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TBR News June 1, 2018

Jun 01 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. June 1, 2018:” Based on intercepts made by the NSA, we learn about  the intended strategy of the coming Christian Based Republican Party.

  • First, enact a permanent tax cut which will eliminate $6 trillion in revenue over the next 20 years. This will in effect starve the federal government so it will be unable to fund many liberal and essentially anti-Christian governmental functions instituted since the Communist-inspired New Deal.
  • Second, fill the liberal and secular federal judiciary with Christian advocates whose judicial philosophy will reverse the disastrous trends on civil rights, environmental protections, religious liberty, reproductive rights and privacy and so much more.
  • Third, mandate the teaching of Divine Creationism in all public and private schools and remove from all school curriculums the Secular Humanist false theories of Darwin and others.
  • Fourth, revise the Federal Constitution so that it better reflects Divine Will and strips away false secularism entirely.

A Constitution that conforms to Biblical Law will rely on the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament as its guiding source. Therefore, the Ten Commandments hold a special meaning.

The New Christian lawmakers are going to pass legislation in various state legislatures that will mandate government posting of the Ten Commandments in all public buildings.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • As US tariffs go into effect, Europe vows retaliation
  • Hatch: Trump steel and aluminum tariffs are a ‘tax hike on Americans’
  • EU has political trump card in trade conflict
  • President Trump has made 3,251 false or misleading claims in 497 days
  • Trump’s Lies vs. Your Brain
  • How Philadelphia closed homeless ‘heroin camps’ as opioid crisis moves to American cities
  • Jet-set Jesus: televangelist to donate old private jet when he gets new $54m one
  • The Empire in Collapse
  • US warns against attacking its troops after Assad says they’ll leave Syria ‘one way or another’
  • Canada to U.S.: Explain that $30 billion farm spending war chest
  • Data protection laws are shining a needed light on a secretive industry

 As US tariffs go into effect, Europe vows retaliation

Germany’s finance minister said Washington’s decision “is wrong and in my view against international law.” Brussels has vowed to hit iconic US products with import penalties, including Harley Davidsons and bourbon.

June 1, 2018

DW

Tariffs imposed by the US on steel and  aluminum  imports from the EU, Canada and Mexico went into effect on Friday. The penalties will amount to a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum.

Across the Atlantic, officials have condemned US President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on some of Washington’s closest allies, with many vowing retaliation.

‘Trade conflict’

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz condemned Washington’s move, saying: “This one-sided decision is wrong and in my view against international law.”

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned of the consequences, saying: “It’s entirely up to US authorities whether they want to enter into a trade conflict with their biggest partner, Europe.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the decision “is going to lead to retaliatory measures, as it must.”

French President Emmanuel Macron recalled the pre-World War II period, saying: “Economic nationalism leads to war. This is exactly what happened in the 1930s.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the commission would sue the US at the World Trade Organization over the tariffs, but also take legal action against China over its violations of European companies’ copyright.

What are tariffs?

“Customs duties on merchandise imports are called tariffs,” the World Trade Organization (WTO) says on its website.

“Tariffs give a price advantage to locally-produced goods over similar goods which are imported, and they raise revenues for governments.”

No last-minute deal: Many officials in the EU were banking on a last-minute breakthrough deal that would have either extended exemptions or introduced permanent exclusion from the tariffs.

But their hopes came crashing down when US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the EU, Canada and Mexico would no longer be exempted.

 

Hatch: Trump steel and aluminum tariffs are a ‘tax hike on Americans’

May 31, 2018

by Jordain Carney

The Hill

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on Thursday blasted the Trump administration’s decision to place steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico, saying the financial penalties are a “tax hike on Americans.”

“My position remains unchanged: Tariffs on steel and aluminum imports are a tax hike on Americans and will have damaging consequences for consumers, manufacturers and workers,” Hatch said in a statement.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced earlier Thursday that President Trump has decided to slap hefty tariffs on the EU, Mexico and Canada, ending the temporary exemptions for the key trading allies despite their two months of lobbying to avoid the tariffs.

Hatch added that he would urge the administration to reverse its decision but did not specify what steps he would take to try to pressure them to do so.

“In light of the mounting evidence that these tariffs will harm Americans, I will continue to push the administration to change course,” Hatch added.

Republicans, including Hatch, have publicly fretted for months over Trump’s trade policies, including concerns that broad steel and aluminum tariffs would spark retaliation from other countries. Some GOP senators have floated new legislation that would give Congress more oversight of the president’s trade decisions.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) separately called the tariff decision “bad news” that would “invite retaliation.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that Trump’s move leaves the EU with “no choice but to proceed with a [World Trade Organization] dispute settlement case and the imposition of additional duties on a number of US imports.”

Mexico also responded to the tariffs, saying it would impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. imports like pork bellies, apples, grapes and flat steel, among other things.

Trump first announced tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum for national security reasons in March, later granting temporary exemptions for key allies.

 

EU has political trump card in trade conflict

May 31, 2018

by Gina Chon

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters Breakingviews) – On Thursday, a trade standoff turned into the start of a war. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is moving forward with steel and aluminum tariffs on Germany and other exporters. The European Union has threatened tit-for-tat levies against Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Kentucky bourbon, among other goods. That’s a smart tactic: it hits Republican leaders’ political prospects.

Trump’s latest trade salvo hits the closest allies of the United States. An exemption shielding the EU, along with Canada and Mexico, from a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent levy on aluminum goods expires on Thursday night, and talks to find another way out have broken down. Germany will be the most affected out of the EU as the eighth-largest source of U.S. steel imports by volume.

The EU has said it would impose its own 25 percent tariff on about 2.8 billion euros worth of U.S. imports. The targeted goods and companies, like Florida orange juice, are produced or headquartered in states important to the Republican party.

Harley is based in Wisconsin, the home state of House Speaker Paul Ryan. About 16 percent of sales go to Europe. Most U.S. bourbon, meanwhile, is made in Kentucky, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lives. Total U.S. spirits exports to the EU were valued at $789 million in 2017, and U.S. whiskey accounted for about 85 percent of that, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

Republicans are trying to retain control of Congress in November’s midterm elections. They could easily lose their majority in the House of Representatives, although they have a better chance of holding the Senate.

GOP lawmakers in states vulnerable to trade spats have already tried to talk Trump into tamping down trade tensions. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has lobbied on behalf of farmers who could be affected by Chinese tariffs. Members of Congress from Texas have urged the White House to quickly renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The EU lacks some of the leverage Beijing has, for instance its ability to pressure North Korea on denuclearization or tackle trade imbalances en masse. Targeting vulnerable Republican politicians is a clever trump card to play.

 

President Trump has made 3,251 false or misleading claims in 497 days

June 1, 2018

by Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly

The Washington Post

In the 497 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump has made 3,251 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president.

