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« Reply #2205 on: Jan 12, 2018, 06:11 AM »

German coalition talks 'to move on to next stage' after marathon session

Angela Merkel’s CDU and the centre-left Social Democrats have reportedly agreed compromises on wide-ranging issues

Philip Oltermann and agencies
Fri 12 Jan ‘18 08.43 GMT

Leaders of Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union bloc and the centre-left Social Democrats have reportedly cleared a first hurdle towards the formation of the next German government after marathon overnight talks.

The DPA news agency and other German media, citing talks participants, reported on Friday that party leaders were preparing to recommend formal coalition negotiations after agreeing compromises on a wide-range of issues.

Newspaper Bild reported that the breakthrough was reached after Merkel’s conservatives ceded to the demands of the SPD leader, Martin Schulz, for a equalisation of health-insurance contributions made by employers and employees.

Under Germany’s multi-payer healthcare system, employers and employees used to contribute an equal amount towards each individual’s statutory “sickness fund”, but since a reform to the system in 2005 insurants have increasingly had to shoulder additional payments on their own.

In return, reports indicated that the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s CDU had succeeded in its goal to limit the number of family members who can be reunited with refugees that have already been granted asylum in Germany.

Christian Democrat and Social Democrat leaders have reportedly also agreed to lower the tax surcharge introduced to fund the reunification of east and west Germany by 10bn euros by 2021.

According to a coalition paper leaked to German press on Friday morning, the new government would be “prepared to make higher contributions to the EU budget”, as well as support “funds for economic convergence and social convergence and support of structural reforms that can be starting point for future investment budget for Eurozone”.

In the early stages of exploratory talks this week, it was reported that Germany’s would-be coalition partners have agreed to drop plans to lower carbon dioxide emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.

Without additional measures, Germany is set to miss its 2020 emissions target, due to higher-than-expected levels of economic growth.

Negotiation talks at the SPD headquarters in Berlin were on Thursday night accompanied by noisy protests by climate change activists and workers in the country’s coal industry.

SPD delegates will vote on whether to move talks to the next stage at a party conference on 21 January. Even then, the Social Democrats’ leaders will still have to sell the coalition to their membership, and will face resistance.

If talks fail, Merkel’s only remaining options will be to form a minority government or hold new elections.

The Social Democrats had initially ruled out another coalition with Merkel after poor results in the 24 September election, but reconsidered after her talks with two other parties failed.

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« Reply #2206 on: Jan 12, 2018, 06:13 AM »

Polish MPs back even tougher restrictions on abortion

If enacted, the ‘stop abortion’ bill would outlaw terminations carried out because of a congenital disorder of the foetus

Christian Davies in Warsaw
12 Jan ‘18 19.11 GMT

The Polish parliament has rejected proposed legislation to liberalise abortion laws, voting instead to pass proposals for tough new restrictions to a parliamentary committee for further scrutiny.

Poland already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, with terminations permitted only when the life of the foetus is under threat, when there is a grave threat to the health of the mother, or if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

If enacted, the “stop abortion” bill – a so-called citizens’ initiative proposed by hardline conservative groups – would outlaw abortions carried out because of a congenital disorder of the foetus.

Such cases account for about 95% of legal abortions in Poland. It is estimated that tens of thousands of illegal terminations occur in Poland each year, and many Polish women seeking abortions also go abroad, or order abortion pills online.

“This is a black day for Polish women,” said Krystyna Kacpura, an executive director of the Federation for Women and Family Planning. “If the bill is passed, Polish women will die. We are treated as unneeded – we are just there to give birth, and if we give birth to a very sick child, we are left to bring the child up by ourselves without any help.”

In 2016, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) was forced to back away from a blanket ban on abortion when the proposal’s passage to the committee stage provoked mass street demonstrations that came to be known as the “black protests”.

But the rightwing party’s leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, indicated that the government would continue to seek to tighten the law. He said: “We will strive to ensure that even in pregnancies which are very difficult, when a child is sure to die, strongly deformed, women end up giving birth so that the child can be baptised, buried, and have a name.”

Introducing the proposed restrictions on Wednesday, Kaja Godek of the anti-abortion Life and Family Foundation told MPs that “we have come to parliament today because we don’t want hospitals turning into abattoirs”.

Since assuming office in 2015, PiS has ended state funding for IVF treatment and restricted access to emergency contraception, introducing a requirement for a prescription in order to obtain the morning-after pill.

Łukasz Szumowski, appointed health minister during a government reshuffle this week, is one of almost 4,000 Polish doctors to have signed a “declaration of faith” committing not to participate in “abortion, euthanasia, contraception, artificial insemination, and/or in vitro fertilisation” on the grounds that such acts “not only violate the basic commandments of the Decalogue, but reject the creator as well”.

MPs considered a proposal to liberalise abortion laws. The “save women” bill would allow abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy and provide for better access to emergency contraception, medical care and sex education.

But its progress to the committee stage was rejected by eight votes, prompting recriminations as pro-choice activists accused opposition MPs of betraying Polish women by failing to show up. Dozens of opposition MPs who were present abstained.

“Many politicians believe their careers depend on the Catholic church,” said Kacpura. “But we will continue to fight this, because we are fighting for our lives.

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« Reply #2207 on: Jan 12, 2018, 06:34 AM »

Trump pans immigration proposal as bringing people from 'shithole countries'

Trump reportedly disparaged El Salvador and Haiti during pitch to protect immigrants, prompting swift bipartisan rebuke as Democrats called him ‘racist’

• ‘Unkind, divisive, elitist’: international outcry over Trump’s remark

Lauren Gambino in Washington
Fri 12 Jan ‘18 00.13 GMT

Donald Trump described El Salvador, Haiti and certain African nations, as “shithole” countries during a meeting with lawmakers on Thursday, according to a report.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, after being presented with a proposal to restore protections for immigrants from those countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, the Washington Post reported, citing aides briefed on the meeting.

The president demanded to know why the US would accept immigrants from these countries rather than places like Norway, whose prime minister he had met with the day before.

In a statement, the White House did not deny the account, instead highlighting Trump’s hardline immigration stance.

“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” said Raj Shah, a White House spokesman. “Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.”

He added that Trump will “always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway”.

The president’s comments drew swift and bipartisan rebuke while a chorus of Democrats condemned Trump as a “racist”.

“We always knew that President Trump doesn’t like people from certain countries or people of certain colors. We can now we say with 100% confidence that the president is a racist,” said congressman Luis Gutiérrez, a Democrat from Illinois.

“This is the real Donald Trump and my biggest fear is that his voters will applaud him,” he added.

Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican of Utah who has helped implement the president’s legislative agenda, said: “I look forward to getting a more detailed explanation regarding the President’s comments. Part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best and brightest in the world, regardless of their country of origin.”

Haiti’s ambassador to the US told MSNBC that their government had “formally summoned” a US official to explain Trump’s comments.

Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico and a sharp-tongued critic of Trump, returned the insult on Twitter, adding: “America’s greatness is built on diversity, or have you forgotten your immigrant background, Donald?”

    Vicente Fox Quesada (@VicenteFoxQue)

   .@realDonaldTrump, your mouth is the foulest shithole in the world. With what authority do you proclaim who’s welcome in America and who’s not. America’s greatness is built on diversity, or have you forgotten your immigrant background, Donald?
    January 11, 2018

Congressional lawmakers met at the White House on Thursday to discuss a proposal reached by a bipartisan group of senators. Those in attendance included Senators Lindsey Graham, David Perdue and Dick Durbin, the only Democratic lawmaker present, as well as congressman Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, Bob Goodlatte and Mario Diaz-Balart.

Trump’s comments reportedly left lawmakers taken aback.

The Oval Office meeting came on a day of frantic negotiations on all the aspects of immigration law now in the balance. The fate of hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants remained hanging in the air Thursday after being kicked around Washington amid fierce partisan infighting.

Confusion roiled Capitol Hill as initial optimism that a deal had been struck to avoid the so-called Dreamers becoming vulnerable to deportation was quickly deflated by the White House and conservative lawmakers.

“There has not been a deal reached yet,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. “However, we still think that we can get there. We’re very focused on trying to make sure that that happens. ”

Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a member of a bipartisan working group focused on finding a legislative solution for Dreamers, the young people who came to the country illegally as children, set off a firestorm when he announced that the six negotiators had reached an agreement.

“We’re at a deal. We’ll be talking to the White House about that and I hope we can move forward with it,” Flake said, declining to offer specific details. “It’s the only game in town.”

When Donald Trump ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that has allowed nearly 800,000 immigrants to work and go to school in the US without fear of deportation, he gave lawmakers a six month deadline to resolve the issue.

As that window closes, lawmakers are scrambling to find a solution that also accommodates a list of demands laid out by the president: that the bill increase border security and provide funding for a wall; restrict family-based immigration; and end the state department’s diversity visa lottery.

The bipartisan group, which includes Republican senators Flake, Lindsey Graham and Cory Gardner as well as Democratic Senators Dick Durbin, Michael Bennet and Bob Menendez, said their agreement meets those requirements and “we are now working to build support for that deal in Congress”.

Meanwhile, Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters on Capitol Hill that negotiators still have a “ways to go”.

A federal judge earlier this week issued a nationwide injunction, ordering that the administration reinstate the Daca program while the courts deliberate how to rule on the president’s order.

Lawmakers insist that the court order in no way diminishes the need to resolve the issue quickly.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi insisted lawmakers would reach a deal by next week.

She also mocked a parallel effort to the Senate working group, which consists of the congressional number twos, which includes Durbin, Cornyn, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy and House minority whip Steny Hoyer as well as White House chief of staff John Kelly.

“The Five White Guys, I call them,” Pelosi said. “Are they going to open a Hamburger stand next or what?”


UN condemns as racist Donald Trump's 'shithole countries' remark

Human rights office steps into row as residents of nations maligned by president respond angrily and demand an apology

Patrick Wintour, Jason Burke and Anna Livsey
Fri 12 Jan ‘18 11.46 GMT

Remarks by Donald Trump describing immigrants from Africa and Haiti as coming from “shithole countries” were racist, the United Nations human rights office has said, as it led global condemnation of the US president.

On Thursday, Trump questioned why the US would want to have immigrants from Haiti and African nations, instead suggesting the US should bring more immigrants from Norway, whose prime minister he had met on Wednesday.

“There is no other word one can use but racist,” the UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, told a Geneva news briefing. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

The African Union said it was “frankly alarmed” by Trump’s language. “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo told the Associated Press. “This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”

The former Haitian president Laurent Lamothe also expressed his dismay, saying the US president’s remark “shows a lack of respect and ignorance”. The Haitian ambassador to the US, Paul Altidor, said Trump’s views were “based on stereotypes”.

Mexico’s former president, Vicente Fox, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump, said in a colourful tweet that “America’s greatness was built on diversity”.

According to a report in the Washington Post, Trump said “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” after he had been presented with a proposal to restore protections for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and certain African nations as part of a bipartisan immigration deal. In a statement, the White House did not deny the account, instead highlighting Trump’s hardline immigration stance.

Cedric Richmond, Democratic representative and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Trump’s comments were “yet another confirmation of his racially insensitive and ignorant views” that reinforce “the concerns that we hear every day, that the president’s slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ is really code for ‘Make America White Again’.”

Mia Love, a Utah Republican whose family came from Haiti, condemned Trump’s remark as “unkind, divisive, elitist” and demanded an apology for the American people and the nations he “wantonly maligned”.

James Comey, who was fired as director of the FBI by Trump, quoted the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:

    James Comey (@Comey)

    “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” This country’s greatness and true genius lies in its diversity.
    January 12, 2018

David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee, said Trump’s comments were leading a “race to the bottom on refugees”.

Trump has made few references to Africa since his election, and many senior Africa-focussed posts in his administration remain unfilled.

In September he amused some by appearing to invent a new country called Nambia while address African leaders in Washington. Trump also told them: “I have so many friends going to your countries, trying to get rich. It has a tremendous business potential.”

Boniface Mwangi, a well-known social activist in Kenya tweeted that Africa “isn’t a shithole.”

“It’s the most beautiful continent in the world. Beautiful,hardworking people. We have diamonds, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, petroleum, cocoa, coffee, tea etc. Sadly we have #shithole leaders like Trump shitting on us everyday,” Mwangi said.

Standing at a coffee stall outside an office block in Rosebank , a commercial and business neighbourhood in central Johannesburg, Blessing Dlamini, a 45-year-old administrative assistant, said Trump’s words came as “no surprise”.

“He has shown the world he is a racist. We should just block him from our thoughts,” Dlamini said.


‘Shithole countries’? Words worthy of a racist-in-chief

Richard Wolffe

Donald Trump has made no secret of his bigotry. The sad truth is his comments about Haiti and Africa reflect the US’s historic racism

Fri 12 Jan ‘18 11.20 GMT

Donald Trump knows a thing or two about “shitholes” – the label he apparently bestowed on El Salvador, Haiti and various African nations during an Oval Office meeting about immigration. His own father was reportedly so ashamed of coming from Germany – widely considered to be a “shithole” by Americans fighting in two world wars – that he pretended for most of his life that he was Swedish.

These Aryan dreams glowed all blond and bright through Trump’s seminal book, The Art of the Deal, in which he claimed his father arrived as a child from Sweden like some kind of Nordic dreamer.

And they persist to this day inside the White House, where the 45th president of the United States wonders why oh why can’t we get more Norwegians to restock the racial purity of our immigrant bloodlines?

Before the Finns complain about prejudice, we need to have a frank discussion, Mr President.

You don’t need to be ashamed of your own “shithole” past. Like you, my family also hails from a “shithole”. Half my family comes from Morocco, which is an African country. Like you, I was even born in a “shithole” part of a nation that was once frequented by Viking invaders. I grew up in Birmingham, which you might think of as the Queens of England. (Memo to the White House: Not the Queen of England. She’s totally different, although she’s also from a German family.)

