TBR News November 6, 2017

Nov 06 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., November 6, 2017:”One can daily see legions of citizens endlessy babbling into their cellphones. In markets, in cars, in movie theaters, on streets, public transportation, in offices everywhere, a growing dependence on deals with trivia triumphs. Here is a most interesting article on the subject that is well worth reading:

The Latest on Teen Cell Phone Addiction

The Newport Academy

Teen cell phone addiction has become an important issue facing parents. For parents with a teenager, this is not surprising. Have you had frustrating confrontations with your child about their cell phone usage? Probably more than a few.

Cell phone addiction is so common. It’s hard to overcome because using mobile devices is now an endemic part of the modern world.

Understanding Teen Cell Phone Addiction

Cell phone addiction is a modern phenomenon. It puts many traditional assumptions to the test. In the past, addiction meant something different to parents. Parents worried about about cocaine or heroin or nicotine. Today, the addiction landscape has shifted. Teens tethered to their smartphones for seven hours on average each day.

Do you allow your child to watch three to four hours of television every night? Is it healthy to be so occupied by screens? The reality is, no, it’s not. And smartphones are so ubiquitous that managing the behavior is problematic.

Cell Phone Addiction=More Than Talking

Teenage cell phone addiction goes well beyond texting and talking. It includes apps, games, and, in particular, social media. For teens, cell phones have become a way to comment and criticize, approve and admire. They are not always communicating with friends. Often, they are commenting on their activities. They are checking for likes and responses to their own posts.

There’s a biological component to this behavior. The brain reacts to the cell phone as if it were a drug. Studies have shown that both the phone ringing and the alert of a new text cause the brain to release dopamine.

What could be a benefit has descended into an obsession for many teens. Take the smartphone app Snapchat—a photo-sharing service. It boasts that teenagers use the app more than 18 times a day.

Teen Cell Phone Addiction—A Behavioral Disorder

The clinical community defines cell phone addiction as a behavioral disorder. Such a disorder means obsessive use that affects everyday functioning. Like any addiction, once triggered, it can be quite difficult to stop.

Cell phone addiction goes beyond actually using the phone to talk. Talking on cell phones is less common among teens than adults. Teen smartphone addiction includes repetitive, compulsive use of the device for other activities. Such behaviors are perfectly normal in moderation. They become dangerous when tied to an obsessive compulsion.

Regular smartphone use can descend into cell phone addiction. As a result, these behaviors get in the way of being part of the real world.

Signs of Cell Phone Addiction

Does your teen repeat any of the following behaviors over and over again? They could be an indicator of cell phone addiction:

  • Texting with friends and checking for incoming texts
  • Listening to music and watching videos using headphones
  • Checking e-mail and social media accounts
  • Playing single-player video games and interactive multi-player games
  • Worrying about cell phone battery life and access to electrical power.

If you believe smartphone addiction is affecting someone you love, you are not alone. Teen cell phone addiction is a serious issue for the whole family.

A recent poll reveals that 50 percent of teens believe they are addicted to their cell phones.

More than a third of teens try to cut down the amount of time they spend on their mobile devices, but most fail to change.

The symptoms of teen cell phone addiction are contradictory. The teen can’t imagine being without the phone, but they also feel it’s a burden

Teen Cell Phone Addiction Statistics

Here are some statistics on teen mobile use:

  1. 59 percent of parents feel their teens are addicted to their mobile devices
  2. 78 percent of teens check their mobile devices at least hourly
  3. 72 percent of teens feel an urgent need to immediately respond to texts
  4. 44 percent of teens believe they spend too much time on their cell phones
  5. 77 percent of parents feel their teens get distracted by their cell phones. For example, they fail to pay attention to other people at family events
  6. 30 percent of both teens and parents claim to argue about mobile devices and cell phones on a daily basis
  7. 44 percent of teens use their mobile devices at the dinner table.

Mobile devices are the primary information and communication hub for teens. Text messaging is now the most common way that teens communicate.

Given this reality, it’s not surprising that teenagers spend so much time on their cell phones. When does this shift from a preferred form of communication to a possible technology addiction?

Teenage Cell Phone Addiction Takes Kids Out of the Moment

Cell phone addiction drains our attention. Teens’ intense focus on cell phones distracts thew. They are not present in their everyday life. Once cell phone addiction sets in, behaviors can change.

Grades at school can drop and participation in extracurricular activities can diminish. Did you know that 61 percent of kids say smartphone use has had a negative impact on their schoolwork?

The comedian Louis C.K. doesn’t let his children use cell phones. “I think these things are toxic, especially for kids,” he says. “You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not do anything. That’s what the phone is taking away—the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person.”

He does not like the idea of kids being tethered to their phones. It makes people less reflective, less empathetic, and less human

Teen Cell Phone Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Teen cell phone addiction goes hand-in-hand with mental health and substance use issues. For example, anxiety increases when the cell phone is not readily available. Moreover, depression deepens with a lack of human contact.

Look at a recent study on mobile device addiction. The study was done by University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras. It was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

The study surveyed more than 300 university students. The goal is to examine high engagement with the Internet and mobile phones. Do they affect the user’s psychological well-being?

Lleras says, “People who self-described as having really addictive-style behaviors toward the Internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales.”

Teen cell phone addiction is related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Constant cell phone use is a powerful driver for making this condition worse. The cell phone becomes a focus of OCD-oriented behaviors.

Very often, those with OCD need to have things organized in a certain way. Cell phone addiction fosters compulsive behavior pattern. Teens feel the need to use the smartphone all the time.

Teen cell phone addiction means the smartphone is always needed. The cell phone, like a drug, becomes a way to escape stress and reality. It alters the perception of the user and builds a barrier between the addicted teen and the real world.

Cell Phone Addiction and Driving

Driving could be the most dangerous manifestation of teen cell phone addiction. We all know the dangers of driving while texting or talking on the phone.

Unfortunately, teen smartphone addiction increases the chances of this happening. Like any addiction, cell phone addiction leads to recklessness and poor decision-making. When combined with motor vehicles, cell phone use can have frightening outcomes.

Let’s look at the facts about teen cell phone use and driving:

  1. 52 percent of teens talk on a cell phone while driving and 32 percent text while driving
  2. 25 percent of teens respond to at least one text while driving, every single time they drive
  3. 11 teens die every day because they were texting while driving
  4. 21 percent of teen drivers in fatal accidents were distracted by cell phones
  5. 94 percent of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving. 35 percent admit to doing it anyway
  6. Cell phone use reduces the brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent
  7. Distraction is a key factor in 58 percent of crashes involving teen drivers.
  8. Reaction time for a teen using a cell phone is the same as that of a 70-year old not using one, per a University of Utah study
  9. Teen drivers have a 400 percent higher chance than adults of crashing when texting.

The final statistic is based on an analysis of video footage of 1,691 moderate to severe crashes. The crashes were examined six seconds before they occurred. Each crash involved teen drivers and resulted in injury or death.

Typing text messages and talking on the phone reduces a driver’s capability. They can’t direct attention to the road. Teen drivers are even less likely than adults to respond to important traffic events.

Teen cell phone addiction and driving are a deadly combination.

Other Negative Health Consequences of Teen Cell Phone Addiction

There is more than the flood of potential co-occurring disorders outlined above.

Teen smartphone addiction leads to other negative health consequences, including the following:

  • “Text neck”—chronic strain from looking down at a cell phone
  • Eye strain and blurred vision as a result of focusing on a small screen
  • Decreased neural connectivity, leading to poor emotional regulation
  • Poor dietary habits, as junk food is consumed to a greater extent
  • Phantom vibrations of a non-existent cell phone going off. This happens to nine out of 10 cell phone users.

Cell phone addiction is turning more and more teenagers into walking zombies. They are glued to their screens and removed from their lives by their focus on a mobile device.

A teenager addicted to a cell phone craves the next incoming text or social media update. They are more likely to ignore face-to-face interaction. As a result, they fail to communicate with their families.

Teen Cell Phone Addiction Warning Signs

As a consequence, it’s good to know the warning signs of teen cell phone addiction. By being aware of these red flags, you can catch an initial problem before it becomes a serious addiction.

These warning signs include:

  1. A drug-like withdrawal when not allowed to use the cellphone. The effects can include shaking, sweating, headaches, and nausea
  2. Weight loss when eating becomes secondary. Weight gain when the quality of the food eaten nosedives
  3. Insomnia and negative shifts in sleeping patterns
  4. Increased anxiety and misplaced worry connected with the cell phone
  5. Physical isolation from friends and family. Such isolation leads to mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety
  6. Increased aggression in connection to control of the cell phone.

