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Chinese and Russian Spies Have Tapped Trump's Personal Phone — But He's Ignored All the Warnings: Report

October 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

He just won't listen to good advice.


President Donald Trump has been spied on by both Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies that have hacked into his personal phone while in office, according to a new report in the New York Times Wednesday.

The report says Trump has been repeatedly warned that his personal iPhone is not secure, but he persists in using it anyway. Aides just hope, according to the Times, that he isn't divulging any classified information on the calls. However, even without giving up state secrets, the report suggests that the spies could obtain valuable information about the president's dispositions, intentions and actions.

The report continued:

Mr. Trump’s use of his iPhones was detailed by several current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could discuss classified intelligence and sensitive security arrangements. The officials said they were doing so not to undermine Mr. Trump, but out of frustration with what they considered the president’s casual approach to electronic security.

American spy agencies, the officials said, had learned that China and Russia were eavesdropping on the president’s cellphone calls from human sources inside foreign governments and intercepting communications between foreign officials.

The officials said they have also determined that China is seeking to use what it is learning from the calls — how Mr. Trump thinks, what arguments tend to sway him and to whom he is inclined to listen — to keep a trade war with the United States from escalating further. In what amounts to a marriage of lobbying and espionage, the Chinese have pieced together a list of the people with whom Mr. Trump regularly speaks in hopes of using them to influence the president, the officials said.

 

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Source: ALTERNET

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The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

October 24, 2018 in History

By Becky Little


The Fugitive Slave, painted by John Adam Houston.

The Underground Railroad ran south as well as north. For slaves in Texas, refuge in Canada must have seemed impossibly far away. Fortunately, slavery was also illegal in Mexico.

Researchers estimate 5,000 to 10,000 people escaped from bondage into Mexico, says Maria Hammack, who is writing her dissertation about this topic at the University of Texas at Austin. But she thinks the actual number could be even higher.

“These were clandestine routes and if you got caught you would be killed and lynched, so most people didn’t leave a lot of records,” says Hammack.

There’s some evidence that tejanos, or Mexicans in Texas, acted as “conductors” on the southern route by helping people get to Mexico. In addition, Hammack has also identified a black woman and two white men who helped enslaved workers escape and tried to find a home for them in Mexico.


A slave auction in Austin, Texas.

Mexico abolished slavery in 1829 when Texas was still part of the country, prompting white, slave-holding immigrants to fight for independence in the Texas Revolution. Once they formed the Republic of Texas in 1836, they made slavery legal again, and it continued to be legal when Texas joined the U.S. as a state in 1845.

Enslaved people in Texas were aware that there was a country to the south where they could find different levels of freedom (though indentured servitude existed in Mexico, it was not the same as chattel slavery). Hammack has discovered one runaway named Tom who had been enslaved by Sam Houston. Houston was a president of the Republic of Texas who’d fought in the Texas Revolution. Once Tom got across the border, he joined the Mexican military that Houston had fought against.

Enslaved people got to Mexico in many different ways. Some went on foot, while others rode horses or snuck aboard ferries bound for Mexican ports. Stories spread about enslaved people who crossed the Rio Grande river dividing Texas from Mexico by floating on bales of cotton, and several Texas newspapers reported in July 1863 that three enslaved people had escaped this way. Even if this wasn’t logistically possible, the imagery of floating to freedom on a symbol of slavery was strong.

Fugitive Slave Acts (TV-PG; 1:57)

But it wasn’t only enslaved people in Texas who found freedom in Mexico. …read more

Source: HISTORY

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White Nationalist Congressman Blew $18,000 in Taxpayer Money on Refreshments at Private D.C. Club: Report

October 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

On top of everything else, Rep. Steve King is wasting public money.


On Wednesday, The Intercept reported that Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the most overtly white nationalist member of Congress, has charged the taxpayers $18,000 over 14 years for food and drink at the Capitol Hill Club, a private restaurant reserved exclusively for Republican politicians and their guests:

The pricey membership club, located just across the street from the Cannon House Office Building and next to the Republican National Committee, is known as a convenient venue for lobbyists-hosted fundraisers. Meals there are costly: The breakfast buffet events run $34 per person and the chicken breast dinner costs $49.

King has expensed meals at the private club going back to 2004, just two years after he entered federal office. King’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Lawmakers receive a special allowance for staff, travel, and constituent services-related purchases, as well as an expense account for costs associated with fulfilling official duties. Some lawmakers apportion part of their expenses for caucus retreats with fellow lawmakers or to spend it on policy-related conferences.

