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Jun 17, 2019, 11:43 PM
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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 2149911 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #3660 on: Jun 15, 2019, 05:02 AM »


Trump has backed himself into a dangerous corner on Iran

An oil tanker is seen on fire in the Gulf of Oman, in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran, on June 13.

By Editorial Board
WA Post
June 15 2019

PRESIDENT TRUMP has recklessly navigated himself into a corner in the Persian Gulf. Though he campaigned against Middle East wars and has repeatedly said he does not want one with Iran, Mr. Trump has ordered a series of provocative actions toward the Islamic republic that, on Thursday, produced the entirely predictable images of oil tankers burning near the Strait of Hormuz — and the very real danger of escalation toward armed conflict.

Mr. Trump blames Iran for the attacks, which U.S. officials say involved attaching underwater mines to the ships; the U.S. military released video appearing to show an Iranian craft removing an unexploded mine from one of the vessels. In fervently denying responsibility, the Iranian government is taking advantage of the shattered credibility of a U.S. president who has been caught in thousands of lies. But it appears likely that Tehran was responsible for the attack and for another strike against ships in the Gulf of Oman last month; the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has threatened just such action in the past.

Iran is responsible for aggression across the Middle East, against which the United States ought to push back. But the ship attacks were the foreseeable result of Mr. Trump’s campaign to apply “maximum pressure” on the Islamic republic without any accompanying diplomacy. After unwisely withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Tehran struck by the Obama administration, which had restrained Iran’s most dangerous threat to the United States, Mr. Trump ratcheted up sanctions — including, in April, a move to shut down Iran’s remaining oil exports.

The only peaceful avenue that Mr. Trump offered out of this economic vise was the acceptance by the Khamenei regime of a dozen U.S. dictates that would completely reverse its foreign policy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who laid out the demands, himself conceded they would not lead to any diplomatic agreement; instead, Mr. Pompeo speculated, “what can change is, the people can change the government.” Under these circumstances, it’s no surprise that Iran would respond with actions aimed at punishing the United States — such as disrupting the vital oil trade through the Persian Gulf — while avoiding the direct attacks on Americans that might provide the White House with a casus belli.

Mr. Trump sounds sincere when he says he doesn’t want a war, but he doesn’t have an easy way out of the crisis he has created. Mr. Khamenei on Thursday rejected negotiations with the United States, prompting the president, who had repeatedly said he wanted such talks, to rule them out himself on Twitter. The administration will seek to enlist European allies to join it in confronting Iran over the ship attacks, but the Europeans will inevitably be wary, given that Mr. Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reapplied sanctions over their strong objections. Meanwhile, barring another escalation by Iran, Congress may not support U.S. military action.

The administration is talking about steps short of that, such as providing U.S. naval protection to ships transiting the gulf. But Iran will likely continue to seek ways to inflict pain on the United States and allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. If Mr. Trump genuinely wishes to avoid further escalation, he should pursue a credible diplomatic outreach to Iran, perhaps in concert with the Europeans — and he should set goals that are achievable. De-escalation by both sides would be a good start.

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

Is the Iran-U.S. tinderbox about to ignite?

By David Ignatius Columnist
June 15 2019
WA Post

As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of “unprovoked attacks” near the Strait of Hormuz, video screens behind him showed thick black smoke billowing from the two tankers that were struck Thursday. It was the dramatic imagery that sometimes precedes armed conflict.

Pompeo didn’t offer hard evidence, and Iran denied the attacks.

The U.S. response in the escalating confrontation with Iran, for now, seems to be continued pressure short of war. “Our policy remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table,” Pompeo said.

Thursday’s attacks were especially brazen because one of the targeted ships is Japanese-owned, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran at the time carrying a message from President Trump. As Pompeo put it, Abe’s mission was “to ask the regime to de-escalate and enter into talks.” Abe was rebuffed in person by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and, symbolically, by the attack on the tanker.

The bottom line is that Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign has collided head on with Khamenei’s maximum resistance. Trump’s recent talk about Iran’s supposed eagerness for negotiations has been self-deluding, but so is any hope that Iran will quickly moderate its behavior. Met by American economic warfare, Iran’s hard-liners are doubling down with their own forms of deniable warfare, with mines, drones and proxy attacks.

What are the internal dynamics of this escalating crisis, and where is it heading? Conversations with a half-dozen current and former senior U.S. officials and other experts produced some early assessments:

● Iran is attacking partly because it has been badly hurt by U.S. economic sanctions. Tehran’s early approach of strategic patience, hoping to wait Trump out, “has bled into gradual escalation,” argues Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Iran is now willing to embrace the dynamic of risk” to escape the economic straitjacket.

● Trump has a new opportunity to broaden international support for his Iran policy, after isolating the United States last year by abandoning the Iran nuclear agreement. Brian Hook, the State Department special representative for Iran, has been coordinating efforts at the U.N. Security Council. At a private meeting Thursday morning, most members condemned the tanker strikes, a U.S. official said. This coalition-building will increase.

● Trump’s hopes for a quick win were misplaced. At recent overseas events, Trump has been dangling concessions and inviting negotiations. “We’re not looking for regime change. I want to make that clear. . . . We’re looking for no nuclear weapons,” he said in Tokyo on May 27. “I’d much rather talk. . . . The only thing is, we can’t let them have nuclear weapons,” he offered in London last week. And in Normandy, he declared: “I understand they want to talk and that’s fine, we’ll talk. One thing they can’t have is nuclear weapons.”

Not exactly subtle as a diplomatic pitch. Also, not successful.

● Hard-liners are more ascendant than ever in Tehran. Pompeo cited a steady escalation of attacks since early May on tankers, a Saudi oil pipeline, the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad and a Saudi airport. Potentially more dangerous are Iran’s moves to escape provisions of the 2015 nuclear agreement. Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported this week that Iran is increasing its production of enriched uranium, which was capped under the pact.

● Diplomatic feelers from Iran, which raised some hopes in Washington, lack support from the supreme leader’s camp. One such feint was this week’s release after nearly four years in prison of Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese businessman who had been living in Washington. Two months ago, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had proposed “serious dialogue” on a prisoner swap for Zakka. Sabotaging such diplomatic byplay may have been one goal of hard-liners in Thursday’s tanker attacks.

The tableau of recent weeks has been striking. Trump has been a whirling dervish of diplomacy, almost pleading for Iran to come to the negotiating table and discuss a broader, longer-lasting deal that Trump could claim was an improvement over the one negotiated by his predecessor. Meanwhile, Khamenei has sat implacable, even as President Hassan Rouhani dangled hints that Iran might be willing to talk.

But as long as Khamenei is alive, his voice is decisive. And it couldn’t have been clearer Thursday, as he rejected Abe’s mediation: “I do not consider Trump, as a person, deserving to exchange messages with. We will not negotiate with the United States.”

You could almost hear, in the supreme leader’s voice, an echo of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who said during the Iran hostage crisis, “America can’t do a damn thing against us.” That Iranian overconfidence is what makes this confrontation so dangerous.

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

Trump expert Tony Schwartz reveals ‘all you need to know’ about the president

By Bob Brigham
Raw Story
6/15/2019

The co-author of the president’s 1987 autobiography Trump: The Art of the Deal on Friday revealed “all you need to know” about the commander-in-chief.

Tony Schwartz offered advice on how to respond to Trump as his behavior becomes even more erratic.

“As we all know, Trump is shameless and compulsive liar. Here’s the solution: ignore everything he says — everything,” Schwartz counseled.

“Don’t waste any energy in outrage,” he continued.

“Just know nothing he says is ever true,” Schwartz said. “That’s all you need to know.”
Raw Story is now on Instagram. Get our latest stories and
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    As we all know, Trump is shameless and compulsive liar . Here's the solution: ignore everything he says — everything. Don't waste any energy in outrage. Just know nothing he says is ever true. That's all you need to know.

    — Tony Schwartz (@tonyschwartz) June 14, 2019


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« Reply #3661 on: Today at 03:41 AM »


Switch up your protein sources to live longer, study says

Mike Wehner
BGR
6/17/2019

Studies focusing on potential links between consumption of red meat and overall life expectancy have long suggested that eating a lot of red meat — especially if it’s been processed — may increase overall mortality.

Consumption of processed red meat has been implicated in the rise of cardiovascular health issues in the past, and a new study seems to strongly support those earlier findings. The study, which was published in the journal BMJ, utilized health data and dietary habits of over 80,000 men and women, tracking the changes in red meat intake to draw broad trends over time.

The key finding here is that individuals who increased their red meat intake by at least one-half of a serving per day saw a significant increase in mortality risk. The increase in risk was especially pronounced among people who favored processed red meat.

Processed red meat — like bacon, for instance — was associated with a 13 percent higher risk of death from all causes. Unprocessed meat, while faring slightly better, was still associated with a 9 percent increase in all-cause mortality.

The good news here is that, when flipped, the substitution of red meat for other forms of protein had the opposite effect. Those who phased out red meat in favor of protein from fish, skinless poultry, eggs, and nuts saw their mortality risk decrease significantly in the years that followed.

“This long-term study provides further evidence that reducing red meat intake while eating other protein foods or more whole grains and vegetables may reduce risk of premature death,” Frank Hu, senior author of the work, said in a statement. “To improve both human health and environmental sustainability, it is important to adopt a Mediterranean-style or other diet that emphasizes healthy plant foods.”


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« Reply #3662 on: Today at 03:43 AM »

Power to the people: how Spanish cities took control of energy

The ‘sunshine tax’ is dead, and Barcelona and Cádiz are mounting a renewables revival

Stephen Burgen in Cádiz and Barcelona
Guardian
17 Jun 2019 13.05 BST

After a close fight, Barcelona’s radical mayor, Ada Colau, is expected to take office for a second term on Saturday, vindicating her often-criticised policies, which have included making sure all the city’s municipal buildings and services run on renewable energy.

On the other side of the country in Andalucía, José María González was re-elected as mayor of Cádiz last month having swept to power in 2015 on the same tide that brought Colau to office, with energy as a central issue in his campaign.

Cádiz and Barcelona have set themselves up as distributors, cutting out the middle man, and have begun installing solar panels on public buildings with the aim of becoming self-sufficient.

“Energy policy should be in the hands of the people,” González said. “In Cádiz we set up two permanent citizens’ energy forums and the people have been the driving force behind the improvements we have carried out. The people of Cádiz are the motor of energy transition.”

The city is an anomaly in that it has its own power company, Eléctrica de Cádiz, founded in 1929, in which the council holds a 55% stake. Since 2017 it has supplied all municipal needs and about 80% of households with energy from renewable sources.

About 40% of Andalucía’s power is produced by renewables, from windfarms and vast solar arrays such as those at San Roque, whose 67,000 panels rotate to follow the sun, and the innovative PS10 plant near Seville.

Cádiz is an ancient city but its elegant squares obscure the fact that it is the poorest province in Andalucía, Spain’s poorest region, and one of the most impoverished in the European Union. A quarter of the city’s population are unemployed.

Under González, €500,000 (£445,000) of the profits generated by Eléctrica de Cádiz is used to prevent “energy poverty” among the city’s most disadvantaged, whereas other companies simply cut off the supply to those who cannot afford to pay.

“The profits are invested in Cádiz, they don’t go to Qatar or a tax haven,” he said.

