Category Archives: Donald Trump

Trump Sees Abuse of Immigrant Children as Winning Political Strategy. What’s Next?

There are only 330 immigration judges who have a backlog of 720,000 cases. Trump is now calling for an end to due process, demanding the right to immediately expel asylum seekers, and calls hiring more immigration judges ridiculous because judges are “corrupt.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Instead of pursuing a constructive, humanitarian solution to immigration reform, Donald Trump purposefully undertakes the cruelest, most brutal and destructive power-play – because he can. Because he thinks this will fire up his base since they are getting wise that his tax “cut” is really a scam. And because he has dictator envy.

But while Trump moved with great urgency and speed to literally kidnap children from their parents in order to hold them for ransom to get his equally brutal and destructive immigration “reform” that would restrict even legal immigration (and $25 billion for a useless wall), his administration could care less about setting up the mechanisms to assure the children – moved hundreds and thousands of miles away – can be restored to their parents. As it is, there are parents who are being immediately deported without their children, some too young to know their own name or speak, who are lost in a system.

In fact, this plan – to use torture as a “deterrent” –under the guise of “Zero Tolerance” was hatched in the first few weeks after Trump’s inauguration, embraced by John Kelly, then Homeland Security secretary. It is also on view with the way he has unleashed deportation raids, snatching those with American spouses and children, cancelled legal status of refugees who have lived in the US for decades.

It’s remarkable to contemplate (since the administration isn’t saying) how much money is being spent on this sadistic policy – one private prison operator has a contract for $500 million –   and who in the Trump orbit is pocketing the millions and millions of tax dollars.

But let’s be reminded: the reason there are so many undocumented immigrants (11 million by some accounts) and so many thousands crossing “illegally” (though just 20% from the peak) is because the Republicans have effectively shut down legal immigration and refused to take up Comprehensive Immigration reform.

If this really were about controlling illegal immigration, the Trump administration would have spent those millions staffing ports of entry, setting up immigration courts, and creating detention centers that could accommodate families. They could release parents with an ankle bracelet (as they did under Obama) so they could be tracked; 99% of immigrants turn up to their court hearings.

 

Other presidents appropriately tried to deal with the problem at their source: the heinous violence that has prompted these parents to flee with only what they could carry, taking their children on the most perilous 2,000-mile journey – violence the US bred with the export of MS-13 from Los Angeles. That was one of the reasons for NAFTA – to improve the living standard in Mexico through trade – and it worked to a great extent (the refugees aren’t coming from Mexico, in fact, more Mexicans are leaving than are coming). Obama, faced with an unprecedented flood of refugees seeking asylum, thousands of unaccompanied teenagers among them, attempted to improve conditions in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (along with an information campaign to discourage people from coming). Indeed, the numbers of those being apprehended at the border fell sharply, from a peak of 1.6 million in 2001, to 300,000 in 2017 – hardly an invasion, or “infestation” in the White Nationalist language that Trump spews or a “crisis” except by Trump’s own concoction. Instead, Trump has said he would cut off aid to these countries, which would only exacerbate the desperation.

Trump has no such interest in actually solving a problem, certainly not improving the lives of others. And he thinks his Zero Tolerance policy plays well to his (deplorables) base, especially since they are catching on to the Republican tax scam that redistributed $1.5 trillion from working families into the pockets of the already obscenely rich and corporations (83% going to top 1%, a mere 4% of workers receiving a bonus or pay hike because of tax cuts).

So he needs to motivate his base somehow, and is literally handing them red meat.

His fear-mongering, which mimics the propaganda campaign used by Nazis, brands immigrants as “animals,” “infestation,” “aliens” “invaders” stealing jobs and harming the economy in order to dehumanize them. In fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than “native born,” and even a study by the Trump Administration found that instead of “costing” jobs, immigrants added $63 billion to the US economy over a 10-year period (the report was suppressed because of its finding, and leaked to the New York Times two months later). And aren’t we constantly told that unemployment is at record lows?

These asylum-seekers violating laws? Actually, not. It is Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who are violating the Constitution and international law and should be prosecuted for human rights abuses. And this only adds to the ever growing list of Trump’s impeachable crimes: crimes against humanity.

Now he is insisting that these immigrants have no right to due-process to make their claim in front of an immigration judge. In fact, Trump, who first used the 800,000 DACA recipients as bargaining chips, now has upped the ante in using infants. Trump is using these children, who are suffering crippling trauma that can impact their entire lives, in order to get legislation that effectively shuts down even legal immigration. He has said so: he only wants “merit” based immigration (as in the Chinese who invest in his properties in order to purchase visas).

This is a man who embraces torture and proudly proclaimed he would kill family members to “discourage” would-be terrorists. His internment camps and the legal limbo invented status he has created are akin to Guantanamo Bay, where there too, due-process and American values of “innocent until proven guilty” have been violated, and where torture has made those cases unresolvable, his use of child abuse, kidnapping to extort their parents into agreeing to deportation and Democrats to accept unacceptable legislation akin to Abu Ghraib.

Be reminded that Obama did have a compromises comprehensive Immigration Bill that passed the Senate in 2013, 68-32, but John Boehner blocked from a vote in the House, causing Obama to institute DACA; and that Trump, himself, in that brief interlude that suggested sanity when it was only the 800,000 DACA recipients being held hostage, said he would accept any compromise out of “love” and “compassion” but then promptly betrayed every deal agreed to and torpedoed every bill proposed.

If Trump really wanted to solve the problem, he would add, not detract, from the impossibly overworked 330 immigration judges required to meet a quota of cases (basically tipping the scales against petitioners, compromising the fairness and integrity of a case) and never get to wind down the backlog of 720,000 cases, rather than ridicule the plea to hire 5,000 more judges because, as Trump tweeted, “they are corrupt.” (That might be true for his judicial appointees, starting with Neil Gorsuch.)

There may be pernicious strategy to Trump’s politics, but yet another example of the complete ineptitude and corruption in the implementation – like Puerto Rico, like the Trump Travel Ban – scandals, violations of law and the Constitution that would have toppled any other administration and triggered impeachment.

The Trump administration had no plan and actually no real care, and had no process for reuniting the children with their parents, who received a receipt for their property but not their child, even infants who cannot speak; what is more, there are reports of children being drugged and abused while in custody.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has said, “Family separation can cause irreparable harm to children’s health, disrupting their brain architecture and affecting short- and long-term health.” He is also inflicting torturous anxiety on parents. What is more, the administration has not developed a mechanism to insure the parents are reunited with their children, let alone contact them, who are often removed hundreds or thousands of miles away, and have already begun deporting parents without their children, or even knowing where the children are.

The very secrecy built around Trump’s internment system should spur Congressional oversight, but Republicans, who spent 4 years and 11 separate investigations into Benghazi, have no appetite and no interest, making their own political calculations.

Trump has slapped that claim of “national security” on this and every other heinous policy (Travel Ban, illegal tariffs) but his policy has made the country less safe – pulling resources from detaining actual drug-smugglers and criminals, further enraging and alienating allies, and making the US toothless in condemning human rights abuses anywhere in the world, turning the US into a rogue nation. Moreover, its treatment of migrating mothers and small children are likely to be a recruitment tool for terrorists, just as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were. It’s no coincidence the US pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

But making the country safe was never the issue, just as there was no real immigration “crisis,” and certainly no actual “invasion”. Trump sees “Zero Tolerance” as a winning political issue for those who fear more than anything, as Pat Buchanan warned, the loss of White Power and White Supremacy as America evolves into a minority-majority nation.

What do they fear from an “infestation?” That “these” people or their children, will someday vote, or at least be counted in a census determining representation in Congress (that so far has worked in the favor of the Southerners, much as the 3/5 rule for slaves gave White Supremacists outsized power in Congress).

But this extortionist style of “negotiation” has worked for Trump throughout his corrupt career and will only continue, especially if it works now. What’s next? Stepped up deportation raids? Strip nationalized Americans of their citizenship? Suspend due process? Purges and loyalty oaths for federal workers? Lock up journalists? Martial law? Cancel elections? Imprison political opponents? Extra-judicial killings? Expand the Travel (Muslim) Ban? Because he can, because nobody will stop him?

