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Saudi-Loving Corporate Media Pundits Run for Cover in the Wake of Jamal Khashoggi Outrage

October 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

As Tom Friedman of the New York Times (and others) furiously backtrack on the Saudi prince, an ugly truth emerges


No one thinks Thomas L. Friedman, the lead foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times, has an easy job. I wouldn’t want it. Like his closely allied counterpart at the Washington Post, David Ignatius, Friedman stands astride the interlocked pinnacles of two powerful American institutions: the mainstream media and the national security establishment. He has unparalleled access to the innermost thoughts of the latter, and serves as the moralizing voice of the former. All of that comes at a price, perhaps best exemplified in Friedman’s use of a mysterious, pseudo-royal first-person plural.

Consider Friedman’s tormented column this week about how the United States should respond to the apparent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by forces close to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, now known around the world as MBS. This is the same prince, of course, whom Friedman lauded last November in a column he would surely love to scrub from the internet. Back then he praised MBS as the leader of an “Arab Spring, Saudi-style,” quoted lines from “Hamilton” at him during their lengthy late-night conversation in the prince’s “ornate adobe-walled palace,” and pronounced: “I, for one, am rooting for him to succeed in his reform efforts.” Here’s Friedman today, with the bromance breaking bad:

So, once again, what do we do? I don’t have a simple answer. It’s a mess. All I know is that we have to find some way to censure M.B.S. for this — without seeming to attack the whole Saudi people and destabilize the country. And we have to make sure that the social/religious reform process in Saudi Arabia proceeds — whoever is in charge there.

Leaving aside the maddeningly vague and deliberately toothless non-prescription on offer here — let’s “find some way to censure” MBS for allegedly having a prominent journalist tortured, killed and dismembered (I’m sure the prince is shaking in his handmade Italian loafers at that prospect) — who exactly is the “we” who must do something, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here Are Three Easy Fixes to Social Security and Medicare that Republicans Don’t Want You to Know About

October 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, AlterNet

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This isn't rocket science, folks.


Republicans would love to get rid of Social Security and Medicare. But they can’t, because Social Security and Medicare are among the most popular of all federal programs. Besides, most Americans have been paying into them their whole working lives, and depend on them.

So how will Republicans attempt to end these programs? By doing nothing to save Medicare and Social Security. 

The trustees for Medicare and Social Security – of which I used to be one – say Medicare will run out of money by 2026, three years sooner than last projected, and Social Security will run out in 2034. 

But this doesn’t have to be the case.  

Here are three easy fixes to Social Security and Medicare that Republicans don’t want you to know about.

First: Raise the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes.

This year, that cap is $128,400, meaning that every dollar earned above $128,400 isn’t subject to Social Security taxes. 

So the typical CEO of a big company, who makes over $15 million, pays Social Security taxes on just $128,400 of his or her income, a tiny fraction. While the typical nurse practitioner, who takes home around $100,000, pays Social Security taxes on every dollar of his or her income.

In this era of raging inequality, that’s not fair. And it’s not even logical. Raise the cap.

Second: To help rein in Medicare costs, allow the government to use its huge bargaining power to negotiate lower drug prices. 

Big Pharma has gotten legislation barring the government from negotiating lower drug prices. That legislation should be repealed. 

Big Pharma says this would mean less research on new drugs, but that’s baloney. Pharma already spends more on advertising, marketing, and lobbying than it does on research.  

Third: To deal with a basic reason why …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Donald Trump: The First U.S. President Who’s Openly Traumatized by ‘Saturday Night Live’

October 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

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He shows greater disdain for the show than he does for foreign dictators.


The end of summer and arrival of fall not only means cooler temperatures and shorter days; it also means the return of NBC’s long-running “Saturday Night Live,” which launched its 44th season on September 29. For President Donald Trump, a new “SNL” season brings with it the fear of being lampooned by Alec Baldwin—and sure enough, “SNL’s” October 13 show opened with a skit poking fun at Trump’s recent meeting with rapper Kanye West (played by Chris Redd). Baldwin’s impression of Trump has been wildly popular, but the president is not a fan. And Trump is the first president in “SNL’s” 43-year history who has been deeply upset by a humorous impression of him.

