April 24 – 30, 2017

April 24 – 30, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russia


Senate Trump-Russia Probe Has No Full-Time Staff, No Key Witnesses
(The Daily Beast – 4/23/17) 

Guess Who Came to Dinner With Flynn and Putin
(NBC News – 4/29/17)

UK was Given Details of Alleged Contacts Between Trump Campaign and Moscow
(The Guardian UK – 4/28/17)


North Korea


Senate Staff Perplexed by Unusual White House Private Briefing on North Korea
(Washington Post – 4/24/17)

North Korea Threatens Australia With Nuclear Strike Over ‘Toeing The Line’ With U.S.
(NBC News – 4/23/17)

Trump: ‘We’ll See’ if a North Korean Nuclear Test Would Trigger U.S. Response (Los Angeles Times – 4/30/17)


Mental Illness


Transcript of AP Interview with Trump
(CBS News – 4/24/17)

“It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had. On any, on air, [CBS ‘Face the Nation’ host John] Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for ‘Face the Nation’ or as I call it, ‘Deface the Nation.’ It’s the highest for ‘Deface the Nation’ since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down. It’s a tremendous advantage.”

– President Donald Trump
   (Telling Associated Press about the ratings that he brings
    to the news media)

Fact-Checking President Trump’s Pinocchio-Laden Associated Press Interview
(Washington Post – 4/25/17)

Trump Proclaims May 1 as ‘Loyalty Day’
(Fox News – 4/29/17)

“I truly believe that the first 100 days of my administration has been just about the most successful in our country’s history.”

– President Donald Trump
  (Weekly radio address)

 


Trump Tax Plan


White House Unveils Dramatic Plan to Overhaul Tax Code in Major Test for Trump
(Washington Post – 4/26/17)

What’s in the Trump Tax Plan that Promises ‘Massive’ Cuts
(ABC News – 4/26/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Conflicts of Interest


Dow Chemical Donates $1 Million to Trump, Asks Administration to Ignore Pesticide Study
(Vanity Fair – 4/20/17)

State Department Website Removes Article Touting History of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Estate
(Washington Post – 4/24/17)

“It’s like we’re watching somebody reading a Dictatorship for Dummies book.”

– Christian Bale
(Actor: “The Dark Knight”) on Donald Trump
(Mashable – 4/24/17)

 

 Mar-a-Lago Ad Belongs in Impeachment File
(Bloomberg – 4/25/17)


Meanwhile, in the Democratic Party …


Poll: Trump, Democrats and GOP All Unpopular
(CNN – 4/24/17)

100 Days of Democratic Rage: Trump has Enabled the Democratic Party to Overlook its Serious Problems
(Politico – 4/25/17)

Warren, Sanders Unhappy by Wall Street-Paid Obama Speech
(Washington Post – 4/28/17)


Environment


Trump Orders Easing Safety Rules Implemented After Gulf Oil Spill
(New York Times –4/27/17)

Climate March: Tens of Thousands Protest Trump Climate Policies, Demand Environmental Action
(Fox News – 4/29/17)

 EPA Website Removes Climate Science Site from Public View After Two Decades
(Washington Post – 4/29/17)


In Over His Head


Trump Now Agrees With the Majority of Americans: He Wasn’t Ready to be President
(Washington Post – 4/28/17)

“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

– President Donald Trump
   (Interview with Reuters)

Exclusive: Trump Says He Thought Being President Would Be Easier Than His Old Life
(Reuters – 4/28/17)


 Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


I was the Target of a Neo-Nazi ‘Troll Storm’
(The Guardian – 4/20/17)

There are at Least Four Grounds to Impeach Trump
(Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton: Salon – 4/7/17)

Trump’s First 100 Days Destroyed the Myth That Government Should be Run Like a Business
(Vox – 4/28/17)

How Western Civilization Could Collapse
(BBC – 4/18/17)


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.

Trump Voters Split on Unkept Promises (Part 1 of 3)
(CNN – 4/24/17)

Trump Voters Split on Unkept Promises (Part 2 of 3)
(CNN – 4/24/17)

Trump Voters Split on Unkept Promises (Part 3 of 3)
(CNN – 4/25/17)


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Posted on Facebook by The Simpsons:

Hasan Minhaj Full Speech at 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner
(C-SPAN – 4/29/17)

John Oliver – Last Week Tonight:

Posted to Facebook by The Other 98%:

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Posted on Facebook by Liberal America:

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Cartoon by Pjil Hands for Wisconsin State Journal:

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Source: New Century Times:

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Events & Actions


Resources & Organizations


April 17 – 23, 2017

April 17 – 23, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russia


Exclusive: Putin-Linked Think Tank Drew Up Plan to Sway 2016 U.S. Election
(Reuters – 4/20/17)

Top National Security Official Leaving Justice Department in Middle of Trump-Russia Investigation
(NBC News – 4/20/17)

US Prepares Charges to Seek Arrest of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange
(CNN – 4/20/17)