At least some of the expenses at the club appear to be connected to events hosted by the Conservative Opportunity Society, a congressional caucus King has led since 2015. The group meets on Wednesday mornings for breakfast, typically at the Capitol Hill Club. The group has used the taxpayer-funded events to hear remarks from a variety of conservative celebrities and authors, such as anti-Muslim activist Brigitte Gabriel and neoconservative author Bill Kristol.

As The Intercept notes, despite King having sunk so much taxpayer money into catered policy events associated with his caucus, the group has only one bill listed on its website: King's 2017 “fetal heartbeat” bill that would prohibit abortions past the sixth week of pregnancy.

King is best known for inciting racial controversies. He has stated that most Mexican-Americans are drug mules who have “calves the size of cantaloupes,” and that American society should be more racially “homogeneous” because “we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.” He has promoted white nationalist propaganda, retweeted a neo-Nazi who has praised …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'We Don't Have a Functioning Government!': MSNBC Guest Slams Trump as a 'Child' Surrounded by Scared and Weak Subordinates

October 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The federal government lurches to work on Trump's every whim.


In response to President Donald Trump's constant lying about issues like the immigration and his leaping into new projects like the “Space Force” on whims, many reporters have observed that the White House and the rest of the administration often has to scramble to respond to his latest tweets or off-the-cuff remarks in order to make them a reality.

MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace observed on her show “Deadline: White House” Wednesday that this often puts the administration of acting as the president's de facto campaigners — even when that might be inappropriate — to get his message out.

But Jason Johnson, politics editor for The Root, argued that it's even more troubling than that. Trump and his administration's behavior show that no one is really in charge of the government.

“It reminds me of that old Twilight Zone movie about that kid who had powers,” he said. “And everyone had to pretend that they wanted to do what he wanted to do, even if he wanted cereal all day.”

He continued: “This takes me back to that mystery letter that showed up in the New York Times. If these people really do care about America, if there's supposed some sort of internal cabal in Washington, D.C., that cares about our safety and security, these are the times that they should be stepping up. These are the times that they should be walking into that White House saying, 'No.' These are the times where they should say, 'You know, we're not going to waste any time with this. We're not going to do anything with interns. We're going to put you out on the campaign trail.'”

“As long as people have these sort of feckless responses where they're going to write about what they're doing, but don't do anything and still allow this administration to use all of its resources to demonize groups of people and waste our time, we don't have a functioning government. We have a child who has magical powers that are only emboldened by the weak people around him,” he concluded.

“And maybe, in 15 days, that little child will be investigated by a Democratically …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Republicans Release Ad Declaring George Soros a 'Radical' Just Days After He Received a Bomb in the Mail

October 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

They are absolutely shameless.


House Republicans have not backed down from their cynical and relentless attacks against billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, releasing a new ad Wednesday smearing him as a “radical” just days after he received a bomb in the mail.

Also on Wednesday, several key Democratic figures and CNN received packages containing similar explosive devices

The National Republican Campaign Committee has already targeted Soros, who has become a boogeyman for on the right wing, often posited as the funder behind anything conservatives don't like — such as caravan of immigrants in Central America or anti-Trump protests — without any basis in fact.

Wednesday's ad is an attack on Minnesota Democratic House candidate Dan Feehan.

“Look at who finances Dan Feehan’s employer,” the ad says. “Radical George Soros, Wall Street’s biggest banks, a crooked lobbyist tied to Pelosi.”

Watch the ad below:

In a similarly callous fashion, the Trump campaign sent out a fundraising email Wednesday attacking CNN, even as the network was still evacuated from its studios and offices because of the bomb it had received. The campaign later apologized for this email.

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Source: ALTERNET

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'Fox & Friends' Host Claims that He Accidentally Donated to Trump's Campaign

October 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

This is in addition to the full-time propaganda the network produces for Trump.


In a new interview with The Hill, “Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade revealed that he donated to President Donald Trump's campaign in 2016 — a donation, he says, that was completely unintentional.

He made the mistake, he said, when he bought $600 worth of Trump campaign Christmas ornaments.

“I had no idea that this would be considered a donation,” Kilmeade told The Hill. “I'm looking for something cool and unique for Christmas for adults after this historic election.”