“SNL’s” lampooning of presidents of the United States is a time-honored tradition going back to 1975, when Chevy Chase (who was part of the show’s original cast along with comic giants like John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner) unveiled his impression of President Gerald R. Ford. Chase was unmerciful, portraying Ford as an accident-prone klutz who would leave the Oval Office in shambles. But Ford didn’t react negatively. He even appeared with Chase at a White House dinner in 1976, declaring, “I’m Gerald Ford, and you’re not” (a play on Chase’s famous line, “I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not”).

Actually, Ford wasn’t a klutz. He was an avid tennis player who had been a college football star, but showing that he could take a joke and appearing with Chase in public was a smart public relations move.

Over the years, “SNL” has lampooned eight different presidents: five Republicans (Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Sr., George W. Bush and Trump) and three Democrats (Jimmy Carter, Bill …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Need for Free Expression: Here Are 5 Highlights of Jamal Khashoggi’s Final Column

October 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

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The journalist advocated for liberalizing reforms in the Middle East.


The day after veteran Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was reported missing in Istanbul, Turkey, one of his colleagues at the Post—Global Opinions Editor Karen Attiah—received what turned out to be his final column, which was written in Arabic but translated into English by Khashoggi’s assistant. Attiah, initially, held off on running the piece, hoping that Khashoggi (who lived in Washington, DC’s Virginia suburbs) would be returning to the U.S. and that they could edit it together. But two weeks after Khashoggi’s disappearance—with Turkish government officials alleging that he had been viciously tortured and murdered by Saudi agents inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2—it became painfully obvious that Khashoggi would not be coming back. And the Post went ahead and published his final column the evening of Wednesday, October 17 with the headline, “What the Arab World Needs Most Is Free Expression.”

Attiah explained, “This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.”

Here are five of the most important points that Jamal Khashoggi made in his final column for the Washington Post.

1. Democracy Is in Short Supply in the Arab World

Khashoggi’s final column addresses human rights, which is bitterly ironic in light of Turkish government officials’ allegation that he was murdered by Saudi agents on orders from the Saudi royal family. Khashoggi opens the column by discussing Freedom House’s 2018 Freedom in the World Report and …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump's Response to the Newest Revelation that Russia Is Still Attacking Our Elections Shows Why He's Unfit to Be President

October 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

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It's all about him.


Despite President Donald Trump's professed desire to become friends with Russia, the Kremlin is still working to interfere in American elections and undermine democracy, as a new indictment from the Justice Department of a woman allegedly involved in the ongoing efforts revealed. 

When forced to respond to this news on Friday, Trump failed to take the issue seriously and demonstrated why he is not fit to be president.

A reporter brought up the indictment in a meeting with press, and before a question could even be asked, Trump became immediately defensive.

“It had nothing to do with my campaign,” Trump said. “And all of the hackers, and all that you see, it had nothing to do with my campaign. If the hackers — a lot of them probably like Hillary Clinton better than me. Now they do. You know, they go after some hacker in Russia, and it had nothing to do with my campaign.”

The claim about Clinton was both gratuitous and false, showing his petty and mendacious nature. But the even more troubling fact is that when a reporter raised a pressing national security concern, he was constitutionally incapable of taking it seriously.

Instead, he insisted that the new indictment has nothing to do with his campaign — which appears to be true, which is why no one had even suggested that it did.

It's one of Trump's fundamental misunderstandings about the Russia issue. Even if, as he claims, he were completely innocent of any wrongdoing with regard to Russia's efforts to interfere in American elections, it would still be a major national security issue. But he's unable to address it at all without making it all about him.

He couldn't even bring himself to compliment the fine work of the Justice Department employees who brought the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Saudi Arabia Finally Admits Jamal Khashoggi Is Dead — But Its Response Is Still Deeply Troubling

October 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Their account of the renowned Washington Post reporter's death is still dubious.


In a major new development, the government of Saudi Arabia has officially confirmed that Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who went missing after entering a Turkish consulate on October 2, has been killed.