González believes the city’s sustainable policies were a factor in attracting the electric vehicle producer Torrot to establish its factory in Cádiz, with the creation of 200 jobs. In a city where shipbuilding dates back to Phoenician times, the shipyards have also diversified into building offshore wind platforms.

Cádiz embarked on an energy education programme to make people “energy literate”, to understand how energy is produced, to be responsible consumers and avoid being tricked into signing abusive contracts. More than 90% of citizens surveyed backed the move to renewables.

In wealthy Catalonia, Barcelona has also taken energy matters into its hands. When the power company that supplied the city failed to bid to renew its €33m contract last year, the council decided to set up Barcelona Energia (BE), to buy certified renewable energy direct from source.

“Our aims as a public company are to promote renewables and an ecological transition,” said Eloi Badia, responsible for the city’s energy policy. “We’re not looking to make a profit, and as a public service we can’t subsidise electricity because that would be unfair competition, but we can offer people a range of tariffs and, in the case of the most vulnerable, we can help directly and bypass welfare benefits and the like.”

“We don’t aim to be a producer but to represent all the small producers, to help with individual consumption,” Badia said. “We subsidise installation by up to 50% and offer discounts on VAT so that people can recoup the cost within three or four years. Since the law changed there’s been a tenfold increase in the number of projects. We don’t see other suppliers of renewable energy as competitors; on the contrary, we welcome them.”

However, as most people in the city live in apartment blocks, the issue is more complicated than installing solar panels on the roof of a house. Most blocks house a mix of owner-occupiers and tenants and Badia said there was as yet no legal framework for people living in apartments to share energy generated from communal solar panels.

But, as of January of this year, BE has started supplying electricity to private homes. Competition laws mean it can only supply 20% of the private market – about 20,000 households – but Badia said that as demand increases they could create subsidiary companies to meet it.

“We’re doing it in phases, learning as we go along,” he said. “We’re not in a hurry, we’ve only been going since last July and only supplying homes since January.”

Spain was on the way to becoming a world leader in renewables until the big power companies, alarmed that self-generation would cost them clients, persuaded the conservative government to introduce the so-called “sunshine tax” in 2013. Homeowners, far from being encouraged to install solar panels through the possibility of selling surplus energy to the grid, were instead treated as suppliers and taxed accordingly. As a result, Spain’s solar business went into a steep decline.

In contrast, Germany offers financial incentives to install solar panels, with the result that – with around half the sunshine hours – it generates 10 times more solar energy than Spain. The sunshine tax was scrapped after the socialists came to power in June 2018.

Though Spanish cities are making up for lost time, others are not doing so well and many EU member states will struggle to meet the 2020 renewable targets. A 2017 report commissioned by Friends of the Earth reveals that, while Reykjavik in Iceland and Fafe in Portugal use 100% renewables, major cities such as Amsterdam, Warsaw, Athens, London and Zurich are almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels. Wrocław in Poland and Gibraltar are the dirtiest in this respect, while three-quarters of the Paris power supply is nuclear.


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« Reply #3663 on: Today at 03:47 AM »

The new plan to remove a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: Bury it

It sounds like an idea plucked from science fiction, but the reality is that trees and plants already do it.

By Laura Reiley
June 17 2019
WA Post

Last month, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surpassed 415 parts per million, the highest in human history. Environmental experts say the world is increasingly on a path toward a climate crisis.

The most prominent efforts to prevent that crisis involve reducing carbon emissions. But another idea is also starting to gain traction — sucking all that carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it underground.

It sounds like an idea plucked from science fiction, but the reality is that trees and plants already do it, breathing carbon dioxide and then depositing it via roots and decay into the soil. That’s why consumers and companies often “offset” their carbon emissions by planting carbon-sucking trees elsewhere in the world.

But an upstart company, ­Boston-based Indigo AG, now wants to transform farming practices so that agriculture becomes quite the opposite of what it is today — a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

By promoting techniques that increase the potential of agricultural land to suck in carbon, the backers of Indigo AG believe they can set the foundation for a major effort to stem climate change. On Wednesday, the company announced a new initiative with the ambitious goal of removing 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by paying farmers to modify their practices.

Called the Terraton Initiative (a “teraton” is a trillion tons), the company forecasts that the initiative will sign up 3,000 farmers globally with more than 1 million acres in 2019.

David Perry, the company’s chief executive, says he has lined up a group of buyers who will buy carbon credits — nonprofit groups as well as consumer-focused food companies that could claim their products are not merely carbon neutral, but carbon negative. Farmers will be given training and tools to institute what are known as “regenerative” practices. Indigo scientists will test soil samples for carbon content and farmers will be paid accordingly.

“It’s completely outcome-based,” Perry said. “We don’t really care how you get there. There’s no requirement to be big or small, organic or conventional.”

At the core is the idea that plants breathe, and through the process of photosynthesis turn carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into sugars that become leaves, stems and roots. When a plant dies, decay brings organic material, a component of which is large carbon-based molecules called humic acids, into the soil and binds them to the soil’s molecules. Thus the carbon is “captured” underground. The healthier and more fertile the soil, the more carbon it can store.

The Rodale Institute, a major agricultural think tank, predicts that more than 100 percent of current annual global carbon emissions could be captured with a switch to widely available and inexpensive farming practices — such as not turning the soil over through tilling or plowing; replanting with cover crops after a main crop has been harvested; and rotating through different crops to put a variety of nutrients back in the ground.

Merely planting trees won’t get the world very far. Large and slower-growing trees can sequester more carbon than smaller plants, but the world faces dramatic deforestation and has enormous agricultural needs. Farming seems like a practical focus for how to mitigate growing atmospheric carbon.

Whether they can get to 1 trillion tons of carbon is unknown, Perry says, but this represents one of the largest agricultural experiments lately, with software and satellite tools available to every farmer who signs up. The goal is to find out which crops, practices and geographic locations have the ability to drive more carbon into the soil.

To start, Indigo will pay farmers $15 per ton of carbon, using venture capital raised by the company.

Some farmers have already embraced the techniques. Russell Hedrick, a regenerative grower who farms non-GMO and heirloom corn, soy, barley, oats and triticale in Hickory, N.C., has been measuring the carbon in his 1,000 acres and the best he’s ever done is 1.5 tons per acre.

He says the Indigo incentives could prove strong, especially at a time when farm bankruptcies are high and crop prices are sagging.

Hedrick says that in 2018, an American farmer on average lost about $60 per acre before subsidies, and made just $20 per acre after federal subsidies. So, if a farmer can put a ton and a half of carbon in each acre of soil and get paid by Indigo, they could double their profits.

“For me, that would be $22 per acre, and we farm close to 1,000 acres,” he said. “This is $22,000 for doing what I’m already doing. That’s pretty huge to me as a farmer.”

Hedrick, a first-generation farmer, learned these practices from books and online videos from regenerative farmers. He doesn’t till or plow, and he plants a cover crop within 10 days of harvesting a cash crop like corn or soy, mostly small grains with roots that can go down six feet and reduce soil compaction and help retain moisture.

Indigo is not the first organization to encourage farmers to prioritize putting carbon back in the soil. Iowa farmers tried it in the 1990s and the California Healthy Soils Initiative has an incentives program that funds farmers who use practices such as compost application, mulching, no-till and cover cropping.

What makes Indigo’s initiative different is the scale of the project and its multipronged approach, said Mark Bradford, an expert in soil and ecosystem science at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

“In soil science, there are all these initiatives to rebuild carbon in soil. The problem is measurement and verification — how do we make this economically and logistically feasible?” he said. “What I’m impressed by is [Indigo] has data science PhDs and they’re trying to do peer-reviewable, credible science.”

That said, Bradford said the scientific community has far from a consensus on whether this is the right approach. Some wonder whether it is feasible to change farmer practices to such an extent and whether herculean efforts will result in meaningful atmospheric carbon reductions. Other scientists worry that a focus on carbon in soil will redirect attention away from minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. And still others think that building up carbon could produce more nitrous oxide gas, which is even more warming than carbon dioxide.

“No one has the models or the data to determine who is right yet,” Bradford said. “We have a lack of measurements. [Indigo is] doing the work on the ground to ask if this is feasible.”

Perry said that while most farmers are sustainability-minded, it’s hard to ask them to make sacrifices to sequester carbon for the good of the planet, especially in the face of so many other financial and climatic challenges. Paying them to make this a priority, he said, is the answer.

“It is the only action we can take today whose impact matches the scale of the problem,” he said. “Instead of reducing the speed at which we approach the climate cliff . . . this enables us to start backing away from the climate cliff entirely.”


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« Reply #3664 on: Today at 03:49 AM »

The Pentagon emits more greenhouse gases than Portugal, study finds

Pentagon released 59m metric tons of carbon dioxide and other warming gases in 2017, research shows

Reuters
17 Jun 2019 01.46 BST

The United States creates more planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions through its defense operations alone than industrialized countries such as Sweden and Portugal, researchers said on Wednesday.

The Pentagon, which oversees the US military, released about 59m metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in 2017, according to the first study to compile such comprehensive data, published by Brown University.

The Pentagon’s emissions were “in any one year … greater than many smaller countries’ greenhouse gas emissions”, the study said.

If it were a country, its emissions would make it the world’s 55th largest contributor, said Neta Crawford, the study’s author and a political scientist at Boston University.

“There is a lot of room here to reduce emissions,” Crawford said.

Request for comments to the Pentagon went unanswered.

Using and moving troops and weapons accounted for about 70% of its energy consumption, mostly due to the burning of jet and diesel fuel, Crawford said.

It dwarfed yearly emissions by Sweden, which the international research project the Global Carbon Atlas ranks 65th worldwide for its of CO2 emissions.

Pentagon emissions were higher than those of Portugal, ranked 57th by the Global Carbon Atlas, said Crawford.

China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the main gas responsible for climate change, followed by the United States.

The Pentagon called climate change “a national security issue” in a January report to Congress and has launched multiple initiatives to prepare for its impact.

Global temperatures are on course for a 3C to 5C (5.4F to 9.0F) rise this century, far overshooting a global target of limiting the increase to 2C or less, the UN World Meteorological Organization said in November.

Four degrees Celsius of warming would increase more than five times the influence of climate on conflict, according to a study published in Nature magazine on Wednesday.

Crawford said the Pentagon had reduced its fuel consumption significantly since 2009, including by making its vehicles more efficient and moving to cleaner sources of energy at bases.

It could reduce them further by cutting fuel-heavy missions to the Persian Gulf to protect access to oil, which were no longer a top priority as renewable energy gained ground, she said.

“Many missions could actually be rethought, and it would make the world safer,” she said.


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« Reply #3665 on: Today at 03:52 AM »

A change in Irish law was meant to help sex workers. So why are they being jailed?

Frankie Mullin

Lobbyists say making payment for sex illegal targets punters. But in fact it makes workers’ bodies into crime scenes

Guardian
17 Jun 2019 09.00 BST

Paying for sex has been illegal in Ireland for two years. At the time of the law’s introduction, proponents insisted that the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, a version of “end demand” or “Nordic model” legislation, would decriminalise sex workers while targeting pimps and punters. Such are the claims of Nordic model lobbyists across the globe, and it’s with this idea in mind that paying for sex is now illegal in not just Ireland but Northern Ireland, France, Sweden, Norway and Iceland.

