You are browsing the archive for 2018 December 06.

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Top Republicans join Democrats on a new resolution condemning the Saudi regime in a not-so-subtle rebuke to Trump

December 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Trump has repeatedly downplayed Saudi Arabia's wrongdoing.


Bipartisanship is a rarity in the Washington, DC of 2018, but this week, a group of Republican and Democratic senators have introduced a bipartisan resolution that not only rebukes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, for the murder of journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, but also, for Saudi policies in Yemen and Qatar.

The non-binding resolution was introduced by three Republican senators—Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Todd Young of Indiana—along with Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein of California, Chris Coons of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. This resolution follows a closed-door briefing that was held in Washington, DC on December 4, when CIA Director Gina Haspel met with a handful of senators and discussed the Central Intelligence Agency’s investigation of Khashoggi’s death. The journalist was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2.

In contrast to the claims of President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor John Bolton—all of whom have maintained that there is no proof that MBS was responsible for Khashoggi’s death—Haspel has asserted that based on CIA intelligence, she is confident that MBS himself ordered Khashoggi’s torture and murder. Haspel, unlike Trump or Bolton, does not believe the Saudi royal family’s claim that Khashoggi was killed as the result of a rogue operation and kidnapping plot gone wrong. And Graham, after leaving the December 4 briefing, told reporters that he was more convinced than ever that Khashoggi was killed on direct orders from MBS.

In an official statement, Graham declared, “This resolution, without equivocation, definitively states that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi and has been a wrecking ball to the region, jeopardizing our national security interests on multiple fronts.”

The Senate resolution also states that MBS “must be held accountable for contributing to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen” and “preventing a resolution to the blockade of Qatar” as well as “the jailing and torture of dissidents and activists inside the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump’s ghoulish call for even more Chinese drug executions

December 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Phillip Smith, Independent Media Institute

Such “tough on drugs” measures are better politics than policy.


In a pair of tweets Wednesday, President Trump urged China to crack down on fentanyl, which he described as a “horror drug,” and predicted “incredible results” if China would start executing people for fentanyl-related offenses.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic opioid linked to tens of thousands of overdose deaths in the U.S. in recent years. Chinese chemical factories are believed to be the primary producers of fentanyl and related synthetic opioid analogs, which are then mixed in with other illicit drugs, making them even more dangerous than they were on their own.

Trump’s tweets came just days after he errantly praised China’s President Xi Jinping for agreeing that China would “designate Fentanyl as a Controlled Substance, meaning that people selling Fentanyl to the United States will be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law.”

In reality, China made fentanyl and five fentanyl products controlled substances back in 2015 and promised President Obama it would “crack down” on it in 2016. Yet, the flow of fentanyl continued and fentanyl-related overdose deaths continued to climb.

And in reality, China is already most likely the world’s leading drug executioner. The only reason for any doubt is that China does not provide data on how many people it executes for drug offenses, but according to Amnesty International, “thousands of executions…were believed to have been carried out in China” last year.

China’s closest competitor in the gruesome race to execute drug offenders has been Iran, where Amnesty says more than 200 were hung in 2017, but, recognizing the futility of the hardline approach and heeding pressure from European funders of Iranian anti-drug efforts, the Islamic Republic has now moved to greatly reduce the number of drug executions.

But as has been evident from his support of bloody-handed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has presided over a war on drug sellers and users that has left thousands dead, Trump has a fondness for the death penalty. And despite the lack of any evidence that killing drug …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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A world on fire: Trump's dizzying outrage cycle fuels our anxiety like a drug — but his presidency's dangers are very real

December 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Rebecca Gordon, Tom Dispatch

Trump is always racing on to his (and our) next distraction.


I took my first hit of speed in 1970 during my freshman year in college. That little white pill – Dexedrine — was a revelation. It made whatever I was doing absolutely fascinating. Amphetamine sharpened my focus and banished all appetites except a hunger for knowledge. I spent that entire night writing 35 pages of hand-scrawled notes about a 35-page article by the philosopher Ludwig Feurbach, thereby convincing the professor who would become my advisor and mentor that I was absolutely fascinating.

Speed was definitely not a respectable drug in those days. I bought mine from a seedy hippie who hung out on the edge of campus with some of my edgier friends. My college was probably one of the few in the country whose infirmary actually prescribed Dexedrine for its students, presumably to keep us from buying it from guys like him.

Nowadays, respectable doctors all over the country prescribe speed for people with ADHD, under brands like Adderall and Ritalin. It does for them what it did for me — makes whatever they’re doing fascinating, allowing them to focus for many hours at a time. My students now don’t have to buy it on the street. They can cadge (or buy) it from friends with prescriptions. I sometimes wonder whether they think they have a choice about this, or whether it’s considered almost a dereliction of duty to write their papers without a chemical assist.

