TBR News July 29, 2017

Jul 29 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., July 29, 2017: “If, as they say, Trump cut a deal with the Russians to normalize relations if they helped him in his election campaign, for him to renege on his agreement would be to see WikiLeaks release a flood of intercepts that would probably result in his impeachment.

Today, the Russians are not an aggressive military menace but in the intelligence game, they are far, far superior to the US.

The one point not raised in the howlings about the release of the Podesta documents that did so much damage to the DNC is whether or not the documents were genuine.

There is no doubt they are genuine and any released material that would strongly negate public views on Trump would also be genuine.

Trump should take a leaf from the workbook of the Mafia. If they give they word, they keep it.

‘False in one thing, false in everything.’”


Table of Contents

  • Trump to sign Russia sanctions, Moscow retaliates
  • Spicer, Priebus exits highlight Donald Trump’s dangerous demand for fealty
  • With the European Union Livid, Congress Pushes Forward on Sanctions Against Russia, Iran and North Korea
  • Trade war? EU ready for economic counter-sanctions if US anti-Russia bill signed – top officials
  • Economics first: ‘US Congress clearly targets Nord Stream-2’
  • Trump Tries to Regroup as the West Wing Battles Itself
  • North Korea tests another ICBM, claims all of U.S. in strike range
  • Hipster-bashing in California: angry residents fight back against gentrification
  • CalExit II Approved to Gather Signatures for Right to Secede
  • U.S. government ordered to solve ‘Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat’
  • The CIA and Press Coverups
  • Talk of sea border with Britain riles vulnerable May’s Northern Irish allies
  • Orange Order: Protestants told not to use ‘RIP’ as it is Catholic superstition


Trump to sign Russia sanctions, Moscow retaliates

July 28, 2017

by Eric Beech and Andrew Osborn


WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will sign legislation that imposes sanctions on Russia, the White House said on Friday, after Moscow ordered the United States to cut hundreds of diplomatic staff and said it would seize two U.S. diplomatic properties in retaliation for the bill.

The U.S. Senate had voted almost unanimously on Thursday to slap new sanctions on Russia, forcing Trump to choose between a tough position on Moscow and effectively dashing his stated hopes for warmer ties with the country or to veto the bill amid investigations in possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.

By signing the bill into law, Trump can not ease the sanctions against Russia unless he seeks congressional approval.

Moscow’s retaliation, announced by the Foreign Ministry on Friday, had echoes of the Cold War. If confirmed that Russia’s move would affect hundreds of staff at the U.S. embassy, it would far outweigh the Obama administration’s expulsion of 35 Russians in December.

The legislation was in part a response to conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and to further punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Late on Friday, the White House issued a statement saying Trump would sign the bill after reviewing the final version. The statement made no reference to Russia’s retaliatory measures.

Russia had been threatening retaliation for weeks. Its response suggests it has set aside initial hopes of better ties with Washington under Trump, something the U.S. leader, before he was elected, had said he wanted to achieve.

Relations were already languishing at a post-Cold War low because of the allegations that Russian cyber interference in the election was intended to boost Trump’s chances, something Moscow flatly denies. Trump has denied any collusion between his campaign and Russian officials.



Spicer, Priebus exits highlight Donald Trump’s dangerous demand for fealty

The purge of top US administration officials seen as not loyal enough to the president continues with the exit of Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus. But Trump is now wading into dangerous territory.

July 29, 2017

by Michael Knigge


One week after the resignation of Donald Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer and the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as the president’s chief communicator, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus is also out the door. Priebus’ exit caps an extraordinarily tumultuous week, even by this administration’s standards.

Two other embattled officials, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon have survived the week, but it is unclear for how long. Both Sessions, who has been savaged on Twitter by Trump for his recusal from the Justice Department’s Russia probe, and Bannon, who was insulted by Scaramucci, are portrayed as not loyal enough to the president by Trump himself and by the new key player in the White House, Scaramucci.

The meteoric rise of Scaramucci, who predicted the exit of Priebus in his now infamous conversation with New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza, is further evidenced by the fact that he apparently will not report to Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly, as is customary, but to the president directly.

Gamble with Kelly

To appoint Kelly, the former Homeland Security secretary, as his chief of staff, is a huge gamble, but in keeping with Trump’s style. Kelly, a former military commander, lacks political experience and has not been shy about displaying his disdain for political games. It is risky to task Kelly with whipping a dysfunctional White House mired in toxic internal feuds into shape.

But perhaps that is not even what Trump, who seems to thrive on constant upheaval, wants. Maybe Trump does not really want an experienced manager to structure and run the White House professionally, because a strong chief of staff by definition wields a lot of power, which might undercut the president’s outsized view of himself as the unrivalled decision-maker.

The president’s much bigger gamble, however, is severing the already frayed ties with the Republican Party. Spicer and Priebus, both creatures of the GOP, played a key role in trying to align Trump’s agenda with Congressional Republicans.

That this did not work well was evident, but to blame only them and Congressional Republicans, as Trump has done, is wrong. Instead, in the White House, as in many dysfunctional organizations, problems often emanate from the top.

But that is not something the president appears willing to admit – now or ever. The ouster of Spicer and Priebus, especially in such a distasteful manner, might give even generally supportive Republicans in Congress and elsewhere pause.

Focus on Sessions and Mueller

Lately some Republicans, who until now have remained mostly mum about the president’s behavior, have come out to defend Attorney General Sessions against the president’s attacks and made preparations aimed at making it impossible for him to oust Sessions and name a replacement during the congressional recess.

Firing Sessions or special counsel Robert Mueller – a move that has reportedly been considered by Trump and that would effectively end the Russia probe that has been vexing him – could be one step too far even for this president.

