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17/08/2018 01:11 PM
Remember Afghanistan? Trump’s Strategy is Failing Badly as Taliban Gains Ground
At least 200 Afghan security forces were killed this week as U.S.-led troops retreat before the Taliban

Remember the war in Afghanistan? It never ended, and now President Donald Trump faces harsh questions about what appear to be serious military setbacks in that perennially troubled nation.

At least 200 to 300 Afghan security forces have been killed by Taliban insurgents since Friday, awith the lower number reported by ABC News. (Other sources have reported greater numbers of casualties.) The first attack was an intricately coordinated effort by the Taliban to capture the city of Ghazni, 75 miles south of Kabul, the Afghan capital. Since then, U.S. military "advisers" and airstrikes have been deployed to flush out Taliban fighters from Ghazni's residential neighborhoods, with the violence only seeming to subside on Wednesday.

After the skirmish in the city of Ghazni, another Taliban attack occurred some distance away in Ghazni Province. This time the battle took place in Arjistan, a western district of the province, and 50 members of the security force were reported killed. Taliban casualties appear to be unknown.

In northern Afghanistan, Taliban fighters also killed more than 100 people during an attack on an Afghan Army base in Faryab Province on Friday. Even Kabul saw some violence, with a Shiite neighborhood victimized by a suicide bomb attack on Wednesday that killed at least 25 people and wounded at least 35 others. It is unclear what group was responsible for that attack, since acts of violence in Kabul aren't necessarily perpetrated by the Taliban.

Then there is this report from the Wall Street Journal on Thursday:

Gunmen attacked the Afghan intelligence service’s training facility in central Kabul on Thursday, a day after a suicide bomber struck a classroom full of students in the city.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which follows almost a week of high-profile assaults largely by the Taliban that have killed at least 311 people, mostly government soldiers and police. The Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, neither confirmed nor denied their fighters carried out the raid.

The Afghan intelligence agency known as the National Directorate of Security said that security forces killed two attackers aged between 18 to 20 years and armed with suicide vests and machine guns in a six-hour-long standoff. No casualties were reported among security forces.

READ MORE: Why this Watergate anniversary says so much about Donald Trump

None of this bodes well for Trump, who promised a swift conclusion to the Afghan war when he discussed it during the 2016 presidential campaign. His administration had publicly suggested that his strategy in Afghanistan was working and would open the way toward peace talks that could end the 17-year war in that country.

"To me, it simply means a continuation of their willingness to put innocent people in harm's way," Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said about the Taliban attacks, speaking during his visit to South America. "There's nothing new. It's the usual endangering of civilians, part and parcel of what they’ve done for the last 20 years."

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh had a somewhat harsher assessment:

Just consider this incomplete précis of the past six days.

The Taliban stormed into the strategic city of Ghazni on Friday, ultimately killing hundreds over at least four days of intense urban fighting and undermining the Afghan security plan of focusing on keeping population centers safe.

On Tuesday night, 39 soldiers died in Baghlan province when the Taliban overran their base. And 17 troops were also killed when their base in Faryab was also overrun.

On Wednesday, dozens died when a Shia education center was hit by ISIS. Dozens apparently also died when airstrikes hit an insurgent target in Farah.

On Thursday, gunmen attacked a training center for the Afghan intelligence service.

Yet, despite this being the singular foreign policy issue that President Trump has personally delineated a lengthy strategy on, the White House has not appeared dismayed.

When asked, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders did not comment directly on Ghazni. The White House remains "committed to finding a political solution to end the conflict in Afghanistan," she said, and is "going to continue to review and look at the best ways to move forward."

Afghanistan has gone from being a Forgotten war, to the Ignorable one. Look at the list above and ask: exactly what has to happen to cause a sharp intake of breath?

Much of the answer to Walsh's question can be found in the simple fact that Americans simply aren't paying attention to Afghanistan anymore. Democrats are focused on Trump's alleged collusion with Russia and hopes for retaking Congress in November; Republicans are defending the president and lauding the continuing strength of the economy. Neither party has any incentive to discuss an endless military campaign that looks increasingly like an expensive failure.

Even in the realm of foreign policy, America's troubled relationship with North Korea, burgeoning trade war with China and, of course, the increasing tensions with Russia all seem more important. If Americans haven't literally forgotten that we're still fighting a war in Afghanistan, it often feels that way. As this week's news makes clear, the Afghan people have no such luxury.

 

 


17/08/2018 04:01 AM
Trump's Supreme Court Pick Brett Kavanaugh Is Historically Unpopular — Which Should Make the GOP Sweat
If confirmed, Kavanaugh will tilt the balance of the court.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's pick to be the next Supreme Court justice, ranks second-to-last in terms of public approval of any nominee dating back to 1987, according to a new CNN poll.

Only 37 percent of Americans say they would like the Senate to confirm his nomination, while 40 percent oppose him. The only other nominee to poll worse was President Ronald Reagan's choice of Robert Bork — who failed to get confirmed.

Even Harriet Miers, President George W. Bush's nominee who failed to make it to the court, polled better with 44 percent of the country approving of her. And Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated to the court by President Barack Obama but was blocked by an obstructionist Republican Senate in an unprecedented power grab, polled with 52 percent in favor of his confirmation.

"Women, in particular, are notably opposed to Kavanaugh's nomination, and it's not just partisanship driving the difference," CNN Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta reports. "Just 28% of women say the Senate should vote in favor of confirming Kavanaugh, compared with 47% of men. That gender gap extends to Democrats (6% of Democratic women support confirmation vs. 22% of Democratic men), and independents (28% of women vs. 47% of men). There's a far smaller gap between GOP women (71%) and men (77%)."

None of this is good news for Republicans.

They were hoping the Kavanaugh nomination might be a powerful motivator for Republicans to get out the vote in the November midterm elections. While some GOP voters are certainly pleased with the nomination, the party would be in a much better position to forestall a Democratic takeover election if Kavanaugh garnered widespread support, as John Roberts did in 2005 when Bush nominated him to the court and he received 59 percent support in the country.

 

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17/08/2018 03:42 AM
'An Attempt to Stifle Free Speech': 12 Former Intel Officials Sign Statement Condemning Trump's Intimidation Tactics
It is rare for such officials to issue such a stern denunciation of the White House.

A group of a dozen former intelligence officials signed a joint statement Thursday night condemning President Donald Trump's revocation of former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance in an apparent effort to silence a critic.

Such a statement is a rarity, as is Brennan's outspoken criticism of Trump. It shows the seriousness with which they take Trump's breach of precedent that they chose to issue a statement at all. 

And as the statement itself explains, they don't all agree with Brennan's opposition to the president. But they do all feel Trump's retaliation crossed a line.

Read the full statement below:

As former senior intelligence officials, we feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House regarding the removal of John Brennan’s security clearances. We know John to be an enormously talented, capable, and patriotic individual who devoted his adult life to the service of this nation. Insinuations and allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Brennan while in office are baseless. Since leaving government service John has chosen to speak out sharply regarding what he sees as threats to our national security. Some of the undersigned have done so as well. Others among us have elected to take a different course and be more circumspect in our public pronouncements.

Regardless, we all agree that the president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances — and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech. You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information. We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case. Beyond that, this action is quite clearly a signal to other former and current officials. As individuals who have cherished and helped preserve the right of Americans to free speech — even when that right has been used to criticize us — that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable. Decisions on security clearances should be based on national security concerns and not political views.

 

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17/08/2018 03:17 AM
'He's After the Witnesses!': MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Argues that Trump's Latest Outbursts Are Even More Dangerous Than They Seem
The fallout from Trump's unprecedented attack on former CIA Director John Brennan continues.

