TBR News June 18, 2017

Jun 18 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 18, 2017:”One of the main problems of President Trump is that he is an effective businessman and a decent person but he has had no experience with Washington politics whatsoever. He said many things during the election campaign that clearly resonated with his listeners, and voters, but when he became President, his advisors said that this or that program would not work politically so he had to abandon a number of ideas. The President is used to running large business concerns and having his ideas, and orders, obeyed. This does not work in Washington and the rantings of an frantic press to disrupt him are not making his efforts at governing any easier.”

Table of Contents

  • The History Channel Is Finally Telling the Stunning Secret Story of the War on Drugs
  • Transfer of German troops from Incirlik to Jordan to start in July
  • New US Russia sanctions bill riles Germany and Austria
  • ‘Germany – unlike Russia – is not sovereign, US largely controls its foreign policy’
  • Cladding on Grenfell Tower is banned on UK high-rises, says Philip Hammond
  • With a weakened leader and reeling from crisis, Britain hurtles into the Brexit unknown
  • French Parliamentary Elections: What to Watch For
  • Can France liberalize pensions and labor under Macron?
  • Trump administration: Sheriff David Clarke withdraws from homeland security post
  • Iraq troops push into last ‘Islamic State’ bastion in Mosul
  • ‘The war after Isis’: has Trump opened the door to conflict with Iran?
  • We are watching everyone!
  • Hawaii may become first US state to adopt basic income
  • Representative Scalise’s condition upgraded to ‘serious’ after shooting
  • Trump will allow ‘Dreamers’ to stay in the U.S., reversing campaign promise


The History Channel Is Finally Telling the Stunning Secret Story of the War on Drugs

June 18 2017

by Jon Schwarz

The Intercept

Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator from Iowa, is known on twitter for expressing his yearning for the History Channel to finally show some history.

The good news for Grassley, and for everyone else, is that starting Sunday night and running through Wednesday the History Channel is showing a new four-part series called “America’s War on Drugs.” Not only is it an important contribution to recent American history, it’s also the first time U.S. television has ever told the core truth about one of the most important issues of the past fifty years.

That core truth is: The war on drugs has always been a pointless sham. For decades the federal government has engaged in a shifting series of alliances of convenience with some of the world’s largest drug cartels. So while the U.S. incarceration rate has quintupled since President Richard Nixon first declared the war on drugs in 1971, top narcotics dealers have simultaneously enjoyed protection at the highest levels of power in America.

On the one hand, this shouldn’t be surprising. The voluminous documentation of this fact in dozens of books has long been available to anyone with curiosity and a library card.

Yet somehow, despite the fact the U.S. has no formal system of censorship, this monumental scandal has never before been presented in a comprehensive way in the medium where most Americans get their information: TV.

That’s why “America’s War on Drugs” is a genuine milestone. We’ve recently seen how ideas that once seemed absolutely preposterous and taboo — for instance, that the Catholic Church was consciously safeguarding priests who sexually abused children, or that Bill Cosby may not have been the best choice for America’s Dad — can after years of silence finally break through into popular consciousness and exact real consequences. The series could be a watershed in doing the same for the reality behind of one the most cynical and cruel policies in U.S. history.

The series, executive produced by Julian P. Hobbs, Elli Hakami and Anthony Lappé, is a standard TV documentary; there’s the amalgam of interviews, file footage and dramatic recreations. What’s not standard is the story told on camera by former Drug Enforcement Agency operatives as well as journalists and drug dealers themselves. (One of the reporters is Ryan Grim, The Intercept’s Washington bureau chief and author of “This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America.”)

There’s no mealy-mouthed truckling about what happened. The first episode opens with the voice of Lindsay Moran, a one-time clandestine CIA officer, declaring, “The agency was elbow deep with drug traffickers.”

Then Richard Stratton, a marijuana smuggler turned writer and television producer, explains, “Most Americans would be utterly shocked if they knew the depth of involvement that the Central Intelligence Agency has had in the international drug trade.”

Next New York University professor Christian Parenti tells viewers, “The CIA is from its very beginning collaborating with mafiosas who are involved in the drug trade because these mafiosas will serve the larger agenda of fighting communism.”

For the next eight hours, the series sprints through history that’s largely the greatest hits of the U.S. government’s partnership with heroin, hallucinogen and cocaine dealers. That these greatest hits can fill up most of four two-hour episodes demonstrates how extraordinarily deep and ugly the story is.

First we learn about the CIA working with Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante, Jr. in the early 1960s. The CIA wanted Fidel Castro dead and, in return for Trafficante’s help in various assassination plots, was willing to turn a blind eye to the extensive drug trafficking by Trafficante and his allied Cuban exiles.

Then there’s the extremely odd tale of how the CIA imported significant amounts of LSD from its Swiss manufacturer in hopes that it could used for successful mind control. Instead, by dosing thousands of young volunteers including Ken Kesey, Whitey Bulger, and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, the Agency accidentally helped popularize acid and generate the 1960s counter-culture of psychedelia.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. allied with anti-communist forces in Laos that leveraged our support to become some of the largest suppliers of opium on earth. Air America, a CIA front, flew supplies for the guerrillas into Laos and then flew drugs out, all with the knowledge and protection of U.S. operatives.

The same dynamic developed in the 1980s as the Reagan administration tried to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The planes that secretly brought arms to the contras turned around and brought cocaine back to America, again shielded from U.S. law enforcement by the CIA.

Most recently, there’s our 16-year-long war in Afghanistan. While less has been uncovered about the CIA’s machinations here, it’s hard not to notice that we installed Hamid Karzai as president while his brother apparently was on the CIA payroll and, simultaneously, one of the country’s biggest opium dealers. Afghanistan now supplies about 90 percent of the world’s heroin.

To its credit, the series makes clear that this is not part of a secret government plot to turn Americans into drug addicts. But, as Moran puts it, “When the CIA is focused on a mission, on a particular end, they’re not going to sit down and pontificate about ‘What are the long-term, global consequences of our actions going to be?’” Winning their secret wars will always be their top priority, and if that requires cooperation with drug cartels which are flooding the U.S. with their product, so be it. “A lot of these patterns that have their origins in the 1960s become cyclical,” Moran adds. “Those relationships develop again and again throughout the war on drugs.”

What makes this history so grotesque is the government’s mind-breaking levels of hypocrisy. It’s like Donald Trump declaring a War on Real Estate Developers that fills prisons with people who occasionally rent out their spare bedroom on AirBnb.