The news came at a curious moment; it was just past 1 a.m. Saudi time when a prosecutor from the kingdom made the announcement on state TV.

Reuters reports that the Saudi government is blaming Khashoggi's death on a fight that “broke out between Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate,” and so far 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested in connection with the killing.

But everything about this announcement is suspect. The worry is that Khashoggi, a permanent resident of the United States who has criticized the regime and crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, was assassinated as political retaliation. Turkish sources claim to have evidence that Khashoggi was in fact excruciatingly tortured and cut to pieces with a bone saw while he was still alive.

The confirmation of Khashoggi's death is unlikely to relieve tensions and outcry, as the whole incident represents a terrible blow to the free press. But the abandonment of pretense is a concrete step that the United States should use to pursue accountability to the fullest possible extent.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Key GOP Operative with Ties to Trump Campaign May Have Had 'Advance Knowledge' of WikiLeaks' Email Dumps: Report

October 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The Wall Street Journal found that the Mueller team is pursuing information about Peter Smith.


The Wall Street Journal has doggedly pursued a strand of the Russa investigation that has largely flown under the radar as other avenues of investigation such as President Donald Trump's financial ties to Moscow and Paul Manafort's dealings in Ukraine garnered more attention. But a new report from the paper on Friday reveals that it not only the Journal that's been paying attention — Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has zeroed in on the curious case of GOP operative Peter Smith as well.

Smith, who died shortly before the Journal first began reporting on his actions in 2017, was conducting a wide-ranging effort in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election to track down Hillary Clinton's emails. Along the way, he developed a relationship with disgraced Trump campaign aide and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. 

And now, the Journal says there is evidence that could tie Smith to WikiLeaks' dispersal of stolen emails from Hillary Clinton's Campaign Chair John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee.

“Investigators also have evidence that the late GOP activist Peter W. Smith may have had advance knowledge of details about the release of emails from a top Hillary Clinton campaign official by WikiLeaks, one person familiar with the matter said,” the Journal wrote.

The article also says that the investigators have pursued related lines of inquiry, including examining Trump ally Roger Stone's and conservative pundit Jerome Corsi's connections with WikiLeaks.

New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait explained the significance of these potential connections:

If true, this would mean that Smith wasn’t merely attempting to get ahold of stolen Clinton emails. He got through to WikiLeaks and was, in some form, a channel of collusion between the hackers and the Trump campaign.

Flynn long ago started cooperating with Robert Mueller. So if Flynn discussed any of this information with Trump during the campaign, the special counsel probably knows about it.

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CNN Threatened With Lawsuit After Reporting GOP Candidate's Gross Comments About Women

October 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Andrew Kaczynski reported on Rep. Jason Lewis' prior comments as a talk radio host. Lewis' former broadcaster is now threatening to sue CNN.


This week, a new report from Andrew Kaczynski of CNN's KFile revealed yet another round of shocking comments made by Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) during his days as a right-wing talk radio host. In the clips, from a show in November 2011, Lewis mocked women who feel traumatized by sexual harassment in the workplace.

“I don't want to be callous here, but how traumatizing was it?” said Lewis, his voice breaking at times into a mocking pitch. “How many women at some point in their life have a man come on to them, place their hand on their shoulder or maybe even their thigh, kiss them, and they would rather not have it happen, but is that really something that's going to be seared in your memory that you'll need therapy for? You'll never get over? It was the most traumatizing experience? Come on! She wasn't raped.” He also argued that sexual harassment law was a violation of the First Amendment.

Incredibly, the story has now drawn a legal threat. On Thursday, Lewis' former broadcaster, Genesis Communications Network, sent a “cease and desist” letter to CNN, threatening a copyright infringement lawsuit for use of material from Lewis' old shows.

For their part, neither CNN nor Kaczynski are backing down, and nor do they have any reason to. The threat is completely baseless; “fair use” law in the United States allows the use of snippets of copyrighted work without the permission of the owner, in the context of commentary, criticism, or parody.

Lewis' campaign has declined to comment on the matter.