Teenage Cellphone Addiction and Bedtime

The location of a teen’s cell phone when they go to bed could be an indicator of potential cell phone addiction. Teens who keep their smartphones under their pillows or by the bedside are more likely to become cell phone addicts.

Let’s take a look at some recent statistics:

62 percent of teens say they use their cell phones after bedtime

77 percent of teens say they text and tweet messages while in bed

21 percent of teens say they wake up whenever a text comes in

66 percent of teens say it negatively affects their sleep.

There are ways to combat these behaviors at home before seeking professional care.

Stratagems for Responding to Teen Cell Phone Addiction

Without question, treating cell phone addiction is not easy. Some limitations, boundaries, and structure may help.

  • Applying strict data limits reduces cell phone usage.
  • Cell phone providers offer inexpensive, password-activated programs. These programs shut off cell phones at night.
  • Tech timeouts for the family in the evening and on the weekends can help.
  • Try using a “Be Present Box” at the dinner table. Turned-off cell phones stay in the box during family time.
  • Create a cell phone moratorium one day a week, or even one afternoon or evening per week.

If boundaries aren’t working, professional help might be warranted.  By accessing, such help, parents could end up saving the life of their teens. We all want to prevent a tragedy from happening. Successful cell phone addiction treatment is possible.

Teens relearn how to get comfortable without their mobile devices. As a result, they become happier and healthier. Indeed, such teens are more connected to themselves, others, and the world around them.

When a teen loses their cell phone privileges, they often feel and act like it’s the end of the world. Such dramatic responses pass more quickly than you would expect in the majority of cases. Still kids, teens often are unable to make the best choices for themselves.

Cell phone addiction is replaced with healthy alternatives and engaging activities. As a result, teens’ initial negativity fades. The stress of constant connection and comparisons is replaced by calm and even a smile.

Relieved of the cell phone burden, the teen experiences the joys of life like a kid once again. The gift of presence in the real world is the very best present of all.


Table of Contents

  • Gunman kills 26 in rural Texas church during Sunday service
  • Texas church shooting: What we know about alleged gunman Devin Kelley
  • Trump: Year One
  • Donald Trump and the Erosion of American Greatness
  • 2017 ‘very likely’ in top three warmest years on record
  • What Happened in Saudi Arabia Last Night — And How Washington Corruption Enabled It
  • The Trump Administration Is Keeping a U.S. Citizen Secretly Locked Up Without Charges
  • Donna Brazile tells critics of Hillary Clinton revelations to ‘go to hell’
  • The Kennedy Assassination: Facts and Fictions


Gunman kills 26 in rural Texas church during Sunday service

November 5, 2017

by Lisa Maria Garza


SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (Reuters) – A man with an assault rifle killed at least 26 people and wounded 20 in a rural Texas church during Sunday services, adding the name of Sutherland Springs to the litany of American communities shattered by mass shootings.

The massacre, which media reports say was carried out by a man thrown out of the Air Force for assaulting his wife and child, is likely to renew questions about why someone with a history of violence could amass an arsenal of lethal weaponry.

The lone gunman, dressed in black tactical gear and a ballistic vest, drove up to the white-steepled First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and started firing inside. He kept shooting once he entered, killing or wounding victims ranging in age from five to 72 years, police told a news conference.

President Donald Trump told reporters the shooting was due to a “mental health problem” and wasn’t “a guns situation.” He was speaking during an official visit to Japan.

Among the dead was the 14-year-old daughter of church Pastor Frank Pomeroy, the family told several television stations. One couple, Joe and Claryce Holcombe, told the Washington Post they lost eight extended family members, including their pregnant granddaughter-in-law and three of her children.

The gunman was later found dead, apparently of a gunshot wound, after he fled the scene.

“We are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our state’s history,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott told a news conference. “The tragedy of course is worsened by the fact that it occurred in a church, a place of worship.”

About 40 miles (65 km) east of San Antonio in Wilson County, Sutherland Springs has fewer than 400 residents.

“This would never be expected in a little county like (this),” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNN.

A local resident with a rifle fired at the suspect as he left the church. The gunman dropped his Ruger assault weapon and fled in his vehicle, said Freeman Martin, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

A man told San Antonio television station KSAT he was driving near the church when the resident who had opened fire on the gunman approached his truck and urged him to give chase.

“He said that we had to get him (the gunman), and so that’s what I did,” Johnnie Langendorff, the driver of the truck, told KSAT. He added they reached speeds of 95 miles (153 km/h) per hour during the chase, while he was on the phone with emergency dispatchers.

Soon afterward, the suspect crashed the vehicle near the border of a neighboring county and was found dead inside with a cache of weapons. It was not immediately clear if he killed himself or was hit when the resident fired at him outside the church, authorities said.

The suspect’s identity was not disclosed by authorities, but law enforcement officials who asked not to be named said he was Devin Patrick Kelley, described as a white, 26-year-old man, the New York Times and other media reported.

“We don’t think he had any connection to this church,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CNN. “We have no motive.”


The massacre came weeks after a sniper killed 58 people in Las Vegas. It was the deadliest attack in modern U.S. history and rekindled a years-long national debate over whether easy access to firearms was contributing to the trend of mass shootings.

In rural areas like Sutherland Springs, gun ownership is a part of life and the state’s Republican leaders for years have balked at campaigns for gun control, arguing that more firearms among responsible owners make the state safer.

Jeff Forrest, a 36-year-old military veteran who lives a block away from the church, said what sounded like high-caliber, semi-automatic gunfire triggered memories of his four combat deployments with the Marine Corps.

“I was on the porch, I heard 10 rounds go off and then my ears just started ringing,” Forrest said. “I hit the deck and I just lay there.”

To honor the victims, Trump ordered flags on all federal buildings to be flown at half staff.

In Japan during the first leg of a 12-day Asian trip, the president said preliminary reports indicated the shooter was “deranged.”

“This isn’t a guns situation, I mean we could go into it, but it’s a little bit soon to go into it,” Trump said. “But fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise … it would have been much worse. But this is a mental health problem at the highest level.”

The white-painted, one-story church features a small steeple and a single front door. On Sunday, the Lone Star flag of Texas was flying alongside the U.S. flag and a third, unidentified banner.

Inside, there is a small raised platform on which members sang worship songs to guitar music and the pastor delivered a weekly sermon, according to videos posted on YouTube. In one of the clips, a few dozen people, including young children, can be seen sitting in the wooden pews.

It was not clear how many worshipers were inside when Sunday’s shooting occurred.


Online records show a man named Devin Patrick Kelley lived in New Braunfels, Texas, about 35 miles (56 km) north of Sutherland Springs.


Texas church shooting: What we know about alleged gunman Devin Kelley

November 6, 2017


A man identified by local media as Devin Patrick Kelley has gunned down 26 people and injured at least 20 more in an attack on Sutherland Springs Baptist Church, before he was found dead in his car. Here is what we know about the suspected attacker.

Speculation has been rife in the media about the identity of the man behind “the largest mass shooting” in Texas’s history, as described by Governor Greg Abbot. While the police have yet to officially identify the perpetrator, some US media have already come up with the name of Devin Kelley, citing law enforcement sources close to the investigation.

The gunman behind the attack was Devin Patrick Kelley, a resident of New Braunfels, a city near San Antonio, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told local ABC-affiliate KSAT TV. As it appears from his Facebook account, since taken down, he was a fan of guns, with his cover photo showing an assault rifle. Purported screenshots of his FB page, whose authenticity cannot be immediately confirmed, appear to feature an Antifascist Action banner, which sparked speculation online about his ties to the left-wing scene.

Since the screenshot was first circulated, a number of reports in fact-checking media have debunked it as a doctored image spread by right-wing activists. No official information about Kelley’s possible affiliation with any group or political movement has been made available.

A LinkedIn page purportedly belonging to Kelly states that after he graduated from high school in 2009, he joined the US Air Force. CBS reported that Kelley served from 2010 to 2014, when he was dishonorably discharged in May 2014.

After his stint with the US military, Kelly reportedly taught at a summer Bible school. It is unknown if he was religious or not, as a screenshot of his Facebook groups list shows he was a member of at least four groups on atheism.

Kelley was married, with CBS reporting his wife’s name as Danielle Lee Shields.

Kelley was wielding an assault rifle when he went on a shooting rampage in the church, with Freeman Martin, the DPS Regional Director, saying that police discovered “multiple weapons” in his car. However, the Gun Control Act of 1968 explicitly prohibits licensed sellers from selling firearms or ammunition to persons who have “been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions.”

