Category Archives: Foreign Relations

Radical Idea for Defusing North Korea Crisis: Ban Nuclear Weapons

The Women’s Acapella Group “Willow” sings for peace at the Commemoration of the 72th Anniversary of the US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Here’s a radical idea for dealing with North Korea: ban all nuclear weapons.

This notion has taken on new urgency in just a matter of days, Indeed, seemingly oblivious to the calendar and history marking the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which obliterated 200,000 civilians, Trump, presiding over an opioid conference during his vacation at his Bedminster NJ golf club, raised the stakes on saber-rattling:

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.  They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.  He has been very threatening beyond a normal state.  And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Never seen before?

What Trump was reacting to was Kim Jong-un’s threat to launch “thousands-fold” revenge against the United States, after the United Nations Security Council voted 15-0 to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile programs.

“We are ready to retaliate with far bigger actions to make the U.S. pay a price for its crime against our country and people,” the official Korean Central News Agency stated, promising that North Korea would take a “stern action of justice.”

Trump’s “fire and fury” (evoking George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” threat to Saddam Hussein before launching the preemptive invasion of Iraq) response prompted Kim Jong-un to threaten to obliterate Guam.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, seeming on his own track, told Americans not to worry. I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.”

That is despite Senator Lindsay Graham telling Americans not to worry because a war would be fought “over there” and others in Trump’s Administration going beyond Bush’s “preemptive war” doctrine to a “preventive war” doctrine.

The situation heated just a couple of days after the annual Hiroshima commemoration, organized by SANE Peace Action based in Great Neck, a 60-year old organization, and Long Island Peace Alternatives, formed 32 years ago, which for many years now has taken place at the Universalist Unitarian Church at Shelter Rock, Long Island, never fails to inspire a range of emotions – horror, regret, guilt, anger, activism, and hope. Hope that after 72 years, the world will come to its senses as to this existential threat.

This year’s gathering, on August 2, started off surprisingly upbeat: 122 United Nations members  had just adopted a treaty calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. But the hopefulness of that was shattered by the next sentence: Not one of the nine countries that actually possess nuclear weapons — United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — supports it, in fact boycotted the deliberations. It’s as if the wimps and wusses of the world signed a petition to stop bullies from bullying

And while during the eight years of President Obama’s administration, the US was making strong headway to reducing nuclear threats (that is the heart of the Ukraine issue, where the collapse of the “Soviet Union resulted in an enormous cache of “loose nukes” which is why the United States and west promised to protect Ukraine against incursion), he was already being thwarted by Senate Republicans who actually balked at signing the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia, indeed some are rattling sabers to undo the treaty which requires Russia and the United States to reduce their deployed nuclear warheads to 1,500 from 2,200 each by next year (New York Times, A Threat to Nuclear Arms Control, July 29, 2017).

Instead, the Republican Congress is considering whether the US should develop a new ground-launched cruise missile and withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty banning missiles with a range of up to about 3,000 miles.

President Obama, the first sitting American President to visit Hiroshima, Japan, the site of the world’s only use of an atomic weapon, here with Japan Prime Minister Abe in 2016, struck just the right tone in a speech thoughtfully, and carefully constructed to inspire reconciliation, rather than apologize for a decision made in a different time and context. And he made it about the future, the task and the challenge ahead in face of mankind’s scientific and technological know-how to destroy all humanity. The man who won a Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009, who struggled to extract the US from two wars, who worked to secure loose nukes and negotiated a nuclear agreement with Iran was nonetheless stymied in his goal to reduce the nuclear menace. (White House Pool photo)

What success Obama had to reduce the threat of a nuclear holocaust – most dramatically, the historic Iran Nuclear Agreement – and on so many other things, Obama was under-appreciated and his efforts kind of matter-of-factly taken for granted, even dismissed, and Trump has vowed to pull out, just as he has said the US would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Trump’s entire focus – his federal budget, his foreign policy, domestic policy – is actually to dismantle the mechanisms of diplomacy and global cooperation (The State Department announced it is removing “promoting Democracy” from its mission statement, has already dismissed human rights as a priority in favor of deals making, is shutting down the Global Engagement Center aimed at countering propaganda which would destabilize democracy, and is generally cutting the State Department’s budget by one-third, and Trump is really, really unhappy with the campaign in Afghanistan because China is capitalizing on its mineral wealth and US companies are not), in favor of militancy, including seeking $1 TRILLION to spend on a new generation of nuclear weapons which will only reignite a nuclear arms race, on top of over $600 billion in new military spending (how interesting that Republicans believe there is no benefit to “throw money” at education or health care, but perfectly okay to throw money that isn’t even requested at the already bloated defense budget). The Trump Doctrine boils down to “To the victor belongs the spoils.”

Seemi Ahmed, of the Islamic Center of Long Island, at the “Hiroshima Remembrance”: “It pains me to see racism, bigotry, hatred, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism tearing people apart not just in our country but the whole world. We must get rid of nuclear weapons, stop illegal wars, illegal occupation and sincerely work for peaceful coexistence by promoting dialogue among communities, ending poverty and racism and holding governments responsible.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

While diplomacy is hard, complicated, nuanced and requires mental acuity, sending soldiers into war is easy.

Trump loves shiny new things and pumping up the military, focusing on militancy which is under his total control as the nominal Commander-in-Chief, is what his narcissism needs. And increasingly, as we see him throwing out red-meat “policy” to shore up his base, it is very likely that he will ultimately fall back to the Bush/Cheney/Rove tactic to secure his power and his presidency: war, preceded by a Pearl-Harbor rallying incident, 9/11. North Korea mounting a nuclear strike against Seattle, that would do the trick.

Which brings us to North Korea. No one with any brain or conscience believes that there is any military solution that would not be catastrophic. Trying to strong-arm Kim Jong-un into giving up his nuclear weapons is fantastical, especially when Kim believes (with good reason) that the only reason his country hasn’t been invaded and his regime toppled is because of his nuclear power.

