TruthDig.com News

Trump Is Losing the Most Important Impeachment Battle

On Thursday, President Donald Trump stood before the White House press corps, his Air Force One helicopter whirring nearby, and committed an impeachable offense. Then he appeared to commit another. “I would think that if they were honest about it, [the Ukrainian government] would start a major investigation into the Bidens,” he said. “It’s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens. Because how does a company that’s newly formed, and all these companies, if you look at it. … And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

If the president sounded panicked or otherwise out of it, he had good reason to be. According to a new poll from USA Today/Ipsos, 45% of the country now supports a House vote of impeachment, against 38% who do not. Perhaps more telling, 44% believe that if the Senate were to try the president, he should be convicted and removed from office. Just 35% believe he should be acquitted.

“The survey of 1,006 adults, taken Tuesday and Wednesday, underscores the perilous situation the president finds himself in as House committees subpoena documents and prepare to hear testimony into accusations that he pressured the leader of Ukraine to investigate a political rival, then tried to hide the account of their phone conversation,” writes USA Today’s Susan Page.

Related Articles by by by

Only so much can be extrapolated about the national mood from a single poll, but these numbers are largely consistent with current trend lines. The latest data from Quinnipiac indicate an even split on impeachment, at 47%—good for a 10-point swing in favor over a five-day period—while a CBS poll released Sunday finds the public approves by a margin of 55% to 45%. FiveThirtyEight, which relies on a weighted average of dozens of polls, indicates that Trump’s approval rating has dipped from 43% to 41% since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry a little over a week ago.

It’s still early, and the Democrats’ latest gambit may yet backfire. Similarly, Hunter Biden’s involvement in a Ukrainian energy company, described aptly by Sarah Chayes in The Atlantic as a “perfectly legal, socially acceptable form of corruption,” could haunt them in the 2020 election. But right now, Trump is losing the impeachment battle that matters most for his political future—the one held in the court of public opinion.

The post Trump Is Losing the Most Important Impeachment Battle appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

U.S.-Europe Dispute Puts World Trade at Risk

BRUSSELS—The trade wars threatening to push the global economy into recession are entering a new phase, with the United States and European Union escalating a dispute that endangers the world’s biggest trade relationship.

After the Trump administration slapped steep tariffs on $7.5 billion in EU goods, mainly traditional produce like cheese and wine, the Europeans made clear they would retaliate in kind. Some fear the tariffs could ultimately lead to U.S. taxes on European cars, a big economic blow that Trump has been threatening to deliver for months.

The exchange echoes how the U.S. and China ratcheted up a tariffs fight in recent months that has bruised businesses around the world and stunted economic growth.

Related Articles by The Real News Network by ProPublica by

“This step triggers fears of a new round of escalation of tariff wars,” said Alex Kuptsikevich, a financial analyst with brokerage FxPro. “The introduction of tariffs and fears of tit-for-tat steps could further suppress business sentiment, which is already at the lowest levels for years.”

The Trump administration’s latest tariffs target large aircraft but also many typical European products such as olives, whiskey, wine, cheese and yogurt. They will take effect Oct. 18 and amount to a 10% tax on EU aircraft and steep 25% rate on everything else.

The U.S. got the legal go-ahead Wednesday from the World Trade Organization in a case involving illegal EU subsidies for the plane maker Airbus and which predates the Trump administration.

But the EU is expecting a similar case involving U.S. subsidies for Boeing to go in its favor, with a ruling due in coming months. It has said it hopes the two sides can hold off new tariffs, which economically amount to taxes on domestic importers. Sometimes importers pass on the higher costs to consumers, making goods more expensive.

“If the U.S. imposes countermeasures it will be pushing the EU into a situation where we will have to do the same,” said the European Commission’s spokesman, Daniel Rosario, echoing the dark outlook expressed by many EU governments.

“This is a move that will first and foremost hit U.S. consumers and companies and will make efforts towards a negotiated settlement more complicated,” he said.

A group of American alcohol importers, wholesalers, distributors and others released an open letter this week urging an end to the tariffs. They say tariffs on Scotch whisky, liqueurs and wine would affect nearly $3.4 billion in imports and cost 13,000 U.S. jobs, including truckers and bartenders.

Mindful that the tariffs do not actually come into effect for a couple weeks, Rosario stressed that the EU is still open to talking.

The tariffs come on top of existing ones that the U.S. and EU exchanged last year and multiply the headaches for European businesses fretting over Brexit, which could see Britain leave the EU on Oct. 31 without a deal – meaning new tariffs overnight on the heavy flow of trade across the Channel.

More broadly, the tariffs add to uncertainty for the global economy, which has been hit particularly hard by the U.S.’s wide-ranging dispute with China over trade and technology.

The U.S. and European economies are more closely integrated than the U.S. and China, with companies heavily invested across borders, so the potential damage from an escalation could dwarf the dispute with China.

Total U.S. investment in the EU, for example, is three times higher than in all of Asia. And EU investment in the U.S. is eight times that invested in China and India combined. The two sides account for about half of the world economy.

Rising uncertainty over one of the oldest and biggest economic trade paths would further darken the outlook for exporters and manufacturers, which are already cutting down on investment.

The head of the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries, Mauricio García de Quevedo, said the new U.S. tariffs will make it harder for the companies he represents to compete internationally. And that will contribute to job losses, he said, without providing detail.

The United States is the Spanish sector’s second biggest food and beverage client after the EU, according to the federation. The sector exported 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion) last year.

Miguel Blanco, the secretary-general of Spain’s farming sector umbrella group COAG, representing more than 15,000 Spanish farmers and livestock breeders, said the tariffs are “completely unfair and overblown.”

“Once again, the farming sector is going to pay for an EU trade war which has nothing to do with the Spanish countryside,” Blanco said, according to Europa Press.

The Federation of French wines and spirits exporters also deplored the U.S. decision.

Antoine Leccia, president of the federation, said “we don’t feel at all initially involved in this litigation so we feel we are a bit hostages of these retaliatory measures.”

“We regret that this country, the United States, a country we worked with for many years, a country that increased its wine consumption and French wine imports now adopts such measures,” he added.

In Germany, which has Europe’s largest economy and focuses heavily on exports, the federation of industry said the U.S. was using the WTO ruing to intensify trade disputes.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened in the past to impose tariffs on European cars, a huge sector in Germany, and some fear this week’s escalation could lead to that.

Joachim Lang, the head of the Federation of German Industries, said “there is a risk that many industries on both sides of the Atlantic will find themselves in a lose-lose situation.”

___

Piovano reported from London. David Rising in Berlin, Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Barry Hatton in Lisbon and Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit contributed to this report.

The post U.S.-Europe Dispute Puts World Trade at Risk appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

The Supreme Court Cases That Could Change the Course of History

Major cases this year address the immigration program for young people (“Dreamers”) known as DACA, the Affordable Care Act (again), and public money for religious schools.

Justices will also consider cases that involve several aspects of defendants’ rights: whether criminal convictions require a unanimous jury, minors can be given a life sentence and a state can abolish the insanity defense.

Some of the most important rulings will address the recognition of rights by the conservative court: gay rights, gun rights and Native rights.

Related Articles by by by

These cases focus on perhaps the deepest divide on the court: Should the justices base their rulings on the contemporary meaning of words in our laws (or in the Constitution itself) as the public understanding of those concepts changes over time?

Or should they insist that our laws can only be changed from their original meaning by the country’s democratic representatives, who are directly accountable to the people?

<h5><strong>Gay Rights</strong></h5>

The justices will consider three cases on LGBT employment rights.

Gerald Bostock was fired by Clayton County, Georgia, because he is gay. Donald Zarda was fired from his job as a tandem sky-dive instructor for being gay (before his death in a BASE-jumping accident). Aimee Stephens transitioned from male to female identity and was fired from her job as a funeral director.

These cases turn on one word’s meaning: the word “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Does “sex” mean what legislators thought it meant when the law was passed, barring discrimination against women? Or should it be interpreted more broadly now to mean discrimination against any aspect of sexuality?

<h5><strong>Gun Rights</strong></h5>

It has been almost a decade since the court recognized a fundamental right for individual citizens to bear arms. That case was MacDonald v. Chicago, from the city with the highest total number of gun deaths in the nation.

Since that time, the looming question has been what sort of restrictions would be considered constitutional.

New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. New York City puts this question to the test. Licensed gun owners were prevented from transporting firearms outside of their homes, even to a second home or to a shooting competition outside the city. The court must decide if this is a reasonable regulation that leaves the essential right to bear arms intact.

In the midst of growing concern over mass shootings, the ruling may have ramifications for future attempts at gun regulations.

To raise the political stakes even further, five U.S. senators in their now infamous “enemy-of-the-Court” brief threaten that if the court does not dismiss the case, the Senate will have to consider adding more justices to the court in an attempt to shift its partisan balance, known as “packing the Court.”

<h5><strong>Native Rights</strong></h5>

The least-known but potentially most important case of the year is not about widely-discussed gay rights or gun rights, but about Native rights.

Sharp v. Murphy began as a dispute over jurisdiction in a murder prosecution. But it has become a potentially influential case about who represents the rightful government of Eastern Oklahoma.

The historic reservations of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations comprise 40% of Oklahoma land. These tribes were forcibly removed from the eastern U.S. to the Oklahoma Territory in the 1830s, some making the journey along the infamous Trail of Tears.

Since then, parts of their reservation land have been seized by the state government or sold to private citizens, so they are no longer part of the reservation. This includes the city of Tulsa.

The argument in the case is that according to the original treaties the petitioners are asking the court to uphold, those lands are rightfully still under the government of the tribes. What exactly this means in terms of ownership and governance is unclear.

This may at first appear to be a small case about a piece of the American West. But if the Native rights claim is recognized by the court, it may also apply in later cases to a surprisingly large proportion of the United States that was once “Indian country” under official treaties. That is why 10 states filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing against the Native rights claim.

A map submitted as an exhibit in the Supreme Court case about the boundaries of tribal reservations in Oklahoma.
Supreme Court <h5><strong>Bigger Implications</strong></h5>

The Native rights claims at issue are not individual rights of the type the U.S. Constitution generally contemplates. They are rights held by an ethnic group. The question of who belongs to the group – and hence has access to the group right – is a divisive one because any answer includes some members while excluding others who claim the same identity.

It also is reminiscent of another proposed group right that is being debated in American politics: reparations. This summer the U.S. Congress held contentious hearings to discuss possible payments as reparations for slavery.

But payments to whom? Both Native Americans and African Americans share a distinct problem yet to be solved: how to determine who is a member of the group.

So in the case of reparations: Would they be paid only to direct descendants of slaves? To all African American descendants no matter when their progenitors arrived in the U.S.? To all people who have any black ancestors regardless of their current status or wealth?

Many Native tribes use what’s called the “blood quantumapproach, which forces individuals to document their lineage and proportional ancestry to prove membership. But scholars in this area argue that this approach is fraught with complications in many contexts.

<h5><strong>Election 2020</strong></h5>

Democratic presidential hopefuls have already grappled with questions around tribal membership and the country’s history of racism. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has dealt with a damaging controversy over her claims to Native American ancestry. Former Vice President Joe Biden has come under fire for his earlier opposition to reparations.

In terms of both legal and political influence, Sharp v. Murphy is a case with potentially major ramifications. And with the combined focus on politically divisive issues like gay rights, gun rights and Native rights, this year’s docket is likely to have an unusually strong presence in the 2020 campaigns.

[ Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter. ]

Morgan Marietta, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Lowell

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

The post The Supreme Court Cases That Could Change the Course of History appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Reaganism Must Be Defeated Once and for All

The destruction of the middle class is destroying democracies and paving the way for authoritarian rule.

In 2016, Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk published a paper in the Journal of Democracy showing how, in the era since Reagan led America out of classical economic policy and into neoliberalism (aka “trickle-down” and “supply-side” economics), many Americans have ceased to value democracy.

“In the United States,” they write, “among all age cohorts, the share of citizens who believe that it would be better to have a ‘strong leader’ who does not have to ‘bother with parliament and elections’ has also risen over time: In 1995, 24 percent of respondents held this view; by 2011, that figure had increased to 32 percent.” By the time the paper came out in 2016, fully 49 percent of Americans thought elites should make decisions, rather than “government.”

Related Articles by by by

And the growing disillusionment with democracy as a way to protect the interests of average voters doesn’t just push them toward solutions hatched by the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute; increasingly, Americans would even consider a military junta ruling America, something that would shock the founders.

“In the past three decades,” Foa and Mounk write, “the share of U.S. citizens who think that it would be a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ thing for the ‘army to rule’—a patently undemocratic stance—has steadily risen. In 1995, just one in sixteen respondents agreed with that position; today, one in six agree.”

And it’s not just in the United States; democracies across the world are falling to the power of right-wing strongman leaders. Just in the past few decades we’ve seen this happen in Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, India, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia and, most recently, Brazil. Arguably, it has happened here in the United States with the Electoral College’s selection of Donald Trump as president. Meanwhile, hard-right groups seeking such autocracy are rising fast across Europe, particularly in France, Italy, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

In a recent article for the Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria notes this trend, along with Foa and Mounk’s research, and tries to analyze its cause.