North Korea


Trump’s Missing ‘Armada’ Finally Heading to Korea — and May Stay a While
(Washington Post – 4/19/17)

U.S. May Not Be Able to Shoot Down North Korean Missiles, Say Experts
(NBC News – 4/19/17)


Mental Illness


Donald Trump Insists on Golden Carriage Procession During Visit to UK
(Evening Standard – UK – 4/15/17)

An Ethical Dilemma: Donald Trump’s Presidency has Some in the Mental Health Community Re-evaluating Their Role
(US News & World Report – 4/21/17)

At Yale, Psychiatrists Cite Their ‘Duty to Warn’ About an Unfit President
(New York Magazine – 4/22/17)

Psychiatrists Claim President Trump has a ‘Dangerous Mental Illness’
(Yahoo News – 4/22/17)

Mental Health Professionals Call for Trump to be Removed from Office
(WTNH – Connecticut Affiliate of ABC News – 4/20/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


March for Science


Historians Say the March for Science is ‘Pretty Unprecedented’
(Washington Post – 4/21/1/7)

The March for Science from Around the World
(CNN – 4/22/17)


Trump and the Press and the Polls


Public Gives Trump Low Marks for First 100 Days: NBC News/WSJ Poll
(NBC News – 4/23/17)

Trump at 100 Days: 96% of His Voters Say They’d Do it Again
(ABC News – 4/23/17)

Trump to Hold 100th-Day Rally on Same Night as White House Correspondents’ Dinner
(Washington Post – 4/23/17)

“In Watergate, in the two years of stories we did at the Washington Post and also at the New York Times, there was not a single quoted source. It was all reporting based on anonymous sources.”

Carl Bernstein, one of two reporters who broke the Watergate story


Conflicts of Interest


Trump’s Daughter Meets Chinese President, Receives Chinese Trademarks
(MSNBC – 4/18/17)


Taxpayer Money


Trump and His Aides Take Hard Line on Border Wall, as Threat of Government Shutdown Looms
(Washington Post – 4/23/1/7)

Sessions: We’ll Fund the Wall ‘One Way or the Other’
(CNN – 4/23/17)


 Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


US Unlikely to Have been Behind Botched North Korean Missile Launch
(The Hill – 4/22/17)

If a Nuclear Bomb is Dropped on Your City, Here’s Where You Should Run and Hide
(Business Insider – 3/18/17)


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.

How Progressives Cherry-Pick Science They Like
(National Review – 4/21/17)


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Source: Unknown

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Science March at Harvard, source: Unknown

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Source: Unknown

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Posted to Twitter by Steve Hoffman:

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Science March in Berkeley, CA, banner artwork by Tina Banda:

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Science March in Amsterdam – source: Unknown

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Source: Unknown

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Source: Unknown

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Photo from Minnesota Public Radio of Science March in St. Paul, MN

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… and I found out where you can get one! You’re welcome!

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Posted to Twitter by Hend Amry:

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Photo of Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Sarah Palin in the Oval Offfice
Source: Unknown

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Source: Unknown

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From The Onion:

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Source: Unknown

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Posted on Twitter by McSpocky:

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Source: Unknown

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Events & Actions


Resources & Organizations


Why Nuclear Power Should Not be Part of the Solution to Climate Change

Why Nuclear Power Should Not be Part of the Solution to Climate Change

Why Nuclear Power Should Not be Part of the Solution to Climate Change

We saw the images of the Fukushima nuclear plant in the days and weeks after the 2011 earthquake. Massive hoses sprayed water from the ocean onto the smoldering power plant in a desperate attempt to keep the reactor core from melting down completely. Hundreds of individuals in radiation suits were sent in for their lifetime maximum of 15 minutes exposure to try to stabilize the situation. Remote control robots were deployed to provide information on areas of the plant that were too radioactive for humans to survive.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government, relying on reports from Tepco, the company that owns and operated the plant, gave the public far-rosier-than-reality reports of what was going on, until the truth was no longer deniable. The situation would not be brought under control anytime soon, the problem continued to be extremely difficult to manage with no clear solution, and radioactive water was draining out into the Pacific ocean at a rate of hundreds of tons a day.

Fukushima has not been very visible in the news in the past couple years, largely because the media does not consider an unchanging situation to be “news,” but here is the latest information. Tepco continues to send in robots to gather data, and the robots continue to fail sooner than anticipated due to the high levels of radiation or due to stalling amid molten debris. Most recently, a planned 10-hour robot mission failed within two hours. Before losing communication, that robot – sent into an area of the plant not previously accessed – transmitted readings of radiation levels exceeding 200 Sieverts/hour, an amount that would kill any human within minutes.

Tepco has built a 100 foot deep “ice wall” to prevent water leakage, at a cost of over $220 million, but the wall has failed to fully prevent the leaks. The power company recently announced that they anticipate having the situation under control in 30-40 years, at a current projected cost to the Japanese government of $189 billion – an estimate that has doubled since three years ago, and which includes the cost of compensating tens of thousands of displaced individuals.

