Monday, May 29, 2017
"How a real President, not a #ManchurianPrersident handles Putin.
"PARIS—Russian President Vladimir Putin, the wily KGB veteran, the intruder into the West’s democratic elections, the smug defender of dictators and would-be ally of Donald Trump, looked like he wanted to hide behind the curtains in the Hall of Battles at Versailles.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who is only 39 years old and took office just two weeks ago, was calm, cool, collected, and in complete control at their joint press conference Monday afternoon. He talked about the need for dialogue. But he didn’t hesitate for a second to state bluntly and publicly the priorities of France defending Western ideals, Western democracy, and, when it came down to specifics, he took firm positions on everything from Syria and Ukraine to LGBT rights in Chechnya, as well as the need to defend civil society in Russia.
Which is not to say that Macron was undiplomatic. At every turn—almost—he offered a way for Putin to save face by saying that where they differed there is nonetheless a continuing conversation. Even when asked about Russian attempts to influence the French elections by hacking the Macron campaign, Macron said that was something they had spoken about when Putin called him to congratulate him after his victory on May 7. “Now we are moving ahead,” said Macron.
But when asked why, as The Daily Beast was the first to report in April, the Macron campaign banned from its offices reporters for RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik, two of Putin’s pet state-funded media, Macron didn’t hesitate a moment:
“Russia Today and Sputnik have been tools of influence, and they spread untruths about my person and my campaign,” said Macron. “On that point I’m not going to give an inch. Russia Today and Sputnik did not behave like organs of the press and of journalism, but as organs of lying propaganda.”
Macron Gets Under Putin's Skin, Shows Up Trump
These 8th-graders from New Jersey refused to be photographed with Paul Ryan - The Washington Post #ResistanceIsNotFutile
"For students across the country, the traditional eighth-grade trip to Washington is a chance to join the throngs on the Mall and perhaps spot some of the world’s most powerful people on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.
But a group from South Orange Middle School in New Jersey may remember their trip to the nation’s capital last week for another reason: It was the occasion for a pointed snub of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).
Dozens of the 218 students on the trip refused to have their photo taken with Ryan when he briefly joined them outside the capitol Thursday, students on the trip said. Those present were unable to provide a precise tally of how many opted out."
These 8th-graders from New Jersey refused to be photographed with Paul Ryan - The Washington Post
Sunday, May 28, 2017
"I’m beginning to wonder if the wire photographers—from places like the A.P., Reuters, and other unshowy mainstays of the press pool—aren’t the true comedians of Donald Trump’s young and stressful Presidency. Alec Baldwin notwithstanding, the best way to make fun of a cretin of such operatic magnitude seems to be to present him with a steady naturalism, just as he is. This proved doubly true this past week, as the President embarked on a nine-day foreign tour, through the Middle East and Europe, that he and his advisers hoped would serve as a “reset” after so much Comey-induced stateside drama. But, alas, not so. The trip, now mercifully ended, instead provided a rolling photo essay of international embarrassment. Trump, in comfortable league with an absolute monarch and a dictator—the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi—laid hands on an inexplicable, vaguely mystical orb; he made Pope Francis look sad again and again; he lost to the new French President, Emmanuel Macron, in a duel of alpha-male handshakes. Speaking of hands, he twice had trouble convincing Melania to take hold of his own.
I was struck, though, by one of the quieter captures of the President overseas. It is a photo, credited to Getty Images, showing Donald and Melania standing in the Sistine Chapel not long after their meeting with His Holiness. They are holding hands (a miracle worthy of the Vatican) and touching shoulders; the First Lady, after the custom of a woman granted audience with the Pope, is dressed in all black and shrouded under an intricate veil. potus and flotus crane their necks upward, the better to regard Michelangelo’s devotional masterpiece, “The Last Judgment.” From what we know about his taste in art and design, we can imagine Trump’s quibbles: Where’s the gold? This place could use a pillar or two. We know that the President—he of “Two Corinthians” fame—is likely ill-equipped to grasp the theological content of the fresco, which depicts Christ’s Second Coming, and dramatizes the final judgment of all mankind. His briefly controversial theory of heroism might help us understand his attitude toward the figure at the center of the work—he likes people who weren’t captured, much less crucified.
Still, probably because of the artful angle of the photo—which shows the first couple from behind and a bit below; the pair look like monuments, and “The Last Judgment” like a terrifying sky—I perceive, ever so slightly, a sense of awe. Some art demands it, no matter how dull or corrupt the critical apparatus of the viewer. I wonder, metaphysics aside, whether Trump, who never made a mess he felt ashamed to slink away from, saw the twisted, writhing bodies of the damned, near the bottom of Michelangelo’s arrangement, and was given, by some unnamed grace, a glimpse of their moral meaning—that someday, somehow, each of us pays for what he does. A revelation, you might call it, but I’m not holding my breath—the ever-mounting revelations of the Russia probe might prove a better teacher."
Vinson Cunningham joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2016.
Donald and Melania Trump’s Last Judgment - The New Yorker
"Any doubts about the senseless cruelty underlying the health care agenda put forward by President Trump and Congress were put to rest last week by two government documents. The fantasy that Mr. Trump intends to fight for the health of long-suffering working people should be similarly interred.
One document was the administration’s budget. The other was the Congressional Budget Office’s detailed analysis of the Trumpcare bill passed by the House earlier this month. The budget proposes billions of dollars in cuts to programs that fund research into new cures, protect the country from infectious diseases and provide care to the poor, the elderly and people with disabilities. The analysis said that Trumpcare — formally the American Health Care Act — would rob 23 million people of health insurance while leaving millions of others with policies that offer little protection from major medical conditions. All of this would be done in service of huge tax cuts for the richest Americans.
Consider the fate of Medicaid, a program that provides health insurance to more than 74 million people, among them 60 percent of nursing home residents and millions of people with disabilities. Trumpcare would slash Medicaid spending by $834 billion over 10 years, according to the C.B.O. The president’s budget would take a further $610 billion from the program under the pretext of reforming it. Taken together, this amounts to an estimated 45 percent reduction by 2026 compared with current law, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says.
Trumpcare, the C.B.O. says, would make it impossible for millions of people with pre-existing conditions like heart disease or diabetes to buy health insurance. That’s because the law would let states waive many of the requirements in the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 law known as Obamacare. It would also greatly increase the cost of insurance policies for older and poorer people, no matter where they live. By way of illustration, a 64-year-old earning $26,500 a year and living in a state not seeking waivers would have to pay $16,100 a year for coverage, nearly 10 times as much as she would under Obamacare.