In pushing out Spicer and Priebus and installing his alter ego Scaramucci, Trump has shown that what he really desires is an administration of yes-men and yes-women. By ordinary standards, Spicer and Priebus have been far too loyal to Trump for far too long – to their own detriment.

GOP and Trump

But Trump’s distorted view of loyalty essentially means fealty and can come only from family and people who are close to him personally. Such a definition of loyalty is ultimately impossible to reconcile with an administration governed by laws rather than personal bonds.

Congressional Republicans have so far been unwilling to acknowledge this aspect of the Trump presidency, partly because many still feel that Trump may help push their own agenda. The ouster of Spicer and Priebus and the rise of Scaramucci is another clear sign that Trump does not care at all about individual lawmakers or the Republican Party at large.

While that is not enough for the GOP to cut Trump loose, pushing out Sessions or Mueller may do the trick. If that happens, it could indeed mark a turning point for the Trump presidency


With the European Union Livid, Congress Pushes Forward on Sanctions Against Russia, Iran and North Korea

July 27 2017

by Alex Emmons and Ryan Grim

The Intercept

A rare role reversal played out in Washington on Thursday night, as the Senate took a break from debating the repeal of the Affordable Care Act to pass a bipartisan bill that will serve to alienate U.S. allies and isolate America.

That job, of course, is typically reserved for President Trump, but Congress showed decisively that the administration doesn’t have a monopoly on the practice, voting 98-2 to apply new sanctions to Russia, Iran, and for good measure, North Korea, too.

The Iran sanctions threaten to blow up the Iran nuclear deal, a landmark foreign policy achievement of President Obama’s, one negotiated with both European allies and with Russia and China. The Russian sanctions have been met with threats of retaliation not just from Russia but from the European Union, which is apoplectic that the U.S. is threatening to undo its regional energy policy. And the North Korean sanctions, well, nobody really knows what those will do.

The bill passed in the House 419-3 with little objection. When the Senate took up a similar sanctions bill last month against Russia and Iran, the measure passed overwhelmingly, with Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rand Paul, R.-Ky., the only dissenting voices. They were again the only dissenters Thursday.

Sanctions bills against U.S. adversaries usually sail through Congress uncontested, and on a bipartisan basis. Few members of Congress want to vote against sanctions, fearful that the move could be spun into an attack ad that accusing them of being pro-Russia or pro-Iran.

The bill has the enthusiastic backing of Democrats, who are looking to punish Russia for its election interference. Since several of the meetings between Trump administration and Russian officials reportedly discussed sanctions relief, coverage of the Trump-Russia scandal has dwarfed any discussion of how U.S. allies are likely to respond to new sanctions.

The sanctions may be a symbolic move for Congress, but they are very real to Europeans who do business with neighboring Russia. On Sunday, the European Union indicated that they would retaliate against additional sanctions on Russia, fearful that they would impact energy companies. A memo obtained from Brussels by the Financial Times said that the EU should “stand ready to act within days” if the bill was “adopted without EU concerns taken into account.”

Even the French government — which has allegedly faced its own election inference by Russia — spoke out against the sanctions. The French Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said the sanctions appeared to violate international law, and that the European Union would have to respond due to the impact on firms.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told The Intercept that the concerns of U.S. allies come second to the need to punish Russia for its election interference. “I just looked at the sanctions, and it’s very hard, in view of what we know just happened in this last election, not to move ahead with [sanctions],” she said.

When asked about international repercussions, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a Senate newcomer who many are speculating for a presidential run, said she would be concerned about the response of allies. “That’s part of the issue, isn’t it? We have to think about it in the context of our partners and friends. I do have concerns, yes,” she said after voting for the sanctions bill.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said he was satisfied that the EU concerns had been addressed. “I looked at those concerns last night,” he said. “I know there were a number of changes made to the legislation to address the legitimate concerns. In other words, my view is that we effectively addressed the major concerns that were expressed.”

Yet Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the leading champions of sanctions with Russia, said that it was the job of the EU to come around to the legislation, not for the legislation to be brought around to them. “I hope they’ll come around,” he told The Intercept of the EU. “Not that I know of,” McCain said of any changes to the bill to accommodate them. “Certainly not in the portion of the bill I was responsible for.”

Another author of the bill, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., an ardent foe of the Iran deal, said that very little was done to take the EU concerns into account. “Not much, to be honest with you,” he told The Intercept. “There was some sense of the Congress that we should consult with our allies, and there was something actually done for — more about U.S. companies than about Europeans — about any joint ventures that might include a Russian partner on oil. But other than that, nothing much.”

Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, said that international allies concerns’ could be resolved diplomatically in the future. “This would be the type of thing that in the ordinary course of diplomacy our secretary of state and secretary of commerce would be sitting down with leaders in the EU to resolve any misunderstandings. I don’t believe the relationship of this administration with the EU has been that positive, and obviously there’s some skepticism about what our motives are.”

In addition, the new Iranian sanctions threaten to jeopardize the 2015 Iran deal negotiated by President Obama. Despite the fact the Trump administration has levied its own sanctions against Iran, the administration has certified that Iran is complying with the deal.

While the Iran sanctions bill was at an early stage, former Secretary of State John Kerry spoke out against it, saying it would jeopardize the Iran nuclear deal.

And Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has threatened to retaliate tit for tat. According to Reuters, Iranian state media quoted the president saying, “If the enemy puts part of their promises underfoot then we will also put part of it underfoot. And if they put all of their promises underfoot then we will put promises underfoot.”

President Trump has not taken a clear position on the bill. White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci told CNN on Thursday that the president may sign the bill into law as is, or may even consider vetoing the measure.