That brings us back to Charles Grassley. Grassley is now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a longtime committed drug warrior and — during the 1980s — a supporter of the contras.

Yet even Grassley is showing signs that he realizes there may have been some flaws in the war on drugs since the beginning. He recently has co-sponsored a bill that reduce minimum sentences for drug offenses.

So now that the History Channel has granted Grassley his wish and is broadcasting this extraordinarily important history, it’s our job to make sure he and everyone likes him sits down and watches it. That this series exists at all shows that we’re at a tipping point with this brazen, catastrophic lie. We have to push hard enough to knock it over.


Transfer of German troops from Incirlik to Jordan to start in July

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has told German media that Bundeswehr troops will begin pulling out from a Turkish air base in July. The move comes amid strained relations between the two NATO allies.

June 18, 2017


The withdrawal of German troop from the Turkish air base in Incirlik to  new  base in Jordan is expected to take around three months, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told German media on Sunday.

“Until the end of June, our flight plans as part of the anti-“Islamic State” coalition are set,” she was quoted of saying in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “After that, we’ll be transferring our tanker aircraft as quickly as possible to Jordan.”

Germany has more than 250 military personnel stationed at Incirlik who fly Tornado surveillance missions over Syria and refueling flights for partner nations in the coali

Von der Leyen also warned that the transfer will temporarily put the Bundeswehr’s mission in the Middle East on hold. However, troops would be ready to be deployed from the new base in Jordan by around mid-July, she added.

Moving heavy artillery, such as Tornado surveillance aircraft and the required technology will take longer. “Starting from October, the reconnaissance Tornados will start flying again, according to our timetable,” von der Leyen said.

Most important was keeping the transition phase in which planes will be unable to fly as short as possible, as well as the security of the troops, she added.

Strained relations between NATO ally

The decision to pull out of the Turkish base at Incirlik comes on the back of difficult diplomatic relations between NATO members Germany and Turkey.

Last month, Ankara blocked a German parliamentary delegation from visiting Bundeswehr troops the base, marking the second time that Turkey had done so. Turkish officials said their decision was a response to Germany granting asylum to Turkish military personnel accused of participating in a failed coup last year – a move that reportedly enraged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

While there are fears that the dispute could have damaging implications for NATO, the organization maintains that it will have no bearing on the alliance’s military activities.


New US Russia sanctions bill riles Germany and Austria

June 16, 2017

BBC News

Germany and Austria have sharply criticised the US Senate for tightening sanctions on Russia, accusing the US of threatening Europe’s energy supplies.

To become law the US sanctions bill still requires approval by the House of Representatives and the president.

It would mean US sanctions for European firms involved in major Russian oil and gas projects. One such project is Nord Stream 2 – a Baltic gas pipeline.

Russia is under Western sanctions over its role in the Ukraine conflict.

The new US bill is punishment for alleged Russian meddling in the US 2016 presidential election.

In a joint statement, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said Europe’s energy supplies were “a matter for Europe, not for the United States”.

“To threaten companies in Germany, Austria and other European firms with fines in the US if they take part in or finance energy projects like Nord Stream 2 represents a new and negative dimension to US-European relations,” they added.

They said the sanctions were clearly about US liquefied natural gas exports, US jobs and squeezing Russia out of the European market.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of energy giant ExxonMobil, voiced concern about the new sanctions. He said he wanted to maintain “flexibility” with Russia, to keep channels open for dialogue.

‘Joint approach undermined’

German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries joined in the criticism on Friday and warned of possible retaliation if Washington ended up fining German companies.

“I regret that the joint approach of Europe and the United States on Russia and sanctions has been undermined and abandoned in this way,” she told Reuters news agency.

Nord Stream 2 is a controversial project to boost Russian gas deliveries to Central and Western Europe. Russian state energy giant Gazprom already supplies about one-third of the region’s gas.

As with Russia’s existing Nord Stream pipeline, the route bypasses not only Ukraine but also the Baltic states and Poland. Those countries all oppose the project.

In April, Western partners of Gazprom agreed on financing the €9.5bn (£8bn; $10.6bn) construction of the undersea pipeline.

German ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is chairman of the board of Nord Stream AG, the subsidiary of Gazprom that is in charge of the project.

Gazprom is financing half the cost of the pipeline, which is due to start delivering gas directly to Germany in 2019.

German firms BASF and Wintershall, Austria’s OMV and Voestalpine, and Royal Dutch Shell are involved in the project.

Mr Gabriel and Mr Kern said thousands of European jobs were at stake, and they voiced support for US state department efforts to amend the new sanctions bill.


‘Germany – unlike Russia – is not sovereign, US largely controls its foreign policy’

June 17, 2017


Russia is one of the few states that has the luxury of being truly sovereign. Germany does not have that luxury, Jim Jatras, former US diplomat, told RT.

Germany and Austria called new anti-Russian sanctions approved by the US Senate on Thursday “unacceptable,” adding that they violate international law and designed to benefit the US oil and gas industry.

Germany threatened to retaliate against the US, if new sanctions against Russia end up harming German interests.

On Friday German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Washington has nothing to do with Europe’s energy policy.

However the sanctions bill has yet to be approved by the House of Representatives, or the president.

RT:  Germany and Austria stand to lose out from these sanctions, which affect oil-and-gas pipeline deals with Russia. Does the US have the right to harm EU countries’ interests, without consulting them?

Jim Jatras: Of course we [US] don’t have that right, but we have that power, and we’ve used it on other matters in the past. I think Angela Merkel has been a complete disaster for Germany and for Europe. So I am finally glad to have something I can agree with her about. This is a terrible piece of legislation, and its fundamental purpose is to tie President Trump hands here at home, contrary to what Secretary [Rex] Tillerson said, so that he does not have what is really his constitutional authority – to conduct foreign affairs. He doesn’t have the ability to reach out and come to some normalization of ties with Moscow, and it seems that some people in the Senate – actually 98 senators – are willing to violate all sorts of principals of international law and comity, and our relationship with our allies in order to achieve what? How does this benefit the US in any way? No way that I can see.

RT:  Could this escalate into a broader dispute between the US and the European Union?

JJ: That is an interesting thing that Mrs. Merkel said she’s going to ‘retaliate.’ It reminds me of what Mr. Putin said the other day – that Russia is one of the few states that has the luxury of being truly sovereign. Germany does not have that luxury. Remember how she folded like a house of cards when she found out that Barack Obama was tapping here cellphone. In fact, Germany is not a fully sovereign state that her foreign policy, her intelligence policy, their institutions are essentially controlled by their American counterparts and their financial sectors are extremely vulnerable to any retaliation from the Americans. What can she do to us, if she doesn’t like this bill? Not much that I see.

