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Anonymous Trump Official Writing ‘Unprecedented’ Inside Take

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NEW YORK — The Trump administration official who wrote an anonymous essay about resistance from the inside has a book deal.

The book, titled “A Warning,” will come out Nov. 19, The Hachette Book Group imprint Twelve announced Tuesday. It will likely set off the biggest Washington guessing game since “Primary Colors,” the fictionalized take on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign that turned out to be written by journalist Joe Klein.

The anonymous essay appeared in The New York Times in September 2018 and said that many within the administration were actively blocking some of Trump’s orders. No one has named the official despite widespread speculation and Trump’s own suggestion that the author’s identity be investigated.

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Twelve is calling the book “an unprecedented behind-the-scenes portrait” that “offers a shocking, first-hand account of President Trump and his record.” The author will be identified as “A Senior Trump Administration Official.”

According to the publisher, the author accepted no advance and will donate a portion of royalties to nonprofits that focus on accountability and “standing up” for truth in oppressive countries.

The official’s literary representatives, the Washington-based Javelin, have made deals for other books that have enraged Trump, including former FBI director James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty” and former White House aide Cliff Sims’ “Team of Vipers.”

The post Anonymous Trump Official Writing ‘Unprecedented’ Inside Take appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

The Democratic Establishment Is Terrified of a Biden Loss

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Last Saturday, nearly 26,000 people packed themselves into Queensbridge Park in New York City, angling for a chance to see Bernie Sanders speak. Almost 20,000 people did the same for Elizabeth Warren in Manhattan in September. Multiple presidential polls show Sanders and Warren, the two most progressive Democratic primary candidates, alternating between the second and third spots behind Joe Biden in the 2020 race. Those results suggest that a policy agenda that includes Medicare for All and high taxes on the wealthy is gaining traction among voters.

Establishment Democrats are panicking at this prospect, and at Biden’s declining performance. As The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin reports, they are “engaging in a familiar rite: fretting about who is in the race and longing for a white knight to enter the contest at the last minute.”

After Joe Biden’s middling debate performances and repeated gaffes, Martin’s sources doubt the former vice president’s “ability to finance a multistate primary campaign.” They also worry about Elizabeth Warren’s “viability in the general election,” and whether South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg “can broaden his appeal beyond white voters.”

The centrist donor class is at it again, idly floating Michael Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama as potential late-in-the-game entries to the presidential race, according to Martin’s unnamed sources who attended a dinner for Democratic donors at Manhattan’s Whitby Hotel last week.

Leah Daughtry, a longtime Democratic party fixture and CEO of the 2016 and 2008 Democratic National Convention Committees, told Martin: “Since the last debate, just anecdotally, I’ve had five or six people ask me: ‘Is there anybody else?’ ”

Connie Schultz, a journalist married to Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who considered a run earlier this year, told Martin, “There’s more anxiety than ever,” adding, “We’re both getting the calls [suggesting Brown should run]. I’ve been surprised by some who’ve called me.”

Martin does not explain whether the likes of Clinton, Bloomberg, Brown and John Kerry (another name Martin’s sources floated), would have any more luck attracting nonwhite voters or beating Trump. Only two of the names mentioned in the piece, former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, are not Caucasian.

As former Obama adviser David Axelrod explained to Martin about the Warren-Biden dynamic: “With Trump looming, there is genuine concern that the horse many have bet on may be pulling up lame and the horse who has sprinted out front may not be able to win.”

Mitch Landrieu, the former Democratic lieutenant governor of Louisiana, still believes Biden has the best chance to beat Trump, but says Biden’s weak fundraising remains “a real concern.”

Party elites are also apparently concerned about Warren’s “liberal politics,” although the arguably even more liberal policies of Bernie Sanders get only a brief mention at the end of the article. In fact, Sanders is not listed among the frontrunners despite his poll numbers and what CNN called his “massive” $25 million fundraising haul in the third quarter.

A Marquette University Law poll from September also suggested that Sanders could beat Trump in Wisconsin, a key swing state.

In a September article about Sanders’ electability prospects, Gloria Hoag, a New Hampshire Democratic delegate attending the state party convention, told Politico, “I love Bernie. … But I don’t know if he can beat Trump because he’s so far to the left. We need someone who’s a little more moderate.”

Perhaps all involved would do well to take Deval Patrick’s advice, as he explained to the Times: “Everybody needs to calm down, it’s early. It’s so early.”

The post The Democratic Establishment Is Terrified of a Biden Loss appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

A 9-Year-Old Is Facing Murder Charges in Illinois. The Judge Had to Teach Him What “Arson” and “Alleged” Mean.

Mother Jones Magazine -

On Monday, a nine-year-old boy in a checkered shirt sat in a juvenile court in Woodford County, Illinois, accused of murdering several of his relatives by setting fire to a mobile home. As he slid forward in his chair, his feet barely reached the ground.

The Chicago Tribune captured the scene at the arraignment hearing, where Judge Charles Feeney tried to explain the charges to the confused elementary schooler:

Feeney read the first count to the boy, saying that he’s alleged to have “committed the offense of first-degree murder and you…set fire to trailer residence…thereby caused the death of Jason Wall.” When Feeney asked the boy if he understood, he shook his head no. “What don’t you understand,” he asked.

“What I did,” the boy said. The judge started over, stopping on certain words to define them for the boy.

The judge introduced another count by comparing it to the previous: that it was “essentially the same thing, that you set the fire to the trailer residence on same date and everything, only in this instance, Ariel Wall died. Do you understand what is alleged in count four?”

“Yes,” [the boy] said.

“In count five, it alleges essentially the same thing, only it alleges the death of Rose Alwood. Do you understand what is alleged in count five?”

“Yes,” the boy said. A moment later, the boy’s attorney, Peter Dluski, spoke up. “Your honor—I apologize—he told me he doesn’t know what alleged means.”

The judge explained it to the boy until he nodded and then spoke that he understood. “It means someone accuses you,” the judge said. “If I accuse you of wearing a purple shirt…I allege you’re wearing a purple shirt. Is that true?”

“No,” the boy said. Feeney explained other words and aspects of the case…

“He wants to know what arson is, your honor,” Dluski said.

“Arson…is the name of a crime. That you knowingly caused a fire to occur at real property―what real property means is like a home… Real property was damaged. ”

The boy, whom Mother Jones will not name because of his age, is accused of intentionally setting the April blaze that killed four of his relatives and his mom’s boyfriend near Goodfield, Illinois. The case has garnered national attention, and prompted outcry from juvenile justice advocates who say a nine-year-old is far too young to be prosecuted in court.

If convicted, he would not be sent to juvenile hall because of his youth. But the court could put him on years of probation, according to the Tribune. And if he were to violate any of the complicated terms of probation, he could be detained after he turns 10, and sent to prison once he turns 13.

“It’s very unusual,” Elizabeth Clarke, president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative in Illinois, told the Washington Post of the case. “It’s a shocking approach that the prosecutor chose to take.”

Katie Alwood, the boy’s mother, told CBS News that her son was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, ADHD, and bipolar disorder.