“Why is this?” Zakaria writes. “The best I can guess is that we are living in times of great change — economic, technological, demographic, cultural — and in this swirl, people feel insecure and anxious.”

But America and the world have been in the midst of “great change” many times before, including during and after two world wars, but this trend toward authoritarianism has been happening uniquely since the 1980s.

That decade saw the adoption of the radical economic and political ideologies of Thatcherism and Reaganism—neoliberalism—which have since swept the world’s democracies. Even the European Union (with the Maastricht Treaty in 1993) has adopted neoliberal “reforms” that benefitted wealthy elites while forcing austerity on its poorer member nations, inflicting massive pain and inciting right-wing movements in Greece, Spain and Italy, among others.

In the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher led the way in 1978. She rejected government ownership of parts of the commons like railways, busted unions, and later argued that, “There is no such thing as society… [only] individual men and women, and… families.”

Reagan came to power in 1980 with the help of vast amounts of money from corporations and the morbidly rich, made possible by the twin 1976 and 1978 Supreme Court decisions of Buckley v. Valeo and First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, which said that billionaires and corporations owning politicians was “free speech.”

With a nod to his oligarch funders, in his inaugural address, his first day on the job as president, Reagan famously said, “[G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

When Reagan flipped our economic system on its head, rejecting two generations of classical Adam Smith economics and replacing it with the Laffer Curve and “supply-side” economics, almost a third of Americans had union jobs and around 60 percent of American families lived in the economic “middle class.” But starting in 2015, as NPR noted, reporting on a Pew study, “middle-income households have become the minority.”

Since David Koch’s failed 1980 run for VP on the Libertarian ticket, American oligarchs have invested billions of dollars in the message that government is bad and can’t be trusted. The most obvious example was the faux-grassroots Tea Party “movement” funded by Koch front groups, causing thousands of Americans to protest “government-run” health care with slogans like, “Keep your goddamn government hands off my Medicare!”

Koch and his oligarch friends suggested, through their surrogates and think tanks, that instead of a functioning democracy we should have a government both owned and run by them and their billionaire buddies.

And that’s largely what we have now, with the Trump administration. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently tweeted, “A corporate lawyer runs DOL, a pharma exec runs HHS, a coal lobbyist runs EPA, an oil lobbyist runs DOI, a Raytheon lobbyist runs DOD, a steel lobbyist is the US trade rep, and a banking exec runs USDT.” I’d add that a former Verizon lawyer runs the FCC, and midlevel positions across the federal government are now filled with lobbyists and lawyers from industry.

Prior to the Reagan Revolution, Americans usually got what they wanted from the government.

The successes of LBJ’s Great Society programs during the 1960s are a great example: Medicare, Medicaid, Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, cutting poverty in half, Head Start, the National Teacher Corps, hundreds of billions in student college aid, PBS and NPR, Air Quality Act, Water Quality Act, Wilderness Act, National Trails System Act, creating the Cabinet-level Department of Housing and Urban Development, Community Action Agencies, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Child Safety Act, mandating warning labels on cigarettes, the Immigration Act that ended race-based immigration quotas, food stamps, and massive investments in public schools and hospitals… among other things.

In the 1970s, Jimmy Carter followed up by creating the Department of Energy and passing energy programs that would have moved 20 percent of America’s electricity generation to solar by 2000 (it was ended by Reagan), establishing the Department of Education, massively expanding Head Start, passing major laws to regulate coal mining and make it safer, forcing polluters to clean up superfund sites, and doubling our public lands in Alaska. Not to mention winning the Nobel Prize for working out a peace deal between Egypt and Israel that holds to this day.

Before the 1980s, Western Europe and other democracies saw similar expansions of people-based government programs. But nearly all of it came to a screeching halt—and much was even reversed—with the neoliberal Thatcher and Reagan Revolutions.

Today’s standard-bearers for neoliberalism are the Republicans (and a few corporate-owned Democrats), and, as Americans figure out that the probability today of legislation passing that’s supported by the majority of Americans is today equivalent to random chance, they’re revolting.

And the oligarch billionaires have been waiting for just this moment, funding massive voter suppression, right-wing media, politicians who tell us that up is down, and efforts to keep their colleague, billionaire Donald Trump, in office. While the outreach to “very fine people” in the neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements is a bit less visible, it’s there, too.

So long as the governments of America and other countries are captives of oligarchs and big corporations, and hang onto anti-worker, anti-middle-class neoliberal policies, citizens will continue to drift toward hard-right “populist” politicians.

Democracies will only begin to revive when we reverse the Reagan Revolution and return to the classical economic and political systems that existed in the Western world before the neoliberal 1980s.

And if that reversal doesn’t happen soon, the trend toward autocratic oligarchy will continue to speed up. As Foa and Mounk note in the conclusion of their research paper, “[W]hat was once unthinkable should no longer be considered outside the realm of possibility.”

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America and more than 25 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

The post Reaganism Must Be Defeated Once and for All appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Trump Calls on China to Investigate Bidens

WASHINGTON—Ensnarled in an impeachment investigation over his request for Ukraine to investigate a chief political rival, President Donald Trump on Thursday called on another nation to probe former Vice President Joe Biden: China.

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump said in remarks to reporters outside the White House. Trump said he hadn’t directly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to investigate Biden and his son Hunter but said it’s “certainly something we could start thinking about.”

Trump and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have also tried to raise suspicions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China, leaning on the writings of conservative author Peter Schweizer. But there is no evidence that the former vice president benefited financially from his son’s business relationships.

Related Articles by by by

Trump’s requests for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to dig up dirt on Biden, as well as Giuliani’s conduct, are at the center of an intelligence community whistleblower complaint that sparked the House Democratic impeachment probe last week.

The president’s reference to China came unprompted in an unrelated question about the July 25 Ukraine call and moments after he was asked about trade negotiations with China to end a year-long trade war that has been a drag on both nation’s economies.

“I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous, tremendous power,” Trump said.

He later alleged without evidence that China had a “sweetheart deal” on trade with the U.S. because of the Bidens.

“You know what they call that,” Trump said. “They call that a payoff.”

Trump’s comments came as he publicly acknowledged that his message to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other officials was to investigate the 2020 Democratic presidential contender. Trump’s accusations of impropriety are unsupported by evidence.

“It’s a very simple answer,” Trump said of his call with Zelenskiy. “They should investigate the Bidens.”

Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

The post Trump Calls on China to Investigate Bidens appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Nuclear War Anywhere on Earth Will Doom Us

Nobody can emerge from a nuclear war as a winner, says a US team of scientists, and the planet they inherit may be ravaged by mass starvation.

Their scenario is stark. The year is 2025, they suggest. A dangerous tension has grown more dangerous with the years and suddenly India and Pakistan begin a nuclear exchange. The outcome? More people will die almost immediately than were killed in the entire Second World War.

And the global climate inevitably will feel the heat of the exchange. Up to 36 million tonnes of smoke and soot from subcontinental cities incinerated by even modest nuclear warheads will be blasted high into the upper atmosphere, spread around the globe and darken the skies.

Related Articles by by OtherWords by Waging Nonviolence

Planetary average temperatures will drop by at least 2°C and by as much as 5°C, and for the next 10 years regional temperatures could plummet to levels characteristic of the last Ice Age. Rainfall will diminish by 15% to 30%, and so will the productivity of the oceans, terrestrial forests, grasslands and croplands.

Rapid Build-Up

This would be enough to trigger mass starvation around the rest of the globe, according to the scientists’ study, published in the journal Science Advances.

“Nine countries have nuclear weapons, but Pakistan and India are the only ones rapidly increasing their arsenals,” said Alan Robock, of Rutgers University in the US. “Because of the continuing unrest between these two nuclear-armed countries, particularly over Kashmir, it is important to understand the consequences of nuclear war.”

The world’s nuclear arsenal totals around 13,900 weapons: nine-tenths of them held by Russia and the United States. But Britain, France, China, Israel, India and Pakistan are thought to have between 100 and 300 each, and none of these states is bound by treaties that require them to reveal the number of launchers or the number of warheads carried by missiles.

Of these states, Pakistan and India have a long history of military tension – including four conventional wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999, and a long history of claim and counter-claim to the territory of Kashmir.

Professor Robock and nine other scientists, led by Owen Brian Toon of the University of Colorado at Boulder, consulted military and policy experts to develop a simple scenario of how a nuclear war might happen, and then made estimates of the likely yield of 250 weapons that might be used by both nations in the first week of conflict.

India has 400 cities with more than 100,000 people, and by 2025 Pakistan could have an arsenal big enough to attack two-thirds of them; Pakistan has about 60 such dense conurbations and India could react and hit all of them with two weapons each. The expected almost-immediate death toll would be between 50 million and 125 million.

The scientists examined accounts of the only time nuclear weapons were used in anger – over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945 – and made calculations of the impact of nuclear weaponry on brick and steel, cement and stone, pitch and tile, concluding that between 16 and 36 million tonnes of black carbon would rise into the upper atmosphere, spread around the planet and screen the sunlight, for up to a decade, to set up the conditions for poor harvests or no harvests, and severe food shortages.

“An India-Pakistan war could double the normal death rate in the world,” Professor Toon said. “This is a war that would have no precedent in human experience.”

Lesson from Wildfires

This is not the first such study: in 2017 a group of scientists revived concerns about a potential “nuclear autumn” with deadly consequences that would follow a nuclear exchange.

In August this year Professor Robock and colleagues looked at the smoke from devastating Canadian wildfires in 2017 and used these as a lesson for the conflagration and clouds of smoke that would follow thermonuclear strikes on cities, with, once again, deadly consequences for parts of the world far from the conflict zone.

And Professor Toon was part of the team of scientists that – in 1983, around the most tense months of the Cold War – first developed the theory of “nuclear winter” that might follow all-out global thermonuclear war, to propose that there could be no winners, and no safe neutral zones, in such a conflict.

“Nuclear weapons cannot be used in any rational scenario but could be used by accident or as a result of hacking, panic or deranged world leaders,” Professor Robock said. “The only way to prevent this is to eliminate them.”

The post Nuclear War Anywhere on Earth Will Doom Us appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

The President Is Attacking Our Children

Okay, I’ll admit it. Sometimes I can’t take the bad news. It’s too much. It’s so extra, as the kids like to say.

When I hit that wall of hopelessness and anxiety so many of us have become familiar with, I take what I think of as a “kid break.” I stare into the faces of my three children seeking solace and sanity. I remind myself that they are the why of it all.

Seamus, who is seven, and I do our special four-part kiss. I arrange five-year-old Madeline’s hair into Dutch braids or bear-ear buns. Twelve-year-old Rosena and I talk about her five-minute YouTube-inspired craft projects. I connect with those three nodes of antic energy, creativity, and goodness and I feel a little better.

Unfortunately, kid breaks don’t represent a long-term solution to my problem. They’re too brief to keep my hopes afloat, nor is it fair to continually cling to my kids’ narrow shoulders to keep my head above the surging waters. Still, sometimes it really does help to see the world, however briefly, through their eyes, because despite everything, they’re having a good time.

Check out how cool they are: Madeline and Seamus are lying on opposite ends of the couch, both in their pajamas, both reading, both humming under their breath. It’s early morning. Soon they’ll have to go upstairs and get ready for school. From the other room, I reach for my phone to capture this unconscious and beautiful moment, but before I can, Seamus leaps up, adds a lyric to Madeline’s tune and starts dancing, whipping a piece of fabric around his head. She sits up and watches, rapt, humming ever louder.

Seamus spins further into the room until I can’t see him anymore, but I watch her watching him and think: They’re going to be A-OK.

All three of them. Kind and caring of one another and others. But the world they’re growing into is another matter entirely. It’s not A-OK. What do I do about that? I have to do more than day-dream that Greta Thunberg will become Queen of the World and declare a carbon-free future by fiat.

“Tronald Dump! Tronald Dump! Tronald Dump!”

One morning, not too long ago, Madeline and I were playing “interview.” It’s a game all of us like in which one person asks random questions and the other has to answer instantly, off the top of his or her head. Sometimes, admittedly, it can get tedious (for me, at least) because they always start by asking, “What’s your favorite animal?” and they remember if I mention a different one than last time.

On this day, as it happened, I needed the game to distract Madeline, while I put a pair of hand-me-down school-uniform pants on her, so I played it, machine-gun style:

“Who is your favorite person?”

“My family and everyone in the whole world,” she responded instantly.

“Just name one person.”

“Can I say three? Bronwyn, Autumn, and JoJo!” Those are her friends from the neighborhood. I’m hoping that one of these days they’ll start a band and, as I’ve told them, call it “JoJo and the Sea Walls.” It’s an inside joke that panders to girls 6 to 60 who are obsessed with Jojo Siwa, a 16-year-old cultural phenom with giant hair bows and glitter-encrusted dance numbers. Still, they weren’t amused and probably won’t let me manage the band.

“What’s your favorite song?”

“Why Don’t You Just Meet Me in the Middle.” Okay, maybe they’re not quite as A-OK as I like to imagine, since “The Middle” is a truly repulsive earworm of a song, especially when its lover-duet lyrics are sung by a five year old.

“What’s your least favorite food?”

“Hot sauce and anything spicy.”