When President Donald Trump broke with precedent and unilaterally revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, many observers criticized the move as petty and an assault on the freedom of speech of Trump's critics. But MSNBC's Rachel Maddow argued Thursday night that something much more sinister may be going on.

She noted that Brennan himself has said that he hasn't used his security clearance since leaving government except to review his old notes when needing to testify before Congress or in other circumstances.

And Brennan, she noted, is one of the key figures involved in briefing then-President-elect Trump on the Russia investigation during the 2016-2017 transition. Since any potential obstruction of justice charges Trump may eventually face could relate to the information he received then, Brennan may eventually be called to testify about these events. This also applies to many of the other people the White House has said it is reviewing for the potential revocation of security clearances.

And that puts Trump's new targeting of Brennan and the others in a much darker light.

"He said explicitly that he did it because these people had a role back in the day leading the Russia investigation — what he called the 'rigged witch hunt,'" Maddow said. "He's not after his critics — he's after the witnesses!"

She also played a clip of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggesting that the precedent Trump has now established could be destructive in other ways: "The other question I have is: Where does this end? What is to stop President Trump from say, suspending the eligibility for access to classified information of Bob Mueller and his entire team? And they can't operate without access to classified information."

Watch the clip below:

Trump isn't going after his critics, he's going after the witnesses. pic.twitter.com/ciCIQ8txjO

— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) August 17, 2018
 

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17/08/2018 02:20 AM
The White House Is Completely 'Rattled' by Omarosa — and Some Fear She May Have 200 Recordings: Report
A New York Times report shows the effects of the ex-staffers bombshell of a book tour.

As Omarosa Manigault Newman continues her dramatic book tour, promoting her exposé Unhinged and making wild claims about her time in the administration and about President Donald Trump, White House staffers are more fearful than they've been about anything other than the Russia investigation, according to the New York Times.

Reporters Maggie Haberman and Kenneth Vogel describe Trump and other White House officials as "rattled" by the ordeal. They say the staffers are worried they will appear on tapes Manigault Newman made while working with them and that it is believed she could have "as many as 200" recordings.

Manigault Newman has already released several recordings from her time working in the White House and on the campaign, corroborating some of the allegations she makes in her new book.

On Thursday, she released a recording of Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, offering her a $15,000-a-month position with the Trump 2020 campaign after she was fired from the White House, essentially as hush money. That recording shows that, even before the book tour, Team Trump was fearful about what Manigault Newman might reveal.

"Her willingness to slowly deploy the tapes for maximum effect is straight from Mr. Trump’s playbook, which includes boasts of relying on “truthful hyperbole” to engage people, of threatening to expose people with recordings and of claiming to have scurrilous information about people that he might reveal at any moment," wrote Haberman and Vogel.

 

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17/08/2018 02:04 AM
'If Trump Wants to Do It, He'll Just Do It': White House Aides Reportedly Fear the President Is 'Eager' to Go After More of His Critics
Trump got away with stripping John Brennan of his clearance. Now he wants to go after even more people.

According to a new report in The Washington Post, President Donald Trump is not satisfied with stripping former CIA director John Brennan of his security clearance. He wants to terminate more clearances:

President Trump has told advisers that he is eager to strip more security clearances as part of an escalating attack against people who have criticized him or played a role in the investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, two White House officials said.

If true, this impulse from Trump would lend more credence to the idea that stripping Brennan of clearance was a deliberate act of political targeting for Brennan's role in encouraging the investigation of Russia — which Trump himself has openly admitted in conversation with a reporter from the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to voicing support for the Russia investigation, Brennan has repeatedly criticized Trump directly, most recently for calling Omarosa Manigault Newman a "dog."

Rudy Giuliani has insisted that Trump's decision to revoke security clearances from political enemies is not a violation of their First Amendment rights, because "The basis for having it is the president is going to call on you for advice — if that doesn't exist, there's no reason for you to have a clearance."

But even White House aides admit that Trump is simply governing by his own whims at this point. "The process is essentially meaningless," said one aide quoted in the Post. "If Trump wants to do it, he'll do it."

Republicans have so far expressed no criticism of Trump for revoking Brennan's security clearance. In fact, some have openly praised the decision, with Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) calling Brennan a "butthead," and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) saying that it was "disgraceful" of Brennan to criticize Trump in the first place.


17/08/2018 01:10 AM
Trump's Self-Aggrandizing Military Parade Idea Goes Down in Flames
The idea has been widely criticized.

President Donald Trump's military parade originally planned for November has been scrapped — at least for this year — according to a new statement from the Pentagon Thursday night.

"The Department of Defense and White House have been planning a parade to honor America's military veterans and commemorate the centennial of World War I," said spokesman Col. Rob Manning in a statement. "We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019."

The language "agreed to explore opportunities" is an exceptionally vague phrase — giving the distinct impression that Defense Department officials don't ever plan on holding the parade at all.

The plan for the parade already looked to be in rough shape early in the day on Thursday. A new estimate from the department found that the parade was going to cost nearly $100 million — an outrageous price tag for what amounts to a vanity project for history's most insecure president.

Trump apparently first got the idea for a military parade after witnessing France's Bastille Day celebrations.

“It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” Trump told reporters. “It was military might." 

According to Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin, military leaders rolled their eyes at the parade idea when they first heard it.

"Most thought it was a joke at first," Griffin told host Shep Smith in February. "Many fear that the U.S. will look like the dictators they scoff at around the world."

 

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16/08/2018 11:46 PM
New Report About the Stormy Daniels Hush Money Really Makes It Look Like Potentially Illegal Campaign Spending
It all comes back to the "Access Hollywood" tape.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal published a startling new revelation that, according to a source's allegation, President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, initially did not want to make the now-infamous $130,000 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to prevent the story of Trump's sexual encounter with her from surfacing. But he changed his mind after the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape depicting Trump boasting about sexual assault:

A day after the recording surfaced of outtakes of Mr. Trump speaking to a host of NBC's "Access Hollywood," Mr. Cohen, then Mr. Trump's senior counsel, told a representative for the performer that he was open to a deal, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

Within days, Stormy Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, signed a nondisclosure agreement that provided her $130,000 for her silence. Mr. Cohen had resisted paying Ms. Clifford when it was floated in 2016, the person said.

This news is highly significant, and could potentially spell legal doom for Cohen in the federal case against him.

The problem for Cohen, as the Wall Street Journal notes, is that one of the key charges against Cohen is that he committed a criminal campaign finance offense. In order for prosecutors to prove this charge, they will have to demonstrate the hush payment was intended to help the Trump campaign.

If it is true that Cohen moved to broker the payment specifically because he was worried that it could further damage the campaign in the wake of the "Access Hollywood" tape, then it will be that much easier for the government to prove the payment was, in fact, campaign-related, and therefore illegal.

Cohen has been facing prosecution by the Southern District of New York, who took up the case after it was referred to them by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He is widely thought to be cooperating with investigators.


16/08/2018 11:34 PM
Wife of Trump Aide Who Pleaded Guilty in Mueller Probe Says He Should Withdraw His Confession
George Papadopoulos has admitted to lying to the FBI.

George Papadopoulos was a relatively unknown member of President Donald Trump's campaign during the 2016 election, but he has since become a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, in which he has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

But on Thursday, Papadopoulos' wife, Simona Mangiante, said that he should withdraw his confession and stop cooperating in a statement she gave to MSNBC's Ari Melber. He revealed the statement Thursday on his show "The Beat."

