I’m happy to hear you say you think Macron will win, but I understand the note of caution. Like you, I thought Clinton would win----that is, up until 11 days before the election, when Comey came out with that letter about more emails. At that point, the energy shifted, the polls shifted, and it felt like she was in deep trouble.
I hope a similar disinformation campaign doesn’t happen in the last 10 days before the French election. I know Putin and his gang will try. As you said, the influence of Evil causes the opposite of what was intended to occur, so, although I remain hopeful, I’m not counting my chickens yet.
All the best,
on: Apr 26, 2017, 09:29 PM
|Started by soleil - Last post by soleil|
on: Apr 26, 2017, 10:42 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
‘Oh my god, there’s a cover-up going on’: Carl Bernstein accuses Trump of ‘impeding’ Russia probe
26 Apr 2017 at 11:10 ET
Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein said Mike Flynn is the key to uncovering the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
“I think it’s obvious that Gen. Flynn is in up to his neck in terms, not just of possible crimes involving his speeches and whether or not he registered as a foreign agent, which he should have and didn’t,” Bernstein said Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day.”
The leadership of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday that classified evidence suggests Flynn may have broken the Constitution’s Emoluments clause and other laws by accepting payments from Russia and Turkey and then failing to report those payments.
“He is central to what the FBI believes is a cover-up going on among people close to the president of the United States about what happened with the Trump campaign and Russia,” Bernstein said.
He said President Donald Trump and his administration are “impeding” the investigation into possible Russian collusion, but he stopped short of accusing them of obstruction of justice.
“The agents and those at the top of the FBI believe the White House is keeping them from learning what they need to know, and Flynn is central to that,” Bernstein said. “Flynn’s activities are central, his communications with the president, etc., central, and that’s what the White House, Trump, is not allowing to be turned over.”
Bernstein expressed confidence that newly confirmed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would properly oversee the investigation after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself for his own contacts with Russia during the campaign.
“He is going to see, ‘Oh my god, there’s a cover-up going on,'” Bernstein said. “The question is, what is Mr. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, going to do?”
The president-elect tapped Flynn as his national security adviser in November, and he resigned less than four weeks into the job for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador about the possibility of easing U.S. sanctions.
A month after leaving the Trump administration, Flynn registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for his lobbying work on behalf of Turkish interests during the final weeks of the presidential campaign.
Flynn had served as a key foreign policy adviser during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and was one of the administration’s first appointees after the election.
He reportedly offered to testify before FBI and congressional investigators in exchange for immunity from prosecution, but his offer was rejected.
.@carlbernstein: It's obvious Gen. Flynn is up to his neck … He's central to what the FBI believes is a cover up https://t.co/T1xxdWIXXK
— New Day (@NewDay) April 26, 2017
on: Apr 26, 2017, 09:00 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
04/26/2017 03:08 PM
Deadly Game: Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un Risk Nuclear War
By Mathieu von Rohr, Christoph Scheuermann, Wieland Wagner and Bernhard Zand
With prospects growing that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un could soon have long-range nuclear missiles at his disposal, Donald Trump is threatening a military response. Suddenly nuclear war seems possible, but how great is the threat of escalation?
Rehearsals for the apocalypse have long been underway. Every two months, always in the early afternoon, the sirens begin wailing in Seoul. Cars and buses come to a halt, civil defense officials take up their positions at busy intersections and volunteers wearing yellow armbands guide pedestrians into the nearest shelter, of which there are hundreds in the South Korean capital.
The army, too, is prepared. Highways between Seoul and the border at the 38th parallel are lined with watchtowers and every few kilometers, heavy, concrete barriers hang above the road. Should war break out, explosive charges would drop the barriers onto the roadway, blocking the way to attackers. Beaches on the coast are likewise outfitted with tank traps and barbed wire -- all in an effort to protect the southern half of the Korean Peninsula from the poor yet heavily armed north.
The facilities are defensive in nature, but the South Korean military also has an attack plan, abbreviated as KMPR, which stands for Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation. The details are secret, but the first scenes of a new Korean war would look more or less as follows: Before North Korea could attack, the South would seek to eliminate its opponent's missile launch sites with cruise missiles of its own while anti-aircraft defenses would shoot down those rockets that evaded the initial strikes. Before North Korea could set its infantry in march, the plan calls for South Korean special forces to infiltrate Pyongyang and liquidate dictator Kim Jong Un.
When South Korea's defense minister spoke publicly for the first time about these plans last September, it was primarily of interest to Asian military experts. Now, though, the scenarios described seem disturbingly realistic. The Korean Peninsula hasn't been this close to military conflict since 2006, the pro-Chinese government newspaper Global Times recently wrote in Beijing.
From a global perspective, the situation could hardly be more sensitive. In Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un is a dictator who appears prepared to wage war to ensure his regime's survival, one which could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of casualties. On the other side of the world, in Washington, D.C., sits Donald Trump, a democratically elected president who knows little about the world but who, in addition to the nuclear codes, also possesses a Twitter account that he tends to use imprudently. He has also shown, in both Syria and Afghanistan, that he isn't shy about deploying cruise missiles and massive bombs.
As such, North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un isn't the only destabilizing factor in this conflict. And the other is sitting in the White House. Combined, the two are fraying nerves across the globe.
On New Year's Day, three weeks before Trump's inauguration, Kim announced that his country would soon be testing an intercontinental ballistic missile. Such a rocket would have sufficient range to reach the North American continent and Kim's disclosure was the most concrete and credible threat of a direct attack on the U.S. that his regime had yet issued.
"It won't happen," Trump answered in a tweet, essentially laying down a red line that his predecessor Barack Obama never drew with respect to North Korea.
Trump sees Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal as the greatest danger facing U.S. national security, but he isn't just inexperienced when it comes to foreign policy -- he often veers into downright clumsiness. A recent example came two weeks ago, when he announced that he had directed a U.S. aircraft carrier to head toward North Korea as a warning -- even though the vessel was actually heading in the opposite direction to take part in a maneuver near Australia. Whether it was a bluff or whether Trump had misunderstood something remains unclear -- even as the vessel, the USS Carl Vinson, is now steaming toward Korean waters -- but it does show the degree to which things can go wrong under this commander-in-chief.
Following the numerous failures and defeats he has suffered early on in his presidency, Trump badly needs successes to present to his supporters as he passes the symbolically important 100-day threshold. An aggressive stance toward North Korea at least gives him the appearance of resolve and Trump hopes to demonstrate that he is able to stand up to the Pyongyang dictator. When he launched 59 missiles at Syria earlier this month, he received praise even from commentators who don't normally have a kind word to say about this president. Because of Trump's apparent addiction to public acclaim, it isn't difficult to imagine the conclusions he drew.
The Trump presidency combined with the recent headway made by North Korea's missile and nuclear program under Kim's leadership mean that the confrontation between Washington and Pyongyang has entered a new and unpredictable phase. Rarely in the past has an escalation of this conflict been so imminent. Worse yet, a war on the Korean Peninsula might quickly turn into a nuclear conflict and, beyond that, could also involve several major regional powers and ultimately produce more refuges than the war in Syria.
More indications of the rising tensions have cropped up this week. On Tuesday, the USS Michigan, a nuclear submarine armed with over 150 Tomahawk missiles, docked in South Korea. Officials say it is just a routine deployment, but coming as it does on April 25, the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean military, it seems likely that Pyongyang will have a different interpretation. Consistent with that anniversary, North Korea also held an immense live-fire artillery drill on Tuesday. In an unusual move, Trump has invited the entire Senate to the White House on Wednesday for an update on the situation with North Korea.
Some 75 million people live on the Korean Peninsula, with 25 million of them in North Korea and roughly the same number in Seoul and its immediate surroundings. Furthermore, the three largest economies in the world -- the U.S., China and Japan -- are involved in the conflict, meaning that a war wouldn't just have catastrophic humanitarian consequences, but also significant economic repercussions. Even the Russian Foreign Ministry recently expressed grave concern over the situation.
Is the concern justified? Is the world now on the brink of atomic war for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis? Is military conflict now unavoidable after many years of unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program?
Robert Litwak, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C., says that North Korea is on the verge of a nuclear breakthrough. The regime, he says, is feverishly seeking to develop up to 100 nuclear warheads in the next two to three years that can be delivered via intercontinental ballistic missiles. "If they are successful, the playing field will fundamentally change," Litwak says. He too speaks of a "slow-motion Cuba crisis" and is reminded of the fateful year 1962 -- with the difference being that North Korea is a nuclear-armed "failed state" that is ruled by a family clan.
In this year alone, Kim Jong Un has carried out four missile tests, each of them accompanied by shrill rhetoric. If the United States continues threatening world peace and insisting on its "gangster logic," which holds that it is justified to invade sovereign states, then "a nuclear war could break out at any moment," the deputy North Korean ambassador to the United Nations threatened a week ago Monday in New York. They are grotesque words, but do they need to be taken seriously?
A Security Risk
North Korea has often issued aggressive threats in the past. But Kim, with his eagerness to arm his country, his paranoia and his proclivity for taking risks, is at least predictable. Trump, however, is not. The decisive question is how he will react. Each sentence he utters can have relevance when it comes to war and peace, each unguarded word. And that is the greatest risk posed by Trump, with his lack of experience, his narcissism and his fondness for instant provocation on Twitter. A president who cannot control himself is a security risk.