Kelley’s relatives said they were shocked by the attack and could not imagine he was capable of such an atrocity.

“I never in a million years could have believed Devin could be capable of this kind of thing,” Kelley’s uncle Dave Ivey said, as cited by NBC news, calling the massacre of churchgoers a “cowardly action” for which his whole family would have to suffer.

The US Air Force confirmed that Devin Kelley served in the 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told NBC.

Kelley was found guilty of violating Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice twice, for which he was court-martialed in 2012, Stefanek confirmed to AP by email. Article 128 refers to assault “with a dangerous weapon or other means or force” that is “likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.”

Kelley assaulted his wife and their child, Stefanek said. Kelly received a sentence of 12 months confinement and was downgraded to the lowest possible rank, that of a basic airman. He was dishonorably discharged in 2014.

The attacker was wearing all-black tactical gear and a ballistic vest as he opened fire in the Sutherland Springs church. Shortly afterward, he was confronted by a local armed citizen who “grabbed his rifle and engaged” him, Martin said. As the attacker fled, the resident continued to chase after him. Kelley was found dead in his car in Guadalupe County. It is unclear if his death was self-inflicted or he was killed by the citizen.

US President Donald Trump said the Sunday church shooting “isn’t a gun situation” but rather a “mental health problem.” He called the attacker a “very deranged individual” with “a lot of problems over a long period of time.”

“We could go into [gun control policy], but it’s a little bit too soon,” he said. The president cited reports about an unnamed man who confronted the shooter, saying the attack otherwise “would have been much worse.”



Trump: Year One

November 6, 2017

by Justin Raimondo


Well, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do since my last column, but first the question that rises from my lips as I step away from my sick bed is: what happened to all the wars President Trump was supposed to have started? Just before my recent illness the commentariat was filled with predictions of fire and brimstone as Trump called out Kim Jong Un, blustering, braying, and bloviating a mix of insults and warnings of imminent military action. And yet – nothing came of it.

Months after the “crisis” took center stage, it’s all talk, and no action – which is about par for the course with the Trump administration.  Coming on a year into the Trump presidency, that the media still isn’t getting this shows just how dumb these people are: they really believe the noise, or, at least, they want to believe it, as it confirms their low opinion of the President. Pundits whose prejudices are usually in favor of war write pieces like “Can Anyone Stop Trump From, Attacking North Korea?” in which the President is depicted as a malevolent toddler playing with nuclear weapons that could go off at any moment – and yet it hasn’t happened. One can almost feel the disappointment of the Never Trumpers as the earth continues to spin on its axis and Doomsday fails to dawn.

We were told that if Trump decertified Iran compliance with the nuclear deal that the result would certainly be war – so where’s the fireworks? Gee, it looks like “decertification” is a less serious matter than we were led to believe: instead of signaling World War III, it merely meant that a bunch of US Senators would get to strike poses and utter complete nonsense while taking in money from the Israel lobby. Whoop de-doo!!!

And what, pray tell, has happened to the “Russia-gate” hoax? After all the supposedly secret meetings, the cloak-and-dagger, the evidence of “collusion” and hints of “treason” – and now, suddenly, the tables are turned and the very people hurling accusations of “treason” and “collusion” are now exposed as vulnerable to the very same charges. This song-and-dance about “Russian influence” over the 2016 election has been playing on the congressional jukebox for over a year and yet we seen not one iota of evidence that any of it is real: all we’ve got are a few Facebook ads that very few people saw and even fewer were swayed by. And what were these storied ads about, anyway? Not the election, or any candidate – just “divisive” issues like gay rights, race, and immigration, supposedly meant to simply cause “turmoil.” As if this could possibly represent a threat to a free society.

To reiterate: by this point, the Trumpocalypse – which one might visualize as a combination of nuclear winter, global warming, and the opening up of the mouth of Hell – should already have been well underway. And yet nothing of the kind has happened. Why not? Could it be that the hysterical response of the “mainstream” media to Trump’s victory at the polls was way out proportion to the actual threat? Is it possible that a national security Establishment with real policy differences with the President sought to poison his presidency from the beginning?

Despite the attempt to frame Trump as a madman capable of anything – a characterization of Richard Nixon that may have actually benefited the conduct of US foreign policy at the time – the reality is that I doubt he cares about foreign policy issues enough to provoke a real crisis. Before he was threatening Kim Jong Un, he was telling the South Koreans that maybe it’s time to reconsider the US troop presence and that they’ve got to start paying for their own defense. What Trump really cares about is domestic politics: immigration, taxes, and infrastructure. Wait until he gets his hands on the money he plans to spend on new roads, airports, etc.: then you’ll see the President in his element, wasting huge amounts of money on monuments to himself.

There was always the chance that Trump would allow himself to get dragged into yet another Mideastern war, or some conflict with either Russia or China, by our ever-present always-active War Party, as part of his initiation into the presidential club. As if to prove he didn’t really mean all that “America First” “isolationist” guff, and that it was all just talk for the benefit of the rubes. And that is still all too possible,– but it’s not very likely because it’s not his natural inclination. Here is a man who, above all, wants to be liked: starting wars at the drop of a hat seems the wrong road to that goal.

As the one year anniversary of Trump’s triumph approaches, the pathetic remnants of American liberalism still haven’t recognized its meaning, or reconciled themselves to their loss of State power. They dream of impeachment, or even an outright coup: their contempt for the Great American Middle – “the deplorables!” – defines their politics, which, by now, are almost entirely negative: anti-Trump, anti-Russia, anti-bourgeois.

The great hopes many of us had for Trump in the foreign policy realm – at least having a serious discussion about NATO and our Pacific alliances – have not come to fruition, and indeed have been frustrated by the internationalists (of both parties) who have wriggled their way back into the corridors of power. The big problem is that there aren’t enough good personnel, with the right “America First” credentials, to staff Trump’s foreign policy councils. The careerists are all internationalists, whether of the “liberal” variety or the neoconservative type.

On the other hand, while Trump’s more radical foreign policy proposals have been forgotten, or put on the back burner, he’s managed to avoid getting involved in any new conflicts. If Hillary Clinton had won the election, we would almost certainly be deep into a Cuba-missile-crisis type event with the Russians somewhere in eastern Europe.

While Democrats screech that we’re in a state of war with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, President Trump avoided a near head-on collision in Syria and has kept the diplomatic lines open despite the Democrats’ contention that peace with Russia is treasonous. Presidents rarely get credit for not starting World War III. It’s kind of taken for granted: but in today’s world it shouldn’t be. It’s to Trump’s credit that he hasn’t allowed himself to get pushed into a “crisis” with the Russians – at least not yet.

In any case, Trump is neither monster nor savior, and that is surely evident on this first anniversary of the Trump victory. Like with all successful demagogues, people see what they want to see in Trump. And that goes for his enemies as well as his friends. The former see a world-destroying Devil, while the latter thought he might restore the slogan and policy of “America First” in its original meaning. At the end of Year One, we can say that neither extreme has been observed or achieved.


Donald Trump and the Erosion of American Greatness

Some say Donald Trump’s presidency does not present an existential threat to the American Republic. But after a year of MAGA, it has become clear that a disaster is unfolding whose consequences for humanity and decency will be substantial.

November 6, 2017

by Roger Cohen


Ten months into the Trump presidency, the world has not gone over a cliff. Nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea has not produced Armageddon. That this must be considered an achievement is testimony to how alarming Donald Trump’s erratic belligerence has been. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has concluded that Europeans must now take “our destiny into our own hands.” Dismay is widespread. The post-war order, stripped of its American point of reference, is frayed to the breaking point.

This is no surprise. Trump’s election, like Britain’s perverse flight from the European Union, reflected a blow-up-the-system mood. The tens of millions of Americans who elected Trump had few illusions about his irascibility but were ready to roll the dice in the name of disruption at any cost.

The president, who continues to act principally as the rabble-rousing leader of a mass movement, is the ultimate provocateur. He jolts the facile assumptions of a globalized liberal elite. Rising inequality and rampant impunity for the powerful certainly demanded such a jolt. But the question remains: How dangerous is Trump to the world and the American Republic?

One school of thought argues: Not very. For all the presidential mouthing and angry ALL-CAPS dawn tweeting, there’s no sign of the wall on the Mexican border; and NATO is no longer “obsolete” (at least some days of the week); and the “One China” policy has not been scrapped; and the Iran nuclear agreement endures for now, despite Trump’s outrageous refusal to recertify it; and the United States embassy is still in Tel Aviv; and the North American Free Trade Agreement hangs on. Even Trump’s decision to quit the Paris climate accord has not yet been made effective.

