TBR News July 18, 2017

Jul 18 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., July 18, 2017:” There has recently appeared in intelligence circles inside the Beltway, a highly classified report by a German intelligence agency giving a horrifying report on burgeoning American social and economic problems. I have a copy of this but there is no way I would print it in toto. But from it, I learn that 1,652,832 Amercans are now homeless. This documented report speaks to those unfortunates now living on the streets, in cars, in homeless shelters, or in subsidized transitional housing . Of that number, 582,348 were family groups, 582,981 were individuals, and a quarter of the entire group were children under the age of ten.

135,592 individuals, or 15% of the homeless population, are considered “chronically homeless.” Chronic homelessness is defined as an individual who has a disability and has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or and individual who has a disability and has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years (must be a cumulative of 12 months).

Families with at least one adult member who meets that description are also considered chronically homeless and the greater number of these tend to have high rates of behavioral health problems, including severe mental illness and substance use disorders; conditions that may be exacerbated by physical illness, injury, or trauma.”

47,725, or about 18% of the homeless population, are veterans.

Homeless veterans have served in several different conflicts from WWII to the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The nation’s capital has the highest rate of veteran homelessness in the nation (282.7 homeless veterans per 10,000). 45% of homeless veterans are black or Hispanic. While less than 10% of homeless veterans are women, that number is seen to be sharply rising.

1.4 million veterans are at risk of homelessness. This is partially due to poverty, overcrowding in government housing, and a wide spread lack of governmental support networks. This report  indicates that those who served in the late Vietnam and post-Vietnam era are at greatest risk of homelessness. War-related disabilities or disorders often contribute to veteran homelessness, including physical disabilities, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, depression and anxiety, and addiction.

821,000 unaccompanied, single youth and young adults under the age of 24 experience a homelessness episode of longer than one week. Approximately 531,000 of that total are under the age of 18.

Accurately counting homeless children and youth is particularly difficult.

270,000 LGBTQ youth in the U.S. are homeless. This is one of the most vulnerable homeless populations. A substantial number of young people who identify as LGBTQ say that they live in a community that is not accepting of LGBTQ people. In fact, LGBTQ youths make up 20% of runaway youths in the United States today. Family rejection, physical and sexual abuse, and parental and societal neglect are major reasons LGBTQ youth end up on the streets.

Additionally, homeless LGBTQ youth are substantially more likely than heterosexual homeless youth to be victims of sexual assault and abuse. LGBTQ homeless youth are twice as likely to commit suicide compared to heterosexual homeless youth.

Sixty-two percent of the homeless population are over the age of 50. These individuals often face additional health and safety risks associated with age. They are more prone to injuries from falls, and may suffer from cognitive impairment, vision or hearing loss, major depression, and chronic conditions like diabetes and arthritis.

There is no doubt this highly negative report is accurate and wherever possible, I have been able to verify the depressing and potentially very dangerous numbers.

Unless the government agencies make a sincere effort to address these growing and worsening problems, there is very rough sailing ahead for complaisant and corrupt Washington.”

Table of Contents

  • Journalist under fire for calling it ‘crazy’ not to be disgusted by homeless people
  • ‘So many threats’: GOP lawmaker refuses to hold town hall meeting over safety concerns
  • Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris And Distractions
  • U.S. Senate Republicans set repeal vote as healthcare overhaul sinks
  • It takes two: Senate plans to separate Obamacare repeal bill from replacement
  • AIPAC Still Our Biggest Foreign Agent
  • The Macron effect: France now world’s top ‘soft power’ thanks to president, cuisine and culture
  • Stalin and his cleansings
  • Syrian army captures more oil wells in Raqqa province
  • Ukraine separatist ‘Little Russia’ sparks concern over peace deal
  • Robot cop found face down in office-block fountain
  • 300-Pound Security Robot Runs Over Toddler At California Shopping Center
  • Police shoot toddler
  • Ohio ex-cop who shot black motorist will not face new trial
  • Justine Damond: ‘Why did the police not use their cameras?’
  • Justine Damond is the 541st person shot dead by US police this year


Journalist under fire for calling it ‘crazy’ not to be disgusted by homeless people

Prominent Mother Jones writer Kevin Drum says critics ‘deliberately misreading’ his response to study on people’s reaction to seeing homelessness

July 17, 2017

Alastair Gee in San Francisco

The Guardian

A high-profile Mother Jones writer has suggested that it would be “crazy not to have a reflexive disgust” of homeless people, stirring the anger of those who say he is perpetuating “the worst kinds of stereotypes”.

Writing on Friday, Kevin Drum was responding to a study which found that some people with a propensity for feeling disgust might experience it when faced with someone living on the street.

Glenn Greenwald reacted by posting photographs of homeless people who have performed altruistic acts alongside a screen shot from Drum’s story. The two authors of the study, meanwhile, say Drum glossed over subtleties in their work.

“He seemed to just be endorsing the worst stereotypes without any nuance or without any humanization of these people,” said Scott Clifford, one of the authors and an assistant professor of political science at the University of Houston.

Drum said his critics were guilty of “deliberately misreading what I wrote”.

The authors of the study – which is admittedly eyebrow-raising owing to its lexicon – set out to untangle a contradiction. Across the country, cities seek to aid homeless people by providing shelters and millions of dollars in funding, while also passing laws against sitting or lying on sidewalks, or restricting where RVs can park, which serve to exclude them.

They examined survey data and focused on a particular feeling that seemed to play a role in perpetuating this paradox: “While most of the public wants to help homeless people,” they write, “sensitivity to disgust drives many of these same people to support policies that facilitate physical distance from homeless people.”

Disgust, they propose, might help explain Nimbyism – in this case a desire among housed people to prevent camps or housing being built in the vicinity of their own homes. And they argue that the media exacerbates disgust with stories that mention disease and unsanitary conditions.

But they do not say that this kind of reaction is universal: while some people are prone to feeling disgust in the presence of homelessness, others are less likely to.