Just as all those snooty Manhattan types disdain your birthplace, most of London sneers at mine. I feel your pain. Us shitholers need to stick together. There’s hope for us, you know. You became president because your Russian friends thought you’d be good for a giggle. I learned how to read and write, and chanced upon a job as a typist. It’s funny how immigration opens doors like that.

Far too many people are surprised by your racism, which is as ignorant as it is blatant. This is confusing because you’ve made no secret of your attitudes.

You started this political trip by insisting that America’s first black president wasn’t really American, despite all evidence to the contrary. You seem driven by an irrational hatred of everything Obama: you even blamed him on Thursday for building a new US embassy in London, even though the decision was taken by his white Republican predecessor. You campaigned against Mexico by peddling the libel that the country was sending its criminals and rapists to America. You now want to kick out 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador who keep the economy humming in your new hometown of Washington.

When neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, carrying torches and shouting about racial purity, you said they were good people. You endorsed the Britain First brand of neo-Nazism by sharing its racist lies on Twitter.

With a depressing frequency, you have made it clear that you are literally a neo-Nazi sympathizer. If at some stage you promote eugenics on Twitter, we will save a few letters on our character counts and simply call you a neo-Nazi.

For now, your power to shock says more about us than it does about you. Some people were genuinely ready to believe you were considering a deal on immigration after you allowed the TV cameras to broadcast your civil discussion inside the cabinet room on Tuesday. The media seemed surprised that you could speak like a sane person without dribbling on to your shoes.

This is of course a low bar. But so is feeling outrage about your recent comments about Haitians and Africans.

We could spend some time celebrating the fact that there’s still consensus about hating your blithering racism. But we’re far better off if we understand that you aren’t some alien invasion, even if your family were aliens from a country you were ashamed of until recently.

There’s a clear thread connecting your racism about immigration to historic racism in the country your family adopted as home.

One of your first executive actions in office was the Muslim travel ban. Perhaps your advisers haven’t told you this, but the courts certainly noticed that its racial and religious underpinnings run counter to the landmark 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. That legislation overturned the racist attitudes that you share, enshrined into immigration laws in the 1920s which kept non-Aryans out of America.

Those 1920s laws did not happen by chance. They were shaped by supposedly expert testimony from advocates of the new pseudo-science of eugenics.

They were a singular achievement of the newly revived Ku Klux Klan, which found fresh converts by spewing hate about Jewish and Catholic immigrants even as it sought to revive the racist corpses of the confederacy. The Klan liked to say they were keeping America for Americans.

When he signed those immigration restrictions into law, President Calvin Coolidge said: “America must remain American.”

Sounds familiar? Ask your attorney general Jeff Sessions about that 1924 law, because he told one Steve Bannon (before he “lost his mind”) that America did really well after that eugenics-inspired law took hold. Then the country went downhill after the 1965 reforms. “We’re on a path to surge far past what the situation was in 1924,” Sessions told Bannon on his radio show in 2015.

No wonder you found it so hard to disavow the KKK during your presidential campaign.

Those who disavow Trump now are the only glimmers of hope. We salute you, Mia Love, the former rising star of the Republican party, who represents Utah in Congress and whose family has Haitian origins. “The president must apologise to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned,” she declared.

Those who seek to justify or even celebrate Trump must face as much public disgust as the racist-in-chief himself. Yes, we’re looking at you Tucker Carlson, Fox News host, who insists that Trump is just speaking truth to liberals. Or perhaps Tucker and friends still believe in the Donald Trump who said this to Haitian-American voters late in the presidential election: “Whether you vote for me or not, I really want to be your biggest champion.”

If this is what it looks like when Trump is their biggest champion, it’s time for Haitians to ask the president to stand down. They have surely suffered enough.

• Richard Wolffe is a Guardian columnist


‘He’s an evil man’: MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch says Trump is much worse than just ‘stupid and crazy’

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
12 Jan 2018 at 08:12 ET                   

MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch said President Donald Trump’s “shithole” remarks about Haitian and African immigrants prove he’s a white supremacist.

The “Morning Joe” contributor said the president’s mental fitness has been and should be questioned, but he said Americans should consider an even more disturbing possibility.

“You take Charlottesville and his blessing and love of or kinship with and understanding there are nice Nazis out there,” Deutsch said. “If we take his implied support of a pedophile and now if we take this additional very clear racist thing, he’s an evil man. We don’t talk about that a lot. We talk about he’s insane, crazy — that’s evil. This is just an evil, evil man.”

“To me the kill shot in that quote was Norway,” Deutsch continued. “You know, after that, it was — if in any way you could twist that racist statement, but then (he said) let’s let the white guys in. When I say white, let’s let the Aryans in — you know what I mean. You couldn’t get any whiter.”

“Our president is not only stupid, imbalanced — he is evil,” he added.


Trump reverses stance on surveillance law in series of contradicting tweets

Trump encourages House to renew program to collect intelligence on foreign targets abroad despite initial tweet saying it may have ‘abused’ his campaign

Staff and agencies
12 Jan ‘18 23.14 GMT

In a confusing series of tweets, Donald Trump on Thursday pushed the House to renew a critical national security program that allows spy agencies to collect intelligence on foreign targets abroad, after having earlier attacked the legislation.

A White House official said staffers had consulted with Trump after his initial tweet opposing the administration’s stance.

The House passed a bill this morning to reauthorize the key foreign intelligence collection program with an important tweak. It requires the FBI to get a warrant if it wants to view the contents of Americans’ communications swept up in the process.

The House passed what is known as Section 702 of a program that allows spy agencies to collect information on foreign targets abroad. The bill passed 256-164. The Senate must still pass the bill before it is sent to the White House for the president’s signature.

Earlier, the House rejected a measure to impose stiffer restrictions on the FBI. It would have required the FBI to get a warrant to continue even querying the database when Americans are involved.

“This vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land,” Trump said in a morning tweet a few hours before the votes. “We need it! Get smart!”

But before that he had sent out a contradictory tweet suggesting that the programme was used to collect information that might have been used to taint his campaign.

“‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today,’” Trump wrote, citing a Fox News headline. “This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”

Representative Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said Trump’s tweets were “inaccurate, conflicting and confusing”.

He suggested that a vote on the bill should be delayed until the White House’s position can be ascertained. But Republicans said the vote should be held.

The program allows US spy agencies to collect information on foreign targets outside the United States. Americans’ communications are inadvertently swept up in the process and privacy advocates and some lawmakers want to require the FBI to get a warrant if it wants to query and view the content of Americans’ communications that are in the database to build domestic crime cases.

Trump’s initial tweet linking the Fisa programme that his White House supports to the dossier that alleges his campaign had ties to Russia seemed to be in opposition to his administration’s position, potentially putting the reauthorisation vote in doubt.

His tweets came shortly after a Fox & Friends segment that highlighted the Fisa programme, calling it “controversial”. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, A Republican who has also made the television rounds in recent days, has pushed for less invasive spying measures.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, struggled to explain the apparent about-face as she was repeatedly questioned during Thursday’s press briefing.

Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, said: “There seems to be a pattern – and correct me if I’m wrong and there is no pattern – where the president watches something on Fox & Friends and then he tweets about it.”

Pundit Andrew Napolitano had appeared on the show and criticised the Fisa programme, noted Acosta, who asked if there was a cause and effect at work. Sanders tried to deflect the question by saying: “I’m sure you are disappointed he’s not watching CNN.”

Acosta, often a thorn in the side of the administration, shot back: “I think he watches a lot of CNN, if you don’t mind me saying it.”

Sanders replied tartly: “I don’t think that’s true. Your numbers would be higher.”

There were some disapproving howls in the press room. The spokeswoman continued: “The president has a great deal of understanding. This is top of mind. He was talking about it last week. He has issued a presidential memo on it, so it’s not just something that happened this morning. It’s been an ongoing discussion and something of great importance to the president.”

In another testy exchange, Hallie Jackson, chief White House correspondent of NBC News, challenged Sanders: “His tweet today was confusing. It was contradictory. It just was.” She asked how anyone could trust that those who claim to represent the president’s position actually are.

The press secretary replied dismissively: “I think that the premise of your question is completely ridiculous and shows the lack of knowledge that you have on this process. I’ve tried several times – I’ll do it for a 10th time here. Look, the president supports the 702 but he has some very strong concerns about the Fisa programme more generally … [The tweet] wasn’t confusing for me; I’m sorry if it was for you.”

The president’s reversal was yet another example of him seemingly taking cues from television, particularly the morning Fox News show, while also personalising an issue, in this case the dossier, over a policy position.

There are no obvious links between the dossier and the reauthorization of the spying program, but Trump has repeatedly denounced the document in recent days. The dossier has been back in the news with the release of a transcript of a congressional interview with Glenn Simpson, one of the men behind it.

The document – compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele – makes an allegation that there was a “conspiracy of cooperation” between Russian agents and the Trump campaign, and the president has frequently scorned it since its publication last January.

In March last year, Trump drew fierce criticism when he suggested without evidence that Barack Obama had “wire-tapped” his offices in New York before the presidential election.


Donald Trump cancels London visit amid protest fears

President will not open new US embassy next month, with secretary of state Rex Tillerson likely to take his place

Heather Stewart Political editor, and David Smith in Washington
Fri 12 Jan ‘18 09.49 GMT

Donald Trump has cancelled a visit to Britain next month to open the new US embassy in London, amid fears of mass protests.

The president claimed on Twitter that the reason for calling off the trip was his displeasure at Barack Obama having sold the current embassy for “peanuts” and built a replacement for $1bn (£750m). “Bad deal,” he wrote.

But the embassy’s plan to move from Mayfair to Nine Elms in London was first reported in October 2008, when George W Bush was still president.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said Trump had “got the message” that many Londoners staunchly opposed his policies and actions.

“It appears that President Trump got the message from the many Londoners who love and admire America and Americans but find his policies and actions the polar opposite of our city’s values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance,” Khan said on Friday.

“His visit next month would without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests. This just reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place.”

The prime minister invited Trump for a state visit when she became the first world leader to visit the president in the White House a year ago. Activists immediately pledged to stage protests and MPs have said they would not give the president the opportunity to address parliament.

Asked about Trump’s cancellation, a Downing Street spokesman repeated the government’s longstanding position that “an invitation has been extended and accepted, but no date has been set”.

The White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: “The invitation was made and has been accepted we are still working to finalise a date.”

Instead of a state visit, it had been expected that Trump would make a brief, less formal “working visit” in February to cut the ribbon on the embassy in south-west London, and hold meetings with May. Officials had also been examining plans for the president to meet the Queen without the pomp of a full-blown state banquet.

Government sources suggested Washington had signalled that the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, would instead open the embassy.

Trump confirmed on Twitter late on Thursday night that the trip was off. “Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for “peanuts,” only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars,” he wrote just before midnight local time. “Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!”

Citing security and environmental reasons, the US state department agreed to sell the current embassy building in Grosvenor Square to the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co, which plans to turn it into a luxury hotel. Estimates put the site’s value at £500m before it was made a listed building, which would have diminished the value because of restrictions on development.

British relations with the president hit a low late last year when May criticised his decision to retweet videos posted by the far-right extremist group Britain First.

Trump responded by tweeting directly to the prime minister that she should focus on tackling domestic terrorism.

The government was so concerned about his decision to share the videos that Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, took the rare step of raising the issue directly with the White House.

Trump’s ambassador to London, Woody Johnson, subsequently insisted: “The president and the prime minister have a very, very good relationship. I know the president admires and respects the prime minister greatly.”

May’s government has been keen to strike up a close relationship with the Trump administration despite his erratic behaviour, because of Britain’s desire to strike a swift trade deal with the world’s largest economy when it leaves the European Union.

Trump has sparked alarm among diplomats by repeatedly entering into Twitter spats with key public figures, including the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to whom he recently boasted about the size of the US nuclear arsenal.

The White House has been rocked in recent days by the revelations in an explosive book, Fire and Fury, by the US journalist Michael Wolff, who suggested senior figures in the administration questioned the president’s fitness for office.

Asked about the revelations last weekend, May said she believed they were not serious, and Trump was a man making decisions “in the interests of the United States”.

Trump faced fresh criticism on Thursday night after the Washington Post reported that he had questioned planned changes to immigration rules, asking colleagues why the US had to welcome arrivals from “shithole countries”.


London mayor takes a victory lap over Trump’s canceled UK trip: ‘He got the message — not welcome here’

Brad Reed
Raw Story
12 Jan 2018 at 07:16 ET                  

London mayor Sadiq Khan issued a blistering statement in the wake of President Donald Trump’s announcement that he had canceled his planned trip to London this year.

After Trump wrote on Twitter that he was not going to London due to his personal dislike of the location of the new American embassy, Khan put out a statement telling Trump that his city didn’t want him to come anyway.

“Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda,” wrote Khan. “It seems he’s finally got that message.”

    Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda. It seems he’s finally got that message. This reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place. pic.twitter.com/lNaQGx9iBw

    — Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) January 12, 2018

The London mayor then took a swipe at U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, and he said she made a “mistake” by inviting Trump to the country in the first place.

Even though Trump used the embassy as his excuse for canceling the U.K. trip, reporting from last year indicates that the president fears being greeted with mass protests if he ever set foot inside the country.


‘F-52’ planes Trump boasted of selling to Norway only exist in the ‘Call of Duty’ video game

Brad Reed
Raw Story
11 Jan 2018 at 14:17 ET                  

President Donald Trump this week boasted of delivering “F-52” jets to the Norwegian government — however, it turns out there is no such thing as an F-52.

As the Washington Post reports, F-52 jets are fictional planes that are only found in the video game “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.”

“In November we started delivering the first F-52s and F-35 fighter jets,” Trump said this week during a press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. “We have a total of 52 and they’ve delivered a number of them already a little ahead of schedule.”

According to the “Call of Duty” Wiki page, the F-52 is “an advanced fighter aircraft in service of the United States of America and the Sentinel Task Force” that “is equipped with afterburners for greater speed to outrun aircraft, as well as air brakes, which provide the fighter with additional maneuverability in tight corners or for avoiding enemy fire.”

The Washington Post asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if President Trump is a “Call of Duty” fan, but the White House so far has declined to comment.