During the campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly insisted he would put America first and that he had no interest in disseminating American values in the world. But Trump is far from an isolationist. He has frequently spoken of reestablishing American strength in the world, and the strength he refers to is military in nature. "We have to start winning wars again," he said in a late-February speech. Consistent with that message, Trump has also announced a $54 billion increase to the defense budget and has also given the military a freer hand in the fight against militant Islamism -- which has since resulted in an uptick in civilian deaths in U.S. airstrikes.
Regarding North Korea, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a trip to Asia five weeks ago that the U.S. policy of "strategic patience" was over. Last Monday, Vice President Mike Pence likewise traveled to South Korea, making an appearance in a bomber jacket at a look-out in the demilitarized zone. He spoke of Trump's readiness to respond to provocations with strength. "North Korea would do well not to test his resolve," Pence intoned.
"It is easy to determine what Kim Jong Un wants," says South Korean parliamentarian Kim Jong Dae, one of the country's most experienced security policy officials. "But Trump is unpredictable." On the one hand, he says, the U.S. announces it is sending an aircraft carrier and speaks openly of military plans while on the other, it is sending signals that it is prepared to negotiate. Mike Pence also spoke of the possibility of talks.
Seoul is particularly worried about American plans for a commando operation targeting the North Korean dictator, says Kim Jong Dae. He says that the Navy Seals team that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan was involved in the Foal Eagle joint military exercise with South Korea in March. "We are most concerned that the U.S. will attack North Korea without asking South Korea for approval," the lawmaker says.
Trump's predecessors in recent decades have all shied away from using military force against North Korea, but it isn't difficult to imagine Kim Jong Un provoking him into an impetuous act. Victor Cha, the director of Asian affairs on George W. Bush's National Security Council and now Senior Advisor and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C., expects that such a provocation will come in the coming days, ahead of the South Korean presidential election on May 9.
"We analyzed data from several decades and found that North Korea has regularly provoked militarily before or after elections in South Korea," Cha said in an interview conducted prior to Tuesday's North Korean artillery exercise. "I expect them to continue to provoke this time as well -- at least through the presidential elections, plus/minus two weeks. The critical period could start around April 25, Military Foundation Day."
The risk, says Cha, is that the strength of the north's military is unevenly distributed. "North Korea has a large, partly outdated artillery, and it has weapons of mass destruction. Unlike other militaries it doesn't have much in between. This could shorten the ladder of escalation."
Were Trump to seriously consider a military option, he would, broadly speaking, have three options at his disposal. First, the U.S. could carry out a preventative strike in an effort to prevent North Korea from launching a nuclear-armed missile. To do so, however, it would have to identify the launch site, though it is likely that many are capable of being launched from mobile platforms. Destroying all of them would be almost impossible.
Second, Trump could launch a preventative strike on all of North Korea's nuclear facilities, including research centers and production sites. That, though, would be challenging inasmuch as they would have to be struck at roughly the exact same time. Should that not be successful, there would be significant risk of a nuclear counterstrike from North Korea. Furthermore, Pyongyang could respond to such an attack with a conventional military offensive against South Korea.
The Risk of Military Escalation
The third theoretical option, that of a U.S.-led military invasion from South Korea, is essentially impractical due to the risk that North Korea would respond with nuclear or chemical weapons.
Even threatening North Korea militarily is extremely risky given the threat of a powerful reaction should the country's leadership become convinced that an attack was imminent. Pyongyang, after all, could hardly win a war with the U.S., making it all the more important that it strike quickly and unexpectedly. And in contrast to the U.S., Japan and South Korea, Kim Jong Un is prepared to accept extreme risks and a huge number of victims in his own country.
In light of that risk, Barack Obama warned his successor in November that North Korea would be the most pressing national security risk facing the Trump administration -- just as the country's nuclear program has long been one of the thorniest foreign policy issues U.S. presidents have had to deal with. In his infamous State of the Union address in 2002, George W. Bush didn't just include Iran and Iraq in his Axis of Evil, but also North Korea. One year later, the U.S. marched into Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein -- vividly illustrating the worst-case scenario for the regime in Pyongyang.
But like his predecessors, Bush chose diplomacy in his dealings with the North Koreans. In 2003, the six-party talks began in Beijing, which included China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. in addition to North and South Korea. Even as Bush's ensuing attempts to pacify Iraq were characterized by bumbling and dilettantism, his diplomats were patient and competent in their talks with North Korea. In the fifth of a total of six negotiating rounds, the idea was born to provide North Korea with generous humanitarian aid, fuel deliveries and the normalization of relations with Japan and the U.S. in exchange for putting a halt to the country's nuclear program.
Pyongyang initially approved the plan's essential elements. But a first nuclear test in 2006, the diplomatic tensions that resulted and, in 2009, the launch of a North Korean satellite, led to the abandonment of the talks. Pyongyang subsequently declared that it would "never again" take part in such negotiations.
Bush's successor Barack Obama focused primarily on sanctions and sought to apply pressure on China to play a more active role in tempering its protégé. The strategy, however, was unsuccessful, with North Korea carrying out more than 50 missile tests during Obama's presidency along with four of the five nuclear tests it has conducted to date.
In response, Obama ordered the military three years ago to prepare cyberattacks against North Korea. Since then, as the New York Times recently reported, the number of failed missile tests in the country have multiplied. Last fall, Kim Jong Un even ordered an investigation to determine the extent to which his country's archenemy might be behind the setbacks. But technical problems could also be to blame for the failed tests. Plus, in contrast to Iran, where the U.S. was able to deploy malware to sabotage the country's uranium enrichment program, North Korea is not well networked, making it difficult to infiltrate the country's infrastructure.
Which brings us to Trump, a man for whom good foreign policy apparently consists primarily of having a powerful army to order around. He has been open about his fondness for the military, even going so far as to call it "my military" on occasion.
The good news, though, is that the generals he has placed in important positions are far from interested in starting a war. Trump's national security advisor, Herbert Raymond McMaster, for example, is considered an excellent and discriminating strategist. In a book he wrote about the Vietnam War, he concluded that high-ranking military officers were also to be blamed for the escalation and ensuing disaster for lacking the courage to clearly tell politicians that their plans were not working. McMaster now finds himself the role of constantly telling the president what he thinks -- and Trump thus far appears to be listening to him.
In fact, since he began his term, Trump seems to have realized that foreign policy is more complicated than he thought. "The world is a mess," he said following the chemical attack allegedly carried out by the Syrian regime almost three weeks ago.
He appears to have had similar such epiphanies more recently. In the transcript of an interview with the Associated Press released on Monday, Trump said that his infamous quote about NATO being "obsolete" was made at a time when he didn't know much about NATO. "Now, I know a lot about NATO."
Another realization came during his recent meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who held a 10-minute lecture for the president on why China's influence over North Korea is limited. "I realized it's not so easy," Trump said with disarming honesty in a subsequent interview. (He also asserted that Korea "used to be a part of China," which the Koreans vehemently reject.)
Since his meeting with the Chinese leader, Trump has softened his approach to Beijing, apparently in the realization that he is going to need their help. Even his campaign accusation that China manipulates its currency is one that he no longer repeats. He explained why on Twitter: "Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?"
Chinese sources say that Xi warned Trump against an escalation and told the president that Kim can only be reached through diplomacy. Trump's team, however, countered that Beijing hasn't accomplished much in North Korea with diplomacy in the past several decades. It is time, they said, for a different approach -- and more pugnacity.
Thus far, there are no indications that Kim has been cowed by Trump. In mid-April, he made a celebrated appearance before the Supreme People's Assembly, the country's token parliament which gathers every year in April to rubber-stamp the budget and other measures implemented by the country's leadership. As usual, the state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun used the occasion to issue a few threats to the U.S. and its allies. This time, it wrote: "Our strong, revolutionary army watches our enemy's every step and the gaze of our nuclear powers is fixed on the invasion bases of the U.S., not just in South Korea and the Pacific, but also on the American mainland."
At a military parade just a few days later, on April 15, the regime put on display the weapons with which it might realize the threat. For the first time, Pyongyang showed off transportation and launch canisters for two missile systems that appear to be for intercontinental missiles with the capability of perhaps even reaching the East Coast of the United States. The goal of the regime is that of building nuclear warheads that are small enough to mount on these missiles. The calculation, it appears, is that nobody will want to attack such a heavily armed country, thus making Kim Jong Un's leadership secure.
Whether Kim's engineers are already sufficiently technologically advanced to make such a warhead is unclear. Most experts believe that Pyongyang possesses up to 20 nuclear warheads and could be ready to mount them on its missiles in about two years.
But the missile systems are far from bug-free. As recently as Sunday, April 16, a missile exploded shortly after launch in an embarrassing setback for Kim Jong Un. Since then, experts have been wondering if the explosion may have been caused by U.S. sabotage.
'The Military First'
The occasion for the April 15 military parade was the 105th birthday of Kim's grandfather Kim Il Sung, who founded North Korea and died in 1994. It was also Kim Il Sung who sent the first experts to the Soviet Union following the end of the Korean War in 1953 and entrusted them with the development of missile and nuclear programs.
When the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Pyongyang lost its most important ally and the regime responded with the "Songun" doctrine, which literally means "the military first." Kim Il Sung's son, Kim Jong Il, pursued this course so radically that he triggered a vast famine, all in the name of strengthening his family's hold on power. Up to 3 million people are thought to have starved to death.