Trump, in a familiar pattern of accusing others of doing the offences he actually commits, said these desperate immigrants have been prompted by lawyers to use the password “fleeing violence” to gain the rights of asylum-seekers. But the five Supreme Court conservatives, including Neil Gorsuch sitting in the seat stolen for him by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, gave him the password which Trump will no doubt use liberally, to expand a travel ban, to deny asylum seekers due process, to commit the unconscionable crime of separating children from their parents: “national security.”

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

New York to Sue Trump Administration for Violating Constitutional Rights of Children and Families

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced New York State will sue the Trump Administration on the grounds that the federal government is violating the Constitutional rights of thousands of immigrant children and their parents who have been separated at the border © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced New York State intends to file a multi-agency lawsuit against the Trump Administration on the grounds that the federal government is violating the Constitutional rights of thousands of immigrant children and their parents who have been separated at the border. We now know of more than 70 children who are staying in federal shelters in New York State and that number is expected to increase as other facilities are contacted. The Governor is directing the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Department of Health and the Office of Children and Family Services to commence legal action against the federal government’s “Separation of Families” policy. Following the callous and inhumane treatment of immigrant families at the border, New York is suing to protect the health and well-being of children being held at least 10 different facilities across the state including some on Long Island, and at others throughout the nation.

“The Trump Administration’s policy to tear apart families is a moral failing and a human tragedy,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will not tolerate the Constitutional rights of children and their parents being violated by our federal government.  New York will act and file suit to end this callous and deliberate attack on immigrant communities, and end this heartless policy once and for all.”

The Governor announced that New York plans to sue the federal government for:

Violating the Constitutional Rights of Children and Families

Parents are being separated from their children at the border as a result of the Trump Administration’s new “zero tolerance” prosecution of the minor federal offense of improper entry into the country. In prior administrations, families who appeared with children at the border would be processed together and released with a date to appear in court. Now, parents, many of whom are seeking to protect their children and families from gang violence, are being systematically detained, separated from their children, and, in some cases, deported with no meaningful opportunity to participate in making decisions concerning the care and custody of their children. Yet these parents are still afforded rights under the United States Constitution to familial integrity and to decide to exercise their parental rights in New York State.

Violation of the Terms of the Flores Settlement

The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement set national standards regarding the detention, release, and treatment of all children in immigration detention and prioritizes the principle of family unity. It requires that juvenile immigrant detainees be released from custody without unnecessary delay, or when no appropriate placement is available, be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate to age and special needs. The Flores Settlement explicitly requires family reunification with a clear preference for custody by a parent, which supports New York’s call for ending the “zero tolerance” policy.

Callous Policies Based on the Outrageous Government Conduct Doctrine

The Supreme Court has asserted that “it may someday be presented with a situation in which the conduct of law enforcement agents is so outrageous that due process principles would absolutely bar the government from invoking judicial processes to obtain a conviction.” Clearly that day has come. New York State will challenge the federal government’s zero-tolerance policy which leads to the unnecessary and inhumane separation of families and detention of children and which serves no legitimate national security or public safety purpose.

Governor Cuomo issued an open letter to Vice President Mike Pence condemning the “zero-tolerance” policy and urging the federal government to end the mistreatment of immigrant families at the border.

The Governor’s call for legal action builds on the launch of new initiatives and increased services and support for New Americans across New York. In January, the Governor announced actions to protect thousands of immigrants from President Trump’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans, Haitians and Nicaraguans, including directing the Department of State to increase resources available to communities across New York.

On June 8, the Governor issued a letter to Department of Homeland Security Acting Inspector General John Kelly calling for an investigation into the conduct of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and on Sunday, June 17, the Governor again called on the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the treatment of immigrant families at the border. On Monday, June 18 the Governor declared that New York State will not deploy National Guard to the border and will not support the federal government’s inhumane treatment of immigrant families.

Liberty Defense Project

This latest call for action builds on the comprehensive efforts of this administration to protect the rights of immigrants, including the Liberty Defense Project, created by Governor Cuomo in 2017. The LDP was established in response to hostile federal policies and is the nation’s first state-led project to assist immigrants – regardless of status – in obtaining access to legal services and process. The Liberty Defense Project provides essential legal services on deportation defense, direct representation, consultations, application assistance, and more. The public-private partnership is administered by the Office for New Americans and run in partnership with law firms, legal associations, advocacy organizations, colleges, universities, and bar associations across the state.

Since July 2017, the Liberty Defense Project has provided more than 10,000 free and confidential services to individuals needing legal assistance through its network of 47 community-based groups.

Application Deadline Extended for NaturalizeNY Initiative

Part of the Governor’s efforts to help immigrants and minority populations fully participate in New York’s civic and economic life, NaturalizeNY assists low-income immigrants in gaining U.S. citizenship. The nation’s first statutorily created immigrant services office, NaturalizeNY is administered and supported by Governor Cuomo’s Office for New Americans in partnership with Robin Hood, New York Community Trust, Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab, as well as faculty from SUNY Albany and George Mason University.

Eligible immigrants may register and enter a lottery for a voucher to cover the $725 naturalization application fee. Applicants may apply online at NaturalizeNY.org, via the New Americans Hotline at 800-566-7636 or by visiting an ONA Opportunity Center. The registration period began May 1 and has been extended from its original June 15 end date to July 3, 2018.

Since Governor Cuomo established the Office of New Americans in 2013, more than 200,000 New Americans have received help navigating the naturalization process, starting and growing their own businesses, learning English, and becoming part of New York’s diverse cultural fabric. Of these:

  • 19,543 were Naturalization and DACA applications and referrals;
  • 34,938 participated in ESOL classes throughout the state;
  • 4,986 partook in entrepreneurship classes across New York;
  • 500 graduated with at least 20 hours of English language coursework via Cell-Ed, a phone-based English learning system for individuals who have difficulty reaching an actual classroom; and
  • 1,540 are actively engaged in Cell-Ed throughout the state.

In addition to providing free, direct assistance to individuals, the Office for New Americans has conducted more than 6,000 seminars and meetings to educate New Yorkers on how to apply for a passport, how to apply for college, what to do if/when immigration officers come to their homes, and what avenues are available for victims of domestic violence.

“It is outrageous government conduct and there is an outrageous government conduct doctrine,” Governor Cuomo told reporters in a press call announcing the plan to sue the Trump Administration. “The Supreme Court has expressed openness to the idea that, iit may someday be presented with a situation in which the conduct of law enforcement agents is so outrageous that due process principles would absolutely bar the government from invoking judicial processes to obtain a conviction.’

“And clearly that day has come. We’ve had a number of experiences with ICE in this state where I believe they have been turned into a political police apparatus. We had a situation in Rome, New York on April [18] where they trampled an immigrant’s rights without a warrant. Went onto a farm, grabbed a worker, left. Unidentified. Never showed the farmer a piece of paper. They just trampled the immigrant’s rights as they trampled the farmer’s field. We’re involved in a situation now that happened on June [1] where they detained Pablo Villavicencio, who was a pizza delivery person delivering pizza in Brooklyn, married, two children, in New York, and he has been detained. They moved to deport him immediately. We intervened through what we call our Liberty Defense Project. We provided counsel and we put that off, but it’s just another example of the overzealous activity of ICE in pursuing the President’s political mandate. The separation between police powers and political wishes is sacrosanct in this country, and I think that’s being violated.

“You should also know that the State regulates the facilities that the federal government is using and the State offered health services and mental health services to these children. Obviously it’s traumatic for a child to be separated from their parents and the State has been informed that the federal government has essentially gagged the facilities and that if we want to provide any services to the children, we’d have to go through the federal government and it’s a protracted process that would take weeks.

“Why the federal government would want to be in a position to stop a state from offering mental health services, support services, for young children suffering trauma just adds further insult to further injury.

“We’re going to sue through a multi-agency coalition, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, what we call OTDA, the Department of Health, and the Office of Children and Family Services on the grounds that I mentioned earlier. So politics aside, philosophy aside, children have legal rights. Parents have legal rights. That’s established firmly in the federal and state constitutions and in case law. They have fundamental rights. They apply whether they’re documented, undocumented, short, tall, Mexican, seeking asylum, or not seeking asylum. Those fundamental rights apply and we believe they’ve been violated.”

