Weekly news stories

Russian Officials Overheard Discussing Trump Associates Before Campaign Began

It isn’t clear whether Mr. Trump’s associates had any connection to his presidential aspirations

By Shane Harris

The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—Investigators are re-examining conversations detected by U.S. intelligence agencies in spring 2015 that captured Russian government officials discussing associates of Donald Trump, according to current and former U.S. officials, a move prompted by revelations that the president’s eldest son met with a Russian lawyer last year.

In some cases, the Russians in the overheard conversations talked about meetings held outside the U.S. involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisers, these people said.

Russian officials are routinely monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies, and it wouldn’t be unusual for them to discuss people who have business interests in Russia.

Mr. Trump held the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, was a globally recognized celebrity and sold properties to Russians. The intelligence gathering wasn’t aimed at Mr. Trump or people in his circle, and it isn’t clear which Trump advisers or associates the Russians referred to, or whether they had any connection to his presidential aspirations.

The 2015 conversations were detected several months before Mr. Trump declared his candidacy for the White House. The conversations have been in investigators’ possession for some time, but officials said the Donald Trump Jr. news this week prompted them to look at them again.

In 2015, intelligence agencies weren’t sure what to make of the surveillance reports, which they viewed as vague and inconclusive, the current and former officials said. But the volume of the mentions of Trump associates by the Russians did have officials asking each other, “What’s going on?” one former official said.

A lawyer for Mr. Trump didn’t respond to a request for comment on the 2015 conversations.

Now, in light of the release of emails by the president’s eldest son, describing a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer, investigators are going back to those early reports. They are seeking new leads as they probe whether the Trump campaign colluded in what several U.S. intelligence agencies say was a Russian government-sponsored effort to meddle in the election to benefit Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump has denied any collusion and called the probes a “witch hunt.”

The meeting Donald Jr. arranged in June 2016—as his father was on the verge of clinching the Republican nomination—involved a Kremlin-connected lawyer to discuss allegedly incriminating information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton obtained by the Russian government.

Donald Jr. and the Russian lawyer said no information about Mrs. Clinton was disclosed in the meeting. But the emails offer the first clear public evidence that senior officials in Mr. Trump’s camp were open to offers of assistance from Russia in his quest for the presidency.

In the spring of 2016, U.S. intelligence officials’ suspicions about Russian meddling in the election grew after their counterparts in Europe warned that Russian money might be flowing into the presidential election, according to officials with knowledge of the warning. It remains unknown if or whether those funds were funneled to a particular campaign or to others to spend it on behalf of candidates.

In June 2016, officials at the Democratic National Committee revealed that their computer networks had been penetrated by hackers, whom the FBI and intelligence agencies later determined worked for the Russian intelligence services. Emails taken in those incursions subsequently were published by WikiLeaks, and in October, the site released emails that had been stolen from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

At that point, intelligence officials had little doubt that the Russian government was attempting to interfere in the election. By the end of 2016, they concluded publicly that the Russian hacking campaign was meant to undermine Mrs. Clinton and help Mr. Trump.

Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several congressional committees are probing Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia over the years, as is special counsel Robert Mueller.

Write to Shane Harris at shane.harris@wsj.com

Appeared in the July 13, 2017, print edition as ‘Surveillance From 2015 Revisited.’

The New York Times:

Trump Gave Putin Exactly What He Wanted

Masha Gessen JULY 8, 2017

While American news media offered differing interpretations of the meeting between President Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, debating whether Mr. Trump had shown resolve or had fallen into a trap set by Mr. Putin, the Russian press disagreed on only one thing: the proper translation of the word “tremendous,” which Mr. Trump used to describe the meeting. Headlines in state-owned media, state-dominated media, and the lone independent Web-based TV channel offered translations that hewed closer to “grand,” “outstanding,” or “amazing.” Those distinctions aside, all agreed: The meeting was a triumph.

Mr. Putin has for years — 17 years, to be exact, for this is how long he has been in power — been clear about what he wanted from his relationship with the United States president: He wants to be treated as an equal partner on the world stage and not to be questioned about or pressed on the Russian government’s actions inside Russia or in what he considers his sphere of influence. Despite the friendly tenor of Mr. Putin’s relationship with George W. Bush and the offer of a “reset” made by Barack Obama’s administration, Mr. Putin never achieved his objective — until now. His fourth American president has given him exactly what he wanted: respect, camaraderie and freedom from criticism.

The one accomplishment of the meeting — a limited cease-fire in Syria — is exactly what Mr. Putin wanted. Not the cease-fire, that is: He wanted an acknowledgment that the United States and Russia are equal negotiating parties in the Syrian conflict. He spent years cajoling and then blackmailing the Obama administration into accepting Russia’s decisive role in the Middle East. Now, Mr. Trump has handed him much more than that. He has demonstrated that Russia and the United States can negotiate Syrian life and death without involving any Syrians.

But what was really important was what was apparently missing from the meeting: any criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine, including its occupation of Crimea, and of the crackdown on political dissent inside Russia itself. In his accounting of the meeting, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson mentioned Ukraine only to say that a new United States representative on the matter would be appointed. He then managed to avoid answering the one question from a journalist about Ukraine and sanctions imposed in response to the Russian war there. Nor did the correspondents at the briefing appear concerned with getting answers on Ukraine. They were much more interested in the details of the two presidents’ discussion of Russian meddling in the American election. This is a topic that Mr. Putin clearly enjoys: It testifies to his political power, apparently unbounded by international borders.

What was entirely absent from the briefing, the reporters’ questions, and, it is probably safe to assume, the two-hour-and-15-minute meeting itself, was any discussion or even acknowledgment of any of the following:

■ Russia has intensified its crackdown on dissidents. Last month, more than 1,700 people were arrested for peaceful protest — the largest number of arrests in a single day in decades.

■ Aleksei Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who plans to challenge Mr. Putin in the 2018 presidential election, has been attacked physically and is facing a slew of trumped-up charges. The night before the summit, his Moscow headquarters were raided and one of the staff members was beaten by police. The day after, as Mr. Navalny’s supporters campaigned around the country, dozens of them were arrested — more than 30 people in Moscow alone.

■ More than a hundred gay men have been targeted by purges in Chechnya. Three deaths have been confirmed. Several men are still missing, and dozens more are in hiding elsewhere in Russia. In response to earlier international pressure, the government in Moscow has promised to investigate the matter, but nothing is known about the progress of this investigation.

■ A Moscow court has reached a guilty verdict in the case of five men accused of killing opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in 2015. The court failed to interrogate their motives, however; nothing is known about who ordered the hit.

■ The number of political prisoners in Russia is growing. They include people arrested for peaceful protest and even for statements made on social media. They also include Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year sentence on trumped-up charges of terrorism.

■ Most recently, law enforcement targeted a Moscow contemporary theater called Gogol Center. Former managing director Aleksei Malobrodsky is in jail. He is accused of embezzling state funds earmarked for a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which the prosecution falsely claims was never staged.

Since at least the 1970s, Russian leaders and Soviet leaders before them had to face questions about political freedoms and human rights whenever they met with their American counterparts. The Trump administration has ended that tradition. In May, Mr. Tillerson, in a rare public statement on policy, said that American economic and strategic interests had to take precedence over human rights advancement. When he traveled to Moscow in April, he declined to meet with human rights activists, breaking with decades of tradition. It is no surprise that Mr. Trump broached none of these issues. No wonder Mr. Putin and his news media view the meeting as a triumph.

Masha Gessen is the author of “The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.”

July 8, 2017 / 11:12 AM / 16 days ago

Putin says Trump was ‘satisfied’ with his election meddling denials

Denis Dyomkin

HAMBURG (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said he thought his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump had been satisfied with his assertions that Russia had not meddled in the U.S. presidential election.

Speaking at the end of a G20 summit in Germany where the two leaders met face-to-face for the first time, Putin said he believed he had been able to establish a personal relationship with Trump, and that the initial groundwork had been laid for an improvement in U.S.-Russian ties.

Their meeting, on the sidelines of the Hamburg summit, was subject to intense scrutiny, following allegations that Moscow had tried to help Trump win the White House, and a Washington investigation into the Russia ties of Trump associates.

Putin was pressed by reporters at a news conference to share details of the discussion he had with Trump about alleged Russian election interference. Russia has denied trying to influence the U.S. election.

“(Trump) asked a lot of questions on this subject. I, in as much as I was able, answered these questions. It seems to me that he took these (answers) on board and agreed with them, but in actual fact, it’s best to ask him how he views this,” Putin told one reporter.

Pressed again later in the same news conference by reporters about what precisely Trump had told him, Putin said: “He started to ask pointed questions, he was really interested in particular details. I, as much as I could, answered him in a fairly detailed way.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017.Carlos Barria

“I believe it would not be entirely appropriate on my part to disclose details of my discussion with Mr Trump. He asked, I answered him. He asked pointed questions, I answered them. It seemed to me that he was satisfied with those answers,” Putin said.

Putin also spoke warmly of Trump’s personal qualities. The two men have spoken by telephone since Trump won the U.S. presidential election last year, but had not met until the G20 summit in Hamburg.

“I believe that we have established personal relations already,” Putin told a news conference.

“The TV Trump is very different from the person in reality. He is absolutely precise, he reacts as you would expect to his interlocutor, he analyses fairly quickly, answers questions that are put to him.

“It seems to me that if we build our relations the way that our conversation went yesterday, then we all have grounds to believe that we can, at least in part, restore the level of cooperation that we need,” Putin said.

