional reform.

But then – seemingly out of the blue – a large map of South America appeared on the large screen. In September, M5S’s Luigi Di Maio declared that a vote for the referendum was like a vote for “Pinochet in Venezuela”.

After poking fun at Di Maio’s mistake – Pinochet was the longtime Chilean dictator, and Renzi elaborately pointed out where each country was located on the large map – a photograph then appeared that showed Renzi during a visit to Chile’s capital, Santiago. He was standing in a museum in front of hundreds of photographs of political prisoners who had been tortured and killed during Pinochet’s bloody regime.

“These people died. They were tortured. Have some respect for our country,” Renzi said, before swiftly moving on.

If he loses Sunday’s referendum and resigns – despite the public appeal by Obama during a recent visit to Washington that he should “stick around” no matter the outcome – Renzi’s fall will be blamed on factors in and out of his control.

While he did pass some major changes, including a controversial labour reform bill, the legalisation of same-sex civil unions, and changes in the electoral system, Renzi was also hurt by avoidable political controversies and scandals, including his government’s poor handling of four bank rescues at the end of last year that were seen to benefit the father of his closest adviser, Maria Elena Boschi.

There was no evidence of wrongdoing, but it allowed Renzi to be portrayed as a typical Italian politician.

But it is Renzi’s rapid downfall – even if he wins on Sunday, it will likely be by the slimmest of margins – that remains somewhat of a mystery, even to seasoned veterans of Italian politics such as Giovanni Orsina, a professor of politics at Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome.

He partly blames Italians for the political phenomenon, and what he calls their growing impatience with the political process and willingness to blame the political class for everything, even when there are no obvious alternatives.

This impatience has played into the hands of populists such as M5S and was barely understood by Renzi.

“The speed at which Renzi turned from being the young energetic transformer to being the symbol of the ‘establishment’ is an incredible sign of the times,” Orsina said.

“Politics has become the scapegoat for everything that doesn’t work, and this has happened in less than a year.”

 10 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 06:41 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The Gambia’s President Jammeh concedes defeat in election

Incoming president, Adama Barrow, says Jammeh called him offering his congratulations after shock result

Ruth Maclean in Banjul and Emma Graham-Harrison
AFP
Friday 2 December 2016 19.27 GMT

The Gambia’s autocratic president, Yahya Jammeh, who once claimed a “billion-year” mandate to rule, has conceded defeat after a shock election loss to a real-estate developer who once worked as a security guard in London.

Jammeh had kept the tiny west African country under an iron grip for more than two decades, and there were fears that the eccentric 51-year-old would use violence or fraud to maintain power.

Instead he became a rare dictator to accept defeat in a democratic election, agreeing to hand power to challenger Adama Barrow, a softly spoken businessman who previously had little public profile.

Barrow told the Guardian that Jammeh had called him to concede defeat with the words: “Congratulations. I’m the outgoing president; you’re the incoming president.”

The father of five used his lack of political baggage to woo voters desperate for change, claiming 45.5% of the vote to Jammeh’s 36.7%. If Jammeh sticks to his word, Barrow will become only the third Gambian head of state since the country’s independence in 1965.

In a televised statement, Jammeh said the vote had been “the most transparent election in the whole world,” adding that he would not contest the result.

“I take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Adama for his victory. It’s a clear victory. I wish him all the best and I wish all Gambians the best. As a true Muslim who believes in the almighty Allah I will never question Allah’s decision. You Gambians have decided,” he said.

The prerecorded message then cut to a shot of Jammeh phoning the president-elect.

“Hello, are you hearing me?” Jammeh asked Barrow, grinning widely on his mobile. “I wish you all the best. The country will be in your hands in January. You are assured of my guidance. You have to work with me. You are the elected president of The Gambia. I have no ill will and I wish you all the best.”

Barrow said he was confident Jammeh would stand down. “Power belongs to the people. It’s the people who have spoken. He cannot hang on,” he said. “We won the election clearly so there’s nothing he can do about it.”

Barrow said his priority was to name a cabinet. “I’m very, very happy and excited. I’m happy that we won this election.”