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

May Days: Trump’s Many Ironic Proclamations, From Law Day to Memorial Day, with Mothers Day in the Middle

May finishes with Memorial Day. Trump will no doubt issue a proclamation honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve American freedoms and values, while doing everything to undermine them © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Normally rote proclamations take on a sardonic, sarcastic, ironic tone when signed by Donald J. Trump.

It may surprise people that May 1 (in many places called May Day) is proclaimed Law Day – particularly ironic as Trump, insisting he doesn’t have to answer to the investigation into possible Russian collusion with his campaign and obstruction of justice while in office, is nothing but undermining the Rule of Law and the concept that “No Man is Above the Law.” He has said as much, in such statements echoing Nixon’s “When the President does it, well, that means it’s not illegal”. Or in his echo of Louis XIV’s “L’etat s’est moi” – when he decried the “raid” on his lawyer Michael Cohen as an attack on the nation (what does he make of sending his goons to raid his Dr. Bornstein’s office without any kind of warrant and steal his medical records over his pique at being outed for using a hair-growth prescription? That press shill Sarah Huckabee Sanders said was “routine” when someone becomes president? Does anyone recall any other president raiding their doctor’s office to seize records? ).

Here’s what Trump signed (and clearly did not write and likely never read):

     On Law Day, we celebrate our Nation’s heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under the law.  This heritage is embodied most powerfully in our Constitution, the longest surviving document of its kind.  The Constitution established a unique structure of government that has ensured to our country the blessings of liberty through law for nearly 229 years.

     The Framers of our Constitution created a government with distinct and independent branches — the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial — because they recognized the risks of concentrating power in one authority.  As James Madison wrote, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”  By separating the powers of government into three co-equal branches and giving each branch certain powers to check the others, the Constitution provides a framework in which the rule of law has flourished.

     The importance of the rule of law can be seen throughout our Nation’s history.

It is not really a coincidence that May 1 (May Day, a celebration of Workers rights around the world, including in the US of A where May Day began), is also designated as Loyalty Day – a McCarthy-era direct assault on Communism (but apparently, not on Russia, which is no longer communist but fascist and Trump’s best bud).

Loyalty Day, just like National Prayer Day, is actually a violation of what this nation holds dear. In America, we are not supposed to be required to pledge allegiance, certainly not to swear “under God”. No doubt, Trump signed the proclamation, thinking that Loyalty Day meant to swear loyalty to himself, the Dear Leader. I have no doubt he actually read the proclamation:

     On Loyalty Day, we reflect with humility and gratitude upon the freedoms we hold dear, and we reaffirm our allegiance to our Nation and its founding principles.  We cherish our system of self-government, whereby each American citizen is free to exercise their God-given and inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  We honor and defend our Constitution, which constrains the power of government and allows us freely to exercise these rights.  We also recognize the great responsibility that accompanies a free people and vow to preserve our hard-won liberty.  For we know, as President Ronald Reagan once said, that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

     This Loyalty Day, we remember and honor the thousands of Americans who have laid down their lives to protect and defend our Nation’s beautiful flag.

May is also when this government has decided to hold the National Prayer Breakfast – another action (along with “In God We Trust” as a motto on money) to institutionalize the violation of the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

Instead, Trump went a step beyond what even George W. Bush did in setting up the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, to sign his own Faith-Based Initiative.

The nexus of Capitalism and Christian Zealotry came during the McCarthy era, when the notion of Christian charity was replaced by the Puritan concept that you got what you deserved, so rich people were rich because they deserved it; poor people were impoverished because they deserved it. Such zealotry was used to justify slavery as well as prohibiting abortion to rape victims.

Much of today’s malevolent political climate can be traced to the McCarthy era, including Trump’s own mentor, Roy Cohn, who was McCarthy’s own counsel, and taught Donnie everything he knows about attacking in order to evade legal or moral accountability.

And of course, May features Mothers Day… Trump’s proclamation for May 13, 2018 begins this way:

     Mother’s Day is a very special occasion and opportunity to express our endless gratitude to the women who give their unyielding love and devotion to their families, and their unending sacrifices to guide, protect, and nurture the success of their children.  Our country has long appreciated and benefited from the contributions women have made to empowering and inspiring not only those under their roofs, but those in our schools, communities, governments, and businesses…

     Today, and every day, let us express our utmost respect, admiration, and appreciation for our mothers who have given us the sacred gifts of life and unconditional love.  In all that they do, mothers influence their families, their communities, our Nation, and our world.  Whether we became their children through birth, adoption, or foster care, we know the unmatched power of the love, dedication, devotion, and wisdom of our mothers.

Certainly, Trump cherishes motherhood so much, he had an affair with Stormy Daniels, among others, while Melania was still nursing 4-month old Barron.

This is the man who directs his administration to terrorize undocumented mothers, that they will be forced to abandon their American-citizen children, who pulls away parents who are the major breadwinners for their families, who have lived in the United States for decades and are contributing to their communities.

The precious sentiment of his Mothers Day proclamation is belied by the cruelty the Trump Administration has shown to refugees claiming asylum, purposefully separating children, even infants, from their parents in order to discourage people fleeing violence from attempting to find refuge in the United States.

“There is no law enforcement or other legitimate basis for separating children from their parents at the border,” Congressman Adam Schiff tweeted. “It is simply cruel. Imagine the terror of a young child in a strange land, pried away from his or her parents. Whatever happened to compassion or family values?”

“Arresting and ripping apart parents and children is a new low in demagoguery. It’s another reminder of President Trump’s failure to craft a genuine set of border laws and his inhumane outlook,” the San Francisco Chronicle wrote.

“It’s a chilling but predictable new low for an administration that reacts blindly and harshly to any mention of immigrants. Families may be fleeing persecution, seeking a better life or trying to find relatives already in the U.S.”

It doesn’t stop there.  The Republicans, which just passed a tax scam that shifts $1.5 trillion in wealth from working people to the richest and adds that much to the national debt,so Trump is clawing back $7 billion in spending from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and  $252 million from a fund that earmarked to combat the Ebola outbreak.

Trump also is advocating for a Republican-pushed Farm Bill which cuts SNAP – the food stamp program that helps 40 million people, the majority who are children, seniors and disabled – by $20 billion,  literally taking food from babes’ mouths. Attaching new work requirements to qualify for the very benefits that are necessary because wages have not kept pace, despite record corporate profits and now $1.5 trillion in tax windfall for the richest.

He also sheds crocodile tears for how devastating the opioid crisis has been. But what has Trump actually done to address the opioid crisis? And for that matter, what has he or the Republican majority done to solve the life/death problem of access to affordable health care, instead, making impossible demands for the very people most desperate for health care to access Medicaid.

Indeed, he chose Mother’s Day to proclaim the start of National Women’s Health Week the guy who is doing everything possible to shut down Planned Parenthood, to sabotage access to affordable health care, who would make being a woman a “pre-existing condition”, who appears to care less that the US is facing a maternal mortality crisis, that up to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth complications each year with Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die than white women from those complications, not to mention that a woman who suffers a miscarriage may well be jailed for infanticide. (See: Virginia Woman Given a Jail Sentence for “Concealing a Dead Body” After Her Stillbirth)

Trump proclaims:

This is an opportunity to honor the importance of women across America and renew our pledge to support their health and well being.

One of the most LOL ironic among the May proclamations was the one Trump issued as a nod to his wife, Melania, who after  a year and a half as First Lady, finally declared her “agenda” branded as “Be Best” (which turns out to be copied from an Obama handbook on social media and bullying), declaring May 7,  “Be Best  Day”.

Trump’s remarks at this heralded event in which he followed up by signing a proclamation of “Be Best Day” did not speak at all to the essence of anti-bullying. No, not at all. It was all praise for Melania.

     America is truly blessed to have a First Lady who is so devoted to our country and to our children.