As the outlet makes clear, anyone buying products from a campaign's website should be completely aware that such purchases are legally considered donations. Purchasers can add an additional amount as a donation to the campaign over and above the purchase price, and users of the website also must enter their occupation upon making the purchase, in compliance with federal election law.

“[The ornaments were] a little expensive in retrospect, but that was it,” Kilmeade said. “I had no idea that would go to a campaign contribution.”

When reached for comment by The Hill, Fox News said, “it does not prohibit talent from buying holiday ornaments.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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This Wealthy Woman Was Hanged as a Witch for Speaking Her Mind

October 24, 2018 in History

By John Seven

It all started with a fight with carpenters working on her house.


A 19th-century illustration depicting the execution of Anne Hibbins in 1656.

Anne Hibbins was not popular in her Boston community in the mid-1600s. There was her privilege, her demanding standards and her penchant for speaking her mind.

When Hibbins’ husband died in 1654, she became vulnerable—on June 19, 1656, she was hanged for being a witch. It would be some 35 years before rampant accusations of witchcraft consumed the nearby town of Salem, but Hibbins’ conviction would lay bare the vulnerability of women in patriarchal New England of the 1600s. It was later said that Hibbins “was hanged for a witch, only for having more wit than her neighbors.”

“The fact that the widow of one of the Governor’s Assistants, one of the most powerful men in the colony, could be accused, convicted and executed for witchcraft, shows that no one was safe from accusations of witchcraft in early Massachusetts,” says Emerson Baker, a historian at Salem State University and author of A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience. “Indeed, widows were all too vulnerable, as their husbands could not defend them in court.”

Read more: 5 Notable Women Hanged in the Salem Witch Trials

Hibbins came to Boston from Shropshire, England, with her second husband, William, who became a deputy for Boston to the General Court.

If Anne Hibbins makes any dent in the popular imagination it’s probably in book reports and English lit class term papers that mention her as a fictional character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Throughout Hawthorne’s 1850 novel, Hester Prynne encounters a witch named Mistress Hibbins who at one point invites Hester to come sign “the Black Man’s book” with her own blood. Later, Hibbins reveals she has known Hester’s secrets all along and has kept them to herself, showing disdain for the hypocritical judgment of the Puritans in favor of higher forces.

The real Anne Hibbins was probably less mysterious and more forthright in public, but she certainly would have approved of her fictional counterpart’s view of hypocrisy in Puritanical Massachusetts.


Mistress Hibbins from “The Scarlet Letter.”

It started with a dispute with carpenters.

Hibbins came to Boston from Shropshire, England, with her second husband, William, who became a deputy for Boston to the General Court. Her first transgression against the community was a 1640 dispute …read more

Source: HISTORY

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These Are the 6 Essential Traits a President Needs, Says Doris Kearns Goodwin

October 24, 2018 in History

By Doris Kearns Goodwin

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian studied presidential leadership during times of national strife. These six videos reveal her top takeaways.

Everywhere I go lately people stop to ask me: Are these the worst of times?

No, history reassures us.

Imagine Abraham Lincoln entering the White House with the country about to rupture into a civil war that would leave more than 600,000 dead. Theodore Roosevelt was thrust into office when conflict between the rich and the poor had grown so intense that talk of revolution filled the air. Franklin Roosevelt came to power when the Great Depression had paralyzed the economy and the spirit of the country. Lyndon Johnson took office in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination when a civil-rights bill was mired in Congress and racial issues seared the country.

Each situation cried out for leadership, and each of these four men was particularly fitted for the times, as I explore in my new book, Leadership: In Turbulent Times.

Although set apart in background, abilities and temperament, my guys—as I respectfully call Lincoln, the two Roosevelts and Johnson after living with them for so many decades—shared a fierce ambition and a deep-seated resilience that enabled them to surmount uncommon adversity.

At their best, all four were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenge, all sought to heal divisions, to bring various parts of the country together, to summon the citizenry to a sense of common purpose. They were able to use their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others.