Of course, speed had its ugly side, and I’m hardly recommending it as a cure for boring classes or a boring life. Coming down is horrible, the prelude often to a nasty, gray depression. Campus lore said it intensified menstrual cramps and I believed it. (When you’re depressed, it’s certainly easy to believe that this month’s cramps are worse than the last batch.) In any case, I quickly realized that I liked the stuff far too much for my own good. I learned to drink coffee instead.

And then, decades later, Donald Trump got elected president and I felt I was back on Dexedrine …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Nancy Pelosi becomes first female Speaker of the House

December 6, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

On January 4, 2007, John Boehner handed the speaker of the House gavel over to Nancy Pelosi, a Democratic Representative from California. With the passing of the gavel, she became the first woman to hold the speaker of the House position, as well as the only woman to get that close the presidency. After the Vice President, she was now second in line via the presidential order of succession.

“It is an historic moment for the Congress, and a historic moment for the women of this country. It is a moment for which we have waited over 200 years,” Pelosi said after receiving the gavel. “For our daughters and granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and our granddaughters, the sky is the limit, anything is possible for them.”

Pelosi’s Congressional career began 20 years before, when she was one of only 25 women who served in both the House and the Senate. She became the Democratic whip in 2001 and served as the minority leader between 2003 and her election as speaker in 2007. In 2002, she was one of the House members to vote against President George W. Bush’s request to use military force in Iraq.

As with many women in powerful political positions, critics frequently targeted her looks and her “likability.” Attack ads showed pictures of her meant to be unflattering or inappropriately aggressive. After she became speaker, conservative media started to speculate about whether she’d had plastic surgery.

During her first two terms as speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011, she developed a reputation as a tireless fundraiser and a successful securer of votes within her caucus. Her terms as speaker also coincided with Barack Obama’s first presidential term, and Pelosi was interstrumental on organizing House votes for the Affordable Care Act.

During the 2010 midterms, the National Republican Congressional Committee cited her in 70 percent of its ads. The Democrats lost their House majority that election and Pelosi returned to her position as minority leader. After Democrats reclaimed the House in the 2018 midterms, she received her party’s nomination to be its official candidate for speaker of the House.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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'Perpetual pain in the a**' Jeff Flake draws the ire of Trump-lovers for 'calling Mitch McConnell’s bluff' on judicial nominees

December 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Flake wants the Senate to vote on a bill to protect Robert Mueller.


Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) expressed his disdain for Donald Trump when, in 2017, he announced that he would not be seeking reelection—and with Democratic Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema (who narrowly defeated Republican Martha McSally in the 2018 midterms) less than a month away from taking over Flake’s seat, the outgoing Arizona senator continues to butt heads with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. 

Flake still favors legislation that would protect Mueller’s probe, while McConnell opposes such legislation. And Flake is refusing to budge, stressing that he will continue to block President Donald Trump’s federal judicial nominees as long as McConnell refuses to bring a Mueller bill to the Senate floor.

Flake was alarmed when, after the midterms, Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointed loyalist Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general. Whitaker has been an outspoken critic of Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the United States’ 2016 presidential election, and Flake has been adamant in his assertion that the investigation needs to continue.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was expected to consider Trump’s federal judicial nominations this week, including six nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals. But Flake is still playing hardball, and the standoff with McConnell continues. In a December 5 tweet, Flake reiterated, “the Senate needs to protect the Special Counsel.”

This was the second time in two weeks that Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called off a planned meeting to advance Trump’s judicial nominees because of Flake.

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” host Joe Scarborough—a former GOP congressman and persistent Never Trump conservative—praised Flake for “calling Mitch McConnell’s bluff” and refusing to back down despite the fact that he is “getting hammered by a lot of conservative outlets.”

One such outlet is the far-right Townhall.com. In a November 5 article, Townhall conservative Matt Vespa angrily described Flake as “a thorn in the side, a perpetual pain in the a** who will reap nothing with this ridiculous stunt. If he thinks sinking conservative judges …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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2018 Events

December 6, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

The year 2018 was marked by milestones in the #MeToo movement, a contentious Supreme Court hearing, battles over immigration and a groundbreaking royal wedding.

There was a government shutdown, a super blue blood moon, historic midterm elections and a very American addition to the British royal family. Take a look back at the eventful year of 2018 with a review of the most important events in politics, culture, science and the environment.

Students walking out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida after a shooter there killed 17 and injured several others.