While it is rare for a child so young to face such serious charges, Illinois is not the only state that allows nine-year-olds to be put in this situation. Far from it. Twenty-nine states have no lower age limit for prosecuting children in juvenile court, which means it’s perfectly legal to bring charges against children of any age, according to the National Juvenile Defender Center. That’s even as the Supreme Court has recognized that children are less culpable than adults because their brains aren’t developed yet. And it’s despite research showing that early involvement in the criminal justice system can be bad for kids’ health and make them more likely to commit crimes later.

The National Juvenile Defender Center put together a map showing the situation in each state:

National Juvenile Defender Center

The boy will continue to fight his case; the judge set another hearing for November. Alwood told CBS News that her son deserved a second chance: “Yes, it was a horrible tragedy, but it’s still not something to throw his life away over.”

Diplomat: Trump Linked Ukraine Aid to Demand for Probe

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WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Ambassador William Taylor provided lawmakers Tuesday with a vivid, detailed and what some lawmakers called “disturbing” account of the way President Donald Trump wanted to put the new Ukraine president “in a public box” by demanding a quid pro quo at the center of the impeachment probe.

In a lengthy opening statement to House investigators, Taylor described the way Trump’s demand that “everything” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wanted, including vital military aid to counter Russia, hinged on making a public vow that he would investigate Democrats going back to the 2016 U.S. election as well as a company linked to the family of Trump’s potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Taylor testified that what he discovered in Kyiv was the Trump administration’s back channel to foreign policy, led by the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and a “weird combination” of “ultimately alarming circumstances” that threaten to erode the United States’ relationship with a budding Eastern European ally.

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Lawmakers emerging after hours of the private deposition said Taylor relayed a “disturbing” account, including establishing a “direct line” to the quid pro quo at the center of the impeachment probe .

Lawmakers said Taylor recalled events that filled in gaps from the testimony of other witnesses, particularly Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who testified last week and whose statements now are being called into question by Taylor’s account. They said Taylor kept records of conversations and documents.

“The testimony is very disturbing,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., used the same word. Asked why, he said, “Because it’s becoming more distinct.”

Taylor’s appearance was among the most watched because of a text message, released by House investigators earlier in the probe, in which he called Trump’s attempt to hold back military aid to Ukraine “crazy.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said Taylor “drew a straight line” with documents, timelines and individual conversations in his records.

“I do not know how you would listen to today’s testimony from Ambassador Taylor and come to any other (conclusion) except that the president abused his power and withheld foreign aid,” she said.

Lawmakers did not discuss other details of the closed-door session, which was expected to continue into the evening. Taylor declined to comment as he entered the deposition. He was the latest diplomat with concerns to testify. Like the others, he was subpoenaed to appear.

But the career civil servant’s delivery was credible and consistent, people said, as he answered hours of questions from Democrats and Republicans, drawing silence in the room as lawmakers exchanged glances.

Taylor laid out the quid pro quo of the White House’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless the new president, Zelenskiy, agreed to Trump’s requests to investigate Democrats, according to a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the private testimony.

In a July phone call, Trump told Zelenskiy he wanted “a favor,” which the White House later acknowledged in a rough transcript of the conversation was Trump’s desire for Ukraine to investigate the Democratic National Committee’s email hack in 2016 as well as a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, with ties to Biden’s family.

Taylor told lawmakers that another diplomat on the string of text messages, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Sondland, was aware of the demands and later admitted he made a mistake that the aid hinged on agreeing to Trump’s requests, the person said.

The account calls into question the testimony from Sondland, a wealthy businessman who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, who told Congress last week he did not fully remember some details of the events. Sondland may be asked to return to Congress after he testified that, among other things, he was initially unaware that the gas company was tied to the Bidens.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., said Taylor, a career civil servant, had a better recall of details than Sondland.

Taylor, a retired diplomat, had been chosen to run the Ukraine embassy after the administration abruptly ousted Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

In a series of text messages released earlier this month by impeachment investigators, Taylor appeared to be alarmed by Trump’s efforts to withhold U.S. military assistance to Ukraine that had already been approved by Congress.

“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor wrote in excerpts of the text messages released by the impeachment investigators.

He has stood by that observation in his private remarks to investigators, according to a person familiar with his testimony who was spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it.

Taylor’s description of Trump’s position is in sharp contrast to how the president has characterized it. Trump has said many times that there was no quid pro quo, though his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, contradicted that last week. Mulvaney later tried to walk back his remarks.

Taylor, a former Army officer, had been serving as executive vice president at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan think tank founded by Congress, when he was appointed to run the embassy in Kyiv. He had served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.

“He’s the epitome of a seasoned statesman,” said John Shmorhun, an American who heads the agricultural company AgroGeneration.

Before retiring from government service, Taylor was involved in diplomatic efforts surrounding several major international conflicts. He served in Jerusalem as U.S. envoy to the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers. He oversaw reconstruction in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, and from Kabul coordinated U.S. and international assistance to Afghanistan from 2002 to 2003.

He arrived in Kyiv a month after the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president, prepared to steer the embassy through the transition.

After Trump’s phone conversation with Zelenskiy, Taylor exchanged text messages with two of Trump’s point men on Ukraine as they were trying to get Zelenskiy to commit to the investigations before setting a date for a coveted White House visit.

In a text message to Sondland on Sept. 1, Taylor bluntly questioned Trump’s motives: “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Sondland instructed Taylor to call him. A week later in texts to Sondland and U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, Taylor expressed increased concern and referred to the arrangement as “crazy.”

Taylor also texted that not giving the military aid to Ukraine would be his “nightmare” scenario because it would send the wrong message to both Kyiv and Moscow: “The Russians love it. (And I quit).”

U.S. diplomats based at the Kyiv Embassy have refused to speak with journalists, reflecting the sensitivity of the impeachment inquiry. The embassy press office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.


Associated Press writers Lynn Berry in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Matthew Lee and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.

The post Diplomat: Trump Linked Ukraine Aid to Demand for Probe appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Russia, Turkey Seal Power in Northeast Syria With Accord

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ANKARA, Turkey — Russia and Turkey announced an agreement Tuesday to jointly patrol almost the entire northeastern Syrian border after the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters, cementing the two countries’ power in Syria in the wake of President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces.

The announcement came as Kurdish fighters completed their pullout from a section of the Syrian-Turkish border as required by a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that was set to expire Tuesday night. Together the arrangements transform the map of northeast Syria, leaving Turkey in sole control over one section in the middle of the border, while Turkey, Russia and the Syrian government will have hands in the rest.

The deployments replace American soldiers who for five years battled alongside Kurdish-led fighters and succeeded in bringing down the rule of the Islamic State group across a third of Syria at the cost of thousands of Kurdish fighters’ lives.

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The American pullout has proven chaotic and stumbling. It ran into a new hitch when neighboring Iraq said Tuesday that the American forces did not have permission to stay on its territory. The Iraqi announcement seemed to contradict U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who a day earlier said the forces leaving Syria would deploy in Iraq to fight the Islamic State group.

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey announced their agreement after six hours of talks and poring over maps of Syria at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Under the 10-point deal, Kurdish fighters would have 150 hours starting at noon Wednesday — meaning, until next Tuesday at 6 p.m. — to withdraw from the border.

Russian and Syrian government forces would move into that area immediately to ensure the Kurdish fighters pull back 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the border. Then at the end of the 150 hours, Russian-Turkish patrols would begin along a 10-kilometer (6-mile) wide strip of the border.