     On Be Best Day, we encourage and promote the well-being of children everywhere.  In an increasingly complex and inter‑connected world, nothing is more important than raising the next generation of Americans to be healthy, happy, productive, and morally responsible adults.  This begins with educating our children about the many critical issues they must confront in our modern world that affect their ability to lead balanced and fulfilled lives.

Our Nation’s children deserve certain knowledge that they are safe to grow, learn, and make mistakes.  Adults must provide them with the tools they need to make positive contributions in their schools, with their friends, and in their communities.

It will surprise people that May is also Jewish American Heritage Month, and here we can recall Trump’s varied and many dogwhistles to bigotry and hate and his tacit encouragement of White Supremacists.

      Jewish Americans have helped guide the moral character of our Nation… The contributions of the Jewish people to American society are innumerable, strengthening our Nation and making it more prosperous.

Lumping other minorities together in the same month’s celebrations, May is also Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, as a gratuitous nod to an appreciation of “diversity”:

       Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have contributed immeasurably to our Nation’s development and diversity as a people.

It’s also Older Americans Month, as Trump declared:

      Our country and our communities are strong today because of the care and dedication of our elders.  Their unique perspectives and experiences have endowed us with valuable wisdom and guidance, and we commit to learning from them and ensuring their safety and comfort.

       My Administration is focused on the priorities of our Nation’s seniors. The Department of Justice, for example, is focused on protecting seniors from fraud and abuse.  My Administration is also committed to protecting the Social Security system so that seniors who have contributed to the system can receive benefits from it.  We are also dedicated to improving healthcare, including by increasing the quality of care our veterans receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs and by lowering prescription drug prices for millions of Americans.

Except that everything Trump’s administration has done goes against seniors, including rolling back the Consumer Financial Protection Board which helps seniors (and everyone else) address predatory tactics by financial industry, including Obama-era rules reining in PayDay lenders; has exploded the budget deficit in order to justify pulling billions out of Medicare and Social Security, is determined to narrow Medicaid, has sabotaged the Affordable Care Act resulting in higher premiums, and is risking the Veterans Administration’s ability to provide the specialized health care veterans require by its intent to privatize and put in charge Dr. Ronny with absolutely no experience whatsoever. And let’s examine again what this administration has not done to address opioid addiction or skyrocketing cost of prescription medication. What exactly has this administration done for seniors?

And now Republicans are taking $800 million out of Medicare and standing by as drug costs continue to skyrocket.

Of course, May finishes with Memorial Day, and Trump will no doubt pull out one of the proclamations that express such appreciation for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve America’s liberty and freedoms – 660,000 have died in all America’s wars since the Revolution (when 4,435 died), including 1,000 in the Indian Wars (1817-1898), 225,000 in the Civil War (140,414 for the Union, 74,524 Confederates); 53,402 in World War I, 291,557 in World War II, 33,739 in the Korean War, 47,434 in Vietnam and 6915 in the Global War on Terror (2001 to present).

Millions more have returned home, some with lifelong injuries both physical and mental. Trump’s answer to these Veterans isn’t the same as during Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s Joining Forces campaign, or the efforts taken to improve access to health care and other services including a new GI Bill. Trump is moving forward with plans to privatize the Veterans Administration which is opposed by most veterans.

On the same day as Trump proclaimed “Military Spouse Day,” he adds to the list of military spouses deported, as well as veterans who had been promised citizenship in exchange for their military service.

      We ask so much of our military spouses:  frequent moves; heartbreaking separations; parenting alone; incomplete celebrations; and weeks, months, and sometimes years of waiting for a loved one’s safe return from harm’s way.  Time and time again, however, military spouses respond with resilience that defies explanation.  Our service members are often praised as national heroes, but their spouses are equally worthy of that distinction.

     My Administration is committed to taking care of our Armed Forces and ensuring that our military is equipped to defend our country and protect our way of life.  This mission also includes caring for the unique needs of military spouses, whose service to our Nation cannot be overstated.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Theater of the Absurd: Trump Proclaims National Women’s Health Week

Donald Trump proclaims “National Women’s Health Care Week” even as he does everything possible to shut Planned Parenthood, sabotage access to health care, cut food stamps by $20 billion, Medicare by $800 million, and does nothing to address the opioid crisis, spiraling cost of life-saving drugs or promote research to address the Alzheimer’s epidemic. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

How much more Theater of the Absurd can it get than Trump proclaiming National Women’s Health Week starting on Mother’s Day, the guy who is doing everything possible to shut down Planned Parenthood, to sabotage access to affordable health care, who would make being a woman a “pre-existing condition”, who would take away food stamps, access to Medicaid, who touts a tax cut of $1.5 trillion to the richest companies and Americans in order food stamps by $20 billion, to cut Medicare by $800 million, cut out access to contraceptives,  do nothing to address the spiraling cost of life saving drugs or research advancements in Alzheimer’s.

“For some time, we have been facing a maternal health crisis in this country that will have damaging effects on generations to come. If we truly appreciate and admire mothers, we must do better,” writes Adrienne Kimmell, Vice President of Communications and Strategic Research, NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Between 700 to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth complications each year in the U.S. and of that, Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die than white women from those complications

The U.S. is one of the most industrialized, medically-advanced nations in the world, yet has a rising maternal mortality rate. The horrifying mistreatment many mothers receive, Black mothers particularly, doesn’t align with our progress in this country, but still exists.

The stories are real. Women and mothers who didn’t have health insurance for prenatal care; who’ve suffered a postpartum hemorrhage with a devastating effect on future pregnancies; and even all-star tennis player, Serena Williams’ frightening near-death postpartum experience after a nurse refused to listen to her.

There are countless other stories and these troubling examples show the racial and economic disparities in maternal health that cost lives and hurt women.”

Trump’s “Presidential Message on National Women’s Health Week” is one lie compounded on another –  Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Presidential Message on National Women’s Health Week

This is an opportunity to honor the importance of women across America and renew our pledge to support their health and well being.”

Women are integral members of our families and communities who can face unique healthcare challenges.  Whether breast cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s, my Administration is committed to continue addressing women’s health through advancements in medical research, rapid reviews and approvals of new safe and effective therapies, and affordable treatments and care options.

The ongoing opioid crisis is of particular concern for women.  On average, 115 Americans die each day from opioid-related overdoses—a factor that has contributed to the decrease in life expectancy over the past two years.  The crisis has hit women particularly hard in part because they are more likely to suffer from chronic pain conditions for which opioids are often prescribed.  Since 1999, the rate of deaths among women from prescription opioid overdoses have increased 461 percent.  Remarkably, more American women aged 15-35 lost their lives to accidental opioid overdose in 2016 than to all cancers combined.

These harrowing statistics underscore the urgent need to save American lives and why my Administration declared the opioid crisis a nation-wide public health emergency.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has developed a comprehensive strategy to combat the opioid epidemic and enhance non-addictive pain treatments by working with medical experts, policymakers, community groups, and families who have experienced the tragedy of opioid addiction.  Through these partnerships, the HHS Office of Women’s Health has awarded 20 grants to public and private organizations that are on the frontlines of the opioid crisis.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has also published guidance for treating pregnant women and new mothers with opioid use disorder, a critical resource for the Nation’s hardworking medical professionals.  It is vital for the wellbeing of our Nation that we support those who are suffering from drug addiction as well as all expecting and postpartum mothers.  Similarly, the National Institutes of Health is engaging in research regarding interventions to help both the mothers and infants born to women with opioid use disorder.

My Administration is also committed to supporting our working families.  Through robust tax reform, we championed a doubled Child Tax Credit to ensure parents can adequately support their children.  We are also focused on expanding access to paid family leave benefits for new mothers and fathers.  The new reality is that in more than 60% of the homes of American married couples with children, both parents work.  Additionally, women are now the primary earners in more than 40% of all families.  Today, however, only 12% of private-sector workers have access to formal paid leave through their employers.  Recent research suggests that women’s labor force participation in the U.S. has stalled due to the lack of family-friendly policies, including paid leave.  There is a critical need to ensure that working mothers and fathers have access to paid family leave, which can support women’s participation in the labor force and promote greater financial stability for American families.  Additionally, and in part to have a long-term effect on women’s health, I recently signed an Executive Order to expand access to sports, fitness, and nutrition, with a specific focus on helping girls from economically challenged communities live active and healthy lifestyles.

