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Monday, May 21, 2018

Why Trump’s North Korea summit is going off the rails, explained by an expert - Vox

This was obvious from the beginning to anyone who has any understanding of the politics of the ROK.  "North Korea experts see this as a long-overdue reckoning. The truth is that the United States and North Korea have long expected diametrically opposed outcomes from the talks — with the US wanting North Korea to give up its nukes and North Korea demanding recognition as a legitimate nuclear power. But neither side was willing to confront the reality of the situation. We’ve just been stumbling toward negotiations with no clear sense of how this yawning gulf could be resolved.

How did we get here? Robert E. Kelly, a professor at South Korea’s Pusan National University, gave a really clear explanation in a series of Monday morning tweets: It’s all because of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Moon is a leftist who took office in May of last year, back when Trump was threatening war with North Korea. He made a deep and concerted effort to try to broker negotiations between Trump and Kim to defuse the tension, and part of his strategy was making grandiose promises about what talks could accomplish — even floating the possibility that Trump could win a Nobel Prize to entice him to the table.

The problem, as Kelly points out, is that this was always a kind of shell game: Moon could never change the fact that the US and North Korea want fundamentally different things. Basically, he argues, this was a gambit to try to convince Trump not to go to war with North Korea — one that may yet fail. Trump and Moon are meeting in Washington on Tuesday to try to fix things, and no one really knows how that conversation will go:..."

Why Trump’s North Korea summit is going off the rails, explained by an expert - Vox

Obamacare was finally working until Trump came along.

"One of the big early problems with Obamacare was that insurance companies couldn’t make any money off of it. They charged premiums that were too low, enrolled patients that were sicker than expected, and ended up in the red. Facing these losses, some carriers pulled out of the market entirely, leaving many parts of the country with just a single insurer to choose from, and leading to questions about whether the whole law might unravel.

But new data suggests that, in 2017, the market finally stabilized. For every dollar they collected in premiums last year, insurers paid out 82 cents on medical claims on average, according to a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s down from 96 cents in 2016 and $1.03 in 2015. “After several years, the remaining insurers figured out how to earn a profit in the individual insurance market,” Kaiser Senior Vice President Larry Levitt told me..."

Obamacare was finally working until Trump came along.

Trump’s last foray into arms-control negotiations doesn’t bode well for his Kim meeting.

Trump is and has been Ignorant, incurious and arrogant.  "If he once thought so, his sheen of certainty now seems to be eroding. According to the Washington Post, Trump held an under-30-minute phone conversation with Moon on Saturday night—feeling the chat couldn’t wait till their meeting in Washington just three days later—to discuss the unexpected twist in the pre-summit politics with Kim. Monday’s New York Times confirms the report and adds that Trump and his aides are panicked that Kim doesn’t seem as eager as they thought he’d be to make a swift trade of his nuclear weapons for vague promises of economic assistance.

These aides are also, just now it seems, getting nervous about the fact that their boss has declined to be briefed on the summit’s issues, preferring to trust his instincts, while Kim—according to U.S. officials who have met with him—is well-versed on the most intricate details of his arsenal and the surrounding geopolitics.

No one should have been surprised by Kim’s refusal to give away his sole strategic asset. What put Trump into a tizzy was the Wednesday statement by North Korea’s top negotiator, stating that Pyongyang was not interested in the “Libya model” of disarmament (which Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton had publicly proposed) and that the summit, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, wasn’t worth holding unless Washington agreed that the goal should be “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” (not just of North Korea), achieved by “phased, synchronous measures” (not all at once or with North Korea making its move first, as Trump and his advisers have demanded). This has been Kim’s position all along, and, by the standards of arms-control accords struck over the decades by other countries, including the United States, it’s quite reasonable.

Nor should Kim’s firm grasp of the issues have come as a shock. Though he’s young and a barbaric dictator, he’s no idiot; he’s been out in the world, having been educated at a Swiss boarding school; he has been the driving force behind his country’s success in assembling a nuclear arsenal. And when it comes to nuclear weapons, studiousness is a family tradition. When his father, Kim Jong-il, met with President Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, in 2000, to hammer out a possible treaty to bar North Korea from building ballistic missiles, Albright’s staff members—who attended the meeting—were stunned that Kim had mastered every detail and could discuss them without consulting his own aides. (Clinton’s term ended before a deal could be reached; George W. Bush had no interest in resuming where Albright left off.)"

Trump’s last foray into arms-control negotiations doesn’t bode well for his Kim meeting.

John Oliver: Everything wrong with Fox News - Last Week Tonight

Who’s to blame for the hiccup in North Korea talks? South Koreans say Bolton. - The Washington Post

"SEOUL — President Trump is blaming Kim Jong Un for changing the scope of their summit talks planned for next month and will doubtless air his frustrations when he meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Washington on Tuesday.

But in South Korea, many say the blame for the sudden problems in the diplomatic process lies squarely at the feet of someone else: John Bolton.

“There are several land mines on the way to the summit between North Korea and the U.S.,” said Chung Dong-young, who served as unification minister during the last progressive administration and is now a lawmaker. “One of those land mines just exploded: John Bolton,” Chung told YTN Radio.

Woo Sang-ho, a lawmaker in Moon’s ruling Democratic Party, agreed. “Bolton’s preposterous ‘Libya solution’ is a red light in North Korea’s summit talks with the U.S. and South Korea,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Officials now in senior positions in the Moon administration know the current American national security adviser’s background all too well. Many served under pro-engagement president Roh Moo-hyun, at a time when Bolton was a strong proponent inside the George W. Bush administration of the invasion of Iraq and of regime change in North Korea.

“I think a lot of people who were involved with the Roh administration are concerned about Bolton because he was such a neoconservative at the time, and it seems that he hasn’t changed,” said Lee Geun, a professor of political science at Seoul National University. “People are worried that he’s going to interfere and botch the process,” Lee said."

Who’s to blame for the hiccup in North Korea talks? South Koreans say Bolton. - The Washington Post

See lava from Hawaii volcano reach the ocean

Why He’s Holding Out in East Harlem, Despite the Demolition - Video -

Why He’s Holding Out in East Harlem, Despite the Demolition - Video -

'Jesus never charged a leper a co-pay': rise of the religious left | US news | The Guardian

'Jesus never charged a leper a co-pay': rise of the religious left | US news | The Guardian

The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times

"She was hardly the only tenant facing eviction by the owners, the Orbach Group, a New Jersey-based company that had recently paid about $76 million for her building and 21 others nearby, a Monopoly move that effectively snapped up most of the residential real estate along a block of West 109th Street. Orbach had filed eviction suits in housing court against scores of her neighbors in rent-regulated apartments.

What happened to Ms. Carranza and the others shows how New York City’s housing court system, created in part to shelter tenants from dangerous conditions, has instead become a tool for landlords to push them out and wrest a most precious civic commodity — affordable housing — out of regulation and into the free market."

The Eviction Machine Churning Through New York City - The New York Times

Afro-Colombian activist Francia Márquez, 2018 Goldman Prize Winner, on S...

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Are racist incidents on the rise in Trump era? AM Joy on MSNBC

Are racist incidents on the rise in Trump era? AM Joy on MSNBC

U.S. Suspending New Tariffs While Negotiating Trade With China, Mnuchin Says - The New York Times

U.S. Suspending New Tariffs While Negotiating Trade With China, Mnuchin Says - The New York Times

Texas school had a shooting plan, armed officers and practice. And still 10 people died. - The Washington Post

Texas school had a shooting plan, armed officers and practice. And still 10 people died. - The Washington Post

“There is power in love”: Bishop Michael Curry’s fiery royal wedding add...

HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 turns a warning about media into a tirade against tech trends - The Verge

"Dystopian stories are often described as warnings, but they can also be Rorschach blots. Readers dive in with specific fears — about technology, society, or the future — and find an allegory to validate them. And Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s classic 1953 novel, is a perfectly adaptable cautionary tale. It’s an elegant high-concept story backed by a complicated web of broad social complaints, critiquing everything from social justice to the zipper. This might be why it’s produced two dramatically different films: one from French auteur François Truffaut in 1966, and the other from 99 Homes director Ramin Bahrani, premiering this weekend on HBO.

As many readers likely know, the novel Fahrenheit 451 is set in a future in which books are illegal, and instead of putting out fires, “firemen” hunt down caches of literature and burn them. The protagonist is a fireman named Guy Montag, who one day smuggles a book home and reads it, setting himself on the path to knowledge and, ultimately, rebellion.

The most overtly ideological target in Bradbury’s original novel is essentially identity politics. Firemen exist because racial minorities fought to ban books that insulted or dehumanized them, then other people adopted “minority” labels to ban books that insulted them, and soon all books were considered offensive. Like most “political correctness run amok” commentary, it’s frustratingly glib, suggesting that any attempt to curb racism is a slippery slope that leads to dangerous places. But that backstory is also isolated to a small section of the book, which people often ignore when they talk about Fahrenheit 451 — perhaps because Bradbury’s takedown of mass media is so much more vivid.

Bradbury’s future is intellectually vacant, but endlessly stimulating. While the government has banned books, few people in Bradbury’s vision of the future would choose to read them anyway. Multi-wall screens play sensational variety shows or programs starring an inane fictional “family,” which captivates Montag’s wife. Thrill-seeking kids entertain themselves at destruction-themed fun fairs. “Talking politics” means discussing which presidential candidate is more handsome. (This was a whole seven years before the famous televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, the future “TV president.”) Imagine all the most annoying aspects of television and teenagers, both of which were relatively new developments in the 1950s, and dial them up to unbearable levels.

But Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 isn’t just aiming at clearly vapid forms of media. It criticizes the practice of learning as rote self-improvement, where people churn through ever-shorter news stories and Reader’s Digest condensed novels out of a solemn duty to keep up with the world. “Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals,” says Montag’s superior Beatty, explaining the process of social control. “Chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information.”

Bahrani wrote in a New York Times essay that Bradbury’s concerns about headline-scanning and hyper-condensation make Fahrenheit 451 “the book for our social media age.” Readers can certainly use the book as a cudgel against Wikipedia and Twitter, if they’re so inclined. But that’s just one potential set of targets. Any system that encourages frenetically acquiring knowledge without stopping for reflection is fair game — and that covers large swathes of American cultural institutions, past and present.

Truffaut’s version of the story, on the other hand, doesn’t spend a lot of time on this kind of media commentary, and the world of his film doesn’t feel like a society spinning out of control. It’s almost the opposite. His version of Fahrenheit 451 is a more straightforward depiction of suburban malaise, where people are not just distracted, but miserably numb. Truffaut draws out the book’s most surreally boring moments, devoting an entire scene to a hypnotic faux-interactive soap opera about assigning guest bedrooms. He expands a subplot about Montag’s free-spirited neighbor Clarisse, who is given a larger role as a young teacher resisting her school’s stifling educational curriculum. New technology plays a role in the film, but old-fashioned peer pressure and oppressive bureaucracy are the greatest villains.

Behind a striking near-future aesthetic, Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 outlines an extremely 20th-century problem: bourgeois men who chafe at their meaningless jobs and shallow wives, and can only be saved by leaving respectable society with the help of a beautiful young woman. (In this film, that’s literally Montag’s wife with a hipper haircut, since actor Julie Christie played dual female lead roles.) His cultural anxiety feels almost like a punchline today. Wow, remember when people were scared of having an excessively stable lifestyle?

Bahrani’s version of the film doesn’t even try to make that particular anxiety seem relevant. His version of Montag (played by Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan) has no wife and no suburban home. He lives in a sterile apartment with a virtual assistant who’s bristling with surveillance cameras, more like a talking appliance than a friend. Instead of being mid-level functionaries, firemen are stars in a COPS-like internet reality show, where they can bask in waves of floating emoji during busts. His viewers aren’t numb or thoughtless — they’re furious at book-hoarders, who function as a generic hated underclass. And since there aren’t many books left, firemen have turned to torching things like films and old computers, even though the fumes would be incredibly toxic and the whole practice completely unnecessary.

This new Montag is a futuristic e-celeb, but he’s shaped by problems that long precede social media. Older versions of the character had middle-class blue-collar jobs, in eras — or at least, futuristic versions of those eras — when that was relatively unremarkable. Those jobs seem almost mythical today, so the best Jordan’s character gets is a nonsensical, performative simulacrum of one. Beatty (The Shape of Water villain Michael Shannon) is grooming Montag to take over his department and lead a new generation of firemen, but it’s not clear that people need their services anymore. The livestreamed performance is all that matters — which is presumably why they still get awesome flamethrowers for destroying computers, instead of, say, very strong magnets.

This might make Bahrani’s Fahrenheit 451 sound unduly interesting or pointed, because its main social commentary is that every hyped-up tech trend from the past several years is awful. Emoji? They destroy literacy, obviously. Virtual reality? Isolates people. Livestreaming? Encourages mob mentality. Alexa? Spies on you and gives you drugs. Social media? Ate the internet. Algorithms? I’m still piecing the reasoning together, but you’d better believe they’re bad.

“Technology is horrible” is hardly an unusual premise, but Bahrani’s Fahrenheit 451 doesn’t even stay consistently technophobic. (Without spoiling a weird and complicated new subplot, let’s just say that DNA data storage is improbably good.) There’s no grounding to any of its social commentary, just a lot of jumbled slogans, as thoughtlessly distracting as Bradbury warned television might be. And for an adaptation of a book so full of possibilities, that’s almost as bad as just burning the thing.

In 1953, Ray Bradbury created a mirror for our worst fears about mass media, conformity, and anti-intellectualism. And we’ve kept those fears alive, updating them to reflect how the details of society have changed from decade to decade. In the 1960s, Fahrenheit 451 reflected a barren world of complacent suburbanites, longing to feel anything at all. Today, the same story in a new form reflects a world where people are trying to recapture a purpose they lost years ago, doing too much and thinking too little. If only that description didn’t apply to the film, too."

HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 turns a warning about media into a tirade against tech trends - The Verge

Opinion | John Kelly’s Ancestors Wouldn’t Have Fit In Either - The New York Times

"I had forgotten that memory of my mother, sitting by herself, reading aloud from a church newsletter. It was the only way she could read, having had only a grade school education. As an American teenager fluent in English, I felt pity for her, and perhaps a bit of shame.

The memory came back to me on learning of the White House chief of staff John Kelly’s words about undocumented immigrants coming from south of the border, whom he described as people who would not “easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society.”

“They’re overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English,” Mr. Kelly said. “They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws.”

Mr. Kelly feels sympathy for these people, some of whom are like my mother, born into a rural background. But Mr. Kelly — like President Trump, who last week called certain undocumented immigrants “animals” — cannot empathize with them. His inability to see or feel the world as they do is shared by many Americans..."

Opinion | John Kelly’s Ancestors Wouldn’t Have Fit In Either - The New York Times

Saturday, May 19, 2018

GoFundMe campaign raises money to send Mariachi band, taco truck to racist NYC lawyer - CNET

Racist Ranter

"A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $1,000 to send a Mariachi band and taco truck to a New York attorney whose racist rant went viral earlier this week.

Aaron Schlossberg was recorded berating cafe employees for speaking Spanish in New York City on Tuesday. He was reportedly kicked out of his office space on Thursday and had a formal complaint filed against him by a New York congressman. 