That’s an average of more than 6.5 claims a day.

When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day. But the average number of claims per day keeps climbing as the president nears the 500-day mark of his presidency.

In the month of May, the president made about eight claims a day — including an astonishing 35 claims in his rally in Nashville on May 29.

Among the claims at the rally:

  • He more than tripled the projected savings from repealing Obamacare, and said the individual mandate was unconstitutional even though the Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., said it passed constitutional muster
  • He once again, falsely, said he passed the biggest tax cut in U.S. history, when it’s only in eighth place.
  • He inflated the trade deficit with Mexico. And he offered a long list of false statements about immigration, ranging from mischaracterizing the visa lottery to whether his long-promised wall is being built. (It’s not.)
  • He also twisted the words of Democrats, casting words of sympathy for undocumented immigrants as support for MS-13 gang members.

But perhaps the president’s most astonishing claim in May came on the last day of the month, in the form of a tweet.

  • ‘Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!’

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2018

Initially, the White House had said FBI director James B. Comey was fired May 9, 2017, because of his handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation, on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

But here’s what Trump himself said to NBC’s Lester Holt just two days after the firing: “I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

Moreover, the New York Times reported that Trump, in a meeting with Russian officials the day after the firing, said: “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Those quotes appeared in a White House document summarizing the meeting.

Our interactive graphic, created with the help of Leslie Shapiro and Kaeti Hinck of The Washington Post’s graphics department, displays a running list of every false or misleading statement made by Trump. We also catalogued the president’s many flip-flops, since those earn Upside-Down Pinocchios if a politician shifts position on an issue without acknowledging that he or she did so.

Trump has a proclivity to repeat, over and over, many of his false or misleading statements. We’ve counted at least 122 claims that the president has repeated at least three times, some with breathtaking frequency.

Almost one third of Trump’s claims — 931 — relate to economic issues, trade deals or jobs. He frequently takes credit for jobs created before he became president or company decisions with which he had no role. He cites his “incredible success” in terms of job growth, even though annual job growth under his presidency has been slower than the last five years of Barack Obama’s term. He also loves to cite unemployment figures, even though he repeatedly said during his campaign that the unemployment rate was phony and could not be trusted.

Not surprisingly, immigration is another source of Trump’s misleading claims, now totaling 379. Nineteen times just in the past three months, for instance, the president has falsely claimed his long-promised border wall with Mexico is being built, even though Congress has denied funding for it.

Misleading claims about taxes — now at 299 — are also a common feature of Trump’s speeches. Seventy-five times, he has made the false assertion that he passed the biggest tax cut in U.S. history.

But moving up the list quickly are claims about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether people in the Trump campaign were in any way connected to it. The president has made 265 statements about the Russia probe, using hyperbolic claims of “worse than Watergate,” “McCarthyism” and, of course, “witch hunt.” He often asserts that the Democrats colluded with the Russians, even though the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign were victims of Russian activities, as emails were hacked and then released via WikiLeaks.

 

Trump’s Lies vs. Your Brain

Unfortunately, it’s no contest. Here’s what psychology tells us about life under a leader totally indifferent to the truth.

January/February 2017

by Maria Konnikova

Politico

All presidents lie. Richard Nixon said he was not a crook, yet he orchestrated the most shamelessly crooked act in the modern presidency. Ronald Reagan said he wasn’t aware of the Iran-Contra deal; there’s evidence he was. Bill Clinton said he did not have sex with that woman; he did, or close enough. Lying in politics transcends political party and era. It is, in some ways, an inherent part of the profession of politicking.

But Donald Trump is in a different category. The sheer frequency, spontaneity and seeming irrelevance of his lies have no precedent. Nixon, Reagan and Clinton were protecting their reputations; Trump seems to lie for the pure joy of it. A whopping 70 percent of Trump’s statements that PolitiFact checked during the campaign were false, while only 4 percent were completely true, and 11 percent mostly true. (Compare that to the politician Trump dubbed “crooked,” Hillary Clinton: Just 26 percent of her statements were deemed false.)

Those who have followed Trump’s career say his lying isn’t just a tactic, but an ingrained habit. New York tabloid writers who covered Trump as a mogul on the rise in the 1980s and ’90s found him categorically different from the other self-promoting celebrities in just how often, and pointlessly, he would lie to them. In his own autobiography, Trump used the phrase “truthful hyperbole,” a term coined by his ghostwriter referring to the flagrant truth-stretching that Trump employed, over and over, to help close sales. Trump apparently loved the wording, and went on to adopt it as his own.

On January 20, Trump’s truthful hyperboles will no longer be relegated to the world of dealmaking or campaigning. Donald Trump will become the chief executive of the most powerful nation in the world, the man charged with representing that nation globally—and, most importantly, telling the story of America back to Americans. He has the megaphone of the White House press office, his popular Twitter account and a loyal new right-wing media army that will not just parrot his version of the truth but actively argue against attempts to knock it down with verifiable facts. Unless Trump dramatically transforms himself, Americans are going to start living in a new reality, one in which their leader is a manifestly unreliable source.

What does this mean for the country—and for the Americans on the receiving end of Trump’s constantly twisting version of reality? It’s both a cultural question and a psychological one. For decades, researchers have been wrestling with the nature of falsehood: How does it arise? How does it affect our brains? Can we choose to combat it? The answers aren’t encouraging for those who worry about the national impact of a reign of untruth over the next four, or eight, years. Lies are exhausting to fight, pernicious in their effects and, perhaps worst of all, almost impossible to correct if their content resonates strongly enough with people’s sense of themselves, which Trump’s clearly do.

***

What happens when a lie hits your brain? The now-standard model was first proposed by Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilbert more than 20 years ago. Gilbert argues that people see the world in two steps. First, even just briefly, we hold the lie as true: We must accept something in order to understand it. For instance, if someone were to tell us—hypothetically, of course—that there had been serious voter fraud in Virginia during the presidential election, we must for a fraction of a second accept that fraud did, in fact, take place. Only then do we take the second step, either completing the mental certification process (yes, fraud!) or rejecting it (what? no way). Unfortunately, while the first step is a natural part of thinking—it happens automatically and effortlessly—the second step can be easily disrupted. It takes work: We must actively choose to accept or reject each statement we hear. In certain circumstances, that verification simply fails to take place. As Gilbert writes, human minds, “when faced with shortages of time, energy, or conclusive evidence, may fail to unaccept the ideas that they involuntarily accept during comprehension.”