“Who’s your least favorite person?”

“Michael Jackson and Donald Trump. I hate them!”

And there it was, direct from the black-and-white world of a five year old: the pop idol who sang lead on “ABC,” the song they love, and who also hurt kids: a fact they know from too much exposure to National Public Radio and a long car ride ill-timed to coincide with breaking news about the release of the documentary film Leaving Neverland. (Its topic was Jackson’s child sexual abuse.) And — why am I not surprised in our household? — the illegitimate president of the United States who yells and throws tantrums like a spoiled five year old, lies like a spoiled seven year old, tweets like a spoiled 12 year old, and more than two-and-a-half years after entering the Oval Office continues to rewrite the rules of the game and the world in ways that are anything but healthy for children, not to speak of other living things.

Madeline is fierce and funny and fragile like any five year old. I fear that the world Donald Trump is taking such a hand in creating won’t have room for her — and, on some deep level, I suspect, she senses that, too, and it makes her mad.

The news on NPR was playing in the kitchen one morning recently when Madeline came in. “Turn it off!” she demanded, her voice stentorious and aggrieved. “I do not want to hear that man’s voice today!” Another morning, seeing the president’s photo in the newspaper on the table, she pounded it with her fists, chanting, “Tronald Dump! Tronald Dump! Tronald Dump!”

Now that Madeline is in school — she started kindergarten after Labor Day — she’s trying to be a nicer person. She talks a lot about how she needs to be “nice.” So, after declaring that Michael Jackson and Donald Trump were the worst people in the world, she added, her voice thick with a saccharine school-edge, “But I would still treat them nicely.”

She says it, in fact, with such fervor that initially I wonder whether she’s inverted the meaning of the word nicely. If she hasn’t, she may have to. The Trump administration is taking out after the future of my kids and Madeline, her brother, and her sister sense it.

The Donald’s Assault on the Future

Before Donald Trump was a household word as a hotelier, a womanizer, and the 45th president of the United States, “trump” was a verb meaning to supercede, dominate, outrank. How perfect, as it happens, for a man who is, in all modesty, trying to trump the future — Madeline’s, Seamus’s, and Rosena’s.

President Trump Is Attacking Their Environment

He’s selling off national parks to loggers and miners, making fervently sure that ever more carbon will be pumped into the skies, and that more noxious chemicals and industrial waste will flow into the waters of this land.

We live in New London, Connecticut, a relatively small town, just 5.5 square miles, so two million acres is incomprehensible to me. But that’s the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments out West. Or at least it was until Trump’s Interior Department began moving to shrink these wild public lands for the benefit of private interests.

National Geographic has been keeping track of his administration’s abuse of natural resources. By now, it has recorded 15 major assaults on the natural world since he entered the White House in January 2017, including the undermining of the Endangered Species Act. Until July 2018, the act that protects the black footed ferret and the grizzly bear, among many other species, put more weight on safeguarding their imperilled habitats than on economic considerations. Once this administration got its hands on it, however, the money side instantly won out and the animals and the rest of us (including my kids) lost.

In August, the New York Times counted 84 environmental laws or regulations that the Trump administration has already rolled back with more to come, even as it promotes pipelines and works to open previously pristine national parks to oil and natural gas drilling. According to a recent report prepared by New York University Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, such changes “could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality every year.”

Not so surprisingly, my kids love ferrets and bears and butterflies and want clean water and clean air.

Trump Is Attacking Their Education

He’s slashing public education budgets, opening space to even more for-profit schools, and modeling a bully swagger that’s a caricature of every bad kid.

My kids go to good public schools in New London. The little ones attend schools that offer theater, music, and visual arts every week. The older one is in a non-profit charter school that focuses on interdisciplinary work and community investment, while cultivating a strong, kind school culture. They are all thriving and happy; the schools themselves, less so. Each of them is struggling, while the message from the top is: make do with less.

A budget analysis from the Center for American Progress finds that the Trump administration’s 2020 education budget proposal would eliminate 29 public school programs, including after-school programming in poor communities and professional development for teachers, while cutting a total of $8.5 billion, a 12% decrease from the fiscal year 2019 budget. Over the last two years, the Department of Education has suggested even more massive cuts, though Congress has rejected them. We can only hope that its members will again “just say no” to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s grim proposals. Still, even the money that does get to cities and municipalities is so much less than what such schools and their teachers and kids really need.

The public college scene is bleak, too. The way things are looking now, my kids may be going to plumbing school! College has never been more expensive and recent moves by the Department of Education have made accrediting for-profit colleges that bilk their students so much easier.

Trump Is Attacking Their Future

The world is on fire. That phrase used to be a rhetorical device for expressing the urgency of problems. Now, from the Amazon toIndonesia’s forests, it’s literally, as well as existentially, true! Donald Trump is making the future so much more perilous for my children by lowering the bar for nuclear war and accelerating the pace of the climate crisis.

James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climatologists, has been ringing the alarm bell about climate change for decades. The Columbia University professor has shown vividly how, thanks to the burning of fossil fuels, the Earth’s climate has already moved above the temperature range that supported the previous 10,000 years of civilization. In “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene,” a “hothouse Earth” scenario put together by leading ecologists in 2018, they suggested that, if greenhouse gas emissions weren’t cut — and they’re still rising! — with reasonable rapidity, there could be a point of no return. Critical planetary systems could spiral out of control, causing “serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies,” even if those emissions were then curbed in a serious way. This should terrify us all, at least for our children’s sake, if not our own.

And speaking not just of something, but of someone who should terrify us all, consider President Trump’s recent response to hurricane season. “Nuke ’em,” he suggested during a hurricane briefing at the White House and he wasn’t just kidding around. He meant it! The president actually said, “I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” Given how many of our tax dollars go to nuclear weapons, there should be some use for them, right? We should deliver true “fire and fury” somewhere, so why not directly into the eye of a hurricane? Despite having no true military superpower rival, the United States is on track to spend $494 billion on nuclear weapons over the next 10 years, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis, and closer to $2 trillion over the next three decades.

Trump Is Attacking Their Bodies

In Trump’s world, health care is not a right, it’s a gold-plated privilege that makes lots of money for his friends in the insurance industry. In the meantime, he’s fighting Obamacare and Medicare for All, and in that fight, he sets himself against three kids I love.

It Shouldn’t Be Donald Trump’s Future (Which Is No Future at All)

To say the least, all of this leaves me distressed, disturbed, and depressed. Under the circumstances, it’s easy enough to just throw up my hands and bury my head in the sand. That, unfortunately, doesn’t help Seamus, Madeline, and Rosena one little bit, nor does it help the millions of other kids threatened by the Trumpian assault on the future. So I carry on, putting one foot in front of the other and doing my best to keep working, however small the scale, for the better future that President Trump is so eager to deny them.

After all, the future doesn’t belong to him or to me. It belongs to my kids and your kids and all the generations to follow.

The skies, the mesas, the old growth forests, the seas, and everything else, all the richness, beauty, diversity of our ecosystem doesn’t belong in Donald Trump’s wallet. It’s ours, not his. It belongs to all of us — and none of us — at the same time. That means our job, above all, is to protect it and so our children, all of them!

The post The President Is Attacking Our Children appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Snowden Knows Exactly Why No One Wants to Be a Whistleblower

“I have a lot of respect for whistleblowers,” President Donald Trump said at a news conference Wednesday, before qualifying, “but only when they are real.” It remains unclear what the first U.S. president who comes from reality television means by “real.” What is clear is that the impeachment inquiry announced last week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has infuriated Trump as it picks up steam. The inquiry is based largely on the complaint of a single whistleblower, who revealed, through legally prescribed channels, details of Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate one of Trump’s 2020 presidential rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. That a single whistleblower could trigger Trump’s potential impeachment reminds us how important whistleblowers are to a functioning democracy. It also compels us to recognize that far too many of them over the years have been vilified, persecuted and prosecuted for their courageous acts.

“How is it that there has been just one whistleblower?” Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, asked in a tweet. “Gee I wonder,” replied Edward Snowden, one of the world’s most famous whistleblowers. Ed Snowden has been living in exile in Moscow since 2013 after he released to journalists millions of pages of documents he had taken out of the National Security Agency, where he had worked on the nation’s most closely guarded surveillance programs.

Snowden’s derisive quip to Bharara is grounded in his own hard-earned experience. Snowden witnessed what he thought was a vast web of illegal, unconstitutional surveillance activities being conducted at the NSA. He left his home in Hawaii with a trove of top-secret electronic files and flew to Hong Kong, where he met with journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill. Holed up in a hotel room over the course of days, Snowden walked the trio of reporters through the myriad spy programs that he considered illegal, including the dragnet collection of all cellphone call records in the U.S., potentially vacuuming up the internet browsing activity of everyone on the planet and spying on cellphone calls of world leaders, for starters.

“The question that we have to ask is: Why?” Snowden said on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, days after the release of “Permanent Record,” his memoir. “Don’t we need, as a public, to understand what the government is doing … behind closed doors?” Snowden’s memoir details his trajectory as a young computer expert, inspired by the attacks of 9/11 to join the military and then, after an accident, to move into the intelligence community.

Snowden became increasingly alarmed by the vast surveillance state that he was helping to build, but knew that, if he were to follow the formal channels for raising concerns, it wouldn’t end well. “NSA whistleblowers who did go through this process had their lives destroyed,” he said on “Democracy Now!” “They lost their careers, they lost their homes, in some cases they lost their families, because of the stress and retaliation and consequences they face.”

The list of whistleblowers who have suffered for their acts gets increasingly longer: NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, Bill Binney and NSA contractor Reality Winner; the CIA’s Jeffrey Sterling; and U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, to name just a few. Some went through official channels; others went straight to the press. Their disclosures served the public, and, in return, zealous government prosecutors brought the hammer down on them.

“Some of them lost their freedom,” Snowden said from his home in exile. “Chelsea Manning right now is sitting in prison. We have had so much mistreatment of whistleblowers here.”

Lawyers for the current whistleblower have written that their client is currently under federal protection, and that they fear for the person’s safety. Edward Snowden understands what worries this whistleblower. “The government made me public enemy number one. I was the most wanted man in the world,” he said. Ultimately, he chose to go directly to the press, instead of risking the official channels that often fail the whistleblower. He is willing to return to the U.S. to face trial, provided it is fair and open to the public, not if he is tried in secret, unable to present his reasons for his disclosures. “I don’t believe participating in that kind of system advances the interests of justice; I think that perpetuates a system of injustice.”

The post Snowden Knows Exactly Why No One Wants to Be a Whistleblower appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Wall Street Is Killing Local Newspapers

Though lacking the size and prestige of The New York Times or The Washington PostThe Storm Lake Times is arguably just as important.

Two years ago, the small, bi-weekly Iowa paper (circulation: 3,000) won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for taking on agricultural water pollution in the state. If it weren’t for vibrant local papers, stories like these might never come to light.

Unfortunately, all over the country, private equity and hedge funds have been scooping up these cash-strapped papers — and looting them into irrelevance or bankruptcy.

Here’s how it works.

Investors put down a fraction of the purchase price and borrow the rest — and then saddle the company with that debt. Layoffs and cutbacks follow, which leads to a shabbier product. Circulation and revenue decline, then more cuts, and the cycle accelerates.

Eventually the paper is a shadow of its former self, or turned to ashes completely. Wall Street wins, the public loses.

Perhaps the most infamous recent example was the breakdown of the 127-year-old Denver Post. Since private equity firm Alden Global acquired the paper, it has cut two out of every three staff positions — twice the industry rate for downsizing.

To add insult to injury, the firm has been using staff pension funds as its own personal piggy bank. In total, they’ve moved nearly $250 million into investment accounts in the Cayman Islands.

Employees who remain grapple with censorship. Last April, Dave Krieger — editorial page editor of Alden’s Boulder Daily Camera — was fired after self-publishing an opinion piece headlined “Private Equity Owners Endanger Daily Camera’s Future.”

In solidarity, Denver Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett resigned, complaining that his publishers were also censoring stories that might offend Alden.

Alden’s Digital First Media runs many other big papers, putting hundreds of newsroom staff at risk of censorship and layoffs. Millions of readers, in turn, may learn only what Alden deems fit for them.

It’s not a new pattern. In 2008, a year after billionaire Sam Zell bought the Tribune Co. — publisher of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and other venerable publications — the company filed for bankruptcy, saddled with $13 billion in debt in what’s been called “the deal from hell.”

After it emerged from bankruptcy, the company was left in the hands of — you guessed it — private equity.

The march of these buyout barons continues. This summer, New Media Investment Group (owner of GateHouse Media) announced plans to buy Gannett. The $1.38 billion deal would unite one-sixth of all daily newspapers across the country, affecting 9 million print readers.

New Media anticipates cutting $300 million in costs each year, suggesting layoffs comparable to those at The Denver Post are in the offing — even as the company and its investor owners harvest profits.

This is a crisis. This country lost more than a fifth of its local newspapers between 2004 and 2018, while newspapers lost almost half of their newsroom employees between 2008 and 2018.

A few lawmakers are catching on.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recently introduced the Stop Wall Street Looting Act to curb these abuses, with Warren specifically calling out private equity firms for decimating local newspapers.