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Pre-earthquake photo of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by Akira Kouchiyama

Why can’t Fukushima be wrapped up in a couple months? What makes a nuclear disaster so profoundly and exponentially different from any other kind of disaster?

Nuclear power uses radioactive elements – uranium, plutonium – as fuel. Unlike elements with which we are more familiar, radioactive elements are atomically unstable. They spin off sub-atomic particles small enough to pass through most walls, through human tissue and through cell walls. If those particles happen to knock into some DNA, they can damage that DNA, resulting in the cell either dying or becoming altered in a way that can ultimately result in the development of cancer and other health effects. As with the harmful effects of smoking, these health consequences usually aren’t seen for years or even decades.

When radiation exposure is acute, due to prolonged or high-level exposure, the damage to cells can be so intense that radiation poisoning develops and the person can die in a matter of minutes, hours, days or weeks. Because the human body can only safely withstand a very limited amount of exposure to high levels of radiation, cleanup and containment of a nuclear accident, particularly on the level of Fukushima, is extremely difficult (Chernobyl required hundreds of thousands of people to help with the cleanup, and the area is still toxic).

The “half-life” of most nuclear elements used to produce nuclear power is in the hundreds, thousands, or even billions of years, meaning that the danger of such health consequences only decreases by half in that time period. Because of this, a nuclear accident can instantly render an entire geographic area permanently uninhabitable. Such an accident is never really “over.” Anyone who happens to enter the vast contaminated area – even a hundred years later – may be exposing themselves to levels of radiation nearly as deadly as the day of the accident. Chernobyl was a “lucky” disaster in a way: the radioactive element that was used by that plant was caesium, whose half-life is about 30 years. Many of America’s nuclear plants use uranium, with a half-life of 4.5 billion years.

Nuclear power plants are generally built next to a body of water – a lake, a river, an ocean – so that they can take advantage of that water to cool the nuclear materials. While practical when things are going as planned, this proximity to water increases the potential for radiation to spread more quickly during a disaster. Imagine dumping a small bottle of food coloring onto your kitchen counter: it remains relatively contained. Now imagine dumping that same bottle of food coloring into a full bathtub. The bathtub water soon takes on the vibrant color of the dye. The same principle applies to radiation. While a lake may still keep the radiation contained to a specific geographic area, a river or an ocean can carry it great distances.

Hundreds of tons of radioactive water have drained from the Fukushima plant into the Pacific Ocean. In the short term, that radiation will be dispersed throughout the Pacific Ocean by the currents, and the radiation levels in all but the immediate area shouldn’t be too harmful, but over time, the area of contamination will expand as the radiation continues to accumulate in the water and drift on the currents.

Proponents of nuclear power – especially public relations people hired by the nuclear industry – often make the claim that nuclear is one of the safest and cleanest forms of energy there is.  And from a certain perspective, they are right. Nuclear does not produce greenhouse gases like coal or natural gas. And when everything is going as planned, nuclear is relatively safe. But in the thus-far-thankfully-rare event that something goes wrong, it can go very wrong. One minute, the plant is operating in a relatively clean and contained way, and then the unforeseen happens – an innocent human error, a mentally unstable or disgruntled employee, a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, a computer malfunction – and suddenly it is a situation requiring hundreds of thousands of human beings to make the sacrifice of exposing themselves to the maximum lifetime level of radiation in a feeble attempt to stabilize a situation that will remain dangerous for potentially billions of years; residents within a several-mile radius of the plant must immediately and permanently evacuate their homes; property values evaporate; citizens, employees, cleanup personnel and first responders are left with a quantity of radiation in their bodies that may kill them quickly in a very ugly way, or which in most cases will result in increased incidents of cancer, birth defects or other health issues down the road.

In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, government officials repeatedly cited a “failure of imagination” for their inability to foresee the possibility of such attacks. Nuclear proponents similarly display a failure of imagination with their blind faith that a major US nuclear disaster is unlikely. Just because something has not happened does not mean that it cannot happen, and with nuclear, all of the elements exist for the eventual development of multiple ongoing disasters, not only in the US but worldwide. Which one will be the one where we finally decide that the risk is too great and we need to rethink the practicality of nuclear power?

We all know that manmade structures do not last forever. Concrete eventually begins to crumble. Metal eventually begins to rust. Radiation accelerates both of these processes to some degree. At some point, therefore, our existing nuclear power plants will need to be decommissioned (deconstructed and decontaminated). This task will be far easier and less costly if it is done under controlled conditions before the plants have deteriorated to the point of being dangerous or even in a state of crisis.

The good news is that nuclear power is a choice. We can choose to pursue it, as some advocate, as a part of a suite of carbon-free energy options. Or we can approach nuclear power with both eyes open, realizing that our existing plants already pose enough of a long-term risk to our country and will already cost billions to decommission (a cost which the energy companies will almost certainly try to pass off to local and federal government, i.e. you the taxpayer). In seeing nuclear for the massively flawed “solution” that it is, we can choose not to dig ourselves any deeper, and instead pursue energy from truly clean sources like the sun, the wind, and the ocean currents.