Menendez said he wasn’t overly concerned with the European reaction, and that it was up to the administration to smooth it over. “I’ve lived through this through every sanction I’ve ever authored and it will take the administration’s leadership to make sure we bring our allies together,” he said.


Trade war? EU ready for economic counter-sanctions if US anti-Russia bill signed – top officials

July 29, 2017


Top economy officials of several EU states say they won’t shun from striking back at the US if the sanctions that would hit Russia’s energy sector and its European partners are signed by Donald Trump. Some suggested EU’s Russia sanctions could also be lifted.

The sanctions bill, approved by the US Senate and sent to President Trump for his signature, would immediately affect Russia-EU projects such as the Nordstream II pipeline project. The companies doing business with Russian oil and gas firms include the likes of BASF, Shell, Engie, OMV, Wintershall and Uniper.

German economy minister Briggette Zypries on Thursday hinted at the possibility of a full-fledged trade war erupting between Europe and the US, if the latter enforces sanctions affecting European companies.

“There is a possibility of counter-sanctions, which the World Trade Organization foresees in this case,” Zypries told German broadcaster ARD, as cited by Die Welt.

Describing Berlin’s response to the possible sanctions as “harsh,” the German media outlet suggested the officials were ready for a “trade war” if necessary.

There is an understanding that with the new restrictive measures the US is trying to push forward its own interests in the energy sector, Die Welt quoted Michael Harms, Managing Director of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, as saying.

“The sought [after] sanctions against pipeline projects are designed to boost energy exports from the US to Europe, create jobs in the US, and strengthen US foreign policy,” Harms said.

Following the adoption of the US bill targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea by the US Congress, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel strongly criticized the American lawmakers’ decision.

“Our stance remains that we will not accept any extraterritorial use whatsoever of these US sanctions against European companies. President Trump knows that, and so do the State Department and the US administration. Sanctions policies are neither a suitable nor an appropriate instrument for promoting national export interests and the domestic energy sector,” Gabriel said in a statement issued Friday.

Saying “what happens next is now up to President Trump,” the minister once again urged Germany’s American partners “to coordinate our policies towards Russia closely.”

Nothing more than a desire “to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine” stands behind the European sanctions on Moscow, the German foreign minister said, stressing that “if the Russian leadership makes a move and we are finally able to make progress as regards implementing the Minsk agreements, it is also conceivable that these sanctions will be gradually eased.”

Austria has taken a similar stance, with the president of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, Christoph Leitl, stating that “Europe must not let this [sanctions] happen.”

Speaking to the Austrian national public broadcaster, ORF on Friday, the politician said that Americans wanted to muddle the economic relationships between Russia and Europe, to press with their own interests in trade, economic and energy policy.

“If these sanctions are implemented, there is no doubt that Europe will be firmly united [against them],” Leitl said.

He added that the situation could then be used as an opportunity to lift EU sanctions against Russia, Austria Press Agency reports.

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern issued statements lambasting the American bill.

Kern and Gabriel penned a joint statement concluding that the fallout from the sanctions “would add an absolutely new and highly negative aspect in relations between the US and Europe.”


Economics first: ‘US Congress clearly targets Nord Stream-2’

July 27, 2017


Economics is the key motive for new Russia sanctions, experts say. Even if the US oil and gas industry wants to push Russia out of the European market, proximity and the historical development of European energy markets will make that impossible, they add.

RT discussed the new round of economic sanctions against Russia passed by the House of Representatives with analysts.Francis Perrin, Senior Research Fellow at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs

RT:  France says the sanctions could be a breach of international law. To what extent is that true?

Francis Perrin: France is referring to the extraterritorial character of future US sanctions. It is something, which is not totally new. You will recall that in the 1990’s – it was [Senator Alfonse] D’Amato law; the US Congress decided to impose sanctions against non-US companies working in Iran and Libya. So it is part of an old story revisited according to the present context. As far as France is concerned, extraterritorial sanctions are not legal, because the US can only sanction US companies, and not European companies, or more broadly – non-US companies.

RT:  France participates in the Nord Stream-2 pipeline project. Will this force Paris to stand up to the US over the sanctions?

FP: Clearly the Nord Stream-2 project is targeted by the US Congress. You will recall there are some new projects of gas pipelines from Russia to Europe. The most two advanced are the Turkish Stream: Russia – Black Sea, Turkey, Europe; and the Nord Stream-2: Russia, Baltic Sea, and Germany. As far as the Nord Stream-2 project gas pipeline is concerned, we have Gazprom with little more than 50 percent interest in the project. We also have five European companies; two German companies: Uniper and Wintershall, the Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell oil and gas group, the OMV, Austrian oil company, and ENGIE, which is the gas group in France. So as far as the EU and these different countries are concerned, their fear is that if the bill is adopted by the US Congress, which is very, very likely and if it is not vetoed by President Trump, which is not very likely, some of these European companies could be in the future targeted and sanctioned due to their participation in the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany.

Ben Margulies, International Politics, Warwick University

RT:   Why is the US apparently not listening to the EU’s concerns over the sanctions? Who benefits from this bill?

Ben Margulies: There are certainly interests in the US that want to promote the sale of American gas as opposed to Russian. That would have been one of many interests that are pressing on Congress in their decisions to enact these sanctions. So it is not if the sanctions are some vast plot by the US oil and gas industry. That said – even if the US oil and gas industry wanted to push Russia off the European market, simple proximity and the historical development of European energy markets would make that impossible. It would take years to reorient European energy consumption. So the effect on gas markets and oil markets in Europe isn’t going to be particularly large.