In his brief response to a summary that the authors published in the Washington Post, Drum said he found their results unsurprising. “About half the homeless suffer from a mental illness and a third abuse either alcohol or drugs,” he wrote, before commenting how “crazy” it would be not to not to be disgusted by “a population like that”.

He finished by suggesting that it was the work of a decent human being to overcome these reflexive feelings and find empathy.

“It certainly is the work of of a good human being not to act fully based on immediate reactions,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. She said the study “seems to make sense”, though she had some reservations. But she did not agree with Drum, calling the post “really over the top and not true to what the paper is saying”.

“It’s just a manifestation of the worst kinds of stereotypes. As a subscriber to this publication, I’m really disappointed.”

Pete White, head of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, said he thought Drum’s conclusions risked tarring an entire group of people, “as if every houseless person is addicted to drugs and had a mental illness”.

Both of the study’s authors expressed displeasure. “He appears to believe that everyone will in all circumstances feel disgust toward homeless people,” said Spencer Piston, the other author and an assistant professor of political science at Boston University. “There’s a clear irony here, which is that we argue that the connection between disgust and attitudes about the homeless depend in part on media coverage and the extent to which homeless people are portrayed as disgusting.”

In an email, Drum said that he did not think his blogpost was unfaithful to the study. He also pushed back at those condemning him. “Please note that I didn’t say I was disgusted by the homeless, nor that they are ‘inherently’ disgusting,” he said. “Only that, given the nature of the demographic, it’s not surprising that most people find them disgusting.”

Clara Jeffery, the editor-in-chief of Mother Jones, said that the anger was fueled by the terms used in the study and not Drum’s writing itself. “But it is one brief post about a study,” she added in her email. “Mother Jones has an extensive body of work on the homeless, the housing and mental health and opioid crisis fueling it.”


‘So many threats’: GOP lawmaker refuses to hold town hall meeting over safety concerns

July 18, 2017


A Republican representative from Texas says she won’t be holding a town hall meeting in Fort Worth this summer because it’s too dangerous, citing “so many threats going on.”

“I wish we could have a town hall meeting and engage with others,” US Representative Kay Granger (R-TX), who chairs the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said, as cited by local news outlet WFAA on Saturday.

“There are so many threats going on,” she added.

Her comments come just one week after a memo to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) revealed that Capitol Police in Washington DC had already investigated around 950 threats to members of Congress in the first six months of the year, compared to 902 in the whole of 2016.

“The increased use of social media has created a new avenue for individuals with ill intent to publish threatening communications directed toward members of the House of Representatives,” House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving wrote in the memo, as quoted by AP.

Granger isn’t the first member of Congress to recently refuse to hold town hall meetings. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) did the same earlier this month, although his reason had nothing to do with safety.

“I don’t want to have a situation where we just have a screaming fest, a shouting fest, where people are being bused in from out of the district to get on TV because they’re yelling at somebody,” Ryan told CBS.

Many Republican representatives have been boldly challenged over President Trump’s policies at recent town halls, particularly over the president’s stance on healthcare, Planned Parenthood, and immigration.

One of those representatives was Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), who became so frustrated at his town hall meeting that he responded with “bull crap” after a concerned citizen said that taxpayers paid for Mullin’s salary.

“You said you pay for me to do this – bull crap. I pay for myself. I paid enough taxes, before I ever got there (to Congress) and continue to, through my company, to pay my own salary. This is a service…not a career and I thank God this isn’t how I make a living,” he told a town hall meeting in April.

Granger’s comments come just one month after a gunman opened fire while Republican congressmen practiced for an annual charity baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia. Five people were injured.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was shot in the hip during the attack, with the bullet traveling across his pelvis. He suffered fractured bones, damage to internal organs, and severe bleeding. The representative remains in fair condition at a Washington DC hospital.

In 2011, a gunman also shot US Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) in the head as the representative met with constituents as part of a “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Safeway supermarket near Tucson.

Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris And Distractions

June 28, 2017

by Ralph Nader

Huffington Post

The hype and unsubstantiated hope behind the self-driving car movement continues unabated, distracting from addressing necessities of old “mobilities” such as inadequate public transit and upgrading highway and rail infrastructure.

At a conference on Driverless Cars sponsored by the George Washington University Law School earlier this month, the legal landscape of unresolved problems and unasked questions were deliberated for a full day.

What are the legal requirements that should be applied to the testing phase, the deployment phase, liability and insurance, impacts on displaced workers, cyber-security, privacy, and antitrust? A takeaway from this gathering was the number of mind-numbing unresolved systems awaiting this new, untested technology.

First, a little background – car ownership and car sales are expected to flatten or decline due to ride-sharing and a new generation of consumers that is less inclined to purchase motor vehicles. How is the industry to react? By adding high-priced value to motor vehicles, already described as computers on wheels. Voilà, the race for the driverless car! The mass media took the bait and over-reported each company’s sensationalized press releases, announcing breakthroughs without disclosing the underlying data. The arrogance of the algorithms, among many other variables, bypassed simple daily realties, such as bustling traffic in cities like New York.

In the shadows were the daily tribulations of Americans just trying to get to and from work, especially the poor and those who don’t own a vehicle.

Don’t expect driverless cars to be taking over anytime in the next few decades. Autonomous vehicles do not exist in the autonomous contexts of daily life. Start with how to fit these futuristic vehicles in a sea of over 250 million driven vehicles in the U.S. It’s easy to score driverless vehicles in well-orchestrated courses with minimum traffic over low mileage. Apply that controlled scenario to the scale and complexity of actual roads with actual drivers in actual conditions and the difficulties multiply enormously.

The industry–from Silicon Valley to Detroit—argues safety. Robotic systems do not get drunk, fall asleep at the wheel or develop poor driving skills. But computers fail often; they are often susceptible to hacking—whether by the manufacturers, dealers or deadly actors. Hacking is a driverless car industry’s nightmare and American motorists can see why. They like to remain in control and not have their engine stop, accelerate or be turned in disastrous directions by remote interventions.

Already, Volkswagen and other companies have been caught by law enforcement manipulating software emission controls on a gigantic scale.

