Wednesday, May 31, 2017
This is sad. Mao had a saying roughly translated; "he who lifts a rock and drops it on his own foot is a fool".
"HONG KONG — Sören Schwertfeger finished his postdoctorate research on autonomous robots in Germany, and seemed set to go to Europe or the United States, where artificial intelligence was pioneered and established.
Instead, he went to China.
“You couldn’t have started a lab like mine elsewhere,” Mr. Schwertfeger said.
The balance of power in technology is shifting. China, which for years watched enviously as the West invented the software and the chips powering today’s digital age, has become a major player in artificial intelligence, what some think may be the most important technology of the future. Experts widely believe China is only a step behind the United States.
China’s ambitions mingle the most far-out sci-fi ideas with the needs of an authoritarian state: Philip K. Dick meets George Orwell. There are plans to use it to predict crimes, lend money, track people on the country’s ubiquitous closed-circuit cameras, alleviate traffic jams, create self-guided missiles and censor the internet.
Beijing is backing its artificial intelligence push with vast sums of money. Having already spent billions on research programs, China is readying a new multibillion-dollar initiative to fund moonshot projects, start-ups and academic research, all with the aim of growing China’s A.I. capabilities, according to two professors who consulted with the government on the plan.
China’s private companies are pushing deeply into the field as well, though the line between government and private in China sometimes blurs. Baidu — often called the Google of China and a pioneer in artificial-intelligence-related fields, like speech recognition — this year opened a joint company-government laboratory partly run by academics who once worked on research into Chinese military robots.
China is spending more just as the United States cuts back. This past week, the Trump administration released a proposed budget that would slash funding for a variety of government agencies that have traditionally backed artificial intelligence research.
“It’s a race in the new generation of computing,” said James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The difference is that China seems to think it’s a race and America doesn’t.”
"The American tourism industry could be facing a new phenomenon: waning interest in the traveling to the United States.
After decades of sitting pretty as a bucket list destination, the stars and stripes might be on their way out. Experts warn that anti-immigration rhetoric as well as confusing travel and electronic bans have dampened foreign interest in U.S. vacations, especially from Mexico.
'We have Twitter wars with our President and former President of Mexico…. There is lots of speculation in the media about a trade war with Mexico,' says Douglas Quimby, of Phocuswright, a travel research firm. 'If that happens, what kind of impact does that have on millions of middle-class Mexicans looking to take a trip?'"
"Emmanuel Macron has compared Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying they all see international relationships as a balance of power.
The newly installed French president compared Mr Trump to the increasingly autocratic leaders when commenting on pictures of a tense handshake between them at the Nato summit in Brussels last week."
Emmanuel Macron says Donald Trump is like Putin and Erdogan | The Independent
Sources: Russians discussed 'derogatory' information about Trump and associates during campaign - CNNPolitics.com
One source described the information as financial in nature and said the discussion centered on whether the Russians had leverage over Trump's inner circle. The source said the intercepted communications suggested to US intelligence that Russians believed "they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information."
Sources: Russians discussed 'derogatory' information about Trump and associates during campaign - CNNPolitics.com
"The tectonic plates of Europe are shifting, and President Trump is at the heart of this upheaval. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany bluntly made that point on Sunday when she said, ‘The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over,’ and the result is that ‘we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.’
With that line, it became clear that the United States is no longer the reliable partner her country and the rest of Europe have long depended on. Since World War II, the United States led the way in building a new international order rooted in NATO and the European Union as well as a belief in democracy and free markets. Britain, France and Germany were central to that effort, which for 70 years kept the peace and delivered prosperity to millions of people while standing firm against the Soviet threat, helping end the Bosnian War and combating extremism in Afghanistan.
This trans-Atlantic partnership is still vital. But how, and how well, it will function as American leadership recedes is unclear. So far, no one is talking about dissolving NATO; Europe still depends for its security on America’s nuclear and conventional arsenals. But Ms. Merkel’s remarks underscored profound divisions between Europe and the United States that have one clear beneficiary, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who has longed for the alliance, Moscow’s Cold War adversary, to unravel.