Even with the Trump Administration’s “success” at getting the United Nations Security Council to vote unanimously (that means China and Russia which are bolstering North Korea) to impose new sanctions on North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is like a robot mouthing a policy that demands North Korea stop its weapons testing before the US will agree to any talks.

What does that mean, exactly? Stop for a week, a month, a year? What would qualify?

Talks are key – after all, what would the alternative be? Sanctions tend not to work with despots with total control over life and death of their subjects.

But what would the talks be about? More threats? What would be the incentive?

And what is patently clear is that any demand that begins and ends with “give up nuclear weapons program” will be a nonstarter. Kim Jong-un has seen what has happened to other tyrants who do not command such weapons or who give up their weapons, like Libya’s Omar Qaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. And he sees how despite Iran giving up its nuclear weapons program in order to have economic sanctions lifted, the Trump Administration is working to re-impose economic sanctions, despite the administration’s report acknowledging that Iran has been in compliance with the agreement. What lesson should Kim Jong-on draw?

Instead of laying the groundwork for a diplomatic solution (the State Department has barely any personnel: no Ambassador to South Korea, no under-Secretary for Asian Affairs), Trump seems to want to provoke ever more aggressive actions which would then justify a military response which he thinks will rally mindless adherence and give an excuse to permanently silence any opposition.

Trump fawns over Vladimir Putin and other dictators at the “Commander in Chief” military policy forum during the 2016 presidential campaign and shows complete ignorance of nuclear weapons. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Trump is a guy who flippantly said during the 2016 presidential campaign he might use nuclear weapons and questioned why we would make them if we wouldn’t use them, who suggested that other countries like Saudi Arabia and South Korea and Japan get their own nuclear weapons because they should fund their own defense without the United States incurring the expense, who had no clue what the “nuclear triad” was and apparently, no idea whatsoever of the terrifying consequence of using nuclear bombs. (See” 9 terrifying things Donald Trump has publicly said about nuclear weapons).

(The question I would have is whether the American military establishment would refuse to obey Trump’s order.)

So here’s a radical idea: moving toward eliminating nuclear weapons altogether is the solution. If the nine nations that have nuclear weapons agree to dispose of them, that could be the solution.

Otherwise, we are likely headed toward a nuclear confrontation in which there will be no winners, only losers.

At the end of the evening, there was a call to action: Call or visit your Congressmembers to urge them to support The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on the President to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and to pursue nuclear disarmament.

“It pains me to see racism, bigotry, hatred, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism tearing people apart not just in our country but the whole world,” said Seemi Ahmed, of the Islamic Center of Long Island, at the “Hiroshima Remembrance”:. We must get rid of nuclear weapons, stop illegal wars, illegal occupation and sincerely work for peaceful coexistence by promoting dialogue among communities, ending poverty and racism and holding governments responsible.”

The concept behind the nuclear arsenals is the fear of mutually assured destruction will cause any rational leader to pull back from using them. But as Ira Helfand of Leeds MA wrote the New York Times, “Yet we know of more than a dozen instances when nuclear-armed countries began the process of launching their nuclear weapons, usually in the mistaken belief that their adversaries had already done so — more than a dozen times when deterrence failed. And we are told that North Korea must not obtain a nuclear capability because it cannot reliably be deterred. It is time to abandon this failed policy and to pursue the real security of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

In fact, one instance of how close the world came to nuclear holocaust was documented in an amazing, frightening and inspiring film, “The Man Who Saved the World,” about Stanislov Petrov, a Soviet soldier commanding a nuclear bunker who single-handedly averted a nuclear world war in September 1983 by refusing to launch missiles when all his radar and computer systems showed an attack underway by the United States. Petrov defied his orders and protocol and refused to launch knowing that even if the US strike was real and would kill 100 million Russians in an instant, the strike he would order would kill 100 million Americans in the next instant and a billion more people around the planet subsequently.

Indeed, the threats to the continued habitability of the planet and its 7 billion resident souls are not just from a lunatic renegade like Kim Jong-un.

Margaret Melkonian, LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, at the Commemoration of the 72nd Anniversary of the US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: “It is ironic and so disheartening with the outcome of 122 countries signing on and moving forward to making progress toward eliminating nuclear weapons, the statement by the US, UK and France: ‘The time isn’t right.’ But we say the time is right, the time is now.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

At the end of the evening, Margaret Melkonian, LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. issued a call to action: urge your Congressmembers to support The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on the President to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and to pursue nuclear disarmament.

“It is ironic and so disheartening with the outcome of 122 countries signing on and moving forward to making progress toward eliminating nuclear weapons, was the statement by the US, UK and France: ’While we share your vision of getting rid of nuclear weapons, the time isn’t right. This treaty not the best tactic – we will never sign this treaty, never eliminate nuclear weapons.’ But we say the time is right, the time is now,” she said.

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© 2017 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

Trump Vows to Move US Embassy to Jerusalem – Just Not Immediately

The White House just issued this statement on the American Embassy in Israel:

“While President Donald J. Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act and delayed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance.  President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests.  But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”

Trump Budget is Criminal; Ryan & Republicans are Accomplices

Donald Trump delivers his joint address to Congress, as Mike Pence and Paul Ryan cheer him on. Trump’s 2018 budget may be unbelievably cruel and callous, but it mimics the principles that Ryan and the Republicans have been crusading for © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

It doesn’t matter that Trump’s preposterously named “A New Foundation for American Greatness” budget is “dead on arrival” according to even staunch Republican, Texas Senator John Cornyn. Much of it is the long-time wet dream of Paul Ryan and Republicans whose singular ambition has been to destroy the New Deal, Square Deal, Great Society. They would eliminate the minimum wage, child labor laws, food and product safety, Clean Air & Water protections, Social Security and Medicare and most notably Medicaid, sell off national parks and monuments to mining and oil and gas industrialists. And this is before taking into account tax “reform” that would take $2 trillion out of the national budget to put into the pockets of the wealthiest and corporations, so they have even more extra pocket change to spend on political campaigns.