RT:  The anti-Russia sanctions were attached to a bill targeting Iran, over its ballistic missile program. So if Donald Trump decides to veto them, he will also be watering down sanctions against Iran. How do you expect President Trump will handle this?

JJ: I don’t know. First of all, there was a little horse trading in the Senate reportedly between the Iran supporters and the Russia-sanctions supporters to come up with something. Remember a lot of the Democrats want to protect Obama’s Iran deal and vice-versa. So I don’t know how that’s going to work. I would hope at least informally there would some outreach from the administration to the leadership in the House of Representatives, saying: “Look, can you just put this thing on ice for a while, let’s see if we can work something out that at least has broader waiver authority so the President still has his constitutional prerogatives.”

Cladding on Grenfell Tower is banned on UK high-rises, says Philip Hammond

Chancellor said inquiry into London blaze will ask if UK fire regulations are correct and whether they were complied with

June 18, 2017

by Andrew Sparrow

The Guardian

The cladding used on Grenfell Tower, which has been widely blamed for spreading the blaze, is banned in the UK on buildings of that height, Philip Hammond has said.

The chancellor told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “My understanding is the cladding in question, this flammable cladding which is banned in Europe and the US, is also banned here.

“So there are two separate questions. One: are our regulations correct, do they permit the right kind of materials and ban the wrong kind of materials? The second question is: were they correctly complied with?

“That will be a subject that the inquiry will look at. It will also be a subject that the criminal investigation will be looking at.”

Hammond said a criminal investigation would examine whether building regulations had been breached when the block was refurbished, while the public inquiry set up by the government would also examine if rules had been broken.

He said it would be up to the inquiry to determine whether the regulations were properly drafted, and whether they were correctly enforced in this case.

Although Hammond said that the material used in the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, containing flammable polyethylene, was “banned” in the UK, a Treasury spokesman said later that what he meant was that it was banned for buildings of a certain height.

Hammond was referring to a statement issued by the department for communities at the end of last week when it was asked to clarify the legal position. It said: “Cladding using a composite aluminum panel with a polyethylene core would be non-compliant with current Building Regulations guidance. This material should not be used as cladding on buildings over 18m in height.”

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said that sprinklers should be installed in high-rise buildings like Grenfell Tower to minimise the chances of such a fire ever happening again.

Pointing out that he had been raising this issue in parliament for years, he told Sky News: “Whatever it costs, we need to get them installed.”

McDonnell said that, if necessary, the constraints on councils that limit what they could borrow should be relaxed to enable them to fund the work.

However, Hammond suggested in his BBC interview that putting sprinklers in tower blocks might not always be necessary.

“If the conclusion of a proper technical evaluation is that [fitting sprinklers] is the best way to deal with the problem, then of course. But my understanding is that the best advice is that retrofitting sprinklers may not always be the best technical way of ensuring fire safety in a building,” he said.

However, the chancellor said ultimately the government would be guided by what the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire recommended.

Ministers would ask for interim recommendations from the inquiry relatively soon, instead of waiting several years for a final report before taking action, he said. “If there is something that needs to be done to make buildings safe, then it will be done.

“The commitment that government should make, and I will make it now, is that when the inquiry produces its findings – and I don’t mean in years’ time, because we are going to ask them to produce interim findings – we will act on them.”

When it was put to him that the government had ignored a call to review building regulations relating to fire safety made by the coroner four years ago following the Lakanal House fire, Hammond said he did not accept that.

Pointing out that research and consultation had been commissioned, he said: “My assessment is that we have responded correctly and appropriately to those recommendations.”

But, ultimately, the public inquiry would decide whether the government had responded properly to the coroner’s recommendations, Hammond said.

With a weakened leader and reeling from crisis, Britain hurtles into the Brexit unknown

June 18, 2017

by Guy Faulconbridge


LONDON-With her strategy unclear and her position insecure, Prime Minister Theresa May plunges this week into tortuous divorce talks with the European Union that will shape Britain’s prosperity and global influence for generations to come.

At one of the most important junctures for Europe and the West since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, May’s government is reeling from a crisis of her own making – the loss of her parliamentary majority in a June 8 snap election she did not need to call.

Such is the collapse of May’s authority that her entire Brexit strategy is being picked apart in public by her ministers, her lawmakers and her allies on the eve of formal negotiations which begin in Brussels on Monday at 0900 GMT.

Despite signals from both France and Germany last week that Britain would still be welcome to stay if it changed its mind, Brexit minister David Davis insisted on Sunday there would be no turning back.

“As I head to Brussels to open official talks to leave the EU, there should be no doubt — we are leaving the European Union,” said Davis, who will launch the talks with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier.

“Now, the hard work begins. We must secure a deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom, and enables us to become a truly global Britain.”

Britain has less than two years to negotiate the terms of the divorce and the outlines of the future relationship before it is due to leave in late March 2019. Both sides need an agreement to keep trade flowing between the world’s biggest trading bloc and the fifth largest global economy.

But the other 27 members of the EU combined have about five times the economic might of Britain. They also have a strong incentive to deny the UK a deal so attractive it might encourage others to follow the British example.

With May still hammering out the details of a post-election deal to stay in power with the support of a small Northern Irish party, there are fears of a disorderly exit that would weaken the West, imperil Britain’s $2.5 trillion economy and undermine London’s position as the only financial center to rival New York.

Compounding the pressures on the British leader, she has been widely accused of failing to show enough empathy with victims of a horrific tower block fire in London last week.

One European diplomat in London said the political upheaval was such that it was difficult to know what to write back to his capital, pouring scorn on May’s campaign slogan of ‘strong and stable leadership’.

“What can you say of meaning about such chaos?” the diplomat asked. “I suppose it isn’t quite a strong and stable Brexit yet.”


Leaving the European Union was once far-fetched: only 15 years ago, British leaders were arguing about when to join the euro, and talk of an EU exit was the reserve of a motley crew of skeptics on the fringes of both major parties.

But the turmoil of the euro zone crisis, fears in Britain about immigration and a series of miscalculations by former Prime Minister David Cameron prompted Britain to vote by 52 to 48 percent for Brexit in a June 23 referendum last year.

Leaving the EU – the biggest blow since World War Two to European efforts at forging unity – is now the official consensus of both the Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party.