Last week, however, two young migrant women living in Kildare, Ireland – one of whom is pregnant – were jailed for nine months for being sex workers, on charges of keeping a brothel, although in reality they were simply sharing the space. This week two women from Killarney were similarly arrested for brothel-keeping. So much for “decriminalisation”. To date, just one client has been charged with paying for sex.

    Last week two women living in Kildare – one of whom is pregnant – were jailed for nine months for being sex workers

In Northern Ireland, where similar legislation has been in place since 2015, a Department of Justice commissioned study has found that only 2% of sex workers were in favour of the law. In France, since the implementation of the Nordic model, 70% of sex workers have seen no improvement, or even a deterioration, in their relationship with the police. In Sweden, sex workers have been spied on as they have sex with clients, strip-searched for condoms and, big surprise, are still not allowed to work together for safety.

None of this is unintended. Commenting on the law in Norway, an adviser to the ministry of justice told Amnesty: “No one has said at a political level that we want prostitutes to have a good time while we also try to stamp out prostitution.”

Talking about “decriminalisation” lends the Nordic model campaign a veneer of progressiveness that a more honest “stamp out prostitution” is lacking. It’s a good PR move. Sex workers are seeing their decades-long call for full decriminalisation make gains. In the UK, the Royal College of Nurses has just voted to back decriminalisation, joining organisations like Amnesty International and the World Health Organization. On Monday, a ground-breaking bill for decriminalisation was introduced in New York, following DC, Maine and Massachusetts. Mexico City announced plans to fully decriminalise sex work just this month. A decriminisation bill has passed its second reading in South Australia.

Sex workers’ demands are clear, but in the media – aided by “end demand” lobbyists – there is confusion. In February, US Senator Kamala Harris gave an interview to the Root. A slew of headlines followed suggesting that the former prosecutor and voracious advocate of police crackdowns on prostitution “supports the decriminalisation of sex work”. In the UK, MPs like Labour’s Sarah Champion, who represents Rotherham, water down their message in similar terms, as do lobby groups like Nordic Model Now. Decriminalisation has become a buzzword.

The Nordic model is not, and never will be, “decriminalisation”. When paying for sex is illegal, sex workers’ bodies become the scene of a crime. A criminalised industry is a stigmatised one, and sex workers are already at the sharp end of hate-fuelled violence – as women, as trans people, as migrants, as prostitutes. The end goal of the Nordic model is to eradicate the sex industry. Fair enough. But we’ll get there by providing better employment and lifestyle options for people, not by criminalising the ones we have. When the central tenet of legislation is to eliminate prostitution by means of policing and prisons, it’s ridiculous to argue that sex workers will not be targeted. It does nothing to look at the societal factors that lead to people becoming sex workers.

Supporters of the Nordic model have no right to claim they advocate decriminalisation. It’s as misleading as anti-abortion lobbyists who situate themselves as “pro-life”. If we care about the lives of sex workers, then putting any aspect of their work on the wrong side of the law is dangerous.

• Frankie Mullin is a freelance journalist. She is part of the English Collective of Prostitutes, and the Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement


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« Reply #3666 on: Today at 03:54 AM »


Zuzana Caputova inaugurated as 1st Slovak female president

New Europe
6/17/2019

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia  — Liberal environmental activist and lawyer Zuzana Caputova was inaugurated Saturday as the first female president of Slovakia. Caputova took the oath of office at a special session of Parliament, becoming Slovakia's fifth president since it gained independence after the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

The 45-year-old has little experience in politics but attracted voters who are appalled by corruption and mainstream politics. Her election to the largely ceremonial post defied a wave of gains for far right populists across Europe.

"I'm not here to rule, I'm here to serve,"Caputova said in her inauguration speech. A lawyer by profession, Caputova became known for leading a successful fight against a toxic waste dump in her hometown of Pezinok, for which she received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2016.

A divorced mother of two, she is in favor of gay rights and opposes a ban on abortion in this conservative Roman Catholic country. She only recently became vice chairman of Progressive Slovakia, a new pro-EU party that won the recent European Parliament election in Slovakia

Caputova resigned from her party post after winning the first round of the presidential vote. Like her popular predecessor Andrej Kiska, who didn't run for a second term, she is firmly supporting Slovakia's membership in the European Union and NATO.

She said the EU and NATO give her country "happiness and privilege that (previous) generations could only dream of." Kiska backed Caputova in the presidential vote in March when she beat European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic in a runoff vote.

Kiska's five-year term in office was marked by clashes with populist former prime minister Robert Fico and his leftist party, a dominant political force that was tarnished by corruption scandals. Caputova and Kiska had both supported the massive anti-government street protests last year following the slayings of an investigative reporter and his fiancee that that led to the fall of Fico's coalition government. Investigators have linked Jan Kuciak's death to his work probing possible widespread government corruption.

The president of the nation of 5.4 million people has the power to pick the prime minister, appoint Constitutional Court judges and veto laws. Parliament can override the veto with a simple majority, however. The government, led by the prime minister, possesses most executive powers.

Caputova hosted a lunch for the elderly later Saturday. "I want to be the voice of those who are not heard," she said.


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« Reply #3667 on: Today at 04:11 AM »


Georgia prepares for first LGBT pride amid threats of violence

After being beaten in Tbilisi six years ago, the country’s LGBT activists are ready to be bold
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth in Tbilisi
Guardian17
 Jun 2019 10.37 BST

Six years on, the violent scene remains imprinted in the minds of Georgia’s LGBT community: dozens of gay rights demonstrators being beaten in the streets of Tbilisi by black-frocked priests and far-right protesters, some bearing clubs and other weapons. The modern-day pogrom in 2013 seemed like a warning: whatever Georgia’s aspirations to join Europe, its queer community would be left behind.

But this week activists are planning the country’s first LGBT pride events in a gambit to convert the underground explosion of queer culture in Georgia into political change. Arrayed against them are conservative and Christian activists and a police force that says they can’t guarantee the safety of the protesters. Many fear the violence of 2013 could be repeated.

“Pride is always controversial,” said Giorgi Tabagari, one of the organisers of this year’s events, which will conclude with a “dignity march”. “But how long can we hide? If we saw government was effective at combating homophobia and moving in a different direction, maybe there would not be a need for us to do a risky decision like pride. But we need to decide whether to remain with the status quo or to push harder.”

An ex-Soviet state nestled in the South Caucasus, Georgia usually finds its way into headlines for its ongoing conflict with Russia or, lately, as a tourist haven with a booming culinary scene. The Georgian Orthodox church, the most trusted institution in the country according to polls, wields enormous power and wants to see the country remain a bastion of conservatism.

“It’s a bit like a theocracy,” said one person close to the government, who asked not to be named. Georgia’s patriarch this week called for authorities to block pride, accusing anti-homophobia groups of promoting the “sin of Sodom”. Police detained nine people on Friday after conservative activists attacked a pro-LGBT rally in downtown Tbilisi.

The preparations for pride have sparked a national conversation and controversy within the LGBT community. The group has released videos with young gay, lesbian, and transgender people and allies stating openly that they support the event, a bold show of support that risks the public shaming and cyberbullying of them and their families.

“Coming out is a very courageous thing for people to do,” said Tabagari, who estimated that 500,000 people in a country of 3.5 million have seen the videos. “When you start speaking in the first person, you trigger empathy. You get more supporters. We hope the majority get used to the idea that there are queer people around you.”

Every time he comes to Tbilisi, a 17-year-old who goes by the name Drago Flowers queues for the bus in Rustavi, 30 minutes away. Rail-thin with dyed hair, rainbow eyeshadow and tattooed legs, he’s targeted so often with homophobic slurs and violence that he’s become a regular in the local police station.

“I’d rather be beaten up than hide who I am,” said Flowers. “Hiding it would be torture.”

A video blogger who dreams of moving to New York one day, for now he focuses on his work as a make-up artist and performing in drag shows in some of Tbilisi’s gay-friendly clubs, where he claims to be the only person capable of doing a death drop, an acrobatic move popular in a dance form called Vogue.

He says he plans to attend pride. But is the country ready?

“Maybe in 100 years,” he joked.

Club culture has led to this moment. Several of Tbilisi’s underground clubs have become incubators for political and equality movements, and police raids against the largest nightclub, Bassiani, sparked a protest movement called “White Noise,” a cross between a block party and street protest calling for drug decriminalisation.

Alongside Bassiani’s Horoom parties, LGBT nights where attendees must past an online screening and are banned from taking photographs, Flowers also named the club Success Bar as one of the few, new safe spaces in the city for queer people and allies to mingle.

The party only gets started after midnight at Success Bar, a subterranean space inspired by the Berlin gay bars Roses and Barbie Deinhoff. Nia Gvatua, the owner, offers a glass of champagne as she recalls her pitch to a friendly businessman to open a gay bar. He immediately handed her $20,000 (£15,700) in cash. Since then, she’s been robbed, raided and picketed, all while Success Bar has grown to become part of the LGBT community.

“I’ve seen people go from hiding in the corner in Success to being more open and confident. I see progress,” said Gvatua. “Some things have changed since 2013. There was no Bassiani. There was no Success Bar like this. There was no anti-discrimination law.”

While activists claim that Georgia has become more liberal since 2013, their opponents have been working to make it more conservative. After 2013, the church named 17 May “Family Values Day,” holding marches on the same day that LGBT groups organise anti-homophobia demonstrations. Far-right parties, like the neo-fascist Georgian March, have promised to disrupt any attempt to hold a Tbilisi pride, blaming the liberal bogeyman George Soros.

Tabagari said that LGBT people had become a popular target for fringe parties that want to gain visibility.

“I view this as a clear and present danger,” Levan Vasadze, a wealthy Georgian businessman who is close to the church, said in an interview. “I believe that drug addiction, perversion, our weakening of the family institute under the slogans of self-expression, tolerance and freedom, are killing my nation. We are not here to pose or whine. We view this as a true war.”

Vasadze is an outspoken voice for Georgian conservatism. He has forged ties to religious conservatives overseas, hosting the 2016 World Congress of Families, which was attended by George W Bush and blessed by the Georgian patriarch Ilia II. He blames Western “individualism” for corrupting Georgians and is staunchly anti-abortion. “The mother’s womb is supposed to be the safest place for children. We have made it a hell on earth.”

Vasadze said in a televised address that he has “warned” the government that a pride event could end in “profound civil unrest”.

Despite receiving threats and a recent warning from the interior ministry that it could not provide security in the centre of the city, the organisers of Pride say they will move forward with plans to hold the event.

Visibility is key, they say, and they believe they’re reaching people, starting with their own families.

After she came out as lesbian, Nino Bolkvadze’s relatives from her native village stopped speaking with her for seven years. It took a health scare for them to reach out, inviting Bolkvadze and her girlfriend to visit.

“It was amazing,” said Bolkvadze, another organiser who regularly appears on television. “Society is becoming much more ready to accept gay people. I see this.”


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« Reply #3668 on: Today at 04:13 AM »


Moldova's new PM vows to boost EU ties, bring justice

New Europe
6/17/2019

CHISINAU, Moldova  — Moldova's new prime minister vowed Saturday to advance relations with the European Union and bring to justice all those responsible for abuse of power, including the most powerful oligarch in the ex-Soviet republic.