The House speaker, Paul Ryan, would argue that Trumpcare is an improvement over the A.C.A. because it would lower premiums for many people, especially the young and healthy. The C.B.O. says he’s right, noting that plans would include fewer benefits. In effect, Mr. Ryan and his colleagues are patting themselves on the back for lowering health insurance premiums by taking away people’s access to medical services.
Apart from inflicting hardship, what would Trumpcare and the president’s budget achieve? Mainly a windfall for wealthy families. The administration has not provided enough information to make good estimates, so it’s hard to say how much the rich would gain from the budget, although it would be a lot. We know more about Trumpcare. The Tax Policy Center estimates that almost all of the tax cuts in that legislation would flow to the rich: The top 1 percent would take home an average of $37,200 a year, while people with middle-class incomes would get a measly $300.
The White House and Republicans in the House of Representatives agree on Trumpcare and are aligned on many parts of the president’s budget. The Senate, however, is still up for grabs. A handful of more moderate senators like Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rob Portman of Ohio are all that stand in the way of this retrograde assault on American health care."
Trumpcare’s Cruelty, Reaffirmed - The New York Times
"BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Europe’s most influential leader, has apparently concluded that the United States of President Trump is not the reliable partner her country and continent have automatically depended on in the past.
Clearly disappointed with European leaders’ inability to persuade Mr. Trump to publicly endorse NATO’s doctrine of collective defense — or to agree to common positions on Russia, climate change or global trade — Ms. Merkel said on Sunday that traditional alliances were no longer as reliable as they once were, and that Europe should pay more attention to its own interests “and really take our fate into our own hands.”
Her strong comments were a further indication that Mr. Trump’s trip did not go down well with influential European leaders and that it seems, at least from the Continent’s perspective, to have increased trans-Atlantic strains rather than diminish them."
Merkel, After Discordant G-7 Meeting, Is Looking Past Trump - The New York Times
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Jon Ossoff - The Congressional Budget Office reported yesterday... The Congressional Budget Office reported yesterday that the House’s health care bill will make insurance unaffordable for 23 million Americans. It will raise premiums on older and low-income Americans. And those with preexisting conditions could be priced out of insurance altogether. John Armwood is a Brookhaven resident diagnosed with prostate cancer after losing his insurance. He was able to get covered thanks to the ACA. The current plan in Congress would be devastating for many Americans like Mr. Armwood. Jon Ossoff will fight to make affordable insurance and quality care available to all Americans.
"Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.
His death, at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, was announced on Friday by his daughter, Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of the MSNBC program ‘Morning Joe.’
Like his predecessor Henry A. Kissinger, Mr. Brzezinski was a foreign-born scholar (he in Poland, Mr. Kissinger in Germany) with considerable influence in global affairs, both before and long after his official tour of duty in the White House. In essays, interviews and television appearances over the decades, he cast a sharp eye on six successive administrations, including that of Donald J. Trump, whose election he did not support and whose foreign policy, he found, lacked coherence.
Mr. Brzezinski was nominally a Democrat, with views that led him to speak out, for example, against the ‘greed,’ as he put it, of an American system that compounded inequality. He was one of the few foreign policy experts to warn against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Continue reading the main story RELATED COVERAGE
Op-Ed: ‘Why the World Needs a Trump Doctrine’ by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Paul Wasserman (Feb. 20, 2017) Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Writings in The New York Times"
Friday, May 26, 2017
Accused of underpaying women, Google says it's too expensive to get wage data | Technology | The Guardian
"Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the US Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women.
Google officials testified in federal court on Friday that it would have to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators’ ongoing demands for wage data that the DoL believes will help explain why the technology corporation appears to be systematically discriminating against women.
Noting Google’s nearly $28bn annual income as one of the most profitable companies in the US, DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph scoffed at the company’s defense, saying, “Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water.”
The tense exchanges in a small San Francisco courtroom emerged in the final day of testimony in the most high-profile government trial to date surrounding the intensifying debate about the wage gap and gender discrimination in the tech industry."
Accused of underpaying women, Google says it's too expensive to get wage data | Technology | The Guardian
"Washington (CNN)Now that Hillary Clinton is "out of the woods," the former Democratic presidential nominee has become more vocal about her experiences during the 2016 election.
Earlier this month, Clinton shared her thoughts on Russian interference in the election, media treatment and sexism in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour at a "Women for Women International" event in New York. Friday, she compared President Donald Trump's presidency to that of Richard Nixon's in a fiery commencement speech at her alma mater, Wellesley College.
And in an interview with journalist Rebecca Traister, the former secretary of state revealed details about her day-to-day life following a tumultuous political year.
Here's a roundup of the most interesting things we learned about Clinton's life after the election from the New York magazine cover story, published Friday..."
5 things we learned about Hillary Clinton's post-election life - CNNPolitics.com
Jared Kushner trying to secretly talk to the Russians is the biggest billow of smoke yet - The Washington Post
"Well before any of this was public, Team Trump's meetings with Russians raised eyebrows for former CIA director John Brennan, who told Congress recently:
"[B] the time I left office on January 20, I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf, again, either in a witting or unwitting fashion. And so, therefore, I felt as though the FBI investigation was certainly well-founded and needed to look into those issues."
Jared Kushner trying to secretly talk to the Russians is the biggest billow of smoke yet - The Washington Post
"The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, has asked President Trump’s political organization to gather and produce all documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015, according to two people briefed on the request.
The letter from the Senate arrived at Trump’s campaign committee last week and was addressed to the group’s treasurer. Since then, some former staffers have been notified and asked to cooperate, the people said. They were not authorized to speak publicly.
Dozens of former staffers are expected to be contacted in the coming days to make sure they are aware of the request, the people added.
The letter was signed by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the Senate committee’s chairman, and Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the committee’s ranking Democrat. Warner’s spokesperson declined to comment."
Senate Intelligence Committee requests Trump campaign documents - The Washington Post
Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin - The Washington Post
"This was blatantly illegal! "Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, then President-elect Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.
The White House disclosed the fact of the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.
Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team."
18 U.S. Code § 953 - Private correspondence with foreign governments
Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin - The Washington Post
"Much like the original version of the AHCA, which was pulled in March after it failed to get enough support, the bill penalizes elderly, poor, and sick Americans in exchange for lower premiums for the young and healthy, and a large tax cut for the wealthy. Some 23 million fewer people would be insured over the next decade, more than half of those because of an $800 billion gouge to Medicaid. Some low-income elderly people could see their premiums go up by 800 percent. Treatment for substance abuse and maternity care could cost thousands of dollars more in out-of-pocket costs. An estimated one-sixth of the population would face increasingly unstable insurance markets.
