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'Who cares!': Trump writes bizarre letter resigning from the Screen Actors Guild

February 4, 2021 in Blogs

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Former president Donald Trump resigned from the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists on Thursday, after the union’s National Board voted “overwhelmingly” to convene a disciplinary process that could have resulted in expelling him in response to Trump’s part in inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol.

Trump released an open letter to SAG-AFTRA on what appears to be photocopied White House stationery addressed to union president Gabrielle Carteris (of “Beverly Hills 90210″ fame) detailing his immediate resignation. “I write to you today regarding the so-called Disciplinary Committee hearing aimed at revoking my union membership,” Trump wrote. “Who cares!”

Trump went on to write that while he was “not very familiar” with the union’s work, he was proud of his work on movies and television shows like “‘Home Alone 2,’ ‘Zoolander’ and ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’; and television shows including ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and of course, one of the most successful shows in television history, ‘The Apprentice’ – to name just a few!”

He also wrote that, due to his involvement in politics, he helped resurrect interest in television, which he characterized as a “dying platform with not much time left.”

“[I've] created thousands of jobs at networks such as MSDNC and Fake News CNN, among many others,” Trump wrote.

He concluded the letter by saying that he no longer wished to be involved in the union and was tendering his immediate resignation.

On Thursday afternoon, SAG-AFTRA offered a two-word statement, jointly attributed to Carteris and the union’s National Executive Director David White, in response to Trump’s resignation: “Thank you.”

Trump’s resignation letter was a response to a Jan. 19 release from SAG-AFTRA, which stated that the organization’s National Board had ordered a disciplinary hearing regarding Trump’s role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol and “in sustaining a reckless campaign of misinformation aimed at discrediting and ultimately threatening the safety of journalists, many of whom are SAG-AFTRA members.”

“Donald Trump attacked the values that this union holds most sacred – democracy, truth, respect for our fellow Americans of all races and faiths, and the sanctity of the free press,” Carteris said at the time. “There’s a straight line from his wanton disregard for …read more


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Biden wins big cheers with a major push for peace

February 4, 2021 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

Peace advocates rejoiced on Thursday in the wake of President Joe Biden’s announcement that his administration will be ending U.S. support for offensive operations in the Saudi-led war on Yemen and appointing a diplomatic envoy to help resolve the devastating conflict.

“This war has to end,” Biden said during an address at the State Department. “And to underscore our commitment, we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arm sales.”

Biden also named Timothy Lenderking as his special envoy to Yemen, saying the career foreign service officer will collaborate with the United Nations and “all parties to the conflict to push for a diplomatic resolution.”

“It’s about time that the U.S. end all complicity in the Saudi/UAE-led war on Yemen, with at least 100,000 dead and tens of millions on the brink of starvation,” Paul Kawika Martin, senior director of policy and political affairs at Peace Action, said Thursday.

Danaka Katovich, Yemen campaign coordinator at the anti-war group CodePink, described Thursday as “a day peace activists around the world have been waiting for. On the campaign trail, President Biden said he would end support for the war in Yemen, and I hope he keeps that promise to the fullest extent.”

As Medea Benjamin, CodePink’s co-founder, pointed out on social media, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration’s cessation of U.S. support for offensive operations in Yemen will include “an end to precision-guided munition sales,” which have contributed to the massive civilian death toll.

While the Biden administration’s “decision to stop U.S. support for ‘offensive operations’ by Saudi Arabia is critically important,” said David Segal, co-founder and executive director of Demand Progress, “we must learn more about how ‘offensive operations’ are defined—and ensure that Biden’s plans entail ending targeting support, spare parts transfers, and other logistical support, both known and unknown to the general public.”

As for the White House’s appointment of Lenderking, Martin said the new special envoy to Yemen “can push Saudi Arabia and the UAE to change its conduct and negotiate in good faith to end their war on Yemen and allow humanitarian aid to flow.”

Martin added that Peace Action wants “to make sure the details include stopping all support and blocking all arms sales to Saudi …read more


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Trump called on to testify under oath in Senate trial

February 4, 2021 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

Democratic House impeachment managers on Thursday called on former President Donald Trump to provide testimony under oath regarding his actions on January 6—the day an extremist mob backed by the then-president attacked the U.S. Capitol—and demanded an answer by 5 pm Friday.

The letter to Trump, signed by lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), was sent two days after the former president’s new legal team said in a pretrial legal filing that a Senate impeachment trial would be unconstitutional and that Trump’s comments the day in question were protected free speech.