Trump accuses ex-Mueller team member Peter Strzok of treason

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
12 Jan 2018 at 16:57 ET                  

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, President Donald Trump said a former member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team who was found to have sent text messages critical of him was guilty of treason.

The remarks were mentioned in a short paragraph about FBI agent Peter Strzok whose texts about Trump, according to the president, “amounted to treason.”

Mueller dismissed Strzok from the team investigating Trump’s campaign after discovering he had exchanged negative texts about the prospect of a Trump presidency with FBI lawyer Lisa page. When those texts were revealed to the public late last year, they became a major GOP talking point that “proved” bias against Trump within the bureau, leading to a new congressional probe into whether Page and Strzok were “leaking” to the press.


Fox News executives privately view Trump ‘as this crazy person who calls all the time’: report

Sarah K. Burris
Raw Story
12 Jan 2018 at 18:44 ET                  

It was revealed recently that President Donald Trump watches between four and eight hours of cable news each day. He typically comes into the office after 11 a.m. and is known for tweeting about his favorite show “Fox and Friends.”

One report, however, claims Trump and Fox News are stuck in a positive feedback loop in which both are promoting each other and verifying each other’s opinions. Now that Roger Ailes is gone, “Vanity Fair” argues that the president is the new programmer for the network.

Conversations about the future of Fox have brought executives, producers, and hosts to see Trump as a kind of “looming figure” over the network.

“When you worked at Fox, you knew that at any moment Roger Ailes was watching. Every day was like a job interview with Ailes. Now it’s the same way for Trump,” a Fox News contributor said.

“What he usually does is he’ll call after a show and say, ‘I really enjoyed that,’” a former Fox anchor said. “The highest compliment is, ‘I really learned something.’ Then you know he got a new policy idea.”

While Trump doesn’t dictate talking points as Ailes did, the so-called “audience of one” has staff keenly aware what they say and do is being monitored. But unlike many Fox viewers, what Trump sees impacts more than just his millions in Twitter followers.

“He has the same embattled view as a typical Fox viewer—that ‘the liberal elites hate me; they’re trying to bring me down,’” one Fox executive said.

According to “Vanity Fair,” however, the relationship “makes it extremely complicated to cover the administration’s near-constant conflagrations.”

“They don’t want to see stuff about Michael Wolff. It’s depressing,” one staffer said about the Fire and Fury book. Instead, everyone is on board with attacking Hillary Clinton and her family.

So, the network is stuck with two options: they can report the news in it’s entirety and risk upsetting the president or they can tell him what he wants to hear and score retweets that draw in his audience to their website. The business decision is to kowtow to the president. The relationship can be advantageous for both.

“He’s sort of viewed as this crazy person who calls all the time,” a Fox executive said.

While the network was once opposed to Trump it has now “become a safe space for Trump fans,” an executive noted. Fox hosts who weren’t on board the Trump train suffered consequences. Bob Beckel, a former co-host of “The Five,” spoke out against Trump and found an unsigned note in his office saying he needed to back off. Oddly enough, hosts and journalists like Chris Wallace and Shep Smith seem to be immune to the pressure and frequently report whatever they want. However, their shows air during an hour when Trump is generally not watching.

Meanwhile, those who have celebrated Trump have been promoted. Sean Hannity, Jesse Watters and Jeanine Pirro have all talked about right-wing conspiracy theories that Trump is the victim of an FBI-led coup. Pirro has been up front that her motives aren’t even about the report or the punditry. She wants to come aboard the Trump train officially.

“I really want a job in this administration,” Pirro proclaimed while walking out of her makeup room, one person who witnessed it said.

While Pirro might celebrate the president’s constant promotion to the network, others aren’t comfortable.

“It’s freaky to see him tweeting at Fox & Friends,” one staffer said. “That doesn’t help us. We’re not state television.”


‘The Lowest White Man’

Charles M. Blow
JAN. 12, 2018
NY Times

I guess Donald Trump was eager to counter the impression in Michael Wolff’s book that he is irascible, mentally small and possibly insane. On Tuesday, he allowed a bipartisan session in the White House about immigration to be televised for nearly an hour.

Surely, he thought that he would be able to demonstrate to the world his lucidity and acumen, his grasp of the issues and his relish for rapprochement with his political adversaries.

But instead what came through was the image of a man who had absolutely no idea what he was talking about; a man who says things that are 180 degrees from the things he has said before; a man who has no clear line of reasoning; a man who is clearly out of his depth and willing to do and say anything to please the people in front of him.

He demonstrated once again that he is a man without principle, interested only in how good he can make himself look and how much money he can make.

Yes, he has an intrinsic hostility to people who are not white, particularly when they challenge him, but as a matter of policy, the whole idea of building a wall for which Mexico would pay was just a cheap campaign stunt to, once again, please the people in front of him.

Trump is not committed to that wall on principle. He is committed only to looking good as a result of whatever comes of it. Mexico is never going to pay for it, and he knows it. He has always known it. That was just another lie. Someone must have stuck the phrases “chain migration” and “diversity lottery” into his brain — easy buzzwords, you see — and he can now rail against those ideas for applause lines.

But he is completely malleable on actual immigration policy. He doesn’t have the stamina for that much reading. Learning about immigration would require reading more words than would fit on a television news chyron.

If Donald Trump follows through with what he said during that meeting, his base will once again be betrayed. He will have proved once again that he was saying anything to keep them angry, even telling lies. He will have demonstrated once again his incompetence and unfitness.

And once again, they won’t care.

That is because Trump is man-as-message, man-as-messiah. Trump support isn’t philosophical but theological.

Trumpism is a religion founded on patriarchy and white supremacy.

It is the belief that even the least qualified man is a better choice than the most qualified woman and a belief that the most vile, anti-intellectual, scandal-plagued simpleton of a white man is sufficient to follow in the presidential footsteps of the best educated, most eloquent, most affable black man.

As President Lyndon B. Johnson said in the 1960s to a young Bill Moyers: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Trump’s supporters are saying to us, screaming to us, that although he may be the “lowest white man,” he is still better than Barack Obama, the “best colored man.”

In a way, Donald Trump represents white people’s right to be wrong and still be right. He is the embodiment of the unassailability of white power and white privilege.

To abandon him is to give up on the pact that America has made with its white citizens from the beginning: The government will help to underwrite white safety and success, even at the expense of other people in this country, whether they be Native Americans, African-Americans or new immigrants.

But this idea of elevating the lowest white man over those more qualified or deserving didn’t begin with Johnson’s articulation and won’t end with Trump’s manifestation. This is woven into the fabric of the flag.

As I have written here before, when Alabama called a constitutional convention in 1901, Emmet O’Neal, who later became governor, argued that the state should “lay deep and strong and permanent in the fundamental law of the state the foundation of white supremacy forever in Alabama,” and as part of that strategy he argued:

“I don’t believe it is good policy to go up in the hills and tell them that Booker Washington or Councill or anybody else is allowed to vote because they are educated. The minute you do that every white man who is not educated is disfranchised on the same proposition.”

In his essay “Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880,” W.E.B. Du Bois discussed why poor whites didn’t make common cause with poor blacks and slaves but instead prized their roles as overseers and slave catchers, eagerly joining the Klan. This fed the white man’s “vanity because it associated him with the masters,” Du Bois wrote.

He continued:

“Slavery bred in the poor white a dislike of Negro toil of all sorts. He never regarded himself as a laborer, or as part of any labor movement. If he had any ambition at all it was to become a planter and to own ‘niggers.’ To these Negroes he transferred all the dislike and hatred which he had for the whole slave system. The result was that the system was held stable and intact by the poor white.”

For white supremacy to be made perfect, the lowest white man must be exalted above those who are black.

No matter how much of an embarrassment and a failure Trump proves to be, his exploits must be judged a success. He must be deemed a correction to Barack Obama and a superior choice to Hillary Clinton. White supremacy demands it. Patriarchy demands it. Trump’s supporters demand it.

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« Reply #2208 on: Jan 12, 2018, 06:42 AM »

California in revolt: how the progressive state plans to foil the Trump agenda

From immigration to the environment and recreational cannabis, state leaders and activists are finding paths to circumvent the administration. Will it work?

Sam Levin in San Francisco
12 Jan ‘18 10.00 GMT

California prides itself on being first with progressive laws on climate change, labor rights and marijuana. In 2018, the Golden State’s “firsts” are defensive – bold proposals and legal maneuvers to protect citizens from Donald Trump.

State leaders have pushed legislation and lawsuits to circumvent and undo Trump’s agenda on immigration, the environment, internet freedom and other liberal causes. One of the most consequential victories came Tuesday when a judge in San Francisco blocked the Trump administration’s plan to end a program that allows 800,000 undocumented people to study and work in the US.

At the same time, activists have also launched grassroots campaigns to shield residents from the White House’s attacks – and to pressure local Democrats to do more to mobilize the largest state against the president.


California lawmakers have adopted the most expansive “sanctuary state” law in the country, restricting police from questioning people about citizenship status and limiting cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice).

The state has also taken the Trump administration to court to challenge his travel ban on Muslim-majority countries and his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program.

A US judge in San Francisco sided with California on Tuesday in the Daca battle, ruling that the Obama-era program that protects “Dreamers” – undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children – must remain in place.

    The immediate goal is to provide a first line of defense
    Maria Sofia Corona-Alamillo, attorney

But Trump – who has a reputation for being vindictive and has openly expressed disdain for California – is on track to retaliate. Ice already arrested hundreds in targeted raids in sanctuary cities last year, and the agency’s acting director has promised to ramp up deportations in the state this year, even suggesting California politicians should be prosecuted.

Across California, vast networks of attorneys and volunteer advocates have formed, leading the resistance to Ice on the ground, sometimes saving lives in the process.

Though Obama deported more immigrants than any other president, the need is even greater now with Ice indiscriminately picking up people in raids, according to Maria Sofia Corona-Alamillo, an attorney working with the Los Angeles County Rapid Response Network.

“The immediate goal is to provide a first line of defense for community members that are facing removal from the country and imprisonment in government-run detention centers, which we for many reasons find inhumane.”

Last year, she said the network mobilized after Ice agents showed up to an auto repair shop with guns drawn and, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, arrested a group of workers even though they had a warrant for only one individual. Ice declined to comment.

Jennifer Lee Koh, an attorney with a Sacramento network, said she represented a Mexican immigrant who was apprehended and threatened with deportation last year. Instead of the typical outcome of removal, the network helped the man, who has three young children, get temporary relief, and he is now on track to get a green card.

“We counter this climate of fear and terror that a lot of these enforcement actions bring to these communities,” said Hamid Yazdan Panah, attorney coordinator with the Northern California Rapid Response Network.

There’s more legislators could to proactively protect immigrants, activists argued. Koh urged California’s governor, Jerry Brown, to issue more pardons to immigrants threatened with deportation due to previous criminal convictions.

Some have argued that stricter enforcement of sanctuary rules is necessary considering that even in liberal jurisdictions like Los Angeles and Oakland, local police have been caught continuing to assist Ice.

Javier Hernandez, director of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, said California should provide “universal representation” – ensuring access to lawyers for all immigrants facing deportation: “Give everyone a fair chance to fight.”

Oil drilling

Trump unveiled a plan last week to open up US offshore territory to oil and gas drilling, including previously protected areas along the Pacific Ocean.

The administration later reversed its position, saying it would not allow drilling off the Florida coast, following pressure from the state’s Republican governor. That further fueled claims that Trump was again targeting California, which has the world’s sixth largest economy and overwhelmingly voted against the president.

    We have a beautiful pristine coastline. We are going to do everything in our power to make sure it remains that way
    Kevin de León, state senate leader

Brown condemned the decision, and lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom said the state was working to prevent new federal drilling leases.

“We have a beautiful pristine coastline. We are going to do everything in our power to make sure it remains that way,” said state senate leader Kevin de León.

Despite the defiant statements, environmentalists argued that Brown has a poor record on oil and gas, with not-for-profit Consumer Watchdog pointing to his administration’s approval of more than 200 new offshore wells between 2012 and 2016.

Brown should halt all offshore drilling in state waters, said Liza Tucker, the group’s energy project director: “That would be truly drawing a line in the sand.”

Brown’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Days after California launched what is expected to be the largest recreational cannabis market in the world, the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced he was repealing an Obama-era policy that had allowed states to legalize pot.

Amid bipartisan backlash, California lawmakers said they were preparing to resist a potential crackdown on weed through a new law that could establish a “sanctuary state” for cannabis.
High time: introducing the Guardian's new cannabis column for grownups
Read more

Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer said he knows seniors, veterans, relatives and others who depend on medical cannabis – motivating him to advance legislation that would block the state from assisting federal authorities in arrests, investigations or prosecution targeting legal operations.

“Jeff Sessions’ call for cannabis enforcement is not only ill-conceived, it’s still that federal war on drugs that hasn’t worked … which is really a war on African Americans and Latinos.”

Criminal justice reform advocates have also urged California leaders to decrease its prison and jail populations for drug crimes and help people with past convictions work in the legal market.

Sessions’ attacks have “only advanced our cause quicker and further”, added Erich Pearson, a cannabis CEO in San Francisco: “We’re in a much more organized time than we’ve ever been.”

Homes in San Francisco. Trump’s tax plan sets a $10,000 cap on the amount of property and income taxes that residents can deduct from federal taxes.


Trump’s tax reform legislation, the most drastic change to the code in 30 years, is slated to hurt California by setting a $10,000 cap on the amount of property and income taxes that residents can deduct from federal taxes. The average California deduction was nearly $8,500 more than the new cap, according to one analysis, meaning many stand to suffer.

Lawmakers, however, are hoping to bypass Trump’s policy with the Protect California Taxpayers Act, which would allow state residents to make charitable donations to a fund and receive a tax credit in exchange.

“We won’t allow California residents to be the casualty of this disastrous tax scheme,” De León said in a statement.

If the bill is successful, other states could follow suit.