"I trusted these institutions until they proved me wrong," she said. She alleges that there were "shady individuals targeting George with a specific agenda." She also said that there is now "exculpatory evidence" would justify backing out of the cooperation agreement.

It's not clear what exactly is going on in the statement. Why, exactly, is Mangiante making these claims on her husband's behalf and without clearly saying that her husband is on board with the decision?

And as Melber explained, it's no simple thing to back out of plea deal. Unless there are extreme extenuating circumstances, such a move is rarely permitted. And even if he were to pull out of the deal, he would likely still face the prospect of criminal charges.

Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to misleading investigators about the timing of his contact with Russians during the 2016 campaign who offered helped to Trump in the form of hacked emails. According to documents that have been made public, the investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians began after an Australian diplomat informed the FBI that Papadopoulos had been discussing his contacts with Russia.

Watch the clip of "The Beat" below:

EXCLUSIVE: George Papadopoulos's wife, Simona Mangiante, tells #TheBeat she wants him to scrap the plea deal with Mueller pic.twitter.com/UkpT22RsmW

— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) August 16, 2018
 

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16/08/2018 10:15 PM
History Professor Destroys GOP Senate Candidate's Racist Myths About Robert E. Lee and the Civil War
Chris McDaniel tried to whitewash the cause of Robert E. Lee. An Iowa professor resoundingly schooled him.

Among the numerous white supremacists running for higher office this year is Chris McDaniel, who is challenging Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in the special election for Thad Cochran's old seat.

McDaniel, an attorney, talk show host, and state senator with longtime support from the Tea Party, has a history of toxic racial views. He has consorted with neo-Confederates, and in his previous run for Senate in 2014, he accused Cochran of "voter fraud" because black people voted for him in the primary  — as if they were synonymous.

On Wednesday, McDaniel took things further by posting a glowing defense of Confederate commander Robert E. Lee to Facebook.

"Here's the irony," he wrote. "Robert E. Lee was the most decorated soldier in the U.S. Army. He was a man of unimpeachable integrity. Lincoln offered him command in the Union Army, but Lee refused only because his loyalty was to Virginia. Lee opposed both secession and slavery. And yet to the historically illiterate left, a man who opposed both slavery and secession has come to symbolize both slavery and secession."

This is an odd characterization of a man who both owned slaves and led an army of traitors who opened fire on U.S. troops in the name of slavery and secession.

But McDaniel did not go unchallenged. In fact, Kevin Gannon, a history professor at Grand View University in Des Moines, IA, posted a scathing rebuttal on Twitter to McDaniel's historical revisionism:

Hi there-Civil War historian here. So, uh...this is really, really far from "The Truth." Got a minute? /1 https://t.co/p0p714upiy

— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

2/ Lee certainly did not believe slavery was wrong. In an 1856 letter to his wife, he said "The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race."

— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

4/ If you read Elizabeth Prior Brown's biography of Lee, you'd learn that Lee broke up every family on his plantation by 1860 by either renting or selling them apart. He once ordered an enslaved man whipped, and then had brine poured over his back. No "Christian Gentleman" here.

— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

Gannon then proceeded to debunk McDaniel's assertion that Lee opposed secession.:

6/Bear in mind that Lee forsook the oath he took to the Constitution and Union when he left the US Army, *where he was a career officer*, to join the Confederacy. One does not oppose secession and then take such a dramatic action to fight for...secession. pic.twitter.com/79AgOhJFyO

— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

Then, Gannon proceeded to debunk one of the primary "Lost Cause" myths: that Lee's cause, and the cause of the Civil War generally, was not slavery:

8/Don't just take my word for it-read Virginia's secession ordinance, condemning the federal govt for actions taken "*not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.*" [The emphasis is in the original document]

— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

10/I'm not going to relitigate secession, because it's crystal clear from the documents and other evidence from the period that secession and the preservation of slavery were inextricably linked in the eyes of Confederates, whether or not they "owned" slaves themselves.

— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

12/To deny that someone like Bob Ed Lee supported slavery or secession is to buy into the post-Civil War propaganda where eminent white southerners like Lee sought to softpedal their prewar and wartime stances to make themselves more palatable for re-entry into civil society. pic.twitter.com/yAYI9KRG43

— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

14/The local chapter of the Freedmen's Bureau repeatedly charged Washington College students with abducting and raping Black girls. Lee--the PRESIDENT OF THE COLLEGE--never responded to any of the charges or cooperated with the Bureau to investigate.

— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

16/What @senatormcdaniel is doing here is giving you the santized version of Lee, the "marble man" myth-it's an image that has no basis in fact and is easily disproven by the historical record. I mean, this stuff isn't secret. pic.twitter.com/QaRjyYTBMX

— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

18/But to do so, to deny Lee was a supporter of slavery and secession, is to deny that the Civil War occurred because a substantial white regional minority refused to abide by the results of a legal election because they saw it as threatening their "right" to own other people pic.twitter.com/Hvwz5Ou8k7

— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

Gannon closed out with this thought:

19/ So, @senatormcdaniel, you have a curious way of defining "The Truth," but I suspect you're more interested in dog-whistling to anti-Black racists than you are in historical accuracy. Because your assessment of Lee flies in the face of all available historical evidence. pic.twitter.com/S5pnQSXcFQ

— Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) August 16, 2018

16/08/2018 10:11 PM
Trump's Tariffs and Trade War Will Hit the Marijuana Industry, Too
And in the end, consumers will pay the price.

The Trump administration has included vaping devices and their components among the Chinese products subject to punitive tariffs, and that's going to have an impact on the marijuana industry. But it's not just vaping devices: Many other products made in China, from fixtures to packaging materials and more that are used in the pot industry, are also subject to increased tariffs.

The bottom line will be increased costs for legal marijuana companies and increased prices for their customers. To the degree that tariffs subdue growth in legal marijuana markets, they could also end up putting a hit on marijuana tax revenues for states and localities.

Companies selling vaping products are on the front line, said Arnaud Dumas de Rauly, co-CEO of the Blinc Group, which develops and sells technology and products related to vaping and runs an incubator program to research, develop, and brand technologies for marijuana and nicotine vaping. Dumas de Rauly made his comments in July 24 testimony at public hearings on the tariffs held by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The vast majority of vaping devices, as well as batteries, filters, and cartridges, are manufactured in China, Dumas de Rauly noted, and there are currently few alternatives for producing them. But the profit margin on such devices is only 10 to 15 percent, and that means companies will either have to find alternative sources, eat the hit to their bottom lines, or, more likely, pass the increases on to consumers.

And that will have an impact on the "entire cannabis consumption market—including medical and recreational marijuana," Dumas de Rauly said.

It's not just consumers who will feel the impact, Dumas de Rauly warned. Higher prices mean decreasing sales and shrinking tax revenues and "25 percent of sales come from cannabis vaping products," he said.

The business press, which now actually treats the marijuana business as a real industry, found plenty of people who echoed Dumas de Rauly's sentiments. In an interview with Forbes, Brooke Davies, executive director of Cannabis Organization of Retail Establishments, a non-profit trade association representing cannabis retailers in Washington State, said that tariffs were already having an impact. Small growers there, already under pressure from dropping marijuana prices, will see profit margins shrink even further because the glass jars they buy from China to package their buds are being hit by tariffs.

"The Trump tariffs will undoubtedly hurt the rural parts of Washington State," Greg James, publisher of Marijuana Venture and Sun Grower magazines, told Forbes. "There could well be a snowball effect that results in the outdoor growing community having an even harder time selling their crop," he said.