Referencing that filing, the letter says that Trump’s defense team “denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment.”

“You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense,” the letter to Trump says.

Impeachment managers had argued that Trump was “singularly responsible” for inciting the insurrection.

The House already impeached Trump—for a second time—January 13, a week before he left office, for citing the insurrection. Oral arguments for the Senate trial are set to begin Tuesday, February 9.

The new letter asks the former president to provide testimony either before or during the trial, between Monday, February 8, and Thursday, February 11, 2021.

In the letter, Raskin suggested that Trump—currently residing in Florida—should have no problem finding time in his schedule to provide testimony

“Indeed, whereas a sitting president might raise concerns about distraction from their official duties,” wrote Raskin, “that concern is obviously inapplicable here.”

Should Trump rebuff the request for testimony, the impeachment managers say “we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021.”

Read the full letter below:

Dear President Trump,

As you are aware, the United States House of Representatives has approved an article of impeachment against you for incitement of insurrection. See H. Res. 24. The Senate trial for this article of impeachment will begin on Tuesday, February 9, 2021. See S. Res. 16.

Two days ago, you filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment. You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional …read more


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Marjorie Taylor Greene tried to defend herself on the House floor — it did not go well

February 4, 2021 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick

Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene faced a vote Thursday that could strip her of her committee assignments in the U.S. House of Representatives. It would be a sharp denunciation of a newly elected lawmaker who had embraced a wide range of dangerous and bigoted conspiracy theories and endorsed violence against politicians, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Ahead of the vote, Greene delivered a speech trying to defend herself. But there was a key problem with it. Even as she sought to distance herself from some of the conspiracy theories she has spread in the past, she refused to take responsibility for spreading them and tried to downplay her participation in pushing these reckless fictions. It showed she hasn’t grown at all as a person since she first dove into the dark world of right-wing lies disinformation.

She tried to claim the attacks on her statements were about “words of the past” that do not represent her. But she notably did not apologize for, for example, promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, pushing for Pelosi’s execution, attacking Muslim members of Congress as unfit to serve because of their religion, or harassing David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland school schooting.

Instead, she just tried to turn the page on everything she’s done while refusing to be held accountable. And she pretended that her past remarks and affiliations, which were widely known while she was running for Congress, had no influence on her campaign, even though she didn’t denounce them at the time.

“School shootings are absolutely real,” Greene said, referring to her previous efforts to cast doubts on such attacks. “I also want to tell you 9/11 absolutely happened.”

She lashed out at what she called the “Russian collusion” conspiracy theory, trying to draw an equivalence between the pernicious and ridiculous QAnon cult and the investigation into former President Donald Trump and some of his associates. But the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee’s own investigation, led by a Republican, found ample evidence to support the concerns that prompted the Russia probe, including the fact that Trump’s own campaign chair has undisclosed meetings about polling data with a Russian spy during the 2016 campaign.

This undermined her claim that she had justification to distrust the media and go searching for other sources of information. And the false attacks on the Russia investigation itself are, indeed, a close cousin of the QAnon delusions themselves, as they play into …read more


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New analysis pins the blame on Trump for his loss: He 'destroyed himself'

February 4, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Typically, presidents who are voted out of office ask, “What went wrong?” Donald Trump didn’t ask that question after losing the 2020 election, and he instead peddled bogus and totally debunked voter fraud conspiracy theories. But other Republicans are asking that question, and two post-election analyses — one by consultant Tony Fabrizio and published in Politico this week, the other by GOP pollster John McLaughlin and published by the right-wing Newsmax in November — delve into some reasons why Trump lost.

Journalist William Saletan, in Slate, explains, “Neither pollster blames the former president, but their numbers tell the story: Trump destroyed himself. The autopsies identified two reasons why Trump should have won.”

Saletan adds, “First, based on self-identification, the 2020 electorate was significantly more Republican than the 2016 electorate. Second, public satisfaction with the economy favored the incumbent. Both pollsters found that people who voted in 2020 thought Trump would handle the economy better than Joe Biden would. McLaughlin’s analysis, based on his post-election survey of people who voted in 2020, noted that 61% of these voters said they were better off than they had been four years earlier. Despite this, Trump managed to lose one-third of the 61%.”

Although Democratic nominee Joe Biden was disappointed that he lost Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Iowa to Trump, he was pleasantly surprised by his victories in Arizona and Georgia — both of which were deep red states in the past. Ultimately, Biden won 306 electoral votes and defeated Trump by more than 7 million in the popular vote. And Fabrizio and McLaughlin wanted to know why Biden outperformed Trump in so many swing states.