The most significant impact of Trumpcare 2.0, when compared to the original version, is that it makes insurance markets even less predictable. The amended version of the AHCA allows states to do away with some of the consumer protections established by Obamacare—including the rule preventing insurers from charging more to people with preexisting conditions, and standards for “Essential Health Benefits” that all insurance plans must cover. As a result of these changes, the CBO predicts, “Premiums would vary significantly according to health status and the types of benefits provided, and less healthy people would face extremely high premiums, despite the additional funding that would be available…to help reduce premiums.” Millions of people would be priced out of the insurance market, while “a few million” more might end up with policies so skimpy that they “would not provide enough financial protection in the event of a serious and costly illness to be considered insurance.”
Republicans cannot feign surprise at this analysis, as it essentially conforms to previous projections. It suggests that when Paul Ryan claimed in April that “people will be better off with preexisting conditions under our plan,” he was, quite simply, lying. So was Trump when he said just weeks ago this month that the legislation “will be every bit as good on preexisting conditions as Obamacare.” It’s telling that even before the CBO score came out many of Ryan’s colleagues all but given up any idea of selling their bill to the public. Only a handful of House members who voted for the AHCA held town-hall meetings during the recess immediately following the vote. Senate Republicans have expressed ambivalence about the House legislation as they work on their own version.
Ryan tried to put a positive spin on the CBO’s figures, claiming they confirm that the AHCA will lower premiums and reduce the deficit. Technically, that’s true—but premiums will be lower because they’ll cover fewer services, and because older, sicker people will get priced out of the market, lowering costs for everyone who remains. And only about 10 percent of the savings go towards deficit reduction; the rest finances $874 billion in tax cuts. Ryan might still make a case for the AHCA on these dubious merits. He could even argue that pulling the rug out from sick and elderly people is really a worthwhile trade for letting the rich keep more of their tax dollars. But that’s not the health-care plan GOP leaders repeatedly promised to deliver."
More Proof Republicans Are Just Lying About Trumpcare | The Nation
"Instead of thanking the members of NATO for answering our call and sending their troops to Afghanistan after 9/11, Trump decided to talk about the money they owed.
MICHAEL DALY 05.26.17 1:00 AM ET President Trump might have at least praised his wife’s tiny homeland of Slovenia for being among the many nations that sent troops to Afghanistan after 9/11 prompted the U.S. to invoke Article 5, as NATO's collective defense provision is known. Trump also could have recognized Denmark, which by a measure first applied to this war by Steve Coll of The New Yorker has suffered a slightly higher per capita rate of combat casualties in Afghanistan than has even the United States."
"How bad is the Republican rewrite of Obamacare? So bad, apparently, that the GOP candidate for Montana’s lone congressional seat allegedly assaulted a reporter rather than answer a question about it...
... With the CBO score out now, it’s harder for Republicans to evade questions about the impact of their plan. (Though body slamming a reporter is an… interesting way to try.) The picture painted by the new analysis is ugly: Much like the original version of the AHCA, which was pulled in March after it failed to get enough support, the bill penalizes elderly, poor, and sick Americans in exchange for lower premiums for the young and healthy, and a large tax cut for the wealthy. Some 23 million fewer people would be insured over the next decade, more than half of those because of an $800 billion gouge to Medicaid. Some low-income elderly people could see their premiums go up by 800 percent. Treatment for substance abuse and maternity care could cost thousands of dollars more in out-of-pocket costs. An estimated one-sixth of the population would face increasingly unstable insurance markets.The most significant impact of Trumpcare 2.0, when compared to the original version, is that it makes insurance markets even less predictable. The amended version of the AHCA allows states to do away with some of the consumer protections established by Obamacare—including the rule preventing insurers from charging more to people with preexisting conditions, and standards for “Essential Health Benefits” that all insurance plans must cover. As a result of these changes, the CBO predicts, “Premiums would vary significantly according to health status and the types of benefits provided, and less healthy people would face extremely high premiums, despite the additional funding that would be available…to help reduce premiums.” Millions of people would be priced out of the insurance market, while “a few million” more might end up with policies so skimpy that they “would not provide enough financial protection in the event of a serious and costly illness to be considered insurance.”
Barack Obama on food and climate change: ‘We can still act and it won’t be too late’ | Global development | The Guardian
“During the course of my presidency, I made climate change a top priority, because I believe that, for all the challenges that we face, this is the one that will define the contours of this century more dramatically perhaps than the others. No nation, whether it’s large or small, rich or poor, will be immune from the impacts of climate change. We are already experiencing it in America, where some cities are seeing floods on sunny days, where wildfire seasons are longer and more dangerous, where in our arctic state, Alaska, we’re seeing rapidly eroding shorelines, and glaciers receding at a pace unseen in modern times.
Over my eight years in office, we dramatically increased our generation of clean energy, we acted to curtail our use of dirty energy, and we invested in energy efficiency across the board. At the 2015 climate change summit in Paris, we helped lead the world to the first significant global agreement for a low-carbon future.
But here’s the thing: even if every country somehow puts the brakes on emissions, climate change would still have an impact on our world for years to come. Our changing climate is already making it more difficult to produce food, and we’ve already seen shrinking yields and spiking food prices that, in some cases, are leading to political instability. And when most of the world’s poor work in agriculture, the stark imbalances that we’ve worked so hard to close between developed and developing countries will be even tougher to close. The cost will be borne by people in poor nations that are least equipped to handle it. In fact, some of the refugee flows into Europe originate not only from conflict, but also from places where there are food shortages, which will get far worse as climate change continues. So if we don’t take the action necessary to slow and ultimately stop these trends, the migration that has put such a burden on Europe already will just continue to get worse.
Now, the good news is that there are steps we can take that will make a difference: in the United States, we have been able to bring our emissions down even as we grow our economy. The same is true in many parts of Europe. Take food production, for instance. It’s the second leading driver of greenhouse gas emissions, second only to energy production. But we have already identified ways in which we can address this challenge. The path to a sustainable food future will require unleashing the creative power of our best scientists, and engineers and entrepreneurs, backed by public and private investment, to deploy new innovations in climate-smart agriculture. Better seeds, better storage, crops that grow with less water, crops that grow in harsher climates, mobile technologies that put more agricultural data – including satellite imagery and weather forecasting and market prices – into the hands of farmers, so that they know when to plant and where to plant, what to plant and how it will sell.
