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Trump Campaign Aide Tied to Manafort Requested Foreign Proposal for Social Media Manipulation: Report

October 8, 2018 in Blogs

By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

One proposal request included using “bogus personas to target and sway 5,000 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention.”


Rick Gates, a longtime business associate of Paul Manafort and served as the now-convicted felon's deputy for the Trump 2016 campaign, requested proposals for social media manipulation from an Israeli firm, The New York Times reports Monday afternoon. The proposal requests included the creation of fake online identities and gathering intelligence to help Donald Trump defeat his Republican opponents and ultimately Hillary Clinton.

One proposal request included using “bogus personas to target and sway 5,000 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention by attacking Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Mr. Trump’s main opponent at the time,” the Times reports.

The Israeli company, Psy-Group, “is staffed by former Israeli intelligence operatives,” The Times says. Its owner, Joel Zamel, met with Donald Trump Jr. in August of 2016.

That meeting, revealed in May by The Times, was also attended by George Nader, an emissary from the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and by Erik Prince, a Republican donor and the founder of the private security company formerly known as Blackwater.

Prince is also the brother of Betsy DeVos, who went on to become Trump's controversial Education Secretary.

The Times describes to work as “a broad effort to sow disinformation among Republican delegates and general election voters.”

The proposal to gather information about Mrs. Clinton and her aides has elements of traditional opposition research, but it also contains cryptic language that suggests using clandestine means to build “intelligence dossiers.”

The Time adds there is “no evidence that the Trump campaign acted on the proposals. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office has obtained copies of them.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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GOP Candidate Wrote a Book Arguing the Founding Fathers Were Right Not to Abolish Slavery

October 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Ron DeSantis can't run from his racial rhetoric.


Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), the GOP's nominee for governor of Florida, has found himself in yet another controversy over racist rhetoric.

American Ledger, a project of the super PAC American Bridge, has unearthed a series of toxic arguments put forward by DeSantis in his 2011 book, “Dreams from Out Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama,” which he wrote while first running for Congress to bolster his credentials against President Barack Obama.

One of the most disturbing claims he made in the book was that Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice, was wrong to suggest the founding fathers' failure to abolish slavery in the Constitution was a fundamental flaw.

“For someone like Marshall, this failure overshadows the numerous and long-lasting political achievements embodied in the structural foundations of the government that have nothing to do with the institution of slavery,” DeSantis said. But in fact, he went on, the “philosophical foundations of the Constitution are incompatible with slavery,” and bargains like the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted enslaved persons as 3/5ths of a free citizen, actually “benefitted anti-slavery states.”

If DeSantis had simply left it at the fact that tolerating slavery was essential to get the Southern states on board, he might have had a point. But for him to claim the Constitution somehow preordained the end of slavery as written is pure whitewashing, given that it took a bloody civil war to amend it to do so. Furthermore, his claim that allowing slaveowners to get extra congressional apportionment for each enslaved person they owned was somehow a gift to “anti-slavery states” simply defies logic. Not to mention, it is highly offensive for DeSantis to condescendingly say all this as proof that Thurgood Marshall — one of our nation's great constitutional thinkers, and himself a descendant of slaves — didn't know what he was talking about.

For good measure, DeSantis also claimed in his book that Obama was not truly a Christian, but became one out of convenience because “irreligion would be an impediment to forging political relationships.”

DeSantis has been facing …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Case Against Civility

October 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Aeon

German philosopher Jürgen Habermas believed democracy is best served when the public sphere is open and anarchic.


Have we become unreasonable? In democracies around the world, anxious commentators exhort their fellow citizens to be more open-minded, more willing to engage in good-faith debate. In our era of hyperpolarisation, social-media echo chambers and populist demagogues, many have turned to civility as the missing ingredient in our public life.

So, how important is civility for democracy? According to one of the greatest theorists of the democratic public sphere, the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, not very. Habermas is deeply concerned with protecting our ability to solve problems through the use of reason. Yet he believes that democracy is best served when the public sphere is left open, anarchic and conflictual.