Our brains are particularly ill-equipped to deal with lies when they come not singly but in a constant stream, and Trump, we know, lies constantly, about matters as serious as the election results and as trivial as the tiles at Mar-a-Lago. (According to his butler, Anthony Senecal, Trump once said the tiles in a nursery at the West Palm Beach club had been made by Walt Disney himself; when Senecal protested, Trump had a single response: “Who cares?”) When we are overwhelmed with false, or potentially false, statements, our brains pretty quickly become so overworked that we stop trying to sift through everything. It’s called cognitive load—our limited cognitive resources are overburdened. It doesn’t matter how implausible the statements are; throw out enough of them, and people will inevitably absorb some. Eventually, without quite realizing it, our brains just give up trying to figure out what is true.

But Trump goes a step further. If he has a particular untruth he wants to propagate—not just an undifferentiated barrage—he simply states it, over and over. As it turns out, sheer repetition of the same lie can eventually mark it as true in our heads. It’s an effect known as illusory truth, first discovered in the ’70s and most recently demonstrated with the rise of fake news. In its original demonstration, a group of psychologists had people rate statements as true or false on three different occasions over a two-week period. Some of the statements appeared only once, while others were repeated. The repeated statements were far more likely to be judged as true the second and third time they appeared—regardless of their actual validity. Keep repeating that there was serious voter fraud, and the idea begins to seep into people’s heads. Repeat enough times that you were against the war in Iraq, and your actual record on it somehow disappears.

Here’s the really bad news for all of those fact-checkers and publications hoping to counter Trump’s false claims: Repetition of any kind—even to refute the statement in question—only serves to solidify it. For instance, if you say, “It is not true that there was voter fraud,” or try to refute the claim with evidence, you often perversely accomplish the opposite of what you want. Later on, when the brain goes to recall the information, the first part of the sentence often gets lost, leaving only the second. In a 2002 study, Colleen Seifert, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, found that even retracted information—that we acknowledge has been retracted—can continue to influence our judgments and decisions. Even after people were told that a fire was not caused by paint and gas cylinders left in a closet, they continued to use that information—for instance, saying the fire was particularly intense because of the volatile materials present—even as they acknowledged that the correction had taken place. When presented with the contradictions in their responses, they said things like, “At first, the cylinders and cans were in the closet and then they weren’t”—in effect creating a new fact to explain their continued reliance on false information. This means that when the New York Times, or any other publication, runs a headline like “Trump Claims, With No Evidence, That ‘Millions of People Voted Illegally,’” it perversely reinforces the very claim it means to debunk.

In politics, false information has a special power. If false information comports with preexisting beliefs—something that is often true in partisan arguments—attempts to refute it can actually backfire, planting it even more firmly in a person’s mind. Trump won over Republican voters, as well as alienated Democrats, by declaring himself opposed to “Washington,” “the establishment” and “political correctness,” and by stoking fears about the Islamic State, immigrants and crime. Leda Cosmides at the University of California, Santa Barbara, points to her work with her colleague John Tooby on the use of outrage to mobilize people: “The campaign was more about outrage than about policies,” she says. And when a politician can create a sense of moral outrage, truth ceases to matter. People will go along with the emotion, support the cause and retrench into their own core group identities. The actual substance stops being of any relevance.

Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth University who studies false beliefs, has found that when false information is specifically political in nature, part of our political identity, it becomes almost impossible to correct lies. When people read an article beginning with George W. Bush’s assertion that Iraq may pass weapons to terrorist networks, which later contained the fact that Iraq didn’t actually possess any WMDs at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the initial misperception persisted among Republicans—and, indeed, was frequently strengthened. In the face of a seeming assault on their identity, they didn’t change their minds to conform with the truth: Instead, amazingly, they doubled down on the exact views that were explained to be wrong.

With regard to Trump specifically, Nyhan points out that claims related to ethno-nationalism—Trump’s declaration early in the campaign that Mexico was sending “rapists” across the border, for instance—get at the very core of who we are as humans, which “may make people less willing or able to evaluate the statement empirically.” If you already believe immigrants put your job at risk, who’s to say the chastity of your daughters isn’t in danger, too? Or as Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker puts it, once Trump makes that emotional connection, “He could say what he wants, and they’ll follow him.”

So what can we do in the face of a flagrant liar-in-chief? Here, alas, the news is not particularly promising. Consider a 2013 paper aimed at correcting political misperceptions, specifically. In the study, a group of people around the country were first asked about their knowledge of several government policies: For instance, how familiar were they with how electronic health records were handled? They also were asked about their attitudes toward the issues: Were they in favor, or opposed? Everyone next read a news article crafted specifically for the study that described the policy: how electronic health records work, what the objectives of using them are and how widely they are, in fact, used. Next, each participant saw a correction to the article, stating that it contained a number of factual errors, alongside an explanation of what was wrong. But the only people who actually changed their incorrect beliefs as a result were those whose political ideology was aligned with the correct information already. Those whose beliefs ran counter to the correction? They changed their belief in the accuracy of the publication that could possibly publish such an obviously bogus correction. It’s easy enough to correct minor false facts, the color of a label, say, if they aren’t crucial to your sense of self. Alas, nothing political fits into that bucket.

***

Scarier still for those who have never supported Trump is that he just might colonize their brains, too. When we are in an environment headed by someone who lies, so often, something frightening happens: We stop reacting to the liar as a liar. His lying becomes normalized. We might even become more likely to lie ourselves. Trump is creating a highly politicized landscape where everyone is on the defensive: You’re either for me, or against me; if you win, I lose, and vice versa. Fiery Cushman, a moral psychologist at Harvard University, put it this way when I asked him about Trump: “Our moral intuitions are warped by the games we play.” Place us in an environment where it’s zero-sum, dog-eat-dog, party-eats-party, and we become, in game theory terms, “intuitive defectors,” meaning our first instinct is not to cooperate with others but to act in our own self-interest—which could mean disseminating lies ourselves.

The dynamic we are seeing unfurled in the United States is not merely hypothetical. We already have a model of this process—a country regressing when its leader goes from progressive to deceptive: Russia under Vladimir Putin. “This worldview”—a zero-sum, I win-you lose one—“is relatively more prevalent in Russia and other cultures with weak rule of law, high corruption and low generalized trust, as compared with Western democracies,” Cushman says. But when Western democracies start looking like those cultures, the norms can quickly shift.

The distressing reality is that our sense of truth is far more fragile than we would like to think it is—especially in the political arena, and especially when that sense of truth is twisted by a figure in power. As the 19th-century Scottish philosopher Alexander Bain put it, “The great master fallacy of the human mind is believing too much.” False beliefs, once established, are incredibly tricky to correct. A leader who lies constantly creates a new landscape, and a citizenry whose sense of reality may end up swaying far more than they think possible. It’s little wonder that authoritarian regimes with sophisticated propaganda operations can warp the worldviews of entire populations. “You are annihilated, exhausted, you can’t control yourself or remember what you said two minutes before. You feel that all is lost,” as one man who had been subject to Mao Zedong’s “reeducation” campaign in China put it to the psychiatrist Robert Lifton. “You accept anything he says.”