So perhaps Defense Secretary James Mattis and H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, have ring-fenced Trump’s recklessness. Perhaps they have neutralized his ahistorical ignorance. Trump’s “America First” may be a slogan of impeccable fascist pedigree, but it will not upend the world.

I wish I could believe this, but I am dubious. A disaster is unfolding whose consequences for humanity and decency will be substantial. America’s word, which has constituted the undergirding of global security for more than seven decades, is a fast-devaluing currency. Trump is likely to become more capricious in the coming months. The investigation by Robert Mueller into possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump presidential campaign has already led to the indictment of the president’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort. War was ever a great distraction from domestic difficulty.

Stepping into the Void

Already, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping of China are stepping into the void. This is inevitable. The message from the Trump White House is one of withdrawal – from global responsibility above all, be it for the environment, European stability or the fate of the Middle East.

If the Iran nuclear deal is working but Trump chooses to trash it because the Islamic Republic did not become a benign power overnight – the deal was about centrifuges not Iranian support for Bashar al-Assad’s butchery in Syria – then why on earth should any other nation conclude a treaty with bait-and-switch America?

The most terrifying thing to me about the insults hurled in recent weeks between Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, was that it was impossible to distinguish between them. The American president had descended to the level of a tantrum-prone totalitarian despot.

Trump vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea and called Kim “Rocket Man on a suicide mission.” The United States, he proclaimed, was “locked and loaded.” Kim, in return, called Trump “a rogue,” a “gangster,” and a “dotard,” the last a word not much in vogue since the 17th century. Americans scurried for their dictionaries to discover that a dotard was a senile fool.

The unfunny thing is that when two thin-skinned men with nukes, grudges and mysterious hair hurl insults at each other, and one of them is the American president, there is no cause for comfort. Wars begin in unforeseeable ways; with nuclear brinkmanship, accidents happen.

Call all this a disturbing Asian flurry if you like. But something deeper is going on. The United States has often fallen short. Ken Burns’ remarkable documentary on the Vietnam War has been a recent reminder of this. So, of course, were Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. Yet, over time, American reinvention does its work and the idea flickers to life again: that we are a nation of laws; that all Americans, whatever their beliefs or faiths, have rights and responsibilities under the law; and that this law establishes checks and balances designed to safeguard our freedom and our democracy and our decency, the values we carry out into the world in the belief that if they cannot always deliver the best, they may at least avert the worst.

Contemptuous of Principle

Separate the United States from these principles and there is not much left. America’s claim to leadership is voided permanently, if stripped of a moral component. The German Bundesrepublik, America’s child, ushered into being under American tutelage, knows this as perhaps no other nation.

To all of this, Trump seems oblivious. He is contemptuous of principle. Words cascade from his mouth and they mean nothing, because when a man of moral emptiness tries to exhort a nation to greatness the only thing communicated is pitiful, almost comical, hypocrisy.

President Trump has yet to meet a strongman who does not elicit his sympathy or a multilateral organization that does not prompt his disdain. The Saudi King, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Vladimir Putin are fine. Merkel in “bad, bad Germany” is not. I hear that Merkel and Trump scarcely speak to each other. This is worrying. Germany is the most important country in Europe and a core American ally.

Under Trump, the State Department has been eviscerated: a proposed 30 percent budget cut, countless critical posts unfilled, a secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who has contrived to be ineffective and demoralize his staff. At the same time, military budgets have soared. Trump loves soldiers and has little time for diplomats. When all you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

My deepest concern is that Trump actually believes the post-war order was just a means to rip off America; and he buys, if anything, into Putin’s macho authoritarianism and spheres of influence for the Great Powers. We saw how well that worked in the run-up to World War I.

The reality of Trump’s autocratic tendencies should not be waved away. He is not harmless. Liberals paid a heavy price for failing to look facts in the eye at the last election. The Trump phenomenon – his appeal to millions of Americans – endures. It demands to be understood, at a time when tens of millions of other Americans hold him unfit for office – a charlatan, a fraud and a serial liar. I’ve been a foreign correspondent for much of my life, and visiting Trump country from New York is very similar to traveling to another country as a foreign correspondent.

A Voice from Trump Country

Here’s a voice from Trump country: People have to choose between heating their homes, buying food or buying health care and you want them to worry about the survival of the planet or transgender stuff? I respect business and I distrust government. I don’t want illegal immigrants taking our jobs. I don’t like liberals who shop at Whole Foods talking down their noses at me because I shop at WalMart. I don’t want God and guns chased out of the country. White lives matter, too, you know. That Hillary forgot that – and was punished. We lost our discipline and our moral code in this country. So we need honest Trump to shake things up and get our country back.

“I want my country back!” This is the universal cry of the global wave of rightist reaction. It’s Trump’s “America First.” It’s Brexit. It’s Marine Le Pen’s nationalists against the globalists. It’s Germany’s nationalist AfD grabbing nearly 100 seats in the Bundestag. It explains the vogue word of the moment: sovereignty. Trump used it more than 20 times in his United Nations speech in September.

Behind all this lies a potent emotion: fear. This was Trump’s great intuition – and he has formidable, feral intuitions allied to a fiendish energy. He saw, helped by Steve Bannon, that multiple American fears could be fused into a permanent nationalist campaign.

Demographic fear (the end within the next couple of decades of America’s white majority); economic fear (the dislocations of globalization); cultural fear (of the urban elite who want to chase guns and God out of the country); primal fear (the white flip-out over having a black president); fear of the stranger (the immigrant hordes); fear of national decline (Chinese power rising and those endless post 9/11 wars without victory); fear of the future (automation and the end of work); fear of terrorism (the Muslim jihadi among us); fear of speaking your mind (the liberal tyranny of the politically correct).

Take all this, inject the potent galvanizing force of Fox News and Breitbart (with their dime-a-dozen scapegoats), wrap it in a heavy dose of angry nationalism and drain-the-swamp elite-bashing, and a winning guerrilla offensive was there to be mounted.

You just had to see it. Liberals in their arrogance didn’t – until it was too late. They didn’t see Wisconsin at all. They hardly saw Michigan. They still fail to see – as most Europeans fail to see – that many smart, decent Americans support Trump. His reelection for a second term, even since the Manafort indictment, remains more likely than his impeachment. I would put the chances of the former at 25 percent and the latter at 10 percent.

A Terrifying Shrug

Yet, he is dangerous. Trump has already blurred the line between truth and falsehood. He has attacked the judiciary and a free press. I had an alarming experience recently. Trump had lied, as he routinely does, about two phone calls, one from the president of Mexico and one from the head of the Boy Scouts. The calls, supposedly to congratulate him, did not exist. They were pure inventions. Asked if Trump had lied, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “I wouldn’t say it was a lie.”

I actually remember shrugging. And it was the shrug that was terrifying. This is how autocrats – or would-be autocrats – cement their power. They wear you down. They take you down the rabbit hole. They want you to hear the great leader declare that 2+2=5 – and shrug.

Recently, the president tweeted: “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”

This is Putin territory. This is Erdogan territory. We don’t know yet how far the president is prepared to go in silencing critics who do not meet his test of patriotism, while inviting his supporters to give free rein to their inner bigot. But Mueller and, eventually, a reelection campaign will tempt Trump to go a long way.

I lived in Berlin a couple of decades ago and saw the capital return after the Rhineland sojourn in bland Bonn. The city was a construction site. Cranes hoisted the new but the past – a constant admonition to a united Germany – was not erased. This was the consummation of the miracle: Germany unified, within NATO, its borders no longer contested. The German problem that over decades had caused sleepless nights to thousands of American diplomats and agents had been resolved.

I would cross the Polish border sometimes. Poland is close to Berlin, as Poles know well. I had to pinch myself, with the border near invisible, to recall that these were “Bloodlands,” in Timothy Snyder’s phrase, the last resting place of millions. Yet here, only decades later, there stretched before me the tranquility that NATO, the European Union and statesmanship had brought.

None of this would have happened without the trans-Atlantic alliance, without the Berlin airlift and the Marshall Plan, without America as a European power – without everything Trump appears to hold in contempt. Constancy and strength in pursuit of strategy are wearing on their opponents. Chaos, on the other hand, gives foes a sense of opportunity.

Cannot Be Fixed in Stone

It was not only Germans who enjoyed what Helmut Kohl once called “the blessing of late birth.” In some way, every post-war European did. We succumb at our peril to amnesia. It is for the young to forge the 21st century. That is right and natural. The precepts of the last century, and its power structure, cannot be forever fixed in stone.