All these things can help to make sure that food security exists in poor countries, but it can also help us ensure that, in producing the food that we need to feed the billions of people on this planet, we’re not destroying the planet in the process.
Play VideoPlay Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 1:58 Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% FullscreenMute Facebook Twitter Pinterest Barack Obama: ‘I made climate change a top priority’ A part of this is also going to be wasting less food. We have to create a food culture that encourages a demand for healthier, more sustainable food. In fact, making sure people have healthy food to eat alleviates a lot of the medical cost that we’re seeing increasing in the advanced world, and if we’re able to reduce our healthcare costs, that in turn will allow us to divert those resources into further relieving poverty in many parts of the world. When families get the nourishment they need, we see education outcomes rise, we see healthcare costs fall, and we see economic activity improve; and when, in the United States, the number one disqualifier for military service is obesity, we might even be able to strengthen our security as well.
So the good news is that we’re starting to see a better way to feed a growing planet, combat hunger and malnutrition, put healthy food on the table and save our environment. And none of this is impossible. We can look at the successes we’ve already made: in just the past decade, the number of undernourished people in the world is down by more than 160 million.
I do not believe that any part of the world has to be condemned to perpetual poverty and hunger. And I do not believe that this planet is condemned to ever-rising temperatures. I believe these are problems that were caused by man, and they can be solved by man.
I’m fond of quoting the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, who believed that there is such a thing as being too late. When it comes to climate change, the hour is almost upon us. If we act boldly and swiftly, if we set aside our political interests in favour of the air that our young people will breathe, and the food they will eat, and the water they will drink; if we think about them and their hopes and dreams, then we will act, and it won’t be too late. And we can leave behind a world that is worthy of our children, where there’s reduced conflict and greater cooperation – a world marked not by human suffering, but by human progress.
Food has not been the focus of climate change discussions as much as it should have been. Part of the problem is that we haven’t publicised the impact of food production on greenhouse gas emissions. People naturally understand that big smokestacks have pollution in them – they understand air pollution, so they can easily make the connection between energy production and greenhouse gases. Most people aren’t as familiar with the impact of cows and methane. So part of the problem that we need to address is just lack of knowledge in the general public. Keep in mind how long it took to educate people around climate change, and we still have a lot of work to do.
Part of it is that food is a very emotional issue. Because food is so close to us, and it’s part of our families, and it’s part of what we do every single day, people are more resistant to the idea of government or bureaucrats telling us how to eat, what to eat, how to grow it. The truth is that agriculture communities in every country are very strong, politically. Historically, in the United States, the one area where Democrats and Republicans agree is on the agriculture committee, because they usually come from agricultural states, and they are very good at joining across party lines to protect the interest of food producers.
If you combine all those things with the fact that the system is so uneven – there are countries that just need more food, and there are countries where there is a glut of food – it makes for a difficult political dynamic in which to shape rational policy. Now, having said that, this is an area where we are starting to see some progress. In the United States, one of the things that we tried to do is to work with farmers to think about how they could produce the same amounts of food more efficiently, with fewer greenhouse gas emissions. And what I’ve always said is that if you want to make progress in this area, you have to take into account the interests of the producers themselves. Farmers work hard, and especially with small farms, or family farms, they feel that they are always just a step away from losing everything.
Obviously, a large portion of agriculture is dominated by agribusiness, but to the extent that you can show small- and medium-sized farmers ways to do things better that will save them money – or at least doesn’t cost them money – they’re happy to adopt some of these new processes. But if what they see is that you are putting the environmental issues as a priority over their economic interest, then they’ll resist.
Michelle Obama and White House chef Sam Kass (in green) digging for sweet potatoes in the White House kitchen garden in 2010. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty That’s true in advanced countries, and it’s also true in poor countries. My father is from Kenya. The first time I visited, I was speaking to some conservationists who were very upset because some of the game parks were being encroached upon by farmers – either the Maasai with their cattle, or subsistence farmers who were slashing and cutting down the ecosystem. And my sister – who’s from Kenya and has a less romantic view about animals and game parks – said: ‘Well, if all the money from the game parks is going to the tour agencies in Nairobi and not going to the farmers next door, then of course they are not going to care. But if they see some economic interest in helping to conserve this land, they’ll participate.’ And that, in fact, has been the case. Where you’ve seen success in conservation, it’s because you’ve brought in the local farmers and you’ve taught them how this is better for them. So that has to be a top priority. If we’re going to be successful, we have to engage producers.
We also have to engage consumers. My good friend Sam Kass cooked for us at the White House, and helped to shape America’s nutrition policy. He worked with my wife to promote healthy eating, and most of the impact he had was not legislation, it was raising awareness with parents about what unhealthy eating was doing to their children, and showing how millions of young children could eat healthier meals. The key is giving people good information. We can make progress in educating the advanced world about the need to reduce, just for dietary reasons, the amount of meat that people consume at any given meal, particularly if it’s wasted. When you have fresh food, you are less likely to waste it, because it doesn’t last as long – you buy it on the day that you are going to eat it and you use it. We’re seeing businesses in the United States trying to come up with efficient, smart ways in which people can have the convenience of fast food, but with the food being healthier, and as a consequence, less is wasted.
If people feel as if they don’t have control over their lives, or that their children don’t have a good future, then they will resist efforts to deal with climate change because right now they’re concerned about feeding their child. It’s a luxury to worry about climate change; you have to have enough to eat before you start worrying about what’s going to happen to the planet 30 years from now. If we do not pay attention to increasing inequality – and the fact that technology and globalisation are accelerating – there will be a backlash.
Technology is making many sectors of the economy far more capital-intensive and far less labour-intensive. We saw it in manufacturing, but it is now moving through large portions of the service and managerial sectors as well. This is going to be a major problem in the advanced world, and over the long term, in the developing world as well. It’s one of the things I worry about most, because work does not just provide income – it also provides people with a sense of dignity and status in their society. I am certain that in many countries in the Middle East, for example, or in south Asia, part of the problem that leads to radicalisation and conflict is having large numbers of unemployed young men who don’t have anything to do – that lack of meaning and purpose will channel itself in unhealthy ways.