 

How Philadelphia closed homeless ‘heroin camps’ as opioid crisis moves to American cities

Amid national opioid crisis, evictions at site raise concern over loss of community and shortage of alternative housing

June 1, 2018

by Edward Helmore in Philadelphia

The Guardian

First came the warnings, then the deluge.

The city of Philadelphia moved to clear out two notorious underpass encampments of heroin users in the rundown Kensington district this week after a month-long effort by city agencies and outreach groups to convince residents to seek treatment or go to shelters.

Residents have long complained that homelessness coupled with open drug use amounts to a serious public health hazard in the densely populated residential neighborhood. They welcomed the evictions on Wednesday and the removal of tents, mattresses and detritus.

The pilot program focused on connecting people to social services so they could lead more stable lives. For four weeks, social workers and police flocked to the bridges and offered help. The night before the move, some groups held prayer vigils; others, protesting the city’s action, pointed to posters that read “Eviction = Death”.

“It needed to go. It wasn’t right for kids to see that,” said a nearby resident, Lisa Kahn. “They light fires, throw their trash and dirty needles on the ground. We’re supposed to be the city of brotherly love. But they’re the ones living under a bridge, taking drugs and they’re ones getting help …”

But the men and women who called the camps on Tulip Street and Kensington Avenue home were less than impressed. Some spoke of being pressed to accept drug detox or addiction treatment.

“They want to send everybody to rehab, but rehab is only good for people who want to go,” said Jay, 41, who was cooking heroin in preparation for a hit. Christopher, aged 29, had just taken one. He said sometimes he’d had “the gumption to go but two or three days later you don’t want to”.

Another on the avenue, who gave his name as Bruce, said he’d been using drugs in the neighborhood for 25 years.

“I live under the bridges to keep out of the elements. But I’m not ready for treatment. I’m not denying I don’t need it. I’m just not ready.” He joked that when they left the camp, he might just go sleep on the mayor Jim Kenney’s porch.

But for many, the joking has long since ended.

Tom Farley, the Philadelphia health commissioner, said there had been 1,200 fatal overdoses in the city last year, an increase of 300 over 2016, making the city one of the worst-hit in the country. Farley said that for each fatal overdose, there were probably eight to 10 non-fatal events. It is estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 Philadelphians are addicted to opioids.

The encampments “are just one manifestation of the opioid crisis”, Farley told reporters. “Our job is to keep the people alive until they’re ready to go into treatment.”

The city’s managing director, Michael DiBerardinis, added that Philadelphia was “committed to fixing the problem. However, it won’t be easy because the opioid crisis is far from over.”

Philadelphia’s spiking opioid death rate is largely associated with fentanyl, the potent, often Chinese-manufactured, synthetic opioid. The drug is so problematic that many drug users said they chose to inject in company so they could be revived in the event of an overdose.

“We don’t see heroin around too much,” says Bruce. “Most people have switched to fentanyl. But it’s extremely dangerous. Half a nickel ($5) bag can kill you.”

Breaking down the camps could spur drug users to go back to using drugs alone.

Philadelphia officials are in discussions over setting up safe consumption sites. Farley has said he supports the measure if it saves lives. But numerous state and federal regulations make that problematic. One issue is that injecting, supervised or not, is illegal. Safe consumption sites, DiBerardinis said, were “a long way off”.

From a logistical standpoint, the city’s main issue is not a lack of treatment facilities but a shortage of alternative housing. Philadelphia’s office of homelessness services was only able to guarantee shelter for 110 people living in the encampments and who had registered as homeless early in the program.

“It’s very painful for us to say we don’t have beds for everybody, but it’s part of the reality of the homeless system,” said Liz Hersh, director of Philadelphia’s office of homeless services.

In contrast, four dozen homeless people with opioid abuse issues took the rehab option during the pilot program. Hersh described the encampments as one of the most “complex and challenging” aspects of the opioid issue, which demanded “new solutions”.

Hersh said the city had made had chosen a policy of “intensive daily outreach” and the program had begun with a voluntary assessment of 300 campers, most of whom were newly homeless. She said more had accessed treatment in the first two weeks of the program than had in the previous six months.

“As a system, this is as close as we’ve ever come to treatment on demand. That is what people have been telling us we need to have, so when people feel they are ready to seek treatment we have to be able to seize that moment.

“When we offer what people need and want, they take advantage of the opportunity,” Hersh added.

But Hersh also acknowledged that the city lacked funds to close down two other camps under bridges, on Emerald Street and Frankfort Avenue, and some displaced camp dwellers were likely to move there.

That may leave the city playing a grim game of a whack-a-mole. Some wondered if the closure of the original camp in the Gurney Street train gulch, known as El Campamento, now seemed like such a wise idea.

They point, variously, to pressures applied by the rapidly gentrifying adjacent neighborhood of Fishtown, the expansion of Temple University and Philadelphia’s pending application to become Amazon’s HQ2.

“It’s a tough issue,” the city councillor Mark Squilla said. “But to say that it’s OK for people to live in squalor, amongst urination and defecation, with human trafficking and rape that’s going on, is unconscionable to us as a city. We know that unless we take action we won’t be able to handle it. The opioid crisis is getting worse, if we don’t act on this people will be living in tents all over the city.”

But he dismissed the idea that the city was only now paying attention to the drug crisis because the camps had become a national symbol of the opioid epidemic’s rapid urbanization.

“Gentrification hasn’t reached this far,” he pointed out. “A lot of poor working people live here and they don’t want to live with this stuff going on.”

But as the two camps were dispersed, some outreach groups said they were concerned that whatever the encampments’ drawbacks, the groups had developed a sense of community and support.

Sister Betty Scanlon, who runs the nearby Community Center at Visitation, said two groups in the neighborhood, Prevention Point and Project Home, had done “a wonderful job” making sure that the homeless were safe and focusing on harm-reduction.

“We know the folks here, and we know they’re extremely vulnerable. Living here is not ideal but it’s also tough for them to lose their community.”

 

Jet-set Jesus: televangelist to donate old private jet when he gets new $54m one

Jesse Duplantis angered many when he asked for $54m for a private jet – but he says his old plane will get a new home

June 1, 2018

by Arwa Mahdawi

The Guardian

New Orleans televangelist Jesse Duplantis says people have misunderstood his reasons for wanting to buy a fourth private jet.

The pastor angered many Americans earlier this week when he solicited donations for a $54m plane. “If the Lord Jesus Christ was physically on the earth today, he wouldn’t be riding a donkey,” he told his followers in a video posted on his site. “He’d be in an airplane flying all over the world.”