He said in particular that the Trump administration was taking a more pragmatic stance on the conflict on Syria. A ceasefire deal for southern Syria that was announced during the summit was the result of that new approach, Putin said, and represented a “breakthrough.”

Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Andrew Osborn

July 26, 2017 / 3:07 AM / 2 hours ago

Moscow warns new U.S. sanctions take ties into uncharted waters

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia warned that new U.S. sanctions against Moscow approved by the House of Representatives take already battered ties into uncharted waters and said it was close to taking retaliatory measures of its own.

Russia was responding after the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to impose new sanctions on Moscow and to force President Donald Trump to obtain lawmakers’ permission before easing any sanctions on Russia.

Moscow had initially hoped that Trump would work to repair a relationship which has slumped to a post-Cold War low, but has watched with frustration as allegations that Moscow interfered with last year’s U.S. presidential election and concerns over Trump associates’ Russia ties have killed off hopes of detente.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency the latest U.S. sanctions move left no room to improve ties between Moscow and Washington in the near future and took the relationship into uncharted waters.

“This is already having an extremely negative impact on the process of normalizing our relations,” Ryabkov told Interfax.

U.S.-Russia relations were entering “uncharted territory in a political and diplomatic sense,” he added.

Russia has repeatedly warned the United States it will retaliate against what it sees as hostile moves and Ryabkov made clear Moscow was growing tired of showing restraint.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier this month that too many American spies operated in Russia under diplomatic cover and that it might expel some of them to retaliate over Washington’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats last year.

That warning reflected rising frustration in Moscow over the Trump administration’s refusal to hand back two Russian diplomatic compounds which were seized at the same time as the diplomats were sent home.

Many Russian politicians believe Trump’s political opponents and Congress have successfully reduced the U.S. president’s room for maneuver on Russia to almost nil.

Ryabkov told Interfax the new sanctions bill was the “brainchild” of U.S. Congressmen who hated Russia and wanted to box in Trump.

Konstantin Kosachyov, who heads the foreign relations committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, called on Moscow to devise a “painful” response to the U.S. move.

Reporting by Katya Golubkova and Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn

A clinical psychologist explains how Ayn Rand seduced young minds and helped turn the US into a selfish nation

Bruce E. Levine, AlterNet

The ‘Atlas Shrugged’ author made selfishness heroic and caring about others weakness.

Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society….To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.— Gore Vidal, 1961

Only rarely in U.S. history do writers transform us to become a more caring or less caring nation. In the 1850s, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was a strong force in making the United States a more humane nation, one that would abolish slavery of African Americans. A century later, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world, a neo-Dickensian society where healthcare is only for those who can afford it, and where young people are coerced into huge student-loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Rand’s impact has been widespread and deep. At the iceberg’s visible tip is the influence she’s had over major political figures who have shaped American society. In the 1950s, Ayn Rand read aloud drafts of what was later to become Atlas Shrugged to her “Collective,” Rand’s ironic nickname for her inner circle of young individualists, which included Alan Greenspan, who would serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1987 to 2006.

In 1966, Ronald Reagan wrote in a personal letter, “Am an admirer of Ayn Rand.” Today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) credits Rand for inspiring him to go into politics, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) calls Atlas Shrugged his “foundation book.” Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) says Ayn Rand had a major influence on him, and his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is an even bigger fan. A short list of other Rand fans includes Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; Christopher Cox, chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission in George W. Bush’s second administration; and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

But Rand’s impact on U.S. society and culture goes even deeper.

The Seduction of Nathan Blumenthal

Ayn Rand’s books such as The Virtue of Selfishness and her philosophy that celebrates self-interest and disdains altruism may well be, as Vidal assessed, “nearly perfect in its immorality.” But is Vidal right about evil? Charles Manson, who himself did not kill anyone, is the personification of evil for many of us because of his psychological success at exploiting the vulnerabilities of young people and seducing them to murder. What should we call Ayn Rand’s psychological ability to exploit the vulnerabilities of millions of young people so as to influence them not to care about anyone besides themselves?

While Greenspan (tagged “A.G.” by Rand) was the most famous name that would emerge from Rand’s Collective, the second most well-known name to emerge from the Collective was Nathaniel Branden, psychotherapist, author and “self-esteem” advocate. Before he was Nathaniel Branden, he was Nathan Blumenthal, a 14-year-old who read Rand’s The Fountainhead again and again. He later would say, “I felt hypnotized.” He describes how Rand gave him a sense that he could be powerful, that he could be a hero. He wrote one letter to his idol Rand, then a second. To his amazement, she telephoned him, and at age 20, Nathan received an invitation to Ayn Rand’s home. Shortly after, Nathan Blumenthal announced to the world that he was incorporating Rand in his new name: Nathaniel Branden. And in 1955, with Rand approaching her 50th birthday and Branden his 25th, and both in dissatisfying marriages, Ayn bedded Nathaniel.

What followed sounds straight out of Hollywood, but Rand was straight out of Hollywood, having worked for Cecil B. DeMille. Rand convened a meeting with Nathaniel, his wife Barbara (also a Collective member), and Rand’s own husband Frank. To Branden’s astonishment, Rand convinced both spouses that a time-structured affair—she and Branden were to have one afternoon and one evening a week together—was “reasonable.” Within the Collective, Rand is purported to have never lost an argument. On his trysts at Rand’s New York City apartment, Branden would sometimes shake hands with Frank before he exited. Later, all discovered that Rand’s sweet but passive husband would leave for a bar, where he began his self-destructive affair with alcohol.

By 1964, the 34-year-old Nathaniel Branden had grown tired of the now 59-year-old Ayn Rand. Still sexually dissatisfied in his marriage to Barbara and afraid to end his affair with Rand, Branden began sleeping with a married 24-year-old model, Patrecia Scott. Rand, now “the woman scorned,” called Branden to appear before the Collective, whose nickname had by now lost its irony for both Barbara and Branden. Rand’s justice was swift. She humiliated Branden and then put a curse on him: “If you have one ounce of morality left in you, an ounce of psychological health—you’ll be impotent for the next 20 years! And if you achieve potency sooner, you’ll know it’s a sign of still worse moral degradation!”

Rand completed the evening with two welt-producing slaps across Branden’s face. Finally, in a move that Stalin and Hitler would have admired, Rand also expelled poor Barbara from the Collective, declaring her treasonous because Barbara, preoccupied by her own extramarital affair, had neglected to fill Rand in soon enough on Branden’s extra-extra-marital betrayal. (If anyone doubts Alan Greenspan’s political savvy, keep in mind that he somehow stayed in Rand’s good graces even though he, fixed up by Branden with Patrecia’s twin sister, had double-dated with the outlaws.)

After being banished by Rand, Nathaniel Branden was worried that he might be assassinated by other members of the Collective, so he moved from New York to Los Angeles, where Rand fans were less fanatical. Branden established a lucrative psychotherapy practice and authored approximately 20 books, 10 of them with either “Self” or “Self-Esteem” in the title. Rand and Branden never reconciled, but he remained an admirer of her philosophy of self-interest until his recent death in December 2014.

Ayn Rand’s personal life was consistent with her philosophy of not caring about anybody but herself. Rand was an ardent two-pack-a-day smoker, and when questioned about the dangers of smoking, she loved to light up with a defiant flourish and then scold her young questioners on the “unscientific and irrational nature of the statistical evidence.” After an x-ray showed that she had lung cancer, Rand quit smoking and had surgery for her cancer. Collective members explained to her that many people still smoked because they respected her and her assessment of the evidence; and that since she no longer smoked, she ought to tell them. They told her that she needn’t mention her lung cancer, that she could simply say she had reconsidered the evidence. Rand refused.

How Rand’s Philosophy Seduced Young Minds

When I was a kid, my reading included comic books and Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. There wasn’t much difference between the comic books and Rand’s novels in terms of the simplicity of the heroes. What was different was that unlike Superman or Batman, Rand made selfishness heroic, and she made caring about others weakness.

Rand said, “Capitalism and altruism are incompatible….The choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces.” For many young people, hearing that it is “moral” to care only about oneself can be intoxicating, and some get addicted to this idea for life.

I have known several people, professionally and socially, whose lives have been changed by those close to them who became infatuated with Ayn Rand. A common theme is something like this: “My ex-husband wasn’t a bad guy until he started reading Ayn Rand. Then he became a completely selfish jerk who destroyed our family, and our children no longer even talk to him.”

To wow her young admirers, Rand would often tell a story of how a book salesman had once challenged her to explain her philosophy while standing on one leg. She replied: “Metaphysics—objective reality. Epistemology—reason. Ethics—self-interest. Politics—capitalism.” How did that philosophy capture young minds?

Metaphysics—objective reality. Rand offered a narcotic for confused young people: complete certainty and a relief from their anxiety. Rand believed that an “objective reality” existed, and she knew exactly what that objective reality was. It included skyscrapers, industries, railroads, and ideas—at least her ideas. Rand’s objective reality did not include anxiety or sadness. Nor did it include much humor, at least the kind where one pokes fun at oneself. Rand assured her Collective that objective reality did not include Beethoven’s, Rembrandt’s, and Shakespeare’s realities—they were too gloomy and too tragic, basically buzz-killers. Rand preferred Mickey Spillane and, towards the end of her life, “Charlie’s Angels.”