Until that distant dream by the technocrats when all vehicles are driverless is realized, there may be less safety because of the mix of autonomous and human-operated vehicles.

On top of all this is the emerging demand to rewrite the rules so that there is less mandatory regulations (to be replaced by mere guidelines), less tort liability, less clear contractual responsibility between the many inputting companies, less openness for the data, far less privacy protections, and little attention to the awesome public investment needed for preparing highways and other facilities.

Already, Level Three—an autonomous vehicle needing emergency replacement by the surrogate human driver—is being viewed as unworkable by specialists at MIT and elsewhere. The human driver, lulled and preoccupied, can’t take back control in time.

Modern mass transit has shown how drivers who choose to become passengers can relax and not have to drive. Why won’t we concentrate on what can be improved and expanded to get safer, efficient, less polluting mobility?

Over 40 years ago Northwestern University transportation specialists developed a plan for “personalized public transit,” meaning, for example, connecting your car to a monorail system for daily commutes!

The driverless car is bursting forth without a legal, ethical and priorities framework. Already asking for public subsidies, companies can drain much-needed funds for available mass transit services and the industry’s own vehicle safety upgrades in favor of a technological will-o’-the-wisp.

U.S. Senate Republicans set repeal vote as healthcare overhaul sinks

July 17, 2017

by Susan Cornwell


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell set a vote on a straight repeal of Obamacare after efforts to overhaul the law collapsed, but the new approach began to unravel within hours on Tuesday as two Republicans announced their opposition and others voiced doubts.

The disarray in the Senate rattled financial markets and cast doubt on the chances for getting President Donald Trump’s other domestic policy priorities such as tax reform through a divided Congress.

McConnell gave up on efforts to overhaul the 2010 Affordable Care Act late on Monday after it became clear he did not have the votes. Instead, he announced plans to vote in coming days on a two-year transition to simply repeal the healthcare law with no replacement.

“We will now try a different way to bring the American people relief from Obamacare,” McConnell said on Tuesday as he opened the Senate, where the Republicans hold a razor-thin 52-48 majority. “I think we owe them at least that much.”

But Republican Senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Susan Collins of Maine quickly announced they would not back repeal, and Rob Portman of Ohio told reporters he had concerns about the approach.

With Democrats united in opposition, Republicans can only afford to lose two votes to pass the measure in the Senate.

“I do not think that it’s going to be constructive to repeal a law that at this point is so interwoven within our healthcare system and then hope that over the next two years we will come up with some kind of replacement,” Collins told reporters.

Repealing and replacing Obamacare has been a top Republican goal for seven years, and Trump made the promise a centerpiece of his White House campaign.

The overhaul’s failure left Trump with no major legislative achievements after six months in office and calls into question not only his ability to get his agenda through Congress but the Republican Party’s capacity to govern effectively.

As the bill collapsed in the Senate, leaders in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives unveiled a budget plan putting a proposed tax code overhaul on the same partisan procedural path that led to the anti-Obamacare initiative’s chaotic downfall late on Monday.

Trump urged an outright repeal, even as other Republicans sought a shift toward bipartisanship with Democrats. The setback sent the U.S. dollar to a 10-month low against a basket of major currencies as investors worried about the impact on other administration reform efforts.

The S&P and the Dow were lower in late morning trading, weighed down by tepid earnings from big banks and the healthcare setback.

“The healthcare bill not coming through raises some continued concerns about the ability of Washington to push through favorable fiscal policies,” said Lisa Kopp, head of traditional investments at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

‘We Will Return’

In an early morning Twitter message, Trump said, “We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans. Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard. We will return!”

Vice President Mike Pence said Trump supports the move to vote on a straight repeal of Obamacare.

“Inaction is not an option,” Pence said at the National Retail Federation Conference in Washington. “Congress needs to step up, Congress needs to do their job, and Congress needs to do their job now.”

Obamacare boosted the number of Americans with health insurance through mandates on individuals and employers, and income-based subsidies. About 20 million Americans gained insurance coverage through the law.

Shelving the current bill means that insurers once again face uncertainty about whether the administration will cut off funding for the subsidies used to make Obamacare individual plans affordable, putting 2018 coverage and long-term planning at risk.

For hospitals, the move relieves the near-term pressure of massive Medicaid reform, but the long-term plan for federal spending for states’ Medicaid expansion is now murky.

The American Medical Association, which represents doctors, called on Congress to start a bipartisan effort and to stabilize the individual health insurance marketplace.

Brian Gardner, policy analyst at financial firm Keefe Bruyette & Woods, said in a research note on Tuesday that McConnell “has reached the end-game on the healthcare debate” and would not have more success with a simple repeal.

“We expect that vote will similarly fail,” Gardner said.

The Senate’s healthcare overhaul collapsed late on Monday when Republican senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran joined colleagues Rand Paul and Collins in opposition, denying McConnell the votes for passage.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer urged Republicans to start over and work with Democrats.

“The door to bipartisanship is open right now, not with repeal, but with an effort to improve the existing system,” he said on the Senate floor.

Republicans had hoped to finish with healthcare before an upcoming August recess so they could tackle a wide-ranging rewrite of the U.S. tax code in September. Separate talks on taxes appear unlikely to reach Trump’s pledged 15-percent corporate rate.

But their failure exposed the sharp divide within their own ranks between moderates concerned about Medicaid cuts and conservatives who back them and want even more dramatic changes.

A similar version of the Senate bill passed the House in May but legislation must pass both chambers for Trump to sign into law.

Writing by John Whitesides; Additional reporting by Caroline Humer in New York and Ginger Gibson, Richard Cowan in Washington; Editing by Tom Brown and Nick Zieminski

 It takes two: Senate plans to separate Obamacare repeal bill from replacement

July 18, 2017


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has heeded the advice of President Donald Trump as well as fellow Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who have both called for separating the “repeal and replace” strategy of undoing Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act.

McConnell issued the following statement late Monday evening:

Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful.

“So, in the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care.”

Earlier, Trump had tweeted a similar idea, calling on Democrats to join in the replacement legislative effort.