Gerry Sussman, Portland State University

RT:  German officials suggest these sanctions are all about boosting US gas supplies to Europe, rather than countering foreign aggression. What do you think is the motive?

Gerry Sussman: Economics is always the first motive. US economic domination of Europe is very sensual – they can’t brook competition from Russia or any other country – that is certainly part of it. It is also politically a way of building some sense of solidarity in a Congress that is otherwise passing almost no legislation. So this builds some coherence between the two parties to make it appear that they are actually engaged in some activity. Russia is a convenient scapegoat. We know that the premise of these kinds of actions are not proven. The premise about Russian intervention in the American election is unproven, and yet they act as if it were…


Trump Tries to Regroup as the West Wing Battles Itself

July 29, 2017

by Peter Baker

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump enters a new phase of his presidency on Monday with a new chief of staff but an old set of challenges as he seeks to get back on course after enduring one of the worst weeks that any modern occupant of the Oval Office has experienced in his inaugural year in power.

With his poll numbers at historic lows, his legislative agenda stalled and his advisers busy plotting against one another, Mr. Trump hoped to regain momentum by pushing out his top aide, Reince Priebus, and installing a retired four-star Marine general, John F. Kelly, to take command. But it is far from certain that the move will be enough to tame a dysfunctional White House.

The shake-up followed a week that saw the bombastic, with-me-or-against-me president defied as never before by Washington and its institutions, including Republicans in Congress, his own attorney general, the uniformed military leadership, police officers and even the Boy Scouts. No longer daunted by a president with a Twitter account that he uses like a Gatling gun, members of his own party made clear that they were increasingly willing to stand against him on issues like health care and Russia.

The setbacks came against the backdrop of a West Wing at war with itself, egged on by a president who thrives on conflict and chaos. Mr. Kelly, who had been serving as secretary of Homeland Security, brings a career of decisive leadership to his new assignment as White House chief of staff. But he confronts multiple power centers among presidential aides, all with independent lines to the man in the Oval Office, who resists the discipline and structure favored by generals.

“Everybody knows what needs to be done to fix it, and I think everybody is coming to accept that they’re not going to happen,” said Sara Fagen, a White House political director under President George W. Bush. “And the reason they’re not going to happen is the person at the top of the food chain is not going to change. This is the new normal. This goes down as one of the worst weeks he’s had politically and P.R.-wise, but I don’t think anything will change.”

The palace intrigue spilled into public with a vulgarity-laced rant by Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, who called Mr. Priebus a “paranoid schizophrenic” and vowed to take him down. While aides fought with one another, Mr. Trump’s signature promise to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care program went down in flames.

“Anyone in a position of responsibility in G.O.P. politics is quickly losing patience with President Trump,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. “The dysfunction is beyond strange — it’s dangerous.

“If Trump’s poll numbers were above 50 percent,” Mr. Conant continued, “health care reform would have passed. Instead, he’s spent more time responding to cable TV chatter than rallying support for his agenda.”

Presidential historians found it hard to recall precedents for the combination of internal warfare and external legislative troubles. Jeffrey A. Engel, the director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, said the best examples were John Tyler and Andrew Johnson in the 19th century. Both men were serving as vice president when their bosses died in office, each during a time of great turmoil in his political party.

“In either case, we are forced to go well back over a century in the past to find an administration in such an open state of infighting coupled with legislative disarray,” he said.

Presidents can recover from a difficult first six months, as Bill Clinton did, Mr. Engel said. “But certainly, like both Tyler and Andrew Johnson, we see today a president at war with his own party, and that to my mind never turns out well,” he said.

The repeated defiance of Mr. Trump this past week indicated diminishing forbearance. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, publicly derided by Mr. Trump as “VERY weak,” refused to resign under pressure. Senate Republicans forced the president to back off his threats by warning that they would block any effort to replace Mr. Sessions, either during their recess or through the confirmation process.

The House and Senate Intelligence Committees, both led by Republicans, summoned Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to Capitol Hill to explain his contacts with Russia during and after last year’s campaign. With near-unanimous, veto-proof bipartisan majorities, Congress passed legislation curtailing Mr. Trump’s power to lift sanctions against Russia, a measure the president had to swallow and agree to sign.

After Mr. Trump abruptly wrote on Twitter that he was barring transgender people from the military, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared that the policy would not change unless the president gave a proper order. The Boy Scouts of America condemned Mr. Trump’s speech to its national jamboree as overly political and apologized to scouts, while some police organizations repudiated his call to be rougher on suspects.

And a Republican senator, John McCain, repaid Mr. Trump’s 2015 insult to his war service by torpedoing the president’s health care agenda with a dramatic middle-of-the-night thumbs down vote on the Senate floor.

“Think about this week. Not once, not twice — any of these things would have been a nail in the coffin,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, a White House chief of staff under Mr. Obama and a Democratic member of the House before that. “They told the president to pound dirt. That’s an unbelievable statement on where his presidency is only six months in. And nobody fears the political repercussions.”

Indeed, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, received a call from Mr. Trump’s interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, reportedly warning of repercussions for the state after her initial vote against proceeding with the health care debate. Undeterred, she voted against the president again on a bill to repeal parts of Mr. Obama’s program.

Aides insisted the president would keep fighting.

“People are counting him out after health care,” Kellyanne Conway, a White House counselor, said on Fox News. “I would never bet against Donald Trump. He’s not going to allow one misvote by the Senate to stop him to provide relief for all of these Americans who are suffering. He’s not going to allow personnel changes to get in the way of tax reform or pushing back against these MS-13 gangs.”

Ms. Fagen said that tapping a general for the White House staff chief might be successful, but that it depended on whether he would be empowered in a way that Mr. Priebus had not been. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Kelly disclosed what commitments if any were made to Mr. Kelly.