Indeed, the Trump budget is everything that the Republicans have been dying to do, but didn’t dare. But Trump doesn’t care. He has shown that it really isn’t hard atall to cut the budget when you really don’t care what the numbers represent,when you have no clue and no interest.

The Trump Budget is built on “Trumponomics, as Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Mulvaney proudly exclaimed, “It’s a taxpayer-first budget, going line by line through the budget, trying to put yourself in the shoes of the people who are paying for those lines….What Trumponomics is and what this budget is a part of is an effort to get to sustained 3 percent economic growth in this country again..And by the way, we do not believe that that is something fanciful.”

Indeed, this is a “tough love” approach to force malingerers off things like food stamps – it’s not non-living wages paid by companies pocketing record profits that keep workers below the poverty line that’s the problem.

“Getting people back to work. Create an environment where people more comfortable staying at …We no longer measure compassion by the number of programs or number of people on programs. We measure success by how many get off programs and have success in lives.”

But the figures don’t actually add up.

Economists from across the spectrum say that the math that underlies the main selling point for Trump’s budget, that it will “balance the budget” in 10 years, is a crock. It doesn’t take into account the $1 trillion or so in tax cuts that will go entirely to the wealthiest and to corporations that Trump sketched out; it assumes a 3% rate of annual economic growth, which would mean 50% more economic activity, which everyone says is beyond pie-in-the-sky; and it actually double-counts $2 trillion, prompting headlines like this one from Slate, “Donald Trump’s budget is based on a hilarious accounting fraud” and “The dumb accounting error at the heart of Trump’s budget “ from Vox.

Health care a right, not a privilege? Trump’s budget projects a 28.3% DROP in spending for health services, $2 trillion less spending, over a 10-year period – despite the aging and increase in population. This includes a 27% decrease in spending for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (imagine another Ebola, Zika or Swine Flu outbreak); 25% drop in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (even as Trumpcare will no longer include mental health or addiction), 25% less spending for research and training, including 25% cut for the National Institutes of Health (no interest in finding therapies or cures for Zika,  Alzheimers or “orphan” diseases that wouldn’t be profitable enough for Big Pharma); 40% cut for the Food & Drug Administration (let Big Pharma do what they will); 15% drop in food safety and inspection; 17% cut to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 16% cut in already strapped Occupation and Mine Safety and Health spending even as he overturned regulations.

$1.4 trillion gap in infrastructure spending to repair decaying roads, bridges airports? Trump would cut Transportation spending by 25% cut (65% cut to National Infrastructure Investments; 50% cut to air transportation which is already woefully in need of upgrades); 28% cut to Education, Training, Employment and Social Services.

His cuts to environmental protection – on top of slashing regulations that give communities a fighting chance to protect their air, water and public health – amount to Hague Tribunal level of war criminality for what he will do to the planet, let alone our communities. The allocation is cut 27.1% – $132 billion worth – including a 34% cut in Pollution control and abatement, 42% cut in Regulatory, enforcement and research programs, 37% cut in Hazardous substance superfund ($330 million less in 2018).

Trump would end funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts—“saving” over $100 million in 2018. He cuts out $129 million in funding for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement. He cuts out $233 million in 2018 for the EPA’s Research & Development (ie. climate change science). It eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, $347 million worth in 2018; and ends funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay, amounting to $427 million in 2018.

Trump would cut General Science, Space & Technology spending by 14.7%, including 18.9% cut to General Science and basic research.

International Affairs would be cut nearly in half, including 26% cut in spending for Global Health programs; 74% cut in Refugee programs; 66% percent cut in International Disaster Assistance, 83% cut in “other” development and humanitarian assistance.”

(See the New York Times, “How Trump’s Budget Would Affect Every Part of Government”).

Setting aside for a moment that Trump and his billionaire friends don’t actually pay their fare share of taxes, nor do many profitable American companies which have stashed $2 trillion in offshore accounts, the Republicans’ approach is what Hillary Clinton correctly observed, “trickle down economics on steroids.” It didn’t work with Reagan or George W. Bush. And this is even worse.

No matter: the extremity of Trump’s proposed budget, the callousness of it, will give cover to Ryan and the House Republicans and make anything they do seem “moderate”, even “compassionate.” So they cut Medicaid by $600 billion instead of $866 billion and call it a “win” for the little people; they cut the State Department by 20% instead of 30% and pat themselves on the head; they cut the EPA by 25% instead of 31%.

 

Here’s what Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) wrote: “Speaker of the House Paul Ryan says that Donald Trump’s new budget is ‘right on the target.’ That’s all you need to know about just how devastating Trump’s budget will be for working families in Massachusetts and across this country.

“It’s obscene:

  • $5 billion in cuts to public education
  • $73 billion in cuts to Social Security
  • $191 billion in cuts to food stamps
  • $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid (and that’s in addition to the $880 billion the House Republicans are slashing in their so-called “health care” bill)

“Those are just a few of the highlights. What else gets cut? Money for children’s health care, money to combat the opioid epidemic, money for medical research, money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and so much more.

“This budget is ‘right on the target’ only if the target is to sucker-punch kids, seniors, the poor and the sick. If the Republicans make good on this budget, they could deliver the final blow to America’s working families.

We don’t build a future by ripping health care away from tens of millions of people. We don’t build a future by starving education, by letting our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, and by shutting down the big pipeline of medical and scientific research in this country.

“We build a future by making the investments in ourselves and all of our people – so the next kid can get ahead, and the kid after that, and the kid after that. We’ve done this before in our country, and we can do it again.

”Budgets aren’t just about dollars and cents. Budgets are about our values, and this budget is morally bankrupt,” Warren wrote.

Trump and the Republicans would cut out all the things that have “made America great,” and a world leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, not to mention the main tools for spreading democracy and human rights across the globe (through capitalist investment, which is what China and Russia are now doing).

This is the midst of an actually strong economy, near “full employment” and as we keep hearing, a record stock market.

The Trump budget is the essence of everything that Trump is doing to weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.