It's not just growers or vaping companies taking a hit. "Any items essential to the day-to-day operations of a cannabis business, from construction equipment to cell phones, will likely increase in price,” Kevin Hagan of the Princeton Public Affairs Group told Forbes.

Meanwhile, CNBC reported that unlike other sectors targeted for tariffs, such as imported steel, aluminum, solar panels, and washing machines, whose impacts are slower to show up (how often do you buy a washing machine?), the tariffs on vaping products will have an almost immediate impact. That means consumers will quickly see price increases and adjust their behavior accordingly.

But for some people—medical marijuana patients—marijuana isn't a luxury, but a necessity.

"For those who need it, they don't have a choice," Mary Lovely, a professor of economics at Syracuse University and nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C., told CNBC.

Maybe they can comfort themselves by reading Donald Trump’s tweets. As he exclaimed in a tweet the same day as the Office of U.S. Trade Representative hearings, "Tariffs are the greatest!... All will be Great!"

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

 

 

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16/08/2018 10:06 PM
Here's Why a Former US Attorney Thinks Michael Cohen's Sudden Silence Should Terrify Trump
For a time, Michael Cohen's name was splashed across national headlines. Now he appears to be laying low.

Omarosa Manigault Newman is making a splash with her new book Unhinged, which recounts her time in President Donald Trump's White House and lobs a series of damning allegations against the president. In her promotional tour for the book, the former White House staffer has also made several new claims — including the explosive assertion that Trump knew ahead of time about hacked emails before they were released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.

She has not been specific about how she knows this to be the case, however, though she has suggested she is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney, raised doubts Thursday about whether she is really cooperating with Mueller — though he believes another key witness likely is.

"This does not sound like a cooperator to me," Rosenberg said on MSNBC's "Deadline: White House" on Thursday. "This sounds like somebody, I'm sorry to say this, who is selling books."

"Let me just — it makes me think of Michael Cohen," said host Nicolle Wallace, referring to the president's former attorney who is known to be under federal investigation. "He's suddenly quiet. Is he acting this week right now like a potentially cooperating witness?"

"You bet he is," Rosenberg replied. "Now, he's situated differently, of course, because he might end up being a defendant rather than just the witness. But right, the silence you hear from him is deafening. The reason you're hearing silence, I think, is because he's cooperating. He was asked the same thing: Tell us the truth and don't talk to anyone else. And guess what? he's not talking to anyone else. I think it's a very good guess."

Interestingly, while Cohen has been relatively far from the headlines after dominating national news coverage for many weeks, he did take the time to respond to one of Manigault Newman's more bizarre claims in her book. She said that she once saw Trump eat a piece of paper in order to destroy it while Cohen was present — but Cohen denied that this ever took place.

Watch the clip below:

"The silence you hear from him is deafening." pic.twitter.com/04NNprjrtq

— AlterNet (@AlterNet) August 16, 2018
 

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16/08/2018 09:28 PM
Here's How Democrats Can Defeat Trump — by Pledging to Fulfill One of His Biggest Broken Promises
This could be a winning issue in the midterms.

While commentators chastise congressional Democrats for lacking a cogent message for midterm voters, does the opposition really need to say much more than "to hell with Trump"? If so, they can start hammering a theme that will unite the party base, attract wavering supporters and blister the hide off this president for a monumental broken promise.

The killer issue is perfectly obvious: infrastructure.

Everybody knows that the collapsing highway bridge in Genoa, Italy, a typically tragic and costly disaster, could have happened anywhere in the United States — indeed, it has, and it will again. Presumably, that was why candidate Donald Trump promised a massive public works reconstruction program almost as fervently as he vowed to "build the wall." With his usual lying braggadocio, he said again and again in 2016 that a Trump administration would create "the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history."

Like his wall, the public works program is nowhere to be seen. Unlike the wall, however, rebuilding infrastructure is critical to our future. 

Rather than fulfill his pledge to the nation's workers and families, Trump furtively sold them out for a tax cut that benefits him and his family. Congressional Republicans, who have spent their careers gnawing at America's physical heritage like so many termites, never intended to let Trump appropriate adequate funding to repair roads, bridges, airports, seaports and all the other infrastructure that undergirds the national economy.

Without substantial investment soon, our competitive capacity will shrink as other countries grow. Our daily lives will be dominated by traffic jams, airport delays, transit accidents and all the troubles of a disintegrating public sector. Our health and safety will be at risk to increasing air and water pollution, as will our educational and research advantages.

Again, everyone in government knows these basic facts. Yet over the past 25 years, ever since they first gained control of the House of Representatives under Newt Gingrich, they have preferred cutting taxes on their rich donors to creating decent jobs and a livable country for their constituents. They have opposed every serious attempt to fund reconstruction spending that would begin to meet the real need -- now estimated by the American Society of Civil Engineers at $4.5 trillion by 2025.

The least to be said for Trump is that he seemed to understand the dire condition of America's physical plant, which includes not just highways but everything from the dilapidated electric grid and leaking reservoirs, to waste management facilities, levees, dams and, yes, schools. At some point, he proposed a plan to spend $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, which would have been a start.  

But his plan was never real because it included only $200 billion in new federal spending and depended on private sector "partnerships" to provide the rest. Republican leaders rejected even that tiny gesture in favor of a gigantic skewed tax cut that squanders $1.3 trillion to make the rich richer. 

That's right: Congressional Republicans spent almost exactly the same amount Trump had promised for infrastructure spending on those unpopular tax cuts. They took your construction jobs, your roads and bridges, and your children's future, and they cashed them in to lavish more tax money on people who already have far too much. This is such a simple, damning equation that even politicians should be able to explain it to voters. 

What the Democrats should say, too — if they can find the courage — is that we are committing a crime against our children by depleting the great national inheritance bequeathed by our parents and grandparents, leaving only memories of a better time. Finding the ways and means to rebuild America is an economic necessity today — and a moral obligation to those who will follow us. The Republicans will never do it, and neither will Trump. Which is one of many good reasons why they must go.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM

 

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16/08/2018 09:02 PM
Here Are 5 of the Worst Scandals Showing the Cruelty and Corruption of the Trump Era
Each day reveals new stunning behavior from the White House and the president himself.

Republican Charles J. Sykes, author of How the Right Lost Its Mind and one of President Donald Trump’s vocal critics on the right, recently described the Trump era as one of “corruption and cruelty” — summing it up perfectly. There has been no shortage of cruelty under Trump’s presidency, from his immigration policy and the separation of families at the border to efforts to deprive 23 million Americans of health insurance (which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would have happened had the GOP’s American Health Care Act of 2017 not been defeated in the U.S. Senate).

And Trump is turning out to be, hands down, the most scandal-ridden American president since Richard “Watergate” Nixon. But at least Nixon, for all his corruption, had some positive attributes: he favored universal health care, expanded Medicare and was partly responsible for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Here are five of the worst scandals of the Trump era:

1. The Prosecution and Trial of Paul Manafort

Before the shameless opportunist Kellyanne Conway became Trump’s campaign manager during the summer of 2016, his campaign manager was veteran political operative Paul Manafort — who is presently on trial in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia and is facing multiple counts of bank fraud and tax evasion. Federal prosecutors are alleging that Manafort evaded taxes on $15 million worth of income he earned while promoting former Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych.

2. Former Trump Campaign Aid Rick Gates Agrees to Plea Bargain in Manafort Case

Manafort isn’t the only person from Trump’s 2016 campaign who has faced criminal charges. The prosecution’s star witness in Manafort’s trial has been Rick Gates, former Trump campaign aid and Manafort’s former business partner. Gates agreed to testify against Manafort in exchange for a more lenient sentence, and during his testimony, Gates admitted to a long list of criminal activities — including money laundering, defrauding the U.S. government and falsifying documents to banks. And Gates, demonstrating that there is no honor among thieves, also admitted to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort’s company.