Net neutrality

In a state home to the world’s most powerful technology companies, the recent repeal of net neutrality rules, designed to protect an open internet, sparked significant protests. The win for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair, Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, dismantled regulations that ensured internet service providers (ISPs) treated all websites equally and couldn’t charge some more for delivering certain services.

While Democrats in Washington DC work to overturn the repeal, California lawmakers are working to reinstate net neutrality in the Golden State. The bill would empower California regulators and law enforcement to establish and enforce net neutrality requirements on ISPs operating in the state.

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« Reply #2209 on: Jan 12, 2018, 06:43 AM »

Hard-won victories of Arab spring appear more fragile than ever

As the protests in Tunisia show, the underlying economic and social grievances that sparked the original regional uprisings remain

Martin Chulov Middle East correspondent
Fri 12 Jan ‘18 05.00 GMT

In the cradle of the Arab spring, it’s reckoning time again, when the hopes for the Tunisian revolution of seven years ago are measured against its gains. In Tunisia, and in other Arab states rocked by the insurgencies it sparked, hard-won victories appear more fragile than ever.

In many cases the underlying issues that fired revolts first in Tunisia, then in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, remain unchanged. Sclerotic state structures that withered under sustained challenge from the street, and whose demise was seen as transformative, have clawed back losses by re-empowering the security forces that had shielded them for generations.

In Tunisia, as the anniversary of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s departure approaches, many conditions that led to his ousting still apply. Large numbers of young people are underemployed and a stagnant economy remains dependent on the International Monetary Fund, which has imposed austerity measures that have sparked fresh protest. And figures from the Ben Ali regime have made political comebacks.

“There has been a clear effort by the political elite to bring an end to the revolutionary momentum of 2011,” said Rory McCarthy, an expert on Tunisia and fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford University. “These protests are people pushing back against that. So far it’s been a very conservative transition. There have been political reforms, lots of parties, free elections, but few social or economic reforms. Plus, there’s lots of evidence of backsliding towards old techniques of rule.”

Anti-government protests that have raged through Tunisia for the past week are expected to intensify over the weekend, and authorities have been accused of the sort of indiscriminate retaliation that caused demonstrations in the days before Ben Ali’s fall.

Economic and social marginalisation remains a driving theme in Tunisia, as it does in Egypt, where a security structure that was partly dismantled after the autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign again holds sway over most aspects of society. Open defiance in Egypt is now rare, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government allowing little space for political discourse or dissent. The country’s economy remains in dire shape, with inflation spiking and lower income earners struggling to survive. Human rights activists and journalists are enduring an unprecedented crackdown.

“The situation is far worse, repression under Mubarak was not like this. The main difference is the political setting, which is very different,” said Nancy Okail, executive director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. “Currently, any other actors outside the security nexus around the president … are completely marginalised and have no ability or power to participate in government; neither the cabinet, the parliament or the local councils, who have not been re-formed since they were dismantled in 2011.”

Sisi has cast himself as the only man capable of fighting a jihadist insurgency in the Sinai, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives.

Countering terrorism trumps all other political obligations, as it has in Libya, where initial hopes for a transition away from Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade dictatorship have led to a country effectively split in two, with tribes, clans, the Islamic State terror group and a nascent old guard ruthlessly competing for power and influence, with little to no effective central governance.

In Bahrain and Syria, the street protests sparked by Tunisia’s revolt that exposed the fragility of authority and rattled both regimes have long given way to different outcomes. Bahrain’s revolt has become a low-level insurgency, backed by Iran and countered with the help of Saudi Arabia, which holds tutelage over the small Gulf kingdom. The monarchy, which offered only minimal concessions to protesters, has been safeguarded.

In Syria, a destructive civil war had replaced calls for civil change by early 2012. Six years on, it appears to be approaching an endgame, with few of the protesters’ calls for change having been met, and the Assad regime, directed by its backers, Iran and Russia, in a winning position after huge losses of blood and assets.

In Tunisia, where it all began, protesters say they have not lost hope for lasting change. The country remains the only relative success story of the Arab spring, and has made moves towards democratic rule, with free elections, seamless transitions of power, and attempts to build institutions, among other gains. “It’s far more successful than any other Arab spring country obviously,” said McCarthy. “But the future is still contested.”

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« Reply #2210 on: Jan 13, 2018, 06:12 AM »

Spanish researchers discover 30,000 year-old cave paintings

The team used cutting-edge technology to identify the prehistoric artwork.

By Aristos Georgiou

Researchers have discovered four new sets of cave paintings in Cantabria, northern Spain, the oldest of which was made nearly 30,000 years ago – making it one of the earliest known examples of prehistoric art in the world.

The team from the Museum of Prehistory of Cantabria, led by Spanish prehistorian Roberto Ontañón, used cutting-edge imaging techniques to identify the drawings.

Twenty years ago, a speleologist – a scientist who studies caves – had informed archaeologists of the possible existence of ancient paintings in various rock cavities in Cantabria. However, the techniques available at the time were not sufficient to confirm the existence of the art.

The paintings, like much prehistoric artwork, had degraded so much over time that they were difficult to identify with the naked eye. To overcome this, Ontañón and his team used a 3D laser scanning method, which reproduced the artwork on a computer.

"These technologies allow you to detect colors beyond the range of the visible spectrum (infrared to ultraviolet) and, in this way, 'reveal' paintings that at first sight are imperceptible or difficult to
distinguish", Ontañón told IBTimes UK.

The artworks are estimated to have been made between 30,000 and 20,000 years ago, making them older than the famous bison drawings at the renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site at nearby Altamira – created around 16,000 years ago – but not as old as the earliest example in the region.

That title goes to the cave drawings at El Castillo, also in Cantabria, which were made more than 40,000 years ago and are arguably the oldest in the world.

Cantabria has some of the highest concentrations of prehistoric art anywhere on Earth. This can be attributed to the fact that the region was a good place to live during glacial periods in the Earth's history, a result of its temperate climate and abundance of wild animals.

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« Reply #2211 on: Jan 13, 2018, 06:20 AM »

Ivory Trade in China Is Now Banned

China's ivory trade ban is now in effect, making it illegal to sell and buy ivory in the country.


China, one of the world's largest markets for both legal and illegal ivory, has been a major driver of elephant poaching in Africa. Last year, the Chinese government announced its commitment to shut down its legal, domestic ivory markets by the end of 2017. By March 3, about 67 ivory carving factories and shops had been closed, according to Xinhua News. The remaining markets and factories are said to have been shut by Dec. 31, 2017.

Conservationists have welcomed this ban.

"Decades from now, we may point back to this as one of the most important days in the history of elephant conservation," Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a statement. "China has followed through on a great promise it made to the world, offering hope for the future of elephants."

Raising awareness about the ban and reducing demand for ivory, however, is critical for the ban to work, conservationists say. In a recent survey, WWF and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, found that only 19 percent of the people interviewed in mainland China had heard of the ivory ban. But on learning about the ban, 86 percent of the people surveyed said they would support it.

The ivory ban has also received support from celebrities like NBA star Yao Ming. In 2012, conservation groups WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants, together with Yao Ming, launched a large public awareness campaign to highlight how the demand for ivory was fueling elephant poaching in Africa.

"We can start 2018 hopeful that elephants will be safer now that China has banned commercial ivory sales," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said in a statement. "Prices are down and law enforcement efforts in many parts of Africa and Asia are much improved."

The ivory ban alone, however, won't end the poaching of elephants, Hemley said. "It's equally critical that China's neighbors follow suit and shut down ivory markets across Asia. Only then can we ensure the open trade doesn't simply shift to other countries and offer traffickers safe channels for newly-poached ivory."

"The fate of Africa's elephants depends on global rejection of ivory trade, and governments hold the key to driving this," Hemley added.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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« Reply #2212 on: Jan 13, 2018, 06:21 AM »

China to Plant New Forests the Size of Ireland This Year


China's government announced plans for a major reforestation project. The country aims to grow about 6.66 million hectares of new forests this year, an area roughly the size of Ireland.

The announcement was made last week by Zhang Jianlong, the head of China's State Forestry Administration, in an effort to shed the country's image as a major polluter and become a global environmental leader, the Telegraph reported.

China is the world's largest emitter and remains heavily dependent on coal, but the country has been cleaning up its act in recent years due to concerns over the impacts of air pollution and climate change.

The administration announced several forestry goals, which include increasing the country's forest coverage rate to 23 percent from 21.7 percent by the end of the decade. Then from 2020 to 2035, China plans to further boost the percentage of forest coverage to 26 percent.

"Companies, organizations and talent that specialize in greening work are all welcome to join in the country's massive greening campaign," Jianlong said. "Cooperation between government and social capital will be put on the priority list."

The new forest areas will be built in the northeast Hebei province, the Qinghai province in the Tibetan Plateau and in the Hunshandake Desert in Inner Mongolia.

Zhang said that China has spent more than 538 billion yuan (about $83 billion) on planting forests over the past five years, putting the country's total forest area to 208 million hectares.

According to Reuters, the government is also promoting an "ecological red line" program to force provinces and regions to restrict "irrational development" to curb construction near rivers, forests and national parks.

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« Reply #2213 on: Jan 13, 2018, 06:22 AM »

The Netherlands Can Feed the World. Here’s Why It Shouldn’t

By Olga Mecking, Commentary

Recently, National Geographic published an article called This Tiny Country Feeds the World, where the author extolled the innovations of a small European country that has managed to become a global powerhouse in agriculture and technology—the Netherlands. Now the second biggest exporter in value of agricultural products after the U.S., the country has managed to cut down carbon emissions and its use of fertilizer and pesticides while implementing cutting-edge technology and increasing yields.

The article opens with a vivid description of a farm close to the Belgian border where a farmer is overseeing drones from the cabin of his state-of-the-art harvester. He is the symbol of the new Dutch approach to food production: "Twice as much food using half as many resources."

The author blithely points out what we already know: There will be 9 billion people living on Earth by 2050 and the demand for food will increase accordingly.

On the surface, it sounds impressive: A tiny, densely populated country has developed the capacity to feed the world, a feat worthy of admiration. And yet this raises other, more critical questions: Is the Netherlands' technology-dependent, high-capital model actually appropriate for other countries? Is it even necessary? And what gets lost when we focus solely on increasing food efficiency?

You may not hear many Dutch people complaining about their own food, but for everyone else, it lacks quality and taste. This is best symbolized by the tomato. A German once told me, "Dutch tomatoes are best for playing tennis with." And yet the Netherlands is the third biggest exporter of tomatoes in the European Union. The given reason is always economics; the Dutch were paid the lowest price per kilo out of all EU countries.

While some good tomatoes are produced for both export and for domestic consumption, "the taste is not always good," explained Leo Marcelis, a professor of horticulture at Wageningen University and Research. "It's more the choice of the grower. Many growers go for more kilograms because then the net profit is higher."

But the problem isn't with Dutch production, but rather with Dutch choice. "The originality or creativity of the food culture—you won't find it here," said Pinar Coskun, a sociologist at Sustainable Food Lab, an Erasmus University of Rotterdam project aimed at encouraging more varied, sustainable, and plant-based diets. A country can become an agricultural powerhouse without having a rich food culture, but the focus on price, efficiency and practicality has undermined how the Dutch both consume and produce their food.

"For the Netherlands, it doesn't matter what you are importing or exporting, whether it's raw materials, or food ingredients. It has more to do with economy, distribution, logistics than getting into food culture. So that's also a little bit of rational thinking," explained Coskun.

Dutch food has a reputation for being bland, uninspired and boring, which is astounding given the country's rich history of seafaring and trading. But the Dutch were once adventurous eaters, experimenting with new ingredients and mixing them up in novel ways. Cookbooks such as De Verstandige Kok (or The Reasonable Chef), which was published in 1669, are proof that the Dutch had taken great interest in what was on their plates. They experimented with spices such as saffron and others. A recipe featured roasted goose with turmeric and quince paste cookies. Many people grew fruits and vegetables in their own gardens.

But in the 19th century, when the Dutch Golden Age of exploration and colonization was over, the Netherlands lost many of its territories to England, and frugality became fashionable. At the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, girls were sent to special housekeeping schools, where they learned to cook simply, cheaply and quickly. Experimenting with tastes, ingredients and cooking methods was seen as frivolous, therefore was frowned upon. As a result, Dutch culinary culture lost much of its early adventurousness and became known for the bland and mashed concoctions we find today.

But this is, yet again, changing. Among others, a new collective of chefs called Dutch Cuisine is devoted to raising the profile of Dutch food in the nation and around the world.

It's underexposed, said Marjan Pijnenburg, one of Dutch Cuisine's founders, but she disagrees with the notion that the Netherlands lacks a food culture. "We have fantastic food, traditions, and products," she said. "That is something we can be proud of."

There are some benefits to a simple approach to food. For one, while the country's high-tech food industry grows the same crops year-round (for example, tomatoes), the Dutch diet relies heavily on seasonal produce from small, local, family-owned farms. Some dishes, such as stamppot (mashed potatoes with leafy green vegetables and smoked sausage) or snert (also known as erwtensoep, green split pea soup), are only eaten in wintertime. There is a growing interest in rediscovering long-forgotten fruits and vegetables, such as Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips or medlars, now sold in many health food stores. Weekly farmers markets, which offer a wide variety of fresh produce, have a long tradition in the Netherlands. And, for food purists who love knowing exactly what they are eating, the Dutch minimalistic approach seems perfect because most dishes don't require a miles-long list of ingredients.

Moreover, the culture is slowly and steadily changing, following the global trend toward healthier food. In 2014, the Netherlands topped the list of countries with the most available, healthy, nutritious and affordable food. The Dutch also increasingly buy organic food, especially when it comes to staples like eggs, milk and fish. However, not all trends are positive. The Dutch still consume large amounts of sugar and fat. The time used for food preparation and shopping has decreased in recent years, with a trend toward ready-made or take-out dishes. But the shift toward healthier and tastier cuisine can't be dismissed.

The world definitely has a lot to learn from Dutch innovations in farming, especially when it comes to reducing the use of water, pesticides and carbon emissions. But before we get overly excited about the Netherlands, let's remember that the Dutch have their own lessons to learn. In Coskun's words, "before we feed the world, we should feed ourselves."