View the 9 images of this gallery on the original article

Politics

Immigration crisis: In President Donald Trump’s second year in office, the issue of immigration became an even bigger flashpoint for controversy. In January, the federal government briefly shut down over the fate of an Obama-era program deferring deportation for immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children.

Under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy against illegal border crossers, U.S. authorities separated some 2,300 children from their parents, provoking widespread international outrage until Trump ended the family separation policy by executive order in June. And in November, his administration deployed nearly 6,000 active-duty military troops to the Mexico border to meet the arrival of a large caravan of migrants from Central America.

Trump’s legal troubles: The investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election handed down dozens of indictments, including charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers for cyber-attacks against Democratic officials.

Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, and Michael Cohen, the longtime aide who acted as Trump’s legal “fixer” in the case involving an alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, made plea deals to cooperate with the investigation. For his part, Trump continued to denounce Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt,” and his firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions increased speculation that he might be trying to shut the whole thing down.

Supreme Court battle: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s pick to replace longtime swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy and create a solid conservative majority on the nation’s highest court, faced a fierce confirmation battle after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers.


President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Amid the #MeToo movement and a renewed focus …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Congress Shouldn't Have to Pass the Farm Bill to Find out What’s in It

December 6, 2018 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

Congress is set to pass an appalling farm bill that increases
subsidies rather than reforms them. A conference committee is
finalizing details on the budget buster bill, which will spend
about $900 billion over 10 years on farm
subsidies and food stamps.

These farm payments would come on top of the $12 billion or so
in subsidies President Trump is already handing out to farmers to
offset the damage of his trade war.

Farm subsidies transfer income upwards, harm the economy and the
environment, and are unfair to taxpayers footing the bill. They
should be repealed. Like other businesses, farm
businesses should provide their own safety nets by using
market-based financial tools and saving during the good years. U.S.
agriculture would thrive without subsidies, as it has in
subsidy-free New Zealand.

This year’s farm bill has been exposed as a pork-fest by
agriculture scholars at both conservative and liberal think tanks,
including the Heritage Foundation and the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Heritage’s expert, Daren Bakst, is calling the bill a “nightmare”
and a “disaster.”

Alas, mainstream news stories are not reflecting what a scandal
the farm bill is. Indeed, news stories usually show a weird
deference to agriculture businesses not shown to businesses in
other industries.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, the farm lobbies have most members in
their pockets, so there will be little opposition to passage.
Congressional leaders are planning to pass a final bill before the
end of the year and send it to President Trump, who will probably
sign it.

The farm bill is likely to modestly increase dairy subsidies, crop
subsidies, sugar subsidies, loan subsidies, and other handouts. The
bill won’t include the administration’s proposals to
reduce farm subsidies for the wealthiest farmers. And it
won’t include a proposal by Senator Chuck Grassley to tighten
up the rules on payment limits for the largest farms.

Furthermore, the farm bill won’t include tighter work
requirements for food stamps that House Republicans sought. And it
won’t do anything about the $15 billion a year of food stamp subsidies that
pay for junk food such as cola and candy bars.

Republicans often claim to oppose wasteful spending, but this
legislation is set to pass in a majority GOP Congress. Democrats
say they are concerned about income inequality, but most of them
support farm subsidies even though the payments mainly go to large
and wealthy businesses.

Despite the lower crop prices of recent years, USDA data show that farm household incomes were
still 32 percent higher than average U.S. household incomes in
2017. That data is for …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Pearl Harbor Veteran Recalls Coming Eye-to-Eye With a Japanese Bomber

December 6, 2018 in History

By Amanda Onion

On the morning of December 7, 1941 Paul Kennedy found himself staring straight at an incoming Japanese fighter plane.

Paul Kennedy was expecting to sleep in on the morning of December 7, 1941. He had been on deck duty on board the U.S.S. Sacramento at Pearl Harbor until 4 a.m., then grabbed coffee with a buddy and hadn’t gone to bed until 5:30 a.m. So, when alarms sounded at around 8 a.m. as a swarm of Japanese warplanes began a ferocious assault on the U.S. Naval Base, Kennedy thought it was a drill and tried to tune it out.

“I put the pillow over my ear,” he told HISTORY in a 2016 interview. “My buddy saw that I wasn’t responding, so he pulled the covers off and said in so many words, ‘Get up and go! We’re under attack—grab your gas mask and helmet,’ which I did. I didn’t even put on any pants.”

On December 7, 1941 the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor. The attack killed 2,403 service members and wounded 1,178 more, and sank or destroyed six U.S. ships. They also destroyed 169 U.S. Navy and Army Air Corps planes.