Schlossberg couldn't be reached at the telephone number listed on his firm's website. 
The Twitterverse also wanted to respond to his bigoted tirade. The ALT-Immigration Twitter account suggested sending a Mariachi band to sing La Cucaracha at Schlossberg's office. Followers of the account apparently liked the idea and put the call into action.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Trump reportedly wants to punish Amazon by trying to double Postal Service rates - The Verge

"Megan Brennan to double the rate the US Postal Service charges companies like Amazon to use its services, according to a report from The Washington Post today. The move is just the latest, and perhaps most dramatic, turn in the ongoing feud between the sitting president and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world and owner of The Washington Post. Trump has often criticized the newspaper for its coverage of his administration.

Brennan has managed to keep Trump at bay, fearful the request could massively complicate existing contracts between the USPS and companies like Amazon, many of which are reportedly reviewed by a regulatory commission, The Post reports. Yet last month, Trump ordered a Postal Service review via executive order so that a task force can evaluate the finances of the organization, presumably to help back up his claim that it loses billions a year due to poor deals struck with Amazon and others.

Trump has also criticized Amazon in the past for not paying an adequate amount of taxes and for using The Post as an idealogical arm of Bezos to criticize Republicans and the White House, a charge Trump has been making for years prior to his winning the 2016 US election. Bezos, in response, has offered to shoot Trump into space using a Blue Origin rocket, though he made the joke back in 2015 when it would likely garner a less polarized response.

Brennan, who has spent 32 years at the Postal Service and became Postmaster General in 2014, has met with Trump multiple times in the past 18 months to discuss the Amazon matter, according to The Post. Reportedly, the debate over how much Amazon should be paying the Postal Service has divided top administration officials, with Trump calling on and receiving conflicting opinions from members of his cabinet and staff like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, who left the White House in March over a major rift with Trump on proposed steel and aluminum tariffs.

Amazon’s relationship to the Postal Service is a complicated one. The Post reports that Amazon, like many other retailers, uses the USPS for so-called last-mile deliveries, meaning Amazon brings the package to the post office closest to a customer’s home so a mail worker can then bring it to the door. Amazon reportedly uses the USPS for 40 percent of its last-mile deliveries, according to some analysts, and paid $21.7 billion in 2017 in shipping costs.

The Postal Service, though it’s lost money for the last 11 years, reported a 11.8 percent year-over-year increase in revenue to $19.5 billion last year, some of which is likely attributable to Amazon’s increased spending in the area. The nature of Amazon and the Postal Service’s deal remains secret."

Trump reportedly wants to punish Amazon by trying to double Postal Service rates - The Verge

Tamara Johnson Shealey Talks Race, Georgia Politics and Building to Win... inally, a candidate that thinks and speaks the truth I see. Please vote😍😀😀 for her if you live in Georgia's 40th Senate District. Please vote on Tuesday no matter what district you live in.

Chris Cuomo fact-checks Trump's claim on immigration

Giuliani gets angry when confronted with his own words

Leaked Google video: a disturbing concept to reshape humanity with data

Israel’s Massacre of Palestinian Civilians Should Spark Horror—and Action | The Nation


"It is long past time to end the blockade of Gaza—and to reckon with the one-state reality in which Palestinians and Israelis live.By Ian S. Lustick

The barrier enclosing the two million Palestinians “living” in the Gaza Strip is not a border between two countries, as the media have insistently called it. It is a wall erected by Israel to make the suffering of those living inside the Gaza ghetto as invisible as possible to those living outside it.

Israel has told Gazans that anyone attempting to breach this wall and escape from Gaza will be shot. Anyone approaching it will be shot. And that is precisely what has happened over the weeks of protests by Palestinian refugees seeking to highlight their seventy-year exile from land they can see just beyond the wall. Scores of Palestinians have been killed, including journalists and children. Thousands more have been injured by live fire, with many losing legs and arms to amputations. Alongside this, there has been a report of one Israeli soldier hurt by a stone.

There are many words for what this is. Palestinians speak of heroism, resistance, dedication, and martyrdom. The Israeli government calls the shoot-to-kill and shoot-to-injure policies “self-defense.” Individual soldiers call it “following orders.” Israeli human rights groups, meanwhile, call the policy ordered by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman “grossly illegal.” My grandmother would have called it a shanda (Yiddish for a “disgrace”). But whether it is heroism or self-defense; whether the orders to shoot are legal or illegal; the mounting Israeli gun violence the world has been forced to witness along the Gaza ghetto wall is, without a doubt, disgusting. For any human being, no matter what their political views or ties to Israel or to Palestinian Arabs, the continuous mass shooting of Palestinian civilians is, or should be, emotionally and spiritually intolerable.

That it is psychologically and politically possible for Palestinians to continue sacrificing themselves in this way testifies to the desperation of their circumstances; that it is psychologically and politically possible for Israelis to murder and maim so many men, women, and children trying to escape from the ghetto within which they have been concentrated, or just trying to attract the world’s attention to their suffering, is a tragic and humiliating stain on the Jewish state and the Zionist movement that created it. It is also an entirely self-defeating for a state struggling against efforts to “delegitimize” its existence.

To be sure, there is always Israeli hasbara, or propaganda, to help those seeking some way to suppress the revulsion and pain that any decent person must feel at the stories coming out of Gaza. This hasbara insists that the protests are nothing more than a cynical Hamas publicity stunt. It tells us that armed Hamas terrorists are hiding themselves among the demonstrators, using the miserable masses to conceal their efforts to kill Israelis. Who could doubt this? When the British ruled Palestine, the underground Jewish army prided itself on hiding arms factories in grammar schools and synagogues. And as we know, in any besieged ghetto there will be ghetto fighters, and they will be treated as heroes by those on the inside, and terrorists by those on the outside. But if there are certainly men of violence among the masses of protestors, let us not forget that alongside the many Israeli soldiers who surely suffer some pangs of conscience, there are some, as we have seen on videotape, who high-five one another for using fancy sniper rifles to put big holes in human bodies hundreds of yards away.

As for those in charge of the security policies of the current Israeli government, they know all too well what they are doing, what horror they are inflicting. The security hawks that staff leading think tanks and Israeli government ministries regularly speak of the need to “mow the lawn” in Gaza, to keep the population there on a “strict diet,” and to “manage the conflict” by using purposefully inflicted suffering to sear into Palestinian hearts the belief that resistance is futile. When Israel adopted its policy of enforcing a hermetic seal around Gaza in 2007, a political geographer at Haifa University named Arnon Soffer offered his full-throated endorsement, but added that it would eventually mean, not shooting armed men, but “putting a bullet in the head of anyone who tries to climb over the security barrier.” “If we want to remain alive,” he said, by which he meant if Israel wants to remain a “Jewish” state, “we will have to kill and kill and kill.”

The struggle for a two-state solution is not moribund; it is dead. This is true even if the pretense that negotiations could succeed remains a useful excuse—a way for Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States, and the peace-process industry to exploit or ignore the deepening oppression of the current one-state reality. As documented by the Israeli military, there are now more Palestinians under the control of the Israeli state than there are Jews. Indeed, for all intents and purposes the Palestinians of Gaza and of the West Bank, citizens of no other country, are already within the Jewish state. They are citizens of no other recognized state. As measured by how much impact the State of Israel has over the intimate details of their lives, and indeed over whether they will live at all, they are as much inhabitants of the State of Israel as black slaves were inhabitants of the United States or as Africans in the Bantustans were inhabitants of apartheid South Africa. The five-decade occupation of the West Bank and the dozen-year blockade of Gaza, combined with regularly inflicted violent punishment, just mark differences in the way the Israeli state governs different populations in different regions."

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Top Adviser to the South Korean President Wants to 'Get Rid Of' the U.S. Alliance - The Atlantic

Chung In Moon, a special adviser to President Moon Jae In for foreign affairs and national security

This is not that surprising at all given what I heard from people in the ROK when I was teaching there. 