The Kims' weapons program quickly advanced and in 2006 the regime carried out its first successful nuclear test. The year 2011 saw the death of Kim Jong Il, a frail, eccentric man who was fond of Hollywood and basketball but who tended to avoid the public eye. As his successor, he chose his third son, Kim Jong Un, who was likely born in 1984.
As has become increasingly clear throughout his rule, however, this third Kim orients his leadership less on his diminutive father and more on his stately grandfather. His hairstyle and dress are reminiscent of Kim Il Sung, and he also wears similar eyeglasses and imitates his body language. In a March 2016 propaganda photo, which shows him in front of a group of nuclear experts, Kim is even wearing a military greatcoat and fur hat that resembled those worn by his grandfather.
In the photo, the group is standing in front of a metal sphere that the state news agency KCNA claimed was a nuclear warhead. It measured around 60 centimeters in diameter and would thus be small enough to mount on a carrier rocket.
Just how far Kim is prepared to go to secure his rule became apparent in December 2013, with the execution of his uncle, Chang Song Taek, who was the second-most powerful official in the regime. It was a gruesome killing, even for North Korean standards: The 67-year-old was pulled out of a politburo meeting on live camera, convicted as a "traitor to the party" and then, rumors hold, shot with an anti-aircraft gun.
Just over three years later, on February 13 of this year, another close relative of Kim's fell victim to a no less spectacular assassination. His older half-brother Jong Nam was attacked at the Kuala Lumpur airport by two women who pressed a towel to his face that was saturated with the nerve agent VX. He died a short time later -- and another potential rival had been sidelined.
The older Kim had originally been foreseen as Kim Jong Il's successor, but he fell out of favor with his father because of his lifestyle. Since 2003, he had been living in Beijing and in the gambling city Macau. Rumors that China's leadership had been keeping him in reserve as a potential alternative to Kim Jong Un may have been one of the reasons behind the successful plot to assassinate him.
Despite his brutality, his vulgar behavior and his martial tone, most close observers of North Korea nevertheless believe he is a rational thinker. One Chinese expert, who asked not to be quoted by name, says that Kim is primarily interested in preserving the regime's power. The expert says that progress in the nuclear program and the most recent threats emanating from North Korea must be viewed through that lens. He argues that Kim's threats of nuclear war are strategic in nature and not made out of some kind of death wish.
Cautious Steps Internally
Domestically, Kim is taking cautious steps to open the country economically. Compared to the 1990s, Pyongyang and other North Korean cities are booming. Skyscrapers have been built and leisure facilities like the riding club in Pyongyang or the ski area near Wonsan create the appearance of prosperity. There are now even traffic jams on once-empty streets.
The capital city in particularly -- as the regime's showcase -- is being dressed up on the model of modern Chinese cities. Kenji Fujimoto, the Japanese chef who used to cook for the Kim family, apparently returned to the city recently to open a sushi restaurant. Fresh fish for the elite is flown in from Japan through third states.
"Shopping centers have been built in every district of Pyongyang," reports North Korea expert Choi Jin Wook in Seoul. "They all look similar: There's a restaurant on the ground floor, on the second floor there's a sauna or spa and a shop on the third floor."
Along with the boom in construction, there has also been a surge in corruption, a product of investors needing the approval of state organs like the military or the secret police for each business they open. "The elite are constantly fighting for political power because power secures economic interests," says Choi.
The new prosperity has only reached a fraction of the population. Nonetheless, people living in the larger cities are now able to stock up on groceries and clothing at privately owned markets. Most North Koreans have a side job to make ends meet and payments often take place in euros or the Chinese yuan instead of the national currency, the won, even at supermarkets or in taxis.
For several years now, the country has also operated a mobile phone network built by Egyptian entrepreneur Naguib Sawaris. Three million North Koreans are now purported to own mobile phones. But the network is closed and heavily shielded from the outside world, with those living near the border often doing what they can to get their hands on smuggled Chinese SIM cards.
A Bleak Situation in the Provinces
The northeastern Chinese city Tumen is located directly on the river for which it is named, just across from North Korea. The afternoon sun beams through the cloudy skies bathing Namyang Workers' District, the North Korean town on the other side of the river, in a warm spring light. People can be seen leaving their homes, children play soccer, a bulldozer is at work on the bank and an army truck rumbles down the road.
For two hours, not a single private car can be seen. Looking through binoculars, it is possible to see that none of the roads in Namyang have been paved and most window frames are filled only with plastic sheeting. When neon ads light up on the Chinese side at dusk, North Korea remains dark. The lights only go on in three, maybe four apartments, and the light hum of a generator can be heard. In contrast to the cities, the situation remains as bleak as ever in provinces. The majority of North Koreans live in abject poverty.
The few North Koreans the regime allows to travel into China -- truck drivers, laborers and security workers -- are immediately recognizable by their simple clothing. They wave you away just as soon as you try to speak to them.
In restaurants and karaoke bars with names like "A Thousand Years of White Snow," North Korean women serve and sing. They make three appearances a night, singing the same Korean songs each time. But even with these women, it is difficult to have a conversation. They all say they are in China for three years, claim to have attended the same university in Pyongyang and complain of homesickness for North Korea, which they say is much nicer than China. But please, no names or details or "anything that could create problems for us."
There are dozens of restaurants like this in China, and the women work for a network of North Korean companies that have close ties with the regime. Their profits are funneled to Pyongyang, creating an important source of revenue for the regime.
Dents in the 'Unbreakable Friendship'?
China continues to allow their presence, but that could end. Even after just the first phone conversation between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump in February, Beijing promised to more strictly implement UN sanctions against North Korea than it has in the past. In early April, following the meeting between the two presidents in Florida, China's custom's authority got tougher and sent back several coal freighters for the first time.
Slowly, Chinese leaders are drifting from the official line of an "unbreakable friendship" with their communist neighbor and are adopting a more critical view. Some in China, like historian Shen Zhihua of East China Normal University, have begun publicly stating that China's Korea policies have failed. At a recent public event, he said that South Korea, and not North Korea, is China's natural ally on the peninsula. So far, the transcript of his presentation on the internet still hasn't been censored -- a sign that influential figures within the apparatus share his opinion.
Beijing is facing a dilemma. It doesn't want to see further missile and nuclear tests because a North Korea with a highly developed nuclear arsenal would run counter to China's own interests. But it also doesn't want to lose the communist buffer state on its eastern flank.
In private discussions and on the internet, the Chinese have long been poking fun at Kim Jong Un. Recently, the official press in China has likewise been unusually clear it its rejection of Pyongyang. If Kim disturbs the efforts at rapprochement between Beijing and the new U.S. government through a nuclear test, there will be a price to pay, the wrote the Global Times. Although China continues to oppose any kind of military intervention, there is a "chance that Beijing could also say 'yes' to a potential US imposed financial blockade against North Korea," the paper wrote.
It's a fundamentally new tone that hints at the possibility that Beijing and Washington could work more closely together on the issue of North Korea. So far, the regime in Pyongyang has profited from distrust between the two superpowers. It created the space necessary for North Korea to build up its arsenal to its current size and allowed an unimportant small country with a knack for high drama to become a serious international threat.
But is there now a possibility that the U.S. and China might join forces to find a peaceful settlement of the Korea question, through, for example, tougher sanctions?
Top Chinese official Yang Xiyu, who once participated in the six party talks, notes that in the 1990s "the leadership was never in danger, even during the famine crisis." That's why he believes that sanctions are the wrong way to go. He argues that a regime as tough as the one in Pyongyang can hardly be brought to its knees economically.
But if neither diplomatic nor economic pressure can do anything, will China, the U.S. and the rest of the world have to get used to the fact that North Korea is getting closer to becoming a nuclear power?
For proliferation reasons alone, that is hard to imagine, says U.S. expert Victor Cha, the George W. Bush official who took part in the six party talks on behalf of Washington. "North Korea doesn't just arm itself," he says, "it sells weapons to other countries. Preventing this and getting them to sign a (non-proliferation) treaty is a must."
It's not only the Chinese experts who question whether Kim would react to economic pressure. In South Korea, many are now also questioning whether a tightening of economic sanctions would make any sense. They consider the hardline approach taken by former President Park Geun Hye, who was impeached in March over allegations of abuse of power and corruption, to be a failure.
On May 9, South Koreans will go to the polls to elect a new president. The two candidates with the greatest prospects for succeeding Park -- the centrist, reform-minded Ahn Cheol Soo and the left-wing liberal Moon Jae In, are both advocating increasing contacts with the North. "If we only isolate Kim, then we have no longer have any influence over him," says Lim Eul Chul of the Center for International Cooperation for North Korean Development.
Lim's name is being circulated as a possible unification minister in a Moon cabinet and he has called for a reopening of the special economic zone at Kaesong. Until it's closure in February 2016 by President Park, North Korean laborers had produced inexpensive goods for South Korean companies at the enclave, located at the 38th parallel. Even among members of the conservative government that will continue to manage the country until the election, differences are already emerging with allies in Washington over the North Korea issue.
Political Maneuvering in Japan
But the situation is altogether different in Japan, where an escalation of the Korea crisis could play into the hands of nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has already visited Trump twice since the new U.S. president took office. For some time now, the prime minister has been seeking to amend the pacifist constitution that was essentially dictated to Japan by its American occupiers after World War II.