Before Mr. Trump attended his first meetings of NATO and the Group of 7 last week, European leaders hoped they could bring him around on critical issues. That now seems like a pipe dream. Mr. Trump doubled-down on his most destructive campaign impulses by hectoring the other members at length for what he called their insufficient levels of military spending, and by refusing to reaffirm NATO’s bedrock mutual defense commitment. He also broke with the allies on other issues. He offered a more conciliatory line on Russia and refused, despite their entreaties, to endorse the Paris agreement on climate change.
When he returned home, Mr. Trump stoked the fires more, complaining in a tweet that Germany pays ‘far less than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.’ His remarks showed no appreciation for how NATO works, how Ms. Merkel is in fact pushing her country to spend more on defense — and, more generally, how comments like this insult a trusted ally.
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Europe’s dismay could only have deepened when Congress seemed to cheer Mr. Trump on. Republicans, who once prided themselves as stewards of national security, have shown little concern about the way Mr. Trump treated NATO members or the links between Mr. Trump’s aides and Russia. In a statement, Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gushed over Mr. Trump’s trip to Europe and the Middle East, saying it was ‘executed to near perfection.’
These new stresses in the alliance come at a bad time. Europe has been battered by the Greek financial crisis; the rise of authoritarianism in Turkey, Hungary and Poland; Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union; and the flow of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.
Meanwhile, Mr. Putin, always eager to expand Russian influence, has exploited every weakness and crisis, along with instigating a few of his own. Russia invaded Ukraine and has interfered in electoral campaigns in the United States, France and Germany. Mr. Putin has meddled in the Baltic States, cultivated far-right-wing allies in Hungary and wooed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on NATO’s eastern flank. He is now courting Italy with a savvy ambassador to Rome and financing for anti-establishment parties.
There are some bright spots. One is that Ms. Merkel seems committed to playing a lead role as the United States pulls back; another is France’s election of President Emmanuel Macron, who has demonstrated a willingness to work in partnership with Ms. Merkel. The two won’t always see eye-to-eye, but Germany needs France and Mr. Macron is a good fit.
Mr. Macron’s first foreign visit was to Berlin. And just days later, he has showed that he is not afraid of taking charge. After greeting Mr. Trump, Mr. Macron acknowledged deliberately keeping their handshake going to make a political point: I’m not your patsy. He made an equally strong point when he met in Versailles with Mr. Putin, who had probably worked to aid his rival, the far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. Mr. Macron gave Mr. Putin full honors but did not mince words on Russia’s destructive role in the Syrian conflict, in Ukraine and in its dissemination of fake news. The message was one Europe should stick to in the future: No major issue can be resolved without talking to Russia, but differences with Moscow should not be swept under the rug."
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
"Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28. The letter, which said the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” into the private email server that Clinton used as secretary of state, upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College.
The letter isn’t the only reason that Clinton lost. It does not excuse every decision the Clinton campaign made. Other factors may have played a larger role in her defeat, and it’s up to Democrats to examine those as they choose their strategy for 2018 and 2020.
But the effect of those factors — say, Clinton’s decision to give paid speeches to investment banks, or her messaging on pocket-book issues, or the role that her gender played in the campaign — is hard to measure. The impact of Comey’s letter is comparatively easy to quantify, by contrast. At a maximum, it might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College.
And yet, from almost the moment that Trump won the White House, many mainstream journalists have been in denial about the impact of Comey’s letter. The article that led The New York Times’s website the morning after the election did not mention Comey or “FBI” even once — a bizarre development considering the dramatic headlines that the Times had given to the letter while the campaign was underway. Books on the campaign have treated Comey’s letter as an incidental factor, meanwhile. And even though Clinton herself has repeatedly brought up the letter — including in comments she made at an event in New York on Tuesday — many pundits have preferred to change the conversation when the letter comes up, waving it away instead of debating the merits of the case.