Yet we should not forget from what horror Pax Americana emerged. As Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron flesh out a distinct European destiny – as they should in this era of Trump – they must be mindful of preserving the American bond, in the hope of better days. They must also speak out strongly for the values Trump’s America has forsaken.

Perhaps Senator John McCain, a great friend of Europe now battling brain cancer, has offered the best rebuke to Trump:

“To refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”



2017 ‘very likely’ in top three warmest years on record

November 6, 2017

by Matt McGrath, Environment correspondent, Bonn

BBC News

The year 2017 is “very likely” to be in the top three warmest years on record, according to provisional figures from the World Meteorological Organization.

The WMO says it will likely be the hottest year in the absence of the El Niño phenomenon.

The scientists argue that the long-term trend of warming driven by human activities continues unabated.

They say many of the “extraordinary” weather events seen this year bear the hallmarks of climate change.

On the opening day of this year’s key UN climate talks, researchers from the WMO have presented their annual State of the Global Climate report.

It follows hot on the heels of their greenhouse gases study from last week which found that concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere were the highest on record.

While the new study only covers January to September, the WMO says the average global temperature was 1.1C above the pre-industrial figure.

This is getting dangerously close to the 1.5 degrees threshold that many island states feel temperatures must be kept under to ensure their survival.

The analysis suggests that 2017 is likely to come in 0.47C warmer than the 1981-2010 average.

This is slightly down on 2016 when the El Niño weather phenomenon saw temperatures that were 0.56C above the average.

According to the WMO, this year vies with 2015 to be the second or third warmest mark yet recorded.

“The past three years have all been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long-term warming trend,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50C in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic, (and) reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.

“Many of these events – and detailed scientific studies will determine exactly how many – bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities,” he said.

Scientists will have to do attribution studies to clearly link specific events from 2017 to rising temperatures. But they believe the fingerprints of climate change are to be seen in events such as tropical cyclones, where the warmer seas can transfer more heat to the gathering storms and increased sea levels can make flooding more damaging.

The Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index, which measures the intensity and duration of these events, showed its highest ever monthly values in September this year.

It was also the first time that two Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the same year in the US.

Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 storm for the longest period on record. Rain gauges in Nederland, Texas, recorded 1,539mm, the largest ever recorded for a single event in the mainland US.

There were also significant flooding events with large loss of life in Sierra Leone, in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Peru among many others.

In contrast, droughts and heatwaves affected many parts of Africa and South America. In Somalia, more than half of cropland was impacted with herds reduced by 40-60%.

More than 11 million people are experiencing severe food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

“This year saw a multitude of damaging weather extremes which is not uncommon but many of these events were made more severe by the sustained warming influence of increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels due to human activities,” said Richard Allan, professor of climate science at the University of Reading, UK.

“An increased severity of weather extremes is expected in the decades ahead as Earth continues to heat up and it is only with the substantive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions required by the Paris climate agreement that we can avert much more potent and widespread damage to our societies and the ecosystems upon which they depend.”

With UN talks on climate change now underway here in Bonn, the report is likely to reinforce a sense of urgency among many delegates.

“These findings underline the rising risks to people, economies and the very fabric of life on Earth if we fail to get on track with the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement,” said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN Climate Change, which is hosting the Bonn conference.



From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 78

November 6, 2017


Some government officials who are serving on an “acting” basis because a permanent replacement has not yet been named will lose their ability to function this month when their legal authority is nullified under the terms of the Vacancies Act.

In the Trump Administration there are hundreds of government agency positions requiring Senate confirmation that have gone unfilled. In many cases, their responsibilities have been assumed by “acting” officials.

But by law, that arrangement can only be temporary. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 specifies that “acting” officers can fill positions requiring confirmation for no more than 210 days. If the position is vacant at the start of a new Administration, an extension of 90 days is allowed, for a total of 300 days.

The 300 day period from Inauguration Day last January 20 will end on November 16, 2017. After that, certain acting officials will no longer be able to carry out their duties.

“If the acting officer remains in office and attempts to perform a nondelegable function or duty — one that a statute or regulation expressly assigns to that office — that action will ‘have no force or effect’,” according to a new brief from the Congressional Research Service.

See Out of Office: Vacancies, Acting Officers, and Day 301, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 1, 2017. See also The Vacancies Act: A Legal Overview, October 30, 2017.

President Trump does not appear to be concerned about the matter. Asked about high level vacancies in the State Department last week, he told Laura Ingraham of Fox that most of the government positions awaiting confirmed nominees were superfluous. “I’m the only one that matters,” he sai


US law provides temporary protected status (TPS) for certain foreign nationals in the United States who are fleeing armed conflict, natural disaster or other extreme circumstances in their native country.

But many refugees who have been granted such temporary status may soon have it revoked.

“The United States currently provides TPS to approximately 437,000 foreign nationals from 10 countries,” according to a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service. Those countries are: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. See Temporary Protected Status: Overview and Current Issues, updated November 2, 2017.

Unless renewed, TPS for persons from Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua will expire in January 2018. The Washington Post reported that the Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce today that the expiring protections will not be renewed.

*    *    *

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

El Salvador: Background and U.S. Relations, updated November 3, 2017

Clearing the Air on the Debt Limit, November 2, 2017

Public Private Partnerships (P3s) in Transportation, November 2, 2017

A Second Amendment Right to Sell Firearms? The Ninth Circuit, Sitting En Banc, Weighs In., CRS Legal Sidebar, November 2, 2017

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 2, 2017

The National Science Foundation: FY2018 Appropriations and Funding History, November 2, 2017


“I hate the stuff that shows up in the press,” said Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, at a congressional hearing on nuclear deterrence last March, the record of which has just been published.

Gen. Hyten was responding to a question from Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) about the volume of unclassified information that gets released concerning the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD).

“General Hyten, we have seen a lot of GBSD acquisition details loaded into unclassified acquisition databases and run by the Air Force,” said Rep. Scott. “We all know that Russia, China, and others scoop all this stuff up to the best of their abilities and analyze it intensively.”

“Why is all of this put out in the open? Should we reassess what is unclassified in these acquisition documents?” Rep. Scott wanted to know.

“I hate the stuff that shows up in the press,” Gen. Hyten replied. “I think we should reassess that.”

“Just to complete that thought, I hate the fact that cost estimates show up in the press as well,” he added. “So I would really like to figure out a different way to do business than that. I hate seeing that kind of information in the newspaper.”

See Military Assessment of Nuclear Deterrence Requirements, hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, March 8, 2017.

In answer to another question at the hearing, Gen. Hyten denied that US nuclear forces are on “hair trigger alert.”

“Our nuclear command and control system is constantly exercised to ensure that only the President, after consultations with his senior advisors and military leaders, can authorize any employment of our nuclear forces,” he said.

On the other hand, Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the time available for a President to make a decision about a nuclear strike could be highly compressed depending on the scenario.

“The launch-on-warning criteria basically are driven by physics,” he said at the hearing. “The amount of time the President has to make a decision is based on when we can detect a launch [and] what it takes to physically characterize the launch.”

“I don’t believe the physics let us give him much more time,” Gen. Selva said.


What Happened in Saudi Arabia Last Night — And How Washington Corruption Enabled It

November 5 2017

by Ryan Grim

The Intercept

The mass arrest of high-ranking Saudi businessmen, media figures and royal family members Saturday has shaken the global business community. Among 10 other princes and 38 others, the roundup netted Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, who owns significant shares in everything from Citibank to Twitter to the parent company of Fox News.

Prince Alwaleed has done business with President Donald Trump in the past, but during the campaign turned into a fiery critic, drawing Trump’s Twitter ire.

The move against Alwaleed and the other officials was couched as the result of a secret investigation carried out by a “high committee on fighting corruption.” Minister of Education Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Issa “hailed the royal decree,” according to the Saudi Press Agency, saying, “this committee heralds a future of firmness against those who are trying to to undermine the capabilities of the homeland.”

Whatever the official explanation, it is being read around the world as a power grab by the kingdom’s rising crown prince. “The sweeping campaign of arrests appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman,” as the New York Times put it. “The king had decreed the creation of a powerful new anti-corruption committee, headed by the crown prince, only hours before the committee ordered the arrests.”

The men are being held, as The Intercept reported, in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh. “There is no jail for royals,” a Saudi source noted.