"SEOUL, South Korea—A top adviser to South Korea’s president says he would eventually like to see the U.S.-South Korea alliance end. In language that sounded almost Trump-like, Chung In Moon, a special adviser to President Moon Jae In for foreign affairs and national security, said in an interview that alliances, in general, are a “very unnatural state of international relations” and said that, “for me, the best thing is to really get rid of alliance.” In the meantime, he says, he “strongly” supports “the continued presence of American forces” in Korea, despite hoping for an arrangement that he thinks would better serve his nation’s interests.

It was a remarkable statement coming from a South Korean official who is playing a prominent advisory role in current negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program. South Korea has relied on its U.S. alliance since the 1950s to deter threats from its north—and the fate of that partnership, which North Korea has long sought to end, has been a contentious question as a summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump approaches. U.S. and South Korean officials have repeatedly insisted that the alliance is not a bargaining chip with North Korea. And Moon, who presented his ideas as his personal views, was discussing the future of the alliance as a theoretical question about Asia’s security architecture, not as a matter to be determined in nuclear talks. But his comments nevertheless suggested that if those talks succeed and overhaul geopolitics on the Korean peninsula, the alliance could come due for a reckoning."

A Top Adviser to the South Korean President Wants to 'Get Rid Of' the U.S. Alliance - The Atlantic

50 Years Ago Today: Catonsville 9 Burned Draft Papers with Homemade Napa...

Opinion | One Test Could Exonerate Him. Why Won't California Do It? - The New York Times


"The first sign that something was wrong was a continuous busy signal on the home phone of Doug and Peggy Ryen.

Bill Hughes, who lived nearby, wasn’t initially concerned. His
11-year-old son, Chris, had slept over at the Ryens’ and he thought
maybe they had all gone out for breakfast. But finally at noon Hughes
drove over to pick Chris up and, when no one answered the Ryens’ door,
he peered through the sliding glass doors — and his brain couldn’t
process all the red. “This is paint, makeup,” he thought wildly.

Then reality sank in, and he kicked the kitchen door in. Blood from the
five victims was splattered everywhere. Hughes rushed to his son, but
the body was cold. Doug and Peggy Ryen, both nude, had also been stabbed
to death, and the bloody corpse of their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica,
was in a doorway. But Josh Ryen, 8 years old, was moving feebly on the
floor even though his throat had been slashed and his skull fractured.

Soon sheriff’s deputies were swarming all over the Ryen house in
affluent, suburban Chino Hills, east of Los Angeles, that day in June
1983. Several signs, including Josh’s personal account, pointed to three
white attackers, and blond or brown hairs were found in the victims’
hands, as if torn off in a struggle.

Sheriff’s deputies were also
contacted by the woman whose boyfriend was a convicted murderer,
recently released from prison, whom she suspected of involvement in the
Ryen killings. She not only gave deputies his bloody coveralls but also
told them that his hatchet was missing from his tool rack and resembled
one of the weapons reportedly used in the attacks.

But instead of
testing the coveralls for the Ryens’ blood, the deputies threw them
away–and pursued Cooper. After a racially charged trial, he was
convicted of murdering the Ryens and Chris Hughes and is now on death
row at San Quentin Prison.

Gov. Jerry Brown is refusing to allow
advanced DNA testing that might finally resolve the question of who
committed the murders, even though Cooper’s defense would pay for it.
Brown refuses to allow even advanced testing of the blond or brown hairs
that were found in the victims’ hands.

This is the story of a
broken justice system. It appears that an innocent man was framed by
sheriff’s deputies and is on death row in part because of dishonest
cops, sensational media coverage and flawed political leaders —
including Democrats like Brown and Kamala Harris, the state attorney
general before becoming a U.S. senator, who refused to allow newly
available DNA testing for a black man convicted of hacking to death a
beautiful white family and young neighbor. This was a failure at every
level, and it should prompt reflection not just about one man on death
row but also about profound inequities in our entire system of justice.

I’m using strong language, I know. But I went to San Quentin to
interview Cooper, reviewed trial transcripts and other documents, spoke
to innumerable people on and off the record, and in 34 years at The New
York Times, I’ve never come across a case in America as outrageous as
Kevin Cooper’s. So hear me out.

Smarter people than me have come
to the same conclusion. “This guy is innocent,” said Thomas R. Parker, a
30-year law enforcement veteran who was deputy head of the F.B.I.’s
office in Los Angeles. “The evidence was planted, he was framed, the
cops lied on the stand.”

Parker said the case involved “abject
racism,” and he has volunteered his time investigating the case for the
last seven years because he is horrified that a man he believes was
framed is nearing execution.

Or listen to Judge William A.
Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “He is on
death row because the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department framed him,”
Fletcher declared in a searing 2013 lecture.

This appears to be a
replay of a tragedy we’ve seen before: The police are under great
pressure to solve a sensational crime, they are sure they have the
culprit, and when evidence is lacking they plant it and give false
testimony. This is called “testilying,” and it’s more common than we’d
like to think. In New York City alone, The New York Times found “an
entrenched perjury problem,” with more than 25 instances of probable
testilying just since 2015.

How did we get here?

Initially, the authorities searched for three white men, which fit the evidence from the crime.

That was Cooper, and deputies who examined his file and mug shot saw a
black man with a huge Afro who fit their narrative of an incorrigible
criminal. He had a long arrest record dating back to when he was 7 years

The sheriff’s deputies were sure they had their man: an
escaped felon, one who they thought looked suitably evil. The
authorities pivoted and focused on Cooper, ignoring other threads.

Still, the authorities had a problem: Although they were sure Cooper
was the killer, they couldn’t find fingerprints, hairs or other evidence
implicating him.

So evidence began to turn up in mysterious ways.

A thorough search of the station wagon found no evidence that Cooper
had used the car. That problem was remedied when a second search of the
vehicle turned up some of Cooper’s cigarette butts; sheriff’s deputies
had found such cigarette butts in the empty house where he had stayed,
but the butts had vanished.

Another challenge for the prosecution
was motive. After escaping from the prison, Cooper was desperate for
money, yet some cash had been left on the counter in the Ryens’ house.

The prosecution suggested that Cooper wanted to steal the station
wagon. But the Ryens kept the keys in the car; there was no need to
enter the house.

Nevertheless, four days after the discovery of
the murders, the sheriff announced the crime had been solved: Cooper was
being sought for murder.

While the police were desperately
trying to connect Cooper to the crime, another man who should have been a
prime suspect was not being investigated.

That’s a remarkable
element of this case: Not only has the evidence against Cooper largely
been discredited, but evidence has accumulated against another
individual, who happens also to be a convicted murderer. Fletcher, the
federal judge, wrote a long section in a judicial opinion implicating
this man, whom I’ll identify only by his first name, Lee.

It was
his girlfriend, Diana Roper, who had alerted deputies after the murders
made the news to the reasons she believed that he had participated in
the Ryen murders.

Roper and her sister said that Lee came home
late on the night of the killings in a station wagon like that of the
Ryens, wearing blood-drenched coveralls, and that his hatchet was
missing from his tool rack and resembled one of the murder weapons
described by authorities. She said that on the day of the killing she
had laid out for Lee a medium-size tan Fruit of the Loom T-shirt with a
pocket; she remembered because she had just bought it for Lee at Kmart.
It was exactly like a Fruit of the Loom T-shirt found by the bar with
blood on it; testing showed it was the Ryens’ blood.

Roper said
in an affidavit : “Lee was wearing long sleeve coveralls … splattered
with blood. … He did not have the beige T-shirt. Lee took the coveralls
off and left them on the floor of the closet. … A few days after, … Lee
had changed his appearance by cutting most of his hair off and trimmed
his sideburns and his ‘Fu Manchu’ moustache.”

Roper gave deputies
the bloody coveralls. But instead of testing them to see if the blood
was from the Ryens, the sheriff’s office threw them out.

said she cannot be sure that Lee’s missing hatchet is the same as the
one used in the murders, but she added that “the curvature of the handle
is the same” and it had a similar “American Indian pattern to it.” Her
sister, Karee Kellison, who was with Roper, confirmed much of her story.