As we marked Memorial Day this past weekend, a New York Times book review of “The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost,” by Cathal J. Nolan, pointed out that “Generally, one side, usually the one with a smaller economy and population, becomes exhausted, and gives up. Talk about élan and audacity all you like, he counsels, but what wins wars is demography and economic strength.” That is to say, winning a war is more a matter of “hearts and minds” vs. “bombs and brigades” as we have been seeing in America’s longest wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Everything that Trump has done so far (putting aside the fact that he is an illegitimate occupier of the Oval Office by selling out to an adversary government), will weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.

Indeed, Trump, who cozied up to the Saudis while hectoring NATO allies and the G7, on his “epic” overseas trip, came back declaring “a home run”, while Germany’s Angela Merkel told Europe,  “We can no longer depend on the US or UK. We are on our own.”

New York State, along with other “blue” states like California, already send way more income tax money to Washington than we get back while the “red” states, which so pride themselves in low state taxes and low wages get far more than they send. Like tenants with a legal fight against their landlord, I would propose that New Yorkers collect their federal income tax money in an escrow account, to pay for services that should be paid by the federal government, such as police and security protection (which Trump is threatening to cut to New York and other states that don’t cooperate in his roundup of undocumented individuals), environmental restoration, health care for those whose subsidies have been eliminated, public schools, infrastructure repair, food stamps and school lunch program.

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© 2017 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

Trump, to Save Presidency, Expand Powers, Sets Himself on Path to be War President

Memorial Day Parade, Long Island, NY. Where are the parades for the peacemakers? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This weekend we properly honor the millions who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation since the Revolutionary War, which established us as a free and independent nation founded upon “We the People” as its governing principle.

But where are the parades for the peacemakers who just as equally keep us free, independent, who are the shield to our values and our way of life? Where are the parades for the diplomats, the professors and teachers, the scientists and researchers, the doctors and nurses and social workers?

Donald Trump, on his first overseas trip, has expressly shown his values, as epitomized in the $110 billion military deal he signed with Saudi Arabia, embracing Saudi Arabia as an ally in the fight against ISIS but ignoring Saudis’ role in 9/11 and in funding the schools that breed anti-Israel and jihadist ideology and terrorism. And it is clear in how in both Saudi Arabia and Israel, he fomented hostility against Iran even as the Iranians overwhelmingly reelected President Rouhani, a moderate who has shifted even further away from the hard-liners in pursuing better alliances with the West.

Trump doesn’t care because he needs an enemy to march against, to battle against. That is his unifying principle, he thinks, to gain position for Israel among the Sunni-majority nations, and resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict – not with diplomacy but with militancy.

(How fitting that Trump was welcomed to Saudi Arabia with a traditional dance of the Najd region, that is typically performed to celebrate victory in war. Trump was in the middle of the melee, along with his top aides Gary Cohn and Steve Bannon and photographers and videographers captured him swaying to the drumbeat-fueled chanting.)

Trump’s budget just released by henchman, OMB Director Mike Mulvaney, shows his priorities and his values: 10% increase ($54 billion) to the military (to $603 billion), slashing an equal amount from domestic programs (to $462 billion) – accomplished by slashing health care spending and defunding Planned Parenthood, slashing Food Stamps and Meals on Wheels and Public Broadcasting, student loans, Social Security disability program, environmental programs altogether, and significantly rebalancing the budget already bloated in favor of the defense industry. (The United States already spend more on Defense than the next 7 countries combined, a list that includes Russia and China.)

It is not just the domestic programs that go toward everyday Americans that are cut, it is also dramatically slashing diplomacy in favor of war.

Trump’s budget calls for nearly 30% cut in allocations for the State Department (from $38.8 billion to $27.7 billion), which was already so pressed for funding, it had trouble paying for the level of security that might have prevented the Benghazi tragedy. And, oh yes, dramatically cutting foreign aid, including cruelly expanding the Global Gag Rule from denying aid not just to family planning services that don’t explicitly censure abortion, but ALL global health assistance programs including HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria and global health security.

Trump (and the Republicans because this is really Paul Ryan’s budget) would cut programs for health, climate change and environment that counter famine, drought and flooding, foreign aid and diplomacy. This would do nothing to address the underlying issues that lead to violent conflict, but rather add gasoline to the fire of seething discontent, both abroad and at home.

And that’s because Trump craves to be a War President. He sees that War Presidents can enact martial law, erase personal liberties, suspend habeus corpus, promote torture as an instrument of national security, suspend a free press. He can be the unquestioned, unchallenged, adored autocrat.

Why didn’t he condemn Turkey President Erdogan’s goons for beating up American protesters in Washington DC? Because he is smacking to do the same thing, to have an excuse to crack down on free speech, free press, free assembly.

For Trump, military power is the path to unfettered domestic control. After all, the hot-war in Iraq (as opposed to the less flashy missions to route out the Taliban who were shielding Osama bin Ladin in Afghanistan) worked so well for Bush/Cheney to get their tax cuts. Indeed, Trump is close to reigniting that war, by sending thousands more troops into Afghanistan.

Trump has installed generals in traditionally civilian roles in charge of the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security, while installing the most inept, inexperienced, corrupt to head agencies most directly involved in domestic programs (housing, environment, interior, health and human services, education, commerce).

Recently, when he was in a well-publicized video chat with NASA Astronauts aboard the International Space Station, in response to a statement of the importance of international cooperation to achieve such milestones as a Mars mission, Trump, without missing a beat, remarked on the “military applications of space.” Who does that?

He showed his predilection when, on Day 1, he told the CIA “we may have a second chance at getting at Iraq’s oil” because, you know, he learned  when he was a boy that “to the victor belongs the spoils.” He also complained that the US doesn’t win wars anymore.

His intense interest in spending on costly military hardware is telling because, barring Trump instigating a new hot war, the next war will be fought in cyberspace, and the battlefield will be the electric grid, the financial networks and the utility plant. Our main enemy now consists of some tens of thousands of militant terrorists, including lone wolves recruited over the internet and under the spell of radical ideology, who could pop up anywhere with a home-made bomb in a backpack, a machete, or a truck to ram into a crowd of pedestrians, but won’t be defeated by sending in bombers or brigades.

