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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


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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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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


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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


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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


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Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End

October 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Priti Gulati Cox, Stan Cox, Independent Media Institute

Central Americans fleeing mortal danger may now be forced into deciding between having their children either incarcerated for years or taken away from them.

From the early days of the Trump administration, the White House and Justice Department have obsessively sought to separate asylum-seeking parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border. The American people and the courts have mounted fierce resistance to this sadistic practice, but Trump’s men will not be deterred.

Separation continues despite having been officially forbidden by the courts. Last week, the White House announced a desire to revive explicit separation, potentially through this policy described by the Washington Post:

“One option under consideration is for the government to detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days, then give parents a choice—stay in family detention with their child for months or years as their immigration case proceeds, or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians can seek custody.”

That’s a Sophie’s choice, but the authorities are using a less emotional, more technocratic term: “binary choice.”

So Central Americans fleeing mortal danger back home and facing murderous cartels in Mexico may now be forced into deciding between having their children either incarcerated for years or taken away from them, perhaps never to be seen again. They cannot take solace in the possibility that “other relatives… can seek custody.” Even now, relatives applying to become guardians of seized children are themselves being subjected to investigation and possible deportation.

All this is happening to refugees even though they set out on their arduous, dangerous journey simply to claim their rights to asylum hearings as provided under U.S. law. For months, immigrants seeking safety through the legally prescribed mechanism—by presenting themselves at official U.S. border crossings and requesting asylum—have been turned away by border patrol agents (recently supported at some locations by Mexican agents).

Such refusals are contrary to federal law and have the predictable effect of pushing asylum seekers into covert crossings elsewhere. That exposes them to arrest, and if they have children, to separation.

The “binary …read more


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Take Passenger Trains off Life Support

October 19, 2018 in Economics

By Randal O’Toole

Randal O’Toole

San Francisco’s brand new $2.2 billion transit center,
which was built to house the terminus of a high-speed rail line
that California can’t afford to build, is already falling apart. Amtrak’s
Boston-to-Washington corridor has $52 billion in maintenance needs. Rail transit
systems in New York, Washington, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San
Francisco, and Atlanta have maintenance backlogs that are
approaching $100 billion.

I’ve loved passenger trains ever since I was five years
old. But I also know that subsidies to inefficient technologies
reduce productivity and usually result in transfers from the poor
to the wealthy. It’s hard to admit, but it’s time we
take passenger rail off life support.

In 1900, rail transit and intercity trains were the high-tech
industries of the day. Most urban jobs were in factories and most
factories were in downtowns. Streetcars and rapid transit trains
whose average speeds were about 15 miles per
hour—considerably faster than the alternative, which was
walking—connected residential areas with those downtowns. The
downtowns also held great passenger stations for intercity

While many look upon that era with nostalgia, what they forget
is that, even then, passenger rail was expensive and used mainly by
the elites. Working-class employees couldn’t afford
streetcars and generally walked to work. Intercity train travel was
for the middle and upper classes. At the peak of the Golden Age of
rail travel in 1920, streetcars and trains moved Americans an
average of about 1,200 miles a year, which means it moved some
people a lot and most hardly at all.

Today the urban landscape has dramatically changed. Downtowns
hold, on average, less than 8 percent of urban jobs. Most jobs
are in service industries—retail, health care, education,
etc.—that are finely spread across the landscape. These jobs
are not well served by infrastructure-heavy rail transit systems
that are expensive to build and expensive to maintain. Urban
transit speeds still average about 15 miles per hour, while driving in most urban
areas is at least twice as fast.

The average American today travels more than 15,000 miles a
year, mostly by automobile. Even most low-income families have
access to a car, which is one reason transit ridership is steadily
falling. Rail transit in particular is still used mainly by the
elites, with the average income of transit commuters being
considerably higher than the national average.

Amtrak fares average twice as much as airfares, and when all
subsidies are counted it costs Amtrak nearly four times as much to
move one person one mile as it costs the airlines. Similarly, urban
transit costs more than four times as much, per passenger mile, …read more

Source: OP-EDS