Mr. Priebus never had full command. Two senior advisers in the White House are immune from the discipline of a chief of staff: Mr. Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter. When Mr. Scaramucci, the brash new communications director, was hired over Mr. Priebus’s objections, he boasted that he reported directly to the president, not to the chief of staff.

Even Mr. Priebus agreed it was time for a change. “I think actually going a different direction, hitting a reset button is actually a good thing, and the president did that,” he told Fox News on Friday. “So I think he’s happy, I got to tell you, although it’s always a little mixed when things like this happen.”

Mr. Kelly served as the senior military adviser to two defense secretaries, Robert M. Gates and Leon E. Panetta, and learned how to manage a sprawling operation with complicated politics. That gives hope to some.

“It’s not clear that John Kelly can succeed where Reince Priebus failed, because it appears that the president wants to act as his own chief of staff,” said Brian McKeon, who worked in Mr. Obama’s White House and Defense Department. “But given his background and experience, it seems likely that General Kelly will insist on a chain of command that runs through him, with no other staff reporting directly to the president.”

Ms. Conway said Mr. Kelly was a “generational peer” with the president but dismissed questions about chain of command.

“That’s just a pecking order question,” she said. “I think it’s beside the point, and here’s why: We all serve the president and this country. And in doing so, the president and his new chief of staff will decide what the right organizational structure and protocols are.”

Anyone who has studied the White House, however, knows that organization can be key to success. Chris Whipple, the author of “The Gatekeepers,” about White House chiefs of staff, said that Mr. Trump’s White House was broken and that the president needed to enable Mr. Kelly to fix it.

“Trump now has a chance at governing, but it may be only a slim chance,” Mr. Whipple said. “The fundamental problem is that Donald Trump is an outsider president who has shown he has no idea how to govern — who, more than any of his predecessors, desperately needs to empower a chief of staff as first among equals to execute his agenda and tell him hard truths.

“But does anyone believe that this president wants such a person around?”


North Korea tests another ICBM, claims all of U.S. in strike range

July 29, 2017

by Jack Kim and Idrees Ali


SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea said on Saturday it had conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that proved its ability to strike America’s mainland, drawing a sharp warning from U.S. President Donald Trump and a rebuke from China.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally supervised the midnight launch of the missile on Friday night and said it was a “stern warning” for the United States that it would not be safe from destruction if it tries to attack, the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

North Korea’s state television broadcast pictures of the launch, showing the missile lifting off in a fiery blast in darkness and Kim cheering with military aides.

“The test-fire reconfirmed the reliability of the ICBM system, demonstrated the capability of making a surprise launch of the ICBM in any region and place any time, and clearly proved that the whole U.S. mainland is in the firing range of the DPRK missiles, (Kim) said with pride,” KCNA said.

DPRK is short for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The launch comes less than a month after the North conducted its first ICBM test in defiance of years of efforts led by the United States, South Korea and Japan to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

The North conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests last year and has engaged in an unprecedented pace of missile development that experts said significantly advanced its ability to launch longer-range ballistic missiles.

“By threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people,” Trump said in a statement. “The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.”

China, the North’s main ally, said it opposed North Korea’s “launch activities that run counter to Security Council resolutions and the common wishes of the international community.”

A foreign ministry statement added: “At the same time, China hopes all parties act with caution, to prevent tensions from continuing to escalate, to jointly protect regional peace and stability.”


Hipster-bashing in California: angry residents fight back against gentrification

In a state where house prices are twice the US average, artists and developers are feeling the ire of a growing movement to ‘defend our homes and our culture’

July 28, 2017

by Rory Carroll

The Guardian

Los Angeles- Half a century after the summer of love and hippie harmony, California is experiencing a summer of loathing and hipster-bashing.

Not just hipsters. Artists, techies, realtors, business owners, developers, all are feeling the wrath of a burgeoning and in some cases radicalising anti-gentrification movement.

In the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Boyle Heights, protesters are targeting a new cafe with placards, chants and intimidation, tactics which ousted an opera and a gallery.

In Venice, on the other side of LA, residents picket the palm-fringed home of Snapchat, branding it a coloniser for taking over local real estate.

In San Francisco, activists blast Airbnb and bicycle-sharing initiatives amid nostalgia for a “yuppie eradication” project. And in Oakland non-profits stand guard against Uber’s plan to open a giant office downtown.

“We’re in a war,” said Leonardo Vilchis, a leader of Union de Vecinos, an LA-based activist group. “It’s happening across the state. A war to defend our homes and our culture.”

Such rhetoric is quite a change from the flower-power vibe of 1967 when hippies took over San Francisco’s Golden Gate park and kick-started the counter-culture.

But the hippies, after all, just pitched tents. Today’s perceived interlopers rent, buy and flip property. And that’s a problem.

A housing crisis is making homes unaffordable for the poor and middle class, uprooting communities and condemning families to sleep in vehicles, shelters and under tarpaulin.

Gentrification – the process of affluent people moving into and transforming lower income neighbourhoods – was a term once confined to urban planning seminars. Now it has become a howl across California.

“People are waking up to the fact that the housing system is benefiting the real estate industry while more and more people suffer,” said Malcolm Torrejón Chu, of the Right to the City Alliance. “There is enormous anger and anxiety.”

The median cost of a home in California is $500,000, twice the US national level. About a third of homeowners pay housing costs deemed unaffordable, according to a Harvard study. California also has the largest share of homeless residents who are unsheltered, at 66%, according to the department of housing and urban development.

The underlying cause is a housing shortage. Proliferating activist groups see gentrification as the front line, pitting them into an audacious attempt to redirect one of the world’s biggest economies – a $2.5tn engine of technology, real estate and tourism roaring at full throttle – to a different type of capitalism.