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« Reply #2214 on: Jan 13, 2018, 06:24 AM »

EPA Rule Change Would Expose Teenagers to Highly Toxic Chemicals

By Farron Cousins

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking aim at two rules designed to prevent exposure to toxic chemicals by workers under the age of 18. The agency has filed notices with the federal register of its intent to either tweak or outright eliminate these protections for underage workers.

The first rule the agency is looking to change is one the Obama administration adopted in 2015 which prohibited farmworkers under the age of 18 from handling and dispersing certain pesticides deemed too toxic for public sale.

Typically, the pesticides used on large agricultural sites contain far more potent and toxic chemicals, and these pesticides are only available for sale to commercial farms due to their toxicity. These are known as "restricted use" pesticides, and the EPA provides a full list of the thousands of chemicals that fall into this category.

According to HuffPost, the rules were put in place in 2015 after doctors lobbied for tighter restrictions for underage workers due to the potential impacts of this class of chemicals on the still developing bodies of children, and they warned about very severe health impacts that these chemicals could have on brain development.

The second rule is related to the first and would loosen restrictions on who could be certified to dispense such toxic pesticides, which would open the door for minors to gain this certification.

As DeSmog has pointed out in the past, children are far more susceptible to chemical toxicity than adults, making these proposed rule changes a potential disaster waiting to happen:

As the Centers for Disease Control explained, children require more food, oxygen and water than adults in comparison to their body size. This means that a contaminant in any one of those areas will have a greater presence in the body of a child compared to the body of a full grown adult.

The CDC also said that some organ systems within the body do not fully mature until a child is in their teens, and a developing system is far more susceptible to pollutants than an established organ system, as different pollutants can delay or alter development.

The CDC described out how different types of environmental contaminants affect children differently than adults: "Exposure to the same chemical may cause different health outcomes in children compared with adults. A well-known example is the effect of lead on young children's developing nervous systems. Lead does have effects on the nervous systems of adult workers, which result in peripheral neuropathies. For children, however, intellectual development is exquisitely sensitive to even small amounts of lead; this sensitivity is not seen in adults."

Many of the pesticides that are classified as "restricted use" include at least one chemical related to at least one major health effect, according to a study by researchers in Greece.

For very obvious reasons, changing these protections could result in health disasters for youth in the U.S., particularly those working on farms. These rules were adopted on the advice of medical professionals, and changing these protections would only further show that the current administration, and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, will continue to side with industry interests over science and public health.

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« Reply #2215 on: Jan 13, 2018, 06:31 AM »

Beijing bets on facial recognition in a big drive for total surveillance

WA Post

For 40-year-old Mao Ya, the facial recognition camera that allows access to her apartment house is simply a useful convenience.

“If I am carrying shopping bags in both hands, I just have to look ahead and the door swings open,” she said. “And my 5-year-old daughter can just look up at the camera and get in. It’s good for kids because they often lose their keys.”

But for the police, the cameras that replaced the residents’ old entry cards serve quite a different purpose.

Now they can see who’s coming and going, and by combining artificial intelligence with a huge national bank of photos, the system in this pilot project should enable police to identify what one police report, shared with The Washington Post, called the “bad guys” who once might have slipped by.

Facial recognition is the new hot tech topic in China. Banks, airports, hotels and even public toilets are all trying to verify people’s identities by analyzing their faces. But the police and security state have been the most enthusiastic about embracing this new technology.

The pilot in Chongqing forms one tiny part of an ambitious plan, known as “Xue Liang,” which can be translated as “Sharp Eyes.” The intent is to connect the security cameras that already scan roads, shopping malls and transport hubs with private cameras on compounds and buildings, and integrate them into one nationwide surveillance and data-sharing platform.

It will use facial recognition and artificial intelligence to analyze and understand the mountain of incoming video evidence; to track suspects, spot suspicious behaviors and even predict crime; to coordinate the work of emergency services; and to monitor the comings and goings of the country’s 1.4 billion people, official documents and security industry reports show.

At the back end, these efforts merge with a vast database of information on every citizen, a “Police Cloud” that aims to scoop up such data as criminal and medical records, travel bookings, online purchase and even social media comments — and link it to everyone’s identity card and face.

A goal of all of these interlocking efforts: to track where people are, what they are up to, what they believe and who they associate with — and ultimately even to assign them a single “social credit” score based on whether the government and their fellow citizens consider them trustworthy.

At this housing complex in Chongqing, “90 percent of the crime is caused by the 10 percent of people who are not registered residents,” the police report said. “With facial recognition we can recognize strangers, analyze their entry and exit times, see who spends the night here, and how many times. We can identify suspicious people from among the population.”

Adrian Zenz, a German academic who has researched ethnic policy and the security state in China’s western province of Xinjiang, said the government craves omnipotence over a vast, complex and restive population.

“Surveillance technologies are giving the government a sense that it can finally achieve the level of control over people’s lives that it aspires to,” he said.

In this effort, the Chinese government is working hand-in-glove with the country’s tech industry, from established giants to plucky start-ups staffed by graduates from top American universities and former employees of companies like Google and Microsoft, who seem cheerfully oblivious to concerns they might be empowering a modern surveillance state.

The name of the video project is taken from the Communist slogan “the masses have sharp eyes,” and is a throwback to Mao Zedong’s attempt to get every citizen spying on one another. The goal, according to tech industry executives working on the project, is to shine a light into every dark corner of China, to eliminate the shadows where crime thrives.

The Sharp Eyes project also aims to mobilize the neighborhood committees and snoopy residents who have long been key informers: now, state media reports, some can turn on their televisions or mobile phones to see security camera footage, and report any suspicious activity — a car without a license plate, an argument turning violent — directly to the police.

To the eyes of the masses, in other words, add the brains of the country’s fast-growing tech industry.
At Megvii offices in Beijing, a designer prepares marketing material for a facial-recognition product. The company's marketing manager has said Megvii's Face program has helped police make thousands of arrests.

By 2020, China’s government aims to make the video surveillance network “omnipresent, fully networked, always working and fully controllable,” combining data mining with sophisticated video and image analysis, official documents show.

China is not alone in experimenting with these new technologies. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification System uses facial recognition to compare images from crime scenes with a national database of mug shots. Police forces across the United States have been using algorithm-based techniques for several years to predict where crimes are likely to occur.

Chicago police identified and a court convicted a thief using facial-recognition technology in 2014, and Britain used a Japanese program called NeoFace Watch to spot a wanted man in a crowd in May.

The United States, with around 62 million surveillance cameras in 2016, actually has higher per capita penetration rate than China, with around 172 million, according to Monica Wang, a senior analyst in video surveillance and security at research consultants IHS Markit in Shanghai.

Yet it is China’s ambition that sets it apart. Western law enforcement agencies tend to use facial recognition to identify criminal suspects, not to track social activists and dissidents, or to monitor entire ethnic groups. China seeks to achieve several interlocking goals: to dominate the global artificial-intelligence industry, to apply big data to tighten its grip on every aspect of society, and to maintain surveillance of its population more effectively than ever before.

“Deep learning is poised to revolutionize the video surveillance industry,” Wang wrote in a recent report. “Demand in China will grow quickly, providing the engine for future market growth.”

In the showrooms of three facial-recognition start-ups in Chongqing and Beijing, video feeds roll past on big screens, with faces picked out from crowds and matched to images of wanted men and women. Street cameras automatically classify passersby according to gender, clothes and even hair length, and software allows people to be tracked from one surveillance camera to the next, by their faces alone.

“The bigger picture is to track routine movement, and after you get this information, to investigate problematic behavior,” said Li Xiafeng, director of research and development at Cloudwalk, a Chongqing-based firm. “If you know gambling takes place in a location, and someone goes there frequently, they become suspicious.”

Gradually, a model of people’s behavior takes shape. “Once you identify a criminal or a suspect, then you look at their connections with other people,” he said. “If another person has multiple connections, they also become suspicious.”

The start-ups also showcase more consumer-friendly applications of their technology. Companies like SenseTime, Megvii and Cloudwalk provide the software that powers mobile apps allowing people to alter, “beautify” or transform their faces for fun.

Much of their business also comes from banks and financial companies that are using facial recognition to check identities, at ATMs or on phones. Some airports in China already employ facial recognition in security checks, and hotels are doing the same at check-in; a Chinese version of Airbnb promises to use it to verify guests’ identities, while China’s version of Uber, Didi Chuxing, is using it to verify those of its drivers.

Some of the applications have a slightly gimmicky feel. A lecturer at a Beijing university was said to be using a face scanner to check if his students were bored; a toilet roll dispenser at a public facility outside the Temple of Heaven in Beijing reportedly scans faces to keep people from stealing too much paper, while a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Hangzhou allows customers to simply “smile to pay.”

Other ideas are struggling to move beyond the pilot stage: a plan to identify jaywalkers in Chongqing has already been abandoned, while residents have responded to facial-recognition gates on some apartment buildings in Chongqing and Beijing by propping the doors open.

Yet facial recognition is not going away, and it promises to become a potent tool for maintaining control of Chinese society.

So far, the technology doesn’t quite match the ambition: It is not foolproof.

“There will be false positives for the foreseeable future,” said Jim Dempsey, executive director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Law and Technology. This raises two critical questions, he said: Does a country’s due process system protect people from being falsely convicted on the basis of facial-recognition technology? And are the false positives disproportionately skewed toward certain minority groups, such as Chinese Muslims?

In China, the tech companies claim many times greater accuracy rates than, for instance, the FBI, and probably justifiably so, experts say: after all, they have been able to draw on a huge pool of photos from government records to improve their algorithms, without any pesky concerns about privacy.

More than anything else, experts say, deep learning technologies need huge amounts of data to come up with accurate algorithms. China has more data than anywhere else in the world and fewer constraints about mining it from its citizens.

“Now we are purely data driven,” said Xu Li, CEO of SenseTime. “It’s easier in China to collect sufficient training data. If we want to do new innovations, China will have advantages in data collection in a legal way.”

Smart technology backed by artificial intelligence will be a tool to assist the police forces of the future. Chinese IT and telecoms giant Huawei says its Safe Cities technology has already helped Kenya bring down urban crime rates.

But who’s a criminal? In China, documents for the Police Cloud project unearthed by Human Rights Watch list “petitioners” — people who complain to the government about perceived injustices — as potential targets of surveillance, along with anyone who “undermines stability” or has “extreme thoughts.” Other documents cite members of ethnic minorities, specifically Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang, as subjects of scrutiny.

Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said what sets China apart is “a complete lack of effective privacy protections,” combined with a system that is explicitly designed to target individuals seen as “politically threatening.”

“In other countries, we are often concerned about the use of big data for deepening existing policing bias — for example, for targeting historically disadvantaged groups like African Americans in the U.S. context — but for the Chinese systems, the targeting of people of certain ethnicity is a fundamental function of the system,” she added.

In Muslim-majority Xinjiang, where a spate of violent incidents has been blamed on separatists or Islamist radicals, facial-recognition cameras have become ubiquitous at roadblocks, outside gas stations, airports, railway and bus stations, and at residential and university compounds and entrances to Muslim neighborhoods, experts say. DNA collection and iris scanning add extra layers of sophistication.

At Megvii, marketing manager Zhang Xin boasts that the company’s Face++ program helped police arrest 4,000 people since the start of 2016, including about 1,000 in Hangzhou, where a major deployment of cameras in hotels, subways and train stations preceded that year’s G-20 summit.

Very likely among that number: some of the dozens of dissidents, petitioners and citizen journalists who were detained in and around the city at that time.

Frances Eve, a researcher for Chinese Human Rights Defenders in Hong Kong, argues that China’s tech companies are complicit in human rights abuses.

“It’s basically a crime in China to advocate for human rights protection,” she said. “The government treats human rights activists, lawyers and ethnic Uighurs and Tibetans as criminals, and these people are being caught, jailed and possibly tortured as a result of this technology.”

Shirley Feng contributed to this report.

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« Reply #2216 on: Jan 13, 2018, 06:35 AM »

Greta Gerwig regrets Woody Allen film: 'I will not work for him again'

Actor, writer and director says ‘if I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in [To Rome With Love]’

Steph Harmon
13 Jan 2018 01.18 GMT

Greta Gerwig has expressed regret over working with Woody Allen on 2012 film To Rome With Love, saying in an online roundtable, “If I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in the film.”

At the Golden Globes this week, where Gerwig’s critically acclaimed film Lady Bird won in two of four nominated categories, the actor, writer and director dodged a question about working with Allen.
Mira Sorvino: I am terribly sorry for working with Woody Allen
Read more

Allen has been the subject of decades-long allegations of sexual abuse by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, which he continues to deny.

“It’s something that I’ve thought deeply about, and I care deeply about,” Gerwig said on Sunday night. “I haven’t had an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion where I come down on one side or another.”
Greta Gerwig questioned about working with Woody Allen backstage at the Globes on Sunday - video

Some criticised Gerwig for evading the question, while others drew attention to the gendered pattern of holding women like Gerwig and Kate Winslet more accountable for working with Allen than men.

    Erica C. Barnett (@ericacbarnett)

    Yo, while we're (correctly and righteously) trashing the women who worked with Woody Allen and are now hypocritically saying #TIMESUP, can we PLEASE also talk about all the MEN who worked with him and are not experiencing remotely similar levels of scrutiny right now?
    January 9, 2018

    Bailey Disler (@baytato)

    Another day, another d(ay watching people attack primarily women for working with Woody Allen in the past instead of the men or instead of Woody Allen him damn self)ollar
    January 10, 2018

But on Tuesday night, in an online discussion with Aaron Sorkin hosted by the New York Times which covered the #MeToo wave in Hollywood, cultural appropriation and the impact of streaming services on the industry, Gerwig clarified her position on Allen.

Responding to a broad question about how allegations against artists like Allen should affect their legacy and future opportunities, Gerwig said: “I would like to speak specifically to the Woody Allen question, which I have been asked about a couple of times recently ... It is something that I take very seriously and have been thinking deeply about, and it has taken me time to gather my thoughts and say what I mean to say.