The motivation for this seems fairly clear: If Comey’s letter altered the outcome of the election, the media may have some responsibility for the result. The story dominated news coverage for the better part of a week, drowning out other headlines, whether they were negative for Clinton (such as the news about impending Obamacare premium hikes) or problematic for Trump (such as his alleged ties to Russia). And yet, the story didn’t have a punchline: Two days before the election, Comey disclosed that the emails hadn’t turned up anything new.
One can believe that the Comey letter cost Clinton the election without thinking that the media cost her the election — it was an urgent story that any newsroom had to cover. But if the Comey letter had a decisive effect and the story was mishandled by the press — given a disproportionate amount of attention relative to its substantive importance, often with coverage that jumped to conclusions before the facts of the case were clear — the media needs to grapple with how it approached the story. More sober coverage of the story might have yielded a milder voter reaction.
My focus in this series of articles has been on the media’s horse-race coverage rather than its editorial decisions overall, but when it comes to the Comey letter, these things are intertwined. Not only was the letter probably enough to swing the outcome of the horse race, but the reverse is also true: Perceptions of the horse race probably affected the way the story unfolded. Publications may have given hyperbolic coverage to the Comey letter in part because they misanalyzed the Electoral College and wrongly concluded that Clinton was a sure thing. And Comey himself may have released his letter in part because of his overconfidence in Clinton’s chances. It’s a mess — so let’s see what we can do to untangle it.
Clinton was in a danger zone before Comey’s letter
Clinton woke up on the morning of Oct. 28 as the likely — by no means certain — next president. Trump had come off a period of five weeks in which he’d had three erratic debates and numerous women accuse him of sexual assault after the “Access Hollywood” tape became public. Clinton led by approximately 6 percentage points in national polls and by 6 to 7 points in polls of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Her leads in Florida and North Carolina were narrow, and she was only tied with Trump in Ohio and Iowa.1 But it was a pretty good overall position.
Her standing was not quite as safe as it might have appeared from a surface analysis, however. For one thing, there were still lots of undecided voters, especially in the Midwest. Although Trump had a paltry 37 percent to 38 percent of the vote in polls of Michigan, for instance, Clinton had only 43 percent to 44 percent. That left the door open for Trump to leapfrog her if late developments caused undecideds to break toward him. Furthermore, in the event that the race tightened, Clinton’s vote was inefficiently distributed in the Electoral College, concentrated in coastal states rather than swing states. While she had only an 11 percent chance of losing the popular vote according to FiveThirtyEight’s forecast that morning, her chances of losing the Electoral College were a fair bit higher: 18 percent.
Another danger to Clinton was complacency. Several days earlier, the Times had written that she was on the verge of having an “unbreakable lead.” And there was a risk that people looking at statistical forecasts were misreading them and “rounding up” a probable Clinton win to a sure thing. (We’ll take up that topic up at more length in a future article in this series.) But Clinton had actually slipped by a percentage point or so in polls since the final debate on Oct. 19. And the news cycle had become somewhat listless; the most prevalent story that morning was about the trial in the Oregon wildlife refuge standoff. Clinton was in a danger zone: Her lead wasn’t quite large enough to be truly safe, but it was large enough to make people mistakenly think it was.
The Comey letter almost immediately sank Clinton’s polls
News of the Comey letter broke just before 1 p.m. Eastern time on Oct. 28, when Utah. Rep Jason Chaffetz tweeted about it, noting the existence of the letter and stating (incorrectly, it turned out2) that the case into Clinton’s private email server had been “reopened.” The story exploded onto the scene; Fox News was treating Chaffetz’s tweet as “breaking news” within 15 minutes, and the FBI story dominated headlines everywhere within roughly an hour. In an element of tabloid flair, it was soon reported that the emails in question were found on a computer owned by Anthony Weiner, the former congressman, as part of an investigation into whether he’d sent sexually explicit messages to teenage girls.
