You are browsing the archive for 2018 May 02.

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Meet the Frightening Right-Wing Fox News Analyst Whose Book Trump Was Just Boosting on Twitter

May 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Grace Bennett, Media Matters

This guy is a piece of work.


In a mid-morning tweet, President Donald Trump promoted Fox News analyst Gregg Jarrett’s upcoming book, The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump. Jarrett, who joined Fox News in 2002, is an frequent shill for the president, especially on all matters related to the Russia investigation, and a favorite of Trump propagandist Sean Hannity. The president’s interest in Jarrett’s new book, which he tweeted is “a must read,” is hardly unexpected given Jarrett’s constant, and often legally dubious, explanations for why the Trump team’s actions are legally acceptable and why Trump’s opponents, especially those in the intelligence community, are the real lawbreakers.

Jarrett’s willingness to shill for the president appears boundless, and his sycophancy has checked all the boxes to earn a coveted spot in a Trump tweet:

  • Jarrett has repeatedly claimed that even if the president or his team colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, they wouldn’t have broken any laws. During an appearance on Hannity, the Fox analyst went so far as to argue that, because “the Constitution gives us the freedom to freely associate with anybody, including Russians,” “Vladimir Putin, former KGB, could have sat in on that [Donald Trump Jr.] meeting and it wouldn't be a crime.” In another appearance, he said, “It was always a myth that collusion in a political campaign is a crime.” Jarrett also claimed, “Even conspiring to subvert the government doesn't rise to the level of treason.”
  • He has defended the idea that the president might fire special counsel Robert Mueller and called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “un-recuse” himself and fire the entire special counsel team.
  • He frequently slanders special counsel Mueller, whom he once accused of sticking “up his middle finger at the justice system.” He aims similar jabs at others who find themselves in the president’s bad graces, such as Sessions and FBI Deputy Director Rod Rosenstein, whom Jarrett described as part of a Justice Department “cartel,” calling it “the equivalent of the mob.”
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Trump Administration Won't Fire HHS Official Who Said Black People Are 'Racist' and Islam Is a 'F—— Cult'

May 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Eric Hananoki, Media Matters

She was initially placed on leave.


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will retain political appointee Ximena Barreto, who had been placed on leave for making bigoted and conspiratorial remarks as a right-wing commentator.

Barreto (who also goes by the surname Barreto-Rice) joined the administration in December 2017 as a deputy communications director. Prior to that, she was a fringe media personality who used the screen name “RepublicanChick.” She posted commentaries online and briefly co-hosted a YouTube show. Barreto also said she helped President Donald Trump’s efforts in California during the 2016 election.

On April 9, Media Matters documented Barreto’s history of toxic remarks. For example:

  • Barreto repeatedly pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory that prominent political figures were trafficking children through a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant.
  • Barreto claimed that “African-Americans are way more racist than white people.”
  • Barreto labeled Islam “a fucking cult” and said that it has “no place” in the United States.
  • Barreto said that marching in the 2017 Women’s March was “retarded” because “they’re marching in a country where we have rights.”
  • Barreto stated that the “main goal” of “the media and the Democrats is to cause a civil war because at the end they’re gonna end up profiting from it.”

A compilation of the HHS official’s remarks can found here (video by John Kerr):

Media Matters found out about Barreto’s federal employment because she was added to ProPublica’s Trump Town database, which includes personnel records for thousands of appointees in Trump’s administration.

Following the publication of Media Matters’ report, HHS said that Barreto “has been placed on administrative leave while the matter is reviewed.”

CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie, and Nathan McDermott reported on April 13 that Barreto “shared an image in 2017 that said ‘our forefathers would have hung’ Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason.” CNN also “found that Barreto also repeatedly used the hashtag #BanIslam” and pushed conspiracy theories, including about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

HHS announced on May 1 that Barreto has been allowed back to work. An HHS official told Media Matters in an email that the review was completed and she “will not to return to the public affairs department and …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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White House Says Pruitt 'Could Do a Better Job' Using Taxpayer Money as Scandals Continue to Pile Up

May 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

A White House spokesperson said the EPA administrator would admit error, but he hasn't done so yet.