“The conditions are just getting worse so you’re seeing (the) emergence of new groups,” said Camilo Sol Zamora, housing, land and development campaign director for Causa Justa. “There needs to be a disruption. Not business as usual – diversity of tactics, being creative.”

The movement is a mosaic: policy wonks and lobbyists; venerable non-profits with offices and donors; embryonic, rag-tag groups with cardboard signs; political radicals who dream of overthrowing capitalism; vigilantes with spray paint and rocks.

Some factions coordinate and collaborate, others keep their distance and do their own thing – a loosely interconnected, decentralised movement whose intellectual heroes range from Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez and liberation theologians to Mao Zedong, Karl Marx and Antonio Gramsci.

Renters, artists, unions, LGBT communities and other groups are forming eclectic coalitions to try to swing public opinion behind ballot measures and legislative efforts to expand rent control and other protections.

“Folks are looking for creative and new ways to respond,” said Bruce Mirken, of the Greenlining Institute, a research and advocacy group. “Folks have found themselves needing to work together that haven’t necessarily before,” he said, citing the No Uber Oakland campaign. “A lot of us are still figuring out how all that works. Coalitions are invariably complicated.”

The Homes for All campaign was mobilising assemblies across the US, said Torrejón Chu, of the Right to the City Alliance. Mass assemblies will gather in September to demand a halt to evictions and declare a renters’ state of emergency, he said. “It will be the largest event of its kind. We won’t win unless we coordinate.”

Even so, activists admit the struggle is struggling. “When you’re dealing with really intense market forces it’s difficult,” said Mirken. “A lot of folks are trying to figure out what the hell can we do that will make a difference. You do see things happening that do make a real difference but bending the overall curve in a big way is really tough.”

For some the solution is to become more radical, even destructive.

There is suspicion that arson attacks at construction sites in San Francisco’s east bay are linked to gentrification resistance. The most recent blaze – cause still unknown – burned so hot (1,160F) it was monitored by a National Weather Service satellite.

The targeted developers have vowed to rebuild on the ashes. Oakland council member Abel Guillen said fires would not help make housing more affordable. “It only speeds up displacement of existing residents,” he tweeted.

Vigilantes have struck outside California. In Philadelphia in May a 50-strong group linked to an anarchist group called Summer of Rage vandalised luxury cars and homes, ripped out security cameras and erected a banner saying “Gentrification is death. Revolt is life”. Two suspects were detained and charged.

The movement’s main laboratory for confrontational tactics is Boyle Heights, a gritty Latino neighbourhood on the fringe of LA’s booming downtown.

It has hosted sustained intimidation campaign against perceived potential gentrifiers, including an opera company which tried to perform in a local park, a student-led walking tour and a string of galleries. Some had exhibitions disrupted, others were tagged with graffiti such as “fuck white art”. One has left.

Weird Wave Coffee, a hipster cafe which opened earlier this month, is the latest target. Picketers, some with bandannas covering their faces, seek a boycott. Someone has smashed the windows twice in the past week.

“Direct action gets the goods,” said Ruben Ruiz, of Serve the People-LA (STPLA), a Maoist group. “The window smashing? It’s fantastic. I love it.” But he added: “We didn’t do it. We don’t do anything illegal.” He cited European and Turkish squatter networks as inspirations.

STPLA formed a coalition, Defend Boyle Heights, with other militant groups, including Union de Vecinos, a long-established local group. “We’re in a war against neoliberals, fascists and coconuts,” said Vilchis, a co-founder. The latter refers to Latinos deemed brown on the outside, white on the inside.

Non-profits beholden to political and corporate interests “negotiated their own defeat” and left neighbourhoods open to predation, a mistake Boyle Heights would not make, said Vilchis, 55, who grew up amid guerrilla campaigns in Acapulco, Mexico.

The campaign against Weird Wave may backfire. When the Guardian visited it had run out of coffee in part because so many people had come in to show solidarity. “We’ve been insanely busy,” said Jackson Defa, the co-owner.

Steven Almazan, former outreach chair of the Boyle Heights neighborhood council, said most residents were ambivalent about gentrification, recognising benefits as well as problems.

It is unclear if confrontational tactics can slow gentrification in Boyle Heights – rents are rising fast – but outside groups are watching and learning, said Elizabeth Blaney, a Union de Vecinos leader. “I think it is replicable. We’ve had groups from New York, Chicago and the bay area reach out to us.”

Gay Shame, a San Francisco-based group, is a fan. “Many anti-displacement activists concede too soon, or dream too small, and we love Defend Boyle Heights because they are saying ‘get the fuck out’ and really that’s the only answer we should have,” a member said via email.

But Kevin Keating, an anarchist who used threats and vandalism as part of the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project in the dotcom era, poured cold water on the prospect of the San Francisco Bay area importing Boyle Heights radicalism.

The LA campaign blended race and ethnicity into what should be a strictly class struggle, he said. And Bay area activists lacked grit, he alleged, citing the fizzling of Google bus protests in 2015. “They folded like napkins. No staying power.”

Others said that overlooked decades of grinding work and shifting public opinion. “The bus protests put tech’s responsibility on the map,” said Leslie Dreyer, an artist and activist leader. “For the first time folks from around the world were calling and asking about it.”

Activists were succeeding in blocking some evictions, she said. “I’m hopeful that more tactics can bloom in the face of such dire times. The little victories keep me going.”


CalExit II Approved to Gather Signatures for Right to Secede

July 26, 2017

by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly


For the second time in less than a year, the CalExit effort in California will gather signatures for the right to secede from the United States.