The exception would be the region around the town of Qamishli at the far eastern end of the border, which has some of the densest Kurdish population. Russian and Turkish officials did not immediately say what the arrangement would be around Qamishli.

“I believe that this agreement will start a new era toward Syria’s lasting stability and it being cleared of terrorism. I hope that this agreement is beneficial to our countries and to our brothers in Syria,” Erdogan said.

Turkey will keep control of the section in the center of the border that it captured in its invasion that began Oct. 9. That is the territory that Kurdish fighters withdrew from under the U.S.-brokered cease-fire. It extends roughly 120 kilometers (75 miles) wide and 30 kilometers (20 miles) deep between the Syrian border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.

A senior Kurdish official, Redur Khalil, confirmed his forces had entirely left that area. But he said Turkish troops and their allies were continuing military operations in northeastern Syria outside that withdrawal zone.

The Kurdish-led forces notified the White House of the completed withdrawal in a letter, a senior Trump administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the contents of the letter.

After the U.S. announced its pullout earlier this month, Turkey launched its invasion, saying it wanted to carve out a safe zone cleared of Kurdish fighters whom it considers terrorists. Turkey also plans to settle many of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil in that zone, which is the heartland of Syria’s Kurdish minority.

For the Kurds, a Turkish takeover would mean the crushing of the self-rule they have carved out in the northeast amid Syria’s civil war. They also fear massive demographic change, as Kurdish civilians flee Turkish control and mainly Arab Syrian refugees move in.

The new agreement aims to ease those fears by giving Russia and its ally, the Syrian government, control over much of the area, with the Turkish patrols limited to closer to the border. That may prevent a massive flight of civilians but would be a heavy blow to Kurdish autonomy dreams.

The Russia-Turkey deal goes a considerable way to restoring the control of Moscow’s ally, the Syrian government, across much of the northeast.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has vowed to reunite all the territory under Damascus’ rule. On Tuesday, Assad said he was ready to support any “popular resistance” against Turkey’s invasion.

Erdogan is “a thief,” Assad told troops during a visit to the northwestern province of Idlib. “He stole the factories and the wheat and the oil in cooperation with Daesh (the Islamic State group) and now is stealing the land.”

“We are in the middle of a battle and the right thing to do is to rally efforts to lessen the damages from the invasion and to expel the invader sooner or later,” Assad said.

Assad’s visit to Idlib underlined Damascus’ goal of regaining the border. Idlib is adjacent to a border enclave that Turkey captured several years ago in another incursion. Turkey also has observation points inside Idlib, negotiated with Russia, to monitor a cease-fire there between the government and opposition fighters and jihadi groups.

He said his government had offered clemency to Kurdish fighters — whom it considers separatists — to “ensure that everyone is ready to resist the aggression” and fight the Turkish assault.

Syrian state media reported, meanwhile, that government forces entered new areas in Hassakeh province at the far eastern end of the border, under the arrangement with the Kurds.


Isachenkov reported from Moscow. Associated Press writers Elena Becatoros in Istanbul, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed to this report.

The post Russia, Turkey Seal Power in Northeast Syria With Accord appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Diplomat’s Testimony Drew “Direct Line” Between Military Funds and Biden Probe

Mother Jones Magazine -

The top US diplomat in Ukraine testified Tuesday that he was informed by a Trump administration official that the president had conditioned military aid for the country on an investigation into Trump’s political rivals, the Washington Post reports.

In closed-door testimony to House impeachment investigators, William B. Taylor alleged that he had been told by Gordon Sondland—the GOP megadonor and hotel magnate who Trump appointed as ambassador to the European Union—that both military assistance for the war-torn country and a White House visit for its new president would be contingent on an announcement that Ukrainian officials would investigate Democrats. The Post, which obtained Taylor’s opening statement, reported:

“During that phone call, Amb. Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President [Volodymyr] Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election,” Taylor said in the statement…

“Amb. Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of investigations—in fact, Amb. Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance,’” Taylor told House investigators.

“He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.”

In his July call with Zelensky, Trump asked the Ukrainian president to cooperate with Attorney General Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, on matters related to Burisma—a Ukrainian gas company tied to Biden’s son—as well as on a series of conspiracy theories surrounding the 2016 election and the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee who witnessed Taylor’s deposition, told the New York Times Tuesday that Taylor “drew a very direct line…between President Trump’s decision to withhold funds and refuse a meeting with Zelensky unless there was a public pronouncement of him by investigations of Burisma and the so-called 2016 conspiracy theories.”

Trump has insisted that there was no connection between the suspension of military aid to Ukraine and his attempts to pressure Zelensky into investigating Democrats, often repeating the phrase “no quid pro quo.” But Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, publicly contradicted this line last week, when he appeared to admit that Trump had indeed linked military aid to an investigation related to the 2016 actions of the Democratic National Committee, which Wasserman Schultz ran at the time. Mulvaney later attempted to retract that admission.

Lunchtime Photo

Mother Jones Magazine -

This is a California shrub deerweed. I saw several of these in Colombia too, though I suppose it might have been the very similar coastal deer broom. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture, so I’ll never know for sure.

April 20, 2019 — Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Orange County, California

New Evidence Hints at Another Justice Department Coverup

Mother Jones Magazine -

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) released evidence on Tuesday that the Justice Department buried the whistleblower complaint about President Donald Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president by failing to refer the matter to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Klobuchar suggested the Justice Department violated a longstanding agreement between the agencies to share information about possible campaign finance violations for potential enforcement action.

To recap: The whistleblower complaint at the heart of the impeachment inquiry didn’t just contain evidence that the president pressured a foreign government to help him win reelection. It also contained evidence of a potential campaign finance violation. When President Trump asked for dirt on his political opponent, he likely illegally solicited a “thing of value” from a foreign national.

In August, Justice Department officials decided that rather than turn the whistleblower complaint over to Congress, department lawyers would assess the allegations against Trump, including evidence that the president had broken campaign finance law. After what news reports described as a cursory review, the department declined to launch a criminal investigation, finding that Trump had not asked for a “thing of value.” This was a stretch; campaign finance experts generally agree that opposition research damaging to an opponent, which campaigns can pay a lot of money for, is clearly valuable. The FEC also considers it a “thing of value.” Nevertheless, the department lawyers declared the matter case closed.

But under a 1978 memorandum of understanding between the department and the FEC—which, like Justice is authorized to penalize campaign finance violations—the complaint should have been passed onto the FEC even if the department declined to launch a criminal investigation, so the election watchdog can determine whether a civil penalty is called for. 

Earlier this month, Klobuchar set out to uncover whether the Justice Department had honored this agreement, sending two letters to the FEC inquiring whether it had received any such referral. On October 18, the commission’s Democratic chair, Ellen Weintraub, confirmed to Klobuchar that the FEC had not been notified. “The refusal to inform the FEC and refer the matter regarding the President’s call to the FEC as required to do, as the Justice Department is required, undermines our campaign finance system and is unacceptable in a democracy,” Klobuchar said in Tuesday statement.

What’s unclear so far is why no such referral was made. Either the Justice Department dropped the ball, or Klobuchar has helped discover another avenue in the administration’s sprawling coverup.