Amid such upheaval, though, there is little agreement on what kind of Brexit May should try for – even assuming she can hold onto her job.

“The United Kingdom’s political tectonic plates are moving at the very moment when we are negotiating Brexit,” said Anand Menon, professor of politics at King’s College London.

Before the election, May proposed a clean break from the EU: leaving its single market, which enshrines free movement of people, goods, services and capital, and proposing limits on immigration and a bespoke customs deal with the EU.

Opponents describe that as a “hard Brexit”. They argue instead for a “soft” version, prioritizing some form of continued access to the single market in order to minimize economic damage.

While European leaders try to gauge what to expect from Britain, May is so weakened that her own finance minister and the partners on whom she will rely for her majority, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, are giving her public guidance

“My clear view, and I believe the view of the majority of people in Britain, is that we should prioritize protecting jobs, protecting economic growth, protecting prosperity as we enter those negotiations,” finance minister Philip Hammond said.

While Britain’s economy has shown unexpected resilience since the Brexit vote, there are signs of weakness. Business leaders say the uncertainty means they are having to plan on the assumption that Britain leaves without a proper deal.

“Everything is all over the place,” said a senior executive responsible for Brexit preparations at a FTSE 100 company. “It’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast at the moment because there is a lot of maneuvering and a lot of moving parts.”

Brexiteers accept there is likely to be some short-term economic pain but say Britain will thrive in the longer term if cut loose from what they see as a doomed experiment in German-dominated unity and excessive debt-funded welfare spending.

Opponents of Brexit fear that ditching a 60-year strategy of trying to hedge European integration with a special relationship with Washington or a brittle Commonwealth of former colonies would undermine what remains of Britain’s global influence.

The first issue at the Brussels talks will be the status of millions of EU citizens living in the United Kingdom and British residents of the other 27 countries, including their right to stay, to work, and to access medical care.

The extent of Britain’s exit bill needs to be decided, with the EU27 expected to seek tens of billions of euros they see as London’s fair share of programs to which it has committed.

The situation in Ireland – where the only land border between the EU and United Kingdom will lie – will also be discussed.

May wants to negotiate the divorce and the future trading relationship before Britain leaves, followed by what she calls a phased implementation process to give business time to prepare for the impact of Brexit.

The EU wants to deal with the first phase of divorce talks before moving on next year to discuss trade, though EU officials acknowledge that the agreements to be reached before Britain leaves can only be concluded as a whole package simultaneously.

Three days after the talks begin, May is due to travel to Brussels for an EU summit – a chance for the other 27 leaders to take stock of their negotiating partner in the sharply altered climate brought about by the dramas of the past two weeks.

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

 French Parliamentary Elections: What to Watch For

June 18, 2017

by Aurelien Breeden

The New York Times

French voters are going to the polls on Sunday for the second round of important parliamentary elections, one week after President Emmanuel Macron’s party dealt a blow to traditional establishment parties by gaining a commanding lead in the first round.

Mr. Macron’s party, La République en Marche (The Republic on the Move), is on track to win an outright majority of seats, which would put the 39-year-old president in a strong position to enact his pro-business agenda.

But overall the turnout was lower than in past legislative elections. At 5 p.m. local time, it was 35.33 percent, according to the Interior Ministry.

Here is what else you need to know, and what to look for when polls close at 6 p.m. in much of the country, and as late as 8 p.m. in bigger cities.

Over 1,000 candidates, 577 seats

The National Assembly, France’s lower house of Parliament, has 577 seats, each representing a district. Although more than 7,800 candidates vied for those seats in the first round, only two candidates — three in one case — are left in each district in this round.

In a given district, whichever candidate gets the majority of votes on Sunday wins the seat. (Fun fact: If two candidates are tied in the number of votes, the older person wins.) Representatives in the National Assembly are elected for five-year terms.

Pollsters will publish their first projections of how many seats each party has won when all of the polls are closed.

Official results will be published throughout the evening on the Interior Ministry website

What is at stake?

The National Assembly is the more powerful of France’s two houses of Parliament (the other is the Senate), and it has the final word in passing legislation. Mr. Macron needs a majority to push through his agenda, which includes an overhaul of labor laws, changes in the pension and tax systems, an ambitious ethics bill, and a controversial legalization of security measures currently possible only under the state of emergency.

Since 2002, when the timing of legislative elections was changed so that they directly followed the presidential elections, the ballot has served as confirmation of the president’s victory, reliably sending a majority of representatives of the president’s party to Parliament.

Analysts and pundits had questioned Mr. Macron’s ability to do the same with his newly formed and still inexperienced party, La République en Marche.

But after a strong showing in the first round by the party and its centrist ally, the Mouvement Démocrate, when they gathered about 32 percent of the vote, polls predict that they will secure upward of 400 seats — much more than the 289 needed for a majority.

The importance of turnout

Turnout in the first round was the lowest for legislative elections in France’s modern history. Only about 49 percent of those registered to vote went to the polls, leading some to question the legitimacy, if not the efficacy, of a National Assembly dominated by Mr. Macron’s party.

The turnout on Sunday was far lower than the turnout in 2012 (46.42 percent) and in 2007 (49.58 percent).

A higher turnout would give La République en Marche a stronger mandate in the National Assembly. But it appears that voters opposed to Mr. Macron are discouraged enough to stay home, or that even those favorable to him think the results are a foregone conclusion.

If the polls are correct in predicting a majority for his party, analysts worry that Mr. Macron will have little incentive to compromise with opposition parties or to build coalitions around certain bills. In the absence of that kind of parliamentary debate, anger from those opposed to certain legislation could spur street protests.

Established parties’ influence under threat

The traditional parties that have governed much of France’s political life for the past 50 years — the Socialists on the left and the Republicans (or their predecessors) on the right — have struggled to compete with Mr. Macron’s message of political renewal. The Socialists are expected to save only a couple of dozen seats among the nearly 300 they currently hold.

What will become of Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon?

Ms. Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Front and Mr. Macron’s runoff opponent, is running for a seat in Hénin-Beaumont in northern France. Mr. Mélenchon, the leader of the far-left France Unbowed movement, is running in Marseille, on the Mediterranean coast.

Even though both leaders have good chances of being elected, their parties, especially the National Front, failed to capitalize on their showings in the presidential election, and they may win only a few seats each.

The number of female representatives elected

A record number of women are well positioned to be elected on Sunday, many of them candidates for La République en Marche, which was one of the only parties to field more women than men.