Senator Bernie Sanders recently introduced an ambitious plan of his own, calling for a moratorium on major media mergers and encouraging newsrooms to unionize nationwide.

Newspapers have been critical to American democracy since its founding. By allowing huge corporations to gut newspapers in the name of making a buck, we’re putting a price tag on that democracy when we need it most.

The post Wall Street Is Killing Local Newspapers appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

No Good Reasons to Avoid Impeaching Trump

The impeachment inquiry aimed at Donald Trump has elicited a near-palpable sigh of relief among many Americans deeply anxious about the damage he has done to the presidency and country. Each new poll suggests rising support among the electorate to terminate Trump’s presidency. Given how Trump has devastated constitutional protections, human rights and ethical boundaries over the past two and a half years, causing untold damage to the nation, impeachment ought to be welcome news across the political spectrum. But many on both the right and the left are calling the process into question—for different reasons, of course.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump over a whistleblower complaint against how he seemingly used his office for personal gain has been met with predictable backlash from the president’s most ardent supporters. Right-leaning media outlets, which have provided oxygen to Trump’s base, have doubled down on the ongoing theme of “fake news” to explain away the pesky facts. “Everything you’re seeing is deception,” says rabid right-wing shock jock Rush Limbaugh, echoing what Trump has told his supporters in the past.

Meanwhile, those Republicans who continue to tie their political fortunes to Trump’s have fixated on how his shenanigans came to light rather than the content of the whistleblower’s complaint—an echo of Trump’s own approach. They have vainly attempted to refocus attention onto former Vice President Joe Biden and the supposed corruption around his son Hunter that Trump was seemingly asking Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s new president, to investigate. But they have refused to address the illicit way Trump went about with his “investigation” into Biden.

‘Exhibit A’ is Chris Wallace’s recent interview with White House adviser Stephen Miller on Fox News. Wallace had revealed that Trump had engaged two private lawyers in addition to his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to dig up dirt on Biden and demanded to know why Trump didn’t use the American intelligence agencies at his disposal instead of private lawyers. Miller repeatedly obfuscated; ultimately, he had no answer. Indeed, none of Trump’s backers has a valid answer to his abuse of power.

Republican lawmakers, in attempting to avoid facing the clearly documented misconduct of their president, claimed they had not yet had time to read the whistleblower’s report. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rightly lambasted her colleagues on Twitter, saying, “There is almost no excuse for a member of Congress to have not read the whistleblower report by now. It’s a few pages. This is literally our jobs. If you don’t have the commitment to be here and do the work, cut your fancy fundraisers & make the time, or quit.” Ocasio-Cortez had earlier admonished her own party over its inaction. Just as the Ukraine story was breaking, she tweeted: “At this point, the bigger national scandal isn’t the president’s lawbreaking behavior—it is the Democratic Party’s refusal to impeach him for it.”

Some have dismissed the pursuit of impeachment as folly, arguing that it distracts from the much-needed legislative work Americans elected their representatives for. In fact, Trump’s press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, trotted out this argument after Pelosi’s impeachment announcement, saying it “destroyed any chances of legislative progress for the people of this country by continuing to focus all their energy on partisan political attacks.”

Grisham failed to mention that House Democrats have passed a number of bills addressing corruption, gun control and many other critical issues. However, that legislative agenda has been entirely stymied by one of Trump’s most effective allies, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has singlehandedly imposed a bottleneck on bills in the Senate. In fact, Democrats have pursued impeachment-related investigations through at least half a dozen committees while also debating and passing bills in the House, proving that it is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Some have suggested that backing impeachment based on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report or the Ukraine whistleblower complaint legitimizes intelligence agencies like the FBI and the CIA, whose pasts are replete with repressive tactics. It is absolutely true that both agencies are known for spying on progressive movements, overthrowing democratic governments and generally obstructing freedom, democracy and progress. There is also a legitimate critique of how the CIA whistleblower in the Ukraine story is being lionized versus how whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden, who exposed the mass crimes of the U.S. government, have been demonized. Still, none of that negates the whistleblower’s documentation of Trump’s abuse of power.

There are those who suggest it is better to beat Trump at the polls than through impeachment, as though the two are mutually exclusive. Jacobin’s Bhaskar Sunkara last week tweeted an article he had written in The Guardian in April titled, “Impeachment is the wrong way to beat Trump.” In it, he argued that “The way to defeat a rightwing political coalition is through leftwing politics, not political theater.” But one can argue that using the levers of government and exercising the congressional check on the president is a legitimate use of existing political power. Indeed, it is the most principled path for elected representatives during a time when a single individual—Trump—has laid waste to laws and ethics.

Pursuing impeachment does not prevent the practice of left-wing politics. On the contrary, it furthers it by helping to expose and publicize the illegitimacy of a rabidly right-wing president and his tactics, which so many of the nation’s conservatives have bought into since 2015.

Some on the left have also argued that an impeachment vote will strengthen Trump’s hand, enabling him to play the martyr, survive a Senate vote (which is likely but not guaranteed), and go on to win reelection because of impeachment, not in spite of it. However, if history is any indicator, an impeachment process will shine greater light on Trump’s misdeeds. Just as support for President Richard Nixon’s impeachment started at a meager level and grew as the process played itself out, if Trump survives an impeachment vote because his backers in the Senate refuse to abandon him, he may go on to lose at the polls because of the impeachment process.

It took Democrats more than two years to begin an impeachment inquiry, holding back because they were terrified of losing House seats in swing districts. Democrats had put their party’s political power over their duty to uphold the Constitution and check a rogue president. Still, their move is better late than never, and if impeachment is to mean anything it ought to apply to a president like Trump for any one of hundreds of offenses, from brutal violations of the rights of immigrant children to blatant profiteering off the presidency.

If any president is deserving of impeachment, it is Trump.

The post No Good Reasons to Avoid Impeaching Trump appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Donald Trump’s ‘Civil War’ Is Here

What follows is a conversation between The Nation’s Jeet Heer and Marc Steiner of The Real News Network. Read a transcript of their conversation below or watch the video at the bottom of the post.

MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. Great to have you with us once again.

The impeachment, yes, is going on. And that process is rolling along. There are still so many questions to be answered. There are many who think the impeachment process itself will backfire, rev up Trump’s millions to victory in 2020, and that there really isn’t anything there in terms of what the impeachment has to prove. Reminding ourselves what the Constitution said–let’s listen to this again–the Constitution says what? “The President, the Vice-President, the Justices of the Supreme Court, and the Auditor General, shall be removed from office on impeachment for any conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors.”

So people are asking: Is this the impeachment the right political strategy? Some would argue that Trump doesn’t need to tell the truth. He just needs to muddy the waters and that’s enough; all he has to do. And who’s in charge of this? Is it a security apparatus or are the progressives calling the shots? Who’s calling the shots with this impeachment? How deeply important is that? And there’s a war within congress itself going on, Secretary of State Pompeo now refusing to allow people from the state department to testify. Where will this take us?

Well, our guest often here is Jeet Heer, who’s a National Correspondent for The Nation. And he joins us once again. And Jeet, welcome. Good to have you with us.

JEET HEER: Good to be here.

MARC STEINER: So this is… Really, there’s so much here, but let me talk about first of all what this means politically in a larger sense from your perspective. There are some tweets that Trump has put out recently about the dangers of bringing us to a civil war and more. And let’s just read a couple of these tweets that he’s had. “….If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be),” he says, “it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” He’s quoting a Pastor Robert Jeffress in that. And he likes that, I’m sure.

And then there’s this other tweet he mentioned as well. Let’s look at these two and talk about what they might mean. I love this one. He has this map and he’s got all the places in red that they have the electoral power: “Try to impeach this.” I won’t say what he’s probably thinking in his head. But it is what he’s going to try and do. He is going to try to muddy the waters, right?

JEET HEER: Yes. I mean, I think this is… Well, first of all, the civil war tweet is almost like a threat. It’s like, “Well, this is a nice little Republic you got here, and it’d be a shame if anything happened to it.” But the thing is that this civil war talk did not originate from Trump. It’s a long standing feature of the far right. I think Steve King, the very reactionary white nationalist congressman in Iowa, said–tweeted once, “If there’s a civil war coming, we have more bullets. We have like a trillion bullets.” I think that really, the underlying issue here is that Trump’s base knows that they’re minority. Trump did not win even a plurality of the popular vote. He got less than his opponent. But they feel that this is still their country; they’re the real Americans. The people who don’t agree with them are not real Americans. They’re willing to do the Samson option. If they’re deprived of power, they’re just going to bring the whole house down.

The other aspect is it’s not so much a civil war is coming. There’s a civil war that’s already here. Because we’re not looking at the 19th century. You’re not going to see mass armies gathering together. The modern civil war that one would see in the former Yugoslavia or Syria is through terrorism and through militia groups as to this kind of social media terrorism where leaders insight their followers, put out hateful messages, and then people go out. If you really think about it, that’s already happening. There’s been people who have been moved by this sort of fear of immigrants and the idea that Jews are somehow responsible for the yields and they’ve shot up synagogues and killed people and they’ve shot up in El Paso a Walmart filled with immigrants. The civil war is here.

MARC STEINER: The civil war is here. Well, let me take it a step further. Let’s talk about some of the polls that have come up because I think this talks to the point in some ways. Both in Reuters and The Hill, there were stories put out about this election. It may have arisen to 45%, it’s nine points surging against Trump and for impeachment. But the country is really divided on this. I mean the numbers against it, there are 41 depending on which poll you look at; 41, 43, 45, and some polls like Rasmussen is up to 51% of the people who are opposed to the impeachment process and impeaching Trump. And then you have Trump in his oval office saying things like this.

DONALD TRUMP: As you know, and you probably now have figured it out, the statement I made to the president of Ukraine, a good man, a nice man, knew it was perfect, it was perfect. But the whistleblower reported a totally different statement. Like the statement, it was not even made–I guess statement you could say with call. I made a call. The call was perfect.

MARC STEINER: So you have Trump saying things like that. So talk a bit about your understanding; your sense, your theory about how really divisive this is. When you talk about we’re in the civil war, how dangerous do you think it is?

JEET HEER: I think it’s a very dangerous period. Because basically what you have is a president who based on the evidence seems to have committed some serious crimes, and he’s willing to incite his followers to attack people. He’s not only said, “We’ll find out who the whistleblower is,” he actually said, “Well, there’s treason going on and I wish we had the old solution to treason,” which is execution. This is very scary.

I mean that in itself, and basically what Trump is saying. And what is more, the Republicans around him are saying–and his cabinet, what they’re saying–is that they will not abide by the constitution. They will not be held accountable by Congress. We see that with Pompeo telling state department employees not to take deposition. It’s really going to come… I mean, there is the sort of like larger theatrics which are very scary and which I think could incite real violence.

Then there’s also the constitutional issue. What happens if Congress tries to subpoena people and they don’t come? What happens if the president refuses to abide by Congress? The Democrats… And I hope they do this. I hope they have the internal fortitude, the steel to do this. They have to steel themselves up and they have to use the powers that they have and order the courts and threaten people with jail time, and if necessary, jail people. This is where we’ve come to.

MARC STEINER: You’re actually saying if the Democrats really want it, if they’re serious about the impeachment, they have to stand up–this is a war–like really push this hard and be fierce about it?

JEET HEER: Yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t use a war metaphor because it’s not like they’re doing anything illegal. They have to have to use all the power that they have. Congress actually has a lot of constitutional power. And they have to actually… But it’s a very tough message to actually send people to jail for failing to abide by Congressional Subpoena. But that has happened in the past, and it happened during Watergate. I think it’s something that needs to be done.

MARC STEINER: If you look at… let’s take a look at this little piece here. Because part of it is as I said in the opening about muddying the waters and in some senses that Trump and his minions only have to muddy the waters. And here you have the house minority whip Steve Scalise. I think it was on Fox, if I have that correct. This is what he had to say. And let’s kind of wrestle with it a bit for this.

STEVE SCALISE: Speaker Pelosi jumped the gun two years ago. She has been, and many of her members have been, calling for impeachment and she has been enabling that. And in fact, it was a tweet from AOC over the weekend that was really kind of threatening and saying that the Democrats are the ones who are committing a scandal by not impeaching the President. And low and behold, two days later, she calls for impeaching the President… and when pressed to say name a single high crime or misdemeanor, the Majority Leader at the time couldn’t even list one.

MARC STEINER: So when you play this game in the press and get people revved up about what they’re saying even if it’s not true, like whether it’s about what he said or what Trump, what they said about–

JEET HEER: First of all, I think that that same is part of the sort of Trump strategy, which is that he’s constantly highlighted people of color as his opposition. It was just the tweet that from his Communications Director that mentioned Cory Booker and Maxine Waters and Chuck Schumer, a black man a black woman and a Jewish guy. I think we kind of know what’s going on there. And that also speaks to this issue of civil war.

I mean the larger issue is yes, the Congressional left has been on the forefront of this for the very good reason that they represent the constituencies that have been most hurt by Trump and have felt from the beginning that there was a lot of serious offenses. One could mention like the Ukraine business is the latest thing. But there’s been a lot of things that Congress could and should have gone after Trump for from day one. There’s the emoluments, the whole process that he’s been enriching himself as president. There’s the threats that he’s put on Twitter against his political opponents, calls to deal his political opponent. All of that has been an abuse of power which Congress has let slide. So let’s not say Pelosi was pushed to impeachment. The real question is why did it take Pelosi so long?