Earlier Monday, GOP senators realized there was no consensus forming on what to replace Obamacare with, as a total of at least four Republicans vowed not to vote for the Senate version. The House’s bill was also a non-starter for many Republicans in the Senate.

A so-called “clean repeal” of Obamacare would go into effect two years after it becomes law. While McConnell says that will provide enough time to transition toward a newly reformed healthcare system, the two-year mark also would come after the 2018 mid-term elections when all House seats are in play and many Senate seats as well.

Former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform was passed in 2010 by Democrats, and it immediately became a campaign rallying cry for Republicans who took hold of the House in the following election cycle. Even after gaining a majority in the Senate and winning the White House, however, Republicans have failed in several attempts to get the ball rolling on their own reform package.

Democrats have promised to protect Obamacare from repeal.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) tweeted against what his party has deemed “Trumpcare.”

AIPAC Still Our Biggest Foreign Agent

Senate Hearing on Foreign Agents Registration Act

July 18, 2017

by Grant Smith


Alleged Russian meddling in the US electoral process will be the subject of a Senate Judiciary Hearing on Wednesday. The hearing is titled “Oversight of the Justice Department’s (Non) Enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act: Lessons from the Obama Administration and Current Compliance Practices.” In 1938 the U.S. Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act to mandate disclosure of the activities of non-diplomatic foreign agents in the United States propagandizing for war, swinging public opinion, and obtaining foreign aid and other economic benefits through congressional lobbying without disclosing that their activities were conducted on behalf of foreign principals.

The first panel of witnesses for Wednesday’s Senate hearing will include Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the National Security Division of the Justice Department Adam Hickey, Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division of the FBI Bill Priestap and Inspector General of the Justice Department Michael Horowitz.

Second panel witnesses include Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, an outfit which circulated the now infamous dossier of allegations made against Donald Trump by a British spy. William Browder, a Russian market investment expert from Hermitage Capital Management, who has now deemed Russia “absolutely uninvestable” will also testify. According to reports, Browder knows Natalia Veslnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. to peddle opposition research on Hillary Clinton.

Panel Chairman Chuck Grassley may ultimately conclude that the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) has failed and that unregistered Russian foreign agents are taking over America. If so, he will be half right, but not the first such senator to express concern. Grassley should consider what happened after a more extensive Senate FARA inquiry was launched 55 years ago.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman JW Fulbright became convinced that unregistered Israeli foreign agents were a serious matter in 1961. A classified staff report  worried that:

“In recent years there has been an increasing number of incidents involving attempts by foreign governments, or their agents, to influence the conduct of American foreign policy by techniques outside normal diplomatic channels….there have been occasions when representatives of other governments have been privately accused of engaging in covert activities within the United States and elsewhere, for the purpose of influencing United States Policy (the Lavon Affair).”

The Lavon Affair referred to Israeli false-flag terror attacks on US facilities in Egypt, in the interest of preventing the handover of the Suez Canal to Egyptian control. The Israeli spies were caught and prosecuted by Egypt, while the disclosure of the attacks created a diplomatic crisis.

During the course of the 1960s Senate and Justice Department investigations, it was revealed that Israel was funneling millions of dollars to unregistered foreign agents in America to lobby for foreign aid to Israel, set up think tanks, engage in Madison Avenue public relations, fund lobbying newsletters, and establish an umbrella organization called the American Zionist Council (AZC).

Within the AZC was an unincorporated unit that lobbied congress called the “American Israel Public Affairs Committee.”

On November 21, 1962, the Department of Justice ordered the AZC to begin registering as an Israeli foreign agent. This touched off an intense battle between the Justice Department and the AZC which outlasted both JFK and RFK. The bloodied and bruised Justice Department hid away its files on the affair until they were finally declassified and released in 2008.

The effort to register Israel’s foreign agents clearly failed. Just 42 days after the Justice Department order, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee incorporated itself in Washington and took over the AZC’s functions. Since the year it was ordered to register—as part of the AZC—AIPAC has extracted an inflation-adjusted $250 billion from US taxpayers for its foreign principals. Influencing the conduct of US policy “by techniques outside normal diplomatic channels” has never stopped.

If AIPAC had complied with the 1962 FARA order, by now it would have filed 109 required biennial reports (1963-2017) of its activities. It would have had to detail joint efforts with Israeli operatives. These include a 1975 incident in which AIPAC Director Morris Amitay circulated classified information about a proposed US Hawk missile sale to Jordan. AIPAC’s FARA file would have had to detail AIPAC staffers Steven Rosen, Douglas Bloomfield and Ester Kurz 1984 receipt of stolen classified information taken from US industry groups opposed to allowing duty free imports from Israel into the United States. Of course, the FARA disclosure would include details on two AIPAC executives, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, who from 2002-2004 solicited and received stolen classified national defense information from Colonel Lawrence Franklin about Iran and other matters which they passed to the Israeli embassy. The pair attempted to contextualize and place the stolen classified national defense information in the Washington Post to precipitate a US attack on Iran.

AIPAC is not complying with the 1962 DOJ order. The Grassley panel might want to invite the FARA Section Head Heather Hunt, who knows all about the AZC-AIPAC incident, to testify why. In 2009 Hunt, along with other members of the FARA division, received a two-hour briefing with the unsubtle title of “The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is an Unregistered Foreign Agent of the Israeli Government.” (PDF)

If Grassley does not believe Israeli foreign agent activity to be important, he might want to invite as a star witness Stephanie Schriock. Schriock has publicly claimed that as a high-powered campaign fundraiser for major candidates across the US, the first step in obtaining seed funding for a political campaign was always to circulate a position paper on Israel to AIPAC regional officials. Only then could candidates obtain funds from willing pro-Israel donors sufficient to launch a serious campaign. The Israel lobby’s oversized role in US campaign finance on Israel’s behalf has now made regional peace and productive innovation in US policy impossible, and war all but inevitable.

Grassley might also engage in the following thought experiment as he ponders his upcoming hearing. “What happens to a candidate or incumbent if they loudly criticize Russia or US policy toward Russia?” He should then swap out “Russia” for “Israel.”