Epistemology—reason. Rand’s kind of reason was a “cool-tool” to control the universe. Rand demonized Plato, and her youthful Collective members were taught to despise him. If Rand really believed that the Socratic Method described by Plato of discovering accurate definitions and clear thinking did not qualify as “reason,” why then did she regularly attempt it with her Collective? Also oddly, while Rand mocked dark moods and despair, her “reasoning” directed that Collective members should admire Dostoyevsky, whose novels are filled with dark moods and despair. A demagogue, in addition to hypnotic glibness, must also be intellectually inconsistent, sometimes boldly so. This eliminates challenges to authority by weeding out clear-thinking young people from the flock.

Ethics—self-interest. For Rand, all altruists were manipulators. What could be more seductive to kids who discerned the motives of martyr parents, Christian missionaries and U.S. foreign aide? Her champions, Nathaniel Branden still among them, feel that Rand’s view of “self-interest” has been horribly misrepresented. For them, self-interest is her hero architect Howard Roark turning down a commission because he couldn’t do it exactly his way. Some of Rand’s novel heroes did have integrity, however, for Rand there is no struggle to discover the distinction between true integrity and childish vanity. Rand’s integrity was her vanity, and it consisted of getting as much money and control as possible, copulating with whomever she wanted regardless of who would get hurt, and her always being right. To equate one’s selfishness, vanity, and egotism with one’s integrity liberates young people from the struggle to distinguish integrity from selfishness, vanity, and egotism.

Politics—capitalism. While Rand often disparaged Soviet totalitarian collectivism, she had little to say about corporate totalitarian collectivism, as she conveniently neglected the reality that giant U.S. corporations, like the Soviet Union, do not exactly celebrate individualism, freedom, or courage. Rand was clever and hypocritical enough to know that you don’t get rich in the United States talking about compliance and conformity within corporate America. Rather, Rand gave lectures titled: “America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business.” So, young careerist corporatists could embrace Rand’s self-styled “radical capitalism” and feel radical — radical without risk.

Rand’s Legacy

In recent years, we have entered a phase where it is apparently okay for major political figures to publicly embrace Rand despite her contempt for Christianity. In contrast, during Ayn Rand’s life, her philosophy that celebrated self-interest was a private pleasure for the 1 percent but she was a public embarrassment for them. They used her books to congratulate themselves on the morality of their selfishness, but they publicly steered clear of Rand because of her views on religion and God. Rand, for example, had stated on national television, “I am against God. I don’t approve of religion. It is a sign of a psychological weakness. I regard it as an evil.”

Actually, again inconsistent, Rand did have a God. It was herself. She said:

I am done with the monster of “we,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame. And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: “I.”

While Harriet Beecher Stowe shamed Americans about the United States’ dehumanization of African Americans and slavery, Ayn Rand removed Americans’ guilt for being selfish and uncaring about anyone except themselves. Not only did Rand make it “moral” for the wealthy not to pay their fair share of taxes, she “liberated” millions of other Americans from caring about the suffering of others, even the suffering of their own children.

The good news is that I’ve seen ex-Rand fans grasp the damage that Rand’s philosophy has done to their lives and to then exorcise it from their psyche. Can the United States as a nation do the same thing?

Bruce E. Levine is a practicing clinical psychologist. His latest book is Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite.

Raw Story

Six ways Trump is ‘dismantling’ the US after six months in office

By Dominic Rushe, Oliver Milman, Molly Redden, Jamiles Lartey, David Smith and Oliver LaughlanB

The Guardian

Trump has been paralyzed on healthcare and tax reform, but his administration has been active in eroding safeguards and protections elsewhere

Given all that Donald Trump promised the business world during his bombastic campaign, it’s tempting to dismiss the president’s first six months with a “meh”. It would also be myopic.

While protesters are worried about the future, the president has so far failed to pass his tax reforms, which business wanted. But at the same time fears that his China rhetoric, threats of trade wars and tweets about penalties for US businesses who ship jobs overseas, have not amounted to much.

The economic trends started under Obama have continued: stock markets have continued their giddy ride to uncharted highs, unemployment has continued to drift down and interest rates have remained low.

Trump’s overture may seem a little weak, but the president has already made significant moves and still more may be happening in the wings.

Trump has ordered a review of Dodd-Frank, the regulations brought in to tame US financial institutions after they triggered the worst recession in living memory. He has appointed a sworn enemy of net neutrality over at the Federal Communications Commission, who is now working to dismantle Obama-era open internet protections. He has freed up energy firms to start polluting rivers again and scrapped a rule that barred companies from receiving federal contracts if they had a history of violating wage, labour or safety laws.

After years of gains for consumer, environmental and worker rights groups, the pendulum is being swung the other way – but most often those changes are happening behind closed doors.

In March, Trump pledged to “remove every job-killing regulation we can find” and deregulation teams have been set up to comb through the statutes looking for rules to cull. A recent ProPublica and New York Times investigation found Trump’s deregulation teams were being conducted in the dark in large part by appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts of interest.

It’s hardly surprising given that the Trump administration has literally removed the White House visitors book, so we may never know who has been whispering in the president’s ear. Six months in, it is hard to tell what is being cut and by whom. We may never know the consequences of Trump’s regulation death squads until it’s too late.

In the past week, both Emmanuel Macron and Sir Richard Branson have claimed that Donald Trump has been gripped by regret over his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement. But hopes that the US president will reverse this decision sit uneasily with the consistency of his administration’s environmental rollbacks.

In Scott Pruitt, Trump has an Environmental Protection Agency chief who understands how the agency works and how to hobble it. Pruitt, who has dismissed the mainstream scientific understanding of climate change, has spearheaded a concerted effort to excise or delay dozens of environmental rules.

Emissions standards for cars and trucks, the clean power plan, water pollution restrictions, a proposed ban on a pesticide linked to developmental problems in children, regulations that stop power plants dumping toxins such as mercury into their surrounds – all have been targeted with efficacious zeal by Pruitt.

The EPA administrator was also a fierce proponent of a US exit from the Paris accord, ensuring that Trump wasn’t swayed by doubts raised by Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and Ivanka Trump, his daughter and adviser. The US won’t be able to officially pull out until 2020, but the decision has dealt a hefty blow to the effort to slow dangerous global warming and provided a tangible victory for the nationalist, climate change denying elements that now roam the White House.

Elsewhere, public land has been thrown open to coal mining – and oil and gas drilling is being ushered into America’s Arctic and Atlantic waters. Two dozen national monuments are under review, several may be shrunk or even eliminated.

Trump is delivering on his crusade to transport the environmental and industrial outlook of the late 19th century to the modern day.

In less than six months, Trump has begun to tear up almost all of the key planks of Barack Obama’s environmental agenda. This blitzkrieg is likely to slow now that it faces a thicket of legal action launched by enraged environmental groups and some states, such as New York. But to Trump’s supporters, the president, who pledged during the campaign to reduce the EPA to “tidbits”, is delivering on his crusade to transport the environmental and industrial outlook of the late 19th century to the modern day.

Donald Trump’s bluster over his harsh immigration reform – namely the implementation of a diluted Muslim-targeted travel ban and a crackdown on undocumented immigrants – belies the cost these self-proclaimed victories have had on both the fundamental institutions of democracy and the most vulnerable communities in the United States.

Take the travel ban, which targets refugees and visa applicants from six Muslim majority countries. The president’s first failed order, haphazardly issued in January, provoked scenes of chaos at airports around the country – temporarily separating families, cancelling legitimately issued visas and propelling the country toward a constitutional crisis, before a series of federal courts intervened to block it.

After his second attempt in March was blocked again in the lower courts, the president, seemingly without care for due process or respect for the co-equal branches of government, threatened to simply abolish the federal appeals court he incorrectly identified as responsible for the decision.

Trump’s bullish perseverance on the ban, which has left many in Muslim and refugee communities around the US living in fear, has resulted in a temporary ruling in the supreme court that allows a much diluted version of the order to come into effect. Although the president heralded the decision a victory, the ultimate test comes in autumn when the country’s highest court will ultimately rule on the ban’s constitutionality.

The president has also moved quickly to supercharge efforts to round up and deport undocumented immigrants. By empowering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), the federal agency responsible deportations, to target essentially anyone in the country without legal paperwork, the number of immigration arrests has soared. Although the administration has celebrated this uptick, it has actually been able to deport people at a much slower rate due to the crippling backlog inside America’s immigration courts.

Trump’s attempt at a solution to this has been to create a network of new courts, attached to remote detention centers and far from the reach of immigration attorneys. The strategy, plagued with due process concerns, has enjoyed mixed success. But, once again, it is those most vulnerable – many of whom have lived in America without paperwork for decades and have no criminal history – who have paid the highest price.

First, the good news. Donald Trump has not started a war. He has therefore, so far, avoided the worst-case scenario that some predicted for his presidency. One-eighth of the way through his term, he does not yet have a stain on his record like George W Bush has with Iraq. Instead his Twitter spats with cable TV hosts and their indulgence by the media are a luxury of peacetime.

But in other, important ways, the US president has set about diminishing America’s global leadership role and diplomatic standing. He has emphasized the defense of America and western civilization and downplayed democracy and human rights. He has warmed to authoritarian leaders in China, the Philippines, Russia and Saudi Arabia while going cold on Britain (still no visit), the European Union and Australia. His attacks on the press send an alarming message to dictators everywhere.

The world has noticed. A major survey of 37 countries by Pew Research last month found that just 22% of respondents had some or a great deal of confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. After his performance at NATO and G7 meetings, German chancellor Angela Merkel said pointedly: “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over. I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.” At the G20, he cut a lonely, isolated figure.

This damage could be undone relatively quickly but the “America first” president’s proposed 30% cut to the state department, where many top staff have left and not been replaced, threatens to be a lasting legacy. Max Bergmann, a former official, wrote in Politico: “The deconstruction of the state department is well underway … This is how diplomacy dies. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. With empty offices on a midweek afternoon.”