The move marks a moment of reckoning for Washington’s foreign policy establishment, which struck a bargain of sorts with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, and Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S. who has been MBS’s leading advocate in Washington. The unspoken arrangement was clear: The UAE and Saudi Arabia would pump millions into Washington’s political ecosystem while mouthing a belief in “reform,” and Washington would pretend to believe that they meant it. MBS has won praise for some policies, like an openness to reconsidering Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers.

Meanwhile, however, the 32-year-old MBS has been pursuing a dangerously impulsive and aggressive regional policy, which has included a heightening of tensions with Iran, a catastrophic war on Yemen, and a blockade of ostensible ally Qatar. Those regional policies have been disasters for the millions who have suffered the consequences, including the starving people of Yemen, as well as for Saudi Arabia, but MBS has dug in harder and harder. And his supporters in Washington have not blinked.

The platitudes about reform were also challenged by recent mass arrests of religious figures and repression of anything that has remotely approached less than full support of MBS.

The latest purge comes just days after White House adviser Jared Kushner, a close ally of Otaiba, visited Riyadh, and just hours after a bizarre-even-for-Trump tweet.

Whatever legitimate debate there was about MBS ended Saturday — his drive to consolidate power is now too obvious to ignore. And that puts denizens of Washington’s think tank world in a difficult spot, as they have come to rely heavily on the Saudi and UAE end of the bargain. As The Intercept reported earlier, one think tank alone, the Middle East Institute, got a massive $20 million commitment from the UAE.

And make no mistake, MBS is a project of the UAE — an odd turn of events given the relative sizes of the two countries. “Our relationship with them is based on strategic depth, shared interests, and most importantly the hope that we could influence them. Not the other way around,” Otaiba has said privately. For the past two years, Otaiba has introduced MBS around Washington and offered assurances of his commitment to modernizing and reforming Saudi Arabia, according to people who’ve spoken with him, confirmed by emails leaked by the group Global Leaks. When confronted with damning headlines, Otaiba tends to acknowledge the reform project is a work in progress, but insists that it is progress nonetheless, and in MBS resides the best chance of the region.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see a more pragmatic leader in that country. Which is why engaging with them is so important and will yield the most results we can ever get out of saudi,” Otaiba said in one representative note. “I think MBS is far more pragmatic than what we hear is saudi public positions [sic].”

In an email to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, Otaiba laid out his thinking clearly while thanking him for a column.

Thank you for taking the time to go out there and meet with MBS. As someone who knows the region well, it looks from how you wrote this piece, that you are beginning to see what we’ve been saying for the last two years. Change!

Change in attitude, change in style, change in approach.

I think we would all agree these changes in saudi are much needed. So i’m relieved to find you saw what we’ve been seeing and frequently trying to convey. Your voice and your credibility will be a huge factor in getting reasonable folks to understand and believe in whats happening.

Our job now, is to [do] everything possible to ensure MBS succeeds.

In an unusual move, Saudi Arabia even recently hired the UAE’s longtime public-relations firm, the Harbour Group, run by Otaiba friend Richard Mintz. Richard Clarke, most well known for his public apology to 9/11 victims for the intelligence failure, was brutal in his criticism of Saudi Arabia in the wake of the attack. An Otaiba friend, he is now chairman of the MEI’s board and has personally lobbied Saudi Arabia for funding, walking out of the Saudi embassy with a $500,000 check. Michael Petruzzello, the longtime Washington hand for Saudi Arabia, is also on the MEI board.

Gulf countries that are family-run dynasties tend to produce the same kind of family rivalries seen the world over. In Abu Dhabi, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Otaiba’s mentor and boss who is known as MBZ, has long detested Mohammed bin Nayef, who was in line for the Saudi throne, going so far as to publicly call him a monkey. MBZ and Otaiba saw MBS as the way to derail bin Nayef, and exert control over the larger country by elevating the junior prince.

The campaign worked, and was largely cheered in Washington.

Scholars at the think tanks that are backed with Saudi and UAE money say they pride themselves on their ability to speak and write freely, and bristle at any suggestion that the funding corrupts the intellectual product.

That claim has always been dubious, but the next few days will put it to the test in a way it never has been tested before.


The Trump Administration Is Keeping a U.S. Citizen Secretly Locked Up Without Charges

November 3, 2017

by Jonathan Hafetz


For nearly two months, the U.S. military has been detaining an American citizen at a secret jail in Iraq, denying him access to a lawyer and even refusing to release his name. The Trump administration is calling the citizen an “enemy combatant,” claiming he was fighting for ISIS in Syria, but it has not presented any evidence to back up its allegations.

We went to court asking a judge to protect the citizen’s constitutional rights, including the right not to be imprisoned without charge and the right to challenge his detention in court. The Trump administration has told the court that it doesn’t have to respect these essential due process rights.

The Pentagon and Justice Department ignored our initial request for access to the U.S. citizen so we could advise him of his rights and offer him the opportunity of legal representation. We then filed a habeas corpus petition on the citizen’s behalf in federal court in Washington, demanding that the government justify its detention of the unnamed American. All U.S. citizens have the right to habeas corpus no matter where the government holds them or what it accuses them of. And, as we know from the government’s practices in places like Guantánamo, when it tries to undercut this right it opens the door to abuses, including the arbitrary detention of innocent people.

We also asked the court to order the government to connect the citizen with ACLU attorneys because he is facing grave threats to his liberty and possibly his life. The government could continue imprisoning him without charge, force him to confess to crimes he may not have committed, or, as a Human Rights Watch expert warns, hand him over to Iraqi custody, in which he would likely be subjected him to torture, an unfair trial, and possible execution.

The government’s response is straight out of “Catch-22.” It is arguing that the ACLU cannot seek relief on the citizen’s behalf because we have never met him and don’t know his wishes. But that is a conundrum of the government’s own creation because it has provided no other way for this citizen to legally defend himself.

Instead, the government is piling one speculation on top of another. Maybe, the government suggests, the American could have conveyed his needs to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) when it visited him in custody, and maybe that organization could have contacted his family, and maybe his family could have found a lawyer to file a case on his behalf.

In fact, the American citizen has made his wishes clear. U.S. officials told The Washington Post that the citizen has repeatedly demanded a lawyer. The government has effectively denied that request. And, as a former ICRC official explains in our latest court filing, there are multiple reasons why the U.S. citizen is unlikely to obtain counsel by going through the ICRC. To begin with, the ICRC’s main purpose is to monitor conditions of detention, not to find lawyers for prisoners. The citizen may not have family he can contact, or he might be afraid of contacting family for fear they will suffer retaliation. It is also possible the citizen’s family might not welcome contact from him, or, even if it did, the family may not know how to navigate the U.S. court system.

The bottom line is that the imprisoned American citizen clearly wants a lawyer and doesn’t have one, thanks to the roadblocks the government itself has put in place.

The government also complains that allowing counsel to have access to the citizen wouldn’t be “easy.” But constitutional rights do not depend on the government’s convenience. Federal courts have ruled that citizens have a right to an attorney even when detained as enemy combatants at secure military facilities, whether in the U.S. or abroad. And for more than 13 years, courts have ensured attorney access to non-citizens imprisoned at Guantanamo, rejecting government attempts to restrict it. Even George W. Bush’s attorney general and former federal district court judge, Michael Mukasey, ruled that the government’s national security interests cannot override an American citizen’s right to a lawyer.

By opposing the ACLU’s efforts in this case, the Trump administration is taking a very dangerous step: It is blocking an Americans citizen’s access to his own country’s courts. It is also undermining the bedrock guarantees of habeas corpus, which for centuries has served as the greatest check on unlawful government detentions. Now, we’re fighting to stop the government’s unconstitutional attempt to create a new rights-free zone.


Donna Brazile tells critics of Hillary Clinton revelations to ‘go to hell’

Former Democratic National Committee chair considered parachuting Joe Biden in, as Clinton campaign had ‘odor of failure’

Hacks review: Brazile lifts lid on Hillary and Democrats’ disaster

November 5, 2017

by Martin Pengelly and agencies

The Guardian

The former Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile said on Sunday critics including nearly 100 members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign team could “go to hell”, and insisted she would tell her story of the 2016 election.

Brazile’s new book, Hacks, has sparked controversy over its claim that the primary was weighted in favour of Clinton over Bernie Sanders and a passage in which she says she considered replacing Clinton with Joe Biden.

Jesse Ferguson, a former Clinton spokesman, posted an open letter on Medium on Saturday in which former aides said they were “shocked to learn the news that Donna Brazile actively considered overturning the will of the Democratic voters by attempting to replace Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine as the Democratic presidential and vice-presidential nominees”.

