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Rod Rosenstein Delivers a Forceful Rebuttal to Trump and Other Critics of the Russia Probe in New Interview

October 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Trump has repeatedly called the investigation a “witch hunt.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered a direct repudiation in a new interview for those who attack and denigrate the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team on the Russia investigation. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Rosenstein said the investigation has been “appropriate and independent” — a stark contrast to opponents who say it is a corrupt and biased attempt to attack President Donald Trump.

Among those critics, of course, is the president himself.

But while Rosenstein came out strong against the type of bellicose rhetoric Trump favors — he often calls the Mueller probe a “witch hunt,” sometimes in all caps — the deputy attorney general was careful to thread the needle to avoid directly criticizing the man who could fire him.

“The president knows that I am prepared to do this job as long as he wants me to do this job,” he told the paper. “You serve at the pleasure of the president, and there’s never been any ambiguity about that in my mind.”

Just a few short weeks ago, Rosenstein was assumed to be a goner. Multiple outlets said he had been fired or resigned from the administration after a New York Times report found that he had discussed wiretapping the president and floated using the 25th amendment to remove him from office.

But despite that ruckus, Rosenstein remains employed, at least for now.

While he appears to have won the president's approval temporarily — all bets are off after the midterms — he also appears to be keeping to his promise of protecting the integrity of the investigation.

“I committed I would ensure the investigation was appropriate and independent and reached the right result, whatever it may be,” he said. “I believe I have been faithful to that.”

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Here's How Activists Raised a Stunning $100,000 in 70 Minutes to Defeat Native American Voter Suppression in North Dakota

October 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Daily Kos set up a donation page to fund the effort to help Native American voters update their tribal IDs to vote.

Democrats' most vulnerable Senate seat up for re-election this year, by far, is Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's seat in North Dakota, who faces a challenge from GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer. And a new GOP voter suppression law targeted at the state's Native Americans — a core part of Heitkamp's voting coalition — threatens to depress Democratic turnout even further.

But progressive activists are stepping up and taking this threat to voting rights seriously.

On Wednesday, Daily Kos set up a crowdfunding page with the goal of raising $100,000 to help Native American tribes in North Dakota get their members into compliance with the new voting law. The response was so immediate and overwhelming that within 70 minutes, Daily Kos had met its goal.

North Dakota is the only state in the country that does not have pre-election voter registration. Instead, voters show up the day of the election and present identification proving their residency (or include it with their absentee ballot). But this year, Republicans passed a new law greatly restricting the types of valid ID, by requiring the ID include the voter's residential street address. That is a problem for Native American tribal members, because many of them do not actually have residential street addresses — the Post Office does not generally assign them to the tribes. So many Native Americans in North Dakota simply list their P.O. box on …read more


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These 5 Senators Are Demanding Answers About Jamal Khashoggi's Disappearance — Here's Why

October 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The Trump administration's botched response has been shameful.

When it comes to the shocking disappearance of veteran Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi—who was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2—Saudi Arabia’s government can’t keep its story straight. First, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, insisted that Khashoggi freely left the Consulate on October 2 and that he wasn’t harmed in any way. But they didn’t offer a shred of evidence to back up that claim. And after Turkish government officials—along with the New York Times, CNN and others—presented an abundance of evidence indicating that Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents inside the Consulate that day, the Saudi royal family appeared to be changing its story and claiming that Khashoggi was the victim of an interrogation gone wrong (one neither King Salman nor Crown Prince Mohammed had authorized).

President Donald Trump, who sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to meet with the royal family on October 16, has been taking Salman and Mohammed at their word and parroting their claim that perhaps “rogue killers” were behind Khashoggi’s disappearance. But others in the U.S. government have been much more aggressive when addressing the scandal, including some Republicans who are usually in lockstep with Trump—and everyone from Sen. Lindsey Graham to Sen. Bernie Sanders has been speaking out.

Here are five U.S. senators who are demanding answers about Khashoggi’s disappearance.

1. Sen. Bernie Sanders

Trump has characterized the Turkish government’s allegation that the Saudi royal family sent a hit squad to Istanbul to have Khashoggi murdered as an example of “guilty under proven innocent”—and Trump even compared the allegations to the sexual misconduct allegations recently made against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who he insists was the victim of false accusations. When CNN’s Chris Cuomo mentioned Trump’s Saudi/Kavanaugh comparison during an October 16 interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator hit the roof.

Sanders fumed, “Here you have a guy who was a critic of the despotic Saudi …read more


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Why Mexican Americans Say ‘The Border Crossed Us’

October 17, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

A painting depicting the final hours of the Battle of the Alamo with former congressman and frontiersman Davey Crockett in the foreground.

Before Texas was a U.S. state, it was its own independent nation where both Mexicans and white immigrants were citizens. But during the nine years that the Republic of Texas existed, Mexicans became suspect outsiders as white settlers made it more difficult for them to vote and hold onto their land.