Today, AIPAC may obtain most of its lobbying budget from a relatively small, but wealthy, group of US donors. But that does not mean it is not an Israeli foreign agent for three reasons. The first observable sign, listed on the Department of Justice FARA webpage, is that AIPAC is so obviously devoted to the sole purpose of channeling US taxpayer funds to a foreign country. Such breaks, though DOJ lists sugar quotas as an example, is the major red flag. Despite changes in its PR framing, AIPAC’s primary business is the same as when founder Si Kenen first conceived it. “The lobby for Israel, known as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) since 1959, came into existence in 1951. It was established at that time because Israel needed American economic assistance…”

The second is that AIPAC was incontrovertibly established with foreign seed funding, including to Kenen, nestled inside the AZC. The third is that, as an unincorporated unit within the AZC, AIPAC was clearly covered by the order to register as an Israeli foreign agent.

AIPAC’s top priorities include maneuvering the US to attack Iran, keeping US forces in the region as a buffer, protecting Israeli nuclear hegemony and making criticism and boycotts of Israel in the US impossible. Americans overwhelmingly oppose all that, as well as unconditional US aid to Israel. Senator Grassley should therefore ignore for a moment the flap over Russia, and his own top-25 position as a recipient of pro-Israel PAC money. He should then look seriously at the longest-running unresolved foreign agent problem and ask what action would be best for America.

The Macron effect: France now world’s top ‘soft power’ thanks to president, cuisine and culture

France has overtaken the US and Britain to be ranked the country with the most non-military global influence. The annual Soft Power 30 index links polling and data to measure a country’s global impact.

July 18, 2017

byJane Mcintosh (with AFP)


France has risen from fifth to first in the space of a year, according to researchers for the Soft Power 30 index published on Tuesday. Germany fell from fourth to fifth over the same period.

“France’s soft power has no doubt seen a boost with the defeat of the National Front and election of its youngest ever president, Emmanuel Macron,” the report’s authors noted.

The Soft Power 30 is not just about political leadership – it also makes reference to the number of Michelin-starred restaurants a country has. France’s vast diplomatic network was also given credit for its growing global influence.

In noting France’s rise, the report also acknowledged threats to its security: “The threat of terrorism has not stopped tourists flocking to France and enjoying its rich cultural offering, cuisine, and lifestyle – France’s restaurant scene is unrivalled, its film sector continues to flourish, and its museums and galleries are some of the most visited in the world.”

Using data and polls in 25 countries, PR firm Portland Communications working with the University of Southern California school of public diplomacy looked at data from six categories: government, culture, global engagement, education, digital and enterprise. It also included a country’s attractiveness for both tourists and foreign students.

In its introduction, the report explains power in the past was determined largely by armies and economic might. Today, it argues, power has become more diffuse and has also moved away from governments as “more non-state actors leverage international influence,” due largely to the digital revolution.

To achieve foreign policy goals and influence outcomes, countries are encouraging collaboration and building networks and relationships.

Germany falls slightly

While Germany held on to its top-five ranking, it did fall from second place in 2015, through third in 2016 to fourth in 2017 “despite an improved overall score.”  The report described it as “a difficult year for the Germans” dealing with the impact of terror, an increase in the number of migrant arrivals and emergence of a far-right political party.

While Germany improved or maintained its ranking across data in sub-indices, it fell in polling and the report noted for the future: “All eyes will be on Germany as it seeks to reassert its position as the primary driver of Europe’s agenda.”

US and UK on the decline

The report noted a decline in soft power for the US under the administration of President Donald Trump. “Trump’s ‘America First’ doctrine has played poorly abroad, alienating allies, and damaging links with the rest of the world,” it noted.

While the UK held on to second place in 2016, which was down from first place the year before, the decision to leave the European Union has been consequential for its soft power. “Despite the looming public negotiations, the UK’s objective soft power assets both state and privately owned remain strong” the report said. But a decline in favorability among European countries showed Britain’s ranking was falling.

Soft powers ahead

Looking forward, the report noted  “As the European Union looks beyond Brexit and recommits to deeper integration and cooperation, perhaps the  resurgence of “Old Europe” – in terms of  soft power – rests on presently being the most stable, level-headed region of the world.”

“China’s now three-year march up the rankings seems to match its ever-expanding global presence. At the same time, America’s protectionist zeal and apparent withdrawal from the world has seen it slip down the rankings.” China is ranked 25, just one point ahead of Russia but it has climbed ten points and five places since 2015.

The bottom five in the index are Russia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Brazil and Turkey.

Soft Power 30 authors

Portland Communication’s General Manager for Asia, Jonathan McClory, is Soft Power 30’s author and contributors include academics, former government and current NGO personnel, diplomats and PR experts. Named contributors include Sir Martin Davidson, Chairman of the Great Britain-China Center, Moira Whelan who worked at the US State Department and Agency for International Development, Tomas Kroyer of Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, former UK diplomat Victoria Dean and Nicholas J. Cull, Professor of Public Diplomacy and the founding director of the Master of Public Diplomacy programme at USC.


Stalin and his cleansings

July 18, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

There is no question that at the beginning of 1937, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin launched a series of terrible, bloody purges in his country that, as Müller indicated, wiped out not only the surviving corps d’elite of the early Bolshevik movement, but the entire high command of his army as well.

There has been some question as to whether Stalin planned this slaughter to strengthen his position as chief of state by removing any possible opposition, or whether he was pushed into it by German forgeries.

The latter thesis has proven to be unpalatable to various historical writers for two specific reasons.

The first of these is that nothing the Germans did ever succeeded, and therefore, the forging of documents had no effect on the Russian dictator who had already made up his mind to kill off his rivals for power. The proponents of this thesis are prepared to go one step further and claim that the clever Stalin actually tricked the incompetent Germans into forging documents he could use to begin his campaign of terror.

This thesis is one-dimensional and without any foundation in logic because Stalin held so much absolute power that if he had wanted documents forged to commence a purge, he did not need to lure the Germans into providing them.