– rob rünt


Recent articles on the state of the Fukushima disaster as of early 2017 are linked below. Please note that, perhaps even more so than with most subject matter, one should always employ critical thinking when reading information about nuclear power. The information often comes with an agenda – including as the article above. I have tried to be as factual and objective as possible in the above assessment of nuclear power, but I also freely admit that I have an agenda, which is to see America discontinue its woefully unsafe form of energy and to debunk those who promote nuclear without acknowledging the very real cons. Some “news” on the topic of nuclear power may be from a press release from a nuclear industry group, a PR firm or PR firm’s front group promoting nuclear as “safe and clean” – press releases which are sometimes picked up and regurgitated by a news outlet. Other “news” may be from an anti-nuclear group wishing to present a negatively exaggerated view of nuclear power. Still other “news” may be from mainstream news outlets with little time to truly understand the issue, but who wish to sensationalize their reporting to increase ratings. In rare cases, you can find factual, thoughtful, rational news on the topic from someone legitimately trying to be as truthful and realistic as possible. I’ll leave it to you to decide which category the articles below might fall into: I found credible information and distorted information in all of them.

Dying Robots and Failing Hope: Fukushima Clean-up Falters Six Years After Tsunami
(The Guardian – 3/8/17)

No, Radiation Levels at Fukushima Daiichi are Not Rising
(Safecast – 2/4/17)

After Alarmingly High Radiation Levels Detected, What Are the Facts in Fukushima?
(National Geographic – 2/22/17)

Radiation at Japan’s Fukushima Reactor Is Now at ‘Unimaginable’ Levels
(Fox News – 2/8/17)


It’s Come to This: Defending Ann Coulter

It’s Come to This: Defending Ann Coulter

It’s Come to This: Defending Ann Coulter

UC Berkeley just cancelled a speech by conservative provocateur Ann Coulter, citing safety concerns in the wake of the violence that broke out on campus in February just before a speech by former senior Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. The violence that cancelled that event had been committed by people who identify with the political left and with the anarchist movement. This is a shocking and disturbing development at a college that has a long and proud tradition of embracing and encouraging free speech, but it is also a development that is emblematic of a larger problem that should spark some serious introspection on the part of today’s lefties.

Don’t get me wrong: I think that Ann Coulter is a horrible, horrible man, and I disagree with him on just about everything. I believe that he cynically cultivates a brand of conservative extremism intended to push people’s buttons: he knows that the more provocative his ideas are, the more buzz he will generate, which translates into the large following that he has made a career successfully parlaying into profits. I often question whether he even believes half of what he says.

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Photo of Ann Coulter by Gage Skidmore

Nonetheless, I support his right to be heard. College in particular is supposed to be a place where budding adults can experience a smorgasbord of new ideas, new philosophies, new lifestyles, and new kinds of people. It is often the first major test of the foundational values instilled by family. As young adults, college students get to evaluate the merits of their new experiences, and the appropriateness and worthiness of incorporating the new ideas into their own lives.

When voices like those of Mr. Coulter and Mr. Yiannopoulos are excluded from that mix, it deprives students of the richness that a full breadth of viewpoints can offer. But far worse, it breeds closed-mindedness and communicates a stark insecurity about the ability of the “correct” ideas to stand on their own. Perhaps ugliest and most ironic of all, this censorship is often committed by people who boast of being “tolerant.”

When I was in college, people of all kinds of extremes came to speak on campus. Students got upset. They protested. They got angry. But ultimately, the speakers got to be heard, no matter who they were.

I remember a World War II vet saying once, regarding some American political pariah, “I don’t agree with a damn thing that that SOB says, but I’ll fight to the death for his right to say it.” I respect that. That is a perspective that seems far more in keeping with the spirit of “free speech” that we on the left claim to value so deeply. The First Amendment was not put in place to protect palatable, agreeable speech.

When we go down the road of saying, in effect, “no free speech for people we disagree with,” we head in the direction of authoritarianism.

I realize, and cringe, that this means that really ugly ideas will be heard, but that is healthy: when it is normal for all sides, all ideas to be aired, the idiocy of bad ideas is glaring enough that they don’t gather steam.

This is a very important concept for us on the left to start absorbing, because the resentment fueled by decades of our behavior toward those with differing ideas is part of why we’re now stuck with a Trump as our President. It’s how Trump, a self-proclaimed billionaire, could present himself as an oppressed victim and not be laughed off the stage. Trump was enough of a rich, media-savvy blowhard that he was able to be heard, and because that was such an anomaly, such a rarity, he was seen as a symbol to rally around, someone who had made it through to “finally” speak for millions of people who had come to hold similar ideas but felt like they had been repeatedly silenced by “political correctness.”