Maia Sandu spoke after the first formal meeting of her coalition Cabinet, which was formed last weekend but had not been able to fully take power because the caretaker government disputed its legitimacy and refused to withdraw.

Sandu's government comprises her pro-European ACUM group and the pro-Russian Socialist Party, which joined forces after months of political deadlock that followed an inconclusive election in February.

But the former ruling Democratic Party — backed by Moldova's Constitutional Court — claimed the government was formed after a postelection deadline and therefore illegal. The crisis had fueled tensions until the Democrats on Friday conceded defeat. The party said Saturday its leader, oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, has temporarily left Moldova.

Also on Saturday, the Constitutional Court annulled its rulings that challenged the legitimacy of the new government, formally ending the deadlock. Sandu accused Plahotniuc and his associates of crime and corruption.

"The heads of the mafia group that usurped power and terrorized the citizens of Moldova for years have left the country," she said. "We want to assure you that ... all of those responsible, including Plahotniuc, will be brought back to Moldova and held accountable for all the abuse they participated in."

Although they ceded power, the Democrats still insisted on Friday that the new government is illegal and that a snap election should be held as the way out of the crisis. The U.S. State Department on Friday hailed the party's decision to withdraw, urging restraint during a transition period and promising that Washington "remains committed" to supporting "a more prosperous and democratic future" for Moldova.

One of the poorest countries in Europe, Moldova is plagued by corruption and political turmoil and has been an arena of rivalry between the West and Russia since it won independence after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Bringing together a pro-Russian and a pro-EU party, Sandu's government had come as a surprise to many. In a rare show of unity, it has been backed by both Moscow and Western nations. Sandu insisted that improving the EU ties are her government's priority — Moldova's accession bid has stalled over the slow pace of reform — but that Moldova is also open to boosting economic and trade cooperation with Russia.

"The government program states clearly that association with the EU is the basis of our activity," said Sandu, announcing a visit soon by a delegation from Brussels. "You are going to see very soon concrete steps, progress in improving our relations with the EU. "


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« Reply #3669 on: Today at 04:15 AM »

Ecuador’s highest court approves same-sex marriage

June 17, 2019
By Agence France-Presse

Ecuador’s highest court on Wednesday approved same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling in the traditionally Catholic and conservative South American country.

The Constitutional Court said same-sex marriage had been approved in a five-to-four vote of its nine judges in a closed hearing.

Ecuador, where the church is very influential, thus joins Argentina, Brazil and Colombia in recognizing same-sex marriage.

“It means that Ecuador is more egalitarian. It is more just than yesterday, that it recognizes that human rights must be for all people without discrimination,” said lawyer Christian Paula of the Patka Foundation, which provides legal advice for around 10 same-sex couples seeking to marry in the country.

The four dissenting judges argued that in order to recognize same-sex marriage, constitutional reform would have to be debated in the National Assembly.

Gustavo Medina, a former Supreme Court president, told AFP that Ecuadoran authorities were obliged to abide by decisions of the Constitutional Court, which were “binding and mandatory.”

Ecuador has recognized de-facto civil unions for same-sex couples since 2015.

The Constitutional Court approved same-sex marriage as it ruled on lawsuits by two pairs of men who wanted to wed.

The men in one of those couples are named Efrain Soria and Javier Benalcazar.

“I want to say hello to Javier, who is in Guayaquil. Honey, I love you,” Soria told reporters in the capital Quito.

He urged other gays to stop hiding and “enjoy the happiness that comes from being equal, like anyone else.”

Ecuador’s current constitution, ratified in 2008, defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. It also bars same-sex couples from adopting children.

The Constitutional Court judges that approved same-sex marriage said they based their decision on the idea that all people are equal. They also said they sought to counter any kind of discrimination.


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« Reply #3670 on: Today at 04:29 AM »

US attacks Russia’s power grid — but Trump was kept in the dark about it

on June 17, 2019
By Common Dreams

The New York Times is reporting that the United States is cyber attacking Russia’s electric power grid and other targets—and that President Donald Trump is being kept out of the loop.

“The American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before.”

Trump has not been briefed on the operation because of “the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials.”

The Times wrote:

    “Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place ‘implants’ — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid.
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    “Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.”

New cyber laws were granted to the U.S. Cyber Command by the White House and Congress last year allowing such “clandestine military activity” in cyberspace to go ahead without the president’s approval.

Trump has lashed back at The Times, accusing the newspaper of committing a “virtual act of treason” over its reporting.

    …..ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019

More importantly, The Times article asked:

“The question now is whether placing the equivalent of land mines in a foreign power network is the right way to deter Russia. While it parallels Cold War nuclear strategy, it also enshrines power grids as a legitimate target.”

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

Trump moves to take unchecked power: Article II of the Constitution ‘allows me to do whatever I want’

Raw Story
6/17/2019

President Donald Trump insisted in a recent interview that he chose not to “go around firing everybody” during the Russia investigation because it did not “work out too well” for President Richard Nixon, who resigned from office. He also said that the U.S. Constitution allows him to do “whatever I want.”

In an interview on ABC, host George Stephanopoulos noted that the special counsel’s report said that Trump had ordered his White House counsel to fire Robert Mueller.

“Number one, I was never going to fire Mueller,” Trump insisted. “I never suggested firing Mueller.”

“That’s not what [the special counsel] says,” the ABC host interrupted.

“I don’t care what he says,” Trump snapped.

“Why would [the White House counsel] lie under oath?” Stephanopoulos wondered.

“Because he wanted to make himself look like a good person,” Trump argued. “Number one, I didn’t. He wasn’t fired. But more importantly, Article II [of the Constitution] allows me to do whatever I want. Article II would have allowed me to fire him.”

“I wasn’t going to fire him,” the president added. “You know why? Because I watched Richard Nixon go around firing people and that didn’t work out too well.”

Watch the video below from ABC.

    EXCLUSIVE: President Trump tells @GStephanopoulos that he “wasn’t gonna fire” special counsel Robert Mueller because “I watched Richard Nixon go around firing everybody, and that didn’t work out too well.” https://t.co/J72Biz1YSs pic.twitter.com/glA1e6L57y

    — This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 16, 2019

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

Donald Trump: ‘I’m actually a very honest guy’

Raw Story
6/17/2019

During an interview with ABC News that aired on Sunday, President Donald Trump said that he resented former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report because it didn’t tell “the truth” and he is an “honest guy”… but also said that he would not have a problem with accepting dirt on a political opponent from a foreign power.

The comments about Trump being an “honest guy” occurred when the president segued to the topic of the Mueller report after an unrelated question about polling in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

This story first appeared at Salon.com.
“Back at the White House Wednesday, we were invited into the Oval Office where the president returned to the Mueller report — again unprompted — this time responding to a question about 2020 polling he doesn’t like,” George Stephanopoulos recalled, showing a clip of the interview in which he asked the president why the Mueller report bothers him so much.

“Because it’s untrue,” Trump replied. “I like the truth. You know, I’m actually a very honest guy. If I thought they were correct, I wouldn’t be complaining at all. I understand that. It’s like the witch hunt that goes on. No collusion with Russia, there was no collusion. And what bothers me…”

After Stephanopoulos pointed out that “the report cites 126 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, but insufficient evidence to charge a criminal conspiracy,” Trump responded that “all I want is the truth. All I want is fairness.”

The interview also included what Stephanopoulos referred to as a “stunning admission” that Trump would accept help from foreign powers during the 2020 presidential election. After the ABC News anchor asked whether Trump’s campaign would accept information from Russia, China or another foreign power or call the FBI, the president responded that “I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don’t — there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘We have information on your opponent.’ Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

When pressed about whether he was okay with that type of interference, Trump insisted that it wasn’t really interference at all.

“It’s not an interference. They have information,” Trump told Stephanopoulos. “I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, that they come up with oppo research. ‘Oh, let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it, but you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have. And that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

Trump’s controversial comments were leaked last week, although their larger context was not known at that time. The remarks were particularly notable because in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. emailed a British publicist named Rob Goldstone who “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Goldstone had made it clear that this was linked to “Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”

The future president’s son replied, “If it’s what you say, I love it.”

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

Trump boasts voters will ‘demand’ he remain president after his second term ends in bonkers tweetstorm

Raw Story
6/17/2019

In yet another attack on the New York Times and the Washington Post, Donald Trump suggested Americans will “demand” he stay on as president after his second term concludes.

Taking to Twitter, Trump wrote, “A poll should be done on which is the more dishonest and deceitful newspaper, the Failing New York Times or the Amazon (lobbyist) Washington Post! They are both a disgrace to our Country, the Enemy of the People, but I just can’t seem to figure out which is worse? .”

He then added, “The good news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!”

You can see the tweets below:

    A poll should be done on which is the more dishonest and deceitful newspaper, the Failing New York Times or the Amazon (lobbyist) Washington Post! They are both a disgrace to our Country, the Enemy of the People, but I just can’t seem to figure out which is worse? The good…..
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    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019

    …..news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019

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

Trump says if GOP paid for Steele dossier ‘there’d be hell to pay’ — Republicans paid for half of it

Raw Story
6/17/2019

President Donald Trump tweeted out once again that he doesn’t know the difference between a man hired to do opposition research and an entire country intruding on an election to sway the result.

In a Sunday Twitter rant, Trump proclaimed that if Republicans had done something like that, “there’d be hell to pay.”

    ……If Republicans ever did that to the Democrats, there would be all hell to pay. It would be a scandal like no other!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019

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The problem for Trump is that the Republicans did actually pay for the first portion of the dossier Christopher Steele wrote.

“Fusion GPS was hired by Republicans to do opposition research, they were hired back [by] the Democratic Party to do opposition research,” added Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Steele dossier.

Indeed, Fusion GPS was hired by the conservative political website The Washington Free Beacon in October 2015. It was there that the Steele dossier began. Just shy of one year after that is when Democrats paid for the other half of it.

The Republican-led Intelligence Committee also issued a report revealing that the dossier was perfectly legal under every law.

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

Trump’s hamfisted attempt to wag the dog with Iran unraveled fast

Raw Story
6/17/2019

Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

We can’t say with any certainty that Iran wasn’t behind the attacks on two ships in the Gulf of Oman this week, but it is clear that the Trump regime’s account of what happened unraveled very quickly. Shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a video of a small vessel removing something Pompeo said was a mine from the damaged port side of one of the ships, the vessel’s owner said that it had actually been struck on its starboard side, above the waterline, by a flying object. If this were in fact an effort to pull a Gulf of Tonkin, then the fact that this was the best dog-wagging they could conjure up would be downright pathetic.   

We would also note how unusual it is for the United States government to claim that it has solid intelligence proving that a country was behind an act of aggression and nobody but New York Times columnist Bret Stephens and washed-up country singer Charlie Daniels is buying it.

At a minimum, they got out in front of the evidence, long before a proper investigation had been conducted. But that’s a charitable reading with a president* who’s made 10,796 “false or misleading claims” over the course 869 days in office. When you have zero credibility outside of the conservative media bubble, you really can’t be this inept with your propaganda.

And with that, on to this week’s less prominent atrocities…
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*****

Speaking of clunky propaganda, these are your tax dollars at work:

    United States officials say they are outraged by a government-funded troll campaign that has targeted American citizens critical of the administration’s hardline Iran policy and accused critics of being loyal to the Tehran regime.