For Habermas, the function of public debate is not to find a reasonable common ground. Rather, the public sphere ‘is a warning system’, a set of ‘sensors’ that detect the new needs floating underneath the surface of a supposed political consensus. And if we worry too much about civility and the reasonable middle, we risk limiting the ability of the public sphere to detect new political claims. To get those claims on the agenda in the first place often requires uncivil and confrontational political tactics. 

Habermas’s vision of politics focuses on the power of a wild public sphere. His great fear, one he expresses already in his habilitation thesis in 1962, published in English as The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, is that large-scale, formal political and economic institutions are increasingly shutting themselves off from public criticism. Habermas traces the development of the idea of the critical public in 18th-century Europe, one that would hold state power accountable through the use of reason, and then its decline in an era of public-relations management focused on minimising the role of the public in political decision-making. While Habermas has been accused of romanticising the European Enlightenment, his goal was to draw attention to the stark gap between the ideals of the critical public and the reality of political and social domination.

Like other individuals …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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No Free Speech for Murkowski: Alaska Republicans Consider Reprimanding Senator Over Kavanaugh Vote

October 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Joan McCarter, Daily Kos

Murkowksi lined up all the support she needed at home to take this vote.


If money can embody the First Amendment right to free speech, then how a senator votes sure does, too. But if you're a Republican senator, and you vote against the Russian asset in the Oval Office's choice for the Supreme Court, you might just be foregoing that right.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who voted with her home-state constituents and with her own conscience, is now being threatened by the Alaskan Republican Party, which is considering whether to formally reprimand her.

Tuckerman Babcock, the party chair, tells AP that they have “asked Murkowski to provide any information she might want its state central committee to consider,” and that it could decide to issue a statement, withdraw its support from her, encourage the party to look for a replacement, or ask that she not run for re-election as a Republican.

Murkowksi lined up all the support she needed at home to take this vote, so she's probably not terribly frightened by this. So she should give the following statement: “I won a write-in campaign in 2010, when my name had to be correctly spelled on every vote for me. M.U.R.K.O.W.S.K.I. Do your best, assholes.”

Then declare herself independent and starting voting with the Democrats. Clearly, she can't be a Republican unless she declares total fealty to Trump.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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There's New Evidence a Plant-Rich Diets May Help Prevent Depression

October 8, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

A poor diet can cause damage to the brain.


Being depressed can negatively affect your appetite and what you eat, but can bad eating habits bring your mood down? Our latest study, a systematic review of the best available evidence, found a clear link between the quality of a person’s diet and their risk of depression. And it goes beyond the effect of diet on body size or other aspects of health that can affect mental health.

We took extra care in including only studies that took age, sex, income, body size, general health, smoking and physical activity into account in their analyses. That way we could be sure that the associations between diet and the risk of depression are independent of these factors.

We aggregated the results of several studies and found a clear pattern that following a healthier, plant-rich, anti-inflammatory diet can help prevent depression. Of the 41 studies in our review, four specifically looked at the link between a traditional Mediterranean diet and depression over time on 36,556 adults. We found that people with a more Mediterranean-like diet had a 33% lower risk of developing depression than people whose diet least resembled a Mediterranean diet.

Following a traditional Mediterranean diet, that is avoiding processed foods and foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar (pro-inflammatory foods) and favouring foods rich in omega-3, fibre, vitamins, magnesium and polyphenols, can reduce the risk of depression.

Biological explanation

Diet can influence mental health by causing damage to the brain. This can be due to oxidative stress (a harmful chemical process), insulin resistance, changes in blood flow and inflammation. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant components, commonly found in fruit, vegetables, nuts and wine (which should be drunk in moderation), can directly affect the brain by protecting it from oxidative stress and inflammation. Inflammation can also affect the neurotransmitters (the brain’s messenger molecules) responsible for regulating emotion.

Recent research in humans also suggests that diet can affect the formation of brain cells (neurons), particularly in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is associated with mood regulation.

There is also …read more

Source: ALTERNET