Even the head of the electoral commission, Alieu Momarr Njai, seemed stunned by Jammeh’s rapid concession.

“The president is magnanimous enough to accept that he had lost the election, and he will call the new president to congratulate him as well as to pray for peace and tranquility,” he said after announcing preliminary results. “It’s very rare that this present situation now, in Africa, that this happens.” .

Internet and international phone services cut off for “security” during the poll were restored soon after Njai’s announcement and, as news of the election result spread, the country erupted into celebration.

The streets of the capital, Banjul, deserted until that point, began to fill with cars screeching their horns and blasting out music.

Children sang, men stripped off their shirts and punched the air, and others went online to celebrate using the hashtag gambiadecides. Several said the historic change had moved them to tears.

One Twitter user, Muhammad Sanu Jallow, said:

    Muhammad Sanu Jallow (@msjallow)

    I couldn't hold back the tears. I'm almost 30, and I've known only 1 President this whole time. Good time to be alive. #GambiaDecides
    December 2, 2016

Gambians abroad joined the celebration, with several saying they were planning to return or expected friends and relatives to head back.

    EffSalla-lamtoro (@effsalla)

    Thanks to Allah!!!!🙏🏽Now our very own can return back home and play their part in developing our motherland 🇬🇲🇬🇲🇬🇲✌🏾️✌🏾️✌🏾️😪#GambiaDecides #
    December 2, 2016

The country’s poverty and repressive political climate means many Gambians live overseas, particularly in Europe, even though it is one of Africa’s smallest states with only 2 million people.

Casting his vote on Thursday, Jammeh said he was confident of winning “a bigger landslide” than the Gambia had ever seen, and refused to say whether he would concede if he lost.

This year’s election was the first time since 1994, when Jammeh seized control of the country in a coup, that he faced a serious challenge to his rule. Over that period he consolidated power in a series of presidential elections, and skilfully exploited tribal and other divisions among multiple opposition parties.

Opposition politicians, journalists and activists were arbitrarily arrested, thrown into jail, tortured and killed during Jammeh’s tenure.

Njai had been about to announce the latest batch of results when he received a call on his mobile phone. He told waiting observers and press that the president knew the result and was ready to concede.

The interior minister, sitting in a magnolia office cubicle and trembling behind his sunglasses, called on all to remain calm.

“Keep the peace and tranquility,” Modou Bah said. “People should go for their lawful businesses. We should not allow politics to divide us.”

Meanwhile, those hosting the live broadcast of election results on state television could not hide their astonishment.

“Have all the people loyal to the president migrated?” asked Malick Jones, presenting an all-night broadcast of Gambia Decides, when he realised Jammeh had lost the capital.

Outside Barrow’s house, crowds gathered, some celebrating and some in shock. Anger at Jammeh for his decades of repression bubbled up in others.

“We’ll put him in jail. We want him to go to the [international criminal court],” said Adama Faye, an 18-year-old student. “He killed my father – I promise you, he did. Since I was born, I haven’t felt this kind of happiness.”

Jubilant crowds sang, whistled, cheered and stormed Barrow’s compound in celebration trying to get in and shake his hand, as a man with a basket-hat and a posse of bouncers tried to keep them out.

Inside, the first lady-elect, Fatou Bah, the first of Barrow’s two wives, arrived in a blue dress and large gold earrings and was blessed by a close family friend, Catholic priest Bruno Toupan.

Barrow is a devout Muslim, and Toupan said his decision to call a Catholic to bless the family was proof that he would be a president for all Gambians.

“We have great hope in the Gambia,” he said. “It’s a great relief, as Jammeh was planning to bring in sharia law. I would have been a second-class citizen.”

Cheering crowds also gathered outside the home of Ousainou Darbo, the opposition leader who was sentenced to three years in prison in April, giving rise to Barrow’s candidacy.

His court hearing will be on Monday and the crowds were calling for his release. Amnesty International added its voice to these calls.

“An immediate first step for this new government is to release political prisoners and those who have disappeared,” Sabrina Mahtani, from Amnesty International, said.

“We’ve seen how important the rights of freedom of information and freedom of assembly are over the last few weeks – it’s important that the new government reforms repressive laws.”

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