    State Department officials admitted to Congressional staff in a closed-door meeting on Monday that a project they had funded to counter Iranian propaganda had gone off the rails. Critics in Washington have gone further, saying that the programme resembled the type of troll farms used by autocratic regimes abroad.

*****

A few stories from the Brazen Corruption File…

The Daily Beast reported that “a pair of leading firearms trade associations will hold an annual import and export policy conference at Donald Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C. next month—right as the administration finalizes a controversial change to federal gun-trading rules for which both groups have pressed.”

Ivanka Trump, who is an unofficial regime official, pocketed almost $4 million from that hotel last year, according to NBC News.

Her husband is doing OK as well. Per The Guardian, “a real estate company part-owned by Jared Kushner has received $90 million in foreign funding from an opaque offshore vehicle since he entered the White House as a senior adviser to his father-in-law Donald Trump.”

And speaking of opacity, “the Trump 2020 campaign funneled money to a shell company tied to ad buyers at the center of an alleged illegal coordination scheme with the National Rifle Association (NRA) as recently as May 2019, according to new government records analyzed by OpenSecrets.”

Also, this should be a huge scandal…

    At DOT, Chao hired a former McConnell campaign worker and had him focus on Kentucky grants that could help her husband campaign for re-election. My story this morning with @TSnyderDC.https://t.co/UEBvEtGH8C

    — Tucker Doherty (@tucker_doherty) June 10, 2019

*****

Impunity always breeds more lawlessness, and Trump and his minions have become more reckless in their disregard for the law since they managed to survive the release of Robert Mueller’s damning report.

This week, Trump defied a recommendation from his own Office of Special Counsel to fire Kellyanne Conway for repeatedly violating The Hatch Act, which bars government officials from engaging in politics while on the job. She is not alone—last month Politico reported that “in the president’s first year in office, formal complaints that staffers were violating an 80-year-old law prohibiting them from political activity jumped” by 30 percent.

And William Barr’s Injustice Justice Department issued a 33-page memo arguing that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has the right “to defy a request from Congress for President Trump’s tax returns on the basis that it lacked ‘legitimate legislative purpose’,” according to The New York Times. Note that the law requires Mnuchin to fork over the returns to the House Ways and Means Committee without any restrictions based on the committee’s “purpose.”

*****

Meet the new Know Nothings…

“Since day one, the Trump Administration has been actively ignoring its own scientists, external experts, and seeking advice from the wrong people,” writes Genna Reed at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Now, President Trump has further waged war on expert advice by ordering the federal government to rid itself of one-third of its 1,057 advisory committees.” Agencies have to ditch another third of their experts by the end of September. “The Trump Administration dropped this order on a Friday afternoon in a clear attempt to remain under the radar but this utterly inane policy needs to be called out for what it is: pure dreck.”

*****

In related news, William Happer, who was one of Trump’s environmental advisors before moving to the National Security Council, had been working with a prominent climate change denier to pressure NASA to spin away the scientific consensus that human activities are warming the planet. He later tapped two of those goofballs to “help him frame challenges to widely accepted scientific findings on global warming,” according to the Associated Press.

*****

Meanwhile, over at the Labor Department, Trump’s embattled Labor Secretary (pretty much his entire cabinet is embattled) has hunkered down with a small group of trusted aides and embraced a “fortress mentality,” shutting career officials out from not only the agency’s rulemaking process but also literally locking the doors of their executive suite. (This reminds us of Scott Pruitt’s EPA.) Bloomberg Law has more on the story.

    Damning: Sec. Acosta “was personally responsible for removing data from the final draft of a proposed rule” on tip-sharing which projected it “would lead to $640 million to several billion dollars in wages transferred from workers to their bosses.” 1/2https://t.co/gXf8ReIgnQ

    — Brishen Rogers (@BrishenRogers) June 13, 2019

*****

Hope you’re sitting down for this shocker…

    The U.S. Treasury saw a 31% drop in corporate tax revenues last year, almost twice the decline official budget forecasters had predicted. Receipts were projected to rebound sharply this year, but so far they’ve only continued to fall. https://t.co/QYZow5vnEL

    — Lisa Abramowicz (@lisaabramowicz1) June 14, 2019

*****

It’s very ugly, but we just can’t avert our eyes from the absolute horror show that Trump’s migration policies have created.

    “We have what I would call a concentration camp system… a mass detention of civilians without trial.”
    24 people *that we know of* have died under ICE under Trump so far, plus 6 children in other agencies since September.

    https://t.co/YXiDOkx68A

    — Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (@TheRaDR) June 14, 2019

Texas Monthly: “In El Paso, Border Patrol Is Detaining Migrants in ‘a Human Dog Pound’”

Time: “Trump Administration to Hold Migrant Children at Base That Served as WWII Japanese Internment Camp”

Rolling Stone: “‘Guats,’ ‘Tonks’ and ‘Subhuman Shit’: The Shocking Texts of a Border Patrol Agent”

Huffington Post (This one’s particularly disturbing): “Teen Mom And Prematurely Born Baby Neglected At Border Patrol Facility For 7 Days”

    America’s modern day slavery under Trump. Tens of thousands of refugees forced to work for concentration camp profiteers at $1 a day. https://t.co/IE14R4FEu0

    — Ricardo de Anda (@ricardo_de_anda) June 10, 2019

*****

Over his entire career, Trump’s happily stiffed all manner of contractors and investors and left investors holding the bag when his projects went belly-up. Plus ça change…

“Trump still owes D.C. $7 million in inauguration costs as he plans July Fourth gala.”

Recall that the Trump team spent a fortune on his inauguration compared to his predecessors but it was a notably cheap event and nobody really knows where all the money went.

*****

There was some good news this week.

The Trump Hotel may lose its liquor license after locals complained that Trump isn’t of “good character and generally fit for the responsibilities of licensure” as the law requires.

A House panel put the kibosh on Trump’s plan to repaint Airforce One and forbade him from installing gold-plated toilets and other “interior fixtures” on the aircraft. No, that isn’t a joke.

And while Friday’s appeals court ruling that Trump’s transgender ban for the armed forces is constitutional was a short-term setback for LGBTQ rights, over at Slate Mark Joseph Stern explains why it’s actually a win because the ruling established that court’s must apply a higher level of scrutiny to policies that discriminate against transgender people.

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

John Oliver perfectly explains the Mueller report in a way all Americans can understand

Raw Story
6/17/2019

The overwhelming majority of Americans have not read the 400-plus-page report from special counsel Robert Mueller.

As it stands, it’s unclear how many elected officials have either. It’s become a problem for Democrats, who would like to impeach the president but can’t get the American people to pay attention long enough.

“Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver has a solution. In his Sunday show, Oliver outlined a vital piece of the report that outlined just one of many obstructions of justice at the hand of President Donald Trump.

After he outlined what impeachment is, he showed Trump talking about the law that claims it’s for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” According to Trump, he has to be accused of both because it says “and.” An annoyed Oliver corrected the president’s incorrect assessment.

He focused specifically on the example where Trump told his White House Counsel, Don McGahn, to fire Mueller. McGahn refused to do it and assumed that if he refused, he was likely going to be asked to resign. McGahn is quoted in the Mueller report saying that the president asked him “to do crazy sh*t.”
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The Mueller report outlined that Trump told McGahn to fire Mueller and to “call me back when you do it.” Trump then called back later to ask, “Have you done it?”

Oliver noted that it’s clear that it was important to Trump, not like some weird celebrity gossip or flippant fleeting moment from a White House lawn press conference.

When news came out that Trump told McGahn to fire Mueller, the president told his counsel to release a statement saying that the report wasn’t true. He then asked McGahn to write a “letter to file for our records” saying the same.

“So, to recap there,” Oliver began again. “It seems the president obstructed justice. Then obstructed justice again to try to obstruct the investigation into his obstruction of justice. It’s ridiculous!”

Oliver then showed a video of a Trump supporter from Michigan who explained to MSNBC that she never knew Mueller had found anything because she only listens to conservative news.

“But for Don McGahn, Trump may have stopped an investigation into himself,” Oliver reminded viewers.

The segment closed with Oliver explaining “every assh*le wins until they don’t.” He specifically cited former President Richard Nixon, Harvey Weinstein, and Jeopardy’s James Holzhauer, who Oliver said: “stole all of Alex Trebek’s money.”

Watch Oliver’s explainer video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxT8CM8XntA


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Elizabeth Warren Is Completely Serious

About income inequality. About corporate power. About corrupt politics. And about being America’s next president.

By Emily Bazelon
NY Times
June 17, 2019

The first time I met Elizabeth Warren, she had just come home from a walk with her husband and her dog at Fresh Pond, the reservoir near her house in Cambridge, Mass. It was a sunny day in February, a couple of weeks after Warren announced her candidacy for president, and she was wearing a navy North Face jacket and black sneakers with, as usual, rimless glasses and small gold earrings. Her hair had drifted a bit out of place.

The dog, Bailey, is a golden retriever who had already been deployed by her presidential campaign in a tweet a week earlier, a pink-tongued snapshot with the caption “Bailey will be your Valentine.” Warren started toweling off his paws and fur, which were coated in mud and ice from the reservoir, when she seemed to realize that it made more sense to hand this task over to her husband, Bruce Mann.

In the kitchen, Warren opened a cupboard to reveal an array of boxes and canisters of tea. She drinks many cups a day (her favorite morning blend is English breakfast). Pouring us each a mug, she said, “This is a fantasy.” She was talking about the enormous platform she has, now that she’s running for president, to propagate policy proposals that she has been thinking about for decades. “It’s this moment of being able to talk about these ideas, and everybody says, ‘Oh, wait, I better pay attention to this.’” She went on: “It’s not about me; it’s about those ideas. We’ve moved the Overton window” — the range of ideas deemed to merit serious consideration — “on how we think about taxes. And I think, I think we’re about to move it on child care.”

Her plan, announced in January, would raise $2.75 trillion in revenue over 10 years through a 2 percent tax on assets over $50 million and a higher rate for billionaires. Warren wants to use some of that money to pay for universal child care on a sliding scale. As she talked, she shifted around in her chair — her hands, her arms, her whole body leaning forward and moving back. Onstage, including at TV town halls, she prefers to stand and pace rather than sit (she tries to record six miles a day on her Fitbit), and sometimes she comes across as a little frenetic, like a darting bird. One on one, though, she seemed relaxed, intent.

Warren moved to Cambridge in 1995 when she took a tenured job at Harvard Law School, and 11 years later, Mann, who is a legal historian, got a job there, too. By then they had bought their house; Warren’s two children from a previous marriage, her daughter, Amelia, and son, Alexander, were already grown. The first floor is impeccable, with a formal living room — elegant decorative boxes arranged on a handsome coffee table — a cozy sunroom and a gleaming kitchen with green tile countertops. When Warren taught classes at Harvard, she would invite her students over for barbecue and peach cobbler during the semester. Some of them marveled at the polish and order, which tends not to be the norm in faculty homes. Warren says she scoops up dog toys before people come over.

For her entire career, Warren’s singular focus has been the growing fragility of America’s middle class. She made the unusual choice as a law professor to concentrate relentlessly on data, and the data that alarms her shows corporate profits creeping up over the last 40 years while employees’ share of the pie shrinks. This shift occurred, Warren argues, because in the 1980s, politicians began reworking the rules for the market to the specifications of corporations that effectively owned the politicians. In Warren’s view of history, “The constant tension in a democracy is that those with money will try to capture the government to turn it to their own purposes.” Over the last four decades, people with money have been winning, in a million ways, many cleverly hidden from view. That’s why economists have estimated that the wealthiest top 0.1 percent of Americans now own nearly as much as the bottom 90 percent.