The road ahead: self-driving cars on the brink of a revolution in California Read more The best example of the kinds of issues that we’re going to face comes from driverless cars. Driverless cars are coming. The technologies are here and eventually the regulatory barriers are going to break down. The truth is that we can create a system of driverless cars that are safer, more fuel-efficient, and more convenient. But in the United States alone, there are 3 or 4 million people who make good livings just driving. And where are they going to work, if suddenly trucking and buses no longer need drivers? We have to anticipate those things now.
My guess is that, ultimately, what is going to happen is that everybody is going to have to work a little bit less, and we’re going to have to spread work around more. But that’s going to require a reorganisation of the social compact. That requires that we change our mindset about the link between work, income and the value of people in the teaching profession, or healthcare, or certain things that cannot be done by AI or a robot. And one of my goals as president – one of the goals of every leader of every country right now – was thinking about that time 20 years from now, or 30 years from now, when technology will have eliminated entire sectors of the economy.
How do we prepare for that? How do we start creating, or at least having a conversation in our society about making sure that work and opportunities are spread, and that everybody has the chance to live a good and fulfilling life, rather than having a few people who are working 80 or 90 hours a week, and making enormous incomes, and then a large portion of redundant workers that increasingly have a difficult time supporting families. That’s not a sustainable mechanism for democracy and a healthy society.
The people who know me best would say I have not changed much since I became president. And I’m happy about that. One of the dangers of being in the public eye, being in the spotlight, being in positions of power, is how it will change your soul. There is an expression: you start ‘believing your own hype’ – you start believing that you deserve all the attention. I actually found that I became more humble the longer I was in office. But I also think that I became less fearful. When you are young, you feel like you have something to prove, and sometimes you worry about making mistakes. Once you’ve been president of the United States, then a) you’ve made a mistake every day; b) everybody has seen you fail, and large portions of the country think you’re an idiot – but it’s a liberating feeling when you realise, ‘OK, I’m still here, I still wake up every day, and I still have the opportunity to do some good’, so that as time went on, I got rid of some of the anxieties that come with youth.
When I was president, wherever I’d go, I would always meet with young people. And it would always give me energy and inspiration to see how much talent and sophistication and optimism and idealism existed among young people in the United States, all across Europe, all across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The problem is that so often, young people’s voices aren’t heard, and when they want to get involved in issues, they don’t know how, and they don’t have the tools.
So I and others have been talking about how we can create an effective network of global activists – some of whom are in politics, some of whom are in business, some of whom are in journalism or working for NGOs – and provide them with the tools, the training, the networks, the relationships, the funding, so that they can be even more effective. That’s probably what I’m going to be spending most of the next 10 years on. I have a lot of grey hair now. People always ask me, ‘Oh, Mr President, you know, we need you, we want you to get involved’, and I’m happy to get involved, but the greatest thing I think I can give is to make sure that somebody who is 20 years old, or 21, or 25 – who is ready to make their mark on the world – I can help them, so that they can take it to the next level.
From methane emissions to deforestation, many of the impacts of food production are still not widely enough understood. Photograph: Alamy When I was young, I gave my mother a lot of headaches. I wasn’t always the best student, and I wasn’t always the most responsible young person. It wasn’t until I got to college that I began to think about many of the broader issues that the world was facing, but the moment for me in which I started to understand leadership was when I moved to Chicago. I had been inspired by the civil rights movement, and I wanted to be involved in some way in bringing about change. I got a job working with low-income communities, and what I learned was that the mark of a good leader is somebody who is able to empower other people. So often we think of leadership as somebody at the top who is ordering other people around. But it turns out that – for me, at least – what made me understand leadership was when I could see somebody who thought they didn’t have a voice, or that they didn’t have influence or power, and teach them how they could speak up about the things that were affecting their lives.
When we think about issues like food security or climate change, ultimately politicians can help guide policy. But the energy to bring about change is going to come from what people do every day. It’s going to come from parents who are concerned about the kind of impact climate change may have on their children, or from enlightened business people who say: ‘How can we use less energy in producing the products that we are making?’ It’s millions of decisions that are being made individually that end up having as much impact as anything, and that’s certainly true in our democracies.
People have a tendency to blame politicians when things don’t work. But, as I always tell people, you get the politicians you deserve. And if you don’t vote and you don’t participate and you don’t pay attention, then you’ll get policies that don’t reflect your interests.
We have an expression in the United States: ‘The squeaky wheel gets the oil.’ It’s certainly true that politicians and governments respond to people making noise and making demands, and sometimes, if certain groups have not been heard before, they have to get the attention of those in power.
But the biggest mistake sometimes made by activists – when I was an activist, sometimes I made this mistake – is forgetting that once you’ve got the attention of the people in power, then you have to engage them. So you have to do your homework and you have to have facts, and you have to be willing to compromise and not expect that you’re going to get 100% of what you want, because – at least if you’re in a democracy – your demands may clash with the demands of someone else. It’s very important to be willing to put pressure on government but it’s also important to propose concrete solutions, to take what you can get and then try to make more progress after that.
The second thing that is increasingly important is how to shape public opinion. It is very important for people who are interested in issues like climate change or inequality, or whatever it is that you care about, to find effective ways to speak to the public and to change public opinion. Abraham Lincoln used to say: ‘With public opinion there’s nothing I cannot do, and without public opinion there’s nothing I can get done.’ And I’ve learned that first-hand myself.
Play VideoPlay Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 1:44 Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% FullscreenMute Facebook Twitter Pinterest Michelle Obama attacks Donald Trump for gutting her legacy We need to find ways to speak to young people who are getting all their information off a phone, and will not sit down and read a 50-page report. You may have two minutes to get your message across, or five minutes, and they may be more interested in a video than they are in reading a text. You’ll need to create a strong, truthful, powerful message that leads them to action – that’s something I’m going to be spending a lot of time thinking about.
Young people are more conscious today, they are more innovative, they are more entrepreneurial. Because they are more sceptical of government and politics, it seems as if a lot of people think: ‘That’s a dirty business, I don’t want to go into it, who wants to be criticised and attacked all the time?’ So you’re seeing a lot of people who want to change the world thinking that maybe the best way to do it is by going into business or non-profit organizations.
If I were an entrepreneur today, trying to make money and sell my products or services, I would want to understand this youth market. They want to do the right thing, too. If they find out that what you’re selling isn’t good for the environment, or what you’re selling is not good for people, or if they hear that you do not treat your workers well, and do not pay them a decent wage, and don’t provide decent benefits, that can affect your brand. And so part of what has changed is the nature of the entrepreneurs themselves, who may be more socially conscious, coming into their business. Even if you don’t care about these issues, your customers care. And you’ve got to be paying attention to that.