“I can only speak for myself and what I’ve come to is this: if I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in the film. I have not worked for him again, and I will not work for him again.”

Gerwig mentioned two pieces written by Dylan Farrow – one in 2014, when she first publicly addressed her allegations against Allen, and another in October 2017 when she questioned why he was being spared in “the #MeToo revolution”. In the second piece, Farrow namechecked Gerwig, Winslet and Blake Lively as three A-list women who had broadly supported the movement while failing to account for their own professional support of Allen.

“Dylan Farrow’s two different pieces made me realise that I had increased another woman’s pain, and I was heartbroken by that realisation,” Gerwig said. “I grew up on his movies, and they have informed me as an artists, and I cannot change that fact now, but I can make different decisions moving forward.”
‘We say, time’s up!’ Who were the activists at the Golden Globes?
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Gerwig described the politicised Golden Globes ceremony as “an extraordinary night” which was indicative of “a turning point for women”.

“I think that the way women have come together to lead the Time’s Up movement and to make clear goals for our industry is how we are going to move forward with purposefulness. I was very moved that the stage was given to the leaders of this movement and the people who can be change agents. These are the women who should be apologised to, and that they were given the space was meaningful.

“The fact that many of the women attended with feminist activists from across all industries made the night even more resonant with this moment.”

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« Reply #2217 on: Jan 13, 2018, 06:49 AM »

Donald Trump Flushes Away America’s Reputation

NY Times
JAN. 13, 2018

For a fleeting moment Tuesday, President Trump seemed to signal he would do the right thing on immigration. At a 90-minute meeting with congressional Republicans and Democrats, much of it televised, he said he’d be willing to “take the heat” for a broad immigration deal of the sort urgently needed by the country and despised by his hard-core base.

Alas, it was all a charade. The real Donald Trump was back two days later with his now notorious “shithole” remark, asking why the United States should accept people from places like Haiti or Africa instead of nice Nordic countries like Norway, and then tweeting his tiresome demands for a “Great Wall” along the Mexican border.

Never mind that Norwegians are not clamoring to leave what is rated as the happiest nation on earth, and setting aside renewed questions about Mr. Trump’s fitness, the flip-flop left the issue of immigration more confused than before.

Where to begin? How about with a simple observation: The president of the United States is a racist. And another: The United States has a long and ugly history of excluding immigrants based on race or national origin. Mr. Trump seems determined to undo efforts taken by presidents of both parties in recent decades to overcome that history.

Mr. Trump denied making the remarks on Friday, but Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who attended the meeting, said the president did in fact say these “hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”

Of course he did. Remember, Mr. Trump is not just racist, ignorant, incompetent and undignified. He’s also a liar.

Even the president’s most sycophantic defenders didn’t bother denying the reports. Instead they justified them. Places like Haiti really are terrible, they reminded us. Never mind that many native-born Americans are descended from immigrants who fled countries (including Norway in the second half of the 19th century) that were considered hellholes at the time.

No one is denying that Haiti and some of these other countries have profound problems today. Of course, those problems are often a direct result of policies and actions of the United States and European nations: to name just a few, kidnapping and enslaving their citizens; plundering their natural resources; propping up their dictators and corrupt regimes; and holding them financially hostage for generations.

The United States has long held itself out as a light among nations based on the American ideal of equality. But the deeper history tells a different story.

The sociologists David Scott FitzGerald and David Cook-Martin have shown that the United States pioneered racially based exclusionary immigration policies in the Americas in the late 18th and 19th centuries. (Not long before he was elected president, for example, Theodore Roosevelt asserted the bigoted but then-common view that the Chinese should be kept out of America because they were “racially inferior.”)

It should sober Americans to know that authoritarian governments in Chile, Cuba and Uruguay ended racist immigration policies decades before the United States.

The current turmoil over immigration conflates several separate issues. One is DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has provided temporary work permits and reprieves from deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. These are the so-called Dreamers, who number about 800,000.

Another issue is the Temporary Protected Status program under which undocumented foreigners who were in the United States when disaster or conflict struck their homeland are allowed to remain in the United States. In November, the Trump administration ended the protection for about 60,000 Haitians, and on Monday the administration lifted it for almost 200,000 Salvadorans, most of whom have been in the United States for two decades.

A third issue is the future of the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants who have come to the United States over decades and have effectively integrated into American life. The Trump administration has ordered a broad immigration crackdown against them.

And finally there’s President Trump’s imagined wall.

What is concerning is not the wall, or the word “shithole” or the vacillation on the Dreamers or the Salvadorans. It’s what ties all of these things together: the bigoted worldview of the man behind them.

Anyone who has followed Mr. Trump over the years knows this. We knew it in the 1970s, when he and his father were twice sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black people. We knew it in 1989, when he took out a full-page newspaper ad calling for the execution of five black and Latino teenagers charged with the brutal rape of a white woman in Central Park. (The men were convicted but later exonerated by DNA and other evidence, but Mr. Trump never apologized, and he continued to argue as late as 2016 that the men were guilty.) We knew it when he built a presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans and Muslims while promoting the lie that America’s first black president wasn’t born here. Or when, last summer, he defended marchers in a neo-Nazi parade as “very fine people.”

Just last month, The Times reported on an Oval Office meeting on immigration during which Mr. Trump said that the 15,000 Haitians now living in the United States “all have AIDS,” and that Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts” in Africa once they had seen the United States. See a pattern yet?

Donald Trump is by no means America’s first racist president. But he ran a campaign explicitly rooted in bigotry, exclusion and white resentment. To his die-hard but ever-shrinking base, comments like those he made Thursday only reaffirm his solidarity with the cause. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, certainly saw it this way. “This is encouraging and refreshing, as it indicates Trump is more or less on the same page as us with regards to race and immigration,” the site wrote in a post.

The meeting at which Mr. Trump spewed his vulgarity was meant to be a discussion of bipartisan immigration proposals by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Mr. Durbin. Two other Republicans, John Kasich and Jeb Bush Jr., are the authors of an Op-Ed article in Thursday’s Times arguing against the forced expulsion of undocumented immigrants who have made a home in the United States. This shouldn’t be a hard call, especially with the economy growing modestly but steadily and unemployment hovering around 4 percent.

Instead, Republicans in Congress are spending most of their time finding ways to avoid talking about their openly bigoted chief executive. Some claimed not to have heard what Mr. Trump said. Others offered tepid defenses of his “salty” talk. House Speaker Paul Ryan called Mr. Trump’s comments “unhelpful,” clearly wishing he could return to his daily schedule of enriching the wealthiest Americans.

Mr. Trump has made clear that he has no useful answers on immigration. It’s up to Congress to fashion long-term, humane solutions. A comprehensive immigration bill that resolves all these issues would be best. But if that is not possible, given the resistance of hard-core anti-immigration activists in Congress, legislators should at least join forces to protect the Dreamers, Salvadorans, Haitians and others threatened by the administration’s cruel and chaotic actions.


'There's no other word but racist': Trump's global rebuke for 'shithole' remark

US diplomats around the world were summoned for formal reproach, amid global shock over Trump calling African nations, Haiti and El Salvador ‘shitholes’

Patrick Wintour, Jason Burke and Anna Livsey
Sat 13 Jan 2018 10.38 GMT

Donald Trump has been branded a shocking and shameful racist after it was credibly reported he had described African nations, as well as Haiti and El Salvador as “shitholes” and questioned why so many of their citizens had ever been permitted to enter America.

US diplomats around the world were summoned for formal reproach, amid global shock that such crude remarks could ever be made in a semi-public meeting by the president of America.

In a strongly-worded statement, the UN said it was impossible to describe his remarks as anything other than racist, while the Vatican decried Trump’s words as “particularly harsh and offensive”.

The 55-nation African Union said the remarks were “clearly racist”.

Trump initially allowed reported accounts of his comments to go unchallenged, but went into damage limitation mode on Friday, insisting he had not used derogatory words – but admitting that the language he had used at a meeting with Senators on immigration was “tough”.

But the democratic senator Dick Durbin – who was present at the meeting with Trump on Thursday – insisted that the reports were entirely accurate.

He said “those hate-filled things and did so repeatedly”.

“Shithole was the exact word used once not twice but repeatedly,” Durbin said, adding that the word was specifically used in the context of African countries.

The UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, told a Geneva news briefing: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Salvador Sánchez, the president of El Salvador, said Trump’s words had “struck at the dignity of Salvadorans”.

“El Salvador formally protests and energetically rejects this kind of comment,” Sánchez wrote on Twitter.

US diplomats and the US embassy in San Salvador sought to assure those in El Salvador of their respect for the country. Jean Manes, the US envoy to El Salvador, tweeted in Spanish: “I have had the privilege to travel around this beautiful country and meet thousands of Salvadorans. It is an honour to live and work here. We remain 100% committed.”

Robin Diallo, the US chargé d’affaires to Haiti, was summoned to meet the Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, to discuss the remarks. The former Haitian president Laurent Lamothe expressed his dismay, saying Trump had shown “a lack of respect and ignorance”.

Across Africa there was diplomatic fury. Botswana’s government called Trump’s comment “reprehensible and racist” and said the US ambassador had been summoned to clarify whether the nation was regarded as a “shithole” country after years of cordial relations. Uganda’s state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, called the remarks “unfortunate and regrettable”.

The African Union said it was alarmed by Trump’s language. “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice,” its spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo told Associated Press.

Jessie Duarte, the deputy secretary general of South Africa’s ruling ANC, said: “Ours is not a shithole country; neither is Haiti or any other country in distress. It’s not as if the United States doesn’t have problems. There is unemployment in the US, there are people who don’t have healthcare services.”

The leader of South Africa’s main opposition party, Mmusi Maimane, described the comments as “abhorrent”. He tweeted of Trump:

    Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane)

    The comments referred to here are abhorrent. He confirms a patronizing view of Africa and promotes a racist agenda. Africa/US relations will take strain from this, with a leader who has failed to reconcile humanity. The hatred of Obama’s roots now extends to an entire continent https://t.co/Kq09tVu0Bo
    January 12, 2018

The US state department tried to pour water on the flames, issuing a tweet from its Bureau of African Affairs saying that “the United States will continue to robustly, enthusiastically and forcefully engage in #Africa, promoting this vital relationship”.

Mexico’s former president, Vicente Fox, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump, said in a colourful tweet that “America’s greatness was built on diversity”. He added Trump’s mouth was “the foulest shithole in the world. With what authority do you announce who is welcome in America and who is not? America’s greatness is based on diversity, or have you forgotten your migration background, Donald?”

David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee, said Trump’s comments were leading a “race to the bottom on refugees”.

Trump has made few references to Africa since his election, and many senior Africa-focused posts in his administration remain unfilled.

In September, he appeared to invent a new country called Nambia while addressing African leaders in Washington. Trump also told them: “I have so many friends going to your countries, trying to get rich. It has a tremendous business potential.”

The US government’s Africa Media Hub made an effort to limit the diplomatic damage of the president’s words.

Without directly referring to Trump’s statement, a tweet said the “US remains committed to working together w/Africans to realize the promise of a more peaceful, more productive, more prosperous 21st century Africa. US deeply respects the people of #Africa & values its partnerships with them.”

Boniface Mwangi, a well-known social activist in Kenya tweeted:

    Boniface Mwangi (@bonifacemwangi)

    Africa isn’t a shithole. It’s the most beautiful continent in the world. Beautiful,hardworking people. We have diamonds, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, petroleum, cocoa, coffee, tea etc. Sadly we have #shithole leaders like Trump shitting on us everyday. pic.twitter.com/Vv4Wgtq4Pk
    January 12, 2018

Standing at a coffee stall outside an office block in Rosebank, a commercial and business neighbourhood in central Johannesburg, Blessing Dlamini, a 45-year-old administrative assistant, said Trump’s words came as “no surprise”.

“He has shown the world he is a racist. We should just block him from our thoughts,” Dlamini said.


Republicans will put up with Trump’s ‘sh*thole’ comment

12 Jan 2018 at 17:22 ET  

The debate over the 2016 election will continue to rage for years to come, I have no doubt, but one thing we can now say for sure: Those who defended, deflected, rationalized or overlooked candidate Donald Trump’s completely obvious racism were wrong. Further, in being wrong, Republicans are now going to overcompensate for the present moment by doubling down on the monstrosity that is Trump’s presidency, most recently demonstrated by his remark Thursday referring to nonwhite countries as “shitholes.”

The result is a presidency whose end is being hastened by its namesake, and a Republican Party staving off the inevitable long enough to extract as much as it can while it can. In short, the GOP is playing a very short game.

The Republicans know more than we do about Trump’s overseas financial ties and campaign operatives possibly conspiring with Russian agents to move the electorate against Hillary Clinton. Slowly but surely, special counsel Robert Mueller is reaching into Trump’s inner circle, even raising the prospect of interviewing the president himself. It stands to reason the Republicans knew in December that none of this can endure. If they were going to deliver tax cuts to their mega-donors, it had to be a rush job, even if that meant vaporizing norms, violating traditions and losing control of the House.

Their understanding doesn’t stop there. The Republicans know the president’s mental fitness is worth questioning, but were able to deny that fact until Michael Wolff spoiled things with the publication of Fire and Fury. Making matters worse was Trump's insistence on holding televised discussions Wednesday with Congressional Democrats in order to prove he's a "very stable genius." House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy kept him on course by practically screeching to remind him a clean bill on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is not in the GOP's interest. Steven Bannon, too, might have been signaling his awareness of end times, when he told Wolff that Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russian agents was "unpatriotic." What do you do when the president's fugue state threatens to bring it all down? Accuse his eldest son of treason.

Bannon’s in good company. According to Axios, “more than half a dozen of the more skilled White House staff are contemplating imminent departures. Many leaving are quite fearful about the next chapter of the Trump presidency.” As the next chapter looms large, the president is increasingly isolated himself—literally. He holes up daily for hours in his residence at the White House, calling people (who in turn leak those calls to the press), watching Fox and tweeting.