Nonetheless, Trump wants to explode the domestic budget – cutting billions from programs which benefit everyday Americans – to pay for military hardware.

Why? Because for Trump, the $ is Almighty. Spending money on clean energy and sustainability is an investment toward a better future; spending money on bombs has to be constantly replenished. I wonder how much that spending will come back to him as profit – he already profited on the stocks he owned when he spent $80 million on the 59 Tomahawk missiles exploded in the staged attack on a Syrian air base which actually did not harm the base or the planes. It will definitely profit him, though, as a payoff to his donors.

In theater when you show a gun in the first act, it will absolutely be used by the third act. But let’s examine why: this gives Trump the big shiny, flashy, muscular objects that feed his narcissism. But also, it expands his virtually unlimited power as Commander-in-Chief (a function he has already proved completely inept at), while domestic programs are much more controlled by Congress. But by expanding the military in the way he intends, he continues to show that his “vision” is based on the world of the 1950s and 1960s. Hence his renewed interest in expanding, not reducing nuclear weapons.

Trump is upping US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where is the outrage over the service members and civilians and allies (like the Russian soldiers) who have been lost in flawed, failed missions orchestrated by the most inept Commander-in-Chief this country has ever had, who casually gives a “go” for a raid over dinner, without consultation or consideration of the ramifications? Imagine if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were in office, there would be mobs with pitchforks flooding the streets, demanding resignation or impeachment.

The real worry is that he will use North Korea as his means to become a War President, just as Bush/Cheney used fictional WMD, conflated with 9/11, to invade Iraq. Unfortunately for Trump, South Korea has just elected a “sunshine” president who favors engagement with North Korea, which may result in Kim Jong-un tamping down his own saber-rattling.

But Trump’s saber-rattling against Iran will only bolster North Korea’s resolve to pursue nuclear weapons because they see what happens when an autocrat gives them up or doesn’t have them: Libya. Ukraine. Iraq. Iran. If he were truly interested in diplomacy, he would realize that.

He’s not interested in diplomacy or human rights or for that matter, American values.

Asked about his failure to extract human rights reforms as a condition for the $110 billion sale of armaments ($350 billion over 10 years), Trump said, “We have to defeat these forces of evil [Islamic radical terrorism]. Only then can you create the conditions to really allow human rights to flourish.”

“The glaring absence of human rights from Trump’s agenda will only embolden further violations in a region where governments flout the rights of their own people in the name of the fight against terror, and violate international humanitarian law in conflicts fueled on large part by US arms transfers,” said Amnesty International.

Trump’s reaction to the Saudi deal? “That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States.  Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs”

And in remarks with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Trump said , “One of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States. And for us that means jobs and it also means frankly great security back here, which we want.”

Trump is the Arms-Dealer-In-Chief.

Trump also is content to brush aside human rights in negotiating new trade deals.

“Mr. Trump has dispensed with what he considers pointless moralizing and preachy naïveté. He has taken foreign policy to its most realpolitik moment in generations, playing down issues of human rights or democracy that animated his predecessors, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. His ‘America First’ approach focuses not on how other nations treat their people but on what they can do for the United States,” Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times (April 4, 2017).

Trump’s only value is that The $ is Almighty, greenbacked by military might.

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© 2017 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 atwww.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Trump Insists ‘There was No Collusion’ Between Campaign & Russia

Donald Trump insists any suggestion of collusion between his campaign and Russia is “ridiculous” and he did not obstruct justice in firing FBI Director James Comey © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump, during a joint press conference with President Santos of Colombia, May 18, in answer to a question, “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?     And also as you look back –“ dismissed it saying, “No.  No.  Next question.” 

Here’s more:

Q    Next question.  As you look back over the past six months or year, have you had any recollection where you’ve wondered if anything you have done has been something that might be worthy of criminal charges in these investigations or impeachment, as some on the left are implying?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I think it’s totally ridiculousEverybody thinks so.  And again, we have to get back to working our country properly so that we can take care of the problems that we have.  We have plenty of problems.  We’ve done a fantastic job.  We have a tremendous group of people.  Millions and millions of people out there that are looking at what you had just said, and said, “What are they doing?”

Director Comey was very unpopular with most people.  I actually thought when I made that decision — and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein.  But when I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision, because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side — not only the Republican side — they were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.

Then he had the very poor performance on Wednesday.  That was a poor, poor performance.  So poor, in fact, that I believe — and you’d have to ask him, because I don’t like to speak for other people — but I believe that’s why the Deputy Attorney General went out and wrote his very, very strong letter.

And then, on top of that, after the Wednesday performance by Director Comey, you had a person come and have to readjust the record, which many people have never seen before, because there were misstatements made.  And I thought that was something that was terrible.

We need a great director of the FBI.  I cherish the FBI.  It’s special.  All over the world, no matter where you go, the FBI is special.  The FBI has not had that special reputation with what happened in the campaign, what happened with respect to the Clinton campaign, and even you could say — directly or indirectly — with respect to the much more successful Trump campaign. 

We’re going to have a director who is going to be outstanding.  I’ll be announcing that director very soon, and I look forward to doing it.  I think the people in the FBI will be very, very thrilled.

And just in concluding, we look forward to getting this whole situation behind us so that when we go for the jobs, we go for the strong military, when we go for all of the things that we’ve been pushing so hard and so successfully, including healthcare — because Obamacare is collapsing.  It’s dead; it’s gone.  There’s nothing to compare anything to because we don’t have healthcare in this country.  You just look at what’s happening.  Aetna just pulled out.  Other insurance companies are pulling out.  We don’t have healthcare.  Obamacare is a fallacy.  It’s gone.  We need healthcare. 