Then there was the peculiar matter of the recovery of the Ryens’ station wagon.

The sheriff’s office claimed that Cooper took the Ryens’ station wagon,
but aside from the witnesses who reported seeing several white men
driving it on the night of the murders, a new witness has emerged who
saw the car the next day.

The woman, who is scared of being
identified as a witness for now but says she will testify under oath if
necessary, said three white people in the Ryens’ car were driving
crazily and almost crashed into her vehicle.

Her grandmother, who
was with her that day, wrote down the license plate number. Hours
later, after the murder was discovered, the authorities broadcast a
description of the missing car with its license plate number.

ran out to the car and got the slip of paper on which my grandmother had
written the license number,” the woman wrote in a formal declaration.
“It was exactly the same.” She said that she wrote to the police with
her information, but the authorities did not follow up or share it with
the defense.

Shown an old photo of Lee, this woman said that it resembled the driver but that she couldn’t be sure it was the same man.

If there’s no apparent motive for Cooper, there are only hints of one
for Lee. His previous murder, of a 17-year-old girl, was at the behest
of a gang leader, Clarence Ray Allen, who raised the same kind of
Arabian horses as the Ryens. There’s some — very squishy, unconfirmed —
evidence that Allen may have previously threatened to kill Peggy Ryen,
that they had a quarrel over a horse sale gone sour, and that she was
terrified of him.

All this said, let’s be clear that if there’s
one lesson from the Cooper case, it’s that we should be very wary of
assuming guilt on the basis of fragmentary evidence. I tracked down Lee,
now 68, and he strongly denied any involvement in the case. However, he
did not want to discuss it and asked not to be contacted again.

One point in Lee’s favor: He has avoided serious tangles with the law in the decades since the Ryen killings.

With all these uninvestigated threads, it’s worth considering the
motives of the San Bernardino sheriff’s office, which handled the

Sheriff Floyd Tidwell had recently been appointed
to his position and was facing election that year, adding to the
pressure to solve the most brutal crime in the county’s memory.

It’s clear that the sheriff’s office wasn’t a stickler for rules.
Tidwell was later convicted for stealing more than 500 guns from county
evidence rooms. A lab technician who “found” shoe print evidence against
Cooper was later fired for stealing heroin from the evidence room.

The sheriff’s office also bungled the forensics, so that 70 people trampled through the crime scene.

Then, a day after the bodies were discovered, the district attorney
closed the on-scene investigation for fear, he said, of gathering so
much evidence that defense experts could spin complicated theories.

Concerns with the San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies have continued since then.

Almost exactly 10 years after the Ryen murders, there was another
terrible murder in San Bernardino County, and a man named William
Richards was convicted in part based on evidence “discovered” by the
same sheriff’s office lab technician who earlier had “found” evidence
against Cooper. Later, it turned out that this evidence was planted, and
Richards was eventually exonerated. (The sheriff’s office declined to
comment for this article.)

The only witness to the murders
themselves, of course, was Josh Ryen, who endured a physical and
emotional trauma that is unimaginable. By the time of the trial, he had
no clear memory of what happened or of seeing an intruder.

his first memories were clearer. I tracked down Don Gamundoy, who at the
time of the murders was a social worker at the hospital to which Josh
was rushed. “He was awake and alert,” Gamundoy recalled.

could hear but couldn’t speak because of the wound to his throat, so
Gamundoy wrote the alphabet, the numbers and the words “yes” and “no” on
a piece of paper and asked Josh to point to the letters to spell his
name, phone number and birth date. Josh did so correctly, showing that
the method worked.

Then Gamundoy asked Josh if the people who did this were black.

“He pointed to ‘no,’” Gamundoy told me. Communicating in the same way,
Josh said that the attackers were white, and that there were three or
four of them.

This was a chaotic scene unfolding as doctors were
struggling to treat the boy, but Gamundoy said he had asked each
question twice to make sure the answers were not a mistake. Sheriff’s
deputies were present and observing, he said, and in interviews with
deputies later, Josh referred to the attackers as “they,” saying that
“they” had chased him.

With a good defense, Cooper might have
prevailed. But his county public defender was overwhelmed and made a
series of practical legal mistakes.

“Kevin got convicted because
they framed him and because he didn’t have a half-decent defense,” said
Norman C. Hile, his current lawyer. Hile, now retired as a partner in
the international law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, has
volunteered on the case for the last 14 years because he fiercely
believes in Cooper’s innocence.

This is a familiar pattern:
Inmates have third-rate defenders at trial, but after they are sentenced
to death they get the help of brilliant free counsel; by then it is
often too late to undo the damage.

Cooper’s trial unfolded amid
the ugliest racism. At a hearing, a crowd displayed signs reading “Hang
the Nigger.” One man displayed a noose around a stuffed gorilla.

Newspapers carried inaccurate reports, apparently based on prosecution
leaks, that tied Cooper to the murder scene and suggested falsely that
he was gay (seizing upon 1980s homophobia as well as racism).

Still, the trial outcome was close. The jury took a week to convict
Cooper, and one juror told reporters that there would have been no
conviction “if there had been one less piece of evidence.”

was scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2004. On Feb. 9,
he was offered a last meal (he turned it down), and led on the “dead
man walking” path to a holding area beside the execution cell. He was
strip-searched, given new clothes to die in, and guards searched his
arms for veins that could be used to administer lethal injections. A
pastor visited to pray with him.

Yet on what was supposed to be
his last day, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted a stay
of execution, and a few hours before the end, the warden halted the
machinery of death.

Cooper was now permitted to conduct a new
test on the tan T-shirt, and this time the labs found something
extraordinary. Yes, that may have been Cooper’s blood on it — but the
blood had a chemical preservative called EDTA in it. That suggested that
the blood came not from Cooper directly but from a test tube of his
blood. Sure enough, the sheriff’s deputies had taken a sample of
Cooper’s blood and had kept it in a test tube with EDTA.

Now the
lab checked a swatch of blood from that test tube. More wonders! The
test tube miraculously contained the blood of two or more people .

This indicated that the sheriff’s office may have used the test tube of
Cooper’s blood to frame him, and then topped off the test tube with
someone else’s blood.

Cooper’s case began to get traction. The
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals en banc refused to hear an appeal by
Cooper, but Fletcher wrote a remarkable 100-page dissent, concluding,
“The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.” Four
judges joined in this extraordinary judicial opinion.

the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found in 2015 that there
had been profound flaws in the case and called for a review. The deans
of four law schools and the president of the American Bar Association
expressed concerns. At the end of his term in office, Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger urged a “thorough and careful review” of the case.

Five of the original jurors signed declarations expressing concerns
about the case and calling for new DNA testing or for clemency. An
award-winning book, “Scapegoat,” concluded that Cooper had been framed.
In February 2016, Hile and the Orrick law firm submitted to Governor
Brown a 235-page clemency petition, pleading for advanced DNA testing of
evidence from the case.

Cooper’s lawyers ask above all for new
“touch DNA” testing — capable of detecting microscopic residues — of the
tan T-shirt, the hatchet and the blond or brown hairs found in the
victims’ hands. This might determine who wore the tan T-shirt or handled
the hatchet, and whom the hairs came from. Was it Kevin Cooper? Or was
it Lee?

As state attorney general, Kamala Harris refused to allow
this advanced DNA testing and showed no interest in the case (she
declined to comment for this column). As for Brown, he has not responded
in the two years since the petition was filed, and he refused to be
interviewed. His spokesman, Gareth Lacy, told me that the petition
“remains under review.” Brown leaves office in January, and I think he
is running out the clock.

One reason Brown may be hesitant to
weigh in: For four years before becoming governor, he was attorney
general, and during that time he suggested that no one on death row was
innocent. I hope that this won’t keep him from allowing advanced DNA

California voters in 2016 approved a ballot measure to
hasten executions. So, depending on how litigation unfolds, Cooper could
again be led to the execution chamber sometime in the next year or so —
and even if he delays execution, he feels he is wasting away.