‘This Is the Latest Chapter of a Long History of US Betrayal of Kurds’ - Khury Petersen-Smith on the Turkish Invasion of Syria

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting -

Janine Jackson interviewed IPS’s Khury Petersen-Smith about the Turkish invasion of Syria for the October 18, 2019, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Janine Jackson: As we record on October 17, Turkey continues its offensive in northern Syria, a move seen as greenlighted by Donald Trump’s early October removal of some US troops from the area. Trump’s action, and his typically bizarre and contradictory response to subsequent events, account for much coverage.

At the same time, many Americans are learning for the first time about Rojava, the de facto autonomous Kurdish area and political project in northern Syria. It could be a chance to challenge received understanding of the US relationship with, not just the Kurds, but with Turkey, Syria, ISIS, indeed terrorism, and more—that is, if we could try and see people rather than maps, and look at events without elite media’s lens of implied imperialism.

Here to help us think differently about things is Khury Petersen-Smith, the Michael Ratner Middle East Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Khury Petersen-Smith.

Khury Petersen-Smith: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

JJ: The corporate media movie might be called The Betrayal of the Kurds: Turkey sees Kurdish militants as terrorists, but they fought against ISIS in Syria alongside the US, and now we’ve abandoned them. That’s kind of the “humane” line in the media, within, of course, a context in which we’re all at war against and among one another; our enemies have enemies, but are they our friends? You know, follow that bouncing ball.

But the point is, the Kurds have helped us, and therefore we should not be hurting them. And people are being killed and driven from their homes. But can I ask you to address this popular framing of “loyalty to the Kurds,” which never seems to have been much of a guiding principle?

CNN (10/15/19)


KPS: Right, exactly. And I’ll say first, too, that the frame is, “Trump has betrayed the Kurds, and the US should not do so,” but the conclusion of the sentence—whether it’s said out loud or not—is, “and that’s why the US should maintain its forces precisely where they were, at the border of Syria and Turkey.” And that, actually, the mistake was departing from what the US was doing in Syria, and the US should return to that.

That’s the kind of new-found sympathy for the Kurds, which I think is new-found among certain politicians, who have been in positions where they themselves actually bear responsibility for the betrayal of the Kurds. Whatever they’re saying about the Kurds now, the conclusion is always that the US should actually maintain what it was doing in Syria—which is wrong.

As you say, though, the idea that the US has a loyalty to the Kurds, that Trump has betrayed—I mean, phrases trending on social media are “Trump betrayed the Kurds,” “this is Trump’s betrayal” and so on—when, in fact, while that may be true, this is really the latest chapter of what is a long and bloody and really atrocious history of US betrayal of Kurds throughout the region: Kurds in Syria, Kurds in Turkey, Kurds in Iraq.

JJ: If we could take just a minute and talk about Rojava: It’s not a military camp; it’s not Woodstock, you know? What should we know about it?

KPS: That’s a good question. And Rojava is the Kurdish name for this region of Syria where they have been besieged, really, by forces like ISIS. And so there has been a military struggle against ISIS, but there’s also, within the territory—which is in control of Kurdish militia and allies—there’s been an effort to really have some experimentation in human freedom. There have been efforts at trying to make a society that has gender equality, and other forms of equality as well. So this was an effort by progressive Kurdish forces to try to carve out a space where they could live with some freedom and try to experiment in a freer society.

And they were also, of course, fighting for their lives against ISIS. That’s really important. The problem with Trump’s decision is that “the Kurds fought so well for us”—as though the Kurds are like mercenaries or something, when, in fact, they were fighting for their lives. And they entered into an alliance with the United States, which was also fighting against ISIS. It’s worth noting that Kurdish forces have entered into all kinds of alliances in their fight for their lives. So this notion that the whole project of the Kurdish militias is loyalty to the United States, which Trump has betrayed, is really wrong, and it just doesn’t make any sense.

JJ: In following from what you’ve just said, the Kurds were really maybe the least surprised by the US pullout, such as it is—it’s certainly not from all of Syria, and it’s certainly not from all of the world, and we can come back to that—but the Kurds had already been in conversation with Russia and with the Syrian government. But then, “scary Russia fills void when benevolent US leaves” is, we know, a big elite media hobbyhorse, and it’s implied throughout that the United States must be, and should be, at the table deciding Syria’s future; that kind of undergirds the whole conversation.

KPS: Exactly, yeah; there’s a couple of things happening here. The first is, as you said, Kurdish folks and people who support Kurdish freedom—if you know anything about the history of the Kurds and the ways that they’ve been betrayed by various forces, and in particular, the United States, then, yeah—there’s something that is horrendous about this, but not terribly surprising.

There’s this phrase, a Kurdish phrase, that is, “We have no friends, except for the mountains.” And that speaks to the many, many betrayals over the years by various forces. So that’s on one hand, and then, as you said, the kind of establishment critics of Trump’s decision, people like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell, people like Nikki Haley, people like Hillary Clinton, I’ll say, who presided over all kinds of policies that were damaging to Kurds: Their critique, their problem, is really that this gets in the way of the United States having a seat at the table in deciding the fate of Syria, and therefore the fate of the region.

And one of the tragedies of the past several years, since 2011, regarding Syria, is that not only have there been internal struggles among Syrians that have been really disastrous, but various forces, regional and international, have jumped in and tried to decide the direction of Syrian society.

And, unfortunately, it’s ordinary people in Syria, and particularly the most marginalized people, who have paid the price for that.

JJ: The limits of the US media conversation are so clear, as you’ve indicated: If you think that Trump did anything wrong in leaving Kurds in northern Syria exposed to Turkish attack, well, then, what you want is for him to undo it, and for troops to be replaced there. And then if you’re opposed to Trump, then your voice in the media is Lindsey “this will be worse than leaving Iraq” Graham. It almost goes without saying that elite media debates include no genuine peace advocates, no genuine anti-interventionists, and that really shows in terms of the limits of what we’re allowed to consider as options.

KPS: It’s really incredible. There are many people, it has to be said, who are upset about what’s happened over the past week, this catastrophic situation in which more than 130,000 people have fled this border region, in which many have been killed and many more have been wounded. There are many people who are outraged about that, precisely because of their sympathy with the Kurds, for many for humanitarian reasons.

But the loudest critics, the people who we hear in the media critiquing Trump, people who are current members of Congress or former ambassadors or secretaries of state, these people are concerned with US power. That’s actually their issue; they actually want a greater US presence in Syria, not a reduced or modified one.

And so it’s true: In the mainstream media, there has been no voice that has been saying, “Well, why don’t we actually look at the history of what has transpired?” It’s as though we can only talk about the past week and a half.

And it’s like, what has the US actually done in Syria? That’s part of the problem, too, actually, is that there’s this idea that there was this really fantastic fight against ISIS that was going so well, and now Trump is going to set it back.

And so, it’s true: We have to read between the lines, and, actually, they’re saying it explicitly too, “Well, now Russia has stepped in.” Really, they’re concerned about the bigger picture and which world power gets to control Syria.