Following critical headlines, Duplantis reiterated that his motives for buying a luxury Falcon 7X are entirely godly. Speaking to Good Morning America, Duplantis said he needed the plane for “preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with luxurious.”

Earlier media reports said the coveted Falcon 7X would be the pastor’s fourth private plane, but Duplantis also said “there was a misnomer on that one. I said I’ve had three jets, I don’t have three jets.” Two of those jets are “now in other ministries. I only own one airplane now.” The pastor also stated that he would donate his old jet once he got the new one.

Duplantis, who is worth a reported $40m, had previously assured viewers of This Week With Jesse, a vlog on his website, that the new private jet would save money as well as souls. “People say … can’t you go with this one?” gesturing at a picture of one of the private jets he already owns. “Yes, but I can’t go it one stop. And if I can do it one stop, I can fly it for a lot cheaper, because I have my own fuel farm. And that’s what’s been a blessing of the Lord.”

Duplantis isn’t the only televangelist to have asked his supporters to help him get 30,000ft closer to God. In 2015, megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar put out a video asking people to help him purchase a Gulfstream G650, which cost about $65m. His ministry had a private jet already, but it was getting rather old, and was no longer fit for purpose. Nor were unholy commercial airlines up to scratch. Perhaps there is a forgotten commandment only televangelists are aware of: thou must never fly coach.

Dollar, who says his monetary moniker is his real name, despite some reports that he was actually born Michael Smith, preaches the “prosperity gospel”. So too does Duplantis, along with a number of other high-profile American televangelists such as Joel Osteen and Kenneth Copeland. Osteen owns a number of million-dollar mansions and, of course, has a private jet. Copeland also has a private jet; he once described flying on a commercial flight as “getting in a long tube with a bunch of demons”.

The prosperity gospel is an American theological tradition, which essentially says that God is a rampant capitalist who makes true believers wealthy and blessed. (The prosperity gospel popularized the term ‘blessed’ and helped turned it into a hashtag.) A 2006 Time poll found 17% of American Christians identify with the movement, while 31% believe that “if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money”.

It should be said that the Bible is full of verses that would seem to dispel this view. In Luke 18, for example, Jesus says: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” However, that was in the days before aviation. It stands to reason that the kingdom of God is far more easily accessible by jet plane.

 

The Empire in Collapse

Because of the growing, and serious, public discontent that had been manifested during the course of the Vietnamese War from 1950 through 1973, the American governmental establishment resolved to take steps to recognize, infiltrate and neutralize any significant future national anti-government actions.

Once the most powerful nation, the United States is rapidly losing its premier position in the international sphere while at the same time facing a potential serious anti-government political movement developing in that country. The number of unemployed in the United States today is approximately 97,000,000. Official American sources claim that employment is always improving but in fact it is not. Most official governmental releases reflect wishful thinking or are designed to placate the public

This situation is caused by the movement, by management, of manufacturing businesses to foreign labor markets. While these removals can indeed save the companies a great deal of expenditure on domestic labor, by sharply reducing their former worker bodies to a small number, the companies have reduced the number of prospective purchasers of expensive items like automobiles.

The U.S. government’s total revenue is estimated to be $3.654 trillion for fiscal year 2018.

  • Personal income taxes contribute $1.836 trillion, half of the total.
  • Another third ($1.224 trillion) comes from payroll taxes.

This includes $892 billion for Social Security, $270 billion for Medicare and $50 billion for unemployment insurance.

  • Corporate taxes add $355 billion, only 10 percent.
  • Customs excise taxes and tariffs on imports contribute $146 billion, just 4 percent
  • The Federal Reserve’s net income adds $70 billion.
  • The remaining $23 billion of federal income comes from estate taxes and miscellaneous receipts.
  • The use of secret offshore accounts by US citizens to evade U.S. federal taxes costs the U.S. Department of the Treasury well over $100 billion annually.

By moving from a producing to an importing entity, the United States has developed, and is developing, serious sociological and economic problems in a significant number of its citizens, and many suffer from serious health problems that are not treated.

It is estimated that over 500,000 American citizens are without any form of housing. Many of these people either are living on the streets, in public parks, living in cars or in charity shelters. There are at present over 200,000 family groups in America with over 300,000 individuals involved and 25% of the total are minor children.

Over 80,000 individuals are permanently without any residence. Many of these have physical disabilities such as chronic alcoholism or drug addiction. Many are classified as having severe mental disorders.

About 50,000 of these homeless individuals are military veterans, many of whom have serious physical or mental problems. One of the most common mental disorders is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Governmental treatment for these individuals is virtually non-existent.  Approximately half of this number are either black or Latin American (“Hispanics” in official designation.)

Of the total number of the homeless individuals, approximately 10% are female.

Official but private, estimates are that there over 500,000 youths below the age of 24 in current American society that find themselves homeless for periods lasting from one week to a permanent status.

Over 100,000 of this class are young people who are defined as being homosexual. Those in this class find themselves persecuted to a considerable degree by society in general and their peer groups in specific.

Approximately 50% of this homeless population are over the age of 50, many of whom suffer from chronic, debilitating physical illnesses that are not treated.

Drug deaths in the U.S. in 2017 exceeded 60,000.  Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involved prescriptions. Opioids are a class of strong painkillers drugs and include Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin which are synthetic drugs designed to resemble opiates such as opium derived morphine and heroin. The most dangerous opioid is Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller 50-100 times more powerful than morphine. The increasing demand for these drugs is causing them to be manufactured outside the United States.

Suicide is the primary cause of “injury death” in the United States and more U.S. military personnel on active duty have killed themselves than were killed in combat last year.

The growing instability of American families is manifested by the fact that:

  • One out of every three children in America lives in a home without a father.
  • More than half of all babies are being born out of wedlock for women under the age of 30 living in the United States
  • The United States has the highest child abuse death rate in the developed world.
  • The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world although the numbers have declined in recent years due to the use of contraceptives.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the largest total prison population in the entire world. The criminal justice system in the United States holds more than 4,166,000 people in 1,719 state prisons, 102,000 in federal prisons, 901,000 in juvenile correctional facilities, and 3,163,000 in local jails. Additionally, 5,203,400 adults are on probation or on parole.

The number of people on probation or parole has increased the population of the American corrections system to more than 9,369,400 in 2017. Corrections costs the American taxpayer $69 billion a year.

There are a huge number of American domestic and business mortgages, (67 million by conservative estimate) which have been sliced up, put into so-called “investment packages” and sold to customers both domestic and foreign. This problem has been covered up by American authorities by cloaking the facts in something called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System)

This results in the fact that the holders of mortgages, so chopped and packed, are not possible to identify by MERS or anyone else, at any time and by any agency. This means that any property holder, be they a domestic home owner or a business owner, is paying their monthly fees for property they can never own.