Even as the number of scandals involving Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt increase, the White House continues to support the Cabinet member while acknowledging Wednesday only that he could do a better job controlling spending.

“We have to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and I think that we take that promise seriously to the American people,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said to CBS. “I think that there are certain areas that the administrator would acknowledge were mistakes that he would want to fix.”

Asked if Pruitt “could do a better job,” Short said, “Yeah. I think he would acknowledge that.”

But Pruitt has not been eager to accept responsibility for the numerous scandals he's found himself in, which include allegations of excessive wasteful spending and inappropriate financial ties to lobbyists. He has blamed his staff for much of the spending and said that many of the allegations against him stem from partisan attacks.

He did tell Congress, however, that there's been a “learning process” on the job.

A whistleblower EPA employee even recently came forward to ABC News to say that he was retaliated against by Pruitt for criticizing his spending habits. The whistleblower said the administrator lied about this retaliation in his testimony to Congress.

Short said that the agency's inspector general is looking into the claims against Pruitt, and the White House will wait for the results of that probe.

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Source: ALTERNET

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The Plastic Surgery System in Brazil Is Placing Working-Class Women in Danger

May 2, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

There are few regulations in place that can protect low-income patients from malpractice.


In the U.S., if you want a face lift or a tummy tuck, it’s generally assumed that you’ll be paying out of pocket. Insurance will tend to cover plastic surgery only when the surgery is deemed “medically necessary” and not merely aesthetic.

In Brazil, however, patients are thought of as having the “right to beauty.” In public hospitals, plastic surgeries are free or low-cost, and the government subsidizes nearly half a million surgeries every year.

As a medical anthropologist, I’ve spent years studying Brazilian plastic surgery. While many patients are incredibly thankful for the opportunity to become beautiful, the “right to beauty” has a darker side to it.

Everyone I interviewed in Brazil admitted that plastic surgeries were risky affairs. In the public hospitals where these plastic surgeries are free or much cheaper than in private clinics, I heard many patients declare that they were “cobaias” (guinea pigs) for the medical residents who would operate on them.

Yet these patients, most of whom were women, also told me that living without beauty in Brazil was to take an even bigger risk. Beauty is perceived as being so central for the job market, so crucial for finding a spouse and so essential for any chances at upward mobility that many can’t say no to these surgeries.

The very long queues for plastic surgery in public hospitals – with wait times of several months or even years – seem to confirm this immense longing for beauty. It’s made Brazil the second-largest consumer of plastic surgery in the world, with 1.2 million surgeries carried out every year.

Brazil’s ‘pope of plastic surgery’

Today, Brazil considers health to be a basic human right and provides free health care to all its citizens – a hard-won victory of social activists after Brazil’s dictatorship fell and a new democratic constitution was written into law in 1988. However, public hospitals remain severely underfunded, and most middle-class and upper-class Brazilians prefer to use private medical services.

In effect, Brazil has a two-tiered system. …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Fox News' Shep Smith Calls Out 'Concerted Effort' Involving His Colleagues Directly Telling Trump Not to Speak to Mueller

May 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Watching Fox News is known to be one of the president's favorite pastimes.


Fox News’ Shep Smith pointed out a striking pattern on his own network Wednesday: Anchors and guests have the habit of speaking directly to President Donald Trump.

Since Trump is known to be a fan and frequent viewer of Fox News, it’s not too much of a surprise that the people on the network would take the opportunity to deliver a message straight to the White House. But Smith noted that this is happening in a particularly stunning context.

“There appears to be a concerted effort,” he said, “to put a bunch of people on television having seen [the questions Robert Mueller reportedly wants to ask Trump], and to say into the television — like, this channel — ‘Uh, don’t do it, Mr. President. Don’t do it.’”

Jeff Mason, a White House correspondent for Reuters, said it was a good point.