The second of the scenarios is that Stalin was an irrational madman on the one hand, or a devious and cruel schemer on the other. In either case, his determination to obliterate any opposition or potential opposition springs from a diseased mind and not from any laughable German forgeries.

Rather than make a study of Josef Stalin’s twisted psyche to arrive at a determination of whatever passes for objective truth, it might be better to make a study of the motives of those who write about him.

Anti-communist writers are by no means popular with major publishing houses. Although communism has officially died as a state religion in Russia, many of its believers are alive, very active and practicing in other countries. With rare exceptions, mainline anti-communist works are seldom seen in the major bookstores or on their mail order book lists. Liberal themes are far more attractive, and far safer, than strongly conservative ones and publishers and book sellers like the media always go where the money is.

For years, many Stalin apologists such as Isaac Deutscher, have claimed that there was a genuine plot against Stalin on the part of Soviet generals, a plot that Stalin was entirely justified in eradicating. With the death of Stalin, anything he did became the object of criticism and Soviet historians, safe from the attentions of the dictator and his murder squads, decided, post mortem, that there really was no plot at all and Stalin was a betrayer of the ideals of Marx and Lenin and a crazy murderer.

What is generally not discussed by any historian or journalist of a liberal persuasion is that just before his death by a stroke in 1953, it has been well established that Stalin was planning a pogrom against Soviet Jewry which would have put to shame anything attributed to the Germans of Hitler’s Third Reich.

This was the so-called “Doctor’s Plot” and is a classic example of the way in which Stalin perpetrated his Mongolian massacres. Firstly, charges were made by loyal supporters that certain doctors, all Jewish, were responsible for the murder of their patients. These charges were well publicized and orchestrated demands on the part of the public were made for the punishment of these unfortunates. Many prominent doctors, among them the Kremlin medical staff, were rounded up, horribly tortured and either shot on the spot or kept alive in dungeons for another of Stalin’s famous show trials. From a reading of material now available in Russia, it appears that Stalin’s ultimate aim was to use the excuse of murderous Jewish doctors to launch a terrible purge of all Jews throughout his empire, but most especially in Moscow.

The coming reign of terror followed a long-established pattern of arrests, extorted confessions, false accusations, fictitious charges aired in the press and the removal of many Jewish functionaries of the Communist Party higher ranks. At the same time, thousands of boxcars were assembled at railroad sidings in and near Moscow for the sole purpose of deporting all of Moscow’s Jewish population into the winter wilds of Siberia, there to be left without shelter, to die very swiftly of hypothermia or slowly of starvation. Only a providential stroke prevented this terrible act. If Stalin had indeed followed through on his plans for the mass extermination of his Jewish population, it would have been interesting to see if the media would have replaced Stalin for Hitler in liberal circles as the greatest butcher of the Twentieth Century.

However, given the mindset of ideologues, it is highly doubtful if this would ever come to pass.

In actual fact, Jewish plot or no, Stalin had already surpassed Hitler, Genghis Kahn and the Khymer Rouge as the greatest murderer of recorded history, and killing his former Jewish friends in huge numbers would only have added a very small Pelion atop a very large Ossa.

Writing to an idea is certainly not limited to journalists of the left wing as may be seen in the writings of British author, David Irving. Irving was determined to exculpate his idol, Adolf Hitler, from any knowledge of, or blame in, the uprooting of Europe’s Jews and the subsequent deaths of many in the work camps. His early works were well-written and significant treatments of a revisionist, but professional and very well-researched nature, whereas his later works, including the disastrous and tendentious biography of Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Goebbels, dropped any pretensions to objectivity or research, and devolved into disjointed attempts to prove that it was Goebbels, not Hitler, who bore the full responsibility for the deportation of the Jews.

Many of those who write in this vein, as well as those at the other end of the political spectrum who write in praise of Stalin, conveniently ignore the reality that in the cases of both dictators, the so-called Führerprinzip or leadership principle, strongly advocated and practiced by both men, held that the leader was given full authority over his subjects by these same subjects, but only in return for his complete assumption of full responsibility for his, and their, actions. If one accepts that both Hitler and Stalin actively practiced the Führerprinzip and required their followers to do likewise, the ultimate responsibility of the leader for the actions of his subordinates is without question. If one wishes to achieve and maintain ultimate power, then one must also accept the full responsibility not only for their own actions, but for those whom they command.

The acceptance of this postulation may seem entirely reasonable to those not involved in ideology, but to the true believer of any persuasion, it is an idea that will never germinate.


Syrian army captures more oil wells in Raqqa province

July 17, 2017

by Suleiman Al-Khalidi


On Saturday the army said they taken control of Wahab, al Fahd, Dbaysan, al-Qseer, Abu al Qatat and Abu Qatash oil fields and several other villages in the desert area that lies in the southwest of Raqqa province.

Most of Syria’s oil fields are mainly located in the northeastern province of Hasaka which is the hands of Kurdish YPG militia and also in Raqqa province where the militants have been losing large swathes of territory to advancing U.S. backed forces now battling them inside Raqqa city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian army, supported by Iranian-backed militias from Iraq and Lebanon, was now on the edge of the Bushra chain of mountains, a main militant hideout 55 km west of Deir Zor city.

State media said Russian jets also bombed the area around Sukhna town further south, which is the gateway to the eastern province of Deir al-Zor that borders Iraq and likely to be the militants’ last major bastion in Syria if Raqqa falls.

The army’s capture last week of the major Hail gas field northeast of the ancient city brought them 18 kms to the south of Sukhna.

On Monday, an army statement said they had captured key areas west of Sukhna and killed scores of Islamic State militants as they steadily advanced towards the town whose capture would ease the path towards Deir al Zor

Editing by Toby Chopra


Ukraine separatist ‘Little Russia’ sparks concern over peace deal

Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk have declared all of Ukraine to be part of “Little Russia.” Could the move undo the Minsk Protocol aimed at keeping the peace in the region?