Under French law, parties that do not field at least 50 percent female candidates in the legislative elections are fined. Some parties have fielded female candidates in districts that are hard to win anyway to reach the threshold, or they have preferred to pay the fines and not field the minimum number of women.

Can France liberalize pensions and labor under Macron?

The French people have consistently opposed any liberalization of the labor market. Now, President Emmanuel Macron wants to do exactly that to, he says, combat unemployment. Trade unions have already called for protests.

by Andreas Noll

June 17, 2016


A few weeks after taking office in 1995, French Prime Minister Alain Juppe still had a relatively good approval rating. Immediately after his appointment by new President Jacques Chirac, the prime minister threw himself into what he called his “battle for more jobs.”

But France’s government did not have much money to spread around. Public finances were in the red. With about 3 million people unemployed at the time – and, therefore, fewer and fewer people paying into the system – the deficit was increasing by the day.

Juppe had a plan. He wanted to raise the pension age for public sector employees and completely reorganize the social security system. Experts describe it as the biggest change since the safety net was strung in 1945. And the prime minister had the French Democratic Confederation of Labor, a major conglomeration of trade unions, on his side.

Within a few weeks, though, the wind changed. Several trade unions organized a general strike, and a large part of the population joined in. For three agonizingly long weeks, hardly any trains ran across the country. Mail went undelivered. There was no organized street cleaning or garbage pickup; the military was deployed to establish a bare minimum of emergency support. Juppe ended up caving in to popular protest over his core plans for pension reform.

‘Very emotional fears’

This is an issue that could affect new French president Emmanuel Macron and his government. When Juppe was pursing his agenda in late 1995 and early 1996, Macron was about to take his high school exit exams. In the spring on 2006, when another government backed down over key reform proposals, he was just starting his career as a civil servant. In 2006, following nationwide student protests, the conservative prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, scrapped new labor market legislation, even though it had already been passed by parliament.

These plans failed not just because of lack of willingness on the part of the French people, but also because the government failed to communicate with them properly. “The French have high expectations of the state, for it to fulfill its protective function with regard to social welfare,” said Julie Hamann, a political scientist at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. “As soon as reforms are announced that may lead to cuts in social services or labor market insecurity, this very quickly gives rise to very great and very emotional fears.”

Nonetheless, Macron and his government have declared far-reaching changes a priority. Over the next 18 months, the government wants to implement six comprehensive social reforms – even in the face of resistance from radical trade unions, who have called on people to join the first protest rallies next Monday. Hamann, who is researching protest movements in France, believes that there is, however, an opportunity for a reform agenda. “There is an awareness in France generally, including among the unions, that reforms are necessary. And there’s also a willingness to carry out these reforms,” she said. Macron has no need to fear crippling resistance from his own ranks, the kind that paralyzed the previous, Socialist administration. After this Sunday’s elections, the president can expect to have a majority in parliament in favor of reform.

Power shifts in the unions

A shift in the general mentality after over 20 years of failed attempts at liberalization is not the only thing playing into the government’s hands. Power shifts within the unions should also make negotiations easier. The radical CGT, which for decades was the strongest union in France, has lost a lot of its influence over moderate workers’ representatives. This camp is prepared, in principle, to reach an agreement with the government. In addition, the president is able to say he has a “mandate for reform,” as he announced widespread cuts in his election campaign.

Hamann said communication would be essential for the agenda to succeed. A power struggle openly conducted on the street must not become the dominant image. “The key will be how the government and President Macron communicate with the various partners in society, and also with the general population,” Hamann said.

Macron’s prime minister, Edouard Philippe, can learn from Juppe’s experience when he prepares for his own negotiations with the unions. Juppe initially pursued a hard line against the demonstrators in the 1995 protests. As a result, the government first lost its authority and then its grip on power.

Trump administration: Sheriff David Clarke withdraws from homeland security post

Controversial Wisconsin sheriff does not now want to be considered for homeland security assistant secretary position

June 17, 2017

by Pádraig Collins

The Guardian

David Clarke, the controversial sheriff and self-described “Trumpster”, has removed himself from consideration for a senior position at the department of homeland security.

Clarke, who is the Milwaukee, Wisconsin county sheriff, was expected to become assistant secretary at homeland security by the end of June.

But Craig Peterson, an adviser to Clarke, told the Washington Post that Clarke “formally notified secretary of homeland security John F Kelly that he had rescinded his acceptance of the agency’s offer to join DHS”.

“Sheriff Clarke is 100% committed to the success of President Trump and believes his skills could be better utilised to promote the president’s agenda in a more aggressive role.”

Significant delays to his appointment reportedly contributed to Clarke’s withdrawal.

Clarke strongly backed Donald Trump during the US presidential election and compared Black Lives Matter to the Ku Klux Klan. He said black Americans sell drugs “because they’re uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt”.

At Trump’s inauguration celebrations in January, Clarke told a crowd the only time he would reach across the aisle to work with liberals would be to “grab one of them by the throat”.

“I play smash-mouth politics,” he told the Guardian in March. “Politics is a contact sport. I didn’t create the rules. It’s hit or be hit. I understand the environment. People are trying to slit my throat politically and personally, so you better be ready when they come after you.”

Clarke has been criticised for alleged neglect in his law enforcement position following the deaths of four inmates at the Milwaukee County jail in the past year. One of the deaths, in which a 38-year-old with bipolar disorder died of dehydration after his water supply had been shut off for six days in response to his erratic behavior, was ruled a homicide.

Clarke called the storm over the jail deaths a “manufactured issue. This is a disguised political attack. Four deaths in a jail, yeah, OK, there were four deaths in a jail, not connected in any way. People die in hospitals, people die in nursing homes, people die – doesn’t mean we had anything to do with it.”

Trump met Clarke on Tuesday, Peterson says, and they discussed other roles in which he could support the president.

“The sheriff is reviewing options inside and outside of government,” Peterson said. “Sheriff Clarke told secretary Kelly he is very appreciative of the tremendous opportunity the secretary was offering, and expressed his support for the secretary and the agency.”


Iraq troops push into last ‘Islamic State’ bastion in Mosul

The Iraqi army, special forces, and the police, have launched a joint assault on Mosul’s Old City, the last foothold of the “Islamic State” (IS) militia. Up to 150,000 civilians are reportedly trapped by fighting.

June 18, 2017


Pro-Baghdad troops started storming the historic Mosul quarter at dawn Sunday, in what is expected to be the final stage of a months-long battle to oust IS from their last urban stronghold in Iraq.