But this idea that there was some great, pristine fight against ISIS that Trump is backing down from also needs to be really examined. A big part of the US war on ISIS, which involved Kurdish allies, was the siege of the city of Raqqa, which was primarily an air war carried out by the United States, that was catastrophic. And some good journalists have documented that there were mass civilian casualties in Raqqa. Amnesty International has documented the fact that, as happens when you bombard a city from the air, there was no attention paid to civilians and civilian casualties.

So this stuff isn’t being talked about in the media, what the US has actually been doing, just in the past couple of years in Syria, let alone the longer history that the US has had in the region, and the history of US betrayal of the Kurds.

JJ: Let me just ask you, finally, if we use a different lens, if we don’t act as though we’re playing a big game of Risk, and we see people over maps, then different things are salient. I’ve heard you talk, for instance, about refugees and the implications for refugees. What other people and ideas might be lifted up if we look at things in a different way?

Khury Petersen-Smith: “There are people in the region who are fighting for their freedom, and we should hear those voices and look to those voices.”

KPS: That’s a really important question. I think the main thing is you can look at the situation in Syria, and it’s really quite disheartening. Obviously, it’s been just a humanitarian catastrophe for years now, with millions of people displaced, many hundreds of thousands killed, and, unfortunately, we could go on in terms of the description of the horror.

But the other thing is that we’ve also seen really pretty inspiring struggles of progressive movements in the region, in Syria and elsewhere in the region. Of course, the context in which the Syrian civil war emerged, the broader context was what’s called the Arab Spring, right, this massive upsurge all across the Middle East and North Africa, where people were fighting for their freedom in various ways, in various groups of people. And that has experienced all kinds of violent setbacks, largely by forces that are armed and allied with the United States.

But despite that, there continue to be protests in places like Egypt, there continue to be protests in places like Iraq. And when I think of the best of what the Kurds have done in places like Rojava, and various other experiments in human freedom, actually, throughout Syria—Syria has had some of the most inspiring examples of places where, even for a brief time, people will rise up and take control of their regions or their towns, and try to build democracy. And it has been besieged. And yet we see, there’s something really incredible there, there’s a kind of desire and a capacity of people to figure out their own destiny without forces like the United States.

And so, I think that if that’s our orientation, then it helps us do what we need to do, which is, really, call for US demilitarization. The US should not have troops in Syria. Also the US should not be arming Turkey. If we’re upset about the slaughter of the Kurds that’s taking place, well, we should ask why the United States has been arming Turkey. Again, a question that’s not being asked in the mainstream media.

And I think that those kinds of positions are important as a matter of principle, but I think that they can feel more viable when we understand that there are people in the region who are fighting for their freedom, and we should hear those voices and look to those voices.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Khury Petersen-Smith, Michael Ratner Middle East Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. You can find his recent piece, “Trump’s Betrayal of the Kurds Is Terrible, But the Answer Is Not Endless War,” along with other work, on the website IPS-DC.org. Khury Petersen-Smith, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

KPS: Thank you. Thank you for having me; so grateful to talk to you about these things.

Trump Flips Off Female Astronaut

Mother Jones Magazine -

My sister rightly commands me to show you Donald Trump’s reaction to being gently corrected by a female astonaut on board the space station:

As any high school boy can tell you, yes, Trump flipped her off in a semi-deniable way. Such class. And the Sun returns the favor by replaying his gesture in slo-mo just to make sure everyone gets it.

The Radical Vision of a ‘Homes Guarantee’ for All

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In late September, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled The Place to Prosper Act, one plan out of a larger policy package called “A Just Society,” dedicated to protecting and enforcing tenants’ rights. That same month, before the introduction of that plan, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders had released his own housing plan to address this country’s growing housing crisis through such proposals as a national rent cap and a $70 billion investment into public housing.

But before these two progressive leaders publicized their plans, a grassroots coalition of affordable housing advocates came out with its own housing policy, called a Homes Guarantee, dedicated to eradicating homelessness and providing affordable, sustainable housing for all Americans.

At its core, the Homes Guarantee seeks to tackle the growing housing crisis in large cities and small towns across the U.S. by decommodifying housing and divorcing the need for housing from its current market-based, capitalist-driven system. To accomplish this, the Homes Guarantee calls for building 12 million new social housing units—a public option for housing, in which rents are set at below-market rates—over the next 10 years and offering at least 600,000 “permanent supportive housing” units, which combine affordable housing with social services to help people who face chronic homelessness. The plan also calls for a $30 billion reinvestment in public housing over the next five years, a stark contrast to the federal government’s massive disinvestment in public housing over the past few decades.

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While the left has seen bold visions in the form of the Green New Deal and “Medicare for All” to address the climate crisis and health care, respectively, it hasn’t yet seen a similar plan or movement to address the housing crisis in the U.S. The coalition behind the Homes Guarantee hopes to change that.

“We want it to be in the same string of other progressive demands, like Medicare for All, Green New Deal,” said Tara Raghuveer of the grassroots movement People’s Action, who helped put the plan together. “We think it is that vision—what is the boldest set of structural reforms? It’s a Homes Guarantee.”

The publishing of the Homes Guarantee, in addition to Ocasio-Cortez’s Place to Prosper Act and Sanders’ plan, reflects a growing effort by grassroots advocates to demand more political action addressing the housing crisis impacting millions across the country.

According to a 2019 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a person earning minimum wage working 40 hours a week would not be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in any county in the U.S. without feeling cost-burdened. The report also found that there is a nationwide shortage of about 7 million affordable homes for low-income renters, and that nearly 50% of renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent alone. Major U.S. cities are also facing a growing homelessness crisis: In Los Angeles County, for example, homelessness increased by 12% over the past year, putting the county’s homeless population at 58,936.

If implemented, the Homes Guarantee would make a serious dent in the housing and homeslessness crisis impacting millions across the country. That reality is not lost on those who worked on the policy plan, many of whom have or are currently experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity themselves.

For Linda Armitage, a housing advocate in Chicago who worked on the project, a Homes Guarantee would have saved her from the stresses and trauma of organizing against the greed-driven developers that took over her building. In describing the management’s lack of care for residents, she said that when she told them about a broken elevator in the building, hours before a doctor’s appointment, management suggested she go down the stairs backward on her rollator [mobility walker] instead.

“They’re fine for collecting the rent, making sure the buildings don’t fall down around their heads,” Armitage said. “But … especially as far as seniors are concerned, they have no clue about the special needs that seniors have.”

As a member of Jane Addams Senior Caucus, a Chicago-based grassroots organization working on economic, social and racial justice for seniors, Armitage has seen the ways an unstable housing market hurts seniors like herself. She said a Homes Guarantee would ensure that people like her would not have to worry about losing a stable place to live.

“The seniors don’t want to worry about, ‘Am I going to be homeless?’ like we did here when our building was almost sold out [from] under us,” she said. “They have a right to live with dignity and in good mental and physical health.”

The grassroots coalition and policy team behind the Homes Guarantee made sure the plan also addresses the other issues connected with the housing crisis, particularly the impacts of climate change. One of the goals of the Homes Guarantee emphasizes green construction to “drive deep decarbonization, develop workers’ skills in low-energy construction, and … lower costs of energy efficient appliances and materials for all consumers.” The plan also demands that new housing units be built near public transit and that existing public housing be retrofitted to include energy efficient appliances.