As a presidential candidate, Warren has rolled out proposal after proposal to rewrite the rules again, this time on behalf of a majority of American families. On the trail, she says “I have a plan for that” so often that it has turned into a T-shirt slogan. Warren has plans (about 20 so far, detailed and multipart) for making housing and child care affordable, forgiving college-loan debt, tackling the opioid crisis, protecting public lands, manufacturing green products, cracking down on lobbying in Washington and giving workers a voice in selecting corporate board members. Her grand overarching ambition is to end America’s second Gilded Age.

“Ask me who my favorite president is,” Warren said. When I paused, she said, “Teddy Roosevelt.” Warren admires Roosevelt for his efforts to break up the giant corporations of his day — Standard Oil and railroad holding companies — in the name of increasing competition. She thinks that today that model would increase hiring and productivity. Warren, who has called herself “a capitalist to my bones,” appreciated Roosevelt’s argument that trustbusting was helpful, not hostile, to the functioning of the market and the government. She brought up his warning that monopolies can use their wealth and power to strangle democracy. “If you go back and read his stuff, it’s not only about the economic dominance; it’s the political influence,” she said.

What’s crucial, Roosevelt believed, is to make the market serve “the public good.” Warren puts it like this: “It’s structural change that interests me. And when I say structural, the point is to say if you get the structures right, then the markets start to work to produce value across the board, not just sucking it all up to the top.”

The New Sobriety

But will people respond? Warren has been a politician for only seven years, since she announced her run for the Senate in 2011 at age 62. She’s still thinking through how she communicates her ideas with voters. “The only thing that worries me is I won’t describe it in a way that — ” she trailed off. “It’s like teaching class. ‘Is everybody in here getting this?’ And that’s what I just struggle with all the time. How do I get better at this? How do I do more of this in a way that lets people see it, hear it and say, ‘Oh, yeah.’”

In the months after Donald Trump’s stunning victory in 2016, Warren staked out territory as a fierce opponent of the president’s who saw larger forces at play in her party’s defeat. While many Democratic leaders focused on Trump himself as the problem, Warren gave a series of look-in-the-mirror speeches. In the first, to the executive council of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. on Nov. 10, she said that although there could be “no compromise” on standing up to Trump’s bigotry, millions of Americans had voted for him “despite the hate” — out of their deep frustration with “an economy and a government that doesn’t work for them.” Later that month, she gave a second speech behind closed doors to a group that included wealthy liberal donors and went hard at her fellow Democrats for bailing out banks rather than homeowners after the 2008 financial crisis. In another speech, in February 2017, to her ideological allies in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Warren said: “No matter how extreme Republicans in Washington became, Democrats might grumble or whine, but when it came time for action, our party hesitated and pushed back only with great reluctance. Far too often, Democrats have been unwilling to get out there and fight.”

Warren fought in those early months by showing up at the Women’s March and at Logan Airport in Boston to protest Trump’s travel ban. On the Senate floor, opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Trump’s first attorney general, she read a letter by Coretta Scott King criticizing Sessions for his record of suppressing the black vote in Alabama, and Republican leaders rebuked her and ordered her to stop. The moment became a symbol of the resistance, with the feminist meme “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” a quote from the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, defending the move to silence her. Warren helped take down Trump’s first choice for labor secretary, the fast-food magnate Andy Puzder (he called his own employees the “bottom of the pool”), and she called for an investigation of the Trump administration’s botched recovery efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

But somewhere along the way to announcing her candidacy, Warren’s influence faded. She was no longer the kingmaker or queenmaker whose endorsement Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders avidly sought during their 2016 primary battle. When Warren failed to endorse Sanders, the left saw her decision as an act of betrayal, accusing her of propping up the Democratic establishment instead of trying to take it down. (When I asked Warren if she had regrets, she said she wasn’t going to revisit 2016.) Sanders emerged as the standard-bearer of the emboldened progressive movement.

Trump, meanwhile, was going after Warren by using the slur “Pocahontas” to deride her self-identification in the 1980s and ’90s as part Native American. In the summer of 2018, he said that if she agreed to take a DNA test in the middle of a televised debate, he would donate $1 million to her favorite charity. Warren shot back on Twitter by condemning Trump’s practice of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border (“While you obsess over my genes, your Admin is conducting DNA tests on little kids because you ripped them from their mamas”). But a few months later, she released a video saying she had done the DNA analysis, and it showed that she had distant Native American ancestry. The announcement backfired, prompting gleeful mockery from Trump (“I have more Indian blood than she has!”) and sharp criticism from the Cherokee Nation, who faulted her for confusing the issue of tribal membership with blood lines. Warren apologized, but she seemed weaker for having taken Trump’s bait.

Sanders is still the Democratic candidate with a guru’s following and a magic touch for small-donor fund-raising, the one who can inspire some 4,500 house parties in a single weekend. And he has used his big policy idea, Medicare for All, to great effect, setting the terms of debate on the future of health care in his party.

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With four more years of Trump on the line, though, it’s Joe Biden — the party’s most known quantity — who is far out in front in the polls. Challenging Biden from the left, Warren and Sanders are not calling wealthy donors or participating in big-money fund-raisers. Sanders has been leading Warren in the polls, but his support remains flat, while her numbers have been rising, even besting his in a few polls in mid-June. Warren and Sanders are old friends, which makes it awkward when her gain is assumed to be his loss. Early in June, an unnamed Sanders adviser ridiculed Warren’s electability by calling her DNA announcement a “debacle” that “killed her,” according to U.S. News & World Report. A couple of weeks before the first Democratic primary debates, on June 26 and 27, I asked her what it was like to run against a friend. “You know, I don’t think of this as competing,” she responded. It was the least plausible thing she said to me.

In March, Warren demonstrated her appetite for challenging the economic and political dominance of corporate titans by going directly at America’s biggest tech companies. In a speech in Long Island City, Queens — where local protesters demanded that Amazon drop its plan to build a big new campus — Warren connected the companies’ success at smothering start-up rivals to their influence in Washington. She remarked dryly that the large amounts that businesses like Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple spend on lobbying is a “good return on investment if they can keep Washington from enforcing the antitrust laws.” She wants to use those laws to break up the companies instead — a move that no other major American politician had proposed.

After Warren started talking about the four tech giants, along with other critics, the Trump administration let it be known that it was scrutinizing them for potential antitrust violations. Conservatives have suspected social media platforms of bias against them for years, and with concerns about privacy violations escalating, big tech was suddenly a bipartisan target. Warren has specifics about how to reduce their influence; she wants to undo the mergers that allowed Facebook, for example, to snap up WhatsApp, rather than compete with it for users. Warren could unleash the power to bring major antitrust prosecutions without Congress — an answer to gridlock in Washington that’s crucially woven into some of her other plans too. (Warren also favors ending the filibuster in the Senate.) Warren wants to prevent companies that offer an online marketplace and have annual revenue of $25 billion or more from owning other companies that sell products on that platform. In other words, Amazon could no longer sell shoes and diapers and promote them over everyone else’s shoes and diapers — giving a small business a fair chance to break in.

“There’s a concerted effort to equate Warren with Bernie, to make her seem more radical,” says Luigi Zingales, a University of Chicago economist and co-host of the podcast Capitalisn’t. But Wall Street and its allies “are more afraid of her than Bernie,” Zingales continued, “because when she says she’ll change the rules, she’s the one who knows how to do it.”

Warren’s theory of American capitalism rests on two turning points in the 20th century. The first came in the wake of the Great Depression, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt seized the chance to protect workers and consumers from future economic collapse. While the New Deal is mostly remembered for creating much of the nation’s social safety net, Warren also emphasizes the significance of the legislation (like the Glass-Steagall Act) that Democrats passed to rein in bankers and lenders and the agencies (the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) that they put in place to enforce those limits. Warren credits this new regulatory regime, along with labor unions, with producing a golden era for many workers over the next four and a half decades. Income rose along with union membership, and 70 percent of the increase went to the bottom 90 percent. That shared prosperity built, in Warren’s telling, “the greatest middle class the world had ever known.”

Then came Warren’s second turning point: President Ronald Reagan’s assault on government. Warren argues that Reagan’s skill in the 1980s at selling the country on deregulation allowed the safeguards erected in the 1930s to erode. Republicans seized on the opening Reagan created, and Democrats at times aided them. (Bill Clinton signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999.) That’s how the country arrived at its current stark level of inequality. “The system is as rigged as we think,” Warren wrote in her 2017 book “This Fight Is Our Fight” — in a riposte to Barack Obama, who insisted it was not, even as he recognized the influence of money in politics. This, Warren believes, is what Trump, who also blasted a rigged system, got right and what the Democratic establishment — Obama, both Clintons, Biden — gets wrong.

The challenge for Warren, going up against Trump, is that his slogan “drain the swamp” furthers the longstanding Republican goal of discrediting government, whereas Warren criticizes government as “a tool for the wealthy and well connected,” while asking voters to believe that she can remake it to help solve their problems. Hers is the trickier, paradoxical sell.

Warren faces a similar challenge when she tries to address the fear some white voters have that their economic and social status is in decline. Trump directs his supporters to blame the people they see every day on TV if they’re watching Fox News: immigrants and condescending liberal elites. Warren takes aim at corporate executives while pressing for class solidarity among workers across race and immigration status. Trump’s brand of right-wing populism is on the rise around the world. As more people from the global south move north, it’s harder than ever to make the case to all workers that they should unite.

It’s a classic problem for liberals like Warren: Workers often turn on other workers rather than their bosses and the shadowy forces behind them. “Populism is such a slippery concept,” Michael Kazin, a historian at Georgetown University and author of “The Populist Persuasion: An American History,” told me. “The only real test is whether you can be the person who convinces people you understand their resentment against the elites. Trump did enough of that to win. Bernie Sanders has shown he can do it among young people. Can Elizabeth Warren pull it off? I’m not sure.”

It’s an inconvenient political fact for Warren that she’s far more associated with Harvard and Massachusetts, where she has lived for the last 25 years, than with Oklahoma, the childhood home that shaped her and where her three brothers still live and her family’s roots are multigenerational. If you include Texas, where Warren lived in her early 20s and for most of her 30s, she spent three formative decades far from the Northeast.

When she was growing up, Warren’s father worked as a salesman at Montgomery Ward and later as a janitor; neither of her parents went to college. (White women in this group broke for Trump by 61 percent in 2016, and white men supported him by 71 percent.) In the early 1960s, when Warren was 12, her father had a heart attack and lost his job in Oklahoma City. One day, after the family’s station wagon was repossessed, her mother put on the one formal dress she owned, walked to an interview at Sears and got a job answering phones for minimum wage. This has become the story that Warren tells in every stump speech. She uses it to identify with people who feel squeezed.

There’s another story that Warren tells in her book about the implications, for her own life, of her family’s brush with financial ruin. Warren was going to George Washington University on a scholarship — “I loved college,” she told me. “I was having a great time” — when an old high school boyfriend, Jim Warren, reappeared in her life.