Think about what it is like to be shut down for trying to express an idea that is important to you – not being given the opportunity to communicate a complete thought and the reasoning behind it and then not being given the respect of a debate, but instead being simply, abruptly and smugly labeled and written off – end of discussion. Think about what years, even decades of this treatment as a second-class citizen must be like. Some of us, of course, don’t have to use a lot of imagination to understand what that kind of treatment is like, having experienced it from the birth due to the color of our skin, our place of birth, our gender, who we are attracted to, etc.

But think, then, about how infuriatingly hypocritical it must feel to see the same people who have done this to you parading around the streets carrying signs proclaiming their tolerance and love. Salt in the wounds?

Allowing undesirable ideas to be heard does not equal agreeing with them. Allowing undesirable ideas to be heard does not mean that you are willing to let them flourish. Bad ideas, exposed as a normal part of a healthy democratic discussion, die of their own weight. Allowing undesirable ideas to be heard is simply the baseline of respect that we should offer one another as human beings, as a starting point to being a civil society. And contrary to what many on the left seem to think – and this is really important – denying that respect and shutting people down does not prevent the ideas from existing or even growing: it merely forces them underground and causes them to grow more twisted and distorted amid grinding bitterness, rage, and lack of sunlight. Trump’s voters have been there for decades. They are largely people whose mildly distasteful ideas, denied the dignity of hearing and discussion, were allowed to simmer and become something far less likable.

UC Berkeley’s decision to cancel Ann Coulter’s speech was wrong but understandable. The school was worried about the safety of their students in the event that violence should break out again.

But the anarchist and Trump-opposing students who started fires and committed other acts of violence a couple months ago to stave off a speech from Milo Yiannopoulos should take a moment to absorb that they did no favors for the cause of true tolerance, for the legitimacy of their own beliefs, or to prevent those who agreed with Mr. Yiannopoulos from doubling down even harder on their support of him. The handful of people who behaved destructively instead vividly displayed their own intolerance, and contributed to a further deepening of the divide in our country. In driving the monster from the village, they merely fed it.

Ann Coulter deserves the right to say what he thinks as much as Bernie Sanders, Rachel Maddow, Elizabeth Warren, or any other American. As long as Coulter and people like him  continue to get shut down, their ideas will only get meaner and uglier.

– rob rünt


April 10 – 16, 2017

April 10 – 16, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russia


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The Russia Story Just Keeps Getting Worse for President Trump
(CNN – 4/12/17)

How Russia Hacked Obama’s Legacy
(Buzzfeed – 4/13/17)

Classified Docs Contradict Nunes Surveillance Claims, GOP and Dem Sources Say
(CNN – 4/12/17)

FBI Obtained FISA Warrant to Monitor Trump Adviser Carter Page
(Washington Post – 4/11/17)

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“What lingers for Trump may be what deals — on what terms — he did after the financial crisis of 2008 to borrow Russian money when others in the west apparently would not lend to him.”

Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 (British intelligence agency)
(The Sun UK, 4/13/17)

British Spies were First to Spot Trump Team’s Links with Russia
(The Guardian UK – 4/13/17)

“Concrete Evidence of Collusion Between Trump Team and Russia” Handed to Official Investigation
(The Independent UK – 4/14/17)

House’s Inquiry Into Russia Points a Congressman to Cyprus
(New York Times – 4/14/17)


North Korea


China’s Xi Calls Trump, Urges Peaceful Approach to North Korea
(Washington Post – 4/12/17)

US May Launch Strike if North Korea Moves to Test Nuclear Weapon: Report
(The Hill – 4/13/17)

China Warns of ‘Storm Clouds Gathering’ in U.S.-North Korea Standoff
(New York Times – 4/14/17)

 North Korean Official: Ready for War if Trump Wants it
(Associated Press – 4/14/17)

Ex-Acting CIA Chief: Trump is Making North Korea Situation Worse
(Politico – 4/14/17)

North Korea Appears to Jab at Trump with Missile Test
(Politico – 4/15/17)


China


Trump Faces Chinese Mockery Following Embarrassing Reversals
(MSNBC – 4/14/17)


Syria


Tillerson Meets With Putin Amid Deepening Tensions Over U.S. Missile Strikes in Syria
(Washington Post – 4/12/17)

U.S.-Led Coalition Accidentally Bombs Syrian Allies, Killing 18
(Washington Post – 4/13/17)


Afghanistan


US Drops Most Powerful Non-Nuclear Bomb in Afghanistan
(Military – 4/13/17)

‘It Felt Like the Heavens Were Falling’: Afghans Reel from MOAB Impact
(The Guardian – 4/14/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Trump and the Press


“That’s the Job. We Are Adversarial.”
(Politico – 4/10/17)


Draining the Swamp/Government Transparency


The White House Will Keep Its Visitor Logs Secret
(Time – 4/14/17)

With Trump Appointees, a Raft of Potential Conflicts and ‘No Transparency’
(New York Times – 4/15/17)

The Tax March: Protesters Around the Country Call on Trump to Release his Taxes
(Washington Post – 4/15/17)

Trump Blasts Tax Day Protests, Says ‘Election is Over!’
(Fox News – 4/16/17)


Relearning History


Spicer: Hitler ‘Didn’t Even Sink to Using Chemical Weapons,’ Although He Sent Jews to ‘the Holocaust Center’
(Washington Post – 4/11/17)

Posted on Facebook by George Takei:

Trump is Still Learning What Most People Already Know
(MSNBC – 4/13/17)

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,”

President Donald Trump
Recalling his 4/12 phone conversation with Chinese Prime Minister Xi regarding Trump’s idea that China could simply make North Korea stop misbehaving


 Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


The Unforgivable Mistake Sean Spicer Makes Every Day
(Washington Post – 4/12/17)


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.