According to the Sacramento Bee, California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra granted the remaining CalExit group the right to gather signatures to put a referendum on the ballot:

The state attorney general issued an official ballot measure title and summary Tuesday. The campaign can now start gathering the more than 585,000 signatures it will need to qualify for the 2018 ballot.

The initiative would form a commission to recommend avenues for California to pursue its independence and delete part of the state constitution that says it is an inseparable part of the U.S. The measure would also instruct the governor and California congressional delegation to negotiate more autonomy for the state.

This will be the second attempt to put a secession measure on the 2018 ballot. The first attempt failed, and was subsequently withdrawn from consideration in April.

The original initiative was clouded by rumors of Russian involvement and irreconcilable differences among leadership.

This latest initiative, which will be titled “California Autonomy From Federal Government,” according to Becerra’s press release, must gather 585,000 valid signatures to qualify for the 2018 ballot.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that CalExit II, as it’s come to be known, has been modified substantially from the original CalExit effort:

The proposal, scaled back from an initially more aggressive version, would direct California’s governor to negotiate more autonomy from the federal government, including potentially putting forward a ballot measure to declare independence.

The initiative wouldn’t necessarily result in California exiting the country, but could allow the state to be a “fully functioning sovereign and autonomous nation” within the U.S.

The fiscal impact study conducted by the state of California, according to the Times, says it would cost more than $1.25 million per year for an advisory commission to assist the governor on California’s independence, plus “unknown, potentially major, fiscal effects if California voters approved changes to the state’s relationship with the United States at a future election after the approval of this measure.”

Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman and Author, currently on a book tour for his new book: Patriot Not Politician: Win or Go Homeless.  He also ran for governor in 2014.


U.S. government ordered to solve ‘Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat’

July 28, 2017

by David Shepardson


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. aviation authorities were ordered back to the drawing board on Friday to solve what a federal appeals judge called “The Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat.”

Judge Patricia Millett told the Federal Aviation Administration to take another look at an advocacy group’s assertion that shrinking airline seats are imperiling passenger safety.

The judge rejected the FAA’s argument that seat size was unimportant to getting off the plane in an emergency.

“That makes no sense,” she wrote for the three-judge panel, likening the rationale to doing “a study on tooth decay that only recorded participants’ sugar consumption” but did not look at brushing and flossing.

All three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed the FAA must conduct a new review of the request for regulations setting a minimum airline seat size, but Judge Judith Rogers dissented from part of the court’s rationale.

Airline seats have steadily decreased in size over the last several decades. Economy-class seat pitch has decreased from an average of 35 inches (89 cm) in the 1970s to 31 inches (79 cm), and in some airplanes to 28 inches (71 cm).

Average seat width has narrowed from about 18 inches (46 cm)to 16.5 inches (42 cm) over the last decade.

Critics accuse the airlines of being more interested in profit than passenger health and safety.

FAA spokesman Greg Martin wrote in an e-mail the agency “does consider seat pitch in testing and assessing the safe evacuation of commercial, passenger aircraft. We are studying the ruling carefully and any potential actions we may take to address the court’s findings.”

An airline trade group declined to comment.

Seat pitch is the distance from one seat to the same spot on the one in front or behind.

The ruling was limited to the question of whether smaller seats and larger passengers could have an impact on emergency egress. It did not require the FAA to look at the impact on comfort and health.

A U.S. House of Representatives bill under consideration would require the FAA to set minimum seat sizes on U.S. airlines and a minimum distance between rows to “protect the safety and health of airline passengers.”

Last month American Airlines Group Inc said it would reduce leg room by one inch to 30 inches instead of two as originally planned on some seats in its Boeing 737 MAX jets.

United Airlines President Scott Kirby told a congressional hearing in May the airline had yet to decide whether to cut pitch to 29 inches in some seats. Nearly all United seats have at least 31 inches of pitch.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Howard Goller

The CIA and Press Coverups

July 29, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD


In 1996, the San Jose, California, Mercury-News published material alleging that elements of the CIA knowingly permitted and encouraged the sale of narcotics by Latino drug dealers to essentially black, inner city residents. The strong implication contained in this report is that the wave of dangerous, disruptive and fatal drug sales and use in the black communities stemmed, in large part, from CIA instigation, and an attempt on their part to finance the Contras of Nicaragua who were then engaged in guerrilla warfare with the Marxist Sandinistas. The CIA has long and often been accused of utilizing monies from the transportation and sale of illegal drugs, in the main heroin and cocaine, to fund many of its operations for which they were unable to obtain official Congressional monetary support.

In the case of the Mercury-News coverage, the resultant uproar from the outraged black communities brought responses from the CIA that were both predictable and instructional.

The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, long known as friendly resources for official Washington, rushed into print with rebukes of both the San Jose newspaper’s stories, editors and its reporter—a theme eagerly seized upon by other such media outlets. There is an old adage that “Once a newspaperman, always a whore.” This is an erroneous and insulting statement. Whores perform their acts solely for money and nothing else. A slut, on the other hand, conducts her sexual rampages merely because it feels good. In the interest of accuracy and in defense of the character of whores, it might be better said that with few exceptions, the media are sluts ready to work for free for the US intelligence community.

John Deutsch, embattled Director of the CIA, made a public relations trip to Los Angeles where he spoke at an open meeting of the black community. He was booed and insulted by them, disbelieving his pious denials and promises of a “thorough investigation” into the allegations.

A predictable Congressional hearing into the issue was regaled by testimony from former Contra leaders who denied any of the published allegations. Again, their testimony was greeted with vocal outbursts from the audience who claimed that the business was being officially covered up, not unlike the previous hearings on the massacre at Waco, which were full of official sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The statements contained in this chapter concerning the known use by the US intelligence community of identified war criminals are based solidly on fact and record. This will certainly not prevent those in government service, both official and unofficial, from following a parallel course to the countering of the Mercury-News coverage.