White settlers did this by targeting Mexicans with voting laws and taxes, suing for possession of their land and targeting them with police violence. This presaged the way the U.S. would treat Mexicans in California and the New Mexico territory when it gained this land from Mexico in 1848—as foreigners who had less right to be there than the white settlers who’d moved in.

In 1841, future Texas governor Peter Hansborough Bell bizarrely asserted that “Mexicans disguised as Indians are formidable in depredating on the property of Citizens on the Border.” Bell would go on to lead the Texas Rangers, a police force that inflicted violence on Mexican and Native peoples.

In fact, the land that had become Texas originally belonged to Mexicans who had won their independence from Spain in 1821. It had been inhabited by Native peoples and tejanos, or Texas Mexicans. Soon, anglo immigrants from the U.S. and Europe moved into Texas, bringing enslaved people of African descent with them. Texas then gained independence from Mexico through the Texas Revolution in 1835 and ‘36, and emerged as its own nation: the Republic of Texas.

Mexican soldiers storm the Alamo on March 6, 1836, to defeat and kill the Texas soldiers within during the Texas War for Independence.

In the beginning, there wasn’t a stark political inequality between anglos and tejanos in the Republic of Texas. More to the point, tejanos weren’t viewed as outsiders who didn’t belong. Both anglos and tejanos could be full citizens. But for tejanos, it was “kind of mixed bag,” says Raúl Ramos, a history professor at the University of Houston. Tejanos had citizenship rights, with a caveat. Over time, anglos restricted tejanos’ access to voting and land, outnumbered them in government positions, and targeted them with police violence.

“There were a few tejanos who served in the republic congress and they managed to have laws included that would, for instance, translate all …read more


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'I Don't Give a Damn Who You Work For': Jared Kushner's Secret Service Detail Blocks Reporter from Questioning the Beleaguered Trump Son-in-Law

October 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The influential son-in-law of the president never gives interviews.

A Secret Service agent blocked CBS reporter Erroll Barnett from questioning President Donald Trump's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner as he exited a plane on Tuesday.

Barnett tried to explain that he was credentialed reporter, but the agent shot back: “I don't give a damn who you are. There's a time and a place.”

The Secret Service has said it is investigating the incident.

As Barnett pointed out on Twitter where he posted a video of the encounter, it's not clear when this “time and place” is. Despite Kushner's work on high profile foreign and domestic issues in a position obtained solely through blatantly corrupt nepotism, the first son-in-law is highly averse to responding to press inquiries and almost always refuses to sit for press interviews — even with a friendly outlet like Fox News.

And Kushner is of greater interest than ever before as the relationship with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is throwing the United States' Middle East policy into chaos. New revelations suggesting the prince or others in the regime intentionally had Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi murdered at a consulate in Turkey have drawn harsh criticism to the cozy relationship between the Trump administration and Saudi, which has been fostered to a significant degree by Kushner.

CNN reported Wednesday that Kushner has intentionally tried to avoid public scrutiny as the Khashoggi story has snowballed.

As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni said of Kushner — America's own “crown prince” — “He has his usual moral laryngitis. He’s integral when there’s the hope of credit, invisible when there’s the certainty of blame.”

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'A License to Kill': Conservative Writer Argues Trump Is Empowering Dictators Abroad — Here's How

October 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“This is a good time to be a dictator — and a dangerous time to be a dissident.”

Why would Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at a crucial time in his assent, risk it all with a precarious scheme to murder a critical journalist — as multiple reports suggest he has?

Perhaps he thought he could get away with it. After all, President Donald Trump has given him every reason to think he could.

That's what Max Boot, conservative commentator for the Washington Post, argued in a new column Wednesday.

“Now President Trump gives every indication that, far from fighting for freedom, he would rather fight against it,” wrote Boot.

He continued:

This is the president who said it’s “great” that Xi is declaring himself ruler for life, praised Duterte for the “unbelievable job” he was doing “on the drug problem,” congratulated Recep Tayyip Erdogan for winning a rigged referendum that spelled the death of Turkish democracy, and declared his “love” for Kim Jong Un of North Korea. When confronted by Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” about Kim’s catalogue of crime — “repression, gulags, starvation” — Trump was dismissive. “I get along with him really well,” Trump said. “I have a good energy with him.” He was equally blasé when Stahl asked him about reports that Putin is involved in “assassinations” and “poisonings.” He probably is, Trump conceded — but “it’s not in our country,” so who cares? Britain can deal with Russian hit teams on its own.

Boot argued that Trump doesn't care about how these dictators treat their own people — only how they treat him.