3. The Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal Controversies

During the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the late 1990s, numerous Republicans and Christian Right theocrats insisted that Bill Clinton had disgraced the presidency by having an extramarital affair with a White House intern. But the Trumpistas and theocrats of 2018 have no problem with allegations that Trump had extramarital affairs with adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal and paid both of them hush money to keep quiet. In July, Lanny Davis — a lawyer for Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen—gave CNN a recording in which Trump and Cohen are heard discussing ways to buy McDougal’s silence.

4. BBC Releases Special Titled ‘Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest?’

On July 9—just before Trump visited the U.K.—the BBC began airing an investigative series titled “Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest?,” which contains interviews with women who had unpleasant memories of their encounters with Trump in the past. One of them was Barbara Pilling, a model who met Trump at a party in New York City in the 1980s. Pilling was 17 at the time, and she alleged to the BBC that when Trump found out her age, he responded, “Oh, great. So you’re not too old and not too young. That’s just great.”

5. Michael Flynn Confesses to Making False Statements to the FBI 

In 2016, Michael T. Flynn was reportedly being considered as a running mate for Trump, who ended up choosing Indiana Gov. Mike Pence instead. Nonetheless, Flynn was heavily involved in Trump’s campaign, advising him on military and national security matters—and after Trump was sworn in as president in January 2017, he became the administration’s national security advisor. But Flynn didn’t last long in the position. The retired U.S. Army lieutenant general was disgraced when it came to light that he had inappropriately accepted thousands of dollars from Russian interests. However, Flynn eventually agreed to cooperate in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election—and in December 2017, Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak in December 2016 (when Obama was still in office). Flynn and Kislyak allegedly discussed, among other things, U.S. sanctions against Russia.

 

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16/08/2018 08:09 PM
Retired Admiral Scolds Trump in Fiery Op-ed: 'You Have Embarrassed Us in the Eyes of Our Children'
The rebuke came in response to Trump's targeting of former CIA Director John Brennan.

President Donald Trump has demonstrated a noticeable fondness for military leaders, surrounding himself with officers such as Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and former national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Many have speculated that this fondness comes from personal insecurity, as Trump himself famously avoided military service during the Vietnam War — supposedly because he had "bone spurs."

So the latest rebuke from retired Navy Admiral William McRaven, who was commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and oversaw the raid the killed Osama bin Laden, is sure to get under his skin.

McRaven denounced Trump's recent unprecedented decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, a fierce critic of the president. He said Brennan has "unparalleled integrity."

"Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency," McRaven wrote.

He had high hopes for Trump as president, he writes, but he has been let down.

"Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation," he continued. "If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be."

 

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16/08/2018 07:46 PM
Trump's Military 'Parade' to Cost Almost $100 Million: US Department of Defense
The figure includes $50 million from the Pentagon and $42 million from interagency partners.

In order to feel a little more adequate, Donald Trump’s planned military parade needs to be bigly. Like really, really bigly. After early promises of keeping the costs of this fascistic display below $15 million, the early estimates were no less than twice that. Trump’s White House released estimates that put the number down to $12 million just this past month. Well, it’s looking like it might cost tax payers just a teeny weeny bit more to make Donald Trump believe he is a big boy like his buddies Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. Sources inside of the Department of Defense told CNBC that there are some newly revised “estimates.”

The parade, slated for Nov. 10, is estimated to cost $92 million, the official said. The figure includes $50 million from the Pentagon and $42 million from interagency partners such as the Department of Homeland Security. An initial estimate last month pegged the prospective cost for the parade at $12 million.

There’s a theme with Republicans like Trump. Promises of cheap and easy ways to make a buck, followed by the most egregious spending to make nothing. 


16/08/2018 07:34 PM
Trump Laid Bare His True Intentions by Revoking Brennan's Security Clearance — And Mueller Definitely Took Notice
Trump digs himself into a deep hole — again.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, openly admitting that he did so for political reasons.

"Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday, according to CBS News. She went on to list other public officials who have criticized the Trump administration in various ways and who she says are also under consideration for having their security clearances revoked. These included former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

Sanders added, "More broadly, the issue of Mr. Brennan's security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our nation's most sensitive secrets long after their time in government has ended. Such access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks."

Trump made his political motivations even more plainly clear in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday:

Asked about the White House decision to yank Mr. Brennan’s security clearance and to evaluate the clearances held by others, Mr. Trump said was prepared to do it last week, but it was too “hectic.”

He later added:

Mr. Trump said the Russia probe is unwarranted. “Of course they say it’s not an investigation. You know, in theory I’m not under investigation…I’m not a target. But regardless, I think that whole—I call it the rigged witch hunt, is a sham.”

Mr. Trump didn’t rule out testifying before Mr. Mueller, but he said the special counsel’s investigation has been “so badly discredited.”

The Mueller investigation last month indicted a dozen Russian intelligence officers and charged them with hacking the computers of Democratic organizations and ensuring the pilfered information became public.

The ironic thing is that, for individuals like Comey and McCabe, the threat of revoking their security clearances may be a meaningless one. Because they were fired, their security clearances are believed to have been deactivated.

Still, some of Trump's fellow Republicans are particularly exultant about the revocation of Brennan's security clearance.

"I applaud President Trump for his revoking of John Brennan’s security clearance," Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky declared in a statement on Wednesday. "I urged the President to do this. I filibustered Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA in 2013, and his behavior in government and out of it demonstrate why he should not be allowed near classified information. He participated in a shredding of constitutional rights, lied to Congress, and has been monetizing and making partisan political use of his clearance since his departure."

Last month on Twitter, Paul publicly urged Trump to revoke Brennan's security clearance.

Is John Brennan monetizing his security clearance? Is John Brennan making millions of dollars divulging secrets to the mainstream media with his attacks on @realDonaldTrump ?

— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 23, 2018

Today I will meet with the President and I will ask him to revoke John Brennan’s security clearance!

— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 23, 2018

Paul was backed up by Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, a fellow Republican, who argued on Wednesday that Brennan was a "butthead" who deserved to have his clearance revoked.

"I think most Americans look at our national intelligence experts as being above politics. Mr. Brennan has demonstrated that that's not the case. He's been totally political. I think I called him a 'butthead' and I meant it. I think he's given the national intelligence community a bad name," Kennedy told CNN on Wednesday.

Not all of Trump's fellow Republicans are happy with him, however.

As Politico reported on Wednesday, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Bob Corker of Tennessee expressed their concerns about the precedent that had been established by Trump revoking Brennan's security clearance.

"It’s unwise. Because generally, recently retired intelligence officials have a lot to contribute to the analysis that is being done," Collins told reporters.

"Without having some kind of tangible reasons for doing so, which there may be that I’m not aware of, I don’t like it at all. It just feels like sort of a … banana republic kind of thing," said Corker, the retiring Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, repeating the "banana republic" line two more times in an exasperated tone. "I don’t like it."

Brennan himself has not been cowed by Trump's punitive actions against him. In a Thursday op-ed in The New York Times, Brennan continued to call out the Trump administration for having colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election:

Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash.

The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of “Trump Incorporated” attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets. A jury is about to deliberate bank and tax fraud charges against one of those people, Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman. And the campaign’s former deputy chairman, Rick Gates, has pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators.

Brennan also took to Twitter to denounce Trump's actions as a threat to his freedom of speech.