Brazile writes that the possible switch – with the New Jersey senator Cory Booker as Biden’s running mate – was considered after Clinton stumbled at a 9/11 memorial event in New York. Clinton said at the time she was suffering from pneumonia.

Brazile also writes that the larger issue was that the Clinton campaign was “anaemic” and had taken on “the odour of failure”.

The former Clinton staffers – among them high-profile figures such as Huma Abedin, Jennifer Palmieri and campaign manager Robby Mook, the target of stringent criticism from Brazile – wrote: “It is particularly troubling and puzzling that she would seemingly buy into false Russian-fueled propaganda, spread by both the Russians and our opponent, about our candidate’s health.”

Interviewed on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Brazile referred to Clinton’s own book on her defeat by Donald Trump, What Happened.

“For those who are telling the me to shut up,” she said, “they told Hillary that a couple of months ago. You know what I tell them, go to hell. I’m going to tell my story. I’m going the tell my story.

“Because this is a story of a young girl who started in American politics at the age of nine, who continues to fight each and every week of her life … I care about my country. I care about our democracy. And I say go to hell because, why am I supposed to be the only person that is unable to tell my story?”

She also said she “got sick and tired of people trying to tell me how to spend money” as DNC chair, when she “wasn’t getting a salary. I was basically volunteering my time”.

“I’m not Patsey the slave,” Brazile said, referring to a character in the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave.

In her book, Brazile writes that she did not ultimately try to make the change of candidate because: “I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them.”

On ABC, she admitted she had not had the power to make the change but said: “I had to put in on the the table … because I was under tremendous pressure after Secretary Clinton fainted to have a quote-unquote plan B. I didn’t want a plan B. Plan A was great for me. I supported Hillary and I wanted her to win. But we were under pressure.”

Brazile writes that on 12 September 2016, Biden’s chief of staff called saying the vice-president wanted to speak with her. Her thought, she writes, was: “Gee, I wonder what he wanted to talk to me about?”

On ABC, she said she did not mention the possible switch. “I mean, look, everybody was called in to see, do you know anything? How is she doing? And of course my job at the time … was to reassure people, not just the vice-president but also reassure the Democratic party, the members of the party, that Hillary was doing fine and that she would resume her campaign the following week.”

It is unclear if Biden was ever willing to step into the race. The former vice-president, who many believe could a run for the presidency in 2020, made no immediate comment.

Asked if she still thinks a Biden-Booker ticket could have won, Brazile equivocated, saying: “Well, you know, I had a lot of other combinations. This was something you play out in your mind.”

Regarding the primary, in which Sanders – a Vermont independent – mounted a surprisingly strong challenge, Brazile writes in her book that a joint fundraising agreement between Clinton and the DNC “looked unethical” and she felt Clinton had too much influence on the party.

She told ABC she did not agree with Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, who agreed this week in an interview with CNN the primary was “rigged” against Sanders.

“I don’t think she meant the word rigged,” Brazile said, adding: “I’m on the rules and bylaws committee. I found no evidence, none whatsoever.”

Clinton won the primary by about 3 million votes – roughly the same figure by which she won the popular vote against Trump, losing the presidency in the electoral college.

Brazile was also asked about an email, hacked by Russian actors and leaked among thousands by WikiLeaks, in which she appeared to share likely questions with the Clinton team ahead of a primary debate.

She responded: “I said, straight up, I said, look, if this was sent, I know why I sent it. I apologize. I spent the entire month of August apologizing for the leaked hacked emails, which is a crime. And so far, no one has been charged with a crime. But I’ve apologized. I said I’m sorry.”

The current DNC chair, former Obama labor secretary Tom Perez, told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday it was “quite frankly ludicrous” to suggest Clinton could have been replaced and said readers would “perhaps start wondering about other claims in that book”.

On Saturday, Perez said he was committed to ensuring the nomination process in 2020 would be “unquestionably fair and transparent”.


The Kennedy Assassination: Facts and Fictions

November 6, 2017

by Christian Jürs

The assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, continues to generate an enormous amount of popular controversy, more so than any other historical happening in recorded memory. The killing took place in a major American city in full view of hundreds of people and in broad daylight, yet years after the event, a dispassionate overview of the incident is impossible to achieve. The act and its consequences are as cluttered as the dense Indian jungle that so thoroughly hides the gaudy tiger from the sight of its prey.

The initial stunned confusion in Dallas has continued, with much official connivance, into succeeding decades, with an immense proliferation of books, magazine articles, motion picture productions, and television dramas, which are equally divided between assaults on previous productions and the presentation of even more confusion, theory, and supposition.

One camp consists entirely of what can best be termed the “official version” and in the other camp are the “revisionist versions.” There is only one of the former and a multitude of the others.

There is no question in the minds of anyone that John F. Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas, Texas, in November of 1963. The real issue is who shot him and why.

Is the report of the official Warren Commission correct?  Was the President killed by a disaffected man who acted entirely alone? Was his subsequent murder perpetrated by another disaffected man who also acted entirely alone?

Are the legions of revisionists correct? Was the Kennedy assassination the result of a plot? And if there was a plot, who were the plotters and what were their motives?

The overwhelming majority of the public, who are the final arbiters of whatever may pass for historical truth, has, in the intervening years, come to believe less in the determined certainty of officialdom and more in the questions raised by those who cannot accept official dictums.

In a very strong sense, the Kennedy assassination marked an important watershed in the relationship between the American public and its elected and appointed officials. Before that event, what the government said was almost universally accepted as the truth. There was unquestioning and simplistic belief, and more, there was trust in the pronouncements from the Beltway and its numerous and often very slavish servants in academia and the American media. It is true, people would say, because it is printed in my newspaper and supported by important and knowledgeable savants.

That the media and academia might be influenced by, if not actually commanded by, the government rarely occurred to anyone outside of a small handful of chronic malcontents.

The questions that were raised by the Warren Commission’s lengthy and thoroughly disorganized report were certainly in many cases very important. That there were many errors in this hasty attempt to allay national anxieties is clearly evident, but in retrospect, and in view of recently disclosed evidence, these are more errors of commission than omission.

The Warren Report was prepared and released to the public not to encourage questioning but to silence it as quickly as possible. There are many cogent reasons for this desire for silence and acceptance, not the least of which was the urgent desire for self-preservation and the maintenance of the integrity of the governmental system.

In actuality, the American currency is not backed by gold or silver holdings but by the blind faith of the public. If the concept of unquestioning belief in governmental currency stability is questioned, economic chaos can be the result and this applies equally to government probity.

To quote from the title of the first and very important revisionist work on the Kennedy assassination, there was a great “rush to judgment” and a frantic desire on the part of the official establishment to completely bury not only the murdered President, but also any questions his killing might have engendered with him.

Was the primary reason for this desire for closure merely a desire to placate public opinion or were there other, and far more sinister, reasons for this rush to judgment?

Those who question the official chronicle have been severely hampered by the fact that all the records, documents, interviews, and other evidentiary material are securely under governmental custody and control. It is beyond the belief of any reasonable person to think that an official agency would release to the public any material that would bring the official judgment into question. This is not only institutional maintenance but also, all things in evidence now considered, a frantic effort at self-preservation.

Not all documents, however, lie under government control, and there exist reports that do not only question the Warren Report’s findings but are also of such a nature as to both thoroughly discredit it and, in the final analysis, bring it to ruin.

There exists a lengthy paper prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 1978 as a commentary on Soviet intelligence evaluations of the Kennedy assassination.

The Defense Intelligence Agency, a branch of the Department of Defense, specializes in the analysis of foreign military technical intelligence.

This document was considered highly sensitive, for reasons that shall shortly become very evident, and its distribution was limited to a handful of copies with severely restricted circulation.