It's one of the most troubling elements of Trump's rise. As a political neophyte when he threw his hat in the ring for president, many could have hoped that Trump would have followed his party's lead on foreign policy matters. But Trump's early bizarre affection for Russia's Vladimir Putin turns out not to have been a unique aberration from GOP orthodoxy but a sign of his political disposition. Even though the GOP has shown its willingness to accommodate authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia …read more


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The Economic Bedrock of Foreign Direct Investment

October 17, 2018 in Economics

By Daniel J. Ikenson

Daniel J. Ikenson

President Trump famously complains about the “unfair” practices
of U.S. trading partners. If only those foreign cheats could be
compelled to play by the rules, Trump argues, the United States
wouldn’t be getting ripped off, running trade deficits, and losing
hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

The fact is, however, that the trade deficit has nothing to do
with unfair trade and everything to do with the world’s confidence
in the U.S. economy. If anything, annual trade deficits mean the
United States is winning hundreds of billions of dollars in net
inflows of foreign investment every year. Inward investment —
rather than export growth — is the real prize of
international competition and it tends to reward good policies.

The United States has long been the world’s premiere destination
for foreign direct investment. In 2017, the accumulated stock of
FDI in the United States surpassed $4 trillion, which accounts for
nearly 25 percent of the total global stock. By comparison, the
second largest destination is Hong Kong, which accounts for 6
percent. China and the United Kingdom account for roughly 5 percent

With one out of every four dollars of global FDI invested in
U.S. subsidiaries of foreign headquartered companies
(“international companies”), the United States enjoys economic
advantages that no other country has. A reportpublished this morning by the Organization for
International Investment
documents the significant contributions
of these companies to the U.S. economy.

These international companies tend to be among the best in their
industries, having succeeded in their home markets before taking
their best practices and testing their mettle abroad. They have
contributed disproportionately to U.S. economic performance over
the years, as observed across of variety of objective measures.
Even though these entities as a group comprise a mere 1.3 percent
of all U.S. businesses, collectively they punch well above their
weight, accounting for:

  • 5.5 percent of all private-sector employment
  • 6.5 percent of U.S. GDP (private-sector value added)
  • 14.8 percent of U.S. private-sector employee benefits
  • 16.0 percent of new private-sector, non-residential capital
  • 16.7 percent of private-sector research and development
  • 17.1 percent of all corporate federal taxes paid
  • 23.5 percent of U.S. exports
  • 24.3 percent higher worker compensation than the U.S.
    private-sector average

These direct contributions — and there are many more
telling statistics in the report — provide only a partial
picture of the impact of international companies on the

The full story must take into account the related economic
activity that is spurred upstream of these companies with their
suppliers, vendors, and intermediate goods’ providers, as well as
the activity generated downstream through the spending of their
employees. It must also consider the effects of these companies on
the U.S. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The CIA Recruited 'Mind Readers' to Spy on the Soviets in the 1970s

October 17, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Project Star Gate operated between 1972 and 1995 and attempted to offer, in the words of one congressman, “a hell of a cheap radar system.”

A highly classified U.S. government project tried to harness psychic abilities for espionage.

During the tense period of the , the declassified documents show that CIA analysts wanted to probe Geller’s abilities in the area of “mind projection” and its possible use for national security purposes.

According to Jacobsen, Geller played a key role in setting into motion the U.S. government’s investigation into ESP and psychokinesis. In the winter of 1975, she writes, Geller even took part in a series of classified psychokinesis tests at a lab in Livermore, California, where scientists were developing advanced nuclear warheads, laser systems and other emerging weapons technologies.

In one experiment for the CIA, Geller was isolated in a room and told a picture had been drawn. He then drew a picture of a square with diagonals drawn.

The CIA shut down its work with ESP in the late 1970s, and the program moved to the U.S. Army’s Fort Meade in Maryland, where it was funded by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Over the better part of the next two decades, Congress continued to approve funds for the remote viewing program.

“It seems to me a hell of a cheap radar system,” Rep. Charlie Rose of North Carolina told fellow members of the House Select Committee on Intelligence during a meeting about psychic research in 1979. “And if the Russians have it and we don’t, we’re in serious trouble.”

Psychics helped with top-secret programs.

Army veteran Joseph McMoneagle stood out among the remote viewers who worked with the government’s top-secret program. As he later told the Washington Post, McMoneagle was involved in some 450 missions between 1978 to 1984, including helping the Army locate hostages in Iran and pointing CIA agents to the shortwave radio concealed in the pocket calculator of a suspected KGB agent captured in South Africa.

Another remote viewer, Angela Dellafiora Ford, was asked in 1989 to help track down a former customs agent who had gone on the run, she recounted recently on the CBS News program 48 Hours. She was able to pinpoint the man’s location as “Lowell, Wyoming,” even as U.S. Customs was apprehending him 100 miles west of a Wyoming town called Lovell.