I hope that as more Trump voters come to the conclusion that she has, that people on the left will respond with compassion, tolerance (yes, tolerance) and decency rather than ridicule and “I told you so”s. The power to bring some degree of unity back to our nation and move forward in a positive direction is largely going to be in the hands of Democrats and their individual decisions to gloat or be humble. Don’t blow it, lefties.


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Source: Unknown

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Cover of The Economist magazine:

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Source: Fox News:
Trump describes cake and his decision to launch missiles at someone.

Posted on Twitter by Jonathan Riley:

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Posted on Twitter by Danny Zuker:

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Posted on Twitter by Aura Bogado:

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Posted on Twitter by McSpocky:

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Posted on Pinterest by mrhenry13.tumblr.com:

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Posted on Twitter by James Austin Johnson:

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Posted on Twitter by Jonathan Riley:

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Source: Unknown:

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Source: Unknown:

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Posted on Istagram by michaelbourret:

#taxmarch #taxmarchla

A post shared by michaelbourret (@michaelbourret) on

Posted on Facebook by The Other 98%:

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Posted on Twitter by Milladydibennet:

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Source: Unkown

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Events & Actions

Major nationwide protest coming up:

  • Saturday, April 22, 2017: Scientists and people who believe in and support science will be having marches nationwide to encourage the use of science and facts in creating government policy – find your nearest march here!

Resources & Organizations


9 Things We Could Learn From Trump’s Tax Returns

9 Things We Could Learn From Trump’s Tax Returns

9 Things We Could Learn From Trump’s Tax Returns

Among the many “unique” things about the Trump Presidency is his steadfast refusal to publicly release his tax returns. This defies the established practice followed by Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Trump has justified his nondisclosure by claiming that he “is under a routine audit by the IRS” and will disclose his tax returns when the audit is complete. The IRS has stated publicly that their rules in no way prohibit him from releasing his taxes while the audit is in progress.

Here are nine things that disclosure of Trump’s tax returns could shed light on, and why those things are important.

Ties to Russia

In the wake of the US intelligence community’s belief that Russia worked to influence the Presidential election in favor of Trump, many people are concerned that Mr. Trump may have ties to Russia. Each day we seem to hear something new about someone close to him with some Russia connection. His tax returns could show financial transactions involving Russian Banks, the Russian government, or wealthy Russian individuals. If Trump has any such connections to Russia, it could help further connect some of the dots in the current Russia scandal.

Foreign Debts

If the President owes major debts to other countries or foreign banks, those debts could potentially impact his decisions regarding US relations with those countries. The former head of British intelligence, for example, has recently suggested that Mr. Trump may have borrowed heavily from Russian lenders during the 2008 financial crisis when he was having difficulty getting loans from lenders in the US. That could explain some of the otherwise inexplicable brotherly love between Trump and Putin.

Conflicts of Interest

We expect our President to do what is right for our country and our people. When the President has conflicts of interest – for example, a situation where doing the right thing for the American people could negatively impact his own personal wealth – there is a problem. Seeing Mr. Trump’s tax returns could help us further understand what conflicts of interest he may still have as President of the United States.

Inept Business Decisions

The major factor that Trump voters have cited more than any particular policy as their reason for supporting him is their belief in his superior background in business. They believed that his keen business acumen would translate into a more efficient, smart and organized government along with an enriched population. But much of Mr. Trump’s business prowess is self-proclaimed. We do know that four of his businesses went bankrupt, including a casino (how do you do that?). Did he make any other bad business decisions or dumb investments? So far his business skills have not appeared to result in a more efficient, smart or organized government, and the only people who appear on the docket to have their wealth enhanced are those who are already exceedingly rich.

Less Wealth Than He Publicly Claims to Have

Mr. Trump has spoken often about his own wealth. It is part of his “brand.” But is he as wealthy as he claims? Again, the glorious legend of Mr Trump’s wealth is one largely fed by his own boasting. It is entirely possible that his lavish lifestyle is the byproduct of massive loans that he must pay off. Seeing the actual reported numbers could help put some substance behind his claims.

Paying Minimal Taxes

Wealthy people can hire cunning accountants to help them pay as little in taxes as possible. This is possibly the case with Mr. Trump – a possibility which, if revealed, would almost certainly enhance the positive impression that his supporters have of him as a shrewd businessman. Nonetheless, it would be informative for the American public to see exactly how little proportionally a wealthy individual like Trump pays in taxes compared to the average American.