Special forces commander Abdel Ghani al-Asadi told Iraqi state TV he expected a “vicious and tough fight.”

“This is the last chapter” in the offensive against the extremists, he added.

Mosul has been controlled by IS since 2014, with the US-backed Iraqi forces launching a battle to retake it last October. The assault has since managed to push the militia out from eastern parts of the city, but they still control the crowded Old City.

Up to 150,000 people were trapped in the town quarter in “desperate” conditions, with little food and no clean water, UN humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande told the Associated Press news agency.

Some 862,000 people have been displaced from Mosul over the last eight months, although 195,000 have since returned, mainly to the liberated east of the city.

At the height of its power, the group controlled vast swathes of land from Iraq’s second city, which served as the militia’s capital in the war-torn country. It has since lost most of its territory and was forced out of all Iraqi cities except Mosul. The militia still controls Raqqa in Syria.


The war after Isis’: has Trump opened the door to conflict with Iran?

As US forces strike Syrian militias backed by Tehran, many fear delegation to the Pentagon and the looming defeat of the Islamic State could fuel a fiercer fire

June 18, 2017

Julian Borger

The Guardian

Washington-US forces have opened fire on Iranian-backed forces in Syria three times in the past month, amid mounting tensions that observers and former officials worry could easily turn into an unplanned, spiralling conflict.

The three recent incidents took place at al-Tanf, a remote desert outpost near the point where the Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian borders meet. There, a 150-strong force of US soldiers who are training local fighters to take on the Islamic State (Isis) was approached by convoys of militias fighting for the Assad regime. They responded with air strikes.

The encroaching forces seem to have been a mix of Syrian and Iraqi Shia militias, possibly accompanied by their chief sponsor, Iran’s Islamic revolutionary guard corps (IRGC).

Certainly the IGRC was not concerned about hiding its fingerprints. The commander of its Quds force, Qassem Soleimani, had himself photographed with militia forces nearby and a drone shot down by US forces after it had dropped a bomb near them turned out to be Iranian-made.

The string of incidents has illustrated how the eastern Syrian desert is becoming an arena for confrontation between the US and Iran, a potential flashpoint alongside Yemen, where Washington and Iran back opposing forces in a two-year war, and the Gulf around the Strait of Hormuz.

Last Wednesday an Iranian navy vessel came within 800 yards of a US flotilla traveling through the strait, shining spotlights on the US ships and pointing a laser at a helicopter in an encounter US military officials described as unprofessional and dangerous.

Such encounters are not new in the busy Hormuz waterway, but the context for them is. There is a new administration in Washington that is in many ways chaotic, but is united on a desire to push back Iranian influence in the region. Internal opinion differs mainly on the degree of force and risk required.

High-level contacts established between Washington and Tehran by the Obama administration have been cut off. From the White House, Donald Trump has maintained the fervently anti-Iranian rhetoric of his campaign. He made the first foreign trip of his presidency to Saudi Arabia, siding unambiguously with Riyadh in its rivalry with Tehran.

Trump has portrayed Iranian influence as a global threat on a par with Isis and al-Qaida. When Tehran suffered a terrorism attack on 7 June, the US president implied that the Iranian government was ultimately to blame.

“We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote,” he said in a White House statement.

Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council, this month published a book, Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.

By going to Saudi Arabia and declaring there was going to be an all-out isolation of Iran,” he said “… not only did Trump close the window for an all-inclusive dialogue, but he also opened up a window for a potential war with Iran.

“There is no debate in the country about this. It may have the appearance of being accidental but if you’re following it closely you see it is a very deliberate escalation.”

Trump has not delivered on his campaign threat to dismantle the nuclear deal with Iran agreed by the Obama administration and five other major powers in July 2015, but he has continued to pour contempt on it while Republicans in Congress have pushed for new sanctions that would put the agreement’s survival in jeopardy.

“Three of the most dangerous places on earth today are in Yemen, the area between eastern Syria and western Iraq and the halls of the US Congress,” said Robert Malley, a senior Obama White House official who helped negotiate the nuclear deal.

“At this point what I’m hearing from the Iranians is they are determined to play it cool, not overreact to what the US does, and show they are the ones who are being fully compliant. At some point, it may well be the supreme leader decides: ‘We are going to do something.’”

The Trump administration says it is still reviewing Iran policy but secretary of state Rex Tillerson told the Senate last week the US would “work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition”.

‘You can see it all going haywire’

The emphasis was on peaceful change but to Iranian government ears, that sounded like a reversion to the spirit of regime change of the Bush era and even more distant memories, of a CIA-engineered coup in 1953. Tillerson’s counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted back a jab about the shadow of the Russia investigations hanging over the Trump presidency: “For their own sake, US officials should worry more about saving their own regime than changing Iran’s, where 75% of people just voted.”

There is growing concern among US allies in Europe that the Trump administration has struck a posture towards Iran before deciding on a strategy for addressing its influence in the region, and anxiety that such posturing could become louder and more dangerous as Trump feels hemmed in by investigations into his campaign’s Russia links.

Not all the increasing tension is of Trump’s making, however. The evolving battlefield in Syria and Iraq is drawing Iran and US towards a collision. A tacit understanding based on mutual non-aggression during the campaign against a common enemy, Isis, is expected to fray once Isis strongholds in Mosul and Raqqa have fallen.

“As Isis disappears off the map,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former state and defense official, “this tolerance that Shia Iranian-supported groups and American-supported groups have shown for each other – there is a danger that will that will go away. You can see it all going haywire pretty quickly.”

Jennifer Cafarella, an expert on the conflict at the Institute for the Study of War, said: “The larger picture here is the war after Isis, the war to dominate the security sphere after the recapture of Mosul. Iran is already preparing for that next phase and has begun to take steps to win that next phase. The US is still fixated on It is as if it’s the only strategic priority in the region.”

The US decision to open a new counter-Isis front in the south-eastern Syrian desert, and set up an outpost at al-Tanf, is a challenge to Iranian aspirations to control an east-west corridor from Tehran to Damascus to Lebanon. That corridor would run through al-Tanf.

“It looks as if the Iranians, Assad, the Iranian-mobilised Iraqi militias have made a determination that they will not allow the US to have free rein to gain more territory in the Syrian desert,” said Nicholas Heras, an expert on the region at the Centre for a New American Security.