Kim's provocations have established the political maneuvering room for Abe that have enabled him to increase the budget of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to about 44 billion euros, the highest it has been since the end of the war. Recently, Japanese television has given wide coverage to North Korean missile tests, and only a short time ago, several of those missiles went down around 300 kilometers off the coast of Japan. In March, the first evacuation drill in response to an attack was conducted since the end of World War II in the Akita prefecture.
Given that Japan's air defenses would be insufficient for protecting the country from several missile strikes at the same time, some high-ranking members of Abe's party are already calling for a review of possible "counterstrikes against targets abroad" -- meaning North Korea. Such deployments are currently prohibited under the Japanese Constitution, but the country now has the military means to do so after taking delivery of 42 American-made F-35 stealth fighters.
Still, with no guarantee that Kim can be disarmed militarily in a single strike, the international community appears to have other option than returning to the negotiating table.
A military strike may have been possible over 20 years ago, when North Korea's nuclear program was still in its infancy. In 1994, during the first major nuclear crisis, the Pentagon and South Korean armed forces ran a simulation of a detailed war scenario. It predicted a devastating outcome for the first three months after the outbreak of fighting: 490,000 deaths on the South Korean side and 52,000 dead or wounded on the American side. The plan was shelved and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was sent to Pyongyang as a negotiator instead.
A Balance of Deterrence in the Far East
North Korea now has up to 20 nuclear warheads at its disposal, and the risk of a military attack has increased significantly. At the same time, the probability of defanging the country's nuclear program in the longer term has also diminished. Even if the new U.S. president isn't prepared to admit it yet, the military option is actually no longer an option. A balance of deterrence is already in place in the Far East.
As such, Trump's only realistic alternative is to conduct negotiations. He already stated once during the election campaign that, if need be, he'd meet with Kim Jong Un for a hamburger and to discuss the problems. Trump's view of successful foreign policy has always tended to resemble the real estate business: Two men meet and close a deal. After all, Trump views himself as being one of the greatest dealmakers of all time.
He could also do something unusual like sending his son-in-law Jared Kushner to North Korea -- an idea that has been suggested by Mark Fitzpatrick, a nonproliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington. He argues it would send the message to Pyongyang that it is being taken seriously. Kushner is Trump's point person for difficult cases. He helped to prepare for Xi Jinping's visit to Florida and Fitzpatrick believes that Kushner could help to deescalate the North Korea conflict by pushing the dictator into talks.
Robert Litwak, the North Korea expert in Washington, also believes it is in Kim Jong Un's interest to negotiate. He proposes a freezing of the North Korean nuclear program through negotiations between China and North Korea. The result could be that Kim stays in power, with a limited number of nuclear weapons.
The greatest threat these days, in fact, may not be that one side intentionally triggers a war. Rather that both sides may stumble into a spiral of escalation that they are unable to stop.
But if a military confrontation can be prevented, if Trump and Kim don't overreact and if negotiations are the ultimate outcome, then it is possible that Trump wouldn't be in a bad spot. The fact that he is erratic, impulsive and unpredictable is certainly a worry to politicians around the world, but that could work to his advantage during negotiations. That, in fact, might be why Trump recently said: "This country has to be less predictable."
By Mathieu von Rohr, Christoph Scheuermann, Wieland Wagner and Bernhard Zand
on: Apr 26, 2017, 08:44 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
BUSTED: Ivanka Trump pays sweatshop workers near minimum wage for 57-hour workweeks
25 Apr 2017 at 18:53 ET
The author of the upcoming book, “Women Who Work” will have to answer for how she treats the women who work for her.
The Washington Post reports that inspectors with the Fair Labor Association found dozens of violations of international labor standards during an audit of a factory in China owned by the G-III Apparel Group — which owns the rights to manufacture and distribute Ivanka’s fashion line.
The newspaper noted the timing of the inspectors’ report, “comes as the president’s daughter has sought to cast herself as both a champion of workplace issues and a defender of her father’s “buy American, hire American” agenda.”
Just yesterday, G-III was busted for rebranding Ivanka’s clothing line and dumping it on the discount retailer Stein Mart.
This week’s G-III scandals are just the latest to plague Ivanka’s fashion empire during her father’s First 100 Days as president. Only weeks after being sworn-in, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway broke ethics rules by telling Fox News viewers to “go buy” Ivanka’s products.
Activists have also been using the hashtag, #GrabYourWallet to organize a nationwide boycott of Trump family products. The power of such consumer activism was recently demonstrated when Fox News fired host Bill O’Reilly after consumer pressure resulted in dozens of companies halting advertising on the O’Reilly Factor.
Today’s report includes violations of overtime limits, workplace safety concerns, and required 57 hour weeks for near Chinese minimum wage.
While the president himself took to Twitter to push back after Nordstrom dropped Ivanka’s clothing line, today even her company declined to comment the Washington Post on the sweatshop scandal.
on: Apr 26, 2017, 06:43 AM
|Started by soleil - Last post by Rad|
"On election day in France, Lucifer (at 4 Sagittarius) will be almost conjunct Macron’s natal Lucifer (at 10 Sagittarius). How do you think that’s going to bear on Macron’s chances?"
I think he will win. Then again I thought Clinton would too yet because of the influence of Evil the opposite of what was intended occurred: that is how Evil operates.
God Bless, Rad
on: Apr 26, 2017, 06:33 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
The Senate Used 46 Staffers To Investigate Benghazi, But Is Using Just 7 For Shitstain Trump/Russia
The Senate's main investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is equipped with a much smaller staff than previous high-profile intelligence and scandal probes in Congress, which could potentially affect its progress, according to sources and a Reuters review of public records
By Dustin Volz
Reuters on Mon, Apr 24th, 2017 at 11:03 pm
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate’s main investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is equipped with a much smaller staff than previous high-profile intelligence and scandal probes in Congress, which could potentially affect its progress, according to sources and a Reuters review of public records.
With only seven staff members initially assigned to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s three-month-old investigation, progress has been sluggish and minimal, said two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, who requested anonymity.
A committee aide, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said two more staff members were being added and a few others were involved less formally.
“We need to pick up the pace,” Senator Martin Heinrich, a committee Democrat, told Reuters on Monday. “It is incumbent on us to have the resources to do this right and expeditiously, and I think we need additional staff.”
While some directly involved in the investigation disputed characterizations of the probe as off track, the appearance of a weak Senate investigation could renew calls by some Democrats and other Trump critics for a commission independent of the Republican-led Congress to investigate the allegations.
The intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives have taken the lead in Congress in examining whether Russia tried to influence the election in Republican Trump’s favor, mostly by hacking Democratic operatives’ emails and releasing embarrassing information, or possibly by colluding with Trump associates. Russia has denied such meddling.
With the House intelligence panel’s investigation for weeks stymied by partisan squabbles, the Senate committee’s parallel probe had appeared to be the more serious of the two, with Republican Chairman Richard Burr and top Democrat Mark Warner promising a thorough and bipartisan effort.
Burr, a member of Congress since 1995, last month called the Russia probe one of the biggest investigations undertaken in Congress during his tenure.
Previous investigations of national security matters have been much larger in terms of staffing than the one Burr is overseeing, according to a review of official reports produced by those inquiries, which traditionally name every staff member involved.
A House committee formed to investigate the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans had 46 staffers and eight interns.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s years-long study of the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation techniques during President George W. Bush’s administration had 20 staff members, according to the panel’s official report.
A special commission separate from Congress that reviewed the intelligence that wrongly concluded former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq involved 88 staffers.
A special Senate committee’s 1970s investigation into Watergate-era surveillance practices tapped 133 staffers.
A joint House-Senate probe of the 1980s Iran-Contra affair during Ronald Reagan’s presidency involving secret sales of arms to Iran to try to win the release of American hostages, with proceeds going to Nicaraguan rebels, had 181 staffers.
Spokeswomen for Burr and for Warner declined to comment on the staffing levels.
‘INDICATORS OF A COMMITMENT’
The listed sizes of various investigations may be an imperfect comparison because not all staffers listed may have actually had a substantial role, congressional sources said. Investigations often grow in size over time, and a committee aide said the panel had secured $1.2 million in additional funding for the Russia election investigation.
But the numbers are still broadly “relevant as indicators of a commitment to an investigation,” said Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists.
“For this investigation to be successful, the committee must recognize the enormity of the job and provide the resources to tackle it,” Senator Ron Wyden, another committee Democrat, said in a statement.
Wyden sent a letter last month to Burr and Warner requesting that the probe include a thorough review of any financial ties between Russia and Trump and his associates.
None of the staffers possess substantial investigative experience or a background in Russian affairs, two of the sources said.
The investigation has not yet conducted interviews with Trump associates suspected of having links to Russian intelligence services, two sources and the aide said.
The investigators have focused on reviewing thousands of pages of documents supporting a previous U.S. intelligence agency finding that Russia interfered to help Trump, and have spoken with intelligence officials in preparation for interviewing key witnesses, they said.
The House intelligence panel’s chairman, Republican Devin Nunes, who was a member of Trump’s presidential transition team, on April 6 stepped aside from leading that probe because he was under investigation by the House ethics committee for allegedly disclosing classified information.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also conducting a wide ranging counter-intelligence investigation into alleged Russian interference and potential collusion with Trump associates, though its findings may never become public.