The more Americans see of Trump, the less they like. CNN's Ronald Brownstein argued the Republicans "have already placed the bets most likely to determine their fate in November's midterm election.” Washington Monthly’s Marty Longman put a finer point on it : “The Republicans are looking to achieve as much as they can while they have their majorities rather than trimming their sails in the effort to maintain their majorities.”

This presidency is entering a kind of political hospice care, in which Trump's attorneys reportedly lie to him to prevent him from firing Mueller, thus hastening their client's demise, while the Republicans focus on keeping the presidency alive long enough to maximize the value of their inheritance.

Again, it's a very short game, and very high risks. Perhaps the Republicans believe they can ask for forgiveness later. But this confidence depends on two things: Trump and the Democrats’ willingness to impeach him.

It is January, and we have—as of right now—a year’s worth of reasons to impeach, and another year to go before the midterms. It stands to reason we are going to see many more turning points a la “shithole countries.” It looks like 2018 is lost for the Republicans. If 2019 is the year of impeachment in the House, that's means 2020 will be lost too. 2024 is a long time from now, but that might be the price the Republicans pay for choosing to smash and grab.

John Stoehr is a fellow at the Yale Journalism Initiative, a contributing writer for the  Washington Monthly , an essayist for the  New Haven Register  and a U.S. News & World Report  contributing editor.


Ex-GOP Rep rips ‘racist’ Trump and his defenders: He’s consistently ‘expressed an ideology’ where rich, white people are better

Raw Story
12 Jan 2018 at 15:03 ET                  

Former GOP Rep. David Jolly on Friday tore into Donald Trump and his defenders, calling the president’s “sh*thole” remarks “racist” and arguing he’s consistently “expressed an ideology” where white people are valued more than people of color.

“Let’s be honest, this is an embarrassing day to be a Republican,” Jolly told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin. “And for rational Republicans, you should be angry today. I believe the president’s comments, if they were made, were racist.”

“Even if you do not, if you are a defender of Donald Trump, here’s the important thing,” Jolly continued. “We know our president, through word and deed over the past two years, has certainly expressed an ideology based upon a certain social hierarchy, a construct, where white people of European decent, particularly those of wealth, have a different place in society than poor people of color.”

Jolly explained what’s even more insidious than Trump’s rampant racism is the fact that “this is someone directing the policy of the United States” and “crafting legislation with the Hill that will effect millions of lives, particularly poor people of color.”

“As a Republican party, we went from a leader in Bush 43 who challenged, challenged the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations,’ to a president in Donald Trump who pedals the hard bigotry of no expectations for people of color,” Jolly declared.

CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill told Baldwin Trump may be “fully aware of the hurt that he’s causing and simply indifferent to the suffering of of other people,” adding he’s “consistently shown indifference and actual angst and actual anger and actual hatred toward people of color around the world.”

Lamont called the comments “entirely consistent with everything else he’s done.”

Baldwin noted Trump’s outbursts seem to follow a pattern where the president “says something insane” and watch as Republican party leaders refuse to condemn his remarks.

“That is Donald Trump’s GOP,” Jolly argued. “This is the hijacking he has done to the Republican party.”

“What Donald Trump is doing is using the office of the presidency to give permission for Americans to listen to the lesser angels among us,” he added. “No president has done that before.”

Lamont Hill then explained that Trump’s supporters, the people who voted for him, knew what they were signing up for.

“The truth is if you voted for Donald Trump you either voted for him because you agreed with the racist statements that he made consistently throughout the campaign, or you were indifferent to it,” Lamont Hill said.

“So either way you are complicit in the racism we’re seeing prevail right now,” he added.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujyrjymuvQs


‘His spine has been removed’: Watch Nicolle Wallace blast ‘incredible shrinking man’ Paul Ryan

Bob Brigham
13 Jan 2018 at 17:12 ET                  

MSNBC’s Dateline: White House examined the extent to which President Donald Trump’s alleged racism are enabled by Republican Party leaders — in particular Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Anchor Nicolle Wallace played a clip of Speaker Ryan responding to Trump’s alleged ‘sh*thole’ comments.

“Oh my God, did you say that? An ice storm is unfortunate, and we have friends from Africa? That’s like 20, 40 years ago, when people would say, ‘I have a friend that’s a lesbian,'” Wallace suggested.

“I mean, what was that? What?” Wallace asked Washington Post White House Bureau Chief Phil Rucker.

“To me, that was the most outrageous thing that happened today,” Wallace concluded. “What’s wrong with him?”

“This is Paul Ryan, this is how he was during the campaign, it’s how he’s been all year,” Rucker answered.

“He’s like the incredible shrinking man,” Wallace observed. “It’s like his spine has been removed and he’s trying to diminish himself as a moral human being, as a leader, by the hour, by the day.”

“He sees himself as a moral leader,” Rucker began to reply.

“He’s not,” Wallace interrupted.

“But he doesn’t actually challenge this president and he’ll say it’s because he wants to advance the tax cuts or whatever,” Rucker continued.

“Tax cuts have been passed,” Wallace reminded.

“I know, but he just — he can’t bring himself to stand up to Trump and call a spade a spade,” Rucker explained. “They all try to stroke Trump’s ego and satisfy him and try not to enrage him and set him off. at the end of the day, Trump is the leader of their party, the Republican Party, and the Republican Party is defined by this president and his actions and behavior.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c4FG-SWMTU


Obama to Trump: Watch your behavior

12 Jan 2018 at 14:10 ET  

Former President Obama has a message for President Donald Trump: Pay close attention to your behavior, because it has the potential to impact the nation's culture and values.

"One of the things that Michelle figured out, in some ways faster than I did—was part of your ability to lead the country doesn’t have to do with legislation, doesn’t have to do with regulations, it has to do with shaping attitudes, shaping culture, increasing awareness," Obama told David Letterman on the first episode of his new Netflix show, which was released Friday.

The comments were recorded last fall and Obama never explicitly mentioned Trump, but this has often been the former president's preferred tactic when criticizing his successor, with whom he has long butted heads. Obama has frequently spoken about the importance of respecting the "peaceful transition of power," which helps explain the shift in his direct attacks on Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign versus his more veiled critiques post-election Day.

Obama's remarks on presidential behavior, albeit recorded months ago, were particularly pertinent on Friday as the nation reacted to Trump's alleged comments––initially reported by The Washington Post––on not wanting people from "shithole countries to come to the U.S." Trump reportedly said this Thursday during a meeting with lawmakers regarding a bipartisan immigration deal. The alleged comments caused a media firestorm and led many to refer to the president as "racist."

The White House did not deny the president made this comments in a statement on Thursday, but Trump to Twitter on Friday morning and refuted he used such language, at least in connection to Haiti.

"The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!" Trump tweeted. "Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said 'take them out.' Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!"

Trump has often generated controversy over his comments on immigration and related issues, beginning his presidential campaign by referring to Mexican immigrants as  "drug dealers," "rapists," "killers" and "murderers." His proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. was also decried by people across the country. The alleged "shithole" comments, however, seem to have generated a new level of anger and disgust among the president's critics.


Donald Trump paid porn star $130,000 to stay silent over alleged affair – report

    Trump’s lawyer denies president had affair with Stormy Daniels in 2006
    Wall Street Journal alleges lawyer Michael Cohen oversaw payment in 2016

Molly Redden in New York
Sat 13 Jan 2018 10.39 GMT

Donald Trump’s lawyer has denied the president had an affair with an adult film star 12 years ago, but did not address a specific allegation that Trump paid her $130,000 to prevent her from discussing the encounter.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that longtime Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen oversaw the payment in the final days of the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen did not address that claim in a statement to the Journal, but he denied the allegation that Trump and Stephanie Clifford, who performs under the name Stormy Daniels, had a sexual encounter in 2006, the year after he married Melania.

Cohen also showed the journal an email, apparently signed by “Stormy Daniels,” that reportedly read: “Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false.” The statement denied that Clifford and Trump had a “sexual and/or romantic affair”.

The Journal based its report on interviews with “people familiar with the matter” and did not claim to have seen any documents substantiating the agreement.

An attorney for Clifford did not immediately respond to questions, but sent a full copy of Clifford’s statement denying the affair to BuzzFeed, dated 10 January.

    BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews)

    In a statement provided by the lawyer who reportedly set up the deal, adult film star Stormy Daniels denies taking hush money for sleeping with Trumphttps://t.co/su5Jfrp49x pic.twitter.com/wvIcrI4dNc
    January 12, 2018

A White House official told the Guardian: “These are old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election.”

In the tumultuous last days of the presidential race, Clifford was reported to have been in discussions with Good Morning America to disclose an alleged affair with Trump. At the time, Trump was under intense scrutiny for a series of sexual assault allegations and claims of sexism.

A Trump campaign spokesperson denied that the two had a sexual encounter, which was described to the Journal as consensual, and Clifford never appeared on the program.

A photo from Clifford’s MySpace account shows her posing with Trump and was reportedly taken in July 2006.

Trump was dressed in the same outfit in a photo circulated by adult film star Jessica Drake when Drake accused Trump of groping her at a golf tournament “a decade ago”. Speaking in 2016, Drake recalled that Trump offered her $10,000 and the use of his private plane if she would agree to come back to his room and accompany him to a party.

Clifford’s attorney, Keith Davidson, also represents Karen McDougal, a onetime Playboy model who reportedly received $150,000 from the National Enquirer for the rights to her own story about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. No such story ever ran in the Enquirer, suggesting the magazine acquired the story in order to keep it under wraps, a tactic known as “catch and kill”.

David Pecker, the chair and CEO of the group that owns the Enquirer, is Trump’s longtime friend.

The Trump campaign denied any affair and American Media Inc, which owns the Enquirer, said: “AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr Trump.”

Additional reporting by Ben Jacobs


Another adult film actress claims Stormy Daniels and Trump invited her to their hotel room: report

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
12 Jan 2018 at 19:28 ET                  

Adult actress Alana Evans claims porn star Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump invited her to their hotel room in a report that offered further corroboration of the Wall Street Journal‘s account earlier on Friday.

As The Daily Beast reported, Evans, a friend of Daniels’, said she received multiple calls from the fellow actress while she was in a room with Trump.

“Stormy calls me four or five times, by the last two phone calls she’s with Donald [Trump] and I can hear him, and he’s talking through the phone to me saying, ‘Oh come on Alana, let’s have some fun! Let’s have some fun! Come to the party, we’re waiting for you,'” Evans told the Beast.

She ultimately turned down the offer, but learned more about Daniels’ encounter with the real estate mogul the next day.

“She tells me, ‘All I’m going to say is: I ended up with Donald in his hotel room. Picture him chasing me around his hotel room in his tighty-whities.’ I was like, ‘Oh I really didn’t need to hear that!’ Then she said he offered her keys to his condos in Florida, and I was like, ‘Wow guess you had a good night,’ and that was the last we ever spoke of it,” Evans said.

The Beast also reported that they had been in “protracted” talks with Daniels to publish her story before the presidential election, but she ended up backing out on November 3, 2016.

In a statement provided by Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, who the Journal reported paid off Daniels (née Stephanie Clifford) $130,000 to keep her from going public about her relationship with the president, the adult actress denied that she they’d ever had any romantic or sexual involvement.


Trump called intel analyst a ‘pretty Korean lady’ — and asked why she wasn’t negotiating with Kim Jong Un: report

Brad Reed
Raw Story
12 Jan 2018 at 14:47 ET                  

President Donald Trump’s latest outburst about immigrants from “sh*thole” African countries is far from his first time making racist statements.

In fact, sources tell NBC News that Trump made a career U.S. intelligence officer uncomfortable last year when he grilled her on her Korean heritage and demanded to know why she wasn’t being used to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

According to NBC News, Trump first asked the officer where she was from after she had finished delivering an intelligence briefing. She replied that she originally hailed from New York City, but Trump pushed her by asking where “your people” originally came from.

At that point, she admitted that both of her parents were from Korea — at which point Trump turned to an adviser and asked them why the “pretty Korean lady” wasn’t being used as an asset to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear arsenal.

“The officials who told NBC News of the fall exchange between Trump and the intelligence briefer in the Oval Office in the fall said the president likely meant no harm with his inquiry, but it raised concern of a lack of cultural sensitivity and decorum,” NBC notes, while also adding that a source close to the president claims that his advisers regularly try to get him to stop talking about people’s race — but to no avail.


How many times has Donald Trump cheated on his wives?

13 Jan 2018 at 00:08 ET  

A Wall Street Journal article on Friday alleged that President Donald Trump cheated on his wife, Melania, with a porn star—and it wasn’t the first time Trump has been in the center of a public cheating scandal or fallout over his behavior toward women.

Below is a look back at some of the most public cheating scandals Trump has been involved in.

Ivana Trump (1977-1992)

Trump’s first marriage imploded on the covers of all of New York’s tabloids, after he brazenly took his mistress, Marla Maples, on a family vacation in Aspen along with his wife, Ivana, attempting to hide her away, until she approached Ivana and said, “I’m Marla and I love your husband. Do you?”

A famous issue of the New York Post in 1990 featured a quote from Maples plastered across its front page—“Best sex I ever had!” referring to Donald—while he was still married to Ivana. Trump famously pushed the story forward and called the tabloids to make sure his name stayed in the papers. At the time, he was a prominent New York real estate figure, but not known for much more than that.

In a recent memoir, titled Raising Trump, Ivana refers to the mistress as “freaking Marla.”

Marla Maples (1993-1999)

When Trump was dating his one-time mistress, Marla Maples, he famously posed as his own spokesman, “John Miller,” and told a People reporter that he’d never marry Maples, and that he had “three other girlfriends” at the time.

Melania Trump (2005-present)

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Trump's lawyer had allegedly paid a porn star, Stephanie Clifford, over $130,000 for her silence about the affair they had in 2006, one year after Trump married Melania.

Clifford, 38, goes by the name “Stormy Daniels” in the adult film industry, and said she met Trump denied the allegations.