The outlier in Trump’s foreign policy came on 6 April, when the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airfield in Syria in retaliation for the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. It was a move welcomed by hawks and loathed by “anti-globalists” in Trump’s support base. But the most urgent issue, enough to test any US president, is North Korea. There is little evidence so far to suggest he will succeed where others have failed.

Trump’s White House has wasted little time erasing many of the changes that advocates for trans rights, reproductive rights and survivors of sexual assault achieved under the Obama administration.

The Trump team is in the middle of sharply reversing how the federal government enforces laws against gender bias. In February, the administration withdrew the Obama-era guidelines requiring schools to give transgender students unfettered access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity. And Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, may restrict the federal government’s ability to intervene when colleges and universities do a questionable job of handling students’ complaints of sexual assault.

Trump is also attempting to dismantle the nation’s public safety net for family planning, with an assist from his party in Congress. The president has signed legislation encouraging states to withhold federal family planning dollars from Planned Parenthood. The latest version of Republican’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act would eliminate the birth control mandate – which is also under fire from Trump’s health department – not to mention maternity coverage requirements.

Every repeal attempt has contained a measure to block women on Medicaid from using their insurance at Planned Parenthood – measures that would shutter scores of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. And the administration is poised to give the green light to states, like Texas, that axe Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid programs.

The White House also has aims to zero out funding for the government-funded Legal Services Corporation, which is the main source of legal assistance for women attempting to escape domestic violence, when Congress passes a budget this fall.

Finally, there’s US supreme court justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who observers say “has all the makings of an extreme anti-abortion justice”. Trump named Gorsuch eleven days into his presidency, fulfilling a longtime campaign promise to nominate justices who will vote to overturn Roe v Wade.

Much of what the federal government can do on criminal justice is left to Congress, since most criminal justice happens at state and local, rather than federal levels. However, Trump’s administration hasn’t spared much time doing what it can to reverse a roughly decades long retreat from the peak of tough-on-crime, mass-incarceration dogma.

So far, efforts on criminal justice have been much more sizzle than steak, but the prospect of dramatic policy change looms just around the corner. Stuffed in a suite of executive orders signed in February, Trump commissioned a task-force to make recommendations on combating “the menace of rising crime”, which has been an enduring theme of the administration despite being debunked by experts. That task-force, which reportedly, and curiously, does not include police chiefs or criminologists is scheduled to make its recommendations on 27 July.

“If you’re going to see anything from the Trump administration proposing new [or longer] mandatory minimums and a general return to the tough on crime tactics, I think you’ll see those recommendations made by the task force,” said Ames Grawert, a criminal justice researcher with the Brennan Center for Justice.

It remains unclear how much support there might be in Congress for taking up such recommendations. As recently as December there was real momentum behind a bipartisan bill to make sentencing less punitive, not more.

In the interim, attorney general Jeff Sessions has instructed federal prosecutors to seek the highest possible penalty in every case, and has championed initiatives to push state cases for federal prosecutors to obtain harsher sentencing.

In another reversal from the Obama era, Sessions has also signaled that the DOJ will not use its authority to investigate or reform local police departments, even in cases where gross negligence, or rampant civil rights violations may be occurring. Sessions tried, and failed, to pause a consent decree negotiated in Baltimore after the Freddie Gray unrest, and his department has so far flaked-out of a similar effort that was slated for Chicago under the previous administration.

“We will not sign consent decrees for political expediency that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals,” Sessions wrote in an 18 April op-ed in USA Today.

The Guardian

Russia demands US return diplomat compounds before talks

By AFP | 17 July 2017 | 12:39 pm

The Guardian

The Kremlin said Washington must unconditionally restore its access to diplomatic compounds in the United States ahead of high-level talks on the issue.

Russia is angry that Washington is still barring its diplomats from using two compounds in the states of New York and Maryland after then president Barack Obama in December ordered the ban on access in response to suspected Russian meddling in the US election.

“We consider it absolutely unacceptable to place conditions on the return of diplomatic property, we consider that it must be returned without any conditions and talking,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

He spoke as Thomas Shannon, the US State Department’s third-in-command, was set to host Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov in Washington later Monday.

Diplomats quoted by Russian news agencies said the issue of the residential complexes would be on their agenda.

The talks between Shannon and Ryabkov were earlier scheduled for June but Russia cancelled them, citing new US sanctions linked to the conflict in Ukraine.

When President Vladimir Putin and US counterpart Donald Trump met for the first time at the G20 summit in Hamburg this month, the Kremlin strongman raised the question “quite unambiguously,” Peskov said.

He added that “we still hope our American colleagues will show political wisdom and political will.”

Obama announced the US was shutting down residential complexes in December at the same time as he expelled 35 Russian diplomats for spying.

He said the measures were in response to US intelligence reports of Russian hacking and an alleged influence campaign to sway the US presidential election in Trump’s favor, describing the compounds as used by Moscow for “intelligence-related purposes.”

At the time Putin held off from retaliating, saying he would wait to see how Trump reacted after he came into the White House.

But hope that Trump will soon follow up on campaign pledges to boost relations have fizzled as any ties to Moscow have become toxic for the White House amid a maelstrom of US investigations into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Now Russia has decided to ratchet up threats that it could belatedly take revenge by blocking a country house and a storage facility used by the US Embassy in Moscow.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week: “If Washington decides not to solve this issue, we will have to take counter actions.”

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova complained last week that the US was also refusing to issue visas for Russian diplomats to replace those expelled.

The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

A Q&A with author Nancy MacLean about the elusive James McGill Buchanan.

By Kristin Miller | July 13, 2017


Author Nancy MacLean has unearthed a stealth ideologue of the American right. Her book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, tells the story of one James McGill Buchanan, a Southern political scientist and father of “public choice economics.” MacLean details how this little-known figure has had a massive impact on the ideology of the far right. None other than Charles Koch looked to Buchanan’s theories for inspiration. They are libertarian — but with a twist: bluntly, it “entails restrictions on the freedom of the great majority in order to protect property rights and the prerogatives of the most well off.” MacLean shows how this idea can be traced down through the last 60 years of right-wing politics, starting with Brown v. The Board of Education and continuing with the Koch brothers’ empire. And she demonstrates that those followers and those in thrall to the Koch billions are pumping up their fight under the new administration.

Kristin Miller talked with Nancy MacLean about her books and the influence of James McGill Buchanan on our politics both overt and covert. Read an excerpt of Democracy in Chains.

Kristin Miller: Did you know anything about Buchanan before you started your research?

Nancy MacLean: I did not. I had actually never heard of him, probably like most people in the country. I found him in the course of researching something else and I kept finding him in the archives on different important matters that shocked me, and so I began to make him the focus of the research.

KM: Just what is his theory of “public choice economics”?

NM: Buchanan was trained at the University of Chicago and was part of the same milieu as Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek and others whose names are more well known. What he did that was different from them is take the tools that he learned at the University of Chicago and apply them to public life. So he looked at public actors, including elected officials, as self-interested, as people who were not really seeking the common good, not really trying to advance the public interest, but really serving their own interests.

His theory of the motives of public actors was so cynical as to be utterly corrosive of the norms of a democratic society, as people pointed out along the way, but he would not listen.

— Nancy MacLean

So in the case of elected officials, he said that their real interest, their main interest was being re-elected. He was in public finance, so his contribution there was to say that because they were interested in being elected and because they weren’t paying for the things that they were doing from their own pockets, they didn’t care about running up deficits. They would promise one thing to environmentalists, say, and one thing to retirees and another thing to public schools and not care about raising adequate revenue to cover those things. He was not entirely wrong about that. But his theory of the motives of public actors was so cynical as to be utterly corrosive of the norms of a democratic society, as people pointed out along the way, but he would not listen.

KM: How does that theory flow into the idea that it is democracy versus liberty?

NM: He was setting to work in Virginia in the late 1950s. Virginia had the most oligarch elite of the entire South. And he understood the system in Virginia as a kind of outpost of liberty and he posed as his own mission to preserve liberty, the liberty advocated by the leaders of Virginia, like Sen. Harry Byrd. That liberty was very compatible with restrictions on the freedom of the great majority. So labor unions did not have free ability to operate in Virginia. Civil rights activists certainly did not. There was very poor transparency in the state in terms of reporting about the things that were going on. His version of liberty entails restrictions on the freedom of the great majority in order to protect property rights and the prerogatives of the most well-off systems.

KM: How does this differ say from libertarianism as preached by Ron Paul and that sort of wing of the Republican or libertarian parties?

NM: I was really entering a whole new world here. I mean, not just Buchanan’s public choice school of economics, but I had actually not paid much attention to libertarianism before either. But it turns out that most of them do draw from these common sources and one of the key figures in that — a guy named Murray Rothbard, who Charles Koch sustained for a while — he traced the core libertarian idea to John C. Calhoun, the pro-slavery theorist of the 19th century, who had his own version of liberty and basically looked at taxes as exploitative. So here was a man who made his living and his wealth by enslaving men, women and children said that that was not exploitation but what was exploitation was when less-wealthy citizens went to government for things like public education, good roads, canals and all those kinds of things. So he actually posed it as what we would call today makers and takers. So Calhoun saw himself as a maker and saw other citizens, white citizens at the time, who were the ones voting for these things, as takers, and that idea flowed into modern libertarianism — this notion that there isn’t exploitation in the economic realm, the exploitation comes from the political realm, where majorities gang up on minorities of propertied individuals.