During this week, we reaffirm our Nation’s commitment to women and girls across America, and we continue to encourage them to put their health first.  When women prosper, so do our families, our communities, and our entire Nation.

Foreign Policy Experts Nance, Stavridis Warn of Global, Domestic Threats to Democracy as Authoritarians Rise

Malcolm Nance (left), a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridi (right)s who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, engage in a dialogue on foreign policy moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.” 

Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:

Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we? 

Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.

Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.

We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.

Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.

We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.

We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]

Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,

So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.

Louis: Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity? 

Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.

When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.

It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.

Admiral Stavridis: “Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.

What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.

Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?   

Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.

Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.

Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.

Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.

Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)

Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?

Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a  global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you  lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).

Malcolm Nance: “Trump thinks diplomacy is a big stick. His way of negotiating is threatening..A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.”
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.

Louis: Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?

Nance:  It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.

Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.

What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.

Louis: How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?

Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.

Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was  broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.

Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia. 

Louis: China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?

Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)

Errol Louis: What is Putin’s end game? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Louis: What is Putin’s end game?

Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power.  All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.

Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.

Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture.  Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin  and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”

Q&A

Is climate change a national security issue?

Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.

What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?

Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.

Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.

Malcolm Nance, Errol Louis, Admiral James Stavridis and Rabbi Stephen S. Widom who hosts the Cultural Arts events at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?

Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft  power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)

Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.

Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?

Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen.  Where the president violated his oath of office,  you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.

What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy? 

Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.

Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.

We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.

The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.

Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?

Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.

Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.

To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?

Nance:  Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick.  They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’

What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?

Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.

The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?

Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.

Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached? 

Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue

Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.

In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?

Stavridis: Yes.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo Issues Challenge to Trump: ‘This is the Moment’ to Stop Scourge of Gun Violence

New York State Governor tells Trump: “The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an open letter to President Trump.

Dear Mr. President,

The old adage is right: “go with your first instinct.” Your White House meeting with bipartisan federal legislators right after the Florida massacre appeared and was unscripted and productive. You essentially had one question that summed up what every American was feeling: “why?” Why sell guns to young people who can’t yet buy a beer? Why sell assault weapons that are designed to kill so many people so quickly? Why not take guns from the mentally ill before they hurt someone or themselves? Why not make sure every gun purchaser goes through a background check?

There was no answer from the electeds assembled, because there is no answer – except the one you suggested – they are afraid of the NRA.

Major political change comes when a window of opportunity opens and a leader seizes the moment. There are brief moments in history where attention, passion and drive combine to unite the American people and overwhelm the forces preserving the status quo and create change.

The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment. The Republicans will follow your lead. Yes, they fear the NRA, but they fear the enraged citizen majority more.

In New York, after the Sandy Hook massacre, the nation had a similar moment. It was a moment of grief and pain and anger. Sandy Hook touched the hearts and minds of every day Americans. It was anyone’s child – it was everyone’s child. In the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook we passed the New York Safe Act – common sense gun safety. It has made a dramatic difference, it didn’t negatively affect any legal gun owners, and I believe it has saved lives.

Mentally ill and dangerous people shouldn’t have guns so we need universal background checks. When a person shows signs of mental distress or violence, there should be a provision for police to investigate and determine the facts – a “red flag bill.” Domestic violence offenders should not have guns. Assault weapons are too dangerous in the wrong hands and not worth the risk. In 1938 we outlawed machine guns in this Country precisely for the same reason: they were too dangerous if obtained by the wrong person. Does anyone miss not owning machine guns?

For those of us who serve in government, if we are lucky, we may have a few moments that present a real opportunity to make a lasting difference. There are brief openings where transformational progress is possible and you have that opportunity now. The moments are rare and fleeting. They are leadership moments: don’t squander it.

The political advisers are wrong. NRA members will be nervous about any government change and intervention but they will ultimately realize a functioning system vindicates legitimate gun owners rather than demonizing all. If you lose this moment, I am sad to say there will probably be another shooting and the Country will be in the same place, and it will once again pose the question that you posed – “why?” “Why didn’t we do anything about this after Florida?” You have the responsibility to stop that from happening.

NY, NJ, CT, RI Governors Form ‘States for Gun Safety’ Coalition to Combat Gun Violence Epidemic

New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island Enter into Agreement to Create Multi-State Database That Will Share Information on Firearms, Law Enforcement Efforts and Supplement Federal NICS Database 

New Multi-State Coalition Will Trace and Intercept Firearms to Stop Flow of Out-of-State Guns

Nation’s First Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium Will Conduct Studies to Better Inform Policy Makers

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and Congressman Steve Israel met with mothers who lost children to gun violence. Clinton proposed a specific agenda for sensible gun control. With Trump in the White House, Republicans in control of Congress, and the NRA stepping up its attacks making the prospect for federal help dim (Trump is cutting funding for background checks), New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey governors have formed a coalition to address gun violence at the regional level. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo today announced the formation of the new “States for Gun Safety” coalition to combat gun violence. In the face of repeated federal inaction, the coalition will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to better share information and tackle this devastating epidemic through a comprehensive, regional approach. The coalition will advance a multi-pronged effort that will create a multi-state database to supplement the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System, trace and intercept guns that are used in crimes as well as guns transported across state borders and launch the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium that will study the issue across multiple disciplines to better inform policy makers nationwide.

“Here in New York, we’re proud to be home to the nation’s strongest gun safety law. However, the federal government’s continued inaction on this issue has not only allowed the epidemic of gun violence to spread, but it has actually prevented the laws like the SAFE Act from being fully effective,” Governor Cuomo said. “Rather than wait for the federal government to come to its senses and pass responsible gun safety legislation, New York is joining with New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island to take matters into our own hands. Not only will this groundbreaking partnership take new steps to prevent illegal guns from crossing state lines, but by forming the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, we will be able to better inform policymakers nationwide on how to keep their communities safe.”

“We refuse to allow federal inaction to enact commonsense, gun safety laws endanger the lives of our residents,” Governor Malloy said.  “Despite the best efforts of powerful lobbyists from special interest groups, we will work together as a coalition of states to keep our communities safe.  We cannot sit back and let guns get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, and we cannot simply watch almost daily tragedy occur.  One thing remains clear: we would be better off if every state and the federal government enacted sensible gun safety rules.  We will not wait for Washington to act – the time for action is now.” 

“Gun violence is not a New Jersey problem, or a New York problem, or a problem for any particular state or region – it is a national problem,” Governor Murphy said.”However, we cannot wait for Congress to act. As states, we must work together to take the steps and enact the measures to protect our residents and our communities. But, even more importantly, a collective of states can take these steps together broaden the reach and impact of commonsense gun safety laws.”

“Rhode Island has some of the nation’s strongest gun laws, but our nation has some of the world’s weakest. Kids in Florida and across the nation are taking action, and it’s not a surprise: We’ve forced them to lead because for years elected officials in Washington have refused to,” Governor Raimondo said. “We will stand up with our students and with parents to strengthen our gun laws and combat gun violence.”

As part of the coalition, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island will share information about individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm within each state. By sharing this information, states can more effectively prevent certain individuals from purchasing a gun, obtaining a weapon and/or getting a gun permit. The agreement, in accordance with federal and state privacy protections, will provide state law enforcement agencies with details on the firearm purchase or permit denials for those who are disqualified.  People may be disqualified from owning a firearm for several reasons, including an arrest warrant, order of protection, debilitating mental health condition, or criminal history.

Despite the passage of gun safety laws restricting the purchase and carry of firearms across the four states, the lack of federal regulations preventing individuals from purchasing guns in other states and transporting them across borders has undermined state legislation. To combat this practice, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island will direct their law enforcement intelligence centers to work cooperatively to trace the use of out-of-state guns in crimes and share information in order to intercept criminals transporting illegal guns across state borders. The four state fusion centers that will jointly share information under this agreement are the New York State Intelligence Center, the Connecticut Intelligence Center, New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center, and the Rhode Island State Fusion Center.

