You are browsing the archive for Blogs.

Avatar of admin

by admin

A US-China investment war is quietly emerging — and this will be the ultimate casualty

December 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Independent Media Institute

There are very concerning aspects of the Build Act.


On October 3, the U.S. Senate passed a law to create an agency called the International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC), to replace the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) set up in 1969. The IDFC will invest up to $60 billion in developing countries and, unlike OPIC, is empowered to make equity investments. It is designed to counter what some in Washington describe as China’s “economic warfare” of indebting developing countries and garnering diplomatic influence and support, largely through infrastructure projects such as the Belt & Road Initiative.

The IDFC is set up by the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (the Build Act), which passed the House of Representatives in August with bipartisan support, and has been lauded in international development circles for its pro-development agenda. But there are at least four very concerning aspects of the Build Act, making it likely that the environment will be the ultimate casualty in this new front in the US-China war of influence.

1. Key environmental threshold removed

A key environmental safeguard imposed on OPIC has slipped out of the Build Act. OPIC’s authorizing statute required it to refuse support for any project which “will pose an unreasonable or major environmental, health, or safety hazard, or will result in the significant degradation of national parks or similar protected areas.”

This underpinned the very first step in OPIC’s project screening procedures, designed to ensure that environmentally damaging projects don’t get supported. A 2003 report to Congress shows that this provision formed the basis for OPIC to decide whether a project was ‘categorically prohibited’ from receiving support. According to OPIC’s environmental handbook, this captured “large dams that disrupt natural ecosystems, infrastructure and raw material extraction in primary tropical forests and other protected or ecologically fragile areas.”

History also shows us how important this provision could be for pulling support for projects already underway. In 1995 OPIC canceled $100 million of political risk insurance for a U.S. company operating the world’s largest …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

Here's why this line from Mueller's latest court filing should make Trump scared to tweet

December 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

The latest memo strongly hints that Mueller cares about false statements made not only to investigators, but to the public as well.


On Friday, two sentencing memos were filed against President Donald Trump's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen — one by prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, recommending a sentence of around 51 to 63 months for tax evasion, bank fraud, illegal campaign finance, and lying to Congress, and one from special counsel Robert Mueller, who discussed his assistance in the Russia investigation.

Both of these documents are incredibly damning for Trump, with SDNY prosecutors strongly implicating Trump's knowledge and consent to Cohen's crimes. But perhaps one of the sections that should unnerve Trump most came from Mueller's filing:

This is significant because it suggests that not only is Mueller interested in lies told to Congress or to federal investigators, but lies to the public as well. And if Mueller is going after false statements told to the public, this should greatly worry Trump, who has lied in speeches, tweets, and interviews over 6,400 times since taking office.

On one hand, there is no federal statute directly making it a crime to lie to the public, the way there is for lying to Congress or to the FBI. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that Mueller could establish a pattern of false public statements to bolster a case for obstruction of justice — which he has reportedly considered.

Going forward, Trump might want to be careful what he tweets, for his own sake.

Related Stories

Avatar of admin

by admin

Michael Cohen sentencing document confirms that Trump directed his lawyer to commit a felony

December 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Cohen has already pleaded guilty — the new memo addresses how he should be sentenced.


In a much-anticipated sentencing memo on the crimes of President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York confirmed the stunning revelation first made during Cohen's plea: Trump directed him to violate federal campaign finance laws.

Cohen admitted during his plea that his involvement in the hush money payments to two women who say they had affairs with Trump violated the law.

“In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” the memo explained. “Individual-1″ refers to Trump.

“Just to make it crystal clear, New York federal prosecutors concluded that the President of the United States committed a felony,” said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.

Prosecutors recommended a minor reduction in prison sentence for Cohen in a lengthy sentencing document, despite noting his cooperation with investigators — including Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The memo recommends he serve somewhere on the below the sentencing guidelines for his crimes, which is between 51 and 63 months, Natasha Bertrand reported.

The memo reads:

Cohen, an attorney and businessman, committed four distinct federal crimes over a period of several years. He was motivated to do so by personal greed, and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends. Now he seeks extraordinary leniency – a sentence of no jail time – based principally on his rose-colored view of the seriousness of the crimes; his claims to a sympathetic personal history; and his provision of certain information to law enforcement. But the crimes committed by Cohen were more serious than his submission allows and were marked by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life (and was evidently hidden from the friends and family members who wrote on his behalf).

However, Cohen did catch a break with Mueller, who filed a memo as well. Despite that charging Cohen for lying to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal, and despite the fact that Cohen initially lied about the deal to the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

This far-right pastor just spewed hate at the Muslims entering Congress — and the backlash was epic

December 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Of course, he's not just a pastor — he's a former GOP Senate candidate.