Daniel Aldana Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, listed three priorities for integrating the Homes Guarantee with a plan to address the climate crisis: driving down carbon emissions, tackling racial and economic inequality and prioritizing the comfort and safety of the people living in their homes.

“So I think that if you want to really change the way that people live for broader environmental goals, and if it’s possible to make that consistent with an improved experience in the home, then you have to foreground that,” he said.

Cohen added that emphasizing the comfort factor of residents can also influence the decarbonization of the economy, a primary goal of the Green New Deal. The Homes Guarantee recommends regulations and public procurement in the construction of new social housing units to decrease the cost of low-carbon concrete and conducting energy retrofits in existing public housing as ways to slash carbon pollution over time.

Another climate justice goal of the Homes Guarantee is to ensure that public housing residences can also function as climate resiliency centers, in which communities can feel protected in the event of increasingly devastating natural disasters. In practice, this can mean providing food and water during intense storms and having plants powered by clean energy to ensure electricity during power outages.

“We’re really trying to concretize what it means to do inequality and climate change at the same time,” Cohen said. “I think it’s sort of hard to overstate how important it is to us that we finally make very specific and clear and concrete how a Green New Deal can tackle inequality and carbon at the same time.”

The Homes Guarantee is also dedicated to providing reparations to communities for centuries of racist housing policies. The plan discusses how redlining and exclusionary housing policies like racial covenants barred black people and indigenous communities from the opportunity to own a home and live in safe, affordable housing.

Sofia Lopez, a senior research analyst at Action Center for Race and the Economy, worked on the reparations portion of the plan. Yet Lopez said a blanket homes guarantee to all people is still not enough to address that history of systemic discrimination.

“The history of housing in our country has always been racist,” she said. “People have not had equal access to housing. We talk about that like it’s all ancient history, but it isn’t. I can’t think of any city that isn’t hyper-segregated.”

Lopez has seen how housing policy has intimately impacted people in her hometown of San Antonio, where heavy investment in developing the downtown area has caused property values to skyrocket for the surrounding neighborhood. This increase in property values, Lopez said, has become a strain on communities of color in San Antonio.

“Say you have a family that’s owned [its] home for a generation or two or even less than that,” she said. “If [its] still making the same income and [its] required to pay higher property taxes, there’s all kinds of opportunities for that home to be taken away.”

To help the black and brown families who are still in financial ruins after being targeted for subprime mortgages by predatory lenders during the 2008 housing crash, the Homes Guarantee recommends either canceling their debts altogether or drastically reducing their outstanding balances.

“I feel like we should be at a point where we can say that … banks should not continue to profit off of the fact that there are people that are still in debt because of the awful predatory lending that was taking place during that period,” Lopez said.

And while the plan does not try to emphasize home ownership at the expense of guaranteeing housing as a basic necessity, the Homes Guarantee does recognize the need to support black and brown households through “grants and zero interest capital so they may pursue self-determination in securing housing that meets their needs.”

The passing of a true Homes Guarantee faces a steep uphill battle, largely because a plan of its kind—that proposes to end homelessness, divorce housing from capitalist interest and provide safe and affordable housing to all Americans—has not been a serious consideration in mainstream politics for decades. The last time housing policy was taken seriously in the U.S. was during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency during the civil rights era, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development became a Cabinet-level agency in 1965 and the administration passed the Housing and Urban Development Act in 1968.

Now, in 2019, with millions of people across the U.S. facing a housing crisis, a housing guarantee policy is long overdue.

“We’re nearing a breaking point,” Raghuveer said. “There are more renters than ever, there are more cost burdened renters than ever. People are literally being displaced across the country. Climate change is adding another layer to this, where we have climate refugees within our own borders.”

One large obstacle facing the Homes Guarantee will be convincing politicians and the public to think about housing not as a capitalist commodity or something to be owned, but as an inherent human right.

“There is a tension between property ownership as a tool to build wealth and a Homes Guarantee as kind of unpacking some of the privilege that we put on property ownership as a tool to build wealth,” Lopez said. “I think our philosophy really has gotten us into the situation that we’re in.”

That philosophy, which is very much guided by a combination of capitalism and racism, has also contributed to the lack of political will and imagination to pursue a federal housing policy. Raghuveer said what makes housing unique from an issue like health care is the way home ownership is so intimately tied to the Western mythology of wealth building and the American Dream: “My family are immigrants and completely bought into that myth,” she said. “And I think there’s still a lot of working class people who, by no fault of their own, have bought into this dominant narrative that if you work hard enough, one day you too can own a home and that’s the thing to aspire for. And what that’s led to is a complete lack of imagination around what’s possible. In the American dream mythology … a single-family home is the way you build your family’s wealth even though that’s never been the truth for most people by right and by design. “

Raghuveer added that the stagnancy on behalf of politicians to address this country’s housing crisis is, in part, done on purpose.

“They’re not ignoring this issue just because,” she said. “They’re ignoring this issue because, in ignoring it, people benefit … lobbyists, [real estate] associations, big developers, massive corporations, private equity, Wall Street—there are worlds and worlds of people who benefit from people being homeless, people dying on the streets, people not being able to afford their rent.”

Then there’s the stigma—developed and maintained by political demonization of the poor and by racist dog-whistling—that treats public housing as a scourge on society rather than a public good. The proof is in the ways both Republican and Democratic administrations in modern U.S. history have declined to fully invest in social services that would help the poor and working class.

“There has been a very successful bipartisan campaign to demonize the role of the public sector in providing housing,” Raghuveer said. “The stigma around public housing is so strong, not because public housing was actually a failure, but because the private market now benefits from us not believing in a public option for housing.”

While mainstream politicians may continue to ignore the growing housing crisis in the U.S., advocates backing the Homes Guarantee, like Armitage, believe passing such a plan can be done.

“We can spend millions, billions, trillions on the military, on war in general,” she said. “There’s no reason we cannot come up with a way to give people housing as a human right and give people a guarantee. It can be done.”

The post The Radical Vision of a ‘Homes Guarantee’ for All appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

How Climate Policy Dominated Canada’s Election

Mother Jones Magazine -

This story was originally published by the National Observer and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The governing Liberal Party had largely positive results in Monday night’s federal election when it came to key politicians on environmental files, with the exception of Amarjeet Sohi, who had been the natural resources minister.

“With at least 63 percent of voters casting ballots for parties that put forward strong climate platforms, it is clear that a majority of Canadians asked for more ambitious and urgent climate action,” said Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada.

“People voted out of fear of the Conservatives today, rejecting their threats to roll back climate policy. At the same time, voters did not have enough confidence in the Liberal climate record to hand them another majority.”

Environment Minister Is Reelected

Catherine McKenna, the Trudeau government’s one and only environment and climate change minister, was re-elected in her riding of Ottawa Centre on Monday.

As of 11:50 p.m. ET, McKenna was leading the NDP’s Emilie Taman by over 8,000 votes, or 47 percent. The Conservative Party candidate, Carol Clemenhagen was in a distant third.

Over the last four years McKenna was tasked with stickhandling a difficult balancing act—promoting the Trudeau government’s carbon pollution pricing regime while backing the government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project.

She became the face of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s environmental battle early on, a position that would give her an enormous public profile.