He asked her to marry him and go to Texas, where he had a job at IBM. Warren knew her mother wanted her to say yes. “It was the whole future, come on,” she told me. “I had lived in a family for years that was behind on the mortgage. And a secure future was a good man — not what you might be able to do on your own.”

Warren dropped out of college to move to Houston with her new husband. “It was either-or,” she said. Many women who make this choice never go back to school. But Warren was determined to become a teacher, so she persuaded Jim to let her finish college as a commuter student at the University of Houston for $50 a semester. After her graduation, they moved to New Jersey for Jim’s next IBM posting, and she started working as a speech therapist for special-needs children.

Warren was laid off when she became pregnant, and after her daughter was born, she talked Jim into letting her go to law school at Rutgers University in Newark (this time the cost was $450 a semester). After she had her son, she came to terms with the fact that she wasn’t cut out to stay home. “I wanted to be good at it, but I just wasn’t,” she told me.

In the late 1970s, she got a job at the University of Houston law school. She and her husband moved back to Texas. A couple of years later, when their daughter was in elementary school and their son was a toddler, the Warrens divorced. In her book, Warren writes about this from Jim’s perspective: “He had married a 19-year-old girl, and she hadn’t grown into the woman we both expected.” (Jim Warren died in 2003.)

Two years later, Warren asked Mann, whom she had met at a conference, to marry her. He gave up his job at the University of Connecticut to join her in Houston. At the university, Warren decided to teach practical classes, finance and business. In 1981, she added a bankruptcy class and discovered a question that she wanted to answer empirically: Why were personal bankruptcy rates rising even when the economy was on the upswing?

At first, Warren accepted the assumption that people were causing their own financial ruin. Too much “Tommy, Ralph, Gucci and Prada,” a story in Newsweek called “Maxed Out” later declared. Along with two other scholars, Jay Westbrook and Teresa Sullivan, Warren flew around the country and collected thousands of bankruptcy-court filings in several states. “I was going to expose these people who were taking advantage of the rest of us by hauling off to bankruptcy and just charging debts that they really could repay,” she said in a 2007 interview with Harry Kreisler, a historian at the University of California, Berkeley. But Warren, Westbrook and Sullivan found that 90 percent of consumer bankruptcies were due to a job loss, a medical problem or the breakup of a family through divorce or the death of a spouse. “I did the research, and the data just took me to a totally different place,” Warren said.

That research led to a job at the University of Texas at Austin, despite the doubts some faculty members had about her nonselective university degrees. (Mann worked at Washington University in St. Louis.) They finally managed to get joint appointments at the University of Pennsylvania in 1987, and she stayed there until 1995.

During this period, Warrant was registered as a Republican. (Earlier, in Texas, she was an independent.) Her political affiliation shifted around the time she began working on bankruptcy in Washington. More than one million families a year were going bankrupt in the mid-’90s, and Congress established the National Bankruptcy Review Commission to suggest how to change the bankruptcy code. The commission’s chairman, former Representative Mike Synar of Oklahoma, asked Warren, now at Harvard Law School, to be his chief policy adviser. “I said, ‘No, not a chance, that’s political,’” Warren said in her interview with Kreisler. “I want to be pure. I want to be pristine. I don’t want to muddy what I do with political implications.”

But Synar persuaded Warren to join his team. It was a critical juncture. Big banks and credit-card companies were pushing Congress to raise the barriers for consumers to file for bankruptcy and harder for families to write off debt. Bill Clinton was president. He had run — much as Warren is running now — as a champion of the middle class, but early in his first term he began courting Wall Street. He didn’t want to fight the banks.

Warren flew back and forth from Boston to Washington and to cities where the commission held hearings. It was her political education, and the imbalance of influence she saw disturbed her. The banks and lenders paid people to go to the hearings, wrote campaign checks and employed an army of lobbyists. People who went bankrupt often didn’t want to draw attention to themselves, and by definition, they had no money to fight back.

By 1997, Warren had become a Democrat, but she was battling within the party as well as outside it. In particular, she clashed with Joe Biden, then a senator from Delaware. Biden’s tiny state, which allowed credit-card companies to charge any interest rate they chose beginning in 1981, would become home to half the national market. One giant lender, MBNA, contributed more than $200,000 to Biden’s campaigns over the years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Biden strongly supported a bill, a version of which was first introduced in 1998, to make it more expensive to file for bankruptcy and more difficult to leave behind debt. He was unpersuaded by Warren’s charts and graphs showing how the change would increase the financial burden on families. “I am so sick of this self-righteous sheen put on anybody who wants to tighten up bankruptcy,” Biden said during a Senate hearing in 2001.

The bankruptcy battles continued, and when Warren testified against the proposed changes to the bankruptcy code before the Senate in 2005, Biden called her argument “very compelling and mildly demagogic,” suggesting that her problem was really with the high interest rates that credit-card companies were allowed to charge. “But senator,” Warren answered, “if you are not going to fix that problem” — by capping interest rates — “you can’t take away the last shred of protection from these families” that access to bankruptcy offers. The bill passed two months later.

Biden’s team now argues that he stepped in to win “important concessions for middle-class families,” like prioritizing payments for child support and alimony ahead of other debt. When I asked Warren in June about Biden’s claim, she pursed her lips, looked out the window, paused for a long beat and said, “You may want to check the record on that.” The record shows that Warren’s focus throughout was on the plight of families who were going bankrupt and that Biden’s was on getting a bill through. He supported tweaking it to make it a little less harmful to those facing bankruptcy, and the changes allowed it to pass.

In the years since it became law, the bankruptcy bill has allowed credit-card companies to recover more money from families than they did before. That shift had two effects, Matthew Yglesias argued recently in Vox. As Biden hoped, borrowers over all benefited when the credit-card companies offered slightly lowered interest rates. But as Warren feared, the new law hit people reeling from medical emergencies and other unexpected setbacks. Blocked from filing for bankruptcy, they have remained worse off for years. And a major effort to narrow the path to bankruptcy may have an unintended effect, according to a 2019 working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, by making it harder for the country to recover from a financial crisis.

In 2001, a Harvard student named Jessica Pishko, an editor of The Harvard Women’s Law Journal, approached Warren about contributing to a special issue. She didn’t expect Warren to say yes. Students saw Warren as an example of female achievement but not as a professional feminist. “She didn’t write about anything that could seem girlie,” Pishko remembers. “She wasn’t your go-to for feminist issues, and she was from that era when you didn’t put pictures of your kids on your desk” to show that you were serious about your work. But Warren wanted to contribute. “She said: ‘I’m doing all this research on bankruptcy, and I want to talk about why that’s a women’s issue. Can I do that?’”

The paper Warren produced, “What Is a Women’s Issue?” was aggressive and heterodox. In it, she criticized the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund for singling out Biden for praise in its annual report because he championed the Violence Against Women Act, which made it easier to prosecute domestic abusers. Warren thought his support for that law did not compensate for his role in pushing through the bankruptcy legislation, which she believed hurt women far more. “Why isn’t Senator Biden in trouble with grass-roots women’s groups all over the country and with the millions of women whose lives will be directly affected by the legislation he sponsors?” she asked. The answer raised “a troubling specter of women exercising powerful political influence within a limited scope, such as rape laws or equal educational opportunity statutes.

Warren wanted feminism to be wider in scope and centered on economic injustice. She urged students to take business-law classes. “If few students interested in women’s issues train themselves in commercial areas, the effects of the commercial laws will not be diminished, but there will be few effective advocates around to influence those policy outcomes,” she wrote. “If women are to achieve true economic equality, a far more inclusive definition of a women’s issue must emerge.”

She challenged standard feminist thinking again when she published her first book for a lay audience (written with her daughter), “The Two-Income Trap,” in 2003. Warren argued that in the wake of the women’s movement of the 1970s, millions of mothers streamed into the workplace without increasing the financial security of their families. Her main point was that a family’s additional income, when a second parent went to work, was eaten up by the cost of housing, and by child care, education and health insurance.

Conservatives embraced her critique more enthusiastically than liberals. Warren even opposed universal day care for fear of “increasing the pressure” to send both parents to work. She has shifted on that point. The child-care proposal she announced this February puts funds into creating high-quality child care but doesn’t offer equivalent subsidies to parents who stay home with their children. Warren says she’s responding to the biggest needs she now sees. More and more families are squeezed by the cost of child care; not enough of it is high quality; the pay for providers is too low. Warren is framing child care as a collective good, like public schools or roads and bridges.

“The Two-Income Trap” got Warren onto “Dr. Phil,” giving her a taste of minor stardom and the appeal of a larger platform. When the financial crisis hit, she moved to Washington’s main stage. At the invitation of Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader at the time, Warren led the congressional oversight panel tasked with overseeing the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program that Congress created to save the financial system. In public hearings, Warren called out Timothy Geithner, Obama’s Treasury secretary, for focusing on bailing out banks rather than small businesses and homeowners. Through a spokeswoman, Geithner declined to comment for this article. In his memoir, he called the oversight hearings “more like made-for-YouTube inquisitions than serious inquiries.”

But Warren could see the value of the viral video clip. In 2009, Jon Stewart invited her on “The Daily Show.” After throwing up from nerves backstage, she went on air and got a little lost in the weeds — repeating the abbreviation P.P.I.P. (the Public-Private Investment Program) and at first forgetting what it stood for. She felt as though she blew her opportunity to speak to millions of viewers. Stewart brought her back after the break for five more minutes, and she performed well, clearly explaining how the country forgot the lessons of the Great Depression and the dangers of deregulation. “We start pulling the threads out of the regulatory fabric,” Warren said. She listed the upheavals that followed — the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, the collapse of the giant hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management in 1998 and the Enron scandal a few years later. “And what is our repeated response?” Warren said. “We just keep pulling the threads.” Now that the government was trying to save the whole economy from falling off the cliff, there were two choices: “We’re going to decide, basically: Hey, we don’t need regulation. You know, it’s fine, boom and bust, boom and bust, boom and bust, and good luck with your 401(k). Or alternatively, we’re going to say, You know, we’re going to put in some smart regulations ... and what we’re going to have, going forward, is we’re going to have stability and some real prosperity for ordinary folks.”

Stewart leaned forward and told Warren she had made him feel better than he had in months. “I don’t know what it is that you just did right there, but for a second that was like financial chicken soup for me,” he said.

“That moment changed my life,” Warren later said. Stewart kept inviting her back. In 2010, Congress overhauled and tightened financial regulation with the Dodd-Frank Act. In the push for its passage, Warren found that she had the leverage to persuade Democratic leaders to create a new agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Its job is to safeguard people from malfunctioning financial products (like predatory loans), much as the government protects them from — to borrow Warren’s favorite analogy — toasters that burst into flames. Warren spent a year setting up the C.F.P.B. When Obama chose Richard Cordray over her as the first director because he had an easier path to Senate confirmation, progressives were furious.

Warren was an unusual political phenomenon by then: a policy wonk who was also a force and a symbol. In 2012, she was the natural choice for Democrats recruiting a candidate to run against Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, a Republican who had slipped into office, after Ted Kennedy’s death, against a weak opponent. Warren had another viral moment when a supporter released a homemade video of her speaking to a group in Andover. “You built a factory out there?” Warren said, defending raising taxes on the wealthy. “Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.” Brown called Warren “anti-free enterprise,” and Obama, running for re-election, distanced himself in an ad shot from the White House (“Of course Americans build their own businesses,” he said). But Warren’s pitch succeeded. She came from behind in the race against Brown and won with nearly 54 percent of the vote.