Adapted from a talk given by Barack Obama at the Seeds & Chips Global Food Innovation Summit. Seeds & Chips is one of the world’s foremost food innovation events, a showcase for cutting-edge solutions and outstanding talent. Details: seedsandchips.com"
Trump 'complained to Belgian PM of difficulty setting up golf resorts in EU' | US news | The Guardian
" View more sharing options Shares 30 Daniel Boffey in Brussels Friday 26 May 2017 06.35 EDT Last modified on Friday 26 May 2017 07.17 EDT Donald Trump offered an insight into his approach to political life during his 30 hours in Belgium while munching ‘lots of’ Belgian chocolates, it has been reported.
Le Soir, a Belgian daily newspaper, reported that the US president acclaimed the chocolates, which were a gift from the Belgian government, during a meeting with the country’s prime minister, Charles Michel.
‘These are the best,’ he said, before explaining that his ambivalent attitude towards the EU was a consequence of his experiences trying to set up businesses, notably golf resorts, on the continent.
The investigations swirling around Donald Trump – a short guide Read more ‘He made a lot of references to his personal journey. He explained, for example, the functioning of Europe on the basis of his difficulties in doing business in Ireland,’ one source told the Francophone paper.
A second source told the newspaper: ‘Every time we talk about a country, he remembered the things he had done. Scotland? He said he had opened a club. Ireland? He said it took him two and a half years to get a licence and that did not give him a very good image of the European Union. One feels that he wants a system where everything can be realised very quickly and without formalities.’
Thursday, May 25, 2017
"The Federal Bureau of Investigation has declined for now to give the House Oversight Committee documents it had requested regarding communications between former FBI chief James Comey and President Donald Trump, the head of the panel said on Thursday.
The FBI said it was still evaluating the request, which had a committee-set deadline of Wednesday, in light of the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into the possibility of collusion between Trump's presidential campaign and Russian officials seeking to influence the 2016 election, according to a letter released by committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz."
UPDATE 2-House panel chairman says FBI declines for now to meet request for Comey-linked documents
By The Editorial Board, www.nytimes.com
"It takes a serious commitment to incompetence and deception to spawn as many ethical and legal concerns as the Trump administration has in just four months. The misbehavior by White House officials in the past few days has been impressive even by Trumpian standards. They’ve tried to raise doubts about the independence of the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. And they’ve stonewalled efforts by the Office of Government Ethics to identify conflicts of interest in the administration.
Take first the ethics issue. In January, Mr. Trump signed an executive order banning appointees who had been lobbyists or lawyers from working on policy or regulatory issues they were once paid to influence, for two years. Unfortunately, that order allowed the president or a designee to secretly waive these restrictions. In the Obama administration, any such waivers were made public, with a detailed explanation. Otherwise, it would be impossible for the public to know who was violating the lobbying rules, and who received permission to ignore them.
Confronted with multiple examples of former lobbyists working on the exact issues they once lobbied on, the ethics office last month directed the White House and federal agencies to provide, by June 1, copies of any waivers.
In a letter to Walter Shaub Jr., who directs the office, and to ethics officers in federal agencies, the White House challenged Mr. Shaub’s legal authority to make the request. The letter came from Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, which has no jurisdiction over the government ethics program. His effort centers on whether the White House is a “federal agency,” subject to ethics rules. But Mr. Mulvaney went further, maintaining, contrary to the Ethics in Government Act, that the ethics office has no authority to demand information on waivers from federal agencies. Since his office helps control the agencies’ funding, some interpreted that as an effort to intimidate them into keeping their waivers secret, too.
The ethics office was created after Watergate. A White House has never actively worked against it in this way. Mr. Shaub, whose five-year term ends in January, refuses to back down. He told agency ethics officers that contrary to what the White House says, they are legally required to provide details of the waivers to his office. Late on Monday, he sent a rocket of a letter to Mr. Mulvaney. His office’s job, he wrote, is “to lead the executive branch ethics program with independence, free from political pressure. Accordingly, OGE declines your request to suspend its ethics inquiry and reiterates its expectation that agencies will fully comply with its directive by June 1, 2017. Public confidence in the integrity of government decision-making demands no less.”
So will the White House bend? Or will Mr. Trump fire another independent official for excess loyalty to the law?"
The White House’s Aversion to Ethical Scrutiny - The New York Times
A majority of judges on the appeals court, in a 10-3 decision, said they were "unconvinced" the travel order had more to do with national security concerns than a "Muslim ban."
The court also found the challengers were likely to suffer "irreparable harm" if the ban were implemented and that it might violate the U.S. Constitution.
The appeals court maintained the injunction against the travel ban in full. The appeals court was reviewing a March ruling by a Maryland-based federal judge that blocked part of Trump's March 6 executive order barring travelers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days while the government put in place stricter visa screening.
A similar ruling against Trump's policy from a Hawaii-based federal judge is still in place and the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals court is reviewing that decision."
U.S. appeals court refuses to reinstate Trump's travel ban
"One of the greatest political mysteries of our time is why President Trump has clung — and continues to cling — so steadfastly to the perfidious Michael Flynn.
Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, is at the nexus of Trump’s problems. There was Flynn’s lobbying on behalf of Turkey and his contacts with Russia. There was Trump’s dismissal of all warnings to steer clear of Flynn; his refusal to fire Flynn as soon as he was alerted to the fact that Flynn posed a security risk; his efforts to impede or even terminate the investigations of Flynn.
Not only has Trump staunchly defended Flynn — even after firing him — he is apparently still in contact with him, sending him encouraging messages. As Michael Isikoff reported last week for Yahoo News about a dinner Flynn convened with ‘a small group of loyalists’:
Not only did he remain loyal to President Trump; he indicated that he and the president were still in communication. ‘I just got a message from the president to stay strong,’ Flynn said after the meal was over, according to two sources who are close to Flynn and are familiar with the conversation, which took place on April 25.
This level of extreme fealty is puzzling. It extends beyond basic loyalty to an early supporter. It seems to me that there is something else at play here, something as yet unknown. Trump’s attachment to Flynn strikes me less as an act of fidelity and more as an exercise in fear. What does Flynn know that Trump doesn’t want the world to know?
What are the dirty details of what could only be called The Flynn Affair?