(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Will Dunham)
Dan Rather Puts The Media To Shame By Asking 2 Questions That Can End Shitstain Trump’s Presidency
By Jason Easley on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 3:52 pm
Legendary journalist Dan Rather is asking the two vital questions whose answers have the capability of ending Donald Trump’s presidency.
Rather asked four vital questions on his Facebook page:
1. What did Mr. Trump know and when did he know it about Russian efforts to influence the U.S. Presidential election? The President and those around him are engaged in a furious fight to prevent the American people from knowing. What are they hiding? If, as they say, there’s nothing to hide, why are they working so hard to conceal what they know?
Republican led House and Senate investigations are–purposely or not– bogged down. While the FBI investigation (also led by a Republican) is said to be rigorous and far-reaching, who can say with certainty? We do know that the FBI was slow and unsteady at the start.
A truly independent, bi-partisan investigative special commission (with maybe a special prosecutor?) would seem to be a must, but so far there is no significant movement to establish one.
2. Given indications so far, the President appears to have plenty to hide in his tax returns. Again, if he has nothing to hide why is he fighting so hard to keep them secret? How much taxes he has paid (if any) is not the most important part of this. More important is finding out how much he owes–how much he is in debt to–other people, who they are and where they are (foreigners, foreign powers?)
3. What is the President’s strategy to deal with war and peace challenges such as North Korea, Russia in Eastern Europe, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan. One-off missile attacks and mega-bomb droppings are tactical moves, in and of themselves. If they fit into a large strategy in any or all of the major threat areas, what is that strategy?
4. What is happening behind the shadows with our immigration policy? For all the talk of how the President has struggled in his legislative agenda, the reporting coming out of the Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and multiple local communities suggests that there has been an active change in how the nation is dealing with this issue.
Now more than ever, America needs great journalists and reporters. Dan Rather is a broadcasting legend, but he is more than a broadcaster. Rather is using his decades of journalistic experience to give the press a roadmap for the questions that they need to be asking.
Dan Rather has been through this before. He knows that what Trump is doing is not new. Unfortunately, most members of the press have not been down this road in the past. They have been either steamrolled or perplexed by how to cover Trump and his administration. With the exceptions of Rachel Maddow and some reporters at The New York Times and Washington Post, the press has not been up to the challenge that Trump is presenting.
Rather is cutting through the news as entertainment smokescreen that is Trump’s oxygen, and shining a light on the real questions. If the press learns from the legend, they will begin to ask the kinds of questions whose answers are capable of ending Trump’s presidency.
Refusal To Turn Over Flynn Documents Is The Criminal Cover-Up That Could Bring Shitstain Trump Down
By Jason Easley on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 1:34 pm
When the White House refused to turn over documents that were requested by the House Oversight Committee's investigation, they were engaging in a criminal cover-up that could be the beginning of the end of this administration.
When the White House refused to turn over documents that were requested by the House Oversight Committee’s investigation, they were engaging in a criminal cover-up that could be the beginning of the end of this administration.
The White House letter in response to the committee’s request for Flynn related documents was a textbook example of a cover-up:
As you can see, the letter is a greatest hits collection of presidential cover-ups. The excuses range from we don’t have those documents to those documents are classified, and you can’t have them to we don’t think those documents are relevant to your investigation.
If the Oversight Committee really wants these documents, they can always sue the president for their release, but the Russia scandal has shifted today. It is no longer about what Trump and his campaign circle might have done. It is about information that Trump is hiding about what they did do.
The White House has maintained that they knew nothing about Flynn’s illegal activities, but if this is the case, why won’t they turn over documents? If Gen. Flynn was acting alone with no direction from the White House, the president should want to turn over the information ASAP.
By refusing to provide the House committee with what it needs, this president is obstruction a criminal investigation into his White House.
The adage is true. It the cover-up not the crime that gets you in the end.
Trump has moved firmly into cover-up territory, which means that this administration is well on the way to sowing the seeds of its own demise.
Republicans Turn On Trump As Jason Chaffetz Says He Sees No Info that Flynn Complied With the Law
By Sarah Jones on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 12:56 pm
There is no indication that Trump’s former National Security Adviser General Mike Flunn complied with the law by properly disclosing payments he received from Russia, Republican House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz said Tuesday.
Ranking Member Democrat Elijah Cummings further said, “There is no evidence anywhere in these documents that Flynn reported the funds he received for his trip to Moscow.”
“I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz said according to CNN.
Chaffetz also said in a video provided by MSNBC, “It was inappropriate (Flynn taking money from Russia), and there are repercussions for the violation of law.”
Chaffetz says it appears Mike Flynn took money from Russia: “it was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for the violation of law” pic.twitter.com/quQq6niPjB
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) April 25, 2017
This is significant in regards to Donald Trump and the Russia investigation for many reasons, but especially because Trump knew about Flynn’s ties to Russia before he chose him as his National Security Adviser.
CNN also reported according to a letter they obtained that the Trump White House “declined to provide documents related to Flynn that the panel investigating him had requested.”
Cummings said they had grave concerns, “These docs are troubling. We have grave concerns. I believe these documents should be declassified. The White House has refused to provide us with a single piece of paper in response to our request. Unacceptable. We need a thorough and robust investigation.”
#WhiteHouse letter to #Chaffetz and @RepCummings on Michael #Flynn security clearance and #Russia payments. pic.twitter.com/NCQWHbJN7N
— House OversightDems (@OversightDems) April 25, 2017
As all of this is going on, the Republican-led Senate is doing all that it can to ignore their responsibility to their country and constituents, by essentially quashing the Senate investigation into the Trump Russia scandal through sabotage. They used 46 staffers to investigate Benghazi, but are using just 7 to investigate an attack on our country by a hostile foreign aggressor.
Here’s Donald Trump denying any contact between his advisers and Russia:
#POTUS denied any contacts between #Trump advisers and #Russians but the list keeps growing. What in the world is going on? pic.twitter.com/6wQttVDZ6O
— Elijah E. Cummings (@RepCummings) March 4, 2017
But now the White House is refusing to turn over documents requested by Congress and it appears as if Mike Flynn broke the law by not disclosing the payments from Russia.
“No contacts with Russia”; also known as Flynn, Sessions, Ross, Tillerson, Page, Manafort, Donald Jr, Ivanka, Cohen, Stone and Kushner.
The Oversight Committee’s investigation is looking into Flynn Trump/Russia, while the House Intelligence Committee is investigating the Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Trump Russia – including the campaign and possible collusion.
There’s a lot of Russia smoke swirling around the Trump White House. The only question is will the Republican-led Congress actually do something about it.
Chaffetz, who has his eye set on higher office, made a smart move for his long term career today when he called out Flynn for appearing to have violated the law.
Shitstain Trump Son In Law Jared Kushner Was Just Told To Lawyer Up Because He Committed A Crime
By Jason Easley on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 6:46 pm
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) told Trump son in law Jared Kushner that he better hire a lawyer because he committed a crime when he lied about having contacts with foreign governments on his security clearance form.
Rep. Lieu tweeted:
Dear Jared Kushner: Lying on the SF-86 security clearance form is a crime. Michael Flynn hired a lawyer. You may also want to hire a lawyer.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) April 25, 2017
The reason why the stakes are so high for the White House in 2018 goes beyond getting their agenda through a Republican-controlled Congress. If Democrats win back all or part of Congress, they are going to conduct a full investigation into the Trump White House, which will include the Russia scandal, Trump’s conflicts of interest, his family conflicts of interest (Hi, Ivanka), and any crimes committed by his aides and son in law Jared Kushner.
Kushner committed a felony by not disclosing two meetings with high profile Russians during his security clearance hearings.
During a recent appearance on MSNBC’s AM Joy, Lieu called for Kushner’s security clearance to be suspended:
"He lied and his security clearance should be revoked."@RepTedLieu on #JaredKushner #AMJoy #Trump #Russia https://t.co/FdjT7eY2LY
— AM Joy w/Joy Reid (@amjoyshow) April 15, 2017
Rep. Lieu’s move beyond suspension to telling Kushner to lawyer up is a sign that the Russia scandal has gone from bad to worse for the Trump family.
Buckle Up: Maxine Waters Promises Russia Scandal “Only Going To Get Worse” For Shitstain Trump
By Sean Colarossi on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 8:44 pm
The cloud of scandal over the Trump administration grew darker on Tuesday with the news that Michael Flynn illegally withheld information about his connections to Russia – but Democratic Congressman Maxine Waters promises the scandal is “only going to get worse” for the president.
On MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Waters said, “More and more information is coming out about the connections of the Trump allies and some people in his cabinet and their connections to Russia, and it’s only going to get worse.”
In epic fashion, Waters tore into the Trump administration’s shady dealings with Moscow, saying:
Michael Flynn asked for immunity because he knows he’s got problems. He did not disclose that he had taken money from Russia at the time that he was seeking a security clearance. He’s taken money from Turkey while he was I guess already being asked to serve on the NSA. And so we have some serious problems here with those who are in that Russian-Kremlin clan, as I call them, who are after making money and having Trump as president to have a good relationship with Putin and the Kremlin so that they can make money. … You are talking about a president who said he was going to drain the swamp – he’s filling up the swamp with those who are lying with him. It’s all about money. Follow the dollar.