The four states will also designate institutions of higher education to partner and create the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium.  The consortium will be comprised of dedicated public health, social welfare, public policy, and criminal justice experts who will share and examine data to better inform policymakers nationwide. This groundbreaking consortium will fill the void left by the federal government’s 1996 ban on the use of federal funds to study gun violence which has obstructed research efforts across the nation, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

“We have to remember that the federal government has had a provision in place now for over 20 years that effective bars the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence. So it has devolved to the states, now for over 20 years and our thought is perhaps if we can do it in a coordinated way, the more of us at it, hopefully the better result and meaningfully propelling things like smart gun technology,” Governor Murphy of New Jersey said during a telephone press availability with al four governors.

We can’t wait for the federal government to act. We have states with good intentions, with good laws, let’s take it to the next level. Let’s work across our borders. Let’s not just advocate for better laws in our own state, but advocate for better laws in our region. Let’s not just try to make our own borders as safe as possible. Let’s try to make our region as safe as possible.”  We’ll reach out to other governors,” Governor Malloy of Connecticut said.

Building on these efforts, the states will also work to push the federal government to adopt common-sense gun safety measures. In order to protect families and communities across the region, the group will call on the federal government to swiftly enact universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and a federal waiting period between the purchase and delivery of guns.

The multi-state coalition builds on years of progress spearheaded by Governor Cuomo to combat gun violence in New York. Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Democrats and Republicans came together in New York to pass the nation’s strongest gun safety law in 2013. The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, more commonly known as the NY SAFE Act, banned the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines and helps keep guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill, all the while safeguarding the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners.

In addition to the SAFE Act, New York has continued to invest in the SNUG and GIVE initiatives which engage with community members to help get guns off the street. Under SNUG, specially trained individuals are employed to reduce violence from occurring when tensions arise within their community, while also connecting high-risk individuals with essential social and support services. The GIVE initiative provides funding to support technical assistance, training, equipment, and personnel – such as prosecutors and crime analysts – to help communities reduce gun violence and save lives. The funding for both initiatives is administered by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Most recently, Governor Cuomo proposed new legislation as part of the 2018 State of the State which will remove all firearms from those who commit domestic violence crimes. Given the inextricable link between domestic violence and lethal gun violence, this legislation will require all firearms be removed from those convicted of domestic violence crimes, including misdemeanors.  It will also add measures to keep firearms out of the hands of those who commit domestic violence with the goal of preventing additional tragedies.

“We’re not waiting for federal action,” said Governor Cuomo of New York, a former Attorney General who laid out an indictment against the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress over its measures that not only don’t mitigate against gun violence, but go backwards. “All of our states are already ahead of the federal government when it comes to laws on this issue. The Florida Parkland massacre, one would hope that it would spur responsible federal action but we’re not going to hold our breath and were not going to risk our children’s lives. Sandy hook happened, I remember speaking with Governor Malloy at the time, and since then 1600 people have died. After Sandy Hook was when New York passed the SAFE Act because people were so outraged and change comes when people demand change. After Sandy Hook, especially in this region of the country, people demanded change. Columbine 1999, since then there have been 200 school shootings, 25 mass school shootings, so no I’m not especially optimistic that the federal government will be a response.

“Let’s be honest, this a federal government has gone backward on the issue. President Trump has pledged allegiance to the NRA and he’s delivered for them. He defunded, in part, the NICS background check system, he stopped last February the Social Security Administration from providing information that the Obama administration put into place that would have given more information on mental health for the NICS system and the solution here is not rocket science. In many ways it’s harder because it takes political courage and this is not just about the NRA, this is a politically charged issue and I think we understate the opposition when we say it’s just the NRA. To be responsible on this issue you have to pay a political cost.

Governors on the phone all understand that. I have the political scars from what we did and that’s why it really is a test of leadership and I think right now you have the high school students showing more leadership than the leaders in Washington. What they said on TV was it shouldn’t be a democratic or republican issue, it’s an issue in life and death and they’re right.

“Your Florida elected officials showed up at the town hall like Senator Marco Rubio, who I think should be ashamed of themselves because he had nothing responsible to say and rather than proposing baby steps, which is the worst type of political pandering, he should have at least been honest and say we have nothing meaningful to propose on this issue. At least that would have been honest.

“To say this is a mental health issue is a sham and a fraud because if you really believed it was a mental health issue, then you have to say, the way to combat mental health is we will have s universal background check system to make sure a person who is mentally ill cannot buy a gun. We’re going to have a NICS system that has a comprehensive mental health database that is in the federal NICS system. You will then have to have a federal reporting system where people could actually report people to police, people who they believe has a mental health problem. Teachers would have to be able to call police, family members would have to be able to call the police and say investigate this person because I think they are mentally ill and they shouldn’t have a gun and they still have to answer why you wouldn’t support an assault ban. 1934, this nation outlawed machine guns because the nation said the risk outweighs the reward. The damage that can be done with a machine gun outweighs the individual’s right to own it. That is an assault rifle today. It’s doable, it’s feasible, we did it in this country. It’s just that we’ve gone backwards,” Cuomo said during the press call.

“The answer is not to make the schools armed camps. That’s where they’re going to go in Washington. Why? Because that’s where the NRA wants them to go. Because it means selling more guns. And the NRA is in the business of selling guns. Arm every teacher. Oh that makes sense. The only thing it would do is bring more guns into a school, more money for gun manufacturers, which is what the NRA is really trying to say…

“Today, we take the next step in the evolution of state action. We are limited by our borders so we can put in laws but then our borders are porous. Governor Malloy spoke about the I-95 corridor. That guns literally come up the I-95 corridor. Share your databases and your information so if a person can’t buy a gun in New York, they don’t drive to Connecticut or New Jersey or Rhode Island and buy the gun. Come up with a coalition of state actions. And then share that information. And that’s what we’re going to be doing. We have a mental health database in New York that now exists that didn’t exist before the SAFE Act that has 77,000 people who are on the database who are mentally ill who could have bought a gun in this state the day before the SAFE Act. Share that information.

“On Governor Murphy’s point about research, I was HUD Secretary in the Clinton Administration. At that time, the manufacturers said they could manufacture a smart gun. They could manufacturer a gun where the trigger read a finger print. We’ve done absolutely nothing on the research and the technology because they haven’t been forced to do it.

“So do what you can and that’s what we’re doing. This is not a substitute for federal action. And we hope and we will push for federal action. I would like to see the national democrats put a real sensible gun control bill on the table so that people have a real choice and we have a real debate because this is not about baby steps, this is not about bump stocks and moving the age from 18-21. Those are just political crumbs to throw forward to end the political discomfort for some of the elected officials. Let’s do something real and let’s make a difference. This has been handled by countries across the globe. We can handle it if we want to. If we have the political courage and the political will to do it. It’s that simple. But it’s that difficult.”

See also:

After Parkland School Shooting, New Youth Movement Calls for Sensible Gun Control;  Will They be Played by False Flags from Trump?

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

After Parkland School Shooting, New Youth Movement Calls for Sensible Gun Control; Will They be Played by False Flags from Trump?

Trump, Pence & Ryan at the State of the Union when Trump pledged his fealty to the NRA. The Parkland School Shooting has prompted a new student movement calling for gun reform. But will idealistic fervor be derailed in the political quagmire? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

You would think after the unimaginable carnage at a country music concert in Las Vegas, that would have been enough, at least to ban bump stocks which Republicans signaled they were receptive to. Then nothing. Well not really nothing: instead of banning bump stocks, Congressional Republicans adopted Conceal Carry Reciprocity, which would essentially negate every state’s gun control regulations (so much for sacred State’s Rights). Imagine someone whipping out a concealed semi-automatic handgun in the rush hour crowd at Penn Station. Even with the heavily armed national guardsmen who patrol, 50 could be dead in the spate of seconds before anyone even realized what was happening. Now imagine another 10 people whipping out their concealed carry guns and firing in all directions.

You would think after an ex-Air Force gunman, court-martialed for domestic violence, killed 26 people at a smalltown Texas church, there would have been legislation to beef up background checks, which the vast majority of Americans, including NRA members and Republicans support. Dream on.