The radio program, in which Lewis styled himself “America's Mr. Right,” was a known part of his resume when he was first elected to Congress in 2016 — he used the show to help launch Michele Bachmann's failed presidential bid. But the show has become a matter of increased controversy as journalists have gone back through his commentary, which is full of toxic and inflammatory rhetoric.

As …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Lottery Tickets Helped Fund America's 13 Colonies

October 19, 2018 in History

By Becky Little


A United States lottery ticket from 1776.

For early American settlers, buying a lottery ticket wasn’t just a vice or a guilty pleasure—it was a colonist’s civic duty. That’s because lotteries were one of the biggest ways that the 13 colonies supported themselves financially. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the colonies used lotteries to fund libraries, churches and colleges, and even tried to use them to fund the American Revolution.

Lotteries were a part of British settlements in American from the very beginning. In 1612, the Virginia Company of London held a lottery to fund ships bound for the Jamestown Colony. The prize was 4,000 crowns, a good amount of money in those days. Even so, the company wasn’t very successful at selling tickets in London.

In 1616, the company sent people on the road to sell tickets in “instant” lotteries outside of the capital. In these small-scale games, people could find out if they won a prize immediately after buying a ticket, similarly to scratch-and-win lotteries today.

“To put an incorruptible face on the drawings, they made sure that a child drew the lots from the drums,” writes Matthew Sweeney in The Lottery Wars. These “instant” games were a huge success. Over the next four years, they brought in an estimated £29,000—nearly £8 million today, according to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator.

As more colonies settled in the Americas, they also funded their settlements with lottery money. Lotteries paid for public buildings, roads and canals. Influential figures like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock sponsored lotteries for specific projects.

The 13 Colonies (TV-PG; 1:34)

Lotteries also funded some of the United States’ earliest and most prestigious colleges, such as Harvard (1636), William and Mary (1693), Yale (1701) and Princeton (1746). Still, these lotteries didn’t do all of the work. The free labor of enslaved black people significantly drove down the price of construction and maintenance.

Scholars have characterized these lotteries in the colonies as a kind of voluntary tax that colonists paid in exchange for the chance to win prizes. Unlike the Virginia Company’s first lottery, prizes weren’t always in the form of cold, hard coin. A 1720 lottery ad in the Philadelphia newspaper American Weekly Mercury promised the winner “A new brick house, corner of Third and Arch.” Tickets to win the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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These Despicable Trump Supporters Are Engaging in a Cruel Smear Campaign on Behalf of Saudi Arabia Against Jamal Khashoggi

October 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The president's fans always find a way to sink lower.


Some Republicans have been very outspoken over the disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2 and was allegedly tortured and killed by a Saudi hit squad. Sen. Lindsey Graham has called for the U.S. to “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia,” describing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, as a “wrecking ball” who is terrible for U.S./Saudi relations. Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio declared that there will be a “complete revolt against our policies with Saudi Arabia” on Capitol Hill if MBS ordered the murder of a U.S.-based journalist. President Donald Trump, however, has been reluctant to criticize the Saudi royal family—repeatedly noting they have denied having anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance. And some of Trump’s sycophants are so determined to carry the president’s water that they have responded to all the outrage by defaming Khashoggi, including Pajamas Media Co-Founder Roger L. Simon and Fox News’ Harris Faulkner.

In an October 16 article that ran with the headline “Trump Takes the Right Position (Again) on Khashoggi,” Simon jumped through hoops to defend Trump’s anemic response to Khashoggi’s disappearance. According to Simon, Trump is “being smart not following the herd”—the herd being the long list of people, both left and right, who are horrified by allegations that Saudi agents, acting on orders from Crown Prince Mohammed, lured a Washington Post columnist to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, tortured him, murdered him and dismembered the body with a bone saw.

According to Simon, Khashoggi’s disappearance is no great loss. The Pajamas media co-founder wrote, “The disappeared so-called journalist— actually a lifelong activist for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that sought, and still covertly seeks, world domination through the likes of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri—is scarcely someone to be admired, even with his Washington Post byline.”

Simon added, “Mr. Bezos, please explain why a man with this history is writing for your newspaper.” The Bezos he is referring to …read more

Source: ALTERNET