We need to cut taxes.  We’re going to cut taxes.  Forget what I want; it will be the biggest tax cut in the history of our nation.  And that’s what I want.  It’s going to bring back companies.  It’s going to bring back jobs.  We lost so many jobs and so many companies to countries that are not so far from you, Mr. President — they’re very close to you, actually — and to many other places throughout the world.  We’re going to change that.  We’re going to have expansion.

We already do.  You look at what’s happening with Ford and with General Motors in Michigan and Ohio.  You look at the tremendous number of jobs that are being announced in so many different fields.  That’s what I’m proud of, and that’s what we want to focus our energy on.

The other is something I can only tell you:  There was no collusion.  And everybody — even my enemies have said, there is no collusion.

So we want to get back and keep on the track that we’re on.  Because the track that we’re on is record-setting, and that’s what we want to do, is we want to break very positive records.

Q    Mr. President, I’d like to get your reaction to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Russian interference in the campaign.  Was this the right move, or is this part of a “witch hunt”?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt.  And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero. 

I think it divides the country.  I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things.  So I can tell you that we want to bring this great country of ours together, Jon.  And I will also say very strongly, we’ve had tremendous success.  You look at our job numbers, you look at what’s going on at the border, as we discussed before; if you look at what will be happening — you’re going to see some incredible numbers with respect to the success of General Mattis and others with the ISIS situation.  The numbers are staggering, how successful they’ve been, the military has been.

Tomorrow, as you know, I’m going to Saudi Arabia, going to Israel.  I’m going to Rome.  And we have the G7.  We have a lot of great things going on. 

So I hate to see anything that divides.  I’m fine with whatever people want to do, but we have to get back to running this country really, really well.  We’ve made tremendous progress in the last 100-some-odd days.  Tremendous progress.  And you see job numbers, you see all of the production that’s starting.  Plants starting to open again.  Haven’t been open in years.  I’m very proud of it.  That’s what I want to be focused on.  Because, believe me, there’s no collusion.  Russia is fine.  But whether it’s Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America.

So, thank you very much.

In Remarks to NASA Astronauts, Trump Reacts to “International Cooperation,” “Discovery” & “Science Education” By Pointing to Military Application of Space

Marchers at the March for Science pass Trump International Hotel, New York City, April 22, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Only Donald Tweeter Trump could reply to a remark about how the International Space Station is “by far, the best example of international cooperation and what we can do when we work together in the history of humanity” with a statement about the “tremendous military application in space.  We’re rebuilding our military like never before.”

Following the astronauts’ inspiration message to the thousands of students participating in the video chat with Peggy Whitson, the commander on the international space station, who just hit a milestone as the American with the most time in space, and a discussion of all the scientific and medical achievements gained from the space station, Trump said:

So well said.  And I have to say, there’s tremendous military application in space.  We’re rebuilding our military like never before.  We’re ordering equipment, and we’re going to have the strongest military that we’ve ever had, the strongest military that the world has ever seen, and there’s been no time where we need it more.  And I’m sure that every student watching wants to know, what is next for Americans in space.”

Then, after being told that a Mars mission is planned for the 2030s, Trump, again showing how clueless and uncaring he is about actual facts, says it would take place during his first term, or “at worst” his second term (apparently he intends to pull an Erdogan).

Here is the White House transcript which speaks volumes about the so-called Commander-in-Chief – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

10:00 A.M. EDT

NASA: White House, this is Mission Control, Houston.  Please call Station for a voice check.

THE PRESIDENT:  Do you hear me?

CMDR. WHITSON:  Yes, sir.  We have you loud and clear.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s what we like — great American equipment that works.  And this isn’t easy.  (Laughter.)

I want to say it’s very exciting to be here today — very, very exciting — and to speak to you live with three brave American astronauts.  These are our finest.  These are great, great Americans, great people.  Two join us from orbit aboard the International Space Station:  Commander Peggy Whitson and Colonel Jack Fischer.  And Peggy Whitson has been setting records, and we’re going to talk about that very soon.

I’m here in the Oval Office, along with my daughter Ivanka and astronaut Kate Rubins, who recently returned from space and from the Space Station.  Together, we are being joined by students all across America, thousands and thousands of students who are learning — they’re learning about space, learning about a lot of other things — and they’re watching this conversation from the classroom.  And, all over, we have astronauts and we have everybody, who are flying right now, 17,000 miles per hour.  That’s about as fast as I’ve ever heard.  I wouldn’t want to be flying 17,000 miles an hour.  But that’s what you do.

Peggy, Jack, and Kate, I know that America’s students are thrilled to hear from you.  But first, I want to say that this is a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight.  Today, Commander Whitson, you have broken the record for the most total time spent in space by an American astronaut — 534 days and counting.  That’s an incredible record to break.  And on behalf of our nation and, frankly, on behalf of the world, I’d like to congratulate you.  That is really something.  And I’d like to know, how does it feel to have broken such a big and important record?

CMDR. WHITSON:  Well, it’s actually a huge honor to break a record like this, but it’s an honor for me basically to be representing all the folks at NASA who make this spaceflight possible and who make me setting this record feasible.  And so it’s a very exciting time to be at NASA.  We are all very much looking forward, as directed by your new NASA bill — we’re excited about the missions to Mars in the 2030s.  And so we actually, physically, have hardware on the ground that’s being built for the SLS rocket that’s going to take us there.  And, of course, the hardware being built now is going to be for the test flights that will eventually get us there.

But it’s a very exciting time, and I’m so proud of the team.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great.  And what are we learning from having you spending your time up there?  I know so much research is done; I’m getting a glimpse of some of it right here in the Oval Office.  What are we learning by being in space?

CMDR. WHITSON:  Well, I think probably the International Space Station is providing a key bridge from us living on Earth to going somewhere into deep space.  So on those Mars missions, we need to better understand how microgravity is really affecting our body, and we need to understand it in great detail.  So, many of the studies are looking at the human body.  We’re also looking at things that involve operations of a space vehicles on these long-duration missions and the technological advancements that will be required.