"This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics," Brennan wrote on Twitter. "It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent."

While the American Civil Liberties Union doesn't have a long record of supporting former CIA directors, their statement after Trump's revocation of Brennan's security clearance agreed with Brennan.

"The First Amendment does not permit the president to revoke security clearances to punish his critics," Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in the statement. "John Brennan’s record is full of grave missteps, and we have been unsparing in our criticism of his defense of the CIA torture program and his role in unlawful lethal strikes abroad. But Trump’s revocation of Brennan’s clearance, and his threats to revoke the clearances of other former officials for the sole reason that they have criticized his conduct and policies, amount to unconstitutional retaliation. They are also part of a broader pattern of seeking to silence or marginalize critics, which includes forcing staff to sign unconstitutional non-disclosure agreements."

Ironically enough, Trump himself has engaged in actions that could warrant questioning whether he should be trusted with American national security secrets. Most notably, he revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during a meeting with them in May 2017, according to The Washington Post.


16/08/2018 07:11 PM
Conservative Columnist Lambasts 'Deliberately Ignorant' Trump — And the Right-Wing Media That Enables Him
Right-Wing Columnist Jennifer Rubin took Trump to task over his trade policy.

President Donald Trump seems determined to start a full-scale trade war not only with China, but also, with neighbors and long-time allies Canada and Mexico—and Jennifer Rubin, right-wing columnist for the Washington Post, is calling the president out for a recent tweet promoting tariffs.

On August 15, Trump posted the following on Twitter: “Our Country was built on Tariffs, and Tariffs are now leading us to great new Trade Deals - as opposed to the horrible and unfair Trade Deals that I inherited as your President. Other Countries should not be allowed to come in and steal the wealth of our great U.S.A. No longer!”

Rubin, in a column published the following day, stressed that the type of trade war Trump is encouraging could be disastrous economically.

In the Washington Post, Rubin asserted, “Unless Trump wants to retreat to a 1776-sized economy or relive the Great Depression, care of Smoot-Hawley, it’s best we not follow the outdated mercantilist philosophy that was supplanted, fortunately, by Adam Smith, who deplored tariffs.”

Rubin went on to say, “It turns out a deliberately ignorant president is a menace to our democracy and economy (who knew?!). The staffers who rationalize his nonsensical pronouncements and the right-wing media that praise him are enabling a destructive president who, if allowed to succeed, would make us less free and less prosperous. Listening to him certainly makes our politics dumber.”

Tariffs, Rubin stressed, were not the principle upon which the U.S. was built. 

The columnist wrote, “Our country was founded on a principle Trump often seems unacquainted with: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’”

Rubin’s August 16 column was not the first time she took Trump to task for his trade policy. The 56-year-old Rubin has been equally critical of the president in previous columns, denouncing tariffs as a tax on U.S. consumers and explaining how tariffs could lead to higher prices for a long list of products.

 

Rubin’s articles have also appeared in right-wing publications like the National Review, Bill Kristol’s the Weekly Standard and PJ Media (formerly Pajamas Media).


16/08/2018 05:44 PM
Barack and Michelle Obama Pen Moving Tribute to Aretha Franklin As Trump Bizarrely Claims She 'Worked' for Him
"May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace."

Barack and Michelle Obama on Thursday released a moving statement about the death of Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul” who performed at the former president’s first inauguration, and brought him to tears during the 2015 Kennedy Center honors.

“America has no royalty,” the Obamas wrote. “But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring.”

Noting Franklin was born and raised in Detroit as the daughter of a Baptist minister and civil rights leader, the Obamas wrote that in the six decades she performed, “every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine.”

“Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha hoped define the American experience,” the wrote. “In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it an in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect.”

“Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.

Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. pic.twitter.com/bfASqKlLc5

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 16, 2018

Barack and Michelle Obama on Aretha Franklin: "America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring." pic.twitter.com/xvdiypyr8B

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 16, 2018

Meanwhile, according to a pool report from Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, Donald Trump praised Franklin before claiming she “worked for” him.

President Trump described Aretha Franklin as someone “who worked for him,” which is weird until you remember that he once said that he “lost hundreds of friends” on September 11th. pic.twitter.com/mopc47dCc5

— Scott Bixby (@scottbix) August 16, 2018

Don't understand. But he must mean he hired her to sing at events??? https://t.co/AKQFfmCQob

— Sarah Mimms (@SarahMMimms) August 16, 2018

The president had previously taken to Twitter to acknowledge the death of Franklin, whom he described as a "great woman."

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is dead. She was a great woman, with a wonderful gift from God, her voice. She will be missed!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2018

16/08/2018 05:27 PM
Fuming Trump Has Told Advisers He Wants Jeff Sessions to Have Omarosa Arrested: Report
Trump reportedly sees her book tour as “a personal betrayal.”

Donald Trump has told advisers he wants his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to have his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman arrested, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reports.

According to Sherman, despite receiving advice from aides and his wife Melania Trump to “just ignore” Manigault Newman’s book tour, Trump has opted instead to attack and insult his former “Apprentice” co-star and confidante. 

Though it’s unclear which law the president believes Manigault Newman broke, a former West Wing official told Sherman that Trump’s reaction is likely rooted in what he sees as “a personal betrayal.”

“She is doing everything perfect if her ultimate goal is to troll Trump,” another former White House official said.

Trump’s frustration with Manigault Newman likely served as a catalyst for his decision or evoke the security clearance of former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan. As Sherman reports, one former official described Trump’s behavior as a “death spiral.”

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16/08/2018 04:31 PM
CNN's Don Lemon Breaks Down During Emotional Tribute to Aretha Franklin: 'We Lost A Legend'
Lemon also explained Franklin’s impact on his life as a child of the 1960s.

CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday broke down during a conversation about “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday.

Lemon detailed his relationship with Franklin, explaining she would “text [him] out of the blue” to tell her how proud she was of him.

“I'm sorry, Poppy [Harlow],” Lemon said, his voice choking up. “I just woke up and got the news. I'm so sorry. I didn't expect to have this reaction. It's sad. For the past couple of days, people have been going to see her and reaching out to her. You know, there was information that I knew that I couldn't really say because the family did not want that out. You know, the last couple of days, it has not been good.”

“Truly, we lost a legend,” he continued. “And a good person. She said she wanted to be known as a good mother. She was a good mother to not only just her four sons but to so many people around the world, like me. She would just text me out of the blue and say I saw something you did on CNN. I'm so proud of you. You are doing such a great job. To think that that won't happen anymore is just really awful.”

Lemon later explained Franklin’s impact on his life as a child of the 1960s.

“There is no voice and no one ever that will be like her,” he said. “Some people have a gift that there’s music in their voice. They just open their mouths and the song just drops out. And that is—that was Aretha Franklin. She could not—she was unmatched. But I think a lot of that also came from the church and her father. Because she grew up with her father in the church. That came from the church.”

Watch below:


16/08/2018 01:18 PM
This Is the GOP's Secret Plan to Use Trump’s Impeachment to Keep the White House: Report
“Well-respected thinkers believe that the more extreme the Democrats go, the more middle of the road voters will gravitate to Trump."

In interviews with Politico, an assortment of Republicans admit they are willing to concede the House to the Democrats in the 2018 midterms based on the belief that a move to impeach President Donald Trump would backfire on them

According to the report, Republican believe they will hold their majority in the Senate and would rebuff any attempt by a Democratic-majority House to dump Trump and that voters will want to move on, with Trump’s base becoming even more solidified.