MARC STEINER: Well, I mean, let’s wrestle with that for a moment. When you look at what’s happening now with Pelosi and this impeachment… You’ve written about this as a matter of fact. I mean, people look at this as, and the right wing looks at this as the deep state going after Trump. And in some senses, it is about people who are concerned about traditional establishment security that are in the process of saying Trump is dangerous to us and to our order. Then you have progressives–

JEET HEER: I think that that is what… I mean, you’ve had a majority within the Democratic Party for a long time that’s wanted impeachment. But what finally turned the corner was that in this case, Trump was going after the intelligence community. The whistleblower is a CIA officer, and so that has convinced moderate Democrats like Pelosi and like some Democrats that are in traditionally Republican districts to go after this. What they’re actually doing now is they’re trying to… she’s controlled the narrative. It’s a traditional political ploy. Like you see a parade and you go to the front of it and say, “I’m leading the parade.” So CNN did this thing over Labor Day weekend where they had four Congresswoman and said, “These are the leaders of impeachment,” and they were all four white women. The fact is that it has not been four white moderate Democratic women that have been pushing for impeachment all along. It’s been “The Squad.” I sort of call this stolen valor.

MARC STEINER: It made me think of one of the tweets about this. I think it’s called “Play the Trump Card” tweet. It had a picture of the Revolutionary soldiers as a response to what’s happening to Trump. I mean, that’s a serious call to arms in this, right?

JEET HEER: I think you’re going to see a polarized country. And what you’re seeing in the polls is Trump is losing some Republicans, some of them who have had doubts about him. But there’s other Republicans who are kind of like soft Trump supporters, partisan Republicans, and they’re moving towards him. You’re going to see a very… I mean, impeachment is a divisive issue. It involves arguments. And you’re going to have a lot of very bitter arguments coming out of this.

MARC STEINER: So if you look at this… As we close here. I was thinking about it. Even in the magazine that you work with and write for, The Nation, there’s arguments going on about whether the impeachment would make any sense or not. How do you respond to those who say there is no there there, enough to make this work in the house? It’s only going to die in this state in anyway, they’re not going to find 20 Republicans to complete the trial and say, “Yes, Trump, you’re guilty,” and that this is a failed tactic. And also, it plays… it’s like Russiagate, Ukrainegate, it’s all a waste of time.

JEET HEER: There’s a couple of things. One is that already the Republican White House is kind of falling apart over this. You have a lot of recrimination and a lot of leaks. I feel like for that reason alone, impeachment is kind of worth it. Trump is a dangerous guy who’s doing bad things, so the more pressure you put on him the better. But I mean even beyond that, I think there’s already enough votes in the house for impeachment. They can impeach him tomorrow if they wanted to. And then the question is whether you… It’s a two pipe process, impeachment and removal. You can impeach him; then will it go to the senate and will the senate vote to remove? I don’t think right now. It doesn’t look like it.

There’s some reporting that some Republicans are having doubts. But still, even if you do remove, what you’re going to have is these Republicans will have to be on the record saying that they think that everything Trump has done is acceptable. They think that using the office of the presidency to go after political opponents, which is what the Ukraine business is all about–and not just in Ukraine, but in Australia, in many other countries–the Republican Party is going to have to sign off for some of the worst things that Trump has done. So I think that’s good. I think that’s good for the Democrats. I think it’s good for politics. Let let them own this.

MARC STEINER: And we’ll see how these hearings roll out and what is divulged in these hearings and look how they’re going to muddy the waters. And we’ll come back and wrestle with this some more of the next several months. Jeet, you and I are not going anywhere. We’re going to be doing this for a bit, I think.

JEET HEER: That’s right. We will, yes.

MARC STEINER: Jeet Heer, it’s always a pleasure to have you with us. You can go back and take care of your kids now for a while. Thank you so much for joining us. It’s always great to talk to you.

JEET HEER: Great being here, yeah.

MARC STEINER: Take care. I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. You know, impeachment is at the top of our list and your list. We have to watch this, see where it takes us. We may have joked at the end, but it is not a laughing matter. I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Thank you for joining us. Take care.

The post Donald Trump’s ‘Civil War’ Is Here appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

The Phony Liberalism of Bill Maher

Bill Maher rose from being an “edgy,” opinionated comedian to becoming one of the most influential and recognizable faces in our media. His political talk show, Real Time With Bill Maher, has been on HBO since 2003, spanning 17 seasons with over 500 episodes to date. Real Time continues to be one of the most popular shows on cable TV, drawing in more than 4 million viewers per episode, according to a new New York Times interview (9/30/19), which frames him as a straight-shooting satirist on an “antihypocrisy crusade,” with Maher presenting himself as the voice of liberals across the country fed up with PC culture. Certainly, he has a legion of dedicated, primarily Democrat-voting Baby Boomer and Generation X fans, who take seriously his every pronouncement.

That is why his latest outbursts are noteworthy. On the September 20 edition of Real Time, he condemned the Democrats for reviving their opposition to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, claiming that continuing to “go after a guy for what he did in high school” “looks bad.” He implied that Democrats lost seats in the Senate for their “preposterous” opposition to what Kavanaugh did when he was just 17 (which, for the record, was multiple alleged attempted rapes or sexual assaults).

A week previously, Maher appeared on MSNBC’s flagship breakfast show, Morning Joe (9/12/19), where he claimed that the Democrats’ left-wing (i.e., Bernie Sanders) was a “cancer” destroying the party, warning that the left is “scarier and crazier than Trump,” and nominating a leftist as its presidential candidate would spell disaster in the next election. (Decrying the supposed unelectability of the left is a favorite pastime of elite pundits—FAIR.org2/26/19, 7/2/198/21/19.)

Media almost unanimously present Maher as a “liberal” (e.g. Salon10/11/149/21/19USA Today7/8/18New York Post6/29/19) or even a “progressive” (The Hill2/2/17) comedian. Yet any inspection of his political positions dispels this illusion. To be sure, he generally supported President Barack Obama and opposes Donald Trump (although he has been known to do the opposite of both). But he also has a long history of repeatedly taking reactionary positions on many subjects, especially war.

On his previous Comedy Central show Politically Incorrect, Maher praised the Vietnam War as “necessary,” arguing it helped end the Cold War. (The US officially began its involvement in Vietnam 36 years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.) In 2013, he joked about killing antiwar activist Medea Benjamin after she interrupted Obama, and recanted his anti-Iraq War position, claiming, “Iraq is doing better than I thought it would be.” He praised George W. Bush for “creating a country” there.

And he championed Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, tweeting:

Dealing w/ Hamas is like dealing w/ a crazy woman who’s trying to kill u – u can only hold her wrists so long before you have to slap her

— Bill Maher (@billmaher) July 18, 2014

As that last comment suggests, sexism and rampant Islamophobia are also constant features of Maher’s ideology. In 2009, he called a woman who was reportedly choked by her boyfriend a “bitch,” claiming that it was surprising he did not attack her sooner.

He has also described Islam as a “cancer,” and told Rep. Keith Ellison, a Muslim, that the Quran is a “hate-filled holy book.” He defended the arrest of 14-year-old Ahmed  Mohammed for bringing a clock into school, comparing him to an ISIS fighter, and expressed alarm over the rising popularity of the name “Mohammed,” worrying that the Western world was being “taken over by Islam.” He also offered advice to Western women: “Talk to women who have ever dated an Arab man,” he insisted: “The reviews are not good.”

Maher fully supports the Israeli occupation of Palestine. “I love Israel,” declared the celebrity atheist, professing his affection for the ethno-religious state.

The point is that Maher’s beliefs, actions and outbursts, if they are coherent at all, are not consistent with liberalism and are, if anything, more in keeping with a right-wing shock jock like Rush Limbaugh.

Indeed, when asked, he has been explicit about his ideology: “I’m a libertarian,” he said to Rolling Stone (4/13/11). “I would be a Republican if they would. Which means that I like the Barry Goldwater Republican Party, even the Reagan Republican Party.” His choice in naming the two figures whose mission was to upend the liberal order, often through appeals to racism and white nationalism, is telling.

“I want a mean old man to watch my money,” he added. “Because government is a sieve that takes as much money as it can and gives it away, usually needlessly.”

And therein lies the utility for the media in persisting to describe the self-described libertarian as a liberal: It allows media to formulate “he’s a liberal but” stories. “Conservative Criticizes Democrats” is not going to drive any clicks, whereas “Liberal Praises Trump” does. It is a classic example of the “Man Bites Dog” phenomenon. Yet corporate media continue to describe him as a liberal. Newsweek (3/16/19) did so in a story about him criticizing the Democratic Party, the Washington Times (9/13/19) did the same when it reported on his recent claim that the new “far-left” Democrats’ ideas are a “cancer” and they look “crazier” than Trump to him, while Fox News (5/11/19) reminded its readers twice that Maher was a liberal in a story about him praising Trump’s handling of the economy.

Ultimately, Maher has built up an impressive following and continues to espouse snarky elitist hot takes weekly for HBO, earning an estimated $10 million per year doing so. Call him a racist, a bigot or an astute businessman; just don’t call him a liberal.

The post The Phony Liberalism of Bill Maher appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Protests Escalate in Iraq: 9 Dead, Hundreds Wounded

BAGHDAD — At least seven people were killed and dozens were wounded in clashes that spread across several Iraqi provinces on Wednesday as security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas for the second day to disperse anti-government protesters demanding jobs, improved services and an end to corruption.

The deaths brought the overall number of protesters killed in two days of violence to nine. Protests on Tuesday had left two dead — one in Baghdad and another in the city of Nasiriyah — and over 200 wounded.

The renewed clashes occurred despite a massive security dragnet mounted by the government in an effort to quash the economically-driven protests.

Related Articles by by by

Hundreds of heavily armed security forces and riot police deployed on Baghdad streets, blocking all intersections leading to a major central square Wednesday to prevent a repeat of Tuesday’s protests. Parked armored personnel carriers and SUVs stood guard and by mid-afternoon, residents said authorities had shut down social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

Groups of protesters continued to take to the streets, some of them calling for toppling the government. Thick black smoke hung over the city as demonstrators set fire to tires and garbage containers. Bursts of heavy gunfire could be heard intermittently. At night, protesters closed the road leading to Baghdad’s airport with roadblocks and burning tires, keeping the way into the city open for arrivals.

The confrontations quickly spread to at least seven other provinces in the country, with an estimated 3,000 demonstrators taking to the streets in the southern city of Basra in a largely peaceful protest on Wednesday evening. Protests and clashes were also reported in Najaf, Nasiriyah, Waset, Diwaniyah and in other places.

The violence was some of the worst between protesters and security forces in Iraq, signaling that the war-weary country could be facing a new round of political instability. Iraq has been caught in the middle of U.S.-Iran tensions in the Middle East, putting an additional strain on the fragile government in Baghdad that hosts thousands of U.S. troops and powerful paramilitary forces allied with Iran.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad called for restraint from all sides. “The right to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right in all democracies, but there is no place for violence in demonstrations from any side,” it posted on Twitter.

The protests, organized on social media, started in Tahrir Square on Tuesday, initially driven by economy woes. They began peacefully, calling for an end to corruption, improved basic services and more jobs. But they soon turned violent after security forces fought back demonstrators with water cannons, tear gas and live ammunition.

Protesters responded by calling for toppling the government, throwing stones at security forces and setting tires and trash containers on fire. At least two protesters were killed and more than 200 were wounded.

A few dozen protesters tried to reach Tahrir Square again on Wednesday morning but were met with scores of riot police who formed a human barrier and soldiers who blocked roads, sometimes with barbed wire. Security forces again fired tear gas and live ammunition into the air to disperse the protesters, chasing them away, according to officials.

Saadoun Street, a major commercial thoroughfare leading to Tahrir Square, was deserted and all the shops and restaurants were closed. Smoke could be seen near Tahrir and intermittent gunfire could be heard, as well as ambulance sirens.

“They have transformed Tahrir Square into Tahrir barracks,” said Hussein Saleh, 24. “There are more security forces than there are protesters,” he added, standing with a small placard that read: “I am protesting to take my rights.”

Security and medical officials said three protesters were killed in Baghdad Wednesday and four in Nasiriyah, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of the capital. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. In Zaafaraniyah, a 10-year-old girl was also killed when she was hit by a car speeding away from a checkpoint amid protests.

Security officials said authorities imposed a curfew in several southern Iraqi cities including Nasiriyah, Amara and Hilla after protesters attacked government buildings there. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations

NetBlocks, which monitors cybersecurity and internet governance, reported that Internet access was cut off across much of Iraq and social and messaging apps blocked amid the growing unrest.

The protests are the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s nearly year-old government. The premier held a national security emergency meeting Wednesday. His office later said the meeting denounced the violence that accompanied the protests and said measures will be taken to protect citizens and public property and that the government will spare no effort to fulfill the demands of the protesters.