You would think that after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Congress would have reauthorized the assault weapons ban that George W. Bush allowed to expire in 2006, or enacted universal background checks. Or, given that Republicans and the NRA always fall-back to mental illness, not the easy access and availability of semi-automatic high-capacity guns as the cause of massive carnage, to stiffen restrictions against those with mental illness, including veterans with PTSD, to acquire guns. Oh yes, Obama actually did that, only to have Donald Trump and Senator Charles Grassley (who ironically reflexively called for more controls to prevent mentally ill from acquiring guns), to rescind the regulation. Or after the San Bernardino terror shooting, Congress would have adopted the “No Fly, No Buy” rule. Or after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot, would have limited the capacity of ammo clips.

But no.

An ongoing Washington Post analysis has found that more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.  After each, there is a spurt of “thoughts and prayers” and then nothing.

Seventeen school shootings, 34 mass shootings, 2008 deaths from gun violence. That’s just the body count for the first 7 weeks of 2018.

As a New York Times editorial noted, “The journal Pediatrics reported last June that gunfire, each week, kills an average of 25 children ages 17 and under. A 2016 study in The American Journal of Medicine calculated that among two dozen of the world’s wealthiest nations, this country alone accounted for 91 percent of firearms deaths among children 14 and under.

Instead, the only “solution” Congress seems to be interested in is mandating Conceal Carry Reciprocity nationwide, to “harden” schools and allow (even require) teachers to carry guns, effectively deputizing them as soldiers in this war-of-choice. (If that is the case, teachers should get battlefield pay.) The only response has been to do the NRA’s bidding: more guns.

But now, perhaps after this latest school shooting, something is different. Because the survivors are 17 and 18 year olds – a cohort of 3.9 million – who will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election if not the 2018 midterms. They know how to marshal the power of social media and organize an ongoing campaign; they are articulate, passionate, and have the energy to keep this going. And they are still idealistic enough to think they can actually force politicians to do their will, naively unaware or underestimating the political perils.

It is reminiscent, in fact, of the anti-Vietnam youth movement of the 1960s. By the time it ended, 58,200 Americans had lost their lives in a decade of fighting a war predicated on politically expedient lies.

But this is war on the homefront. This is a public health scourge in our neighborhoods: guns kill 33,000 Americans a year, the equivalent of a 9/11 each month and injure another 100,000 each year whose lives, like the 14 injured Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. will be forever altered – sports scholarships lost, college savings lost, career track altered.  Since Sept. 11, 2001, 95 Americans have been murdered on US soil by terrorists (every one an American citizen or legal resident), but in that same timeframe, guns killed 561,000.

Will this stab at activism be different?

My question is how soon will they become frustrated and beat down by the political song-and-dance? Or will they be snuckered by promises, as hollow as the bullets that the NRA defends that can pierce police protective vests?

Indeed, after traveling by bus for six hours to plead their case at the State House in Tallahassee, 100 of the Parkland students were promptly shut down by a swift 2 to 1 vote to table any discussion of banning assault weapons.

Trump, who made a show of visiting two victims in the hospital and praising first responders (not heroic teachers who now as part of their duties have to make themselves human shields, like the three  murdered in Parkland), said he might “consider” a bipartisan bill improving background checks, a statement so remarkable, it warranted front-page headlines.

He is talking about the Cronyn bill, which came out of the Texas massacre, but it only requires the military to do what they were legally supposed to have done: notifying the federal database of military who committed domestic violence and shouldn’t be able to buy a gun anyway. He made a show of ordering the Department of Justice to “examine” the possibility of new regulations banning bump stocks or any device that turns a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun. But automatic weapons are already illegal for civilian use. And heaven knows how long it will take Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come up with such regulations. Meantime, Congress is off the hook from actually doing anything that resembles even a modest stab at gun control. No slippery slope there.

And even in his phrasing, “I will be open to a bipartisan bill” to improve background checks sounds like the same bullshit he used when he betrayed Dreamers.

The reality behind his bullshit is that Trump’s budget would cut 19% from funding for background checks, and thanks to George W Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft, background checks have to be completed within just three days, and the records destroyed (that’s how the Charleston massacre was able to get his gun).

Over and over, Trump has pledged his fealty to the NRA, which apart and in concert with the Russians, did more to send him to the Oval Office than anyone or anything – $30 million in spending, split between pro-Trump and anti-Clinton campaigns. And even now, it compromises the bulk of his precious, unshakeable “base.”

In his State of the Union, he said, “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities,” which sounded as if he might finally call for action to restrain the scourge of gun violence, especially after the two most monstrous massacres in history. Instead, his next line was, “We are totally defending our Second Amendment…”

The reality is, it is easier to buy an assault rifle than buy alcohol or access reproductive health care or register to vote; it is easier to get a gun license than a drivers license, to get a gun than register a car; there are more gun stores than grocery stores, McDonalds and Starbucks combined.

Young people, don’t be played! Here’s what should constitute gun reform:

  •             Restore the ban on assault weapons; limit the capacity of ammunition clips; ban bump stocks.
  •             Require universal background checks including gun shows and private sales and online sales; remove the artificial limit in time for the check to be completed or increase the waiting period beyond 3 day.
  •             Require training and licensing and a national database of gun registration; and renewal program for license and registration (just as for a car).
  •             Bar felons, domestic abusers, those diagnosed mentally ill, anyone under the age of 21 from buying a gun, and those on a terror watch list (“No Fly, No Buy”)
  •             Tax purchases of guns and ammunition, the money going into a victims fund to pay compensation to survivors and for health care.
  •             Require gun owners to take out liability insurance, just as automobile insurance.
  •             Overturn Stand Your Ground laws; defeat Conceal Carry Reciprocity.
  •             Make parents responsible for safe storage of guns; liable and subject to manslaughter prosecution if their children use guns to kill.
  •            Treat gun violence as public health epidemic; end gag order on CDC to research gun violence and recommend protections.

Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland school survivors, properly called out the “bullshit.”

“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS,” she said in an impassioned and on-target speech. “Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS.

“They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.

“If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.”(Crowd chants) “Throw them out.” (Listen to her powerful speech)

Ironically, this new student movement may have a dreaded “unintended consequence” for Republicans: if the NRA lackeys are swept out of office in favor of politicians who enact true gun reform, that might also result in campaign finance reform, overturning Citizens United and requiring Disclosure of who is supplying money, finally breaking the shackles the NRA (which may well have funneled Russian money in the $55 million it spent in the 2016 campaign, including $30 million spent to elect Trump) has on lawmakers.

That would be killing two birds with one stone, not an AR15.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

The Trump Travel Slump: Tearing Down Bridges; Building Walls, Bringing Down Brand USA and Resurrecting ‘The Ugly American’

Ellis Island, New York City: Governor Andrew Cuomo had to put up state money to keep Ellis Island open for tourists following the federal government shutdown. Despite record tourism, which generates over $4 billion in tax revenues for New York City, the city attracted 100,000 fewer international arrivals in 2017 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Donald Trump keeps rattling on about the US trade deficit. Yet he is singularly responsible for depressing America’s #2 export:  international travel.

It is ironic, really. The guy has his name on hotels around the globe but he no sense whatsoever of “hospitality,” nor a clue about how important face-to-face contact among people from different backgrounds is toward to greater issue of national security. Trump is more like the evil, ruthless landlord, Snidely Whiplash, who lashes the girl to the railroad tracks until her father signs the deed to their farm, than the international hotelier Barron Hilton.

President Obama understood the importance of engagement of people from abroad coming to the US and Americans – especially young people – going abroad – for work, study, volunteering, travel.

“Americans are now getting out – to build empathy and stewardship, for personal growth, to create a sense of global citizenship.” (Ah, the bad word: “global” when this guy extols America First.)

In 2016, thanks largely to Obama policies, the US saw a record 75.6 million international visitors who spent $245 billion and generated an $84 billion trade surplus. Travel and tourism in 2016 was a $1.5 trillion industry, employing 8 million and supporting 7 million more jobs, with every $1 million in sales of travel goods and services directly generating nine jobs. Globally, travel and tourism accounts for 10 percent of the world’s jobs.