Voters of color could determine the results of the 2020 presidential election. In the primaries, African-Americans constitute a large share of Democrats in the early-voting state of South Carolina and on Super Tuesday, when many other states vote. In the general election, the path to the presidency for a Democrat will depend in part on turning out large numbers of people of color in Southern states (North Carolina, Virginia, possibly Florida) and also in the Rust Belt, where the post-Obama dip in turnout among African-Americans contributed to Hillary Clinton’s squeaker losses in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Warren has work to do to persuade people of color to support her. In the last couple of Democratic primaries, these voters started out favoring candidates who they thought would be most likely to win, not those who were the most liberal. Black voters backed Hillary Clinton in 2008 until they were sure Barack Obama had enough support to beat her, and in 2016 they stuck with her over Bernie Sanders. This time, they have black candidates — Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Wayne Messam — to choose from. And voters of color may be skeptical of Warren’s vision of class solidarity transcending racial division. As it turned out, Warren’s case that most white people voted for Trump because of economic distress, and “despite the hate,” as she said right after the election, didn’t really hold up. A study published last year found that among white voters, perceived racial or global threats explained their shift toward Trump better than financial concerns did. What does that say about the chances of winning as a liberal who tries to take the racism out of populism?

When Warren makes the case about what needs to change in America by leaning on the period from 1935 to 1980, she’s talking about a time of greater economic equality — but also a period when people of color were excluded from the benefits of government policies that buoyed the white middle class. In a video announcing that she was exploring a presidential bid, Warren acknowledged that history by saying that families of color today face “a path made even harder by generations of discrimination.” For example, the federal agency created during the New Deal drew red lines around mostly black neighborhoods on maps to deny mortgage loans to people who lived in them.

Warren spoke about this problem years before she went into politics. Redlining contributed to the racial wealth gap, and that had consequences Warren saw in her bankruptcy studies — black families were more vulnerable to financial collapse. Their vulnerability was further heightened by subprime and predatory lending. In “The Two-Income Trap,” Warren called these kinds of loans “legally sanctioned corporate plans to steal from minorities.”

In March, Warren took a three-day trip to the South. She started on a Sunday afternoon, with a town hall — one of 101 she has done across the country — at a high school in a mostly black neighborhood in Memphis. It’s her format of choice; the questions she fields help sharpen her message. The local politicians who showed up that day were African-American, but most of the crowd was white.

The next morning, Warren drove to the Mississippi Delta. Her husband, Mann, was on spring break from teaching and along for the trip. Warren’s staff welcomes his presence because Warren loves having him with her and because he’s willing to chat up voters (who often call him “Mr. Warren”). In the small town of Cleveland, Miss., Warren sprang out of her black minivan in the parking lot of a church to shake the hand of an African-American state senator, Willie Simmons. They were meeting for the first time: He had agreed to take her on a walking tour after her campaign got in touch and said she wanted to learn about housing in the Delta.

Simmons and Warren set off down a block of modest ranch houses, some freshly painted, others peeling, preceded by TV crews and trailed by the rest of the press as her aides darted in to keep us out of the shot. The scrum made conversation stagy, but Simmons gradually eased into answering Warren’s questions. He pointed out cracks in the foundations of some houses; the lack of money to repair old buildings was a problem in the Delta. They stopped at a vacant lot. The neighbors wanted to turn it into a playground, but there was no money for that either.

Warren nodded and then took a stab at communicating her ideas to the local viewers who might catch a few of her words that night. She hit the highlights of the affordable housing bill she released in the Senate months earlier — 3.2 million new homes over 10 years, an increase in supply that Moody’s estimated would reduce projected rents by 10 percent. When the tour ended, Simmons told the assembled reporters that he didn’t know whom he would support for president, but Warren got points for showing up and being easy to talk to — “touchable,” he said.

That night, Warren did a CNN town hall at Jackson State University, the third historically black college she has visited this year. Warren moved toward the audience at the first opportunity, walking past the chair placed for her onstage. She laid out the basics of her housing bill, stressing that it addressed the effects of discrimination. “Not just a passive discrimination,” Warren said. “Realize that into the 1960s in America, the federal government was subsidizing the purchase of homes for white families and discriminating against black families.” Her bill included funds to help people from redlined areas, or who had been harmed by subprime loans, buy houses. The audience applauded.

Warren also said that night that she supported a “national full-blown conversation” about reparations for slavery and Jim Crow. She saw this as a necessary response to the stark wealth gap between black and white families. “Today in America — because of housing discrimination, because of employment discrimination — we live in a world where the average white family has $100 and the average black family has about $5.” Several Democratic candidates have said they support a commission to study reparations. Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the influential 2014 Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations,” said in a recent interview with The New Yorker that Warren was the candidate whose commitment seemed real because she had asked him to talk with her about his article when it came out years ago. “She was deeply serious,” Coates said.

Warren is often serious and doesn’t hesitate to convey her moral outrage. “I’ll own it,” she told me about her anger. She talked about women expressing to her their distress about sexual harassment and assault. “Well, yeah,” Warren said. “No kidding that a woman might be angry about that. Women have a right to be angry about being treated badly.”

Trump gets angry all the time; whether a woman can do the same and win remains a question. Warren’s campaign is simultaneously working in another register. On Twitter, it has been posting videos of Warren calling donors who have given as little as $3. They can’t believe it’s her. When the comedian and actress Ashley Nicole Black tweeted, “Do you think Elizabeth Warren has a plan to fix my love life?” Warren tweeted back and then called Black, who finished the exchange with a fan-girl note: “Guess who’s crying and shaking and just talked to Elizabeth Warren on the phone?!?!? We have a plan to get my mom grandkids, it’s very comprehensive, and it does involve raising taxes on billionaires.”

After Trump’s election, Warren and Sanders said that if Trump followed through on his promise to rebuild the economy for workers and their families, they would help. If Trump had championed labor over corporations, he could have scrambled American politics by creating new alliances. But that version of his presidency didn’t come to pass. Instead, by waging trade wars that hurt farm states and manufacturing regions more than the rest of the country, Trump has punished his base economically (even if they take satisfaction in his irreverence and his judicial appointments).

Warren has been speaking to those voters. In June, she put out an “economic patriotism” plan filled with ideas about helping American industries. By stepping into the vacuum for economic populism the president has left, Warren forced a reckoning on Fox News, Trump’s safe space on TV, from the host Tucker Carlson. Usually a Trump loyalist, he has recently styled himself a voice for the white working class.

Carlson opened his show by using more than two minutes of airtime to quote Warren’s analysis of how giant American companies are abandoning American workers. Carlson has warned that immigrants make the country “poorer and dirtier” and laced his show with racism, but now he told his mostly Republican viewers: “Ask yourself, what part of the statement you just heard did you disagree with?” He continued, “Here’s the depressing part: Nobody you voted for said that or would ever say it.” The next day, a new conservative Never Trump website called The Bulwark ran a long and respectful essay called “Why Elizabeth Warren Matters.”

A month earlier in Mingo County, W.Va., where more than 80 percent of voters cast a ballot for Trump, Warren went to a local fire station to talk about her plan for addressing the opioid crisis. It’s big: She wants to spend $100 billion over 10 years, including $50 million annually for West Virginia, the state with the highest rate of deaths from drug overdoses. In Trump’s latest budget, he has requested an increase of $1.5 billion to respond directly to the epidemic. Against a backdrop of firefighters’ coats hanging in cinder-block cubbies, Warren moved among a crowd of about 150. Many hands went up when she asked who knew someone struggling with opioids. She brought up the role of “corporations that made big money off getting people addicted and keeping them addicted.” People with “Make America Great Again” stickers nodded and clapped, according to Politico.

If Warren competes for rural voters in the general election (if not to win a red state then to peel off enough of them to make a difference in a purple one), her strong support for abortion rights and gun control will stand in her way. Lately, she has framed her argument for keeping abortion clinics open in economic terms, too. “Women of means will still have access to abortions,” she said at a town hall on MSNBC hosted by Chris Hayes of the effects of new state laws aimed at closing clinics. “Who won’t will be poor women, will be working women, will be women who can’t afford to take off three days from work, will be very young women.” She finished by saying, “We do not pass laws that take away that freedom from the women who are most vulnerable.”

Biden and Sanders have been polling better with non-college-educated white voters than Warren has. David Axelrod, the former Obama strategist and political commentator, thinks that even if her ideas resonate, she has yet to master the challenge of communicating with this group. “She’s lecturing,” he said. “There’s a lot of resistance, because people feel like she’s talking down to them.”

Warren didn’t sound to me like a law professor on the trail, but she did sound like a teacher. Trying to educate people isn’t the easiest way to connect with them. “Maybe she could bring it down a level,” Lola Sewell, a community organizer in Selma, Ala., suggested. “A lot of us aren’t involved with Wall Street and those places.”

Warren may also confront a double bind for professional women: To command respect, they have to prove that they’re experts, but once they do, they’re often seen as less likable. At one point, I asked Warren whether there was anything good about running for president as a woman. “It is what it is,” she said.

When I first talked with Warren in February, when her poll numbers were low, I wondered whether she was content with simply forcing Democratic candidates to engage with her ideas. During the 2016 primaries, when Warren did not endorse Sanders, she wanted influence over Hillary Clinton’s economic appointments should she win the presidency. Cleaving the Democratic administration from Wall Street — that was enough at the time. She could make a similar decision in 2020 or try to get her own appointment. If Warren became Treasury secretary, she could resuscitate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Trump has worked to declaw, and tip all kinds of decisions away from banks and toward the families who come to her town halls and tell her about the loans they can’t pay.

By mid-June, however, when I went to Washington to talk to Warren for the last time, she was very much in the race. New polls showed her in second place in California and Nevada. She had more to lose, and perhaps as a result, her answers were more scripted, more like her speeches.

Warren, like everyone in the race, has yet to prove that she has the political skills and broad-enough support to become president. But a parallel from another country suggests that perhaps bearing down on policy is the best strategy against right-wing populism. Luigi Zingales, the University of Chicago economist, comes from Italy, and he feared Trump’s rise back in 2011, having watched the ascension of Silvio Berlusconi, the corrupt billionaire tycoon who was elected prime minister of Italy in the 2000s as a right-wing populist. After Trump’s victory in 2016, Zingales pointed out in a New York Times Op-Ed that the two candidates who defeated Berlusconi treated him as “an ordinary opponent,” focusing on policy issues rather than his character. “The Democratic Party should learn this lesson,” Zingales wrote. He now thinks that Warren is positioned to mount that kind of challenge. “I think so,” he said, “if she does not fall for his provocations.”

Warren and I met in her Washington apartment. The floor at the entrance had been damaged by a leak in the building, and the vacuum cleaner was standing next to the kitchen counter. I said I was a bit relieved by the slight disarray because her house in Cambridge was so supremely uncluttered, and she burst out laughing. She sat on the couch as we spoke about the indignities to come, the way in which her opponents — Biden, Trump, who knew who else — would try to make her unrecognizable to herself. What would she do about that? Warren leaned back and stretched her feet out, comfortable in gray wool socks. “The answer is, we’ve got time,” she said. “I’ll just keep talking to people — I like talking to people.”


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