Months after the Trudeau government signed a climate plan with the provinces, McKenna was contending with legal threats from Saskatchewan in early 2017 as she asserted the federal “right” to price pollution. (So far, courts have upheld that right; Ontario’s case is being appealed to the Supreme Court.)

As right-leaning politicians tilted against environmental policies across the country, winning provincial elections in Alberta, Ontario and elsewhere, they often invoked McKenna’s name personally. Online trolls targeted her; the abuse drifted into the real world and led to the minister requiring protection.

In a bid to perhaps differentiate her candidacy from the rest of the Trudeau team, McKenna put up unusual election signs in colors like bright pink, black and white that sported phrases such as “vote for gun control” and “vote for public service jobs.” Former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien also campaigned with McKenna.

Taman, a former public prosecutor, battled McKenna for control of the young, densely populated riding. Taman had been the NDP’s hope to bring Ottawa Centre back to the party, after McKenna scored an upset victory in 2015.

The riding is filled with many young professionals who work in the city’s downtown, as well as young families who want to live in the core of the city. It was considered a toss-up through the last hours of the campaign.

Taman became well known in Ottawa after being denied permission to run by the public service in 2015, but ran anyway in Ottawa-Vanier, bringing the public service commission to court to overturn its decision.

This year, Taman ran on a campaign emphasizing inequality, the climate crisis and confronting intolerance.

Green Party Scores an Upset Victory

Green Party candidate Jenica Atwin scored an upset victory in the New Brunswick riding of Fredericton on Monday.

Atwin, who ​has worked in First Nations education, had the wind at her sails, boosted by Green success in the region. New Brunswick Green Leader David Coon, for example, has held the provincial riding of Fredericton South since 2014.

The Greens also made a breakthrough provincially in P.E.I., capturing over 30 percent of the vote and securing eight seats. Greens also elected their first Ontario MPP, and in spring, a second federal Green Party MP was elected.

Atwin was able to beat Liberal incumbent Matt DeCourcey as well as fight off Conservative candidate Andrea Johnson. CBC News said Atwin had won at 11:45 p.m. ET with 14,318 votes or 33.3 percent.

Atwin ran as a provincial Green in 2018 and campaigned on healthcare with a focus on mental health.

She has worked with Oromocto First Nation and then Kingsclear First Nation at Fredericton HIgh School, the Brunswickan reported. She has also carried out educational research on behalf of Indigenous communities in New Brunswick, according to the newspaper.

Anti-Pipeline Activist Elected as Liberal

When Stephen Guilbeault described his decision to leave the environmental activist world and run for the Liberals recently to the National Post, he summed it up as “been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”

On Monday, it was clear this position paid off for Guilbeault, as he coasted to victory in his riding of Laurier–Sainte-Marie.

CBC News said Guilbeault had won the riding at 11:49 p.m. ET with 6,555 votes or 42 percent.

The populous, small riding was held by the NDP’s Hélène Laverdière, who announced she would not run in 2019. Laverdière took the riding away from former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe.

It is the third-most dense riding in Canada, and younger and poorer compared to the average across the country. Guilbeault fought off a challenge from the NDP’s Nimâ Machouf.

Guilbeault stunned the environmental activism community when he decided to run for the Trudeau camp. Guilbeault, who has protested pipelines, formerly worked as an activist for Greenpeace before co-founding Quebec environmental organization Equiterre.

He benefited from massive name recognition, but also found himself campaigning for a government that bought the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. He explained his position as a desire to support the Liberal environmental package as a whole.

“If you only look at a tree, you lose sight of the forest,” he told CTV News. “I understand why some people are so angry about the pipeline…you have every right to be angry but look at the whole picture.”

National Resources Minister Loses Seat 

Tim Uppal, the former Harper government junior minister, won his rematch against Amarjeet Sohi, who became the Trudeau government’s infrastructure minister and then its natural resources minister, in Edmonton Mill Woods.

Sohi, the former three-term Edmonton city councillor was in a tough fight against Uppal, who Sohi beat in 2015 by just 92 votes, in a race that went to judicial recount.

CBC News said Uppal was elected with over 50 percent of the vote, or 17,588 votes.

Sohi was one of only three Liberals in Alberta, along with fellow Edmontonian Randy Boissonnault and Calgarian Kent Hehr. The Liberals have been polling far back in second place in the prairies.

In his first ministerial job, Sohi showcased billions of dollars in funding for major infrastructure initiatives, some of which involved mega-projects like light rail developments that the Liberals were hoping would cut carbon pollution.

But after he was shuffled into the natural resources profile, he found himself defending many policies that had become political roadkill in his home province of Alberta.

Uppal remained involved in politics, playing a “key role” in the campaign of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, his former Harper government cabinet colleague, CBC reported.

Uppal also campaigned using similar messaging as Kenney’s provincial campaign: attacking the Trudeau government’s C-69, the government’s overhaul of its environmental assessment regime, and C-48, which imposes an oil tanker moratorium along British Columbia’s north coast, as well as the carbon tax.

Liberal at TMX Terminus Leading in Riding

The Trans Mountain oil pipeline snakes through Alberta and British Columbia to end up at the Burnaby Terminal in the Vancouver area.

Throughout the election it has cast a political shadow over the riding—but Terry Beech, the Liberal incumbent, was leading in his riding of Burnaby North-Seymour late into election night.

Beech, who won the riding with 36 percent in 2015, battled it out this election campaign with Svend Robinson, a 25-year former MP, as well as Heather Leung, who was a Tory candidate but was dropped due to comments deemed offensive.

Beech was leading Robinson by 1,021 votes as of 12:15 a.m. ET.

He voted against the pipeline project, and has maintained that his constituents don’t support it.

Robinson, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was planning a political comeback. His career was disrupted after he stole an engagement ring from an auction and pleaded guilty to theft over $5,000 in 2004.

Burnaby North-Seymour is smaller and less dense than average. It is richer than the average across the country, and well-educated, with more than half holding postsecondary degrees.

Fisheries Minister Keeps His Seat 

Jonathan Wilkinson, the Trudeau government’s fisheries minister and the former Parliamentary secretary for the environment to Catherine McKenna, hung on to his riding of North Vancouver.

As of 12:04 a.m. ET, Wilkinson was leading his Conservative rival Andrew Saxton by 2,200 votes.

In 2015, Wilkinson, a former constitutional negotiator, beat out former Harper government Parliamentary secretary for finance Andrew Saxton, who had held the seat between 2008 and 2015. The riding had been reliably conservative until 2004.

Like Sohi in Edmonton, Wilkinson faced a rematch in his riding with Saxton. The Liberal minister, who helped promote the government’s multi-billion dollar Oceans Protection Plan, accused his People’s Party opponent of spreading misinformation this campaign.

Your Politics Can Predict How You Pronounce Certain Words

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Politics can predict the TV shows we watch, the shops we frequent and the places we live.

But what about the way we speak?

In a recent study, I was able to show how your political orientation can influence how you pronounce certain words.

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How members of America’s two parties view the country – and its place in the world – might explain this phenomenon.

A Tale of Two Presidents

You may have noticed President Donald Trump has a unique way of saying the names of foreign places.