So actually, Ron Paul is connected to that whole set of ideas. It’s kind of like the revolutionaries of the left, the Bolsheviks and all the groups they wrought. So there are various differences among them, but for the people who are the core ideologues of libertarianism and the core architects in building this movement, there are certain common views and what I’m describing is one of them, the notion that property rights are the crucial human right and that they are central to liberty and that liberty includes the ability of individuals to veto what a democracy comes up with.

For the people who are the core ideologues of libertarianism…there are certain common views and (one is) the notion that property rights are the crucial human right and that they are central to liberty and that liberty includes the ability of individuals to veto what a democracy comes up with.

— Nancy MacLean

KM: You referred to a movement as a fifth column. Is it still a stealth movement, do you feel, or is it more in the open these days?

NM: I think it’s both, and that’s its strength. It’s not actually a conspiracy in the legal definition, because a conspiracy involves illegal behavior, and this cause is so rich, so wealthy, that they can hire the best legal talent to make sure that they’re operating within the law — with the possible exception of nonprofit law. But at the same time, it is so vast and so well-funded — the amount of money being circulated through these operations is larger than the major political parties. There are literally dozens — not just dozens, but hundreds of organizations, if you count the state level ones and the international ones, that are ostensibly separate but really working together on this. So I don’t think “fifth column” is necessarily the best term, but it identifies that element of their thought, which is really so far on the radical right that they have such a hostile attitude toward our democracy; it’s almost as if they’re outsiders bent on what one of them called a hostile takeover.

KM: Who are the people now that we should be watching, and what kind of tactics should we be looking out for?

NM: Well, the first thing I’d say is stop paying such attention to Trump’s tweets. They’re a total distraction. I think we should instead be carefully watching the actions of groups like Freedom Partners, Chamber of Commerce, the Koch’s big donor operation. The Club for Growth is another part of this, and Americans for Prosperity on the ground.

I think you could also watch for their language. This is a cause that has opposed social security from its creation. These people are totally hostile to the principle of social insurance. They think we should all be individually responsible for our needs, ultimately. But they also know that that’s a terribly unpopular thing to say. Huge majorities of American people support Social Security, support Medicare, want to make them better and stronger. Buchanan advised in great detail about Social Security at the beginning of the early 1980s. What they need to do is fear monger and create a sense of crisis that these programs are unsustainable, they’ll never be solvent. So they use an Orwellian language of reform when really what they want to do is undermine the program. I think the first thing to do would be ask them fundamental questions, like do you support the principle of Social Security, do you support the principle of Medicare?

I think people should also resist any further effort to privatize anything until we get to the bottom of this. They are using privatization not because it was more efficient, as they would say publicly, but as they talked about among themselves, privatization radically alters power relations in our society by weakening groups like public employees and public school teachers.

There is really a calculated effort going on to undermine all of our collective institutions and some of the great social reforms of the 20th century — such as labor unions, the AARP, civil rights groups.

— Nancy MacLean

There is really a calculated effort going on to undermine all of our collective institutions and some of the great social reforms of the 20th century — such as labor unions, the AARP, civil rights groups. We’ve seen the attacks, beginning in Wisconsin, on the right of workers to collective bargaining. We’ve seen passage of right to work legislation in many states and efforts even to put right to work legislation into the constitutions of states so that it cannot be changed by future generations.

So I think if we understand what the strategy is and what the endgame is, we’ll be in a better position to stop it and get the country back on a course that most of us would want of fairness, of sustainability, of one person, one vote.

KM: And I mean, Trump himself said he was not one of these people, but do you see things that he’s done in his administration that are right out of their playbook already?

NM: Yes. I don’t think there’s as much light between Donald Trump and the Kochs as they would all like us to believe. I’m a historian, not a journalist. That will be for future journalists to cover. But I will say that Trump certainly shares much of this ideology. When he speaks of the swamp, he’s using a language and a code that’s different from what most liberals think. So people keep saying, “You’re not fulfilling your promises of draining the swamp in your conduct in office,” but his view of the swamp is a Buchananite view of the swamp, so it refers to all of those who make claims on government for things they cannot get alone in the market. So he has actually acted to destroy basically our system of environmental regulations, to undermine workers’ power, to stop civil rights enforcement. All of those things flow from the Buchanan-Koch playbook. And Donald Trump is surrounded by people who are veterans of this Koch apparatus. So, I saw by one report, 70 percent of his top senior appointees are coming from that network, and that includes of course his vice president, Mike Pence. It also includes the White House liaison to Congress, Mark Short. It includes Scott Pruitt at the EPA.

KM: How do we make the Koch organization more visible, if it’s not for work like yours and Jane Mayer’s?

NM: The crucial thing for people to realize that this cause is doing what it is because it knows it is a permanent minority cause. And if the vast majority of people ever understood what it is really about or what it is trying to do to our society and our politics, they would rally against it. You see it again and again where they realize, “Oh my gosh, people will never support us” you know, “if we tell the truth,” from Barry Goldwater’s campaign forward. Frankly, our legislators in Washington are going to need to be reinvigorated by the grass-roots understanding of these things.

The crucial thing for people to realize that this cause is doing what it is because it knows it is a permanent minority cause. And if the vast majority of people ever understood what it is really about or what it is trying to do to our society and our politics, they would rally against it.

— Nancy MacLean

We’re trying to expose this and to help people to understand that what they’re telling even the voters they’re relying on is not the truth. And that to me is especially chilling. There are a couple of great social scientists, Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson, who wrote a book about the tea party in which they went out to talk to as many tea party groups in the country as they could. They met with just hundreds and hundreds, I think, of rank-and-file tea party members, and they could not find a single rank-and-file tea party member who wanted the privatization of Social Security and Medicare, and yet that’s what the Koch operation is doing in putting itself at the head of these tea party groups. It’s using them as a kind of battering ram to get this billionaire donor agenda.

Most Americans believe in fairness; we believe that people should work hard but there should be a safety net. We believe in saving the quality of our air and water for our children. Most Americans want action on climate change. You can just go through the list. Most Americans believe in progressive taxation. The people are not as divided as this operation has made us with its endless agitation of kind of culture war issues.

And one more thing I think I should add on that front is we also need to pay attention to the state level, because this cause has very strategically gone after power over state governments. We saw, after 2010, the most radical gerrymander in history, and with that gerrymandered power, they’ve pushed through very unpopular agendas in numerous states. What you’re seeing at the state level, what you’re seeing at the federal level, what you’re seeing in pulling out of the Paris climate talks — all of these things come together and are being driven by this huge apparatus. I think just having that clarity to see the connections and realize that it’s not our fellow citizens who are doing this to us so much as that class of radical-right donors. I think that will be hugely empowering to people.

KM: And you believe that they have that messianic strain to them?

NM: I think the left and liberals have grossly underestimated Charles Koch. I think he’s an absolutely brilliant man. The guy has three engineering degrees from MIT. He refuses to take his company public because he doesn’t want to answer to stockholders who will want to think about the next quarter when he’d like to be thinking about 30 years from now. I think he is a very deep and strategic thinker and I think he is also — yes, has a messianic vision. He’s compared himself to Martin Luther — saying that he wants to unleash the kind of force that propelled Columbus to his discovery.

Now, he’s also though enough of a good manager to think about the self-interest of others. What he’s done is beautifully exploit the self-interest of varied people who can get him what he wants. Maybe they believe in these things, maybe they don’t, but they share an interest in moving the ball down the field.

Similarly, he’s exploiting the religious right. I mean, this is a man who, from everything I’ve read, is not very religious himself, and libertarianism as a cause has always had lots of committed atheists who sneer at people who believe in God. You certainly think of Ayn Rand, right? But they are activating the religious right to provide a source of votes that otherwise they would lack.

I do not believe he’s acting from crude self-interest, venal self-interest, as many people have implied. I think this is his mission, to change the world and to enshrine his version of liberty. But he’s a shrewd enough actor to bring all these other people into the fold.

I think another really interesting approach would be for voters around the country to start holding their elected officials accountable, and I hope that would include moderate Republican voters too. Are you willing to stand on principle even if they primary you and drive you from office?

The Senate health care bill’s support is under 20 percent around the country. In not a single state is there majority support for this bill, and yet most of the Republican candidates in the Senate are lining up to support this bill. Why is that? That’s because they’re afraid of the Koch donor network. We have to just really help people to understand the deep spine of this — to X-ray what’s happening and understand where the real forces of power are moving and be able to focus on those.

Kristin Miller is a senior producer for Billmoyers.com. She has worked on Now with Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers on Faith & Reason, Moyers on America and Bill Moyers Journal. She’s also been a producer for TED, Sesame Street and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

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Health Crisis — Alcohol use disorders in U.S. jump 50 percent

According to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry, an estimated one out of every eight Americans struggles with an alcohol disorder. Tracking the alcohol consumption habits of 40,000 Americans, the study examined how drinking habits have changed between two periods of time, between 2002-2003 and 2012 -2013. The study also created a picture of long-term drinking habits that led to findings, that in light of the national opioid abuse crisis, make the alcohol abuse problem even more shocking. Drinking alcohol, in general, saw a substantial increase over that time period, while problem drinking saw a huge rise, particularly among women, minorities and senior citizens. The study used criteria established by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


Using statistical analysis, that included a software program (SUDAAN, version 11.0; Research Triangle Institute72) used to take into account standard errors of the prevalence estimates for each survey, the results indicated significant differences in the estimates between surveys. Not only do the findings “suggest a public health crisis,” given alcohol abuse is linked to a number of health and psychiatric problems, as well as violence and crimes, “these findings portend increases in many chronic comorbidities in which alcohol use has a substantial role,” the researchers write. High-risk drinking problemsHigh-risk drinking in the study referred to those women drinking four or more alcoholic drinks a day, or men drinking five or more alcoholic drinks per day. In this study, high-risk drinking in women rose 58 percent. In older adults, it rose an astounding 65 percent.