Money Laundering

Of course, only a fool would report money laundering on their tax returns. Nonetheless, dollar amounts are what they are, and those would likely be reported. For example, Mr. Trump purchased a reportedly quite tasteless Palm Beach mansion in 2006 for $40 million, and then sold it in 2008 to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev for $100 million. Rybolovlev reportedly never lived there, but at the time was in the midst of a divorce from his wife that was likely to net her a multi-billion dollar settlement. Was Mr. Trump assisting Mr. Rybolovlev in laundering money? Trump’s tax returns could reveal similar transactions that might raise interesting questions.

Meager Charitable Giving

Mr. Trump claims to make many donations to charity. Yet the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold just won a Pulitzer prize for his reporting on Trump’s philanthropic life that would seem to contradict those claims. Trump’s tax returns would show how much he actually has given to charity.

Trump is a Wonderful and Honest Guy

Trump’s tax returns could in fact show that he is an honest, upstanding billionaire who pays what he needs to in taxes, has nothing shady or questionable in his finances, has done nothing that could raise questions about his ability to carry out his duties as a President loyal to the American people, has a history of giving back to enhance the wellbeing of the country that has enabled him to live so lavishly, and is in fact the infinitely successful and shrewd businessman that his voters thought that they were electing.

We have entrusted Mr. Trump with the highest office in the land. Should he not entrust the American people with a bit more info about who exactly we have elected? Today, April 15, many Americans across the country will take to the streets to demand just that.

Times and locations of Trump Tax Marches nationwide

 

People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook.

– Former US President Richard M. Nixon
   From resignation speech

– rob rünt

Photo of Donald Trump by Mggcb.
Photo of Protest in Minneapolis by Fibonacci Blue.


Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

There is rightly a major focus right now – among the media, in the House and Senate, by the FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the American public – on President Trump’s possible connections to Russia. Meanwhile, however, a question that could be of equal importance may be getting overlooked: why did Donald Trump run for President in the first place?

The answer is likely many-fold, and can be explained by things that are easily knowable about the President, to the point where they almost define him. He likes to be the center of attention, and a Presidential run would feed that desire with months of ongoing coverage from the media and adoration from his supporters. He likes power, and the Presidency is arguably the most powerful position in the world. He has political views and policy ideas that he appears at times to feel strongly about; the Presidency would be a place where he could enact them.

But what else do we know about Donald Trump? What else defines him almost more than all of those things combined? He likes money. And in real estate, there is a term “OPM” that stands for “Other People’s Money.” When your career is buying real estate, OPM becomes an essential way to make yourself rich more quickly. You borrow – from banks, from wealthy friends, from relatives – to buy real estate that you believe will produce enough of a profit to enrich yourself and enable you to pay back your lenders (usually with interest). Of course, in the most ideal OPM situations, such as inheriting a fortune from your father, you don’t have to pay anyone back.

And what are a couple of other things that we have learned about Donald Trump since he came under closer scrutiny during the election and into the Presidency? He lies. Boldly. Bigly. He tells lies so big and so risky that most liars wouldn’t even consider telling them because of the lies’ audaciousness and the ease of proving them false (Obama is not an American citizen, the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was the biggest in decades, etc.).

We also know that Trump sometimes stiffs those who help him, like the numerous contractors who provided goods and services for his real estate empire, only to find themselves faced with having to accept a major loss when he chose not to pay them. He has been referred to by some as a conman, boosting people’s hopes for his own financial gain.

It is quite plausible that Mr. Trump planned to make money from the process of campaigning for President. As far back as 2000, he told Fortune Magazine “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” According to Politico, by September 22 of last year, the 2016 Trump Campaign had paid Trump’s businesses $8.2 million.

And as some of us currently grit our teeth at the millions being needlessly spent each week by the American taxpayer for the excesses that accompany Mr. Trump’s Presidency – Melania living in Trump Tower instead of the White House, the President’s near-weekly trips to Mar-a-Lago and his golf courses, the Secret Service entourage to accompany the Trump kids on their frequent trips – we hardly notice that buried within those extravagances are arrangements from which the President or his family make a profit. As long as Melania lives at Trump Tower, the government (i.e., you and I) must pay rent to have a team of Secret Service living there. When the President visits Mar-a-Lago, he generates free publicity for his business – far better than any expensive commercial – at government cost, while dangling the exciting possibility that visitors might get to sit near the President of the United States at dinner or see him on his golf course. And who gets paid for the rooms that the President’s security and staff stay in at Trump’s posh Mar-a Lago hotel when Trump spends yet another weekend there?

And yes, it all reaks of conflict of interest and questionable ethics at best.