“Look at how white my hair is,” Cooper told me, bending over to show how
his hair is graying. “I don’t have as much time left. Every day is one I
won’t get back.”

I was speaking to him in San Quentin Prison, in
a cage where inmates are allowed to meet outsiders. Cooper lives on
death row in San Quentin, in a 4.5-foot-by-11-foot cell.

told me about his abusive and troubled childhood in Pennsylvania, where
he was adopted as a baby. When prosecutors said that Cooper had tangled
with the law since the age of 7, they were right, but he says that the
reason is that he was running away from home to escape beatings. His
childhood involved shoplifting, marijuana smoking, juvenile detention
and negligible education; he never graduated from high school.

These days in prison, Cooper has remedied his lack of education with a
G.E.D. diploma and comes across as smart, passionate and articulate. But
he’s not optimistic that the governor or courts will block his

“I don’t have any confidence,” he told me. “I don’t
believe in the system.” He also spends his time writing a memoir, which
now stands at more than 300 pages. “That’s my motivating factor to get
out of here, to tell my story and tell the truth about this rotten-ass
system,” he said.

I asked Cooper whom he blamed. The sheriff? The
jury? “I blame myself first and foremost, for walking out of Chino
prison, for letting those people get their hands on me,” he said. “I
regret that every day of my life.”

Time and again, Cooper came
back to a larger point: The criminal justice system is unfair to poor
people and members of minorities.

“I’m frameable, because I’m an uneducated black man in America,” he said. “Sometimes it’s race, and sometimes it’s class.”

“The only people here on death row to my understanding are the poor,”
he added. “Even the white people on death row, they’re poor. If they’re
white, racism goes away and classism jumps in and takes its place.”

Although Cooper’s defenders note that before the murders he had never
been convicted of a violent offense, or even charged with one, it’s a
bit more complicated: He has been accused of rape without being charged.

I’m particularly troubled by one episode. Cooper admits forcing a
17-year-old girl into a vehicle in 1982. She says that he also hit her,
threatened to kill her and raped her, and she went afterward to a
hospital to seek treatment; he flatly denies hitting or raping her. Hile
says that if the evidence had been strong, Cooper would have been
charged with rape. For my part, I can’t think why the girl would have
lied, and although it’s impossible to know after 36 years what happened,
it bothers me.

It’s obvious to you by now that this is not a
usual column — I’m not sure The Times has ever published a column of
this length — so why am I exploring the case with such passion? I became
interested primarily because Fletcher and other respected federal
appeals judges had said he was framed. That just doesn’t happen.

I’m also haunted by something else. In 2000, I proposed reporting a
lengthy piece about doubts about the conviction of Cameron Willingham,
who was then on death row in Texas for the arson murder of his three
children. An editor talked me out of it, and I never did write about
Willingham, who was executed in 2004. Since then, growing evidence has
emerged that he was innocent, and perhaps it’s partly to atone for my
earlier failure that I’ve taken up Cooper’s case.

If Cooper is
innocent, he would have plenty of company. The Death Penalty Information
Center says that since 1973, at least 162 people sentenced to death
have been exonerated. One peer-reviewed study estimated that at least
4.1 percent of those sentenced to death in the United States are
innocent; that would mean that on California’s death row alone, where
746 people await execution, about 30 have been wrongfully convicted.

Moreover, there’s abundant evidence that executions in America are
linked to race: One study in Washington State found that jurors were
three times as likely to hand down a death sentence for a black
defendant as for a white defendant in a similar case.

after Cooper’s trial, many of the people involved have died or didn’t
want to talk to me. Some who were willing to talk insist that the trial
was fair and Cooper was properly convicted.

William Baird, the
sheriff’s office lab expert who in 1983 found suspicious shoe print
evidence supposedly linking Cooper to the crime scene, told me that the
evidence was real. He acknowledged having stolen heroin from the
evidence room but said that had nothing to do with the evidence against

I also spoke to Bill Hughes, who discovered the bodies of
the Ryens and of his son, Chris. He is certain that Cooper is
responsible: “There is no doubt in my mind that he did that.” His wife,
Mary Ann, is equally passionate: She spoke of her family’s suffering as
the case drags on without closure, of her certainty that Cooper is
simply trying to distract from overwhelming evidence against him, of her
frustration at calls for further testing when there has already been
forensic testing for 35 years.

I told Bill and Mary Ann Hughes
that my heart breaks for them. And of course, I can’t be sure that Kevin
Cooper is innocent. One lesson to absorb from the criminal justice
system’s past mistakes is that we need some humility about our own
ability to ferret out truth.

That’s why the governor should allow
advanced DNA testing, especially of the hairs and of the T-shirt and
hatchet, and why Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein, Gavin Newsom and other
California politicians should back the call.

I know readers will
ask me what they can do, and I don’t have a good answer beyond
contacting Brown’s office or signing a petition calling for clemency.
Another takeaway is to regard our criminal justice system, especially in
its interactions with the poor or racial minorities, with greater

Maybe in the grand scheme of things, the fate of one
man on death row doesn’t seem so important; innumerable people die
tragically every day. Yet we aspire to be a nation where we are all
equal before the law, and if we execute a man in so flawed a case
without even bothering to test the evidence rigorously, then a piece of
our justice system dies along with Kevin Cooper.

Governor Brown,
if you’re reading this, I understand that you may believe that Cooper is
guilty. But other smart people, including federal judges and law school
deans, believe him innocent. So how can you possibly execute him
without even allowing advanced DNA testing, at the defense’s expense, to
resolve the doubt? What’s your argument for refusing to allow testing?

The former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once wrote that
“the execution of a legally and factually innocent person would be a
constitutionally intolerable event.” She’s right: It is not just
Cooper’s life that is at stake, but also the legitimacy of our system of
laws. This is a test of Governor Brown, of our justice system, of our
politicians, and of us.

“This is bigger than me,” Cooper told me in our prison meeting. “This is bigger than any one person.”

Opinion | One Test Could Exonerate Him. Why Won't California Do It? - The New York Times: Kevin Cooper is awaiting execution for a quadruple murder. But he may have been framed.

DACA: Paul Ryan tells Republicans not to sign petition

"CNN)House Speaker Paul Ryan in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday sought to discourage fellow Republicans from signing a measure that would force an immigration vote, members leaving the meeting said.

Rep. Bill Flores paraphrased the speaker as telling Republicans to "quit messing around with the discharge petition" and that it's "not a path to success."

A group of moderate Republicans are backing a plan to bypass GOP leaders by requiring a floor vote on four competing bills preserve the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The move, called a discharge petition, currently has 18 Republican supporters. If 25 GOP members and all House Democrats sign the petition, it would force the vote.
Ryan said he and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with President Donald Trump Tuesday on the issue, and they're working on a bill they believe could actually become law with the White House's backing, according to Flores and members.
But Ryan was not pressed for specifics and didn't offer any, they also said. Ryan mostly spoke in broad strokes about the need to balance border security and other immigration policies, said Michigan Rep. John Moolenaar.

California Rep. Jeff Denham said backers of the petition remain confident they have "more than enough votes." They believe they can hit the required number of signatures this week."

DACA: Paul Ryan tells Republicans not to sign petition

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Trump attorney fed statement to publicist for Russians about Trump Tower meeting | US news | The Guardian

Donald Trump Jr deflected multiple questions during the Senate panel interview, including whether he discussed the Russia probe with his father.

"Collusion anyone?  "The Trump Organization coordinated with Russians involved in a notorious 2016 meeting at Trump Tower on what to tell the public about the discussions, according to emails published by Congress.

The documents show that attorneys for the Trump family’s corporation contacted attendees of the meeting before and after it was revealed by the media, in an attempt to manage the response.