The Wall Street Journal also reported on another alleged affair in November of 2016—one in the same year, 2006, as the alleged affair with Clifford. The woman, in that case, was Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year. Trump’s staff denied the allegations. The report focused on the agreement between McDougal and the National Enquirer, which paid her $150,000 for the story, and then never printed it.  

Trump’s Alleged Sexual Harassment:

Nineteen women have come forward to accuse Trump of sexual harassment. The public allegations range from the 1980s to 2013, and they include former contestants on  The Apprentice, an adult film star, a journalist at  People Magazine, a journalist at Fox News and many others. Though those incidents were non-consensual, many happened while Trump was married.  

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« Reply #2218 on: Jan 13, 2018, 07:06 AM »

Russian-trained mercenaries back Bosnia's Serb separatists

Security minister confirms report, fuelling fears of destabilisation of the Balkans and a resistance to Nato enlargement

Julian Borger in Washington
13 Jan 2018 18.23 GMT

Russian-trained mercenaries are helping to establish a paramilitary unit serving the Serb separatist leader in Bosnia, it was reported in Sarajevo on Friday.

The report on the Žurnal news site, which was confirmed by the Bosnian security minister, comes at a time of mounting western anxiety about Russian efforts to destabilise the Balkans and resist Nato enlargement in the region.

On Tuesday, Milorad Dodik, the hardline leader of the Serb half of Bosnia, staged a military parade in Banja Luka in defiance of a ruling by the country’s constitutional court.

The Žurnal report said that a militia called “Serbian Honour” – which it said had been trained in a Russian-funded “humanitarian centre” in Serbia – was in the process of setting up a paramilitary group to be used against Dodik’s opponents.

It published photographs of the militia on the streets of Banja Luka, the administrative centre of the Republika Srpska, a semi-autonomous entity within Bosnia created by the Dayton peace agreement that ended the 1992-95 war. The pictures show the paramilitaries posing in black sweaters and in combat gear.

The report, including a picture of the award ceremony, says one of the group’s leaders, Bojan Stojković, is a former Serbian paratrooper who had trained in Moscow, and had been awarded a medal by Valeriy Kalyakin, a Russian general.

Dragan Mektić, the Bosnian security minister, said intelligence and security services were aware of the presence and activities of the group.

“We have been using this information for a long time, we have collected quite a lot of information about that,” Mektić said, adding he could not provide further details as his officials were compiling a full report for the Bosnian prosecutor’s office.

The Zurnal report said the group was recruiting from the Serb criminal underworld to form a new paramilitary unit loyal to Dodik. It quotes a leaked security service document as saying that Dodik’s aides discussed the aims of the new unit with “Serbian Honour” leaders and the goals would include “possible intervention if the opposition seeks to obstruct the functioning of the authorities”.

“For such a president, it is worth to give one’s life”, Stojković wrote under a picture of Vladimir Putin on his Instagram profile, according to the report.

Under the photo of Dodik, he wrote: “Nobody can do us any harm, we are stronger than destiny”.

The appearance of the paramilitaries in Bosnia comes 15 months after Russian intelligence was implicated in an abortive coup in Montenegro, in which mercenaries planned to storm parliament, assassinate Milo Đukanović, the country’s pro-western leader, , and prevent it from joining Nato. The plot was foiled and Montenegro became a Nato member in June 2017.

The Bosnian government is also pursuing Nato membership, but the resistance of the Republika Srpska under Dodik is hindering progress.

“This is part of a larger change in the international order, starting with the invasion in Georgia, Syria, Ukraine, the meddling in the US elections,” said Reuf Bajrović, Bosnia’s former energy minister, calling the appearance of the paramilitaries in Banja Luka a “watershed moment”.

“The Russians have decided to use their leverage in the Balkans to get the outcome they want: the end of the Dayton accords and the creation of a Serb statelet.”

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« Reply #2219 on: Jan 14, 2018, 07:43 AM »

This is what the shitstain called Trump did while Hawaii was subjected to the false incoming missile alert: this is your 'president America

Former Pentagon official Col. Morris Davis blasts Trump for golfing while Hawaii panicked over false missile alert

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
13 Jan 2018 at 14:39 ET  

Former Guantanamo Chief Prosecutor Col. Morris Davis took to Twitter Saturday afternoon to criticize President Donald Trump for continuing his golf game as Americans in Hawaii were panicking over a mistaken missile threat.

“For 38 minutes American citizens in Hawaii braced for a ballistic missile strike … and @realDonaldTrump continued his round of golf in Florida on his 120th taxpayer funded vacation day in less than a year,” Morris tweeted, linking to a Fox New report.

In what was called “a hell of a mistake to make,” Civil Defense officials in Hawaii sent out an incorrect warning to the island residents that a ballistic missile was on its way, stating: “Ballistic missile inbound to Hawaii. Seeks shelter immediately. This is not a drill.”

You can see the Morris tweet below:

   For 38 minutes American citizens in Hawaii braced for a ballistic missile strike … and @realDonaldTrump continued his round of golf in Florida on his 120th taxpayer funded vacation day in less than a year. https://t.co/tSSSNiDLDk

    — Col. Morris Davis (@ColMorrisDavis) January 13, 2018


Hawaii officials freak out populace by sending out mistaken ‘inbound ballistic missile warning’ to cell phones

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
14 Jan 2018 at 13:38 ET    
Warning sent to cell phone in Hawaii

In what was called “a hell of a mistake to make,” Civil Defense officials in Hawaii sent out an incorrect warning to the island residents that a ballistic missile was on its way.

Lawmaker Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) sent out a screenshot of the warning she received that stated: “Ballistic missile inbound to Hawaii. Seeks shelter immediately. This is not a drill.”


You can see Gabbard’s tweet along with a few others below:


    — Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) January 13, 2018

    Please retweet https://t.co/ry6FPmUQNS

    — Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 13, 2018

    Civil Defense just confirmed that the Ballistic Missle alert to Hawaii was a mistake!!! That is a hell of a mistake to make. #Wow

    — Jason Parker (@NutzFordBucks) January 13, 2018

    I just now saw the news about Hawaii, and I'm gonna need a minute to decompress. Nerves are shaky.

    — Charlotte Clymer🏳️‍🌈 (@cmclymer) January 13, 2018

Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=7CBstGGwvic


Here’s how the false Hawaii missile alert happened

14 Jan 2018 at 17:25 ET  

The false alarm alerting Hawaiians of an incoming ballistic missile was caused by “human error,” according to Hawaii Governor David Ige.

Residents received a terrifying false alarm on Saturday announcing that a ballistic missile was headed their way and advising immediate action to take shelter.

"It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the change over of a shift, and an employee pushed the wrong button," said Ige, according to CNN.

    — Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) January 13, 2018

The alert caused panic across the state, where officials have been preparing for the possibility of a nuclear attack for months. Cold War-era sirens began running drills last month, in order to educate the public on how to handle a possible missile. The sirens did not sound when the alert went out Saturday.

Despite preparations, the push notifications were mistakenly sent out to Hawaiians, who jumped into action before receiving the second alert 38 minutes later announcing that it was a false alarm.

The governor explained the reason for the error after Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi headed to the agency's 24-hour operations center to find out why the false alert was sent out, and after the FCC promised to launch an investigation to figure out why the notification went out. Lawmakers and residents alike were quick to criticize the mistake, calling for accountability and a safer process to prevent future mistakes.

    AGAIN FALSE ALARM. What happened today is totally inexcusable. The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process.
    — Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 13, 2018

Hawaiians have worried whether their state is ready for a nuclear attack, and the latest error provided fodder for critics who say the emergency preparedness plan is lacking. Hawaii lies 4,600 miles from North Korea.

The White House responded to the alert with the understanding that it had been an exercise, apparently in contrast with the governor's explanation.

“The President has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise. This was purely a state exercise,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said, according to Reuters.


WATCH: Chilling video appears to show terrified Hawaiians hiding their kids in storm drains while Trump golfed

When an emergency alert was "accidentally" sent to Hawaiians that a ballistic missile was inbound and it was almost an hour before any correction was issued, you know what would have helped a great deal? A tweet from our President assuring them that, no, they are not going to die.

Sure, as former Obama defense official Patrick Granfield noted, "thank God the President was playing golf" when the alert went out or we may have witnessed the United States launching a nuclear missile at North Korea or otherwise "acting rashly," but while he was busy doing that, terrified parents were desperately trying to keep their kids safe from the threat no one told them for an excruciating 40 minutes was not a threat.


Can you imagine receiving such a terrifying alert then having to decide to stuff your kids down a storm drain so they might have a chance to live? Having to suppress every fear you have of toxic gases, or your kid getting stuck somehow, or maybe the storm drain not being an adequate shelter to begin with, all on the random chance that their world might otherwise be about to end?

Many hours after the false alert, Trump has still said nothing about the false alert, but if Kim Jong Un wanted to launch a missile at Hawaii, he now knows our President* will not give a single fuck about it if he's golfing. We can't let little things like ballistic missiles mess up his vacation from doing nothing, can we?

Eventually, Trump was briefed on the false alert, which a White House spokeswoman calls "purely a state exercise" despite an overwhelming number of reports that the message was sent entirely in error.

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‘Texting goodbyes and shielding their baby’: CNN’s Tapper reports on tears in Hawaii after horrific false missile attack report

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
13 Jan 2018 at 15:29 ET                  

According to CNN’s Jake Tapper, following the mistaken alert sent out to everyone in Hawaii that a missile attack was imminent, he heard from friends in the island chain who were crying and sending their goodbyes to friends.

Early Saturday morning, an official in Hawaii issued an erroneous warning that reached cell phones and interrupted television programming to announce a missile attack — presumably from North Korea.

According to the message that sent in big bold letters reading: “Ballistic missile inbound to Hawaii. Seeks shelter immediately. This is not a drill.”

In his tweet, Tapper relayed, “So sorry for all the people in Hawaii who went through that — we know someone who’s there with her family. Crying in closet texting goodbyes to loved ones, husband shielding their baby. Sounds traumatic. Hang in there, folks.”

Tapper’s comments were seconded by others on Twitter who also shared panicked and sorrowful text messages.

You can see them below:

    So sorry for all the people in Hawaii who went through that — we know someone who’s there with her family. Crying in closet texting goodbyes to loved ones, husband shielding their baby. Sounds traumatic. Hang in there, folks.

    — Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 13, 2018

    This was my phone when I woke up just now. I’m in Honolulu, #Hawaii and my family is on the North Shore. They were hiding in the garage. My mom and sister were crying. It was a false alarm, but betting a lot of people are shaken. @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/m6EKxH3QqQ

    — Sara Donchey (@KPRC2Sara) January 13, 2018

    From the tourist perspective, there were dozens of them gathered in this hotel lobby panicking and holding each other. pic.twitter.com/s2weP4trxO

    — Gene Park (@GenePark) January 13, 2018

    A big issue with today’s false alarm: how long it took for an official alert to go out saying it was, in fact , a false alarm.

    I received this text from a dear friend describing her family in Hawaii’s experience + how tweets were what revealed there was no real threat. Scary. pic.twitter.com/s7CovtD9wi

    — Lisa Feierman (@lisathefeierman) January 13, 2018

    My friend in Hawaii got the alert and had to quickly choose between which members of his family he would spend his last moments on Earth with because they were ALL too far apart from each other. He had to make the difficult choice of going immediately to his youngest children. pic.twitter.com/n8LNPiVscP

    — Gene Park (@GenePark) January 13, 2018


Jake Tapper: Hawaii missile alert could have led to ‘nuclear war’ if Trump had been watching Fox & Friends

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
14 Jan 2018 at 10:07 ET                  

During a State of the Union interview with Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D) on Saturday’s missile launch alert debacle, CNN host Jake Tapper took a shot at President Donald Trump, saying Americans were relieved he was on the golf course when it happened and not glued to Fox News.

According to Gabbard, “Traumatic understates the experience that the people of Hawaii went through yesterday. Getting that alert that went out to over a million cell phones, all across the state, not to speak of the visitors who were there who got that same alert, saying an incoming missile is headed your way, take shelter, this is not a drill.”

“Hawaii has just started a few months ago, these monthly nuclear attack sirens as a test. You hear this siren, you’ve got 15 minutes to seek shelter,” she explained. “So, when the people of Hawaii got this message yesterday, they’re literally going through this feeling of, I’ve got minutes to find my loved ones and say my last goodbyes. To figure out where could I possibly find shelter that would protect them from a nuclear attack. This was unacceptable that this happened, but it really highlights the stark reality that the people of Hawaii are facing.”

Then the topic of Trump came up after Gabbard added, “The fact that these processes failed so epically, that caused this trauma, that caused this terror all across the state of Hawaii, must be fixed immediately. And those responsible for this happening need to be held accountable in making sure that this cannot, it cannot happen again.”

“I  think there are a lot of people out there, and I don’t want to be flip about this, but I think there are a lot of people out there who are happy that this at least didn’t happen while President Trump was watching ‘Fox & Friends,’  and instead it happened when he was out on the golf course and he was informed about this by layers of advisers and such,” Tapper remarked.

“Because we know that historically, misunderstandings and false alarms have almost led to nuclear confrontation, nuclear war,” the CNN host continued. “Are you at all worried about the fact that an accident, a misunderstanding might lead to something like this?”

“There’s no question,” Gabbard replied. “And that really highlights the global consequence of what Hawaii just went through yesterday. This is not just about Hawaii. And that’s why I really hope that people across the country, that leaders here in Washington are paying attention to what people went through and what the consequences of that can be. ”

You can watch the video via CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5kg5VaxiRE

* Hawaiian parent hides child in storm drain (Screen capture).png (271.65 KB, 800x430 - viewed 38 times.)

* The-US-military-expressed-concern-Monday-after-Russia-lifted-its-ban-on-supplying-its-advanced-S-300-anti-aircraft-missile-system.jpg (38.56 KB, 800x430 - viewed 36 times.)

* trump_blotus_1_.jpg (44.46 KB, 728x465 - viewed 36 times.)

* missile-800x430.jpg (56.72 KB, 800x430 - viewed 43 times.)
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