For example, he’s pronounced “Tanzania” as “tan-zay-nee-uh,” as opposed to “tan-zuh-nee-uh,” and “Namibia” as “nam-bee-uh” instead of “na-mih-bee-uh.”

At the other end of the spectrum, President Barack Obama was a “stickler” for saying foreign words in a way that more closely mimicked the pronunciation of native speakers. He was even thanked for it: Pakistanis reportedly expressed appreciation to the White House for his pronunciation of “Pakistan” as “pock-ee-stahn,” rather than using a pronunciation like “pack-iss-stan.”

My own research has found that this pronunciation difference isn’t relegated to presidents. Speakers who identify as Democrats are likelier to use these kinds of pronunciations of foreign words than those who identify as Republicans.

A Speech Pattern Emerges

In my study, I had participants read random sentences out loud, some of which included the names of foreign places, and others that included English words borrowed from foreign languages.

Then I asked them questions about their political identities, views and opinions. I compared their responses to these questions with their pronunciations.

I found that, when compared with Republicans, Democrats are more likely to pronounce

  • “Iraq” as “ear-rock,” rather than “eye-rack”
  • “Chile” as “chee-lay,” rather than “chill-ee”
  • “Muslim” as “moose-limb,” rather than “muzz-lum”
  • “spiel” as “shpeel,” rather than “speel”
  • “foyer” as “foy-ay,” rather than “foy-er.”

In each case, Democrats pronounced the words in ways that mimicked the way native speakers would say them. For example, pronouncing “spiel” – which comes from German – as “shpeel” more closely replicates how the word is said in Germany.

Why does this happen and why does it matter?

Today’s Republicans and conservatives tend to align more strongly with an ideology of nationalism.

This term has been used more in political discourse over the past few years, often in ways that aren’t clearly defined.

In social psychology, however, this ideological bent can have multiple dimensions.

Someone who’s more “ardently nationalist” might believe that diversity makes it more difficult for a nation to have a shared identity. They’re also more likely to believe their nation is superior to others.

Democrats are less likely than Republicans to identify as ardently nationalist. Someone who’s less nationalistic also tends to have more interest or willingness to interact with foreign people, places or cultures.

This difference may explain the political pronunciation pattern: In my study, Democrats usually scored lower on a nationalism scale. And this score correlated with speakers’ pronunciations, too.

So Democrats are often more receptive and accommodating to foreign people and cultures. And the way they pronounce foreign words reflects this attitude.

In cognitive linguistics research, we see this pattern a lot: People tend to speak more like others when they have more positive attitudes toward them.

Perhaps that’s why Obama was thanked for pronouncing “Pakistan” more like how Pakistanis do. It wasn’t for anything specifically political. The Pakistanis simply reacted in the way someone who hears their name spelled or pronounced the way they prefer would react; they heard it as a sign of respect.

Zachary Jaggers, Postdoctoral Scholar of Linguistics, University of Oregon

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The post Your Politics Can Predict How You Pronounce Certain Words appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Canada’s Justin Trudeau Wins Second Term but Loses Majority

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TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won a second term in Canada’s national elections Monday, losing the majority but delivering unexpectedly strong results despite having been weakened by a series of scandals that tarnished his image as a liberal icon.

Trudeau’s Liberal party took the most seats in Parliament, giving it the best chance to form a government. However, falling short of a majority meant the Liberals would have to rely on an opposition party to pass legislation.

“It’s not quite the same as 2015. It’s not all owing to the leader,” said Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the University of Toronto. “Trudeau is prime minister because the rest of the party was able to pull itself together and prevail. While Trudeau certainly deserves credit for what has happened he’s really going to have to demonstrate qualities that he hasn’t yet shown.”

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Still, the results were a victory for Trudeau, whose clean-cut image took a hit after old photos of him in blackface and brownface surfaced last month.

“I’m surprised at how well Trudeau has done,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto. “I don’t think anybody expected Trudeau to get a majority but they are not that far off.”

With results still trickling in early Tuesday, the Liberals had 156 seats — 14 short of the 170 needed for a majority in the 338-seat House of Commons.

“Tonight Canadians rejected division and negativity. They rejected cuts and austerity. They elected a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change,” Trudeau said early Tuesday.

His address to supporters came, unusually, as his Conservative rival, Andrew Scheer, had just begun speaking to his own supporters, forcing networks to tear away from Scheer’s speech. But the prime minister struck a conciliatory note: “To those who did not vote for us, know that we will work every single day for you, we will govern for everyone,” Trudeau said.

The Canadian vote came down to what was essentially a choice between the handsome and charismatic Trudeau and Scheer, the Conservatives’ unassuming leader who was seen as the perfect antidote to Trudeau’s flash and celebrity.

Trudeau reasserted liberalism in 2015 after almost 10 years of Conservative Party government in Canada, but scandals combined with high expectations damaged his prospects.

Perhaps sensing Trudeau was in trouble, Barack Obama made an unprecedented endorsement by a former American president in urging Canadians to re-elect Trudeau and saying the world needs his progressive leadership now.

Trudeau, son of the liberal icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, is one of the few remaining progressive world leaders in the Trump era and even appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine under the headline “Why Can’t He Be Our President?”

Scheer, 40, is a career politician who was seen as a possible antidote to Trudeau’s flash. But Bothwell said late Monday that he expected Scheer to resign.

“He’s gone,” Bothwell said. “He ran a really dirty campaign. There is nothing to be proud of on his side. He had the opportunity and blew it.”

Among other things, Scheer called Trudeau a phony who couldn’t even remember how many times he had worn blackface.

In his concession speech, Scheer said the results showed Trudeau was much weakened since his 2015 election, when pundits had predicted the beginning of another Trudeau dynasty.

“Tonight Conservatives have put Justin Trudeau on notice,” Scheer said. “And Mr. Trudeau when your government falls, Conservatives will be ready and we will win.”

Trudeau also was hurt by a scandal that erupted this year when his former attorney general said he pressured her to halt the prosecution of a Quebec company. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the damage gave a boost to the Conservative Party.

Trudeau’s Liberals will likely rely on the New Democrats to form a new government and pass legislation. Opposition New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh said early Tuesday he had congratulated Trudeau and vowed to play a constructive role in Parliament.

Wiseman, from the University of Toronto, said Monday’s results left the Conservatives deeply disappointed.

“They had an opportunity here to win,” he said.

Scheer had promised to end a national carbon tax and cut government spending, including foreign aid, by 25%.

Trudeau embraced immigration at a time when the U.S. and other countries are closing their doors, and he legalized cannabis nationwide.

His efforts to strike a balance on the environment and the economy have been criticized by both the right and left. He brought in a carbon tax to fight climate change but rescued a stalled pipeline expansion project to get Alberta’s oil to international markets.

His also negotiated a new free trade deal for Canada with the U.S. and Mexico amid threats by U.S. President Donald Trump to scrap it.

Trump, who has clashed with Trudeau over trade, tweeted his congratulations early Tuesday, saying, “Canada is well served.”

Pat Gill, a Vancouver retiree, said she voted for Trudeau.

“I think people know he’s made some mistakes,” said Gill, who is 74. “I’m hoping he’s learned in the last four years. I still think he’s our best bet.”


Associated Press writer Jim Morris in Vancouver, British Columbia, contributed to this report.

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