One of the attorneys gave an entire prepared statement to a publicist for the Russian businessman who requested the meeting, and said it “would be our preference” if he did not say anything else to the press.

Donald Trump Jr agreed to the meeting after being told the businessman would supply damaging information from the Russian government about Hillary Clinton, his father’s opponent in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The new information was included among 2,500 documents published on Wednesday by the Senate judiciary committee, which has been investigating possible collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia."

Trump attorney fed statement to publicist for Russians about Trump Tower meeting | US news | The Guardian

Trump suggests Justice Department investigate Oakland’s Democratic mayor for tipping off immigrants - The Washington Post

"President Trump referred to some undocumented immigrants as “animals” on Wednesday and suggested the Justice Department investigate the Democratic mayor of Oakland, Calif., for her role in tipping off the community about an impending federal enforcement raid in February.

Trump said Mayor Libby Schaaf’s decision to inform residents of Oakland ahead of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement action amounted to “obstruction of justice” because many of those who were targeted fled the area before federal agents arrived..."

Trump suggests Justice Department investigate Oakland’s Democratic mayor for tipping off immigrants - The Washington Post

Trump suggests Justice Department investigate Oakland’s Democratic mayor for tipping off immigrants - The Washington Post

"President Trump referred to some undocumented immigrants as “animals” on Wednesday and suggested the Justice Department investigate the Democratic mayor of Oakland, Calif., for her role in tipping off the community about an impending federal enforcement raid in February.

Trump said Mayor Libby Schaaf’s decision to inform residents of Oakland ahead of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement action amounted to “obstruction of justice” because many of those who were targeted fled the area before federal agents arrived..."

Trump suggests Justice Department investigate Oakland’s Democratic mayor for tipping off immigrants - The Washington Post

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer reacts to Trump financial filing

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer reacts to Trump financial filing

Scientific Studies: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

The Trump Administration Is Plagued by Professional Leakers | The Daily ...

Trump’s brutal policies target the most vulnerable Americans - The Washington Post

"We tend to associate the word “brutality” with physical violence, especially violence at the hands of the state. It calls to mind police shootings, torture and war. But there is another form of brutality that is less apparent to the naked eye — the brutality of policy.

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has announced policy proposals that appear to serve little purpose other than cruelty. For example, the Labor Department is apparently planning to roll back child labor protections that limit the hours that teenagers can spend performing dangerous jobs, such as operating chainsaws and trash compactors. The agency risibly described its proposal as an effort to “launch more family-sustaining careers by removing current regulatory restrictions” in a summary of the draft regulation obtained by Bloomberg Law. Worker and child labor advocates, however, credit the rules with significant reductions in the number of teenagers who are injured or killed.

After blowing up the deficit with tax cuts for corporations and the rich, the White House is now using the pretense of fiscal responsibility to ask Congress to cut $15 billion in approved spending, including some $7 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program, which provides health coverage for 9 million low-income kids and pregnant mothers, was extended for a decade earlier this year after Republicans allowed funding to expire last fall amid their attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In defense of its request, the Trump administration has claimed that cuts would come from funds that are unlikely to be spent. If that’s the case, however, then “there are no savings,” as Georgetown Law professor David Super has noted. This means that Trump’s plan, should Congress approve it, will either accomplish nothing or will deprive children and families in need of care.

In another act of cruelty, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson put forward a proposal last month that would triple the minimum rent paid by the poorest Americans living in federally subsidized housing. In addition to raising the minimum rent from $50 to $150 a month, Carson’s plan would allow housing authorities to impose work requirements and eliminate deductions for expenses such as child and medical care. Insisting that “the current system isn’t working very well” and “doing nothing is not an option,” Carson seems set on making life harder for the poorest residents of public housing. His plan would affect an estimated 460,000 single mothers and could result in nearly 1 million children becoming homeless, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Meanwhile, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues its aggressive and inhumane purge of immigrants that is tearing apart families across the country. CNN recently highlighted the story of one couple who lived in the United States for 30 years and reported to regular ICE check-ins for the past 10 until they were deported in December, leaving behind three American-born children and a mortgage. Their 22-year-old daughter was forced to stop attending college classes to help pay the bills and support her 15-year-old brother. And last week, the administration announced that it intends to inflict further pain on immigrant families with a new policy that would separate parents and children who are detained attempting to cross the border. In an interview with NPR, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly dismissed concerns about the impact that this heartless policy would have on young children, saying, “The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.”

This is only a partial reflection of the extent of the Trump administration’s brutal policies toward poor Americans and people of color (not to mention the rise in civilian casualties resulting from Trump’s increasing use of military force in the Middle East). And of course, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and congressional Republicans have waged their own years-long crusade to eviscerate the safety net for the poor, including the ongoing push to slash food-stamp benefits.

These are just some of the conditions being protested by the new Poor People’s Campaign, which launched 40 days of coordinated action at a recent rally in Washington. The Rev. William J. Barber II, one of the PPC’s leaders, says that Trump’s cruel policies have given the campaign momentum, but he has also made it clear that the movement is bigger than politics; it’s about addressing the “deeper moral malady” that has infected America. As Barber declared in an impassioned sermon at the campaign’s launch, “When you have policies that take away the human rights of the poor and make women and children prey, then you have a nation that can’t survive.”

Trump’s brutal policies target the most vulnerable Americans - The Washington Post

North Korea expands threat to cancel Trump-Kim summit, saying it won’t be pushed to abandon its nukes - The Washington Post

"SEOUL — North Korea is rapidly moving the goal posts for next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, saying the United States must stop insisting it “unilaterally” abandon its nuclear program and stop talking about a Libya-style solution to the standoff.

The latest warning, delivered by former North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Gye Gwan on Wednesday, fits Pyongyang’s well-established pattern of raising the stakes in negotiations by threatening to walk out if it doesn’t get its way.

This comes just hours after the North Korean regime cast doubt on the planned summit by protesting joint air force drills taking place in South Korea, saying they were ruining the diplomatic mood.

If the Trump administration approaches the summit “with sincerity” for improved relations, “it will receive a deserved response from us,” Kim Gye Gwan, now vice foreign minister, said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday.

“However, if the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit,” he said, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s official name. He also questioned the sequencing of denuclearization first, compensation second...."

North Korea expands threat to cancel Trump-Kim summit, saying it won’t be pushed to abandon its nukes - The Washington Post

Opinion | To Honor Eric Garner’s Life, Reform the Police - The New York Times

"It's been nearly four years since Eric Garner was killed by a New York City police officer. His mother, Gwen Carr, is still waiting for that officer to be held accountable.Published OnMay 15, 2018CreditImage by Jonah M. Kessel

Like so many other black men in the United States, Eric Garner has been denied justice even in death.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is considering, but is expected to reject, federal civil rights charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer whose use of a chokehold on Mr. Garner led to his death on a Staten Island street in 2014.

A state grand jury declined to indict Officer Pantaleo on homicide charges in 2014. Obama Justice Department officials sat on the case for nearly a year, as civil rights prosecutors in Washington feuded with federal prosecutors in New York who didn’t think the evidence was strong enough. The Justice Department asked the city to delay police disciplinary proceedings while it was considering the matter. The case landed on Mr. Rosenstein’s desk in recent weeks when civil rights prosecutors recommended bringing charges over the objections of the prosecutors in New York.

Hope for any justice probably lies in Mayor Bill de Blasio and his police commissioner, James O’Neill, doing what should have been done years ago: firing Officer Pantaleo.

But the bigger question is why, given his record, Officer Pantaleo was on the street the day he wrapped his arm around Mr. Garner’s throat, and why New York police officers so often avoid real discipline for wrongdoing.

By the time Officer Pantaleo approached Mr. Garner outside a Staten Island beauty supply store because he thought he was selling untaxed loose cigarettes, the city’s independent Civilian Complaint Review Board had substantiated four allegations of abuse against him in two incidents since he joined the department in 2006, according to leaked disciplinary records published by ThinkProgress last year.