Another festering problem consists of the official loans made to students in colleges and universities in the U.S. the predatory nature of the $90 billion student loan industry. These so-called student loans are the most serious economic problem faced today by American university students.

This problem arose due to federal legislation originating in the mid-1990s which effectively removed basic consumer protections from student loans, thus permitting extensive penalties and the methodology for enforced collection.

Because of the highly inflated cost of higher American education, very few students from high school can afford university education. The new college graduate has, on average, a student loan in excess of $20,000 and students attending graduate programs have average debts of over $40,000.

America today has seriously failing public school systems. Upper economic class Americans are able to send their children to expensive private schools and avoid the exceedingly incompetent public systems. The average American lower school graduates are only a step above illiteracy and their lack of knowledge of world affairs is quite unbelievable.

A small number of extremely wealthy men control and operate all of the major American print and television media.

Each of the few very powerful, rich men have their own reasons for deciding what qualifies as news.

But the public in America now gets its news, without cost, from various internet sites and the circulation number of major print news has dropped dramatically. This has forced the internet editions of the print news media to erect what they call “paywalls.” This permits a very limited number of articles to be read or downloaded before the system demands money for the use of additional material.

The major print media in America is faced with imminent bankruptcy and are making frantic efforts at attempts to prevent free news sites from being aired on the internet.

Government surveillance of the American public is very widespread and at the present time, almost every aspect of an American citizen, or resident, is available for official surveillance. This includes mail, television viewing, telephone conversations, computer communications, travel, ownership of property, medical and school records, banking and credit card transactions, inheritances and other aspects of a citizen’s daily life.

This is done to circumvent any possible organization that could contravene official government policy and has its roots in massive civil resistance to governmental policy during the war in Vietnam. The government does not want a reprise of that problem and its growing surveillance is designed to carefully watch any citizen, or groups of citizens, who might, present or future, pose a threat to government policy.

Another factor to be considered is the current American attitudes towards racial issues. There has always been prejudice in the United States against blacks. In 1943 there were bloody riots in Detroit and Los Angeles, the former aimed at blacks and the latter against Mexicans. Since then, there has been chronic racial prejudice but it has been relatively small and very local. Also, there is growing anti-Semitic prejudice in American but this is officially ignored and never is mentioned in the American media. Much of this growing problem is directed at the brutal actions of Israel against Palestinians. Israelis have an undue influence in the American political scene. The very far right so-called neo-cons are almost all Jewish and most are Israeli citizens. Also, the middle-level ranks of American CIA personnel are heavily infiltrated by Israelis and it is said that any secret the CIA has is at once passed to Israel and that countries needs are assuming importance in CIA actions.

The attitudes of the working class Americans were inflamed during the last presidential elections by Mr. Trump who catered to them and encouraged rebellious attitudes. By speaking against Central American illegal immigrants, Mr. Trump has caused a polarization of attitudes and the militant right wing in America, currently small in number but well-organized and potentially very dangerous, has begun to make its views very well known in public demonstrations.

This movement has played into the hands of far-right American political manipulators.

It is their intention to clandestinely arm these groups and use them to cause violent public confrontations with the far left groups.

By causing this potential violence, the manipulators intend to use the American military to move into unstable area to, as they say, ‘establish law and order’ while in reality, they will use martial law to firm up their basic control of a potentially fractious public.

It is then intended, according to information, to incorporate organized, para-military groups into a sort of domestic Federal police force. These people will not be punished for their actions but rewarded and utilized to ensure further right-wing control of the country.

It is well known that after the perceived very liberal administration of the left-leaning William Clinton, the far right wing of the Republican Party was determined to get control of the White House just as they then had control of Congress. They were well on their way to stacking the third branch of our government, the judicial.

The main architect of this ambitious plan was Karl Christian Rove. Rove, the prominent Republican political activist and former senior adviser to both former President George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush.  Very intelligent but totally amoral and personally vicious, Rove was a powerful influence over George Bush, converting him to a form of aggressive Evangelical Christianity and getting him elected to the Governorship of Texas.

Rove was instrumental in convincing the power elite of the time to support Bush as the Republican candidate for President in 2000 and the manipulations to put the colorless Bush into the Oval Office have been covered extensively in the media and on the Internet. Rove, according to one of his aides, was a student of German politics and was especially interested in the so-called Reichstag Fire incident.

He is reported as having convinced his employer, George H.W. Bush, that the proper type of incident could provide the cover for a right-wing Republican institution seizure of power under the guise of public protection.

The senior Bush made three trips to Saudi Arabia between 1998 and 2000 where he is reliably reported to have held secret talks with the Saudi minister of police.

The resulting attack on American institutions in 2001 was intended to provide the basis for the consolidation of right-wing power.

But the Rove people failed in two areas and it was a failure that eventually brought down their plans.

The Saudi attack that was aborted in Pennsylvania when a Saudi-supported commercial aircraft hijacking crashed when the passengers attempted to abort the flight. This aircraft was intended to crash into the Capitol building when Congress was in session, causing huge casualties and giving the younger Bush the excuse to govern by decree until some vague future time when new elections to replace the dead or crippled members of that body could be held.

The second area of failure was the refusal of the senior commanders of the Army to become involved in the projected national roundups of any potentially dissident citizenry or to institute and maintain any national detention centers.

In 2013, Rove began The Conservative Victory Project.  Its purpose has been to support “electable” conservative political candidates for political office in the United States.

In addition, Rove is stated to have formed a new right-wing activist group formed in 2016 and called The  Scavenius   Society, named after a wartime Danish Nazi. A number of its leading members have worked with Wills Carto’s right wing movement before Carto’s death.

The policy of the supporters of the far right groups is to exacerbate latent racism in the United States to the point where public violence erupts and the political polarization of the public becomes manifest. By encouraging and arming the far right and neo nazi groups, the Scavenius group is laying the groundwork for an acceptable and militant government reaction, the institution of draconian control over the entire population and the rationale for national and official government control, all in the name of law and order. It is planned that the far right and neo nazi groups be taken into the law enforcement structure and used to put down any public demonstrations that the government deems to be a potential threat to their policies.

Who are these groups? Here is a listing of only some of them:

  • ACT for America
  • Alliance Defending Freedom
  • America’s Promise Ministries
  • American Border Patrol/American Patrol
  • American Family Association
  • American Freedom Party
  • American Renaissance
  • Aryan Brotherhood
  • Aryan Brotherhood of Texas
  • Aryan Nations
  • Blood & Honor
  • Brotherhood of Klans
  • Center for Security Policy
  • Church of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
  • The Creativity Movement
  • The Sovereign Citizen Movement of the US and Canada
  • The Dominonist Movement of America
  • National Alliance
  • National Coalition for Immigration Reform
  • National Socialist Movement
  • National Vanguard
  • Oath Keepers
  • Stormfront
  • The Aryan Terror Brigade.
  • The neo-Confederate League of the South.
  • Traditionalist Worker Party
  • White Revolution

The basic plan of the planners is to supply activists neo-nazi groups in the United States with weapons smuggled into the US. These weapons originate with the Chinese firm, NORENCO, The China North Industries Corporation. This is a Chinese company, located at the Xicheng District, Beijing, China that manufactures civil and military firearms and ammunition.