July 18, 2017

by Roman Goncharenko


Worry in Kiev, criticism from Berlin and Paris and surprise from policy experts: Alexander Zakharchenko’s abrupt announcement landed like a stone on still water. On Tuesday, the separatist leader of the self-declared “People’s Republic” of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine called his new state Malorossiya, which translates as “Little Russia.” Zakharchenko called Ukraine’s government in Kiev “illegitimate” and made a plea to the country’s various regions to join the new state, with Donetsk as its capital. Crimea, annexed by Russia, was excluded.

“Ukraine will disappear,” said Alexander Timofeyev, a deputy premiere of Donetsk. “It will be war for those who do not heed our peaceful overtures.”

Concern in Kiev

The war in Donbass, which broke out three years ago, finds itself at a possible turning point – and the consequences are unclear. Donetsk’s “sister republic” of Luhansk, supported by Russia, was itself unaware of the pending statehood announcement and reacted with caution.

Kiev’s initial response was a mix of calm as well as concern about possible escalation. President Petro Poroshenko, visiting Georgia, called Zakharchenko “no political figure,” but rather a Russian “puppet.” Viktor Muzhenko, the head of Ukraine’s military, said the statement was one of “sick fantasies.” The national security secretary, Oleksandr Turchynov, called the announcement “Russia’s aggressive plan” to prevent a peaceful outcome to the conflict.

Sharp criticism from Berlin

Germany’s government said the move was “completely unacceptable.” A government spokesperson told DW that “Zakharchenko has no legitimacy whatsoever to speak for this part of Ukraine” adding, “We expect Russia to see this step the same way, and will neither respect nor recognize it.” The French Foreign Ministry responded similarly.

“The declaration of the so-called State of Malorossiya is another Russian provocation in its perfidious power game to dominate Europe,” Jürgen Hardt, who heads the conservative CDU/CSU faction in the German parliament, told DW. “It once again proves that no one should trust [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He is constantly calling for talks with the West, but his word is clearly unreliable.”

Tension before high-level call

Moscow’s official reaction was initially cautious. Some lawmakers expressed understanding for the separatists, but made clear the move violated the Minsk Protocol, which calls for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine’s separatist area, followed by the creation of de facto autonomous rule for the region while remaining under the auspices of the central government in Kiev.

The announcement from Donetsk came just days ahead of a high-level call among the leaders of the Normandy Format countries – Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Emmanuel Macron met with Russia’s President Putin during the recent G20 summit in Hamburg to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine and the possibility of a permanent ceasefire. That is one of Kiev’s central demands, which it sees as going unfulfilled by the 2015 peace negotiations.

Future peace process

Experts for the region were puzzled by Tuesday’s development. “This is definitely a sick fantasy,” Ukraine-based Winfried Schneider-Deters, an author on the conflict, told DW. “I find it hard to believe that this is coming from the Kremlin.” Ukraine need not be overly concerned, but should prepare for military escalation, he added.

The model is “absurd,” said Stefan Meister of the German Council on Foreign Relations, explaining that more and more Ukrainians are turning away from Russia. Unlike Schneider-Deters, Meister sees Russia’s fingerprints on the Little Russia plan. “It is an obstruction of and an attempt to distract from the Minsk Protocol,” he told DW.

Some experts in Kiev consider the proclamation to be the death of the peace accords. “There can be no talk of elections should martial law be introduced and political parties banned,” Mykola Sunhurovsky of the Kiev-based think tank, Rasumkow-Zentrum, told DW. Both are moves Zakharchenko suggested when declaring his Little Russia.

Elections for the separatist region, agreed to in the Minsk Protocol, are a key point of contention between Kiev and Donetsk.

Robot cop found face down in office-block fountain

Machine built to keep humans in check defeated by stairs and fountain in incident where ‘no one was harmed’

July, 2017

by HAL 90210

The Guardian

The machine uprising has been dealt a serious blow after a robot cop was found face down in a fountain.

Built to autonomously patrol offices and shopping malls, the Knightscope K5 security robot is meant to be able to navigate environments and keep unruly humans in check. Instead, after being deployed to a Washington DC office block, it was found drowned in a watery grave. Much like a Dalek, it appears to have been defeated by stairs.

The bizarro egg-shaped robot’s premature demise is not thought to be suspicious. It is believed the robot fell down the steps of its own fecklessness.

Stacy Dean Stephens, vice president of marketing and sales at Knightscope, told Cnet that it was an “isolated incident” for the K5 unit and that “no people were harmed or involved in any way”, although apparently humans in wellies were required to fish out the defunct robot.

Since taking the streets in limited numbers, the K5 patrol bot, which is apparently packed with sensors to be the smart eyes and ears for its human law enforcement colleagues, has had its fair share of incidents. In April, a K5 patrolling the mean streets of Google-home-town Mountain View, California was allegedly involved in a carpark altercation with a 41-year-old man, while in July 2016 another K5 unit was accused of running over a 16-month-old child in a Stanford shopping centre.

300-Pound Security Robot Runs Over Toddler At California Shopping Center

The robot hit my son’s head and he fell down … and the robot did not stop.”

July 13, 2016

by Steven Hoffer


A young boy was knocked down and run over by a 5-foot-tall, 300-pound security robot at a California mall on Thursday.

Sixteen-month-old Harwin Cheng suffered a swollen foot and several scrapes in the scary encounter at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto.

“The robot hit my son’s head and he fell down — facing down on the floor — and the robot did not stop and it kept moving forward,” Harwin’s mom, Tiffany Teng, told ABC 7.

Teng said that the robot would have run over her son’s other foot had her husband not pulled the boy away.

The security robots are made by a company called Knightscope, located in Mountain View. The K5 version uses lasers, thermal imaging sensors, 360 video, air quality sensors, a microphone and various other technologies to deter and detect criminal activities. In the event of suspicious activity, the robot alerts local human authorities.

Stacy Dean Stephens, Knightscope vice president of marketing and sales, told NBC Bay Area that the company does not think the robots are dangerous.

“This is a horrific accident, but we believe the technology and the machines are incredibly safe and we will continue to do our best to make sure that they are,” Stephens said.