The Soviet Intelligence Study (translation)

  1. On 22 November, 1963, American President John Kennedy was shot and killed during a political motor trip through the Texas city of Dallas. The President was riding at the head of the procession in his official state car, seated in the right rear with his wife on his left side. Seated in front of him was the Governor of Texas and his wife, also on his left side. The vehicle was an open car without side or top protection of any kind. There was a pilot car in front, about a hundred feet, and the President’s car was flanked by motorcycle outriders located two to a side roughly parallel with the rear wheels of the State car.
  2. The President and his party were driving at a speed of about 20 kilometers per hour through the built-up area of Dallas and greeted the many people lining the streets along his route. Security was supplied by the Secret Service supplemented by local police. There were two Secret Service agents in the front of the car. One was driving the car. Other agents were in cars following the Presidential vehicle and Dallas police on motorbikes were on both sides of the Presidential car but at the rear of it. There was a pilot car in front of the President’s car but it was at some distance away.
  3. The course of the journey was almost past all the occupied area. The cars then turned sharply to the right and then again to the left to go to the motorway leading to a meeting hall where the President was to speak at a dinner. It is considered very bad security for such an official drive to decrease its speed or to make unnecessary turnings or stops. (Historical note: It was just this problem that led directly to positioning the Austrian Heir in front of waiting assassins at Sarajevo in 1914.) The route was set by agents of the Secret Service and published in the Dallas newspapers before the arrival of the President and his party.
  4. After the last turning to the left, the cars passed a tall building on the right side of the street that was used as a warehouse for the storage of school books. This building was six stories tall and had a number of workers assigned to it. There were no official security people in this building, either on the roof or at the windows. Also, there were no security agents along the roadway on either side. All security agents were riding either in the Presidential car (two in the front) and in the following vehicles.
  5. As the President’s state car passed this building, some shots were heard. The exact source and number of these shots was never entirely determined. Some observers thought that the shots came from above and behind while many more observers in the area stated that the shots came from the front and to the right of the car. There was a small area with a decorative building and some trees and bushes there and many saw unidentified people in this area. Many people standing in front of this area to watch the cars stated that shots came from behind them.
  6. When the first shots were fired, the President was seen to lean forward and clutch at his throat with both hands. Immediately when this happened, the Secret Service driver of the President’s state car slowed down the vehicle until it was almost stopped. This was a direct breach of their training which stated that in such events where firing occurred, the driver of the President’s car would immediately drive away as quickly as possible.
  7. At the same time as the first shot, there was a second one, this one from behind and above. This bullet struck the Governor, sitting in front of the President and slightly to his right, in the right upper shoulder. The bullet went downwards into the chest cavity, breaking ribs, struck his wrist and lodged in his left upper thigh. There were then two shots fired at the President’s car. The first shot initiated the action and this one appears to have hit the President in the throat. If so, it must have been fired from in front of the car, not behind it.
  8. Right at that moment, there was one other shot. The shell obviously struck the President on the upper rear of the right side of his head, throwing him back and to the left. Also, at this time, blood, pieces of skull and brains could be seen flying to the left where the motorbike police guard was struck with this material on his right side and on the right side of his motorbike.
  9. Immediately after this final shot, the driver then began to increase his speed and the cars all went at increasing speed down under the tunnel.
  10. The fatally injured President and the seriously injured Governor were very quickly taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The President was declared as dead and his body was removed, by force, to an aircraft and flown to Washington. The badly wounded Governor was treated at the hospital for his wounds and survived.
  11. Within moments of the shots fired at the President, a Dallas motorcycle police officer ran into the book building and up to the second floor in the company of the manager of the establishment. Here, the policeman encountered a man later positively identified as one Lee Harvey Oswald, an employee of the book storage company. Oswald was drinking a Coca-Cola and appeared to be entirely calm and collected. (Later it was said that he had rushed down four flights of steps past other employees in a few moments after allegedly shooting the President. It is noted from the records that none of the other employees on the staircase ever saw Oswald passing them.) The elevator which moved freight and personnel between the floors was halted at the sixth floor and turned off so that it could not be recalled to persons below wishing to use it.


  1. During the course of the interrogations, Oswald was repeatedly led up and down very crowded corridors of the police headquarters with no thought of security. This is an obvious breach of elementary security that was noted at the time by reporters. It now appears that Oswald’s killer was seen and photographed in the crowds in the building.
  2. The American Marine defector, Lee Harvey Oswald, entered the Soviet Union in October of 1959. Initially, Oswald, who indicated he wanted to “defect” and reside in the Soviet Union, was the object of some suspicion by Soviet intelligence authorities. He was at first denied entrance, attempted a “suicide” attempt and only when he was more extensively interrogated by competent agents was it discovered that he was in possession of material that potentially had a great intelligence value.
  3. Oswald, who as a U.S. Marine, was stationed at the Atsugi airfield in Japan, had been connected with the Central Intelligence Agency’s U-2 intelligence-gathering aircraft program and was in possession of technical manuals and papers concerning these aircraft and their use in overflights of the Soviet Union.
  4. The subject proved to be most cooperative and a technical analysis of his documentation indicated that he was certainly being truthful with Soviet authorities. In addition to the manuals, Oswald was able to supply Soviet authorities with a wealth of material, much of which was unknown and relatively current. As a direct result of analysis of the Oswald material, it became possible to intercept and shoot down a U2 aircraft flown by CIA employee Gary Powers.
  5. On the basis of the quality of this material, Oswald was granted asylum in the Soviet Union and permitted to settle in Minsk under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior. This was partially to reward him for his cooperation and also to remove him from the possible influence of American authorities at the Embassy in Moscow.
  6. Oswald worked in a radio factory, was given a subsidized apartment in Minsk and kept under constant surveillance. He was very pro-Russian, learned to speak and read the language, albeit not with native fluency, and behaved himself well in his new surroundings.
  7. Although Oswald was a known homosexual, he nevertheless expressed an interest in women as well and his several casual romantic affairs with both men and women were duly noted.
  8. Oswald became involved with Marina Nikolaevna Prusakova, the niece of a Minsk-based intelligence official. He wished to marry this woman who was attractive but cold and ambitious. She wished to leave the Soviet Union and emigrate to the United States for purely economic reasons. Since his marrying a Soviet citizen under his circumstances was often most difficult, Oswald began to speak more and more confidentially with his intelligence contacts in Minsk. He finally revealed that he was an agent for the United States Office of Naval Intelligence and had been recruited by them to act as a conduit between their office and Soviet intelligence.
  9. The official material on the CIA operations was entirely authentic and had been supplied to Oswald by his controllers at the ONI. It was apparent, and Oswald repeatedly stated, that the CIA was completely unaware of the removal of sensitive documents from their offices. This removal, Oswald stated, was effected by the ONI personnel stationed at Atsugi air field. Oswald was unaware of the reasons for this operation but had been repeatedly assured that the mission was considered of great national importance and that if he proved to be successful, he would be afforded additional and profitable future employment. It appears that Oswald was considered to be a one time operative and was expendable. His purpose was to establish a reputation as a pro-Russian individual who would then “defect” to the Soviet Union and pass over the U2 material. He did not seem to realize at the time he “defected” that once he had been permitted to live in the Soviet Union, on an official governmental subsidy, returning to America would be very difficult, if not impossible.
  10. Now, with his romantic, and very impractical, attachment to Prusakova, he was being pressured by her to marry and then take her with him back to the United States. Oswald was informed that this was not a possible option for him. He became very emotional and difficult to deal with but finally made the suggestion that if he were allowed to marry and return to the United States, he would agree to work in reality for the Soviet Union.
  11. After referring this matter to higher authority, it was decided to accede to Oswald’s requests, especially since he was of no further use to Soviet intelligence and might well be of some service while resident in America.
  12. Marriage was permitted and his return was expedited both by the Soviet authorities and the Americans who were informed, via a letter from Oswald, that he was in possession of intelligence material of value to them. This valuable information was duly given to him, a reversal to be noted on his original mission!
  13. Oswald was given prepared information of such a nature as to impress American intelligence and permitted to contact intelligence officials in the American Embassy in Moscow. He was then permitted by the Americans to return to the United States with his new wife.
  14. In America, Oswald no longer worked with the ONI because he was not able to further assist them. Besides, he was viewed as dangerous because he had knowledge of the ONI theft and use of CIA documents.
  15. While in America, Oswald then worked as a paid informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had contacted him when he returned and requested his assistance with domestic surveillance against pro-Soviet groups. He was assigned, in New Orleans, the task of infiltrating the anti-Castro groups which were nominally under the control of the CIA.
  16. It is noted that there exists a very strong rivalry between the FBI and the CIA. The former is nominally in charge of domestic counterintelligence and the latter in charge of foreign intelligence. They have been fighting for power ever since the CIA was first formed in 1947. Oswald has stated that the FBI was aware of this ONI-sponsored defection with stolen CIA U2 documents but this is not a proven matter.
  17. Later, Oswald was transferred to Dallas, Texas, by the FBI and he then secured a position at a firm which dealt in very secret photographic matters. Here, he was able to supply both the FBI and Soviet intelligence with identical data.
  18. FBI reports, kept secret, show clearly that Oswald was paid by the FBI as an informant.
  19. In New Orleans, a center of Cuban insurgent activity, Oswald was in direct contact with FBI officials and worked for a Guy Bannister, former FBI agent. Oswald infiltrated the ranks of Cuban insurgents and reported his findings to the FBI .

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