Few news organizations gave the story more velocity than The New York Times. On the morning of Oct. 29, Comey stories stretched across the print edition’s front page, accompanied by a photo showing Clinton and her aide Huma Abedin, Weiner’s estranged wife. Although some of these articles contained detailed reporting, the headlines focused on speculation about the implications for the horse race —
That Comey’s decision to issue the letter had been so unorthodox and that the contents of the letter were so ambiguous helped fuel the story. The Times’s print lead on Oct. 30 was about Clinton’s pushback against Comey, and a story it published two days later explained that Comey had broken with precedent in releasing the letter. It covered all sides of the controversy. But the controversy was an unwelcome one for Clinton, since it involved voters seeing words like “Clinton,” “email,” “FBI” and “investigation” together in headlines. Within a day of the Comey letter, Google searches for “Clinton FBI” had increased 50-fold and searches for “Clinton email” almost tenfold.
Clinton’s standing in the polls fell sharply. She’d led Trump by 5.9 percentage points in FiveThirtyEight’s popular vote projection at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 28. A week later — after polls had time to fully reflect the letter — her lead had declined to 2.9 percentage points. That is to say, there was a shift of about 3 percentage points against Clinton. And it was an especially pernicious shift for Clinton because (at least according to the FiveThirtyEight model) Clinton was underperforming in swing states as compared to the country overall. In the average swing state,3 Clinton’s lead declined from 4.5 percentage points at the start of Oct. 28 to just 1.7 percentage points on Nov. 4. If the polls were off even slightly, Trump could be headed to the White House....
The Comey Letter Probably Cost Clinton The Election | FiveThirtyEight
"The special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District is the first major test of the Democratic resistance to President Trump. In one sense, the results of the first round in April were promising for the party. Thanks to an impressive Democratic turnout, Jon Ossoff, the Democrat who advanced to this month’s runoff, almost cracked 50 percent of the vote in a district that’s nearly 10 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole.1
The result, moreover, was a reversal of some turnout trends we saw in 2016, when President Trump outperformed the polls on the back of higher turnout in Republican-leaning areas. And if the runoff election on June 20 features a similar electorate, the race will be too close to call.
But the Georgia 6 April primary was a continuation of some 2016 turnout trends too — trends that should worry Democrats. In 2016, turnout among whites was up across the country, and in highly educated areas like the 6th District in the suburbs of Atlanta. This redounded to Democrats’ advantage. At the same time, black turnout was down precipitously, from 66 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2016. This black-white turnout gap continued in the first round of Georgia’s special election, where the Democrats got impressive turnout levels from all races and ethnicities — except African-Americans.
Lower black turnout in 2016 might be explained as a reversion to the mean after that group’s historic turnout for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. It’s possible that Clinton could never inspire black turnout the way the first African-American president could. But even if this shift is more of a return to the old status quo, Democrats will still have to grapple with these turnout levels going forward, and there are powerful lessons we can learn from the party’s failure to raise or maintain previous black turnout levels in 2016. Painting Trump as a bigot did not motivate more African-Americans to vote, in 2016 or in the Georgia 6th. Hope and shared identity seem to be much more effective turnout motivators than fear.
Elections are decided by two chief factors: Who turns out and which candidate they vote for. It’s been pointed out that turnout alone did not decide the 2016 election — and that the key factor in Trump’s success with groups like the white working class was not that he got way more of them to the polls than Mitt Romney did, but simply that he won a much higher share of their votes."
Black Voters Aren’t Turning Out For The Post-Obama Democratic Party | FiveThirtyEight
I first learned of him in 1972, reading one of his books in a political science class; "Between Two Ages: America's Role in the Technetronic Era". He was an architect of the Israeli Egyptian peace agreement.
Portland Republican says party should use militia groups after racial attack | US news | The Guardian
"As tensions continue in Portland following the racially charged murder of two men on Friday, the top Republican in the city said he is considering using militia groups as security for public events.