“If they start saying that, you never know if that will have an impact,” Mason said.

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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Your Taxes at Work: Some Foreign Arsenal Assembly Required

May 2, 2018 in Economics

By Caroline Dorminey

Caroline Dorminey

The Trump administration finally released its updated US Conventional Arms
Transfer Policy and, within about a week, notified Congress of over
a billion dollars worth of sales. The new document reads very
similar to the Obama administration’s policy published in
2014, with a few very important differences — one of which is
the incorporation of profit into the equation.

There has always been a strong case for the economic-driven side
of arms sales from the defense industry — after all, arms
sales do affect their bottom lines. But the Trump administration
has added several important phrases, including a new tenet: that
arms sales should increase “economic security” and “create
jobs.”

Profit — a factor that had been secondary to national
security and foreign policy concerns — is front and center in
Trump’s new policy, in keeping with his deal-oriented mindset. This
could have significant implications if the government switches the
means by which it entices customers from offsets to financing
options. The first option burdens the defense industry, while the
second burdens the defense budget.

Which is to say, this should concern you not just from a
strategic perspective, but also as a taxpayer.

Trump’s new policy encourages a “whole of government” approach to pitching arms sales abroad. The
change will effectively turn civil servants who had been
third-party brokers between foreign governments and American
defense contractors into de facto salespeople. Officials talking up
American defense products isn’t new, but giving them the directive
to increase “economic security” gives profit a greater emphasis
— with the commander-in-chief and his 2017 sales pitches to
the Saudis, for example, offering model behavior in this regard.

Currently, the majority of incentives to foreign buyers of
American weapons come in the form of offsets. These agreements are
made once the US government has cleared a sale and the company can
liaise with whichever foreign government is purchasing the product.
Offsets are meant to make the deals more attractive, and can
include anything from co-production to technology transfer to
Foreign Direct Investments. This takes a major cut out of any
profit for the defense contractors, who shoulder most of the cost.
In 2014 alone, contractors reported $20.5 billion in defense-related
merchandise exports, with $13 billion worth of those sales
including some kind of offset. The total value of reported offset
agreements for that year was $7.7 billion — over one-third
the value of total defense exports for that year.

Obviously, this makes offsets an unattractive option for
increasing economic security. The defense industry would prefer not
to bear that burden — so then how will diplomats sweeten the
deal …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Hedging Bets on the Future of U.S.-China Economic Relations

May 2, 2018 in Economics

By Daniel J. Ikenson

Daniel J. Ikenson

This year has witnessed a series of U.S. trade actions that
threaten to throw the U.S.-China economic relationship and the
global economy into turmoil. Following five investigations launched
under three rarely invoked trade laws, President Trump has imposed
— or announced plans to impose — tariffs on thousands
of products from China.

Beijing has responded in kind, so prospects for an escalation of
tit-for-tat protectionism are ripe, and a debilitating trade war is
not out of the realm of possibilities. But, ironically, reduced
tensions and improved opportunities for trade and investment are
also possible as a result of Trump’s aggressive approach.

U.S. trade policy under President Trump has departed sharply
from the course pursued over the past 85 years. Whereas the
previous 13 presidents — Democrats and Republicans, alike-
have viewed trade as a mutually beneficial, win-win proposition
that fosters economic growth and good relations among nations,
Trump sees trade as a zero sum game with distinct winners and
losers. To Trump and his advisors, the large U.S. trade deficit
with China means the United States is losing at trade and that
it’s losing because Beijing cheats. Hence, Trump speaks of
waging and winning trade wars because the Chinese are more
dependent on the U.S. market than Americans are on the Chinese
market.

Trump speaks of waging
and winning trade wars because the Chinese are more dependent on
the U.S. market than Americans are on the Chinese market. That
thinking is absurd.