So far, the US has bolstered its position in the area by deploying a Himars mobile rocket system. But it is unclear how far the US will go to keep control. Defense secretary James Mattis was a hawk on Iran as a general, when his troops came under sustained attack from Iranian proxies in Iraq. In his new role, however, he has prioritised the struggle with Isis and the looming threat of North Korea. Foreign Policy reported on Saturday that Mattis had resisted pressure from White House officials to go on the offensive against Iranian-backed forces in southern Syria.

Such decisions, like the setting of troop levels in Afghanistan, have been delegated to the Pentagon. In the absence of an overall strategy from the White House, some worry that tactical decisions could lead to an unintended wider conflict.

“It is my understanding,” Goldenberg said, “from talking to people in the US government who are working these issues, that there is not much substantive material or deliberation on any of this, which is a huge problem. That’s the thing that scares me.”


We are watching everyone!

June 18, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD


There is still one technology preventing untrammeled government access to private digital data: strong encryption. Anyone—from terrorists and weapons dealers to corporations, financial institutions, and ordinary email senders—can use it to seal their messages, plans, photos, and documents in hardened data shells. For years, one of the hardest shells has been the Advanced Encryption Standard, one of several algorithms used by much of the world to encrypt data. Available in three different strengths—128 bits, 192 bits, and 256 bits—it’s incorporated in most commercial email programs and web browsers and is considered so strong that the NSA has even approved its use for top-secret US government communications. Most experts say that a so-called brute-force computer attack on the algorithm—trying one combination after another to unlock the encryption—would likely take longer than the age of the universe. For a 128-bit cipher, the number of trial-and-error attempts would be 340 undecillion (1036).

Breaking into those complex mathematical shells like the AES is one of the key reasons for the construction going on in Bluffdale. That kind of cryptanalysis requires two major ingredients: super-fast computers to conduct brute-force attacks on encrypted messages and a massive number of those messages for the computers to analyze. The more messages from a given target, the more likely it is for the computers to detect telltale patterns, and Bluffdale will be able to hold a great many messages. “We questioned it one time,” says another source, a senior intelligence manager who was also involved with the planning. “Why were we building this NSA facility? And, boy, they rolled out all the old guys—the crypto guys.” According to the official, these experts told then-director of national intelligence Dennis Blair, “You’ve got to build this thing because we just don’t have the capability of doing the code-breaking.” It was a candid admission. In the long war between the code breakers and the code makers—the tens of thousands of cryptographers in the worldwide computer security industry—the code breakers were admitting defeat.

So the agency had one major ingredient—a massive data storage facility—under way. Meanwhile, across the country in Tennessee, the government was working in utmost secrecy on the other vital element: the most powerful computer the world has ever known.

The plan was launched in 2004 as a modern-day Manhattan Project. Dubbed the High Productivity Computing Systems program, its goal was to advance computer speed a thousandfold, creating a machine that could execute a quadrillion (1015) operations a second, known as a petaflop—the computer equivalent of breaking the land speed record. And as with the Manhattan Project, the venue chosen for the supercomputing program was the town of Oak Ridge in eastern Tennessee, a rural area where sharp ridges give way to low, scattered hills, and the southwestward-flowing Clinch River bends sharply to the southeast. About 25 miles from Knoxville, it is the “secret city” where uranium- 235 was extracted for the first atomic bomb. A sign near the exit read: WHAT YOU SEE HERE, WHAT YOU DO HERE, WHAT YOU HEAR HERE, WHEN YOU LEAVE HERE, LET IT STAY HERE. Today, not far from where that sign stood, Oak Ridge is home to the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and it’s engaged in a new secret war. But this time, instead of a bomb of almost unimaginable power, the weapon is a computer of almost unimaginable speed.

In 2004, as part of the supercomputing program, the Department of Energy established its Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility for multiple agencies to join forces on the project. But in reality there would be two tracks, one unclassified, in which all of the scientific work would be public, and another top-secret, in which the NSA could pursue its own computer covertly. “For our purposes, they had to create a separate facility,” says a former senior NSA computer expert who worked on the project and is still associated with the agency. (He is one of three sources who described the program.) It was an expensive undertaking, but one the NSA was desperate to launch.

Known as the Multiprogram Research Facility, or Building 5300, the $41 million, five-story, 214,000-square-foot structure was built on a plot of land on the lab’s East Campus and completed in 2006. Behind the brick walls and green-tinted windows, 318 scientists, computer engineers, and other staff work in secret on the cryptanalytic applications of high-speed computing and other classified projects. The supercomputer center was named in honor of George R. Cotter, the NSA’s now-retired chief scientist and head of its information technology program. Not that you’d know it. “There’s no sign on the door,” says the ex-NSA computer expert.

At the DOE’s unclassified center at Oak Ridge, work progressed at a furious pace, although it was a one-way street when it came to cooperation with the closemouthed people in Building 5300. Nevertheless, the unclassified team had its Cray XT4 supercomputer upgraded to a warehouse-sized XT5. Named Jaguar for its speed, it clocked in at 1.75 petaflops, officially becoming the world’s fastest computer in 2009.

Meanwhile, over in Building 5300, the NSA succeeded in building an even faster supercomputer. “They made a big breakthrough,” says another former senior intelligence official, who helped oversee the program. The NSA’s machine was likely similar to the unclassified Jaguar, but it was much faster out of the gate, modified specifically for cryptanalysis and targeted against one or more specific algorithms, like the AES. In other words, they were moving from the research and development phase to actually attacking extremely difficult encryption systems. The code-breaking effort was up and running.

The breakthrough was enormous, and soon afterward the agency pulled the shade down tight on the project, even within the intelligence community and Congress. “Only the chairman and vice chairman and the two staff directors of each intelligence committee were told about it,” he says. The reason? “They were thinking that this computing breakthrough was going to give them the ability to crack current public encryption.”

In addition to giving the NSA access to a tremendous amount of Americans’ personal data, such an advance would also open a window on a trove of foreign secrets. While today most sensitive communications use the strongest encryption, much of the older data stored by the NSA, including a great deal of what will be transferred to Bluffdale once the center is complete, is encrypted with more vulnerable ciphers. “Remember,” says the former intelligence official, “a lot of foreign government stuff we’ve never been able to break is 128 or less. Break all that and you’ll find out a lot more of what you didn’t know—stuff we’ve already stored—so there’s an enormous amount of information still in there.”