The Stanford Shopping Center has used the technology for about a year. Representatives also told the NBC station that the shopping center is investigating the incident and will dock all of its security robots until further notice.

Police shoot toddler

July 18, 2017

by Michael Hunt

Oxfam Journal


Oxfam, California- Two police officers, called to the James Bolton Playground yesterday on the report of a disturbance, shot a two year old black child, Lavon McGee,  in a stroller seventeen times.

The officers, Rodney Sycsik and Horst O’Reilly, said they thought the child was a dwarf and pointing “an automatic weapon” at them.

This later turned out to be a pink pacifier.

Police Chief Bob Schwantzfresser said he was saddened and placed the two officers, whom he termed “kind and thoughtful members of our community” on two days paid leave until further investigations.

This is the fourth time this month that police have gunned down small children playing in Bolton Playground.

Earlier this month, local police fired shotguns into a Girl Scout meeting because they felt they had reason to believe Muslim terrorists might be hiding at the meeting and “feared for their lives.”

In this case, eight girls were killed and seven wounded, some seriously.

Chief Schwantzfresser said that the officers had acted “impulsively” but he exonerated them because one of them was legally blind and easily mistook a mop standing in a bucket for a Muslim terrorist.


Ohio ex-cop who shot black motorist will not face new trial

July 18, 2017

by Ginny McCabe


CINCINNATI (Reuters) – Ohio prosecutors said on Tuesday they will not pursue a third trial against a white former university police officer whose two previous trials for fatally shooting a black motorist during a traffic stop ended with hung juries.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters told reporters that jurors said to him, “We will never get a conviction in this case.” The jurors were both black and white, Deters said.

The incident occurred in July 2015, when former University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing stopped Samuel DuBose, 43, for missing a front license plate on his car. Tensing shot once, hitting DuBose in the head, a body camera worn by Tensing showed.

The shooting set off protests and fueled national debate about the use of excessive force by police against minorities.

Tensing, 27, was charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter, but a mistrial was declared when the jury was hopelessly deadlocked in November 2016. A retrial ended in another mistrial last month.

The DuBose family was “very upset,” Deters said after meeting with them on Tuesday to disclose the decision not to pursue another trial.

Writing and additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Chris Reese and Matthew Lewis


Justine Damond: ‘Why did the police not use their cameras?’

July 18, 2017

BBC News

Questions are being raised by officials about why a police officer who shot an Australian woman and his partner did not record the fatal incident.

Justine Damond, 40, was gunned down on Saturday after calling police to report a possible crime in her quiet Minneapolis neighbourhood.

State investigators say the officers whom she encountered failed to activate their body or dashboard cameras.

Every police officer and squad car in Minneapolis is equipped with cameras.

“I have the same questions everyone else does. Why weren’t the police cameras on?” said mayor Betsy Hodges on Tuesday.

Minneapolis police are required to switch on their body cameras only during certain encounters, unlike in Los Angeles or Washington DC, where cameras must be switched on for any response to a call for service.

Instead, there are more than a dozen situations in which cameras should be used, according to the police manual, which adds that failure to use the camera could result in job termination.

“If a BWC [body-worn camera] is not activated prior to a use of force, it shall be activated as soon as it is safe to do so,” reads the manual.

Local media reported that Ms Damond was dressed in her pyjamas and had approached the driver’s side door to talk to the officer at the wheel after police arrived.

Officer Mohamed Noor, who was sitting in the passenger seat, fired his weapon across his partner and through the driver’s door, striking Ms Damond in the abdomen.

Her fiancé, Don Damond, said on Monday that the family is “desperate” for answers from officials.

Speaking in Sydney, her father John Ruszczyk said: “Justine was a beacon to all of us, we only ask that the light of justice shine down on the circumstances of her death.”

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says he will personally decide whether to charge Officer Mohamed Noor, rather than put the question to a grand jury. And he also questioned why the cameras were not turned on.

Officer Noor, who has been described by local media as a Somali-American, has been with the police force for two years.

A statement from his lawyer said he had arrived in the US “at a young age” and described him as a “a caring person with a family he loves and he empathised with the loss others are experiencing”.

But KSTP TV, citing city records, reports that in two years of policing the officer had attracted three formal complaints, two of which remain unresolved.

Sources say his partner who was at the scene is Matthew Harrity, 25, who joined the force last year.

Ms Damond’s death has made headlines across her native Australia.

A a police radio recording from the incident was released on Tuesday, in which police at the scene can be heard telling dispatchers that they are performing CPR, and that “no suspects are at large”.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau called Ms Damond’s death “tragic” in a statement on Monday.

“I’ve asked for the investigation to be expedited to provide transparency and to answer as many questions as quickly as we can,” she said in her first comments on the killing.

The two officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave.

Ms Damond, nee Justine Ruszczyk, taught meditation classes at the Lake Harriet Spiritual Community in Minneapolis.

She studied to be a veterinarian before relocating to the US, where she is believed to have been for at least the last three years.

According to her website, she is a “qualified yoga instructor, a personal health and life coach and meditation teacher”.

Over the past few years the US has seen a series of civilian killings at the hands of police that have prompted a national debate.


Justine Damond is the 541st person shot dead by US police this year

July 18, 2017

by Josephine Tovey

The Age

New York: The tragic shooting death of Justine Damond will bring home for many Australians a disturbing phenomenon they had only observed from afar and may have even thought was on the decline: the extraordinary rate of people killed during encounters with police in the United States.

Damond, a 40-year-old meditation teacher and life coach who had been living in the US for the last three years, was killed on Saturday night after calling 911 about a disturbance in her neighbourhood. Details are still emerging but it appears she was outside in an alley near her house, unarmed, when she was gunned down by the police she had contacted for help. Her fiancé and family are heartbroken and desperate for answers.

While police shootings dominated international headlines in recent years, they have largely faded from view in 2017, as media around the world became transfixed with the antics of Donald Trump’s election campaign and White House.

But the problem has by no means abated, nor is there any sign it soon will. In fact, political will at the national level is dissipating.



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