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who served as head of the Trump transition team before being brushed aside for Vice President Mike Pence, said he warned Trump about Flynn. As Christie said earlier this week: ‘I didn’t think that he was someone who would bring benefit to the president or to the administration, and I made that very clear to candidate Trump, and I made it very clear to President-elect Trump.’
Charles M. Blow Politics, public opinion and social justice. Blood in the Water MAY 22 Trump’s Madness Invites Mutiny MAY 15 Trump Is Insulting Our Intelligence MAY 10 Republican Death Wish MAY 8 Senators Save the Empire MAY 4 See More »
Christie continued: ‘If I were president-elect of the United States, I wouldn’t let General Flynn into the White House, let alone give him a job.’
Trump apparently ignored the warning.
Barack Obama warned Trump not to hire Flynn. As The New York Times reported earlier this month:
Mr. Obama, who had fired Mr. Flynn as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Mr. Trump that he would have profound concerns about Mr. Flynn becoming a top national security aide, said the administration officials, who were briefed on the Oval Office conversation. Mr. Trump later ignored the advice, naming Mr. Flynn to be his national security adviser.
Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general, warned Trump about Flynn. As The Times reported earlier this month, when she delivered mesmerizing testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Yates informed the White House, less than a week into the Trump administration, that Flynn had lied to Pence about his Russian contacts and was vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.
As Yates put it, ‘To state the obvious: You don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians.’
Trump again ignored the warning.
Eighteen days passed. Then, on Monday, Feb. 13, The Washington Post reported that Yates had warned Trump about Flynn, a warning the White House had kept secret.
That night, according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Trump requested Flynn’s resignation, with Spicer saying the following day:
‘The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation in a series of other questionable instances is what led the president to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.’
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As White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said on television that Tuesday morning, ‘It was misleading the vice president that made the situation unsustainable.’
In fact, it appeared that it was Trump being embarrassed by press reports that he had been warned of Flynn’s treachery and had done nothing with the information that led to Flynn’s ultimate resignation.
In Trump’s mind, this was all the fault of the press, not Flynn’s double-dealing or the president’s own faulty vetting and subsequent inaction. In a news conference the day after Spicer described Flynn’s departure, Trump said of Flynn, ‘I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the fake media, in many cases.’ Trump continued, ‘I think it’s really a sad thing he was treated so badly.’
The day after Flynn was forced out his job, Trump told the former F.B.I. director, James Comey, ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,’ according to contemporaneous notes written by Comey, referring to a meeting in which Trump asked Comey to lay off the federal investigation of Flynn.
Comey wouldn’t let it go, and Trump would later fire him and reportedly brag about it to Russians in the Oval Office a day later: ‘I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job.’ Trump continued, ‘I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.’
Now, all the hoops Trump has jumped through to hire, keep and protect Flynn may lead to Trump’s undoing. The question of whether Trump’s actions amount to obstruction of justice is very real. The White House Counsel’s Office is researching impeachment. This week Trump retained Marc Kasowitz as outside counsel for his impending legal problems. This is going to get ugly.
So the question not only remains, but is amplified in this light: What about Flynn is worth all this? Why continue to stick by someone who seems to have so clearly been in the wrong and is causing you such woes?
1 COMMENT Does Flynn have knowledge of something so damaging that it keeps Trump crouched in his defense? This is the question that ongoing investigations must answer, particularly the investigation now led by the Justice Department’s newly appointed special counsel, Robert Mueller.
It’s time to lay bare this fishy bromance and come to know the full breadth of Flynn’s furtive activities and whether Trump was aware or complicit, before, during or after. Kick back America; it’s Mueller time."
Fox News crew ‘watched in disbelief’ as Montana’s Greg Gianforte ‘slammed’ and ‘began punching’ reporter - The Washington Post
"A Fox News reporter provided a vivid eyewitness account late Wednesday of an attack on a reporter by Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte that led to him being cited for assault by the county sheriff and to lose his endorsements from two Montana newspapers ahead of the special election set for Thursday.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
"WASHINGTON ― Citing the Bible and expressing his sympathies in advance, Republican South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford savaged President Donald Trump’s budget proposal Wednesday as a “myth” and a “lie,” hammering the White House’s spending plan more thoroughly than any Democrat.
Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina who has a contentious relationship with the White House, simply did not accept the contention offered by Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in a House Budget Committee hearing that the economy is going to grow at 3 percent for the next 10 years.
The White House uses that growth estimate to argue that, despite cutting taxes dramatically for the wealthy, tax revenues will actually rise so that the budget will balance in 10 years. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates growth rates of just 1.9 percent.
“I have looked every which way at how you might get there, and you can’t get there,” Sanford told Mulvaney.
The South Carolinian, who describes himself as a budget hawk, went on to lay out all the ways that using a bogus estimate is terrible.
“What it does is it perpetuates a myth that we can go out there and balance the budget without touching entitlements,” Sanford said. “It’s not only a myth, it’s frankly a lie.”
Sanford offered some basic history to challenge Mulvaney’s assumptions. For starters, he noted that the average economic expansion in all U.S. history lasts about 58 months. The current expansion begun under President Barack Obama has been underway for 94 months. The Trump budget, Sanford noted, assumes that will continue uninterrupted for an additional 214 months.
Republican candidate 'body-slams' Guardian reporter in Montana Audio obtained of Greg Gianforte attacking a reporter on the eve of a special election to fill a congressional seat vacated by a member of the Trump administration. Greg Gianforte Assaults Reporter- video
"WASHINGTON — American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.
The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.
Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.
The intelligence was among the clues — which also included information about direct communications between Mr. Trump’s advisers and Russian officials — that American officials received last year as they began investigating Russian attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates were assisting Moscow in the effort. Details of the conversations, some of which have not been previously reported, add to an increasing understanding of the alarm inside the American government last year about the Russian disruption campaign.
The information collected last summer was considered credible enough for intelligence agencies to pass to the F.B.I., which during that period opened a counterintelligence investigation that is continuing. It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn. Both have denied any collusion with the Russian government on the campaign to disrupt the election.
John O. Brennan, the former director of the C.I.A., testified Tuesday about a tense period last year when he came to believe that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was trying to steer the outcome of the election. He said he saw intelligence suggesting that Russia wanted to use Trump campaign officials, wittingly or not, to help in that effort. He spoke vaguely about contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials, without giving names, saying they “raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”
Whether the Russians worked directly with any Trump advisers is one of the central questions that federal investigators, now led by Robert S. Mueller III, the newly appointed special counsel, are seeking to answer. President Trump, for his part, has dismissed talk of Russian interference in the election as “fake news,” insisting there was no contact between his campaign and Russian officials.