Publicly, the Pentagon continued to deny it …read more


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Khashoggi’s Death Is Highlighting the Ottoman-Saudi Islamic Rift

October 17, 2018 in Economics

By Mustafa Akyol

Mustafa Akyol

The apparent abduction, and probable murder, of the prominent
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
on Oct. 2 unmasked the ugly despotism behind the reformist image of
the kingdom’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Less noticed,
however, is the way this scandal revealed a long-running rivalry
between the two countries that directly butted heads at the outset:
Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The foundation of the rift lies in the countries’ distinct
versions of Sunni Islam—versions that have evolved within
very different historical trajectories and that have produced
contrasting visions about the contemporary Middle East.

If the present crisis forces the non-Muslim world to choose sides
between these religious models, the decision should be easy.

Both are flawed, but based on their past actions and ideas for the
future, only one of them deserves international support.

This is a story that goes back to the 18th century. Then, much
of what we call “the Middle East” today, including the
more habitable part of the Arabian Peninsula, was part of the
Ottoman Empire, ruled from Istanbul, then called Constantinople, by
a cosmopolitan elite of mainly Turks and Balkan Muslims, including
Bosnians and Albanians. The Hejaz, the western region of the
Arabian Peninsula that included the holy cities of Mecca and
Medina, was revered for religious reasons, but it was a backwater
with no political or cultural significance.

In the 1740s, in the most isolated central area of the Arabian
Peninsula, called Najd, a scholar named Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab
emerged with a fiery call for the restoration of “true
Islam.” He had revived Hanbalism, the most dogmatic of the
four main Sunni schools, with a passion to renounce and attack
“apostate” Muslims, which included Shiites but also
fellow Sunnis such as Ottomans. The latter was guilty of various
“innovations” in religion—a term that amounts to
“heresy” in Christianity—such as Sufi mysticism
and venerations of shrines.

The journalist’s
suspected murder, and its aftermath, was the latest battle of a
300-year war over Sunni Islam.

Wahhab soon allied with a chieftain called Ibn Saud—the
founder of the Saudi dynasty. The First Saudi State they
established together grew in size and ambition, leading to a big
massacre of Shiites in Karbala in 1801 and the occupation of Mecca
in 1803. The Ottomans crushed the Wahhabi revolt in 1812 via their
protectorate in Egypt, and Wahhabism retreated to the desert.

Another tumult in Hejaz occurred in 1856 when the Ottomans,
thanks to the influence of their British allies, introduced another
heretical “innovation”: the banning of slave trade,
which was then a lucrative business between the Africa coast and
the Arabian city of Jeddah. At …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Ben Carson Takes on High Housing Costs

October 17, 2018 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

When Ben Carson was appointed the nation’s 17th secretary of
housing and urban development, there were ample reasons to doubt
his qualifications, and the first few months of his time in office
were largely dominated by missteps and misstatements, including a
mini-scandal over a $31,000 dining table, which seemed to validate
his critics.

But since then, Carson has quietly pushed a number of policy
initiatives that could cement his legacy as one of Trump’s most
consequential cabinet members. If successful, Carson’s efforts
could be some of the biggest boosts for the poor and disadvantaged
to come out of Washington in quite some time.

Carson has not hesitated to challenge many of his department’s
sacred cows. He’s called for the elimination of Community
Development Block Grants, long known as a source of both corruption
and political patronage, and he’s been willing to slash some of the
bureaucratic red tape that has long afflicted HUD. He’s also shown
a willingness to adjust rents in public housing in an effort to
control the department’s ballooning expenditures.

By setting his sights on
local zoning and land-use laws, the HUD secretary might just help
millions of poor Americans — and silence his critics in the

But Carson’s most important initiative — and the one that
holds the most promise — is his full-frontal assault on
zoning and land-use ordinances that deprive the poor of affordable

Born largely out of racism (Baltimore’s zoning laws, for
instance, explicitly prohibited anyone from buying a house or
renting on a block where more than half the residents were of a
different race), zoning has evolved into a tool for wealthy
property owners to protect their property values at the expense of
the poor and minorities. It is a simple question of supply and
demand: By restricting the supply of new housing, zoning and
land-use regulations drive up the cost of housing and rents beyond
the reach of many poor Americans. Studies show that such
regulations add as much as 20 percent to the cost of a home in
Baltimore, Boston, and Washington, 30 percent in Los Angeles and
Oakland, and an astounding 50 percent or more in cities such as San
Francisco, New York, and San Jose.

Is it any wonder that the poor have trouble finding affordable

The traditional response to this regulation-driven increase in
housing costs has been to simply chase rising costs with higher
subsidies. That is the approach currently championed by California
senator and probable 2020 presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who
has sponsored legislation that would provide a tax credit to
subsidize rents for families earning as much as $125,000 per year
whose …read more

Source: OP-EDS