For instance, on a multiyear Mars mission, we’re going to need to be able to close the life support system, and that means we, right now, for instance, are taking solar power that we collect, and using it to break apart water into oxygen and hydrogen.  The oxygen, we breathe, of course.  We use the hydrogen, combine it back with the CO2 that we take out of the air, and make more water.  But water is such a precious resource up here that we also are cleaning up our urine and making it drinkable.  And it’s really not as bad as it sounds.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s good.  I’m glad to hear that.  (Laughter.)  Better you than me.  I will say, Colonel Fischer, you just arrived, and how was your trip?  Complicated?  Easy?  How did it go?

COL. FISCHER:  Oh, sir, it was awesome.  It made even my beloved F-22 feel a little bit underpowered.  I launched in a Russian vehicle with my Russian friend, Fyodor Yurchikhin, from Kazakhstan.  Got the immediate perspective change as we got to orbit, and I saw that frail, thin blue line of life around the Earth.  Six hours later, we’re docked at the station.  The next day, I install an experiment in the Japanese module that’s going to be looking at new drugs and how we can make those drugs for muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, multi-drug-resistant bacteria — all sorts of things.  A couple hours later, I watched our crewmate, Thomas Pesquet, a Frenchman, drive a Canadian robotic arm to capture a spaceship from Virginia, carrying 3.5 tons of cargo and science that’s going to keep us busy for the next few months, and dock that to the station.

Sir, it’s amazing.  Oh, and then, you know, now I’m talking to the President of the United States while hanging from a wall.  It’s amazing.  The International Space Station is, by far, the best example of international cooperation and what we can do when we work together in the history of humanity.  And I am so proud to be a part of it.  And it’s just cool.  (Laughter.)  Like, yesterday, I had — well, there you go — there’s our resident space ninja doing the gravity demonstration.  And yesterday morning, I had my coffee in floaty ball form, and, sir, it was delicious.  So, it’s awesome.

THE PRESIDENT:  Tell me, Mars — what do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars?  Is there a schedule?  And when would you see that happening?

CMDR. WHITSON:  Well, I think as your bill directed, it will be approximately in the 2030s.  As I mentioned, we actually are building hardware to test the new heavy launch vehicle, and this vehicle will take us further than we’ve ever been away from this planet.  Unfortunately, spaceflight takes a lot of time and money, so getting there will require some international cooperation to get it to be a planet-wide approach in order to make it successful, just because it is a very expensive endeavor.  But it so worthwhile doing.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we want to try and do it during my first term or, at worst, during my second term.  So we’ll have to speed that up a little bit, okay? 

CMDR. WHITSON:  (Laughter.)  We’ll do our best.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, you will.  And I have great respect for you folks.  It’s amazing what you do.  And I just want to introduce another great one.  Kate Rubins is with us today, and she has been so impressive with research and so many other things having to do with NASA.  And, Kate, I understand you’re the first person to sequence DNA in space.  Can you tell us about that?

RUBINS:  Yeah.  So that was actually just this last summer, and it’s a real example of what we can do with technology and innovation.  We’ve got a sequencer down to the size of your cellphone, and we were actually able to fly that onboard the space station and sequence DNA.  It’s not just the technology demonstration, but we can actually use that to do things like detect microbes on the space station, look at astronaut health.  We can easily use that in Earth-based settings, too, to look for disease outbreaks and to do rural healthcare as well.

TRUMP:  That’s fantastic.  That is really great.  I saw some of the work, and it’s incredible.  You know, I’ve been dealing with politicians so much, I’m so much more impressed with these people.  You have no idea. 

Now, speaking of another impressive person — Ivanka, you’ve been very much interested in this program.  Tell us something about it.

MS. TRUMP:  Hi, Dr. Whitson.  First of all, congratulations on your incredible milestone today.  You may know that my father recently signed the Inspire Women Act to encourage female participation in STEM fields across all aerospace areas, and really with a focus on NASA.  So encouraging women and girls to pursue STEM careers is a major priority for this administration.

And today we are sitting with an amazing example of that — Dr. Rubins, and you, Dr. Whitson.  So I would love to hear from you, what was the impetus for you to get involved in the sciences?

RUBINS:  Yeah, so when I around fifteen, I actually went to a conference, and that was very inspiring for me.  It was sort of the beginning of recombinant DNA and understanding biology.  And so just that exposure to scientists and the kinds of things that you can do with science and technology innovation.

MS. TRUMP:  Amazing.  Dr. Whitson?

CMDR. WHITSON:  For me, it was actually the Apollo program was my inspiration, and that was when it became a dream to become an astronaut.  But I don’t really think it became a goal until I graduated from high school, when the first female astronauts were selected.  And seeing those role models, and with the encouragement of my parents and various mentors in college and graduate school, and when I started working at Rice, that’s what made it possible, I think, to become an astronaut.  And it took me a lot longer to become an astronaut than I ever really wanted it to take, but I do think I’m better at my job because of the journey.

MS. TRUMP:  You’re an incredible inspiration to us all.  So I would also like to ask you one more question.  I’m incredibly curious, as I’m sure all the students across the country are, to know what a day in the life in space is like.  Could you share what a typical day looks like, what the challenges are, just any special moments?

CMDR. WHITSON:  Well, a typical day, we wake up and look at the messages from the ground, because we have a huge ground team that’s working overnight to prepare changes or the details of the tests that we’re going to be performing over the course of the day.  So first thing I do is check out that, see what’s changed.

But on any given day, it can be so dramatically different.  On one day, we might be focusing on science.  On another day, we might be repairing the carbon dioxide removal system.  On another day, soon Jack and I are going to do a spacewalk.  We talked about, last Saturday, we did robotics operations.  I love the diversity of the different activities that we do.  Plus, you know, we have over 200 investigations ongoing onboard the space station, and I just think that’s a phenomenal part of the day.

Of course, there’s also just the living and, onboard the space station, it’s such a unique and novel environment.  Nothing that we’re used to on the ground.  And it’s so special to just be in zero gravity.  So Jack is the new guy here, and I think he can probably give you a better perspective on what that’s like.