Travel to the US has been in decline ever since Trump took office, causing the USA to slip to #3 behind Spain (#2) and France (#1) in popularity for foreign travel.

Indeed, despite 2017 being a strong year as the global economy, not just the US economy was surging (thanks Obama!), every area on the globe showed growth except the United States, which saw a 4 to 6% decline in international visitors. So what you ask? That represented a $4.6 billion hit to the economy and cost 40,000 jobs. What is more, the US, once #1 destination on the world’s bucket list, slipped to #8, boding ill for future international spending here. Brand USA has a lot of catch-up to do.

“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior,” Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics, told The New York Times.

“Certainly it is the travel ban, rhetoric of Trump, the visa situation,” Alejandro Zozaya, CEO, Apple Leisure Group said during an industry panel at the New York Times Travel Show to explain the drop in bookings to the US. “Brand USA is hurt.”

New York City received 100,000 fewer international visitors in 2017. And while the “strength of the American dollar” was likely a large factor in that dip, “There’s a real concern that this isolationism, this ‘America first’ rhetoric could lead to a decline in international travel,” said Fred Dixon, the head of NYC & Company. International visitors spend four times what domestic travelers do in New York City. The city, which garners $64 billion in economic impact from tourism supporting 383,000 jobs, collected $4.2 billion in taxes from tourists in 2016.

Instead of a welcoming place, this is the image that the US has broadcast around the world: gun violence (15 countries actually have travel advisories against the US because of this scourge); Charlottesville and the mounting White Nationalist attacks on the “other;” calls for erecting walls and closing borders, that defy international norms, treaties and American values and traditions by refusing to accept refugees and asylum-seekers (and withdrawing from the United Nations Treaty on Migration), that pulls out of the Paris Climate Accord as a big F-U to the planet and the global community. Trump said as much at Davos: America First and foremost, and you all should be doing the same. Attacking the United Nations, hollowing out the US State Department, loose nuke rhetoric. That’s the recipe for international conflict.

Recently, NPR interviewed  Jake Haupert of Evergreen Escapes, an inbound tour operator that organizes visits into his area from around the world. After a decade of steady growth, this year, his business volume plunged 25%  after 11 years of growth- he is looking to sell him business. What accounts for it?”

“There is a sense of fear – gun violence, homelessness, the political climate. Trump comes across as anti-foreigner. The rhetoric is affecting US representation around the globe.  Also the strong dollar. They are choosing not to travel. They are disinterested in coming to the US (once the most desired destination) or are waiting for this to pass.”

This undoes all the good that Obama had done – expediting travel visas, making visitors feel welcome at ports of entry, spending money to promote travel to the US, and yes, projecting the United States as a global leader advancing the betterment of the planet with climate action, eradication of poverty and disease, and spreading the institutions and values of democracy. What do you suppose the Trump CDC will do with another outbreak of Zika or Ebola?

Trump, the very opposite of a smart businessman (witness the number of bankruptcies including Atlantic City casino hotels), whose entire fortune including his ascension to the Oval Office is based on selling his “brand”, is cutting funding entirely to Brand USA, not just the title but a public-private coalition to inspire people from around the world to visit the United States. Every country on the planet has an entity that promotes tourism into their country, because tourist dollars are new dollars. In fact, Brand USA, which generated $615 million in incremental federal taxes and another $52 million in state and local taxes -produces a 27 to 1 return on investment – that’s $27 returned to ripple through the economy for every $1 spent on promotion. If Trump were actually a good businessman, he would appreciate that ROI as a great deal.

But Trump is ostensibly the president of the US, who should be concerned beyond mere dollars. He should be concerned about relationships, forging mutual understanding, dispelling myths about Ugly Americans. Travelers who come to the US, and Americans who travel abroad, take on the mantle of “ambassador” – presumably ambassadors of good will. It’s “minds and hearts” versus “bullets, bombs and bluster” that actually wins the day.

Trump in his State of the Union address will no doubt take credit for the economy (which grew only 2.6%, much lower than needed to support his tax cuts). But travel is the canary in the coal mine – it is the leading indicator for the economy – and because of its sheer size in the economy, supporting for one in every nine nonfarm jobs, what happens causes a ripple effect.

Travel spending is tied not so much to household income, but to consumer confidence – it is a manifestation of feeling, outlook.

Trump’s “Wall” is no different than the Iron Curtain or the Bamboo Curtain. It is a wall of ignorance, isolation, indifference, and just as anti-democratic and destructive. I would bet that 90% of Trump voters have never been outside their own province: they have no “world view” only a narrow view so easily shaped and molded by an autocratic regime that feeds on hate and mistrust.

Trump’s disdain for other countries and cultures, manifest in his “shithole” comment regarding the entire continent of Africa, Haiti and El Salvador, communicates his prejudice and resuscitates the image of “The Ugly American.”

And that image of the US border patrol agent dumping water left in the desert for people desperately fleeing violence in Central America is the new “Brand USA.”

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Women’s March on NYC Expecting Massive Turnout, Largest of 280 Marches Nationwide Jan 20

A year after the largest protest in history, women will gather again in New York City and across the country to demand equal rights and opportunity and launch a major voter registration campaign © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

(NEW YORK, NY) – Women’s March Alliance announced today that more than 85,000 people have confirmed attendance at the second annual Women’s March on NYC, being held Saturday, January 20th. Projections indicate a total attendance in the hundreds of thousands, making New York City’s march the largest of the 280 marches happening across the world in what is being dubbed #weekendofwomen.

Marchers, activists, celebrities, influencers, and musicians will gather along Central Park West on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for a rally and march in support of women’s rights and gender equality. Marchers will begin assembling at 11 am; the rally will run from 11:30 am-1 pm; and the march will begin at 1 pm and end at 3 pm.

“Tomorrow’s march will be a powerful and inspiring reminder to all that the fight for women’s rights is as strong and vibrant as ever. We are marching in solidarity with millions of people across the world to make our voices heard and demand equality. This is a pivotal time in the history of women and we will march tomorrow to show the world that the oppression of any voice is the oppression of all voices,” said Katherine Siemionko, the founder and President of Women’s March Alliance.

Speakers will include musical sensation and recent SNL performer, Halsey; millennial musical star, MILCK; DJ Alexandra Richards; activists and thought leaders Aryn Quinn, Aparna Nancheria, Miss Native American USA Autumn Rose Miskweminanocsqua Williams, Dr. Debbie Almontaser, New Jersey Freeholder Ashley Bennett, Ann Toback & Nancy K. Kaufman, Complicate the World Collective, Elder Antoinettea Etienne, Nadina LaSpina, Cecilia Villar Eljuri, Sulma Arzu-Brown, Angy Rivera, and actress Veronica Dunne. Two surprise guests will be announced when the rally begins.

In an effort to reach the broadest audience possible, the Women’s March Alliance  & Women’s March On Chicago have chosen Crunchet —  a new social platform for group storytelling that prioritizes depth of stories and collaboration around shared interests —  as their official social media partner. Crunchet lets you add content from your camera roll, your favorite social platforms and the web all into one post that can then be shared with collaborators and more widely as a single story. Crunchet gives march participants a better way to share their meaningful personal stories, collaborate with friends and other activists, and to connect all the sister marches together on one social app.

As the official sponsors of the March, OKCupid reminds everyone that: “OkCupid is DTFight the Patriarchy – as the official sponsor of the NYC Women’s March. We know that people on OkCupid are connecting over the things that really matter, so it’s a perfect match for OkCupid to be joining such an inspiring movement: what’s more important right now than championing women’s rights?”

Rising out of the local Women’s March on NYC, Women’s March Alliance is a nonprofit whose focus is on building strategic alliances with grassroots organizations to provide our community with a wide range of opportunities that empower them to demand and defend their rights. WMA aims to unify the voices and resources of grassroots organizations to collectively foster an informed and engaged community that both understands the current state of human rights across the globe and has the tools necessary to defend and advance those rights. Our mission is to amplify the collective voice and resources of human rights organizations.

Women’s March Alliance website:  https://womensmarchalliance.org/2018wm/

Women’s March registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-womens-march-on-nyc-tickets-39150171216

Women’s March Alliance Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1934554616864486