On December 6, Pastor E.W. Jackson used his radio show to attack and defame Muslims who are entering Congress—and judging from the swift backlash he has received, the far-right evangelist got much more than he bargained for.

Jackson’s anti-Islam tirade was in response to Democrats trying to change a rule banning headwear on the floor in the House of Representatives. The change would accommodate Muslims elected to the House in the 2018 midterms, including Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar (the first Somali-American elected to Congress).

Jackson ranted, “The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic. We are a Judeo-Christian country. We are a nation rooted and grounded in Christianity, and that’s that. And anybody that doesn’t like that, go live somewhere else. It’s very simple. Just go live somewhere else. Don’t try to change our country into some sort of Islamic republic or try to base our country on Sharia law.”

Although hawkish on foreign policy, the U.S.’ last two pre-Donald Trump presidents—George W. Bush and Barack Obama—were careful to make a distinction between non-radical Islam and radical Islam. Jackson, however, made no such distinction, telling listeners, “The threat to humanity is not merely radical Islam. The threat to humanity is Islam, period. That’s right: I said it, and I mean it.”

People for the American Way covered Jackson’s rant on its Right Wing Watch website. And Rep.-Elect Omar was quick to respond to Jackson’s comments on Twitter, posting, “Well sir, the floor of Congress is going to look like America… And you’re gonna have to just deal.”   

After the Hill posted a link, via Twitter, to an article on Jackson’s anti-Islam comments, Texas resident Jake Davis tweeted that Congress has “looked like a Southern Baptist congregation for decades with little to no advancement for anyone who is poor, brown, trans, uninsured.”

In the Hill’s comments section, many posters disagreed with Jackson’s claim that Islam has the market cornered on extremism. A reader who went by “President Beavis Corholio” posted, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

'Be best!': Internet unloads on Trump after he calls Rex Tillerson 'dumb as a rock' and 'lazy as hell'

December 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Elizabeth Preza, AlterNet

Donald Trump on Friday reacted to an interview where is former secretary of state described having to stop the president from violating the law.


Donald Trump on Friday responded to a recent interview with Rex Tillerson, during which the former secretary of state described frequently having to stop the president from violating the law

In a Thursday interview with CBS News’ Bob Schieffer, Tillerson said he believes Trump “grew tired” of his secretary of state telling him not to break the law.

“I’d have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you wanna do, but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law, it violates treaty.’ He got really frustrated,” Tillerson said. “I think he grew tired of me being the guy who told him, ‘You can’t do that.’”

“What’s challenging for me … is to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things,” he continued. “We are starkly different in our styles, we did not have a common value system.”

Trump’s tweet was in stark contrast with former posts about Tillerson.

The internet on Friday reacted swiftly to Trump’s remark:

Avatar of admin

by admin

Why doesn’t Trump have a dog — and should he get one? Experts weigh in

December 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Reynard Loki, Independent Media Institute

The First Family has broken with tradition: There’s no canine companion in the White House.


In his homily for the state funeral of George H.W. Bush on December 5, Rev. Russell Levenson Jr. joked that Sully, Bush’s loyal service dog, had probably received more press attention in recent days than the former president himself. That sentiment echoed Fala, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier, who was so popular with the American public that he received more fan mail than the president himself.

Historically, First Canines have been a staple of life in the White House. Barack Obama had Bo and Sunny, two Portuguese water dogs. George W. Bush had Spot, a Springer spaniel, and Barney, a Scottish terrier. Bill Clinton had Buddy, a chocolate Labrador retriever. Before he needed the services of Sully, George H.W. Bush had Millie, a Springer spaniel (Spot’s mother). Ronald Reagan had Lucky, a fluffy black Bouvier des Flandres. John F. Kennedy had Charlie, a Welsh terrier. The list goes on and on, stretching all the way back to George Washington, who cared for no fewer than 36 hounds, and who, in addition to being a founding father of the United States, was the founding breeder of the American foxhound. So why doesn’t President Trump have a canine companion? And should he get one?

“Dogs have been used in so many ways by presidents,” says Roy Rowan, author of the book First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Best Friends. For one thing, dogs have helped to deflect bad press: “We’ve seen Nixon use his dog Checkers to cover his $18,000 slush fund,” Rowan says of the famous “Checkers Speech.”

In more recent times, a dog may have been an unwitting pawn in a White House marketing campaign. Just a month before his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky became a national scandal, President Clinton adopted Buddy, a three-month-old chocolate brown Labrador puppy. At the time, he was criticized for getting a dog in an attempt to seem more sympathetic to the public. But according to then-White …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

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

Avatar of admin

by admin

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

Avatar of admin

by admin

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

Avatar of admin

by admin

'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