Earlier in the morning, municipal workers were spraying Tahrir Square with water while bulldozers removed debris from Tuesday’s demonstrations. A bridge that leads from the square to Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone — home to government offices and foreign embassies — was closed.

Activists drove around in a car, distributing water to protesters and soldiers alike.

“We are not against you, you are our brothers,” one activist told a soldier as he offered him a cold bottle of water.

In Zaafaraniya, southeast of Baghdad, at least five people were treated for breathing difficulties after police used tear gas to break up a small protest. Police also used tear gas in al-Shaab, north of the Iraqi capital. Security officials said five people were arrested in al-Shaab and three in Zaafaraniya.

The protests appear to be spontaneous and without political leadership, organized by people on social media against corruption and lack of basic services, such as electricity and water.

Dozens of university graduates unable to find jobs in the corruption-plagued but oil-rich country also joined the rallies. Politicians denounced the violence and at least one, influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, called for an investigation.

Iraq’s interior and health ministries issued a joint statement saying one person was killed in Baghdad on Tuesday and 200 were wounded, including 40 members of the security forces.

The statement said authorities “regretted” the violence that accompanied the protests, blaming “a group of rioters” for inciting violence.

The U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, expressed “grave concern” over the violence at the demonstrations in Baghdad and elsewhere.

“Every individual has the right to speak freely, in keeping with the law,” she said in a statement, urging authorities to exercise restraint in their handling of the protests.

___

Associated Press writers Murtada Faraj, Ali Abdul-Hassan and Hadi Mizban in Baghdad and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.

The post Protests Escalate in Iraq: 9 Dead, Hundreds Wounded appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

U.N.: Haiti Unrest Harming Hospitals, Orphanages, Students

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The operation dubbed “Find Jovenel Moïse” organized by opposition leaders demanding the resignation of Haiti’s president ended abruptly when he appeared at the National Palace early this week following violent protests in which several people were killed.

Haitians had become so accustomed to not seeing their president in person amid a deepening political and economic crisis that his arrival at the palace Tuesday took protesters by surprise. Only a handful of them were present to pelt his convoy with rocks.

Despite the rarity of his public appearances, the embattled leader has given no indication that he will step down after nearly a month of demonstrations against corruption, spiraling inflation and dwindling supplies of food and gasoline.

Related Articles by Independent Media Institute by

The unrest has disrupted hospitals, orphanages and emergency services while keeping some 2 million children from school, the United Nations said Wednesday.

“Fuel shortages, lack of safe water and other essentials are also affecting orphanages, civil protection units and other emergency services, which are also functioning with limited capacity,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Djuarric said.

In addition, with many schools closed for the past two weeks, an estimated 2 million children have no access to education, he said, and U.N. humanitarian officials warned that the disturbances threaten to worsen hunger in one of the hemisphere’s poorest nations.

As the standoff continues, Haitians wonder who will yield first: the protesters or the president.

“It’s a dramatic situation, a chaotic situation,” said Evans Paul, a former prime minister and Moïse ally who privately discussed the crisis Monday with the Core Group, which includes officials from the United Nations, United States, Canada, France and others.

Paul told The Associated Press that those present did not say whether Moïse should remain in power or resign, but dialogue, voiced support for Haiti’s institutions and defended democratic principles.

Moïse was elected in 2017 for a five-year term, though turnout was extremely low and the 14-month election cycle was plagued by allegations of fraud that forced a re-do some a first-round vote.

Paul said he believes Moïse has two options: choose a prime minister backed by the opposition or possibly reduce the length of his presidential term. However, Paul said many problems remain, including the lack of a provisional electoral commission to oversee any vote.

Paul said that while he has encouraged Moïse to make bigger concessions, “He can’t put everything on the table.”

The opposition has rejected Moïse’s pick for a new prime minister and the confirmation vote indefinitely postponed on Sept. 23 after a senator, who said he was trying to protect himself from protesters, fired his pistol outside Haiti’s Senate, injuring an AP photographer and a security guard.

If Moïse and key officials arrive at a solution, it will likely be announced by a non-partisan group instead of the president to lend it credibility and appease the people, Paul said.

A spokesman for the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti declined requests for an interview but issued a statement saying the mission was concerned about reports of violence and arson, seeks to have democratic processes respected and is working to encourage a peaceful resolution.

On the day the Core Group met, opposition leader and attorney André Michel tweeted that Haitians must remain mobilized until a president and interim government is installed: “We will not take orders from foreigners.”

Among those joining the opposition’s call for Moïse’s resignation is Paul Émile Demostine, an EMT who joined the protests and spoke near a barricade of burning debris.

“Ever since he became president, it’s been total misery,” Demostine said, adding that his children have been unable to go to school as a result of the protests. “We need Haiti to change completely.”

Protesters also are demanding a more in-depth investigation into allegations that top officials in the previous administration misused billions of dollars in proceeds from a Venezuela-subsidized oil plan. Critics accuse Moïse of trying to protect his ally, former President Michel Martelly, and of participating in the corruption himself before becoming president. He denies the allegation.

The protests have paralyzed the economy and closed down roads across the country, upending the supply chain and disrupting the distribution of food and gasoline, with long lines forming at a handful of gas stations and water kiosks that remain open.

“It’s an extremely serious situation,” said Haitian economist Kesner Pharel. “The political situation has been disastrous, and we are paying dearly for it.”

Prices have been rising in a country of nearly 11 million people where some 60% make less than $2 a day, he said. Inflation hit 19% in July, the latest number available, and economists predict it could be at 20% or higher in October, which would mark the first time that level since 2008, a situation that sparked food riots, Pharel said.

He also noted the fiscal year began Oct. 1 but the government has not yet approved a new budget, adding that this year could see a 1% contraction in the economy even as the population grows.

“You’re going to have more extreme poverty,” Pharel said. “We have a very volatile situation.”

___

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed from the United Nations.

The post U.N.: Haiti Unrest Harming Hospitals, Orphanages, Students appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Democrats: Trump Incites Violence Against Whistleblower

WASHINGTON — Accusing President Donald Trump of “an incitement to violence,” House Democratic leaders bluntly warned Trump and his administration Wednesday not to intimidate potential witnesses in their impeachment inquiry. They said they were readying a subpoena demanding documents related to the president’s dealings with Ukraine

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump may not “recognize how dangerous his statements are” against a whistleblower who exposed a July phone call that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. On the call, Trump pressed for an investigation of Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his family.

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff, accusing Trump of inviting violence against the whistleblower, said any effort to interfere with the Democrats’ investigations would be considered evidence of obstruction and could be included in articles of impeachment.

Related Articles by by by

“We’re not fooling around here,” he said.

Trump showed no signs of letting up, tweeting a vulgarity during the House leaders’ news conference and saying “the Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country.” Throwing criticism broadly, he assailed Schiff as a “low-life” and said Pelosi’s San Francisco has turned into a “tent city” of homeless.

Trump has tweeted in recent days that he wants to “find out about” the whistleblower and question him or her, though the person’s identity is protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act.

The Democrats said they will subpoena the White House Friday for documents related to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, citing “flagrant disregard” of their previous requests for information. House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings wrote in a memo to committee members Wednesday that the action is necessary because the White House has ignored multiple requests.

Given the “stark and urgent warnings” the inspector general for the intelligence community has delivered to Congress, Cummings said, the panel has “no choice but to issue this subpoena.”

The subpoena will be directed toward acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and request 13 separate batches of documents related to the July call and other related matters. The call unfolded against the backdrop of a $250 million foreign aid package for Ukraine that was being readied by Congress but stalled by Trump.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said the subpoena is “nothing but more document requests, wasted time and taxpayer dollars that will ultimately show the president did nothing wrong.”

The subpoena announcement came as House and Senate staff prepared to meet with the State Department’s inspector general Wednesday afternoon. A State Department invitation, reviewed by The Associated Press, requested an “urgent” meeting with staff from eight House and Senate panels.

The invitation said the inspector general, Steve Linick, “would like to discuss and provide staff with copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine.” The documents were obtained from the State Department’s acting legal adviser, according to the email.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged Wednesday he was on the phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry. He also continued to push back against what he said was Democrats’ “bullying and intimidation.”

Democrats have scheduled closed-door depositions Thursday with former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and next week with ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and three other State Department officials. Pompeo told the committees on Tuesday that the dates they had set were “not feasible,” but at least some of the officials are still coming.

The Democrats said that Pompeo’s resistance amounted to his own intimidation.

“Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress — including State Department employees — is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry,” said Schiff, Cummings and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel in a Tuesday notice to Pompeo.

They said that if he was on Trump’s call, “Secretary Pompeo is now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry.” And they warned, “He should immediately cease intimidating department witnesses in order to protect himself and the president.”

Democrats often note that obstruction was one of the impeachment articles against Richard Nixon, who resigned the presidency in 1974 in the face of almost certain impeachment.

The committees are seeking voluntary testimony from the current and former officials as the House digs into State Department actions and Trump’s other calls with foreign leaders that have been shielded from scrutiny. They have also subpoenaed Pompeo for documents.

Volker played a direct role in trying to arrange meetings between Rudy Giuliani, who is Trump’s personal lawyer, and Zelenskiy, the chairmen said. The State Department said that Volker has confirmed that he put a Zelenskiy adviser in contact with Giuliani, at the Ukraine adviser’s request.

The former envoy, who has since resigned his position and so is not necessarily bound by Pompeo’s directions, is eager to appear as scheduled on Thursday, said one person familiar with the situation, but unauthorized to discuss it and granted anonymity. The career professional believes he acted appropriately and wants to tell his side of the situation, the person said.

Yovanovitch, the career diplomat whose abrupt recall from Ukraine earlier this year raised questions, is set to appear next week. The Democrats also want to hear from T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a counselor at the State Department, who also listened in on the Trump-Zelenskiy call, they said.

A whistleblower alleged in an August letter to the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, that the White House tried to “lock down” Trump’s July 25 phone call with the new Ukrainian president because it was worried about the contents being leaked to the public. The complaint was eventually made public after acting Director of Intelligence Joseph Maguire withheld it from Congress for several weeks.

In recent days, it has been disclosed that the administration similarly tried to restrict information about Trump’s calls with other foreign leaders, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, by moving memos onto a highly classified computer system.

Ukraine’s president told reporters Tuesday he has never met or spoken with Giuliani. Zelenskiy insisted that “it is impossible to put pressure on me.” He said he stressed the importance of the military aid repeatedly in discussions with Trump, but “it wasn’t explained to me” why the money didn’t come through until September.

In Russia, Putin said scrutiny over the phone call showed that Trump’s adversaries are using “every excuse” to attack him.

___

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Rome, Angela Charlton in Kyiv, Ukraine; and Laurie Kellman, Zeke Miller, Alan Fram and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington contributed to this report.

The post Democrats: Trump Incites Violence Against Whistleblower appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

We’re on a Hypersonic Arms Race to Hell

Hypersonic weapons close in on their targets at a minimum speed of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound or 3,836.4 miles an hour. They are among the latest entrants in an arms competition that has embroiled the United States for generations, first with the Soviet Union, today with China and Russia. Pentagon officials tout the potential of such weaponry and the largest arms manufacturers are totally gung-ho on the subject. No surprise there. They stand to make staggering sums from building them, especially given the chronic “cost overruns” of such defense contracts — $163 billion in the far-from-rare case of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Voices within the military-industrial complex — the Defense Department; mega-defense companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Boeing, and Raytheon; hawkish armchair strategists in Washington-based think tanks and universities; and legislators from places that depend on arms production for jobs — insist that these are must-have weapons. Their refrain: unless we build and deploy them soon we could suffer a devastating attack from Russia and China.

The opposition to this powerful ensemble’s doomsday logic is, as always, feeble.

The (Il)logic of Arms Races

Hypersonic weapons are just the most recent manifestation of the urge to engage in an “arms race,” even if, as a sports metaphor, it couldn’t be more off base. Take, for instance, a bike or foot race. Each has a beginning, a stipulated distance, and an end, as well as a goal: crossing the finish line ahead of your rivals. In theory, an arms race should at least have a starting point, but in practice, it’s usually remarkably hard to pin down, making for interminable disputes about who really started us down this path. Historians, for instance, are still writing (and arguing) about the roots of the arms race that culminated in World War I.

The arms version of a sports race lacks a purpose (apart from the perpetuation of a competition fueled by an endless action-reaction sequence). The participants just keep at it, possessed by worst-case thinking, suspicion, and fear, sentiments sustained by bureaucracies whose budgets and political clout often depend on military spending, companies that rake in the big bucks selling the weaponry, and a priesthood of professional threat inflators who merchandise themselves as “security experts.”

While finish lines (other than the finishing of most life on this planet) are seldom in sight, arms control treaties can, at least, decelerate and muffle the intensity of arms races. But at least so far, they’ve never ended them and they themselves survive only as long as the signatories want them to. Recall President George W. Bush’s scuttling of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Trump administration’s exit from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in August. Similarly, the New START accord, which covered long-range nuclear weapons and was signed by Russia and the United States in 2010, will be up for renewal in 2021 and its future, should Donald Trump be reelected, is uncertain at best. Apart from the fragility built into such treaties, new vistas for arms competition inevitably emerge — or, more precisely, are created. Hypersonic weapons are just the latest example.