The White House, F.B.I. and C.I.A. declined to comment, as did spokesmen for Mr. Manafort. Mr. Flynn’s lawyer did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The current and former officials agreed to discuss the intelligence only on the condition of anonymity because much of it remains highly classified, and they could be prosecuted for disclosing it."
Top Russian Officials Discussed How to Influence Trump Aides Last Summer - The New York Times
Here is the legal analysis. Congress and the independent prosecutor need to work together.
"...Mr. Flynn’s lawyer earlier sought a grant of immunity in exchange for his client’s testimony, but that request has been refused so far. Congress learned a hard lesson when Oliver North received immunity to testify at the Iran-contra hearings, which eventually led to the dismissal of his convictions because the immunized testimony poisoned the government’s case against him.
Unlike his declining to testify, Mr. Flynn’s refusal to provide the documents involves a more obscure protection afforded to individuals by the Fifth Amendment subpoenaed for personal records.
The privilege against self-incrimination does not independently protect the content of documents, so one cannot refuse to turn them over just because they might be incriminating. The Supreme Court’s decision in 1976 in Fisher v. United States explained that it was “clear that the Fifth Amendment does not independently proscribe the compelled production of every sort of incriminating evidence, but applies only when the accused is compelled to make a testimonial communication that is incriminating.”
But that does not mean records must always be provided in response to a subpoena. The court went on to explain that while the records themselves do not come within the protection of the Fifth Amendment, the act of turning them over may communicate information about their existence, possession and the authenticity of the documents. Known as the “act of production,” the Fisher case permits a defendant to refuse to turn over records if doing so would communicate information to the government that it did not already have.
In Mr. Flynn’s case, acknowledging that he has records related to contacts with the Russian government may be incriminating because his response to the subpoena could be used to establish his knowledge of their contents and prevent him from denying his connection to the transactions described in them. Thus, his act of producing documents could incriminate him, so he can refuse to turn them over to the Intelligence Committee.
That is not the end of the analysis, however, because there are three ways in which the government could still obtain the records — but none are particularly appealing.
First, the Fisher decision contains an important caveat to the availability of the Fifth Amendment to avoid producing documents. If the government can show their existence, possession and authenticity is a “foregone conclusion” so that investigators will not learn anything valuable from the act of production, then the privilege against self-incrimination dissipates and the records must be produced.
This is often a difficult standard to meet and the burden would be on the government to show it knew what records Mr. Flynn had in his possession and that they were authentic. Absent that proof when the subpoena was issued, he can then assert the Fifth Amendment to refuse to turn them over.
A second means to obtain records would be for Congress to ask the Justice Department to authorize immunity for the act of production, which would overcome the privilege against self-incrimination and require Mr. Flynn to turn the records over.
But that is perilous, as the prosecution of Webb Hubbell, the former associate attorney general, showed. Immunity covers not just actual use of the records produced pursuant to a subpoena, but also any “derivative” information gained from them.
After Mr. Hubbell pleaded guilty in 1994 to mail fraud and tax charges for overbilling clients in his private practice, the independent counsel investigating President Clinton subpoenaed additional records from him to see if he was being paid to remain silent about possible misconduct in the Whitewater matter.
When he asserted the Fifth Amendment in response, the independent counsel granted him immunity from prosecution so that he would have to turn over about 13,000 pages of records. He was subsequently charged a second time with mail fraud and tax violations.
The Supreme Court determined in United States v. Hubbell that any evidence traceable to those documents violated the protections afforded by the grant of immunity, which puts a witness in the same position as if the person refused to provide any information. The court upheld the dismissal of tax and fraud charges against Mr. Hubbell, finding that “the documents did not magically appear in the prosecutor’s office like manna from heaven.”
Mr. Mueller is sure to oppose any request to grant immunity to Mr. Flynn to compel him to produce his records because it may effectively insulate him from any criminal charge, depriving his investigation of any leverage it might have to get him to cooperate.
A third way to get the records would be for the Justice Department to obtain a search warrant, because the Fifth Amendment does not apply when the government seizes records pursuant to a warrant. But that is not an easy avenue; prosecutors would have to show there is probable cause the evidence relates to a crime and they have a reasonable basis about where the records are kept.
Congress cannot obtain a search warrant, only the Justice Department can. Mr. Mueller’s investigation is just beginning, so seeking a search warrant for Mr. Flynn’s records is unlikely at this early stage.
Congress could threaten to seek a contempt order for Mr. Flynn for his failure to comply with the subpoena, but that is unlikely to result in the production of any records. Moreover, that threat may be hollow because it would require the Justice Department to take the case before a Federal District Court judge, something prosecutors have been reluctant to do when the refusal is based on the Fifth Amendment..."
Fifth Amendment Makes it Hard to Build a Case Against Flynn - The New York Times
Brookhaven Monument To Memorialize 'Comfort Women' - Brookhaven, GA Patch. Yes, my progressive city will memorialize these victims of sex slavery during WWII. The cowardice of City of Atlanta officials who backed down in face of opposition from the Japanese consulate is disgusting. I love living in Brookhaven.
"BROOKHAVEN, GA -- A monument that draws attention to one of the ugliest chapters of colonial rule in the Pacific is being erected in Brookhaven, the city announced Tuesday.
From 1910 to 1945, the systematic raping of South Korean women by Japanese soldiers in wartime brothels was commonplace, representing the longest and most painful saga of sex trafficking in modern times.
The plight of the former sex slaves, dubbed 'Comfort Women' by the soldiers back then, has been a point of contention between Japan and South Korea for decades as a a dwindling number of the women (a little more than three dozen are still alive) continue to agitate the Japanese government for appropriate recognition and reparations.
In a unanimous vote, the Brookhaven City Council approved plans to build a memorial for the 'Comfort Women' to raise awareness of the injustice and depravity of the global human sex trade. Brookhaven's statue, named Young Girl’s Statue for Peace, will show that the city, a quarter of whose residents are foreign-born, is in solidarity with the women and against sex trafficking across the world.
‘We are grateful for the courage, passion and commitment of the city officials of Brookhaven,’ Baik Kyu Kim, the Chair of the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force, said in a news release. ‘It is our hope that this beautiful statue will bring much healing, peace and hope.’
Brookhaven is the first city in Georgia and the Deep South to publicly commemorate the cause of the comfort women."