Not only did Waters connect some of the many dots between Trump’s team and the Russians that helped put them in power, but she also underscored just how far-reaching this scandal is – and how it’s clearly not going away in the near term.
As the drip, drip of information continues to come out, with today’s Flynn revelation being the latest, Trump and his associates are still under investigation by the House and Senate, as well as the FBI. If there was no credibility to the allegations that there was at least some collusion between the president’s team and Moscow, it’s hard to believe it would be taking this long.
Just when Trump thought the Russia scandal was falling to the background, another bombshell revelation comes out. Buckle up, because it likely won’t be the last one before all is said and done.
As Maxine Waters said, it’s only going to get worse for the White House.
Top Democrat Calls The Shitstain Trump-Russia Investigation A “Fight For The Soul Of Our Democracy”
By Sean Colarossi on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 10:16 pm
"This White House has made a decision that they will produce absolutely nothing. I've not seen this before, and it sets a very dangerous precedent."
Top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Tuesday that Donald Trump’s refusal to comply with the Russia investigation sets a “very dangerous precedent” and only raises more concerns about possible White House ties to Moscow.
Cummings expressed his concerns after the White House refused a bipartisan request for documents related to Michael Flynn, who illegally withheld information about his relationship with Russia.
Of the White House refusal to release these vital documents – and the broader investigation into the president’s ties to Russia – Cumming said:
I thought we would get some documents, but this White House has made a decision that they will produce absolutely nothing. I’ve not seen this before, and it sets a very dangerous precedent. President Trump, when he was running, said no one is above the law. Well, he’s not above the law either, and there is a separation of powers. I listened to Mr. Spicer today talk about claiming that they don’t have documents. I was very upset just listening to that because they do have documents. As a matter of fact, they have told us that they have documents, but they found every excuse under the sun not to produce the documents. … We’re staying focused. This is not some witch-hunt. This is about a fight for the soul of our democracy, and I want to be real clear on that. We’re not going to be distracted. We’re going to go after the documents.
Cummings is no partisan hack and his request to the Trump administration is not just on behalf of Democrats on the Oversight Committee – and it’s not part of some partisan witch-hunt. It is a bipartisan request made by leaders in both parties.
The fact that the White House is refusing to be forthright on all matters related to Russia raises a number of serious questions, with the main one continuing to be: If the administration has nothing to hide, why are they so afraid of being transparent with the American people?
At the end of the day, this is the central reason why the investigation must go on in a way that rises above partisan politics. Not only do the American people deserve answers, but it’s clear by the behavior of the administration that they have something to hide.
As Cummings said on Tuesday, this is about the soul of our democracy. If a presidential election was influenced by a foreign government with the help of one of the two major candidates, it undermines the fabric of America’s democratic process – and that should scare people of all political ideologies.
Jaws Drop As Shitstain Trump Admits That He Is Not Reading The Executive Orders He Is Signing
By Jason Easley on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 4:54 pm
While signing an executive order in the White House, President Donald Trump revealed his attitude towards reading the executive orders that he is signing, and it confirms reports that Trump is not reading what he is signing as president.
Transcript via The White House as provided to PoliticusUSA:
So I want to thank you very much. So do we have the executive order, please?
So this is promoting agriculture and rural prosperity in America. And, now, there’s a lot of words I won’t bother reading everything. But agriculture and rural prosperity in America, that’s what we want. And we don’t want to be taken advantage of by other countries — and that’s stopping, and that’s stopping fast. Okay, thank you.
Trump’s attitude of there are a lot of words here so I won’t read them follows a pattern that has been reported that this president doesn’t read and that he doesn’t read what is placed in front of him to sign.
The President Of The United States prefers to get his information from Fox News, and would rather not read anything because reading bores him.
Donald Trump isn’t reading the executive orders that he is signing, which means that he is not doing the minimum requirements of the job that he was elected to do. If one is looking for an answer for why Republicans are floundering even though they are in total control of the federal government, the answer is that Trump is providing them with zero direction and leadership.
A man who won’t read what he is signing shouldn’t be in charge of the country.
Justin Trudeau Forced To Explain Economics To Shistain Trump As He Threatens Trade War With Canada
By Sean Colarossi on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 7:46 pm
Trump failed to get his Mexico-funded wall along the southern border, so now he's threatening a trade war with our allies to the north.
As Donald Trump threatens a trade war with our neighbors to the north, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to phone the White House on Tuesday, likely to explain basic economics to the reckless U.S. president.
According to a new report from Reuters, “Trudeau was due to call Trump later on Tuesday after he speaks to the premiers of Canada’s 10 provinces.”
The expected call comes after Trudeau spoke out Tuesday against new tariffs being imposed by the Trump administration on softwood lumber imports from Canada.
“There are millions of good U.S. jobs that depend on the smooth flow of goods, services and people back and forth across our border,” Trudeau said. “You cannot thicken this border without hurting people on both sides of it.”
Not only is Trudeau right to defend the interests of his own country, but he is also standing up for the American people as well, since they, too, will be hurt by Trump’s move.
As CBC noted in a tweet, Trump’s tariff would make U.S. houses more expensive and cost American workers hundreds of millions of dollars in the form of lost wages.
U.S. homebuilders say tariffs on imports of Canadian softwood lumber would cost American workers $500M in lost wages and raise house prices.
— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) April 25, 2017
Despite the consequences, Trump continued to stand by his decision on Tuesday and ramped up his attacks on Canada.
“People don’t realize Canada’s been very rough on the United States,” Trump said. “They’ve outsmarted our politicians for years.”
The president also went after Canada’s dairy industry in a tweet on Tuesday:
Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2017
Once again, it’s apparent the U.S. president doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. He failed to get his Mexico-funded wall along the southern border, so now he’s threatening a trade war with the country to the north.
In the process, he’s alienating one of America’s strongest allies, hurting American workers, and proving once again that he doesn’t know how to conduct himself on the world stage.
Shitstain Trump Humiliated Again After Failed Trade Battle With Mexico Costs U.S. $163 Million
By Sean Colarossi on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 9:32 pm
That's right: Trump just lost a trade battle with Mexico – over tuna fish.
After Donald Trump promised the American people that, under his presidential leadership, the U.S. would win so much that it would become tiresome, the country is still waiting on Trump to win something, anything.
That won’t come tonight, though.
According to a Tuesday report from CNN, the president was just handed another humiliating defeat. The latest Trump loss will cost the U.S. $163 million a year in the form of sanctions imposed by the World Trade Organization.
More from CNN:
Mexico and the US have fought for years over tuna. The US insists that any Mexican tuna sold in the US must be “dolphin safe,” meaning dolphins weren’t killed by tuna fisherman, which was once common. Mexico says its fisherman play by the rules. The US government disagrees.
On Tuesday, the World Trade Organization ruled in Mexico’s favor, allowing it to impose trade sanctions worth $163 million a year against the US. The WTO says that’s how much money Mexico has lost from the US unfairly penalizing Mexican tuna.
That’s right: Trump just lost a trade battle with Mexico – over tuna fish.
Perhaps the loss wouldn’t be such a hilarious fail for the president if he didn’t spend a year and a half running around the country promising that, with him in the White House, the United States would no longer lose on anything, especially when it comes to trade.
He set up astronomical expectations, and he’s epically failing to meet them.
And now, just three months into his presidency, Trump is already experiencing his first major setback on the trade front – and it’ll cost us nearly $200 million.
While there are very few, if any, redeeming qualities about this administration, it’s a beautiful thing to watch the ridiculous rhetoric of his campaign catch up with the realities of, you know, actually running the country.
Numbers of Those with No Confidence in Shitstain Trumpcare Up Double-Digits Since February
By Hrafnkell Haraldsson on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 8:01 am
Donald Trump tweeted that when his healthcare plan is “approved” we will see “real” healthcare:
If our healthcare plan is approved, you will see real healthcare and premiums will start tumbling down. ObamaCare is in a death spiral!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2017
However, as MSNBC’s Morning Joe revealed this morning, Americans aren’t buying it.
Trump’s healthcare plan is not popular. It was not popular last time he pushed it and it’s gotten only more unpopular since as the numbers of those with “no confidence” in the plan have increased by double digits since February:
A new @NBCNews/@WSJ poll out this morning shows little confidence in the GOP health care law pic.twitter.com/tX22Ume5Y5
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) April 25, 2017
Trump says “If our healthcare plan is approved, you will see real healthcare,” but polling numbers like this mean Trumpcare will never be approved.
Republicans have watched their own approval rating plummet by double digits thanks to throwing in their lot with do-nothing liar Donald Trump and this can have only one result where healthcare reform is concerned.
So long as the American people don’t approve of it, Republicans in Congress won’t either. Their jobs are on the line, and they’re not about to take an early bow on account of Donald Trump.
Trumpcare is dead. Republicans will do everything they can to avoid investigating Donald Trump, but they won’t risk their neck for a healthcare plan nobody wants, especially when the plan Trump wants to replace is more popular now than the entire GOP, Trump included.
on: Apr 26, 2017, 06:08 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Hackers have targeted election campaign of Macron, says cyber firm
Trend Mirco says it detected fake web domains for French presidential candidate on digital infrastructure used by group named Pawn Storm
Tuesday 25 April 2017 18.56 BST
The campaign of the French presidential frontrunner, Emmanuel Macron, has been targeted by hackers linked to Russia, according to researchers with a Japanese anti-virus firm.