Arms races, though waged in the name of national security, invariably create yet more insecurity. Imagine two adversaries neither of whom knows what new weapon the other will field. So both just keep building new ones. That gets expensive. And such spending only increases the number of threats. Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, U.S. military spending has consistently and substantially exceeded China’s and Russia’s combined. But can you name a government that imagines more threats on more fronts than ours? This endless enumeration of new vulnerabilities isn’t a form of paranoia. It’s meant to keep arms races humming and the money flowing into military (and military-industrial) coffers.

One-Dimensional National Security

Such arms races come from the narrow, militarized definition of “national security” that prevails inside the defense and intelligence establishment, as well as in think tanks, universities, and the most influential mass media. Their underlying assumptions are rarely challenged, which only adds to their power. We’re told that we must produce a particular weapon (price tag be damned!), because if we don’t, the enemy will and that will imperil us all.

Such a view of security is by now so deeply entrenched in Washington — shared by Republicans and Democrats alike — that alternatives are invariably derided as naïve or quixotic. As it happens, both of those adjectives would be more appropriate descriptors for the predominant national security paradigm, detached as it is from what really makes most Americans feel insecure.

Consider a few examples.

Unlike in the first three decades after World War II, since 1979 the average U.S. hourly wage, adjusted for inflation, has increased by a pitiful amount, despite substantial increases in worker productivity. Unsurprisingly, those on the higher rungs of the wage ladder (to say nothing of those at the top) have made most of the gains, creating a sharp increase in wage inequality. (If you consider net total household wealth rather than income alone, the share of the top 1% increased from 30% to 39% between 1989 and 2016, while that of the bottom 90% dropped from 33% to 23%.)

Because of sluggish wage growth many workers find it hard to land jobs that pay enough to cover basic life expenses even when, as now, unemployment is low (3.6% this year compared to 8% in 2013). Meanwhile, millions earning low wages, particularly single mothers who want to work, struggle to find affordable childcare — not surprising considering that in 10 states and the District of Columbia the annual cost of such care exceeded $10,000 last year; and that, in 28 states, childcare centers charged more than the cost of tuition and fees at four-year public colleges.

Workers trapped in low-wage jobs are also hard-pressed to cover unanticipated expenses. In 2018, the “median household” banked only $11,700, and households with incomes in the bottom 20% had, on average, only $8,790 in savings; 29% of them, $1,000 or less. (For the wealthiest 1% of households, the median figure was $2.5 million.) Forty-four percent of American families would be unable to cover emergency-related expenses in excess of $400 without borrowing money or selling some of their belongings.

That, in turn, means many Americans can’t adequately cover periods of extended unemployment or illness, even when unemployment benefits are added in. Then there’s the burden of medical bills. The percentage of uninsured adults has risen from 10.9% to 13.7% since 2016 and often your medical insurance is tied to your job — lose it and you lose your coverage — not to speak of the high deductibles imposed by many medical insurance policies. (Out-of-pocket medical expenses have, in fact, increased fourfold since 2007 and now average $1,300 a year.)

Or, speaking of insecurity, consider the epidemic in opioid-related fatalities (400,000 people since 1999), or suicides (47,173 in 2017 alone), or murders involving firearms (14,542 in that same year). Child poverty? The U.S. rate was higher than that of 32 of the 36 other economically developed countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Now ask yourself this: how often do you hear our politicians or pundits use a definition of “national security” that includes any of these daily forms of American insecurity? Admittedly, progressive politicians do speak about the economic pressures millions of Americans face, but never as part of a discussion of national security.

Politicians who portray themselves as “budget hawks” flaunt the label, but their outrage over “irresponsible” or “wasteful” spending seldom extends to a national security budget that currently exceeds $1 trillion. Hawks claim that the country must spend as much as it does because it has a worldwide military presence and a plethora of defense commitments. That presumes, however, that both are essential for American security when sensible and less extravagant alternatives are on offer.

In that context, let’s return to the “race” for hypersonic weapons.

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

Although the foundation for today’s hypersonic weaponry was laid decades ago, the pace of progress has been slow because of daunting technical challenges. Developing materials like composite ceramics capable of withstanding the intense heat to which such weapons will be exposed during flight leads the list. In recent years, though, countries have stepped up their games hoping to deploy hypersonic armaments rapidly, something Russia has already begun to do.

China, Russia, and the United States lead the hypersonic arms race, but others — including BritainFranceGermanyIndia, and Japan — have joined in (and more undoubtedly will do so). Each has its own list of dire scenarios against which hypersonic weapons will supposedly protect them and military missions for which they see such armaments as ideal. In other words, a new round in an arms race aimed at Armageddon is already well underway.

There are two variants of hypersonic weapons, which can both be equipped with conventional or nuclear warheads and can also demolish their targets through sheer speed and force of impact, or kinetic energy. “Boost-glide vehicles” (HGVs) are lofted skyward on ballistic missiles or aircraft. Separated from their transporter, they then hurtle through the atmosphere, pulled toward their target by gravity, while picking up momentum along the way. Unlike ballistic missiles, which generally fly most of the way in a parabolic trajectory — think of an inverted U — ranging in altitude from nearly 400 to nearly 750 miles high, HGVs stay low, maxing out about 62 miles up. The combination of their hypersonic speed and lower altitude shortens the journey, while theoretically flummoxing radars and defenses designed to track and intercept ballistic missile warheads (which means another kind of arms race still to come).

By contrast, hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs) resemble pilotless aircraft, propelled from start to finish by an on-board engine. They are, however, lighter than standard cruise missiles because they use “scramjet” technology.  Rather than carrying liquid oxygen tanks, the missile “breathes” in outside air that passes through it at supersonic speed, its oxygen combining with the missile’s hydrogen fuel. The resulting combustion generates extreme heat, propelling the missile toward its target. HCMs fly even lower than HGVs, below 100,000 feet, which makes identifying and destroying them harder yet.

Weapons are categorized as hypersonic when they can reach a speed of at least Mach 5, but versions that travel much faster are in the works. A Chinese HGV, launched by the Dong Feng (East Wind) DF-ZF ballistic missile, reportedly registered a speed of up to Mach 10 during tests, which began in 2014. Russia’s Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, or “Dagger,” launched from a bomber or interceptor, can reportedly also reach a speed of Mach 10. Lockheed Martin’s AGM-183A Advanced Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), an HGV that was first test-launched from a B-52 bomber this year, can apparently reach the staggering speed of Mach 20.

And yet it’s not just the speed and flight trajectory of hypersonic weapons that will make them so hard to track and intercept. They can also maneuver as they race toward their targets. Unsurprisingly, efforts to develop defenses against them, using low-orbit sensorsmicrowave technology, and “directed energy” have already begun. The Trump administration’s plans for a new Space Force that will put sensors and interceptors into space cite the threat of hypersonic missiles. Even so, critics have slammed the initiative for being poorly funded.

Putting aside the technical complexities of building defenses against hypersonic weapons, the American decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and develop missile-defense systems influenced Russia’s decision to develop hypersonic weapons capable of penetrating such defenses. These are meant to ensure that Russia’s nuclear forces will continue to serve as a credible deterrent against a nuclear first strike on that country.

The Trio Takes the Lead

China, Russia, and the United States are, of course, leading the hypersonic race to hell. China tested a medium-range new missile, the DF-17 in late 2017, and used an HGV specifically designed to be launched by it. The following year, that country tested its rocket-launched Xing Kong-2 (Starry Sky-2), a “wave rider,” which gains momentum by surfing the shockwaves it produces. In addition to its Kinzhal, Russia successfully tested the Avangard HGV in 2018. The SS-19 ballistic missile that launched it will eventually be replaced by the R-28 Samrat. Its hypersonic cruise missile, the Tsirkon, designed to be launched from a ship or submarine, has also been tested several times since 2015. Russia’s hypersonic program has had its failures — so has ours — but there’s no doubting Moscow’s seriousness about pursuing such weaponry.

Though it’s common to read that both Russia and China are significantly ahead in this arms race, the United States has been no laggard. It’s been interested in such weaponry — specifically HGVs — since the early years of this century. The Air Force awarded Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne a contract to develop the hypersonic X-51A WaveRider scramjet in 2004. Its first flight test — which failed (creating something of a pattern) — took place in 2010.

Today, the Army, Navy, and Air Force are moving ahead with major hypersonic weapons programs. For instance, the Air Force test-launched its ARRW from a B-52 bomber as part of its Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSWthis June; the Navy tested an HGV in 2017 to further its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) initiative; and the Army tested its own version of such a weapon in 2011 and 2014 to move its Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) program forward. The depth of the Pentagon’s commitment to hypersonic weapons became evident in 2018 when it decided to combine the Navy’s CPS, the Air Force’s HCSW, and the Army’s AHW to advance the Conventional Prompt Global Strike Program (CPGS), which seeks to build the capability to hit targets worldwide in under 60 minutes.

That’s not all. The Center for Public Integrity’s R. Jeffrey Smith reports that Congress passed a bill last year requiring the United States to have operational hypersonic weapons by late 2022. President’s Trump’s 2020 Pentagon budget request included $2.6 billion to support their development. Smith expects the annual investment to reach $5 billion by the mid-2020s.

That will certainly happen if officials like Michael Griffin, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for research and engineering, have their way. Speaking at the McAleese and Credit Suisse Defense Programs conference in March 2018, he listed hypersonic weapons as his “highest technical priority,” adding, “I’m sorry for everybody out there who champions some other high priority… But there has to be a first and hypersonics is my first.” The big defense contractors share his enthusiasm. No wonder last December the National Defense Industrial Association, an outfit that lobbies for defense contractors, played host to Griffin and Patrick Shanahan (then the deputy secretary of defense), for the initial meeting of what it called the “Hypersonic Community of Influence.”

Cassandra Or Pollyanna?

We are, in other words, in a familiar place. Advances in technology have prepared the ground for a new phase of the arms race. Driving it, once again, is fear among the leading powers that their rivals will gain an advantage, this time in hypersonic weapons. What then? In a crisis, a state that gained such an advantage might, they warn, attack an adversary’s nuclear forces, military bases, airfields, warships, missile defenses, and command-and-control networks from great distances with stunning speed.

Such nightmarish scenario-building could simply be dismissed as wild-eyed speculation, but the more states think about, plan, and build weaponry along these lines, the greater the danger that a crisis could spiral into a hypersonic war once such weaponry was widely deployed. Imagine a crisis in the South China Sea in which the United States and China both have functional hypersonic weapons: China sees them as a means of blocking advancing American forces; the United States, as a means to destroy the very hypersonic arms China could use to achieve that objective. Both know this, so the decision of one or the other to fire first could come all too easily. Or, now that the INF Treaty has died, imagine a crisis in Europe involving the United States and Russia after both sides have deployed numerous intermediate-range hypersonic cruise missiles on the continent.

Some wonks say, in effect, Relax, hi-tech defenses against hypersonic weapons will be built, so crises like these won’t spin out of control. They seem to forget that defensive military innovations inevitably lead to offensive ones designed to negate them. Hypersonic weapons won’t prove to be the exception.

So, in a world of national (in)security, the new arms race is on. Buckle up.

The post We’re on a Hypersonic Arms Race to Hell appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

What if Trump Refuses to Leave the White House?

Days after amplifying a right-wing pastor’s warning of a “Civil War-like fracture” if he is removed from office, President Donald Trump late Tuesday said the impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats is a “coup,” heightening fears that Trump could refuse to allow a peaceful transition of power if he is ousted by Congress or defeated in 2020.

“As I learn more and more each day,” the president tweeted, “I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!”

Observers reacted with alarm to Trump’s tweet and said it should not be treated as a typical online outburst from the president.

“This is extremely dangerous,” Matthew Gertz, senior fellow at Media Matters, said, pointing out that Fox News hosts and contributors have been aggressively pushing the “coup” narrative in recent days.

“Trump’s ‘coup’ language isn’t an errant presidential tweet,” Gertz added, “it’s an official Trump administration talking point that multiple top aides have rolled out on state TV today.”

Historian Angus Johnston asked in response to Trump’s tweet: “What happens when he tweets something like this the day after he loses re-election?”

“The orderly transfer of power in the United States has always depended on the active cooperation of the outgoing president. What happens if that cooperation is not forthcoming? The answer—the day-to-day answer for November and December 2020 and January 2021—isn’t obvious,” Johnston said. “Tweets like tonight’s crank up the costs of breaking with Trump, but they also underscore the fact that there’s no guarantee that waiting him out will be an effective alternate strategy.”

The smart money says there’s a strong chance that Trump loses the election next year, and loses it by a big enough margin that it’d be impossible to steal cleanly. With most presidents, that would mean he goes away. With Trump, who knows what it means?

— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) October 2, 2019

Concerns that Trump could resist leaving office if ousted by the constitutional process of impeachment or defeated in the 2020 election are not new. Trump has repeatedly suggested on Twitter and during campaign rallies that his term should be extended to compensate for the time “stolen” by the Mueller investigation.

“This is not a drill, and there is no reason to believe Trump will go quietly if he is defeated,” wrote The Intercept‘s Mehdi Hasan in a column in March. “There is every reason, however, to believe he and his allies will incite hysteria and even violence. Those who assume otherwise haven’t been paying attention.”