Photo Courtesy Maena

Problem drinking statistics Problem drinking takes into account both alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, according to the criteria. In alcohol abuse settings, drinking begins interfering with home, family, or job responsibilities, while alcohol dependence indicates the inability to quit drinking. Overall, problem drinking increased 50 percent between the two survey periods. Among women, alcohol abuse and dependence increased by 83.7 percent, in African Americans, it increased by 92.8 percent. and among those Americans earning less than $20,000 a year, it rose by 65.9 percent. Noteworthy were the findings for alcohol abuse and dependence in older Americans, those 65 and over. The statistics indicate problem drinking increased by a whopping 106.7 percent. The researchers did not theorize on why there was such a huge increase in older adults, but did say it was “unprecedented.”

Kids who drink are more likely to be victims of violent crime according to the U.S. National Instit...

Kids who drink are more likely to be victims of violent crime, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.


The cost of alcohol abuse disorder It is estimated that over 88,000 Americans die every year from alcohol related problems, either because of health impacts, falls, accidents, violence or other means. The number of alcohol abuse disorder deaths actually overshadow the number of deaths being seen from drug overdoses, currently said to be about 91 to 100 deaths per day. The cost of excessive alcohol use in the United States reached $249 billion in 2010 or about $2.05 per drink, according to data published by the CDC in 2016. Most of the loss was in workplace productivity, accounting for 72 percent of the $249 billion. Health care expenses in treating alcohol abuse disorder amounted to 11 percent of the total. The economic impact of alcohol problems on the U.S. economy far outweighs the $78.5 billion in aggregate costs associated with the opioid crisis in the U.S. And here is an interesting statistic – looking at costs for lost productivity due to opioid dependence, including reduced productive hours and lost production for incarcerated individuals, this was estimated at about $20 billion.

Netflix nabs Shonda Rhimes, commencing total TV takeover

Image: mashable composite/netflix

If you had any doubts that the future of TV is streaming, then let network television queen Shonda Rhimes explain it; On Sunday, Rhimes signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to produce new and original Shondaland shows.

“Shonda Rhimes is one of the greatest storytellers in the history of television,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix. “Her work is gripping, inventive, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping, taboo-breaking television at its best. I’ve gotten the chance to know Shonda and she’s a true Netflixer at heart — she loves TV and films, she cares passionately about her work, and she delivers for her audience. We’re so excited to welcome her to Netflix.”

One Netflix spokesperson stated pointedly that the company wants to be a home for black artists pushing the boundaries of visual storytelling:

Shonda joins so many of the best black creators in the game that have chosen to call Netflix home, including Spike Lee (Director: She’s Gotta Have it), Ava DuVernay (Director: 13th, Central Park Five), Justin Simien (Director: Dear White People), Dee Rees (Director: Mudbound), Yance Ford (Director: Strong Island) and Marlon Wayans (Producer: Naked).  

Netflix offers creators like these something that other networks don’t: complete creative freedom. You can watch pure, unfiltered #BlackGirlMagic / #BlackBoyJoy whenever you want, wherever you want, and on whatever device you want with Netflix.

Netflix currently streams Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and How to Get Away With Murder from the Shondaland world, but working with Netflix means Rhimes and her colleagues aren’t restricted by schedules, ratings, or — most importantly — standards and practices. That means Shondaland with swears, Shondaland with uninhibited sex scenes and probably a lot more of that murder everyone gets away with.

It’s going to fantastic.

Current Shondaland shows on ABC will continue to air there, but Rhimes was likely already on her way out of ABC, with a year left in her deal with the network. Last year, she expressed an interest in leaving “traditional TV” with large-batch episode releases or varying episode running times. It was reported in 2016 that ABC was also hunting for more procedurals and live shows rather than traditional scripted drama, which are Rhimes’ specialty.

“Shondaland’s move to Netflix is the result of a shared plan Ted Sarandos and I built based on my vision for myself as a storyteller and for the evolution of my company,” Rhimes said in the release. “Ted provides a clear, fearless space for creators at Netflix. He understood what I was looking for — the opportunity to build a vibrant new storytelling home for writers with the unique creative freedom and instantaneous global reach provided by Netflix’s singular sense of innovation. The future of Shondaland at Netflix has limitless possibilities.”

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UMass Dartmouth College of Nursing wins $1.8M grant to diversify nursing…

THE UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARTMOUTH’S College of Nursing will use a $1.8 million grant to help its nursing program diversify the nursing workforce in nearby Fall River and New Bedford. /COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARTMOUTH
THE UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARTMOUTH’S College of Nursing will use a $1.8 million grant to help its nursing program diversify the nursing workforce in nearby Fall River and New Bedford. /COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARTMOUTH

DARTMOUTH – University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s College of Nursing won a $1.8 million grant in July from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to diversify the nursing workforce in the region over the next four years.

About $500,000 of the funding will provide need-based aid to area students who want to pursue nursing as a profession.

Dr. Barbara Weatherford, program director of the diversity program, will team with colleagues from Bristol Community College to study admission practices at the Fall River and New Bedford campuses to recruit applicants mirroring the population in those areas.

This project focuses on New Bedford due to the city’s changing demographics, now estimated at 16.7 percent Hispanic and 6.4 percent Black/African American, according to 2015 U.S. Census data. The goal is to bring nursing enrollment in line with these demographic trends by promoting nursing as a career and supporting admitted students throughout their college career so they graduate on time and fully prepared to excel at regional hospitals and other health care organizations.

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“The need exists for a more-diverse workforce to address the health needs of the community,” Weatherford said. “Building a health care workforce that reflects the diversity of the community will strengthen the delivery of health care across the region, and help the region retain talent. We also anticipate learning from our students about changing the world, one nurse at a time.”

Weatherford said the nursing program accepts about 120 students each year. With the grant, and the insight from their studies, they’ll invite about 50 students to be among that number.

“They have really responded well,” Weatherford said.

One major objective of the project is to develop holistic admissions at both campuses, a strategy used in medical and dental schools to ensure talented students from diverse backgrounds are identified, recruited and supported.

The initiative will build upon ongoing outreach to middle and high school students through the university’s Upward Bound program.

The grant will also fund academic coaching for the students.

“We’re going to really target maximum impact,” Weatherford said.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN contributing writer.

Alleged driver of car that plowed into Charlottesville crowd, killing woman, was a Nazi sympathizer, former teacher says

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — An explosion of violence turned deadly in this normally bucolic university town on Saturday as hundreds of white supremacists clashed with counterprotesters in the streets, and a car — allegedly driven by a young man who had long sympathized with Nazi views — plowed into crowds, killing one person and leaving 19 injured.

The alleged driver, James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old who traveled to Virginia from Ohio, had espoused extremist ideals at least since high school, according to Derek Weimer, a history teacher.

Weimer said he taught Fields during his junior and senior years at Randall K. Cooper High School in Kentucky. In a class called “America’s Modern Wars,” Weimer recalled that Fields wrote a deeply researched paper about the Nazi military during World War II.

“It was obvious that he had this fascination with Nazism and a big idolatry of Adolf Hitler,” Weimer said. “He had white supremacist views. He really believed in that stuff.”

Fields’s research project into the Nazi military was well written, Weimer said, but it appeared to be a “big lovefest for the German military and the Waffen-SS.”

As a teacher, Weimer said he highlighted historical facts, not just opinion, in an unsuccessful attempt to steer Fields away from his infatuation with the Nazis.

“This was something that was growing in him,” Weimer said. “I admit I failed. I tried my best. But this is definitely a teachable moment and something we need to be vigilant about, because this stuff is tearing up our country.”

By the weekend’s finish, Fields had become the face of one of the ugliest days in recent American history. After marching through the University of Virginia’s campus carrying torches and spewing hate Friday night, hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and KKK members gathered in downtown Charlottesville on Saturday to protest the removal of a statue memorializing Robert E. Lee. As they waved Confederate flags and screamed racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic slurs, the protesters – almost all white and male – were met with fierce resistance from activists who had come to stop them.

“No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” they chanted, holding “Black Lives Matter” signs and placards calling for equality and love.

Who threw the first punch or launched the first rock was, it seemed, impossible to say, but by midmorning, fists and faces had been bloodied. Members of both sides wielded sticks and shields. In one of the most intense confrontations, a group of white supremacists charged into a line of activists, swinging clubs and bashing bodies. The activists fought back, tossing balloons filled with paint and spraying stinging chemicals into the faces of their adversaries.

When the chaos subsided late Saturday, a young woman and two state police officers, who had crashed in a helicopter, were dead, and many more were hurt. As of Saturday evening, the car’s impact had left five people in critical condition and another 14 injured at the University of Virginia Medical Center. By Sunday, 10 were in good condition and nine had been discharged. At least a dozen more were treated after being injured in street brawls.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump continued to receive sharp criticism, even from members of his own party, for failing to directly condemn white supremacists – who, in turn, praised him for not doing so. Meanwhile, thousands of people were expected to gather at vigils in Charlottesville, Washington and beyond Sunday night. Their messages focused largely on healing, but many people who had witnessed Saturday’s most terrifying moment, either in person or on video, were struggling to move on.