All of that thinking is absurd. But even though Trump attaches
meaning to irrelevant metrics like bilateral trade deficits in a
global economy, where two-thirds of trade flows are intermediate
goods and only 3.6 percent of the value of an Apple iPhone is
Chinese (yet the entire $179 cost is chalked up as an import from
China, exacerbating the bilateral deficit), the fact is that
frictions in the relationship have been increasing since well
before this president assumed office.

Concerns over trade imbalances, alleged trade-rule violations,
subsidization and state-owned enterprises, metastasizing industrial
policies, discriminatory treatment of non-Chinese companies, and
other forms of trade and investment protectionism have preoccupied
Washington for a decade- ever since the United States limped out of
a debilitating recession to find that China had supplanted it as
the world’s largest manufacturer and had set its sights on
leapfrogging the United States, at all costs, to the technological
fore. President Obama- and to a lesser extent, President George W.
Bush- pursued resolution of trade issues with China through dispute
settlement at the World Trade Organization and by pointing
aggrieved domestic industries to familiar U.S. trade laws for the
mitigation of problems. Wisely, neither made it a …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Neanderthals May Have Gone Extinct Due to Their Brain Shape

May 2, 2018 in History

By Natasha Frost

Comparisons of the brain surface morphology among Neanderthal (NT), early Homo sapiens (EH) and modern Homo sapiens (MH). The upper row shows the differences in brain surface area. The lower level shows the morphological difference in the direction perpendicular to the tangential surface. (Credit: Spring Nature/Scientific Reports)

For 200,000 years, Neanderthals thrived throughout Eurasia. They seem to have lived full and happy lives. Like us, they produced art, mourned their dead, and even used toothpicks to clean between their teeth. But 45,000 years ago, as Homo sapiens made a home in Europe for the first time, Neanderthals suddenly disappeared.

Now, new Japanese research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, gives some suggestions as to why—by looking at Neanderthals’ brains.

This is the first time they’ve been able to do so. Before this pioneering study, Neanderthal brains were inaccessible to researchers, with the soft tissue having long since perished. But a complicated technique called computational neuroanatomy allowed these scientists to produce detailed 3D models of Neanderthal brains using data from four Neanderthal skulls. Next, they compared them to brain models for early anatomically modern humans and an “average” modern human brain, using data from almost 1,200 MRI scans.

Comparisons of the brain surface morphology among Neanderthal (NT), early Homo sapiens (EH) and modern Homo sapiens (MH). The upper row shows the differences in brain surface area. The lower level shows the morphological difference in the direction perpendicular to the tangential surface. (Credit: Spring Nature/Scientific Reports)

The findings reveal striking differences in human and Neanderthal brain morphology. Sure, Neanderthals had bigger skulls, and correspondingly larger brains, but Homo sapiens’ cerebellum is proportionately far larger. This ridged organ, shaped almost like a butterfly, sits beneath the squiggly globes of the larger cerebrum. But its size belies its capability: It’s responsible for everything from movement, balance and vision to learning, language and mood.

What this suggests, researchers say, is that Neanderthals seem to have been less cognitively flexible, and worse at thinking on their feet, learning and adapting to change than Homo sapiens. They may have had language—it’s still up for debate—but their linguistic processing abilities would have been a fraction of modern humans’. Add to that shorter attention spans, and worse short- and long-term memories, and a picture begins to emerge about how these early people might have struggled to adapt in comparison.

VIDEO: Neanderthals What caused the Neanderthals to go extinct?

While it’s impossible to …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The First Step to Peace in Korea Has Been Taken–Now the White House Must Follow

May 2, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The global reaction to the dramatic reduction in tensions
between the two Koreas is one of profound relief. That response was
evident regarding the cordial atmospherics at the Winter Olympics,
and it has grown more pronounced since then. The sight of North
Korean leader Kim Jong-un stepping across the de facto border at the
Demilitarized Zone was powerful symbolism. Perhaps even more
important was the agreement that Kim signed with South Korean
president Moon Jae-in formally ending the state of war that began
with North Korea’s 1950 invasion of the South.