That is where the value of Bluffdale, and its mountains of long-stored data, will come in. What can’t be broken today may be broken tomorrow. “Then you can see what they were saying in the past,” he says. “By extrapolating the way they did business, it gives us an indication of how they may do things now.” The danger, the former official says, is that it’s not only foreign government information that is locked in weaker algorithms, it’s also a great deal of personal domestic communications, such as Americans’ email intercepted by the NSA in the past decade.

But first the supercomputer must break the encryption, and to do that, speed is everything. The faster the computer, the faster it can break codes. The Data Encryption Standard, the 56-bit predecessor to the AES, debuted in 1976 and lasted about 25 years. The AES made its first appearance in 2001 and is expected to remain strong and durable for at least a decade. But if the NSA has secretly built a computer that is considerably faster than machines in the unclassified arena, then the agency has a chance of breaking the AES in a much shorter time. And with Bluffdale in operation, the NSA will have the luxury of storing an ever-expanding archive of intercepts until that breakthrough comes along.

But despite its progress, the agency has not finished building at Oak Ridge, nor is it satisfied with breaking the petaflop barrier. Its next goal is to reach exaflop speed, one quintillion (1018) operations a second, and eventually zettaflop (1021) and yottaflop

NSA headquarters are at Fort George G. Meade, MD, 20755, area code 410. Soon, NSA will have a big branch in San Antonio in property owned by Corporate Office Properties Trust, an NYSE-listed REIT which has much space occupied by government tenants. The address supposedly is 8611 W Military Dr, San Antonio, Baxter County, TX 78245-0014. On 10 June 2007, this adress is parcel 919045105100; owner SONY ELECTRONICS INC, ANTHONY M DANELLA – TAX DIR, ONE SONY DR, PARK RIDGE, NJ 76568; premises address 8611 W MILITARY DR; legal description SONY SEMICONDUCTOR CO, 008611 00, MILITARY DR W, FURN FIXT EQPT, VEH SUP, 91904-510-5120-F, XREF; reference number 919045105100. On 10 June 2007, the address’s owner is still SONY, according tot eh county assessor’s website. The owner-lessor according to news releases, Corporate Office Properties Trust, does not seem to own proeprty in esactly that name, accoridn to the county assessor’s website on 10 June 2007. This addess is southeast of Sony Place and northwest of the NW I-410 Loop, in northwst Baxter County. The real estate investment company leased the San Antonio site to the Army Corps of Engineers, which handles real estate deals for U.S. government’s intelligence agencies.

Interstate 410 is the beltway around San Antonio. That highway duplexes with Interstate 35 for roughly three miles at the beltway’s northeast.

NSA already (in 2007) has about two thousand employees at Lackland Training Annex (formerly Medina Annex and Medina Base) of Lackland AFB, which is at the southwest edge of San Antonio. That NSA operation is adjacent to the former Medina National Stockpile Site. The Security Forces Center moved to the Annex in November 1997. The Annex is west of Ray Ellison Drive and south of route 90. For estimating driving distance from a street address outside the Annex to a workplace in the Annex, it sometimes may be useful to pretend that the workplace’s street address is 1399 Medina Base Road, Lackland A F B, Bexar County, TX 78236-5325.

Hawaii may become first US state to adopt basic income

June 16, 2017


An unprecedented bill supporting the idea of universal basic income (UBI) has been introduced in the American state of Hawaii.

The bill, titled House Concurrent Resolution 89, was brought by Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee and was passed by both houses of the state legislature in a unanimous vote.

The resolution declares that all the islanders “deserve basic financial security.”

It also orders government offices to weigh the state’s economy and find ways to ensure all families have basic financial security, including an evaluation of different forms of a full or partial universal basic income.

“As innovation and automation and inequality disrupt our economy, we want to make sure that everybody benefits and nobody is left behind. It’s past time that we had a serious talk about not just tweaking our economic policies, but having a new discussion from the ground up about what our values and priorities are,” said Lee as quoted by US online magazine Mother Jones.

According to Lee, the measure is necessary due to Hawaii’s excessive cost of living, which is reportedly the highest in the country, as well as the state’s heavy reliance on low-paid service industry jobs.

The bill reportedly keeps focus on Hawaii’s service-focused economy, vulnerable to any disruptions that might be brought by job-killing tech change, including e-trading and automation of basic service processes.

The idea of a UBI, first proposed in the US by former President Richard Nixon in 1969, is widely debated with critics saying that free money may lead to more lax attitude about work. Moreover, such a program is almost impossible to finance.

At the same time, some experts advocate the system due to potential to improve social welfare programs and diminish unemployment created by automation.

Planning for the future isn’t politically sexy and won’t win anyone an election. But if we do it properly, we will all be much better off for it in the long run,” Lee wrote in a Reddit post.

Representative Scalise’s condition upgraded to ‘serious’ after shooting

June 17, 2017


U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives, showed further improvement days after being shot by a man who opened fire on lawmakers at a baseball practice earlier in the week, his lead surgeon said in a statement on Saturday.

Scalise’s condition was upgraded to “serious,” from “critical” after undergoing another surgery on Saturday, according to a statement from Dr. Jack Sava, the director of trauma at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “He is more responsive and is speaking with his loved ones,” the doctor said.

Scalise, 51, sustained injuries to internal organs, broken bones and severe bleeding after being shot in his left hip early on Wednesday at a baseball field in a suburb of Washington.

Four men, including Scalise, a police officer, a congressional aide and a lobbyist, were shot and wounded when a man identified as James Hodgkinson, opened fire on the lawmakers as they practiced for an annual charity baseball game between Republicans and Democrats.

Sava earlier said the Louisiana congressman had been at “imminent risk of death” when he was first brought into the hospital on Wednesday, and he received many units of transfused blood.

Hodgkinson 66, who was from the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois, died after being shot by police.

(Reporting by Joel Schectman, editing by G Crosse)

 Trump will allow ‘Dreamers’ to stay in the U.S., reversing campaign promise

June 16, 2017

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) The Trump administration is leaving in place a program protecting hundreds of thousands young immigrants from deportation – one that President Donald Trump had pledged to eliminate.

The announcement to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, was made quietly late Thursday. The decision was noted at the bottom of an administration statement announcing the end of another Obama-era immigration program. That program, protecting the immigrant parents of U.S. citizens, was never implemented.

Despite his campaign pledges to eliminate DACA, Trump had repeatedly expressed empathy with program participants, often referred to as “dreamers.” Many arrived in the United States as small children and have little recollection of their birth countries.

The program does not give them residency status, but temporarily protects them from deportation and allows them to work legally.



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