A viral recording captured the scene: A sedan and a minivan rolled to a stop in a road packed with activists. Suddenly, a 2010 Dodge Challenger smashed into the back of the sedan, shoving tons of metal into the crowd as bodies were launched through the air. The Dodge then rapidly reversed, hitting yet more people.

Fields, now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation, was arrested shortly after and charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and another count related to the hit-and-run, police said. He is being held without bail and is scheduled for a Monday arraignment.

Brian Moran, Virginia secretary of public safety, said this of Fields: “He was a terrorist to do what he did.”

Fields last lived in Maumee, Ohio, about 15 miles southwest of Toledo, records show. Both family and acquaintances described him as quiet and, often, solitary.

His father was killed by a drunk driver five months before the boy’s birth, according to an uncle who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Fields’s dad left him money that the uncle kept in a trust until Fields reached adulthood.

“When he turned 18, he demanded his money, and that was the last I had any contact with him,” the uncle said.

Fields, he said, grew up mostly in Northern Kentucky, where he’d been raised by a single mother, Samantha Bloom, who was a paraplegic. The uncle, who saw Fields mostly at family gatherings, described his nephew as “not really friendly, more subdued.”

Fields joined the Army in late summer 2015, but remained on active duty for less than four months, according to online records from the Department of Defense. It’s unclear why he served so briefly.

“The what-ifs,” the uncle said. “What could’ve been – you can’t answer questions like that. There’s no way of knowing if his life would have been different if his father had been around.”

Fields’s mother told The Associated Press on Saturday that she didn’t talk to him about his political views. He’d mentioned to her that he was going to a rally, but Bloom said they never discussed the details.

“I didn’t know it was white supremacists,” she said. “I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a supremacist.”

Saturday’s horror was just the latest for her family. Aside from losing Fields’ father in a crash, Bloom’s parents died in a murder-suicide – 33 years ago this month – according to a pair of 1984 newspaper articles. After an argument, Marvin Bloom, a self-employed contractor, killed his wife, Judy, with a 12-gauge shotgun, then put the gun to his head. He was 42, and she was 37. Their daughter, Samantha Bloom, was 16.

Richard B. Spencer, a leader in the white supremacist movement who coined the term “alt-right,” said he didn’t know Fields but had been told he was a member of Vanguard America, which bills itself as the “Face of American Fascism.” In a statement tweeted Saturday night, the group denied any connection to Fields.

Inseveral photographs that circulated online, Fields was seen with the group while sporting its unofficial uniform. Like members, he wore a white polo shirt, baggy khakis and sunglasses, while holding a black shield that features a common Vanguard symbol.

“The shields seen do not denote membership, nor does the white shirt,” the group said in its statement. “The shields were freely handed out to anyone in attendance.”

Vanguard members did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.

Fields has been accused of killing Heather D. Heyer, 32, a Charlottesville resident who was there Saturday to stand against bigotry and hatred, her mother and friends said.

“She died for a reason,” said Felicia Correa, a longtime friend. “I don’t see any difference in her or a soldier who died in war. She, in a sense, died for her country. She was there standing up for what was right.”

Killed in the helicopter crash on the outskirts of town were Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, the pilot, and H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian, a passenger, according to officials. State police said their Bell 407 chopper was assisting with the unrest in Charlottesville. Bates died one day before his 41st birthday; Cullen was 48.

“Jay Cullen had been flying me around for 3 ½ years,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said. “Berke was part of my executive protection unit. He was part of my family. The man lived with me 24-7.”

Bates had just called the governor Friday, the day before his death, to ask about sending a care package to McAuliffe’s son, a Marine stationed overseas.

On Sunday morning, one day after McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, he and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam attended a service at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church. The governor brought the predominantly African-American congregation to its feet as he stood at the pulpit and condemned “the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who came to our state yesterday.”

“You pretend you’re patriots. You are not patriots,” he said. “You are dividers.”

Later Sunday, Jason Kessler, who had helped organized Saturday’s rally, held a news conference near Charlottesville City Hall.

Police snipers stood on the roofs of the two adjacent buildings as they peered through binoculars and steadied their bolt-action rifles on tripods. A cordon of police officers dressed in riot gear waited nearby.

Before Kessler even began to talk, counterprotesters shouted him down.

“Murderer,” they screamed.

Kessler, dressed in a blazer, tried to speak into the TV microphones, but reporters huddled close by couldn’t hear him. The noise from the crowd of about 100 demonstrators was overwhelming.

Finally, a few of them broke through the line of reporters and headed toward Kessler. As one extended his middle finger and another lunged at Kessler, police rushed him into City Hall.

Twenty minutes later, riot police formed a line around an exit where Kessler was expected to leave. Then, suddenly, he sprinted out a door around the side of the building and lunged into the back of a marked police SUV, which sped away.

A single activist chased after him.

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” he yelled, as the car carrying the white nationalist disappeared from view.

On Saturday, police had evacuated a downtown park as rallygoers and counterprotesters traded blows and hurled bottles and chemical irritants at one another, putting an end to the noon rally before it officially began.

Despite the decision to quash the rally, clashes continued on side streets and throughout downtown, including the pedestrian mall at Water and Fourth streets where the Challenger slammed into counterprotesters and two other cars in the early afternoon, sending bystanders running and screaming.

“I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here,” Charlottesville Democratic Mayor Michael Signer said in a tweet. “I urge all people of good will — go home.”

Leaders in Virginia and elsewhere urged peace, blasting the white supremacist views on display in Charlottesville as ugly.

University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds issued a statement Sunday expressing support for the University of Virginia, where tensions between opposing protesters boiled over Saturday.

“We are sickened by this senseless violence and by the racist, white supremacist and Neo-Nazi beliefs on display,” Bounds said. “These disgusting beliefs violate the most basic principles of decency and our shared humanity.”

But President Donald Trump, known for his rapid-fire tweets, remained silent throughout the morning. It was after 1 p.m. when he weighed in, writing on Twitter: “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”

In brief remarks at a late-afternoon news conference in New Jersey to discuss veterans’ health care, Trump said he was following the events in Charlottesville closely. “The hate and the division must stop and must stop right now,” Trump said, without specifically mentioning white nationalists or their views. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a Trump supporter who was in Charlottesville on Saturday, quickly replied. “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists,” he wrote.

Asked by a reporter in New Jersey whether he wanted the support of white nationalists, dozens of whom wore red Make America Great Again hats during the Charlottesville riots, Trump did not respond.

Even as crowds began to thin Saturday afternoon, the town remained unsettled and on edge. Onlookers were deeply shaken at the pedestrian mall, where ambulances had arrived to treat those injured by the car.

Chan Williams, 22, was among the counterprotesters in the street, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” The marchers blocked traffic, but Williams said drivers weren’t annoyed. Instead, she said, they waved or honked in support.

So when she heard a car engine rev up and saw the people in front of her dodging a moving car, she didn’t know what to think.

“I saw the car hit bodies, legs in the air,” she said. “You try to grab the people closest to you and take shelter.”

Williams and friend George Halliday ducked into a shop with an open door and called their mothers. An hour later, the two were still visibly upset.

“I just saw shoes on the road,” Halliday, 20, said. “It all happened in two seconds.”

Saturday’s Unite the Right rally was meant to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The city of Charlottesville voted to remove the statue earlier this year, but it remains in Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park, pending a judge’s ruling expected later this month.

Tensions began to escalate Friday night as hundreds of white nationalists marched through the U-Va.’ s campus, chanting “White lives matter,” “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”

They were met by counterprotesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, who founded the university. One counterprotester apparently deployed a chemical spray, which sent about a dozen rallygoers seeking medical assistance.

On Saturday morning, people in combat gear — some wearing bicycle and motorcycle helmets and carrying clubs, sticks and makeshift shields — fought one another on downtown streets, with little apparent police interference. Both sides sprayed chemical irritants and hurled plastic bottles through the air.

A large contingent of Charlottesville police officers and Virginia State Police troopers in riot gear were stationed on side streets and at nearby barricades but did nothing to break up the melee until about 11:40 a.m. Using megaphones, police then declared an unlawful assembly and gave a five-minute warning to leave Emancipation Park.

“The worst part is that people got hurt and the police stood by and didn’t do a g—— thing,” said David Copper, 70, of Staunton, Va.

State Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, minority leader of Virginia’s House, praised the response by Charlottesville and state police.

Asked why police did not act sooner to intervene as violence unfolded, Toscano said he could not comment. “But they trained very hard for this, and it might have been that they were waiting for a more effective time to get people out” of Emancipation Park, he said.

By early afternoon, hundreds of rallygoers had made their way to a larger park two miles to the north. Duke, speaking to the crowd, said that European Americans are “being ethnically cleansed within our own nation” and called Saturday’s events “the first step toward taking America back.”

Spencer also addressed the group, urging people to disperse. But he promised they would return for a future demonstration, blaming Saturday’s violence on counterprotesters.

In an interview, Spencer said he was “beyond outraged” the police had declared the planned rally an “unlawful assembly.”

“I never before thought that I would have my country cracking down on me and on free speech,” he said. “We were lawfully and peacefully assembled. We came in peace, and the state cracked down.”

He said that counterprotesters attacked rallygoers but also acknowledged that “maybe someone threw a first punch on our side. Maybe that happened. I obviously didn’t see everything.”

By 11 a.m., several fully armed militias and hundreds of right-wing rallygoers had poured into the small downtown park that was to be the site of the rally.

Counterprotesters held “Black Lives Matter” signs and placards expressing support for equality and love as they faced rallygoers who waved Confederate flags and posters that said “the Goyim know,” referring to non-Jewish people, and “the Jewish media is going down.”