As Politico reports, “more than a dozen Republican politicians, activists and consultants — including some current and former Trump campaign aides with direct lines to the president — said they are increasingly convinced a Democratic victory and subsequent impeachment push would backfire and ultimately help the president in 2020.”

“If they take the House, he wins big,” explained former Trump adviser Barry Bennett, with others hearkening back to the impeachment of ex-President Bill Clinton, who grew more popular after his impeachment in 1998.

“Well-respected thinkers believe that the more extreme the Democrats go, the more middle of the road voters will gravitate to Trump,” suggested a prominent conservative who wished to remain anonymous.

“It’s not crazy,” added a Trump adviser outside of the White House about Trump benefitting from impeachment proceedings. “If you’re looking at the politics of it, it’s not a terrible thing for 2020.”

Other conservatives believe a split Congress — with the Democrats taking the House and the GOP still in control of the Senate — would also benefit Trump as gridlock sets in. Trump would then likely run for re-election while attacking a “do-nothing” Congress.

 


16/08/2018 09:56 AM
There's a Science to Successfully Talking to Trump Supporters — Here's How
If humans were completely rational agents, our beliefs and political attitudes would be based on reasoning grounded in evidence and logic—but unfortunately that’s not the case.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or something else—if you are a reasonable person then you must be wondering what the hell hardcore Trump supporters are thinking right now. From wearing shirts that say, “I’d rather be a Russian than Democrat,” to conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophilia ring out of a pizza joint, it is obvious that Donald Trump and abominable allies have perfected the skill of brain washing those vulnerable to such manipulation. It’s all so bizarre that most Americans have at some point questioned whether someone had slipped them some LSD when they weren’t looking.

If humans were completely rational agents, our beliefs and political attitudes would be based on reasoning grounded in evidence and logic—but unfortunately that’s not the case. Critical thinking is a skill that needs to be taught, and with fiery emotions like anger and fear exacerbating political bias and polarizing the nation, getting people to listen to reason is more difficult than ever.

But completely giving up on the task of converting fellow Americans—even staunch Trump supporters and outlandish conspiracy theorists—into crusaders for logic and reason should not be an option. If you consider yourself a good Samaritan, such an effort should be considered a moral responsibility and an ethical imperative.

While this task can certainly be difficult, the good news is that it is by no means impossible. There are a number of psychological strategies identified by social scientists that can make convincing the irrational more likely.

1. The first step, and the most obvious, is to open up a dialogue.

I often see people saying things like, “You can’t talk sense into racists and bigots.” While it is true that some may have biases too deeply-engrained for them to change, that certainly isn’t the case for all of them. We all suffer from tribalism to some degree, a trait that has been hardwired in through evolution, but many of us have largely overcome this natural tendency thanks to the influence of open-minded others. Staunch religious fundamentalists firmly believe everyone else is going to hell, but that didn’t stop the atheists, agnostics, and moderately-spiritual people from trying to convince them otherwise—and thanks to those efforts, religious extremists have drastically decreased in numbers.

When you engage Trump loyalists in debate, try to respond with meaty content that has greater numbers of sentences and paragraphs, since research shows that one-liners and superficial statements do little to persuade people. Also, it is a good idea to cite reputable sources and provide links to external sites, so that information is recognized as objective, rather than a biased opinion.

2. Avoid using emotionally-charged words and approach them in a way that does not feel threatening.

Emotions like anxiety, fear, and anger exacerbate political bias, so use soft wording and a calm tone, and try to make them feel at ease.

A well-established psychological phenomenon is that when people feel they are under threat, they cling more strongly to their worldviews—cultural and political ideologies, religions, and biases—because those familiar things make them feel safe.

When challenging their views, don’t try to belittle or insult them by calling them dumb or ignorant. Expose them to new information in the way you would introduce an interesting concept to a friend. Don’t try to convince a conservative to become a liberal or take on a new identity—instead try to convince them to simply become a more informed, disciplined, and open-minded thinker. This implies that the persuader is already open-minded and aware of their own biases, which is important.

3. Find common ground and build on it.

I think it is safe to say that most Americans, regardless of political affilitation, want what is best for America. While the Left and the Right have different visions of what a “great America” looks like, there are surely a lot of things that can be agreed upon, such as safety, economic opportunity, and liberty.

Acknowledge facts and be willing to concede a little. America does have a problem with violent gangs composed of illegal immigrants like MS-13, and radical Islamic terror groups like ISIS still pose a threat, both physically and ideologically. Once that common ground has been established, it becomes much easier to explain that these individuals exist as a very small minority, and that most immigrants come to this country for the same American dream of freedom and opportunity that they hold. Support these facts with data from scientific or politically-neutral sources. Show them that you are reasonable, and also willing to change opinions in the face of new evidence.

By carefully building these bridges, we can come closer to agreement rather than pushing one another further away.

Of course, there are limits to how much time and energy one can spend on trying to convince someone who completely refuses to listen to reason. So when is it time to throw in the towel?

Research shows that in back-and-forth dialogues, if a person hasn’t been persuaded by the fourth round, it is likely a lost cause. Move on to the next irrational American that needs saving, because the war against ignorance and intolerance is one we must face head on.

Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist. His research has been published in journals such as Cognition & Emotion and Human Brain Mapping, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Psychology Today, and Scientific American. Follow him @BobbyAzarian.


15/08/2018 07:30 PM
The Hour When Children Die—What Is Going On in Yemen?
Nearly every child in Yemen needs humanitarian assistance.

A busload of young boys was on a field trip. They were excited. Their summer session of school was over. This was to be the outing to celebrate the end of school. The boys jostle on the bus. It is noisy. One of them covers his ears. They are all laughing. One of their friends is taking a video (which was shown this week on Yemen’s al-Massira television). The video shows the universal joy of being an adolescent, of being filled with anticipation at the field trip.

Along the way, the bus stops at a crowded market in the town of Dahyan, in the Saada governorate in Yemen’s north, on the border with Saudi Arabia. This governorate or province is largely in support of the Ansarullah insurgency and is the center of regular bombings by the aircraft of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The teachers with the young boys make the stop to pick up supplies for the trip: snacks and water. The excitement on the bus does not abate.

It is just then, in this crowded market, that the aircraft of Saudi Arabia fired on the bus. It was a direct strike, according to eyewitnesses. The Red Cross now says that 50 children died in the strike (11 adults were killed). Among the 79 wounded, 56 are children—many fighting for their lives.

A UNICEF report out earlier this year suggests that this kind of violence is not unusual. Five children have been killed or injured in Yemen each day since the start of the Saudi-UAE war on that country in March 2015. The numbers are shocking, but also numbing—nearly every child in Yemen (11 million of them) needs humanitarian assistance, with millions of children acutely malnourished, with no safe drinking water or sanitation, with few schools, with cholera and acute diarrhea as normal features of life and with regular bombings and shootings around them.

Funerals in places of war and occupation are not sober affairs. They are heightened by the anger at the manner of death, but more so they are political rallies of great emotion. The children’s bodies arrived in cars wrapped in green. The coffins, wooden boxes, had a picture of each child on them. They were carried along the road to a simple graveyard. Their coffins were carried by boys from the Yemeni Scouts and Guides Association, their motto on their shirts reading kun musta’idan, or be prepared. Bomb strikes are routine. The Saudi and Emirati planes might have struck this funeral as they did in 2016, when they killed about 155 people in the al-Kubra Hall in Sanaa. Chants against Saudi Arabia rent the air. They were mingled with chants against the United States. No one in Yemen is fooled by the U.S. complicity in this war.