In the days since House Democrats formally began their impeachment inquiry last month, Trump has rapidly escalated his hysterical attacks on political opponents and the whistleblower who raised alarm about the president’s call with Ukraine’s leader.

Last week, as Common Dreams reported, Trump suggested the person who provided information about Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president is a spy and a traitor should be executed. On Sunday, Trump warned of “big consequences” for the whistleblower as the anonymous individual’s lawyers said the president’s attacks have put the person’s safety at risk.

On Monday, Trump asked whether Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, should be arrested for “treason,” a crime punishable by death.

Following the president’s “coup” tweet Tuesday night, Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute, said “the logical conclusion of this nonsensical statement is that the military should step in, save Trump, and arrest Trump’s political opponents.”

“Let that sink in,” Parsi added.

The post What if Trump Refuses to Leave the White House? appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Israel Begins Netanyahu’s Pre-Indictment Corruption Hearing

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s long-awaited pre-indictment hearing on corruption charges began Wednesday in Jerusalem, as a jittery political world eagerly sought clarity on his legal standing amid the stalemate that followed the country’s second inconclusive election of the year.

Netanyahu is currently struggling to prolong his lengthy rule by building a unity government with his primary opponent, the centrist Blue and White party, which refuses to partner with him because of the serious crimes of which he is suspected.

Israel’s attorney general has recommended charging Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing, calling them part of a media-orchestrated witch hunt. The allegations against him include suspicions that he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of champagne and cigars from billionaire friends, offered a critical publisher legislation that would weaken his paper’s main rival in return for softer treatment and allegedly used his influence to help a wealthy telecom magnate in exchange for favorable coverage on a popular news site.

Related Articles by The Real News Network by by

Netanyahu has long promised he’d clear his name in the hearing. A team of his lawyers arrived at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem to argue that all charges should be dropped.

“We are going to present not only the evidence everyone is aware of but also new evidence. We are sure that once we present our findings there will be no choice but to close the case,” Netanyahu attorney Amit Haddad said, upon entering the hearing. “We believe and know that at the end of the day all the three cases must be closed.”

While Netanyahu was not expected to attend the hearing, he took to social media Wednesday to plead his case with followers, linking to favorable news stories and pledging that the case against him would “fall apart.”

The sessions are expected to extend over four days. It could take several weeks for the attorney general to render his final decision. However, legal experts say the likelihood of an indictment is very high, given the mountains of evidence collected by police over years of investigations and the prosecution’s seeming consensus of pursuing a trial.

Although Netanyahu would not be required to step down if charged, he will face heavy pressure to do so. Already, he hasn’t been able to muster the required 61-seat majority in parliament to build a coalition government and faces stiff resistance from those he will need to back him.

President Reuven Rivlin selected Netanyahu last week as the candidate with the best chance of forming a government. That move came after Rivlin failed to broker a unity government between Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in recent days. A unity government appears to be the preferred option for both sides, but they remain far apart on who should lead it first and what such a constellation would look like. Netanyahu and Gantz were slated to meet again Wednesday before Gantz abruptly cancelled, signaling the likely breakdown of the talks.

In such a case, Netanyahu will probably inform the president he cannot form a government. Rivlin will then likely offer a chance to Gantz, who faces equally long odds of doing so. If he too doesn’t succeed, Rivlin can select another legislator or he can set in motion what would be unprecedented third elections.

According to the final official results from the Sept. 17 elections, Blue and White finished first with 33 seats in the 120-seat parliament, just ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud with 32 seats. Netanyahu edged Gantz, however, 55-54 in the number of lawmakers who recommend him as prime minister, leaving both short of the magic number of 61.

The post Israel Begins Netanyahu’s Pre-Indictment Corruption Hearing appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Bernie Sanders Has Heart Procedure, Scraps Campaign Events

WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders’ campaign said Wednesday that the Democratic presidential candidate had a heart procedure for a blocked artery and was canceling events and appearances “until further notice.”

The 78-year-old Sanders was in Las Vegas when, according to a campaign statement, he experienced chest discomfort during a campaign event Tuesday and sought medical evaluation. Two stents were “successfully inserted” and that Sanders “is conversing and in good spirits,” according to the campaign.

Sanders’ wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, was en route to Las Vegas on Wednesday and said in an email to The Associated Press that her husband was “doing really well.”

Tick Segerblom, a Clark County, Nevada, commissioner who was at Sanders’ fundraiser Tuesday said Sanders seemed fine at the time. “He spoke well. He jumped up on the stage. There was just nothing visible,” Segerblom said.

The Democratic field’s oldest candidate, Sanders sometimes jokingly refers to his age at town halls and other events, especially when interacting with younger participants. His aides have tried to project him as a candidate with energy levels that surpassed his 2016 presidential campaign.

He is one of three candidates over age 70 in the Democratic primary, which has spurred debate over whether the party should rally behind a new generation of political leaders, and President Donald Trump is 73. Sanders’ health issue is certain to revive that discussion in the weeks before the next presidential debate this month.

Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, was on a telephone call with supporters Tuesday night but didn’t mention any health concerns about the candidate. Shakir said the “state of the campaign is strong” and he played up Sanders’ strong fundraising total for the third quarter. The Vermont Senator’s campaign raised $25 million, the highest among the candidates who have reported so far, and scheduled its first television ads in Iowa. On Wednesday, it suspended those spots, too.

Sanders had been among 10 Democratic candidates scheduled to appear later Wednesday at a forum on gun control in Las Vegas. He recently canceled some appearances in South Carolina because he lost his voice. The campaign said at the time he felt fine.

During the first debate in June, Sanders heatedly defended his 76-year-old rival, Joe Biden, after California Rep. Eric Swalwell, 38, said it was time to step aside for a new generation. Sanders told reporters later the question smacked of “ageism.”

“The issue is, who has the guts to take on Wall Street, to take on the fossil fuel industry, to take on the big money interests who have unbelievable influence over the economic and political life of this country?” Sanders said on the stage that night.

The health issue comes as Sanders’ campaign has been trying to turn a corner after a summer that saw him eclipsed as the premier liberal in the field by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70. Sander has dropped well behind Warren and Biden in most polls and recently reshuffled his staffing in early states to become more competitive.

“Given his recent stalls in the polls, the timing is pretty bad here,” Democratic strategist Jim Manley said of Sanders’ heart procedure.

Sanders’ rivals were quick to wish him well. “We want to send our best wishes for a quick recovery to @BernieSanders today,” tweeted Julian Castro, an Obama administration housing chief. Added Sen. Kamala Harris of California: “If there’s one thing I know about him, he’s a fighter and I look forward to seeing him on the campaign trail soon.”

Sanders mounted an insurgent campaign against Hillary Clinton for the party’s nomination in 2016. He is a top contender in the 2020 primary, and announced Tuesday that he raised more than $25 million over the past three months. But he is facing stiff competition from former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who have overtaken him in many polls.

Sanders is not the first candidate to face health issues in recent years while seeking the presidency. Clinton had to take time off from campaigning in 2016 after being treated for pneumonia.

In 2000, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, the leading Democratic challenger to then-Vice President Al Gore, had to cut short a campaign swing for treatment of an atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that is treatable but potentially serious. Bradley later resumed his campaign.

In Sanders’ case, when doctors insert a stent, they first thread a tiny balloon inside a blocked artery to widen it. The stent is a small wire mesh tube that then is propped inside to keep the artery open. The number of stents needed depends on the size of the clog.

The treatment can immediately improve symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath. The stents are threaded into place through blood vessels in the groin or wrist, requiring only a tiny incision. Most are coated with medication to prevent the targeted artery from reclosing. That is still a risk, requiring monitoring, and patients also often are prescribed blood thinners to prevent clots from forming in the stents.

A letter released by Sanders’ physician in 2016 cited a history of mildly elevated cholesterol but no heart disease.

___

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Will Weissert in Washington, Michelle L. Price in Las Vegas and Wilson Ring in Burlington, Vermont, contributed to this report.

The post Bernie Sanders Has Heart Procedure, Scraps Campaign Events appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Boris Johnson: U.K. Offering Brexit ‘Compromise’ to EU

MANCHESTER, England — The U.K. offered the European Union a proposed Brexit deal on Wednesday that it said represents a compromise for both sides, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the bloc to hold “rapid negotiations towards a solution” after years of wrangling.

In a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Johnson said that not reaching a deal by the U.K.’s scheduled Oct. 31 departure date would be “a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible.”

The proposals focus on maintaining an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland — the key sticking point to a Brexit deal. The U.K. proposes to do that by keeping Northern Ireland closely aligned to EU rules for trade in goods, possibly for an extended period.

Related Articles by by

The submission of formal proposals followed a speech by Johnson to Conservative Party members at their annual conference, which had been billed by his office as a take-it-or-leave-it “final offer” to the EU. Yet as delivered, it was more like a plea to the bloc, and to Britons, to end more than three years of acrimonious wrangling over the terms of the U.K.’s exit from the EU.

“Let’s get Brexit done,” was the repeated refrain to delegates at the conference in Manchester, northwest England.

British voters in 2016 narrowly chose to leave the EU but the country remains deeply divided over how to do it. In his speech, Johnson said people who voted for Brexit “are beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools.”

“They are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all,” he said in the nationally televised speech. “And if they turn out to be right in that suspicion, then I believe there will be grave consequences for trust in our democracy.”

With Britain’s delayed departure from the bloc due to take place on Oct. 31, Johnson said the government was sending “constructive and reasonable proposals” to the EU.

He said the plan was “a compromise by the U.K. And I hope very much that our friends understand that and compromise in their turn.”

But the plan is likely to face deep skepticism from EU leaders, who doubt the U.K. has a workable proposal to avoid checks on goods or people crossing the Irish border.

A Brexit agreement between the EU and Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, was rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament, largely because of opposition to the “backstop,” an insurance policy designed to ensure there is no return to customs posts or other infrastructure on the Irish border.

An open border underpins both the local economy and Northern Ireland’s peace process. But Johnson and other British Brexit supporters oppose the backstop because it would keep the U.K. tightly bound to EU trade rules in order to avoid customs checks — limiting the country’s ability to strike new trade deals around the world.

Johnson insisted that “we will under no circumstances have checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland.”

The British proposal involves “an all-island regulatory zone on the island of Ireland, covering all goods including agrifood.” That would keep Northern Ireland in a regulatory zone with the EU for food, agricultural and industrial products, removing the need for checks, but the EU will carefully study the details.

The status has no time limit though it would have to be renewed every four years by the Northern Ireland government, Johnson said.

Under the plan there would still need to be customs checks, but Johnson suggested in his letter that they could be done away from the border at “other points on the supply chain.”

The EU said it would give the British proposal serious legal vetting before saying whether it is worthy of being a basis for future talks on the U.K.’s departure.

The European Commission said in a statement that “once received, we will examine (the U.K. text) objectively and in light of well-known criteria,” which includes whether it prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland, preserves cooperation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and respects the EU rules on trade across borders.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is to speak with Johnson in the afternoon and technical talks among both sides are planned.

Johnson has vowed to leave on Oct. 31 with or without a Brexit deal.

In Wednesday’s speech he repeated his contention that the U.K. can handle any bumps that come from tumbling out of the bloc without a deal, which would mean the instant imposition of customs checks and other barriers between Britain and the EU, its biggest trading partner.

A no-deal Brexit is “not an outcome we want … (but) it is an outcome for which we are ready,” he said in his speech.

But the U.K. government and businesses both say the disruptions would be substantial, with the flow of goods coming into Britain through the major Channel port of Dover cut in half.

Many lawmakers want to prevent a no-deal exit, and have passed a law that compels the government to seek a delay to Brexit if it can’t get an agreement with the EU by Oct. 19. Johnson says he won’t do that — although he also insists he will obey the law. He has not explained how doing both those things will be possible.

Johnson, who has had a tumultuous 70 days in office, delivered a speech that was almost Boris-by numbers, peppered with puns, grand claims about Britain’s greatness and jokes at the expense of his opponents — chiefly left-wing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, whom he dubbed a “communist cosmonaut.”

It was also, pointedly, a pre-election speech, with a grab-bag of promises: more money for hospitals and police, unspecified tax cuts, greener buses and faster internet access.

The brash Brexit champion is popular with many Conservative members, who welcome his energy and optimism after three years of Brexit gridlock under May. Some, though, have qualms about his personal conduct and his divisive tactics, which include using words like “surrender” and “betrayal” about opponents of Brexit.

He has been dogged by allegations that he handed out perks to a female friend’s business while he was mayor of London and groped the thigh of a female journalist at a lunch two decades ago. Johnson denies impropriety in both cases.

The claims have not dented his popularity among many Conservatives.

“We don’t need Saint Boris, thank you,” said Jean Chesworth, a delegate from Newcastle-under-Lyme in central England. “We’re none of us saints. We can all look at the skeletons in our cupboards.”

She said the speech was “a synthesis of all Boris is … dynamic, successful outward-looking, optimistic, positive and achieving. That’s the person he is.”

___

Kirka reported from London. Raf Casert in Brussels contributed.

The post Boris Johnson: U.K. Offering Brexit ‘Compromise’ to EU appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Pages