Lincoln was a leader both merciful and merciless, confident and humble, patient and persistent—able to sustain our spirits and translate the meaning of the struggle into words of matchless force, clarity and beauty. Theodore Roosevelt’s spirited combativeness was perfectly suited to the task of mobilizing the country and the press to deal with voracious monopolies and Industrial Age inequities. Franklin Roosevelt’s confidence and infectious optimism restored the hope and earned the trust of the American people through both the Great Depression and World War II. And Lyndon Johnson’s Southern roots and legislative wizardry ideally fitted him for the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Midterm Ballot Initiatives Matter, Too

October 24, 2018 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

We are now less than two weeks away from what promise to be
enormously consequential midterm elections. Most of the attention
so far has understandably been focused on the battle for control of
Congress. That contest, according to current polls, is likely to
end up in something of a draw, with Democrats taking control of the
House while Republicans pick up a couple of seats in the Senate.
There will also be important down-ballot races, with Democrats
expected to pick up several governorships and make limited gains in
state legislatures.

Often overlooked, however, will be several important ballot
measures that could have a far more direct impact on people’s lives
than the high-profile races that receive all the news coverage.

For instance, despite President Trump’s bizarre assertion that
Congress will pass a middle-class tax cut in the next two weeks,
congressional action on taxes is not happening any time soon. But
in six states, voters will have the opportunity to cap, limit, or
restrict taxes.

While the world’s
attention is understandably fixed on the fight for Congress,
Election Day will also see hundreds of consequential measures put
before voters.

Arizona voters will consider whether to prohibit new or
increased taxes on real-estate transactions, banking, investment
management, health care, and other services.

In Florida, voters will vote on two anti-tax measures. The first
would make permanent a 10 percent cap on property taxes that is
currently set to expire next year. The second would require a
two-thirds supermajority in both chambers of the legislature to
raise taxes.

Oregon voters will also have the chance to impose a
supermajority requirement for new taxes, in this case, three-fifths
rather than two-thirds. What’s more, Oregonians will vote on
whether to prohibit both state and local governments from taxing
groceries. A similar ban on grocery taxes (applying to just local
governments) will also be on the ballot in Washington.

In North Carolina, voters will decide whether to cut the top
state-income-tax rate from 10 to 7 percent. Even in the liberal
bastion of California, voters will choose whether to require public
approval of any future increase in gas taxes or vehicle fees.

It won’t just be taxes on the ballot, of course. Four states
will decide whether to join the growing movement for marijuana
legalization. North Dakota and Michigan could become the tenth and
eleventh states to legalize recreational marijuana, while Missouri
and Utah may legalize medical marijuana. Meanwhile, Ohio will
consider a far-reaching criminal-justice-reform measure that would
reduce drug-possession offenses to misdemeanors, limit
incarceration for non-criminal probation violations, and encourage
inmates to participate in rehabilitative care, work, or educational
programs. Savings from reduced incarceration rates would …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Eating Locally and in Season: Is It Really Better for the Environment?

October 24, 2018 in Blogs

By Reynard Loki, Independent Media Institute

Eating locally reduces your ecological footprint, but studies show what you eat may be even more important.


Humans have been moving food around the world for thousands of years. Toward the end of the second century BC, merchants traveled along the Silk Road, transporting noodles from Xi’an, grapes from Dayuan and nutmeg from the Moluccas Islands to eager buyers along its 4,000-mile network. While it’s possible to trace the evolution of food through that matrix of ancient caravan routes that linked China to the West, it’s hard to measure its environmental impact. It’s likely that, as with any road, wildlife corridors were disrupted. But greenhouse gas emissions were fairly low, consisting of the methane from the belches and farts of the horses, yaks and Bactrian camels, and the fires that humans burned along the way.

Fast-forward to the 20th-century US. Modern transportation and the rise of post-World War II suburban life changed the agricultural trade — and the way we ate. A key driver in this post-war food system has been globalization, which Kym Anderson, an economist at the University of Adelaide, argues “has been characterized by a rapid decline in the costs of cross-border trade in farm and other products, driven by declines in the costs of transporting bulky and perishable products long distances, the information and communication technology (ICT) revolution and major reductions in governmental distortions to agricultural trade.”

After the war, planned communities like the Levittowns in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — built by the real estate development company Levitt & Sons — sprang up across the country, welcoming returning veterans who were eligible for low-interest, government-backed mortgages. Meanwhile, the Federal Highway Act of 1956 authorized the construction of 40,000 miles of interstate highways to span the nation. Suburban life swelled. According to National Real Estate Investor:

During the 1950s, land values in the suburbs increased rapidly — in some prime suburban neighborhoods as much as 3,000 percent — while population swelled by 45 percent. Nearly two-thirds of all industrial construction during the 1950s was taking place …read more

Source: ALTERNET