“Fabrizio analyzed exit polls from 10 battleground states Trump had won in 2016,” Saletan notes. “Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas stayed with Trump in 2020; Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin flipped to Biden. Collectively, in the ten states, Fabrizio computed a ‘massive swing’ against Trump among independents by 17 to 19 percentage points and a similar shift among college-educated White voters by 14 to 18 points. Likewise, in his national sample, McLaughlin found that Biden won moderates, 62% to 36%.”

Saletan continues, “Trump repelled these voters, even those who were happy with the economy. In McLaughlin’s national sample, Biden was viewed more favorably than Trump. Among voters who disliked both candidates, the pollster noted, ‘dislike of Trump was more …read more


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Black History: Timeline of the Post-Civil Rights Era

February 4, 2021 in History

By Editors

From the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the 2008 election of Barack Obama, to widespread global protests declaring Black Lives Matter in 2020, African American history in the United States has been filled with both triumph and strife.

Here’s a look at some of the notable milestones that took place from the end of the civil rights movement to today.

Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated

April 4, 1968: Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot and killed at the age of 38 while standing on the balcony of his Lorraine Motel room in Memphis, Tenn. James Earl Ray was later convicted of the crime and sentenced to a 99-year prison term. President Lyndon B. Johnson designates April 7 as a national day of mourning.

The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (TV-PG; )

WATCH: The Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 11, 1968: Just days after King’s assassination, Johnson signs the Fair Housing Act of 1968, also called the Civil Rights Act of 1968, into law, prohibiting housing discrimination nationwide based on race, religion, national origin and sex (it was later amended to include disability and family status). The bill had languished in Congress, but King’s murder prompted Johnson’s urging for approval.

Aug. 29, 1968: Arthur Ashe, at age 25, becomes the first African American man to win the U.S. Open (Althea Gibson was the first woman to do so in 1958). He goes on to win the Australian Open in 1970, Wimbledon in 1975 and was ranked in the world’s top 10 players for 10 years.

Oct. 16, 1968: U.S. 200-meter sprint medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who won the gold and bronze, respectively, raise their black-gloved fists in a Black power salute during the playing of the national anthem at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. They are suspended for politicizing the Olympics and sent home.

Jan. 21, 1969: New York Representative Shirley Chisholm is sworn in as the first Black woman elected to Congress. Serving seven terms, she was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and Women’s Caucus, and ran for president in 1972, the first Black woman to campaign for a major party nomination.

“The next time a woman of whatever color, or a dark-skinned person of whatever sex aspires to be president, the way should be a little smoother because I …read more


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5 Iconic Mashup Inventions That Have Stood the Test of Time

February 4, 2021 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

It wasn’t until the 20th century that inventors looked past single-use products.

Mashup inventions have changed all of our lives. Imagine how crowded nightstands would be if they needed to hold a stereo, speakers, clock and alarm signal. Or how pockets might bulge if people didn’t have a single, small accessory that folded a slew of tools in one handy-dandy knife. And it’s hard to even remember what life was like before most people had access to a phone, computer, camera, video recorder and more all in a single device that fits in the palm of a hand.

The clock radio, multi-tool pocket knife and smartphone are all examples of mashup inventions: the combination of two or more ideas in a different configuration to create something new and productive, says Bernie Carlson, a history professor at the University of Virginia whose work includes the study of inventors and technology.

Carlson calls such crossover inventions a 20th-century phenomenon. Before then, he says, the goal of most designers was to optimize an item to do one job well.

“So, there were no . “It was very strong but a little heavy so my great-grandfather decided to make a more elegant knife for officers which had a corkscrew and a second blade.”

Its popularity with soldiers led Elsener and his Victorinox company to patent the handy tool in 1897 as a gizmo that combines a blade with a bevy of other tools—from screwdriver and can opener to scissors, toothpick and more.

American GIs discovered the all-in-one-tool during World War II, translating its difficult-to-pronounce name from “Schweizer Offiziersmesser” to “Swiss Army knife.”

Like the smartphone, this mashup also continues to evolve, with subsequent models adding more features. One discontinued model called the Super Timer combined tools for 31 uses (fish scaler included) with a Swiss quartz watch. “The thinking was to combine two famous Swiss products in one package,” Jim Kennedy, president of the company that markets Victorinox knives in the United States, told The New York Times when the product launched in 1992.

Among the mashup accessories included on Swiss Army knife—and competitors’—models over the years: a tracheotomy blade (for choking emergencies), a wood saw, an orange peeler, tweezers, a fish scaler, a magnifying glass and a wire stripper.