War Can’t Be a Clean Operation

Remorse is not available from either Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Both governments insist that the raid was “legitimate” and that “war can’t be a clean operation unfortunately” (as UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash put it in Dubai). The Saudis, like the Israeli government when it arrests and kills children, said that it is the Yemenis who are “responsible for recruiting and training young children.”

There is barely remorse in the United States, from which the weapons of death go to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It was an American-made plane that fired American-made bombs on these Yemeni children. Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee took a picture of part of the 500-pound Mark-82 bomb used to kill the children. This bomb is made by General Dynamics at its plant in Garland, Texas. In 2017, bombs from this factory in Texas made their way to resupply the arsenal of Saudi Arabia, whose free-fall bombs were getting low as a result of the war against Yemen. General Dynamics made millions of dollars on this sale. This same type of bomb was used in the Saudi strike on the funeral in Sanaa in 2016. U.S. weapons firms have made hundreds of billions of dollars selling weaponry to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that he has sent a three-star general to lead an internal investigation into “what happened.”

But what happened is well known and has been well known for a very long time.

Last year, in November, 30-year veteran of the CIA Bruce Riedel described Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen as a “quagmire.” He said that it has become the “worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world” and that if the Saudi blockade continues, “50,000 children could die in Yemen.” A year before that, Riedel pointed his finger directly at Washington and London. In April 2016, he said frankly, “if the United States of America and the United Kingdom tonight told King Salman [of Saudi Arabia] that this war [on Yemen] has to end, it would end tomorrow because the Royal Saudi Air Force cannot operate without American and British support.” In other words, any war crime committed in Yemen by the Saudis and the Emiratis is a war crime committed by the governments in London and Washington, which continue to supply these monarchies with billions of dollars of deadly weaponry used to kill children on a school trip.

Exit From This War?

On September 6, the various parties to this war will come to Geneva to try to restart impossible talks. The contending Yemeni parties have said that they will come to the table. It is obvious that this war is seen by Saudi Arabia and the UAE as a way to weaken Iran, although Iran’s actual role in Yemen is dubious. Nonetheless, Iran has said that it awaits an invitation from the UN to come to Geneva. It would like to hold face-to-face talks with its adversaries with the UN as arbiter. Iran has submitted a four-point plan to give the talks some heft, including an end to the aerial bombardments and an immediate ceasefire. There is no stomach in Saudi Arabia to take the Iran offer seriously.

In a recent article, the former CIA analyst Riedel says that this war in Yemen is the “signature foreign policy initiative” of King Salman and his son the Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman. “The crown prince,” Riedel writes bluntly, “has blemished his reputation by the reckless decision to intervene in Yemen and the humanitarian catastrophe it created.” It is unlikely that Saudi Arabia, absent serious external pressure, will stop this war. The integrity of the current king and his son—and in many ways the monarchy itself—is enveloped in this war.

Pressure will not come from the U.S. government. It is happy enough to see its weapons dealers make enormous profits—the kind of “Made In America” that pleases Trump. In the United Nations Security Council, the U.S. pressured the members not to demand an independent inquiry. All that was asked for was a “credible” investigation. That means that there will be no real investigation, as there was none for the Sanaa funeral bombing in 2016.

Staff members at UNICEF, meanwhile, have been heartbroken. The children had UNICEF backpacks, part of the aid that keeps the country from total breakdown. “There’s obviously a war on children,” said Juliette Touma of UNICEF.

This is the hour when children die. This is the hour when adults fail them, the hour of bombings and impossible negotiations.

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

 

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15/08/2018 06:53 PM
The Game-Changing Foreign Policy the Resistance Movement Needs Immediately
Women talk about gender, racial and economic justice. But the anti-war messaging is missing from the resistance movement.

We’re in the midst of an unprecedented social, political and environmental crisis that will require us to change everything. Including the one thing we won’t discuss: war.

 War is the weaponization of discrimination, classism and misogyny. So why are so few women talking about it?

We talk about #MeToo and the first time (or worst time) it happened to us. We put on our pussyhats and resist and persist and insist. But the resistance that rose up in opposition to the Trump administration does not resist war, and anti-war messaging is still missing from the Women’s March. While virtually every women’s television talk show and radio program in the country now talks about politics on a daily basis, they’re still not talking about the politics of war. We’ve been told that war isn’t our concern. That was a lie, ladies. Foreign policy is a feminist issue.  

Want more money for health care, jobs and education? More than two-thirds of federal spending is defense-related. Let’s check that checkbook first.

Domestic abuse your cause? Let’s talk about how wives of combat vets with PTSD are more likely to be killed by their spouses than any other demographic. Or how traumatized combat vets are responsible for 21 percent of domestic violence nationwide, according to a Yale study.

Got a problem with gun violence and assault weapons in schools? Let’s discuss the way weapons of war are coming home and how many United States gun manufacturers are also military contractors.

Concerned about climate change? The U.S. military uses more fossil fuels than the majority of nations, and the billions of dollars wasted on the Iraq war could have converted the whole planet to green energy.

Women are leading the way to protect our water and create a mass climate mobilization that responds to our ecological crisis like the existential emergency it is. Why then are we still so silent about how the war on women is the war on the world? Why so silent about America’s de facto foreign policy of using armed force to safeguard the capitalism that is destabilizing the climate? Why so silent about the fact that women—particularly women of color, women living in poverty and marginalized women—disproportionately bear the burden of war and the violence it begets?

When #WomenDisobey and righteously demand an end to putting immigrant children in detention centers, we also should demand an end to military contractors like General Dynamics and MVM, Inc., which are profiting from those centers. And making money on the misery this country creates for children overseas.

 Dateline: America, 2018. All roads lead to war.

We can talk about intersectionality and proclaim "gender justice is racial justice is economic justice," as Women’s March organizers did in their powerful Unity Principles. But economic justice is a fiscal impossibility when defense-related spending accounts for slightly more than two-thirds of the national budget. This country puts more money into the military than the next 10 nations combined while tens of millions of women and children living in poverty struggle to survive. In fact, war spending makes social inequality worse, according to a June 2018 report by the Costs of War project at Brown University. An analysis of past and present wars since 1812 "suggests that the current combination of domestic borrowing to pay for war, accompanied by continuous tax cuts, have led and will continue to lead to rising social inequality in the US."

There will be no justice without peace.

Legitimate racial justice cannot be achieved while we are bombing brown people abroad and up-armoring a militarized police force that too often puts bullets in black Americans. 

For as long as men are making the decisions about war and women are bearing the brunt on the war front and the burden on the home front, we will not realize gender justice. We won’t get there until we have a foreign policy that is feminist, too. 

A feminist foreign policy would hold the long-term prevention of violence and armed conflict as its main goal. According to Professor Jacqui True, author of "The Political Economy of Violence Against Women," that policy would identify and address economic inequality and other "underlying gendered globalized structures … that contribute to violence and conflict." That policy "must link demilitarization and disarmament to investment in people-centered development and justice."

Feminist foreign policy is the worldwide integration of the Unity Principles and the paradigm for a peace where justice can be born. It is the ideological foundation to build a movement to divest from the war machine. Because a feminist foreign policy is not just about the common good—it’s about the global good. It is capable of deconstructing the baseline of violence upon which this nation was founded, violence that is holding us and much of the world hostage to a white patriarchal consumer culture funded and fueled by an extractive war economy.

 The feminine force rising around the world has had enough of that.

So, ladies, let’s end our silence about America’s endless wars, and start talking about peace as if justice depends on it. Because it does. The thing we’ve been avoiding is the one thing—perhaps the only thing—that will change everything.

This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

 

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