The specific weapons involved in the arming of neo-nazi groups are the following:

  • Type 54, copy of TT-33 Pistol Model
  • Type 64, pistol
  • Type 77, pistol
  • NP50, copy of Smith & Wesson model 64
  • NP-216, 9x19mm revolver
  • QSZ-92 (Type 92), pistol NP-42, civilian export version of QSZ-92
  • NZ-75, copy of CZ 75 pistol NZ-85B, clone of CZ 85 pistol
  • NP-40, copy of CZ 85 pistol in .40S&W
  • NP-22 (rename by importer NP226 or NC226) a SIG Sauer P226 pistol first version copy NP-34 (rename by importer NP228 or NC228), copy of SIG Sauer P228 pistol
  • NP-56 45ACP, SIG Sauer P220 Rail pistol Copy in .45ACP
  • M-1911A1C, Combat Commander style pistol
  • NP-28, Colt M1911A1 copy in 9x19mm Parabellum with double-column magazine (10 rounds)
  • NP-44, Colt M1911A1 copy in .45 ACP with double-column magazine (14 rounds)
  • CQ, copy of M16A1 variant of M16 rifle
  • NR-08, sub machine gun(SMG), copy of Heckler & Koch MP5.
  • Type 56 Carbine, copy of Russian SKS semi-automatic rifle
  • Type 56 assault rifle, copy of AK-47 MAK-90, a civilian, semi-automatic version of the AK-47
  • NHM-90, 1994–2004 gun ban model, w/1.5mm stamped receiver, thumbhole stock, no bayonet lug, non-flashhider
  • Type 86S bullpup assault rifle
  • Type 87 (also known as QLZ87) 35 mm automatic grenade launcher (AGL)
  • QBU-88 (Type 88), sniper rifle
  • QBZ-95 (Type 95), an assault rifle
  • Norinco-designed QBZ-95 rifle.QBB 95, a squad automatic weapon version of the QBZ-95
  • QBZ-97 (Type 97), a rifle,export version of QBZ-95 that uses 5.56×45mm NATO ammunition
  • QBZ-03 (Type 03), an assault rifle
  • NDM-86, a version of the Dragunov Sniper Rifle that fires .308 Win. ammo or traditional 7.62×54mmR depending on model
  • JW-25a, or TU-G33/40, patterned after G33/40.

 

Because of strict port security in Vancouver, the weapons are off-loaded in the Pacific, off the west coast of Vancouver Island, from a Chinese-flag container ship headed for the port city of Vancouver. The weapons are loaded onto commercial fishing vessels, very common in the area, who subsequently take them south to the Washington port of Tacoma. From there, they are driven by commercial trucks to the Boeing Field airport and placed on private aircraft for distribution to other American destinations.

It is to be noted that there is a strong Chinese presence in the Vancouver-Seattle area. In Vancouver, the Chinese population is over 400,000 and in Seattle they represent 4% of the population. All the smuggled weapons are handled by Chinese personnel until they are loaded onto the aircraft.

Funding for the weapons purchases does not come from the organizing entity but from a different source.

The payments are made via the manufacture and sale of counterfeit nazi period memorabilia. This project is funded initially from retrieved buried nazi concentration camp gold hidden in the mountains of southern Austria. An expedition there in 2014 netted the American neo-nazi group almost $20,000,000 in gold bullion coins and jewelry. The gold and other treasure was buried by an SS general at the end of the war. The gold has been stored in the cellars of a prosperous commercial dealer in neo-nazi relics and used, as needed, to fund the weapons purchases.

There are two powerful agencies in the United States that are, or would be, involved with anti-government activities.

The existence of major FBI–CIA problems has always been refuted by both entities.

The FBI was an established agency in 1948 when the CIA was founded and as the latter expanded, it moved more and more into the FBI’s area of competence.

Eventually, after a period of intense rivalry and competition, an agreement was arrived at that mandated the FBI handle all domestic intelligence matters and the CIA did its work outside the United States.

This was an agreement observed more in the breach than the observance.

When Rove spoke with the CIA about the implementation of his plans, it was agreed that he would receive all the cooperation and assistance he desired but on the condition that the CIA would be subsequently allowed to be the premier intelligence agency, doing both domestic and foreign intelligence work. The FBI, greatly reduced in number and duties, would be relegated solely to criminal matters such as bank robberies and the removal of stolen automobiles across state lines.

This concept has been extensively discussed with persons close to the Presidency and the agreement would be that the CIA would have both domestic and foreign intelligence on the condition that they liaised all projects with the White House prior to any execution.

US warns against attacking its troops after Assad says they’ll leave Syria ‘one way or another’

June 1, 2018

RT

US troops are not leaving Syria and any attempt to remove them by force will be met with an armed response, a top Pentagon official said, reacting to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s RT interview.

“Any interested party in Syria should understand that attacking US forces or our coalition partners will be a bad policy,” Director of Joint Staff Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said at the Pentagon press briefing on Thursday.

Over 2,000 US troops in Syria are embedded with the SDF in the northeast as well as in the enclave of At-Tanf in the south, along the Jordanian border. McKenzie said the US troops and their local militia allies were staying in Tanf, quashing rumors of their impending withdrawal.

“We are there. Nothing has changed,” he said. “The maintenance of that deconfliction zone is important and we would view very gravely any actions that tended to change that.”

Unlike the Russian military mission, which was invited by the Syrian government in 2015, the US presence in Syria is not sanctioned under international law. Both the Obama and the Trump administrations have argued that the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria is legal under the congressional authorizations to use military force against Al-Qaeda dating back to 2001.

However, the US at one point ended up effectively allied with Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front), President Assad told RT. After it became clear that Nusra was an Al-Qaeda offshoot rather than “moderate rebels,” the US established the SDF, Assad said.

After each Syrian military victory or successful reconciliation effort, the US and its partners attempted to counteract these gains by “supporting more terrorism, bringing more terrorists to Syria, or by hindering the political process,” Assad said, blaming the US for prolonging the seven-year war.

Damascus is willing to negotiate with the SDF, as it regards the Kurdish-led militias as fellow Syrians who love their country. “We all don’t trust the Americans, [so] the one option is to live with each other as Syrians,” Assad said.