View the 17 images of this gallery on the original article

Soon, a chilling encounter with one of the Japanese pilots who was dropping torpedoes on the U.S. fleet that morning, would become seared in Kennedy’s memory.

The Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor not only took then-21-year-old Kennedy by surprise, it shocked the nation. The attacks, which killed 2,400 Americans and wounded 1,200, struck a devastating blow against the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Five U.S. battleships, three destroyers and seven other ships were decimated and more than 200 aircraft were lost in the rain of Japanese bombs and gunfire. The assault pulled the United States into a war that it had, until then, resisted joining. The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy” and Congress declared war on Japan.

READ MORE: Pearl Harbor: Photos and Facts From the Infamous Attack

For Kennedy, who described feeling “so much anger” as the day unfolded, the start of the attack was particularly ominous. After being roused by his shipmate, Kennedy, still in his underwear, ran up a ladder to the ship’s deck. As soon as he emerged, he …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Irish Free State declared

December 6, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

The Irish Free State, comprising four-fifths of Ireland, is declared, ending a five-year Irish struggle for independence from Britain. Like other autonomous nations of the former British Empire, Ireland was to remain part of the British Commonwealth, symbolically subject to the king. The Irish Free State later severed ties with Britain and was renamed Eire, and is now called the Republic of Ireland.

English rule over the island of Ireland dates back to the 12th century, and Queen Elizabeth I of England encouraged the large-scale immigration of Scottish Protestants in the 16th century. During ensuing centuries, a series of rebellions by Irish Catholics were put down as the Anglo-Irish minority extended their domination over the Catholic majority. Under absentee landlords, the Irish population was reduced to a subsistence diet based on potatoes, and when the Potato Famine struck the country in the 1840s, one million people starved to death while nearly two million more fled to the United States.

A movement for Irish home rule gained momentum in the late 19th century, and in 1916 Irish nationalists launched the Easter Rising against British rule in Dublin. The rebellion was crushed, but widespread agitation for independence continued. In 1919, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) launched a widespread and effective guerrilla campaign against British forces. In 1921, a cease-fire was declared, and in January 1922 a faction of Irish nationalists signed a peace treaty with Britain, calling for the partition of Ireland, with the south becoming autonomous and the six northern counties of the island remaining in the United Kingdom.

Civil war broke out even before the declaration of the Irish Free State on December 6, 1922, and ended with the victory of the Irish Free State over the Irish Republican forces in 1923. A constitution adopted by the Irish people in 1937 declared Ireland to be “a sovereign, independent, democratic state,” and the Irish Free State was renamed Eire. Eire remained neutral during World War II, and in 1949 the Republic of Ireland Act severed the last remaining link with the Commonwealth.

Conflicts persisted over Northern Ireland, however, and the IRA, outlawed in the south, went underground to try to regain the northern counties still ruled by Britain. Violence between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland escalated in the early 1970s, and to date the fighting has claimed more than 3,000 lives.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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13th Amendment ratified

December 6, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

On this day in 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, officially ending the institution of slavery, is ratified. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” With these words, the single greatest change wrought by the Civil War was officially noted in theConstitution.

The ratification came eight months after the end of the war, but it represented the culmination of the struggle against slavery. When the war began,some in the North were against fighting what they saw as a crusade to end slavery. Although many northern Democrats and conservative Republicans were opposed to slavery’s expansion, they were ambivalent about outlawing the institution entirely. The war’s escalation after the First Battle of Bull Run, Virginia,in July 1861 caused many to rethink the role that slavery played in creating the conflict. By 1862, Lincoln realized that it was folly to wage such a bloody war without plans to eliminate slavery. In September 1862, following the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all slaves in territory still in rebellion on January 1, 1863, would be declared forever free. The move was largely symbolic, as it only freed slaves in areas outside of Union control, but it changed the conlfict from a war for the reunification of the states to a war whose objectives includedthe destruction of slavery.

Lincoln believed that a constitutional amendment was necessary to ensure the end of slavery. In 1864, Congress debated several proposals. Some insisted on including provisions to prevent discrimination against blacks, but the Senate Judiciary Committee provided the eventual language. It borrowed from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, when slavery was banned from the area north of the Ohio River. The Senate passed the amendment in April 1864.

A Republican victory in the 1864 presidential election would guarantee the success of the amendment. The Republican platform called for the “utter and complete destruction” of slavery, while the Democrats favored restoration of states’ rights, which would include at least the possibility for the states to maintain slavery. Lincoln’s overwhelming victory set in motion the events leading to ratification of the amendment. The House passed the measure in January 1865 and it was …read more

Source: HISTORY