“No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” the counterprotesters chanted.

“Too late, f—–s!” a man yelled back at them.

Michael Von Kotch, a Pennsylvania resident who called himself a Nazi, said the rally made him “proud to be white.”

He said that he’s long held white supremacist views and that Trump’s election has “emboldened” him and the members of his own Nazi group.

“We are assembled to defend our history, our heritage and to protect our race to the last man,” Von Kotch said, wearing a protective helmet and sporting a wooden shield and a broken pool cue. “We came here to stand up for the white race.”

Naundi Cook, 23, who is black, said that she came to Saturday’s counterprotests to “support my people” but that she’s never seen something like this before.

When violence broke out, she started shaking and got goose bumps.

“I’ve seen people walking around with tear gas all over their face, all over their clothes. People getting Maced, fighting,” she said. “I didn’t want to be next.”

Cook said she couldn’t sit back and watch white nationalists descend on her town. She has a 3-year-old daughter to stand up for, she said.

“Right now, I’m not sad,” she said once the protests dispersed. “I’m a little more empowered. All these people and support, I feel like we’re on top right now because of all the support that we have.”

Virginia: Time for reflection?

… symbol of repression, racism and white supremacy over African Americans, or to regard … for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

US VP Mike Pence in Colombia confident of Venezuela solution

US President Mike Pence was speaking in the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena in Colombia at the start of a four-stop Latin American tour, which is likely be dominated by discussions about Venezuela.

President Donald Trump had said earlier this week that he was considering military action against Venezuela for its systematic erosion of democracy. Hundreds of people have died in protests in Venezuela as Maduro attempts to install a new political system.

Read more: Donald Trump says military option for Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro on the table

“As the President has said, the people of Venezuela are suffering. President Trump is absolutely determined to marshall all of the support of nations across this region to see democracy restored in Venezuela,” Pence said at a press conference alongside Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Vice President Mike Pence, right, is welcomed by Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos at the presidential guesthouse in Cartagena, Colombia (picture alliance/AP Photo/F. Vergara)

Pence with Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos. The VP is touring four Latin American nations with talks overshadowed by the situation in Venezuela.

Read more: Mike Pence heads to South America amid Venezuela unrest

“What the world heard last week was a resolve and a determination not to let this moment slip, not to stand idly by while a neighbor collapses into dictatorship.

“We believe we can achieve by peaceful means a transition in Venezuela back to the democracy that the people so richly deserve.”

When asked if the US was considering oil-based sanctions Pence said it was considering a range of different options.

“We will remain vigorous in our efforts to isolate Venezuela economically and diplomatically and I would anticipate additional US action in this regard sooner rather than later,” Pence said.

Read more: What is going on in Venezuela?

US must not consider military action says Santos

President Santos said he told Pence that the US must not even consider military action in response to Venezuela’s crisis.

“America is a continent of peace. It is the land of peace. Let us preserve it as such,” Santos said.

Speaking on the drug trade, Pence said that a spike in coca production in Colombia “must end.”

Defends Trump’s comments on Charlottesville

When asked about the violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia at the weekend, Pence defended Trump’s comments.

Read more: Donald Trump criticized for lackluster reaction to Charlottesville violence

“I take issue with many in the national media who spent more time criticizing the president’s words than those who perpetrated the violence. We should be putting attention where it belongs and that is on these extremists groups.”

The vice president condemned all those who engaged in violence at the rallies.

“We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK. These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and … and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms,” Pence said.

“The president also made clear that behavior by others of different militant perspectives are also unacceptable in our political debate and discourse.

“Our administration is bringing the full resources of the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the violence that ensued yesterday and we will hold them to account under the law.”

Opinion: Charlottesville violence reflects Trump America

Pence will stop in Argentina, Chile and Panama, giving speeches and meeting with leaders and touring the newly expanded Panama Canal.

aw/ (AP, Reuters)

Detroit Museums Examine the Riots That Changed the City

Detroit’s riots began early on the morning of Sunday, July 23, 1967, set off by a police raid on a “blind pig,” local terminology for an illegal club. A combination of tensions, from employment, discrimination, police brutality and increasingly crowded living conditions finally boiled over. Parts of Detroit burned for nearly a week, leaving 43 dead.

“It’s like 9/11,” said Mr. Stone, a Detroit native. “Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing in 1967 in Detroit.”

The historical museum’s exhibition, “Detroit 67: Perspectives,” has three sections: before, during and after the riots. In the first, timelines, photographs, movies, newspaper clippings and other ephemera plot the growth of Detroit’s black community during the Great Migration, with earlier examples of racial tension highlighted.

In addition to timelines and placards, visitors are exposed to the riots through more immersive displays, including a midcentury living room with TV sets blaring ABC News, and a mock-up of looted 12th Street businesses, including Joe’s Record Shop.

A mock tank is around the corner, its side split open, displays graphic-novel-style montages of residents recounting the riots. Tanks are a common theme. Sounds from the looted shop fronts and TVs compete for attention, a cacophony of smashing glass, crackling fires and panicked news coverage that brings a heart-pounding sense of confusion.


Tanks are a common theme in the exhibition “Detroit 67: Perspectives” at the Detroit Historical Museum. Credit Morley Companies/Detroit Historical Society

The historical society has also created programming outside the museum, including at the site where the riots began. It has dedicated a historical marker in Gordon Park, which is built over the site of the long-gone club. Curators from all three museums put together the program of events with input from focus groups of locals, academics and activists. The society also coordinated with Brothers Always Together, known as the BATs, a group of African-American men who were children at the time of the riots and have long held a commemorative neighborhood festival on their anniversary.

Aspects of the exhibitions at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Wright Museum align. Their exhibitions share artists, including Jason H. Phillips, Jeff Donaldson and Wadsworth Jarrell, reflecting the museums’ collaboration. For the institute, that cooperation was an important component in seeking closer ties with African-Americans in the city, a goal of the museum director, Salvador Salort-Pons.

Looking beyond Detroit, the institute’s exhibition, “Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement,” examines the civil rights movement’s artistic impact. Some pieces are influenced by African traditions, and are grouped by various African-American art movements, including Spiral, the Kamoinge Workshop and the Black Arts Movement. The exhibition curator, Valerie Mercer, said she hoped that museum-goers learn how, from the 1960s on, “artists participated in their own way in the civil rights and black power movement.”


Rita Dickerson’s “1967: Death in the Algiers Motel and Beyond” makes links between the incident and people recently killed by police. Credit Detroit Institute of Arts

Recent works by Detroit artists exemplify this, including Mario Moore’s 2015 “Queen Mother Helen Moore,” painted on shimmering copper and portraying his grandmother, protectively holding photos of her sons. “1967: Death in the Algiers Motel and Beyond,” by the Detroit artist Rita Dickerson, who was 21 during the riots, features the cherubic faces of the three young black men killed in the incident, which is dramatized in Ms. Bigelow’s movie. In Ms. Dickerson’s work, the names of young black men recently killed by the police are juxtaposed with the names of the victims from 1967.


“Patriot” (1975), by Jeff Donaldson. Credit Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Taking its name from a James Brown song, and with indoor and outdoor components, the Wright’s exhibition, “Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion,” is the most conceptually difficult of the three shows in Detroit. Groupings of artworks also highlight contradictions for African-Americans who might fight alongside whites to protect American freedoms, yet still have trouble reaching full equality, according to Erin Falker, an assistant curator at the museum.


Jason H. Phillips’s “Weight” (2001). Credit Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Ms. Falker said that they chose to place “Flag for the Moon: Die Nigger” by Faith Ringgold, a distortion of the United States flag from 1969 that spells out the racial epithet in its stripes, across from the khaki-colored “Patriot” by Jeff Donaldson, from 1975, and “Weight” by Mr. Phillips, from 2001. Ms. Falker said the grouping highlighted the remembrance that, on the night of the raid that sparked the riots, the club was having a party for African-American soldiers returning from Vietnam.


Sanford Biggers’s “Laocoön” is one of the more uncomfortable images in the exhibition “Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion,” at the Wright Museum of African American History. Credit Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

One of the most uncomfortable works at the Wright is Sanford Biggers’s 2015 “Laocoön.” The cartoonish, bulbous black male is made from inflatable vinyl and is clothed in a bright orange shirt and bluejeans. He resembles a sleeping Fat Albert, but the museum placard suggests that the work depicts Eric Garner, the black man who died in 2014 after being restrained with a chokehold by the New York City police.

Today’s Black Lives Matter movement is reflected in all three shows. The institute’s final piece is a room almost entirely filled with Adam Pendleton’s 2015 work “Black Lives Matter #3.” The historical museum examines Black Lives Matter and that movement’s use of new media. At the Wright, in Mr. Phillips’s 2015 work “Uneven Fight,” “Black Lives Matter” is tattooed across the chest of a black boxer surrounded by menacing white police figures.

In a Detroit area with changing demographics, the Wright’s collaboration with the institute allows “people to see a much broader perspective of ’67 than they would have if they had just seen one or the other,” the Wright’s president and chief executive, Juanita Moore, said. She said she hoped it might also encourage more white visitors to her museum.

Another goal at all the museums is teaching millennials and other young people to make connections between the past and present. The Wright’s curator of exhibitions, Patrina Chatman, a Detroit native who was a teenager during the riots, said art with Black Lives Matter elements mixed with earlier civil rights references reminds young people that “history is repeating itself.”

Ms. Chatman added, “This occurred and pay attention, because it can happen again.” The question she wants all museum visitors to ask themselves is “how can we move forward” in racial understanding, in Detroit and throughout the United States?

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