The researchers added to previous suggestions that the centrist politician was being singled out for electronic eavesdropping by the Kremlin.
On Monday, Mounir Mahjoubi, digital chief for the Macron campaign, confirmed there had been attempted intrusions but said they had all been thwarted. “It’s serious, but nothing was compromised,” he said.
Macron faces his rival, the far-right Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential runoff on 7 May. Macron favours a strong EU, while Le Pen wants to pull France out of the bloc.
The Tokyo-based firm, Trend Micro, said it had made the discovery by monitoring the creation of rogue, lookalike websites, which were often used by hackers to trick victims into revealing their online passwords.
The company recently detected four fake Macron-themed domains being set up on digital infrastructure used by a group it called Pawn Storm, according to Feike Hacquebord, a Trend Micro researcher.
Mahjoubi confirmed that at least one of the sites had recently been used as part of an attempt to steal campaign staffers’ online credentials.
Unmasking groups behind any spying campaigns is one of the most challenging aspects of cybersecurity, but Hacquebord said he was confident that Trend Micro had succeeded. “This is not a 100% confirmation, but it’s very, very, likely,” he said, adding that the political nature of the targeting was “really in line with what they’ve been doing in the last two years”.
Trend Micro did not accuse any country of pulling the strings of Pawn Storm, a cyber espionage group. But US spy agencies and a variety of “threat intelligence” firms said that Pawn Storm, an extraordinarily prolific group also known as Fancy Bear or APT 28, was an arm of Russia’s intelligence apparatus.
French officials have tended to be more circumspect than their American counterparts, repeatedly declining to tie Pawn Storm to any specific source.
Russian government officials have long denied claims of state-sanctioned hacking. On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed the most recent coverage as “anonymous, unsubstantiated reports”.
The Associated Press left several messages with the hacker or hackers who had registered the rogue Macron websites. No message was received in return.
Mahjoubi said the attempts to penetrate the Macron campaign dated to December 2016. In February this year, the campaign complained publicly of being targeted by Russia-linked electronic spying operations, although it offered no proof at the time.
Trend Micro’s report, which was produced independently of the Macron campaign and lists 160 electronic espionage operations across a series of targets, adds a measure of evidence to the notion – even if the fact that the rogue websites were registered in March and April did not line up with the campaign’s timeline.
The French election has been closely watched for signs of digital interference of any kind. Many observers fear a repeat of the US electoral contest in 2016, when hackers allegedly backed by Moscow broke into the email inboxes of the Democratic National Committee and other political operatives. Pilfered documents subsequently appeared on WikiLeaks and other more mysterious websites, putting the Democrats on the defensive during their losing campaign against Donald Trump, who became US president.
Ditch the outrage over Macron’s marriage age gap – we all have fascists to fight
The reaction to the age disparity between the French presidential hopeful and his wife proves one thing: endemic ageism and sexism are alive and kicking
Tuesday 25 April 2017 14.09 BST
I have no great desire to do a feminist analysis of the marriage of Emmanuel Macron, the last non-fascist standing in the forthcoming French elections, but the fathomless nastiness of the Daily Mail has made it necessary. “How can I get the world to take me seriously,” writes Jan Moir, channelling Macron’s interior voice, “if they think I am a mummy’s boy with a wife who is 25 years older than him?”
This idea is dispatched relatively easily: men don’t need authority over their wives in order to be taken seriously, except in the Sopranos and the 12th century. One of these days, that entire newspaper will realise how close it is in outlook to Isis and cut those medieval terrorists some solidarity slack.
Emmanuel Macron embraces his wife Brigitte after the first round of the presidential elections.
Yet the relationship is tricky from a gender relativist point of view; if Madame Macron were a male drama teacher, leaving his marriage for a student whom he met when she was 15, then, even if they waited until she (the hypothetical student) were 18, as the Macrons did in real life, the feminist would still have a thing or two to say. The double whammy of her being so much older, and in a position of authority, sets the relationship off on an imbalance. The common sense, middle-of-the-road, Delia Smith-style feminist would say, well, after two decades together, we can probably be satisfied that their feelings are authentic, and not the result of some authority fetish on one side, and a controlling nature on the other. But the more hardcore, absolutist, Nigella-style feminist would nope the whole thing, on the basis that a relationship conceived on an unequal footing can never find its balance.
In order to overlook all of that, because the gender roles are reversed, you would have to consider it impossible for a woman to exert power over a man, regardless of her age and position. The social architecture of heterosexual relations, combined with the endemic ageism in the way female sexuality and attractiveness are perceived, mean that being older, as a woman, isn’t an advantage; au contraire, it makes her the weaker party, since he is such a stud and she is so past it. I’m not wild about that reading, either, since it is observably true that women can hold all the cards.
The thing to recognise is that equality sometimes has competing demands: consistency is important, so it matters that if you would disapprove of an age disparity going one way, you at least consider why you don’t disapprove of it going the other. Yet ageism is important, too, so you have to rejoice in Macron kicking against the really pernicious and widespread view that a woman’s attractiveness is pegged directly to how close she is to 18. I’m going to go with: “The heart wants what it wants.” These are dizzy times and we all have fascists to fight.
on: Apr 26, 2017, 06:04 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Mexico talks tough to Trump as border wall funding appears to stall
Foreign minister called plans ‘hostile’ and an ‘absolute waste of money’, as Trump appears to back down on demand for funding from Congress
David Agren in Mexico City
Wednesday 26 April 2017 01.03 BST
Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray tore into the idea of building a border wall, calling it “unfriendly, “a hostile act” and “unlikely to fulfill the objectives” of stopping the flow of migrants and illegal merchandise into the United States.
Appearing before the international relations commission in the lower house of Congress, Videgaray unleashed uncharacteristically tough talk on Donald Trump’s demand that Mexico pay for building a border, telling lawmakers that Mexico would not put a peso towards the construction costs. He also called plans for fencing off the frontier “an absolute waste of money” and said Mexico would pursue legal measures if its borders were infringed upon by the wall.
“The wall is not part of any bilateral discussion nor should it be,” Videgaray said. “Under no scenario will we contribute economically to an action of this kind.”
The foreign minister’s comments come as the US president, who has insisted Mexico will pay for his campaign promise of building a border wall, pressures Congress to fund construction in the meantime. Trump had demanded Congress provide immediate funding for a border wall – even raising the possibility of a government shutdown – but appeared to be backing down on Tuesday.
Political analysts in Mexico saw Trump’s difficulties in persuading his own country’s Congress on key campaign promises – repealing and replacing Obamacare and finding funding for a border wall – as an opportunity for Mexican functionaries, who have preferred to not antagonize Trump, to take a tougher tone.
“Tough talk about the wall right now, right after Trump backing down, is low risk and comes without cost,” said Carlos Bravo Regidor, professor at the Centre for Research and Teaching of Economics in Mexico City. “(Trump’s) been all bark, no bite.”
Trump’s insistence on building a border wall has complicated Mexico-US relations, which had become close and cooperative on trade, commerce and security matters after decades of indifference and mutual distrust.
Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto scrapped a trip to Washington in late January after Trump tweeted that his Mexican counterpart “should cancel” if a payment was not forthcoming. Both men subsequently spoke and agreed to not publicly discuss payment, though Trump took to Twitter again to advocate for building the border wall.
“The wall is going to get built and we’re setting record numbers in terms of stopping people from coming in and stopping drugs from coming in,” Trump said Tuesday, referring to a sharp decline in the number of undocumented migrants detained at the southern border since he took office.
Roughly one third of the nearly 2,000-mile Mexico-US border is already blocked by a barrier, something Trump wants to complete and insists will stem the flow of migrants and stop drugs from entering the United States.
Security analysts have questioned Trump’s assertion the wall will stop illegal drugs since most illegal merchandise passes through legal ports of entry.
One member of Congress, Senator Ted Cruz, introduced the “EL CHAPO Act” – named for imprisoned Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquín Guzmán – on Tuesday, which would send any money forfeited by El Chapo or other drug bosses to build a border wall.
Guzmán, whose cartel smuggled tons of drugs through tunnels under the border and once escaped from prison via a tunnel connecting his cell with the outside world, was extradited on the eve of Trump’s 20 January inauguration and prosecutors are seeking the criminal forfeiture of $14bn in illicit proceeds.
Some in Mexico expressed skepticism with the prospect of “El Chapo” indirectly paying for a border barrier as the size of his fortune is pure speculation and presents the problem of “how to seize it” for the authorities, said Esteban Illades, a magazine editor in Mexico City.
There’s also the irony, he said, of “funding the wall with a law named after a man who can tunnel through anything”.
on: Apr 26, 2017, 06:01 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Lynching of a student sparks uproar in Pakistan against blasphemy laws
Mashal Khan was shot dead by a mob after a heated university discussion. But rarely has the country responded so forcefully for someone accused of blasphemy
Sune Engel Rasmussen in Kabul and Kiyya Baloch in Islamabad
Wednesday 26 April 2017 07.00 BST
Mashal Khan was never afraid to speak his mind. The 23-year-old journalism student was known for questioning his peers and speaking out against injustice and corruption.
But on 13 April – a few days after a heated discussion at his university in Madan in north-western Pakistan – Khan was seized from his dorm room by a mob that stripped and beat him, then shot him dead.