But – and I say the following as pure speculation that may well qualify me for a tin-foil hat – what if those millions being pocketed here and there are all just small change compared to a more expansive agenda? What if, as he began seeing the possibility of a win, his run for the Presidency evolved in part into the biggest lie ever, a con so big and so brazen and so thoroughly outlandish that Americans wouldn’t even think of it as a possibility until after it had already happened? You know, the way several months ago, we didn’t think that covert action by Russia could possibly play an influential – potentially even deciding – role in an American Presidential election? What if the bid for the Presidency actually evolved into a bid to siphon off one of the largest piles of OPM ever from the biggest mark possible – the federal government and, by extension, us, the American taxpayers? And what if  there were a way to move that money around silently behind the scenes – in order to pay off major debts, to stash vast amounts in anonymous overseas bank accounts, or to assist in some some other massively self-serving cause?

As Presidential Cabinet positions go, the Secretary of Commerce is not generally a glamorous or high-visibility position. If you asked even your most politically involved friends – friends who could quickly rattle off the names of every recent Secretary of State or Secretary of Energy – few could likely name even one recent Secretary of Commerce. The position just does not generate a lot of buzz: it works quietly behind the scenes, doing work related to the department’s mission “to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce.”

The person whom Donald Trump appointed to that role is a man named Wilbur Ross. On February 27, 2017, MSNBCs Rachel Maddow did a segment looking into the background of Mr. Ross. (New Commerce Secretary at Nexus of Lucrative Trump Russia Deal). While I highly recommend taking the 22 minutes to watch Maddow’s report, the Cliff’s Notes version is as follows:

  • In January 2017, Deutsche Bank was fined $630 million by the US Department of Justice for money laundering (i.e., processing tainted money in a way that makes the money appear “legitimate”). Deutsche Bank had moved approximately $10 billion out of Russia as part of a stock fraud scheme. Some of the people involved were close friends and relatives of Vladimir Putin (the Russian government also fined Deutsche Bank a whopping $5,000 for the incident).
  • When Deutsche Bank’s money laundering activities for this scam began in 2011, its CEO was Josef Ackerman. Ackerman left Deutsche Bank in 2012 after serving there for ten years. In 2013, deposits to Deutsche Bank began to be seized in the wake of questions arising over the $10 billion. In 2014, Ackerman was appointed Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Cyprus is a Mediterranean island off the coast of Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. It is known to be a major hub where Russian oligarchs use the banking system to launder their money.
  • The Bank of Cyprus has two Vice Chairmen: one is Viktor Vekselberg (second wealthiest man in Russia and a close personal friend of Vladimir Putin) and the other is long-time Trump friend Wilbur Ross. Vekselberg and Ross are both the largest shareholders in the Bank of Cyprus. Vekselberg and Ross were the ones who brought in Ackerman as the new CEO of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Another large shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus is a Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlev. Rybolovlev began a divorce from his wife in 2007 or 2008. The divorce was finalized in 2015. At some point, a judge awarded Rybolovlev’s wife $4.5 billion as part of the settlement. During the divorce proceedings, she accused Rybolovlev of “secreting and transferring assets in order to avoid his obligations.”
  • In 2006, Donald Trump bought a tacky Palm Beach mansion called la maison de l`amitie for $40 million. The property sat vacant for two years, In 2008, Trump sold it to Rybolovlev, who inexplicably paid $100 million for it, netting Trump a quick $60 million in profit. Rybolovlev reportedly never lived in the house.
  • At the time, Trump was having financial difficulties and was fighting to avoid paying off a large loan from Deutsche Bank.
  • Rybolovlev and Trump never met: they performed their entire multi-million dollar real estate transaction through intermediaries. The person who introduced Russian oligarch Rybolovlev and Trump was Wilbur Ross, one of the two Vice Chairmen of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Trump nominated Wilbur Ross to be US Secretary of Commerce, and Ross was confirmed for that role in February, 2017.
  • Some intelligence officials believe that “one reason the Russians compiled information on Trump during his 2013 trip was that he was meeting with Russian oligarchs who may be stashing money abroad.”

Summary:

Wilbur Ross, the man whom Donald Trump has appointed to structure and oversee the moving around of large amounts of America’s money, is the largest investor in and has had a very recent (possibly still active) high-level controlling role in the Bank of Cyprus, a bank with deep ties to Russia, a bank which, according to Maddow, is known for laundering large amounts of money for wealthy Russians. The bank’s Chairman, appointed by Ross, previously headed Deutsche Bank during a time when Deutsche Bank began laundering $10 billion, including money from governments, for the benefit of wealthy individuals, notably wealthy Russians and friends of Vladimir Putin.

The President’s recently proposed budget made headlines for its staggering cuts to numerous government programs and agencies. Some programs were zeroed out, while others were cut by double-digit percentages. If even a fraction of that proposed budget is enacted by Congress, it will mean that enormous amounts of American taxpayer money will be in flux, and things are likely to get very hazy and disorienting for awhile.

As Mr. Trump does what he does best – saying and doing things that completely captivate the attention of the American media and American public – keep your eyes on your money … and keep your eyes on Wilbur Ross and the Department of Commerce.

– rob rünt