Such behavior certainly is preferable to Pyongyang’s usual
insults that its rival is a U.S. lackey or, even worse, the
periodic threats to turn Seoul into a sea of fire. A few months ago, North
Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, combined with the
regime’s shrill rhetoric, brought fears to a fever pitch that
a new Korean war might erupt. The Trump administration’s
blunt warnings to Pyongyang, the deployment of additional U.S. air
and naval forces to Northeast Asia, and the president’s
inflammatory references to Kim as “ little rocket man” added to the
worries.

The onset of détente between North and South Korea is a decided
improvement on that situation. But as my colleague Doug Bandow
points out, the inter-Korean summit produced far more “
sizzle” than substance. There are still
several daunting obstacles to a comprehensive peace
settlement—especially one that includes Pyongyang giving up
its nuclear-weapons capability. Kim has indicated his willingness
to take that step, but how sincere his promise might be is highly
uncertain.

It might be appropriate
at this point to purchase a bottle of champagne to celebrate the
prospect of peace on the Korean Peninsula, but it is far too early
even to put that bottle on ice, much less to pop the
cork.

Experts are sharply divided in their assessments about the
likelihood of a final accord. Some are optimistic, contending that prospects for a
deal are good, if for no other reason than Kim understands now that
it is the only path to regime survival. Others are much more
pessimistic, noting that Pyongyang has yet to make truly meaningful concessions and that North
Korean charm offensives have
occurred before
without leading to lasting beneficial results.
Given Pyongyang’s pervious behavior, critics contend that the
regime is inherently untrustworthy.

As with most issues in international affairs, the devil is in
the details. There has been considerable talk about what
concessions Pyongyang must make, but very little about what
Washington is—or should be—prepared …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Income Equality Is No Measure of Human Progress

May 2, 2018 in Economics

By Marian L. Tupy

Marian L. Tupy

Following the Great Recession of 2008, income inequality became
a focal concern of those who feel that market economy has let them
down. In 2011, “We are the 99 per cent” became a
unifying slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In 2013, the
U.S. President Barack Obama described income inequality as the
“defining challenge of our time”.

A year later, Pope Francis called for a “legitimate
redistribution of economic benefits by the state,” while
leftwing economist Thomas Piketty tried to supply the movement for
greater income equality with intellectual ammunition in his book,
Capital in the Twenty-First Century. The elevation of
Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency impeded the movement’s
momentum, but concern over income inequality did not disappear.
Just this week, for example, The New York Times ran an article
entitled Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!.

According to Jason Barker, an associate professor of philosophy
at Kyung Hee University in South Korea and author of the novel Marx
Returns, “educated liberal opinion is today more or less
unanimous in its agreement that Marx’s basic thesis —
that capitalism is driven by a deeply divisive class struggle in
which the ruling-class minority appropriates the surplus labour of
the working-class majority as profit — is correct”.

Most people accept
inequality, as long as the underlying system is seen as
meritocratic.

Contrary to Professor Barker, agreement on Marx’s basic
thesis is no more unanimous than the liberal spectrum of opinion is
monolithic. The Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker, for
example, has examined income inequality at considerable length in
his recent book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason,
Science, Humanism, and Progress
. Pinker questioned many of the
rationales for treating income inequality as the “defining
challenge of our time” and concluded that “income
inequality is not a fundamental component of well-being”.
Those who are concerned with income inequality should be aware of
Pinker’s arguments — and engage with them in a serious
manner.

To start with, it is crucial not to confuse income inequality
and poverty. Standards of living are increasing, albeit unequally,
in most of the world. Developing countries in particular have
benefited handsomely from declining barriers to trade and movement
of capital. That’s why inequality between countries is
actually shrinking. As for inequality within countries, enrichment
at the top has not caused mass impoverishment. The market economy
is not a zero-sum game, where someone’s gain must come at
someone else’s expense. “The rich get richer and the
poor get poorer” is a synopsis of the socialist critique of
the market system, implying the perceived inevitability of what
Marx called the Law of Increasing Poverty. It is also a myth
unsupported by …read more

Source: OP-EDS