Initial reports suggested that Khan had been accused of offending Islam – a dangerous charge in a society where perceived disrespect for the religion can ignite violent anger.
Following the lynching, Abdul Wali Khan university initially launched an investigation into Khan’s alleged blasphemy, rather than the murder. But institution’s provost hurriedly reversed course, saying the report had been “a clerical error”.
The case has sparked uproar in a country where blasphemy laws are often misused for revenge or personal gain.
Protesters gathered across Pakistan, calling for justice. On social media, Khan was treated as a hero. The prime minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the murder – although it took him two days. Even the prominent religious leader, Mufti Naeem, called Khan a martyr.
It was a rare instance in which broad swaths of Pakistani society came together to defend someone accused of blasphemy, but support for Khan stands in stark contrast to other such killings where victims have the subject of public vituperation long after their deaths.
In 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab and a critic of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, was assassinated after voicing support for Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammad.
Even after Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri, was executed, public opinion was heavily against Taseer and Bibi – who remains in prison.
Khan’s murder was the first blasphemy killing at a Pakistani university, and the fact that the victim was by all accounts a respectful Muslim may help explain the response.
“A lot of people can identify with him” said the novelist Mohammed Hanif. “He was an average college student. And the landscape of the university was familiar to many.”
Graphic video footage of the lynching showed an angry mob beating and stomping Khan’s bloodied, lifeless body. Such brutality may also have fuelled the public revulsion, Hanif said. “Previous cases have been sanitised,” he said.
The killing demonstrates how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws – originally codified under 19th century British colonial rule – often provide the pretext for murderous violence motivated by personal gain or revenge.
“It has become extremely easy to accuse people of blasphemy,” said Tahira Abdullah, an independent human rights defender. “The very word raises emotions to such an extent that people take power into their own hands and do vigilante mob actions.”
Since 1990, at least 65 people have been murdered in Pakistan over blasphemy allegations, and responsibility for these extrajudicial killings lies partly with the country’s rules, said Abdullah.
“The state has not carried out deterring punishment for making false allegations,” she said.
One of Khan’s teachers at Abdul Wali Khan university said the accusation of blasphemy was cover for an act of “political revenge” after the student criticised the the institution’s management.
Three days before he was killed, Khan appeared on local television criticising the university administration for poor management.
According to a document that surfaced after the murder, the university had banned Khan and two other students from entry to campus while a committee investigated their alleged “blasphemous activities.” One of the other students mentioned was badly beaten up.
“Mashal was the only one who used to criticize them on local media,” Khan’s teacher said, requesting anonymity to avoid retribution. “The accusation of blasphemy was a tool to inflame sentiment.”
Khan had previously spent four years studying engineering in Russia, and adorned his dorm room with posters of Che Guevara and Karl Marx. “Be curious, crazy and mad,” read one of the quotes on his wall.
Friends remembered him as an inquisitive and pious Muslim intellectual. “He dreamed of a system where everyone could enjoy justice and equal rights. He was against corruption and the corrupt political setup. I can’t imagine him being against any religion,” said a friend, Saddam Hussain.
Khan’s father Muhammad Iqbal Khan said his son by nature was out of sync with the traditional values of Pakistan.
“He was the kind of a person this society can never tolerate,” he said. “You can call him a revolutionary, reformist, humanist, whatever, but he wasn’t a conservative person. My son was a voice of the voiceless.”
The Pakistani government recently tried to clamp down on blasphemous material on social media, asking Facebook and Twitter to help it identify users so they can be prosecuted. But such measures are only likely to provoke further violence, said Hanif.
“It is the stupidest thing anyone could ever do,” he said. “Coming from the government, you’re obviously stoking the fire, telling people to go out and be vigilantes.”
Police have arrested 33 people, including six university staff, in connection with the killing. They have found no evidence to support the allegation of blasphemy.
on: Apr 26, 2017, 05:58 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
'I'm transgender': India grapples with prejudices left over from British rule
Progress will involve not just drawing on country’s pre-colonial past but challenging it too, say backers of anti-discrimination bill
Michael Safi in Delhi
26 April 2017 07.00 BST
It was a prized job in urban India: manning a phone at a corporate call centre. Getting hired took three interviews, and then there was 10 days’ training.
At each stage, Tona Chettri Chauhan would discreetly approach the interviewers or the trainers with a message. “I’m transgender,” she would say. “If that’s a problem, I can leave right now.”
Most shrugged that it was not an issue. But she recognised the expression in one of the men training her. “I felt he was taken aback,” she said. “I said again: ‘I have an appointment letter, but if you’re not comfortable, I’ll leave.’”
Chauhan got the job, but four days later, she resigned.
“It was torture,” said the 23-year-old, as she stood under a whirring fan in the offices of the Mitr Trust, a Delhi-based LGBT charity where she now works as a counsellor.
“There were around 400 people working on the same floor, and maybe a quarter had no problem with me. But the rest did. They were continuously staring, talking in groups, openly laughing.
“My family was going through problems and I needed the money,” Chauhan said. “But I couldn’t stay somewhere with so much mental pressure.”
Her experience captures the uneven progress of India’s trans community, three years since a landmark supreme court judgment forced the state to acknowledge that people such as Chauhan officially exist.
Though enforcement of the decision has been patchy, officially at least, transgender Indians no longer need to declare they are men or women when applying for jobs, being admitted to hospital, or enrolling in degrees. Quotas exist for universities and government jobs. National profiles have been bestowed on pioneers, such as India’s first trans police officer in Tamil Nadu and the country’s first trans headteacher at a school in West Bengal.
This month, an advertising campaign from cough and cold brand Vicks has been acclaimed for featuring the true story of Gayatri, an orphan who found a loving mother – revealed to be the Mumbai-based transgender activist Gauri Sawant.
Now, legislation under review by the Indian parliament aims to extend the rights of transgender Indians and other minorities, by introducing the country’s first national anti-discrimination law.
Hearts might be slow to change, said the bill’s sponsor, MP Shashi Tharoor, but robust legal protection would leave transgender people such as Chauhan less vulnerable to the attitudes of landlords, bureaucrats or co-workers.
“Intolerance in India is on the rise,” Tharoor said, and while piecemeal laws already protect women and poorer castes, “people such as sexual minorities have fallen through the cracks”.
The writer and former UN diplomat has previously moved legislation to abolish discriminatory laws such as Section 377, an order criminalising sex “against the order of nature” that is regularly deployed against India’s LGBT community.
To garner support for this latest bill he is drawing on another of his passions: exposing the sins and ongoing corrosive effects of British imperialism on the subcontinent.
“Transgender people were certainly made an ‘other’ by the British,” Tharoor said. “The same with homosexuals. Homosexuality was accepted and understood in Indian civilisation for 1,000 years, as were transgender people.”
He points to the depictions of sex – some of it between the same gender – that adorn Hindu temples across India, and the existence in Hindu literature of figures such as Shikhandi, who was born a woman but raised a man.
“All of these things were accepted in our culture until the British came along,” Tharoor said.
His framing is not beyond dispute. But it also happens to be politically savvy in a country increasingly reaching for the myths of its past to define a present buffeted by economic upheaval and unprecedented migration into cities.
“It is colonial,” says Rudrani Chettri, the head of the Mitr Trust who last year established the country’s first transgender modelling agency.
Chettri identifies as a “hijra”, a position traditionally carved out for eunuchs, intersex or transgender people in south Asian society, that pushes the community back with one arm, while embracing them with the other.
“Transphobia is universal, but in south Asia we have this cultural acceptance,” Chettri said. “Hijras had such an important position before the British came to India. Not only singing and dancing, but also guarding the harem, and as advisers to the Mughal court.”
An 1897 colonial law declared all eunuchs criminals, forcing them to the fringes, where some still make a living blessing weddings and babies, but many turn to prostitution and begging.
“Narendra Modi I think is fine with transgender,” Chettri said, referring to India’s prime minister, a staunch Hindu revivalist. “It’s just an English translation for hijras, who are seen as goddesses. And anybody who is a god or goddess, like cows or monkeys, Indians have huge respect for.
“If we we do our advocacy on a religious basis, it helps,” she added.
But activists are aware the hijra tradition constrains as much as it liberates. People such as Chettri can be accepted by society, but only within a narrow role. “People think of hijra as someone with ambiguous genitals – intersex, a hermaphrodite,” she said.
“They don’t know that I was born biologically male and went through transitions and hormone therapy. The government just sees me as an asexual person who has the power to bless.
India's third gender - in pictures: https://www.theguardian.com/society/gallery/2014/apr/16/india-third-gender-in-pictures
“If people come to know I was born with one set of genitalia and changed it because I felt like a female, they’d say: ‘Oh god, you’ve screwed up your life, why should I help you?’”
Progress will involve not just drawing on a past that was submerged by colonialism, but challenging it too, Chettri said. “The hijra community wants to keep it a secret, but it cannot continue forever like this. Being pitied, seen as alien, excluded from the mainstream: it won’t work. People want to get educated, get a proper job.”
“There are enormous hurdles,” Tharoor said of the new anti-discrimination bill, which would also cover religious and caste prejudice. The MP has tried to cover as many social groups as possible. “This can no longer be characterised as a bill about homosexual sex,” he said.
Even if the bill stagnates in parliament, it has spurred a wider conversation that was barely imaginable a decade ago. “It’s out there now,” Tharoor said. “It’s part of the discourse.”