Portland knife attack: tension high as 'free speech rally' set for weekend Read more Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, and Rick Best, 53, were stabbed to death and 21-year-old student Micah David-Cole Fletcher was injured when they came to the aid of two women being subjected to hate speech on public transport. The suspect, Jeremy Christian, 35, was found to hold white supremacist views and to have attended an ‘alt-right’ rally in the city.
On Monday, Donald Trump issued a belated message of condolence. Asked about the president’s tweet, Portland mayor Ted Wheeler told the Guardian: ‘Our current political climate allows far too much room for those who spread bigotry. Violent words can lead to violent acts.
‘All elected leaders in America, all people of good conscience, must work deliberately change our political dialogue.’
Multnomah County GOP chair James Buchal, however, told the Guardian that recent street protests had prompted Portland Republicans to consider alternatives to ‘abandoning the public square’.
‘I am sort of evolving to the point where I think that it is appropriate for Republicans to continue to go out there,’ he said. ‘And if they need to have a security force protecting them, that’s an appropriate thing too.’
Asked if this meant Republicans making their own security arrangements rather than relying on city or state police, Buchal said: ‘Yeah. And there are these people arising, like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters.’
Asked if he was considering such groups as security providers, Buchal said: ‘Yeah. We’re thinking about that. Because there are now belligerent, unstable people who are convinced that Republicans are like Nazis.’
"Manuel Antonio Noriega, the brash former dictator of Panama and sometime ally of the United States whose ties to drug trafficking led to his ouster in 1989 in what was then the largest American military action since the Vietnam War, has died. He was 83.
President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama announced Mr. Noriega’s death on Twitter early Tuesday morning.
Mr. Varela’s post read, ‘The death of Manuel A. Noriega closes a chapter in our history; his daughters and his relatives deserve to bury him in peace.’
Mr. Noriega died around 11 p.m. Monday at Santo Tomás Hospital in Panama City, a hospital employee confirmed. An official cause of death was not immediately available.
Mr. Noriega had been in intensive care since March 7 after complications developed from surgery to remove what his lawyer described as a benign brain tumor. His daughters told reporters at the hospital in March that he had had a brain hemorrhage after the procedure. He had been granted house arrest in January to prepare for the operation.
Manuel Antonio Noriega in 1989, the year the United States invaded Panama to depose him. Credit Associated Press His medical problems came on the heels of a legal odyssey that had begun with the invasion and led to prison terms in the United States, France and finally Panama. While imprisoned abroad he suffered strokes, hypertension and other ailments, his lawyers said.
After returning to Panama on Dec. 11, 2011, he began serving long sentences for murder, embezzlement and corruption in connection with his rule during the 1980s.
It was an inglorious homecoming for a man who had been known for brandishing a machete while making defiant nationalist speeches and living a lavish, libertine life off drug-trade riches, complete with luxurious mansions, cocaine-fueled parties and voluminous collections of antique guns. It was a quirky life as well: He liked to display his teddy bears dressed as paratroopers.
Playing Both Sides
Mr. Noriega, who became the de facto leader of the country by promoting himself to full general of the armed forces in 1983, had a decades-long, head-spinning relationship with the United States, shifting from cooperative ally and informant for American drug and intelligence agencies to shady adversary, selling secrets to political enemies of the United States in the Western Hemisphere and tipping off drug cartels. Whose side he was on was often hard to tell."
"WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was looking for a direct line to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — a search that in mid-December found him in a room with a Russian banker whose financial institution was deeply intertwined with Russian intelligence, and remains under sanction by the United States.
Federal and congressional investigators are now examining what exactly Mr. Kushner and the Russian banker, Sergey N. Gorkov, wanted from each other. The banker is a close associate of Mr. Putin, but he has not been known to play a diplomatic role for the Russian leader. That has raised questions about why he was meeting with Mr. Kushner at a crucial moment in the presidential transition, according to current and former officials familiar with the investigations."
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
Joe: ‘My party is going straight to hell’. Joe presses Republicans to come clean about the health care bill, saying it’s a “certifiable lie” to suggest Medicaid won’t be cut under their proposal. | MSNBC
"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