For some years it has been said that a controversial issue does not gain credibility in the eyes of the public until it has been officially denied in Washington. To this official denial must be added confirming attacks by the media, the official public relations outlet for the government.

No one believes them either.

And that is why the American major newspapers are going broke.


Talk of sea border with Britain riles vulnerable May’s Northern Irish allies

Ju;y 28, 2017

by Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries


DUBLIN (Reuters) – Northern Irish protestant politicians who are propping up British Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority government reacted with fury on Friday to a report that Ireland wants the Irish Sea to be its effective border with Britain after Brexit.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Friday confirmed his government would oppose any customs posts or immigration checks on the land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but he did not say where they should be placed instead.

His foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said there was no sea border proposal. But he did not say where he wanted to locate the customs and immigration checks that will be inevitable if Britain leaves the European Union’s single market and customs union.

The issue of how the Republic and Northern Ireland will fare after Britain leaves the EU is particularly sensitive given the decades of violence in the province over whether it should be part of Britain or Ireland. Around 3,600 people were killed before the 1998 peace agreement.

The Times newspaper sparked the row with a report that the Irish government’s preferred option was for customs and immigration checks to be located away from the land border and at ports and airports, effectively drawing a new border in the Irish Sea.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – the Protestant party propping up British Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority government angrily rejected the idea.

“There is no way that the DUP would go for an option that creates a border between one part of the United Kingdom and the other. Dublin really needs to understand that the proposition is absurd, it’s unconstitutional,” DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told BBC Radio.

Ian Paisley Jr, one of the 10 DUP members of the British parliament allowing May’s government to stay in power said on twitter that the Irish government’s opposition to high-tech border posts was for “a very hard border” returning to Ireland.

Former Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble said in an interview with Sky News that Ireland was risking doing “enormous damage” to relations between Dublin and Belfast, .

In a ratcheting up of Irish rhetoric around Brexit, Varadkar said it was the Ireland rather than unionists that should be angry at British plans to reimpose an “economic border” across the island of Ireland for the first time in 25 years.

“As far as this government is concerned there shouldn’t be an economic border. We don’t want one,” Varadkar told reporters at a briefing in Dublin

Politicians in London, Dublin, Belfast and Brussels have all said they want to avoid the return of a “hard border” on the divided island, although no progress has yet been made.

The current border between the Irish Republic, a member of the European Union, and the British province of Northern Ireland would become the only land frontier between the U.K. and the EU once Britain left the bloc in early 2019.

There have been no customs or immigration checks on the 500-kilometer border since the European single market came into effect in 1993 and about 30,000 people cross every day without any border checks.

The Irish government has pointed out that any hindrance to cross-border trade would hit Northern Ireland harder with the Republic accounting for 25 percent of Northern Irish exports outside the UK, compared with just 1.4 percent going the other direction.

Overall, 52 percent of voters in the United Kingdom voted in favor of leaving the EU in last year’s referendum, but 56 percent of those voting in Northern Ireland supported remaining in the bloc.

(Corrects Coveney to foreign minister, paragraph 3)

Reporting by Padraic Halpin Additional reporting by Cassandra Garrison in London; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

 Orange Order: Protestants told not to use ‘RIP’ as it is Catholic superstition

Five hundred years after reformation, Northern Ireland’s Orange Order says RIP is un-Protestant and un-biblical

July 28, 2017

by Pádraig Collins

The Guardian

The Orange Order has advised its members and all those who consider themselves Protestant to stop using the phrase RIP to offer sympathy after a person has died because it is un-Protestant, un-biblical and a superstition connected to Catholicism.

An article in The Orange Standard, the Northern Ireland-centred Protestant organisation’s newspaper, said the phrase was an “illustration of spiritual confusion within Protestant circles”.

Noting the increased use of RIP – an abbreviation of the Latin phrase requiescat in pace, or rest in peace – on social media, Wallace Thompson, secretary of Evangelical Protestants Northern Ireland, said: “I’m conscious that this sort of issue is a sensitive one because when we use those letters we are doing so at the time of a death.

“Just observing social media, we have noticed that the letters RIP are used a lot by Protestants, and some by evangelical Protestants.

“I understand the Roman Catholic position on this, it’s more a concern that I would have and that the evangelical Protestant society would have just for a better understanding among evangelical Protestants of the issues,” Thompson said on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback program.

Thompson, who also wrote a Facebook post on the issue, said he considered RIP to be a prayer for the dead, which he did not encourage.

“From a Protestant point of view, we believe that … when death comes a person either goes to be with Christ for all eternity, or into hell … that’s what we believe the gospel to be. In this 500th year of the reformation I think [Martin] Luther, when the scales fell off his eyes, I think he realised it was all by faith alone, in Christ alone, that … when death comes that decision [on whether you go to heaven or hell] has been made and no decisions are made after death,” said Thompson.

Speaking on the same program, former Presbyterian church moderator Dr Ken Newell said he did not often use RIP. “I think when people use [RIP] in social media, there’s a remembrance and a good wish in it, almost a blessing,” he said.

He did not think people were praying for the dead when using the phrase. “If folk in the Orange Order want to take this line that’s perfectly up to them, they are making a good point.

“I think ordinary people have not worked out the issues. This comes out of the human heart,” Newell said.

The Orange Order’s origins date from the 17th century battle for supremacy between Catholicism and Protestantism. It regards itself as upholding the ascendancy of a Protestant monarch in the UK.









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