Every attempt would be made to negotiate with the SDF, he told RT, but if negotiations fail, “the Syrian army will be forced to liberate areas occupied by the SDF, with the Americans or without the Americans.”

While US President Donald Trump has floated the idea of withdrawing American troops from Syria, multiple officials from the Pentagon and the State Department have said the US troops are going nowhere, and that territories liberated from IS by SDF will not be returned to the Syrian government unless Assad leaves power.

The Syrian president, however, believes he will outlast the Americans.

“This is our land, it’s our right, it’s our duty to liberate [these areas], and the Americans should leave,” Assad told RT. “Somehow, they’re going to leave. They came to Iraq with no legal basis. And look what happened to them. They have to learn their lesson.”

 

Canada to U.S.: Explain that $30 billion farm spending war chest

May 31, 2018

by P.J. Huffstutter and Tom Miles

Reuters

CHICAGO/GENEVA (Reuters) – Canada wants the United States to explain why its lawmakers have made an additional $30 billion available to support U.S. farmers hit by trade woes, and how Washington might distribute the money, according to a document published by the World Trade Organization on Thursday.

The questions come amid growing trade tensions between the United States and its top export markets. Earlier on Thursday, the Trump administration outraged allies by moving ahead with tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Canada’s questions also point to more potential trouble brewing at the World Trade Organization, where the United States has vetoed new judges for disputes. Analysts say Canada is seeking clarity on what steps the White House might take to protect farmers whose support helped Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the White House and Canadian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Canada submitted the request to the WTO’s agriculture committee, where negotiators meet several times a year to examine each other’s farm support programs and challenge eye-catching spending by their rivals.

Canada’s written question asked the United States to explain the U.S. Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, in which Congress lifted certain restrictions on the U.S. Agriculture Secretary’s authority to use Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds.

The CCC has broad authority to make loans and direct payments to U.S. growers when prices for corn, soybeans, wheat and other agricultural goods are low. The White House is looking at ways to use CCC funds to offset farm income losses in a trade war with China or others, according to media reports.

“Canada understands that the CCC can borrow up to $30 billion from the Treasury Department at any one time to stabilize farm income such as assisting farmers through loans, purchases, payments and other operations,” Canada said.

“Could the U.S. please provide the reasoning for lifting restrictions on the USDA’s authority to use CCC funds, and name the programs that will be eligible for these new funds?”

Canada also wants to know if Washington can use CCC funds to buy domestic surpluses, such as dairy products, or corn and soybeans.

Canada’s formal request for information does not necessarily imply a dispute is brewing. But WTO committee questions are often a sign of friction. If no satisfactory answer is supplied, pressure for a negotiated solution – and the risk of a full-blown dispute – is likely to rise.

Reporting by P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago and Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Matthew Lewis

 

Data protection laws are shining a needed light on a secretive industry

Regardless of where we live, we all benefit from data protection laws – companies must us show how they profit off our information

June 1, 2018

by Bruce Schneier

The Guardian

When Marc Zuckerberg testified before both the House and the Senate last month, it became immediately obvious that few US lawmakers had any appetite to regulate the pervasive surveillance taking place on the internet.

Right now, the only way we can force these companies to take our privacy more seriously is through the market. But the market is broken. First, none of us do business directly with these data brokers. Equifax might have lost my personal data in 2017, but I can’t fire them because I’m not their customer or even their user. I could complain to the companies I do business with who sell my data to Equifax, but I don’t know who they are. Markets require voluntary exchange to work properly. If consumers don’t even know what these data brokers are getting their data and what they’re doing with it, they can’t make intelligent buying choices.

This is starting to change, thanks to a new law in Vermont and another in Europe. And more legislation is coming.

Vermont first. At the moment, we don’t know how many data brokers collect data on Americans. Credible estimates range from 2,500 to 4,000 different companies. Last week, Vermont passed a law that will change that.

The law does several things to improve the security of Vermonters’ data, but several provisions matter to all of us. First, the law requires data brokers that trade in Vermonters’ data to register annually. And while there are many small local data brokers, the larger companies collect data nationally and even internationally. This will help us get a more accurate look at who’s in this business. The companies also have to disclose what opt-out options they offer, and how people can request to opt out. Again, this information is useful to all of us, regardless of the state we live in. And finally, the companies have to disclose the number of security breaches they’ve suffered each year, and how many individuals were affected.

Admittedly, the regulations imposed by the Vermont law are modest. Earlier drafts of the law included a provision requiring data brokers to disclose how many individuals’ data it has in its databases, what sorts of data it collects and where the data came from, but those were removed as the bill negotiated its way into law. A more comprehensive law would allow individuals to demand to exactly what information they have about them – and maybe allow individuals to correct and even delete data. But it’s a start, and the first statewide law of its kind to be passed in the face of strong industry opposition.

Vermont isn’t the first to attempt this, though. On the other side of the country, Representative Norma Smith of Washington introduced a similar bill in both 2017 and 2018. It goes further, requiring disclosure of what kinds of data the broker collects. So far, the bill has stalled in the state’s legislature, but she believes it will have a much better chance of passing when she introduces it again in 2019. I am optimistic that this is a trend, and that many states will start passing bills forcing data brokers to be increasingly more transparent in their activities. And while their laws will be tailored to residents of those states, all of us will benefit from the information.

A 2018 California ballot initiative could help. Among its provisions, it gives consumers the right to demand exactly what information a data broker has about them. If it passes in November, once it takes effect, lots of Californians will take the list of data brokers from Vermont’s registration law and demand this information based on their own law. And again, all of us – regardless of the state we live in – will benefit from the information.

We will also benefit from another, much more comprehensive, data privacy and security law from the European Union. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was passed in 2016 and took effect on 25 May. The details of the law are far too complex to explain here, but among other things, it mandates that personal data can only be collected and saved for specific purposes and only with the explicit consent of the user. We’ll learn who is collecting what and why, because companies that collect data are going to have to ask European users and customers for permission. And while this law only applies to EU citizens and people living in EU countries, the disclosure requirements will show all of us how these companies profit off our personal data.

It has already reaped benefits. Over the past couple of weeks, you’ve received many emails from companies that have you on their mailing lists. In the coming weeks and months, you’re going to see other companies disclose what they’re doing with your data. One early example is PayPal: in preparation for GDPR, it published a list of the over 600 companies it shares your personal data with. Expect a lot more like this.

Surveillance is the business model of the internet. It’s not just the big companies like Facebook and Google watching everything we do online and selling advertising based on our behaviors; there’s also a large and largely unregulated industry of data brokers that collect, correlate and then sell intimate personal data about our behaviours. If we make the reasonable assumption that Congress is not going to regulate these companies, then we’re left with the market and consumer choice. The first step in that process is transparency. These new laws, and the ones that will follow, are slowly shining a light on this secretive industry.

 

 

 

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