READ MORE: 7 Historical Figures You Didn’t Know Were Inventors


Mooring seaplane near the village of Valdez, Alaska.

Historians credit French aviator and engineer …read more


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15 of America's Most Historic Restaurants

February 4, 2021 in History

By Suzanne McGee

This selection of enduring eateries reflects the nation’s mosaic of cultures.

How does a restaurant become “historic”? For most American eateries, it’s a feat to survive even a few years—much less decades or centuries. In the brutally competitive industry, statistics suggest that 60 percent of eateries don’t make it past their first year; 80 percent close within five years.

But around the U.S, a select coterie of restaurants has defied the odds—enduring world wars, the 1918 flu pandemic, the Depression and more.

These historic eateries offer diners an astonishing panorama of the country’s political, social and demographic history, as well as its culinary traditions. Some feature menu items dating back to the country’s founding—tavern foods, oysters, steak, turkey. Others reflect successive waves of immigrants, offering new arrivals a taste of home. Still others catered to Black Americans migrating north in the first half of the 20th century, offering grits, fried chicken and other southern favorites that came to be known as “soul food.” As the decades passed, a core group of these institutions survived and thrived by redefining the very meaning of “American” cuisine to include their dishes.

“We are like a living museum,” says Niki Russ Federman, a member of the fourth generation to run Russ & Daughters, the iconic New York eatery that has served up bagels, lox and other Jewish dishes for 100-plus years. “What restaurants with this kind of history and heritage contribute to the country is unquantifiable. We reflect and represent our country’s mosaic of cultures.”

That doesn’t mean all historic restaurants stand on a firm footing, economically. All face increased competition, rising wage costs and razor-thin margins. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic posed even greater challenges, causing restaurants to close their doors temporarily, drastically limit capacity and seek new ways to retain loyal customers, from expanded delivery services to online cooking lessons.

Below, a selection of enduring American eateries.

READ MORE: When Did People Start Eating in Restaurants?

Saugus Café

Where: Santa Clarita, California

Opened: 1888

The History: Founder James Herbert Tolfree began dishing up coffee, steak and eggs to Saugus Eating House patrons from the north end of the city’s brand-new train depot. In 1903, Teddy Roosevelt allegedly sampled the New York steak (verdict: “splendid”). In the 1920s, as automobiles displaced trains, the eatery moved across the road and took on its current classic SoCal diner look. It became a hangout …read more


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How Gilded Age Corruption Led to the Progressive Era

February 4, 2021 in History

By Christopher Klein

As the rich grew richer during the Gilded Age, the poor grew poorer, spurring the call for reforms.

Propelled by a Second Industrial Revolution, the United States arose from the ashes of the Civil War to become one of the world’s leading economic powers by the turn of the 20th century. Corporate titans such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan amassed spectacular fortunes and engaged in the most conspicuous of consumptions. Beneath this golden veneer, however, American society was tarnished by poverty and corruption, which caused this period of American history to be called the “Gilded Age,” derived from the title of an 1873 novel co-authored by Mark Twain.

Protected from foreign competition by high tariffs, American industrialists colluded to drive competitors out of business by creating monopolies and trusts in which groups of companies were controlled by single corporate boards. Political corruption ran amok during the Gilded Age as corporations bribed politicians to ensure government policies favored big businesses over workers. Graft fueled urban political machines, such as New York’s Tammany Hall, and the Whiskey Ring and Crédit Mobilier scandals revealed collusion by public officials and business leaders to defraud the federal government.

As the rich grew richer during the Gilded Age, the poor grew poorer. The great wealth accumulated by the “robber barons” came at the expense of the masses. By 1890, the wealthiest 1 percent of American families owned 51 percent of the country’s real and personal property, while the 44 percent at the bottom owned only 1.2 percent.

READ MORE: How the Gilded Age’s Top 1 Percent Thrived on Corruption

The Populist Party Pushes for Reforms

A meeting held by the Granges, a populist farmer’s association organized in the western United States, c. 1867.

Many Gilded Age workers toiled in dangerous jobs for low pay. Approximately 40 percent of industrial laborers in the 1880s earned below the poverty line of $500 a year. With such a yawning chasm between “haves” and “have-nots,” workers fought back against the inequality by forming labor unions. Industrial strikes occurred with greater frequency—and greater violence—following the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. During the 1880s alone, there were nearly 10,000 labor strikes and lockouts.

The belief that big businesses had too much power in the United States led to a backlash. The passage of …read more