That record should have served as a red flag. As of May 1, just 8 percent of the city’s 36,000 police officers had ever had a single complaint against them substantiated by the review board. Just 550 officers — 2 percent of the force — had had two substantiated complaints. Officer Pantaleo was disciplined just once, lightly. After an abusive frisk in 2012, the Police Department docked him two days of vacation pay.

The Garner case is an example of a larger problem: Like his predecessors, Mr. de Blasio, who was elected promising to make policing fairer for black and Latino New Yorkers, has not done enough to hold the police accountable for misconduct and abuse.

There are signs of progress. Complaints against officers are down since Mr. de Blasio took office. So are police stops, though they had already begun a steep decline in 2013 under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after a federal judge struck down the city’s aggressive use of the tactic known as stop and frisk as unconstitutional.

But in many ways the mayor — stung in his first term when hundreds of police officers turned their backs on him at the funerals of two officers murdered because of the uniform they wore — has resisted attempts at reform.

Mr. de Blasio opposed legislation increasing oversight of police stops, eventually backing a more limited version amid the threat that City Council members would override his veto. He threatened to veto legislation that would have made the use of a chokehold by a police officer a crime.

Many of the racial disparities under Mr. Bloomberg that Mr. de Blasio rightfully denounced have persisted. Arrests for marijuana possession are down to about 17,000 a year, half of what they were under Mr. Bloomberg. But city data shows blacks and Latinos continue to make up an overwhelming majority of those arrested. Police Department officials have said their enforcement mirrors complaints, but they have yet to provide compelling data to back up the claim. Facing political pressure, Mr. de Blasio said on Tuesday that the police would overhaul their marijuana enforcement policy within 30 days.

A report from the Civilian Complaint Review Board in December found that the police commissioner was increasingly rejecting the board’s disciplinary recommendations. Police officials say many of the complaints substantiated by the board are for minor infractions.

The public will just have to take their word for that, since the city no longer discloses disciplinary records of police officers, citing a state civil rights law that the mayor and Commissioner O’Neill say that they oppose but that can be changed only by the State Legislature. Republican control of the Senate makes that unlikely.

In the almost four years since Mr. Garner’s death, black men and boys who have died unjustly at the hands of the police — Walter Scott in South Carolina, Philando Castile in Minnesota, Tamir Rice in Cleveland — have been memorialized, honoring the humanity that has been lost. But more needs to be done.

The officer who used a chokehold on Mr. Garner should be fired. But the mayor needs to make it clear that New York City will hold the rest of its 36,000 police officers accountable and will work to make that discipline public if they abuse their powers and violate the public trust."

Opinion | To Honor Eric Garner’s Life, Reform the Police - The New York Times

North Korea Threatens to Call Off Summit Meeting With Trump - The New York Times

"SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea threw President Trump’s planned summit meeting with its leader, Kim Jong-un, into doubt on Wednesday, threatening to call off the landmark encounter if the United States insisted on “unilateral nuclear abandonment.”

The statement, made by the North’s disarmament negotiator, came hours after state media warned that the summit meeting might be canceled to protest a joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea that began this week.

The warnings caught Trump administration officials off guard and set off an internal debate over whether Mr. Kim was merely posturing in advance of the meeting in Singapore next month or was erecting a serious new hurdle.

In a statement Wednesday, Kim Kye-kwan, a vice foreign minister, rejected the administration’s demand that it quickly dismantle its nuclear program as Libya did 15 years ago, singling out John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s new national security adviser, for condemnation..."

North Korea Threatens to Call Off Summit Meeting With Trump - The New York Times

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Thandie Newton: Embracing otherness, embracing myself

Steve Schmidt: There is blood on Trump's hands

Steve Schmidt: There is blood on Trump's hands

Trump lawyer blasts Giuliani, asks if Cohen was a “mob" fixer

Trump lawyer blasts Giuliani, asks if Cohen was a “mob" fixer

North Korea threatens to cancel US summit over drills

“SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Wednesday canceled a high-level meeting with South Korea and threatened to scrap a historic summit next month between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over military exercises between Seoul and Washington that Pyongyang has long claimed are invasion rehearsals.

The surprise declaration, which came in a pre-dawn dispatch in North Korea's state media, appears to cool what had been an unusual flurry of outreach from a country that last year conducted a provocative series of weapons tests that had many fearing the region was on the edge of war. It's still unclear, however, whether the North intends to scuttle all diplomacy or merely wants to gain leverage ahead of the planned June 12 talks between Kim and Trump.

The statement by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency was released hours before the two Koreas were to meet at a border village to discuss how to implement their leaders' recent agreements to reduce military tensions along their heavily fortified border and improve their overall ties...”

North Korea threatens to cancel US summit over drills

Monday, May 14, 2018

Tamara Johnson Shealey - Progressive For Georgia’s 40th State Senate District


Gaza: Israeli Soldiers Kill 30+ Palestinians Protesting Nonviolently as ...

Israelis kill dozens of Palestinians in Gaza protesting U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem - The Washington Post

Israelis kill dozens of Palestinians in Gaza protesting U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem - The Washington Post

Venezuela: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Opinion | The World Doesn’t Need Trans Fats - The New York Times

"Most of the American food industry stopped using artificial trans fats, a leading cause of heart disease and death globally, well in advance of a federal ban that goes into effect next month, and few consumers noticed the change in their French fries or doughnuts. But these fats are still commonly used in the Middle East, India, Pakistan and elsewhere, which is why it is welcome news that the World Health Organization is calling on countries to phase them out by 2023.

Trans fats are responsible for about 540,000 deaths around the world every year — deaths that could be avoided if countries banned the use of industrially produced partially hydrogenated oils, which can be replaced with healthier options like vegetable oil. Beyond the United States, countries like Canada and Denmark have taken action against the use of trans fats, but lawmakers and regulators in many other places haven’t — because they are either unaware of the health risks or they are reluctant to take on the food industry. Another common argument against banning these substances is that doing so limits consumer choice, the so-called nanny state argument.

Businesses ranging from large processed-food manufacturers to mom-and-pop restaurants and bakeries like using trans fats — usually for frying and as shortening in baked goods — because they are inexpensive and have a long shelf life. But regular consumption of even a small amount of these oils increases the amount of what is commonly referred to as bad cholesterol, or LDL, in the blood while reducing so-called good cholesterol, or HDL. Experts say removing this additive from foods is one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to reduce the prevalence of heart disease and the deaths related to it.

That’s why the W.H.O. also has long urged countries to issue nutritional guidelines that advise people to avoid trans fats. But it is not always easy for consumers to know when they are eating these oils, which are often in packaged or prepared foods that are not clearly labeled. In addition, many countries have not explained the health risks that these fats pose. In India, for example, researchers have found high concentrations of trans fats in street food and in packaged snacks, many of which have no warning labels.

Officials at the W.H.O. developed its trans fats campaign with Resolve to Save Lives, a public health group led by Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who in 2007, as health commissioner of New York City, banned the use of trans fats in restaurants and bakeries. The W.H.O. and Dr. Frieden say they will help countries assess how trans fats are used in food, educate consumers, promote alternatives and develop policies to eliminate these substances over time.

Governments will have to take care in phasing out trans fats, because some alternatives could cause other problems. For instance, some food companies have replaced partially hydrogenated oils with palm oil, which is often produced on land that is prepared by clear-cutting rain forests that are home to threatened species.

Regulators can reduce the use of palm oil by, among other things, encouraging the use of butter and other oils. Experts say that even the relatively modest change of replacing trans fats with saturated fats like butter can reduce the risk of heart disease. People can improve their health even more by opting for polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, like olive oil.

Trans fats are a silent killer that many people are not aware of and can easily live without. Banning them should be an easy call for nations around the world, and the W.H.O. is right to push them to do so."

Opinion | The World Doesn’t Need Trans Fats - The New York Times