COL. FISCHER:  Well, you know, everything here — my dad always said that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.  And we work really hard up here, but it’s not really work, it’s just fun.  It’s like playing fort almost, only you’re changing the world while you do it.

And then on the off time, the other morning I was working out, and on our machine that we work out on, right below it is the Cupola window.  And so when you’re on the device where you do crunches, every time you come up, you see out the window.  And it’s awesome because you kind of go, crunch, “Oh, my gosh, that’s beautiful!  I got to do that again.”  Crunch, “Oh my gosh, that’s beautiful.”  It’s awesome.  Everything we do here is fun, and it feels so great to know that we’re making a difference on the ground and for the future of humanity as well.  So it’s an incredible, incredible job.

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re making a great difference, I have to say.  And this is a very exciting time for our country, and you see what’s happening with our country in terms of jobs, in terms of business, and there’s such excitement and such enthusiasm.  Many American entrepreneurs are racing into space.  I have many friends that are so excited about space.  They want to get involved in space from the standpoint of entrepreneurship and business. 

Tell us about the opportunities that could exist for the next generation of scientists and engineers.  Is that something that you think a student — because you have so many students, hundreds of thousands watching — is that something that you think that students should be focusing, or should they be thinking about other subjects?  What do you think are the opportunities for young students wanting to be involved in space?

A few of the New York City public school students pleading that the government not cut funding for science education, at the March for Science, New York City, April 22, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

COL. FISCHER:  Sir, absolutely.  I think that this is probably the most exciting in space exploration, certainly in my lifetime.  We are about to just have an explosion of activity.  There is so much involvement on the space station with commercial industries and commercial partners.  We have an entire program to manage the science.  NASA has done a wonderful job of seeding a new industry with the Commercial Crew Program and the Commercial Cargo Program so that we can build the infrastructure we need for the future exploration.

One thing I love about American entrepreneurs is, once you get them going, you better stand out of their way because they’re going to start chucking.  And we’re about to that point.  NASA is taking on that expensive, hard, complex task of going further and deeper into space with the wonderful new rocket, Space Launch System and Orion.  And then, as soon as we break open that door, this incredible infrastructure that we’ve been building is going to be right there to pick up the baton and continue into the stars.

I would say to all the students that are watching, the time to get excited is now.  If you aren’t studying science and math, you might want to think about that because our future in the stars starts now, and you can be a part of that if, like Dr. Whitson, you can find that passion and work really hard.  And we’re going to find a permanent foothold in the stars for humanity if you do that.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you.  So well said.  And I have to say, there’s tremendous military application in space.  We’re rebuilding our military like never before.  We’re ordering equipment, and we’re going to have the strongest military that we’ve ever had, the strongest military that the world has ever seen, and there’s been no time where we need it more.  And I’m sure that every student watching wants to know, what is next for Americans in space. 

I’m very proud that I just signed a bill committing NASA to the aim of sending America astronauts to Mars.  So we’ll do that.  I think we’ll do it a lot sooner than we’re even thinking.  So which one of you is ready to go to Mars?  Are you ready?  And I think you’re ready.  I know you’re ready, right?  We just discussed that.  She’d like to go to Mars very quickly.  Who’s ready to go to Mars up there?

CMDR. WHITSON:  We are absolutely ready to go to Mars.  It’s going to be a fantastic journey getting there, and very exciting times, and all of us would be happy to go.  But I want all the young people out there to recognize that the real steps are going to be taken in a few years.  And so by studying math, science, engineering, any kind of technology, you’re going to have a part in that, and that will be very exciting.

THE PRESIDENT:  I just want to thank you very much.  And, Dr. Whitson, I just — congratulations.  Amazing.  What an amazing thing that you’ve done.  Everybody here — I know you’re family — but everybody here is incredibly proud of the record you just broke.  I hope that every young American watching today finds, in your example, a reason to love space and think about space because many great things are going to come out, tremendous discoveries in medicine and so many other fields.

So thank you very much.  I want to say God bless you, God bless America.  We are very, very proud of you, and very proud of your bravery.  Thank you very much.

 

END                10:19 A.M. EDT

Obama Levels Sanctions at Russia in Response to Interfering in Election, Harassing Diplomats

Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The US has evidence that Putin was directly involved in orchestrating cyber attacks and information dissemination intended to tilt the US election toward Donald Trump’s victory. Trump has dismissed the unified analysis of more than a dozen US intelligence agencies and has indicated he would be a close ally of Putin or as Hillary Clinton put it during the campaign, “Putin’s Puppet.”© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The US has evidence that Putin was directly involved in orchestrating cyber attacks and information dissemination intended to tilt the US election toward Donald Trump’s victory. Trump has dismissed the unified analysis of more than a dozen US intelligence agencies and has indicated he would be a close ally of Putin or as Hillary Clinton put it during the campaign, “Putin’s Puppet.”© 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Today, President Obama authorized a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election in 2016.  “Russia’s cyber activities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in U.S. democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the U.S. government.  These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” the White House stated.

“Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election,” President Obama stated . These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.  These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year.  Such activities have consequences.  Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response.”

The President issued an executive order that expands upon his authority to respond to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine our election processes and institutions, or those of our allies or partners.

Using this new authority, Obama sanctioned nine entities and individuals:  the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.  In addition, the Secretary of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.  The State Department is also shutting down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, that the government charges were being used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes. Also, the State Department is declaring “persona non grata” 35 Russian intelligence operatives who will have to leave the US within 72 hours.

Finally, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity –including the codes and IP addresses – to help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.

“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities,” the President added. “We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized. In addition to holding Russia accountable for what it has done, the United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior, and interfere with democratic governance. To that end, my Administration will be providing a report to Congress in the coming days about Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election, as well as malicious cyber activity related to our election cycle in previous elections.”

As for the timeline, senior administration officials, answering journalists’ questions, stated:

“Our first priority was publicly disclosing the information – it was most important to make public what we knew – and we did that October 7. That was a unique if not unprecedented step to come out with the common view of US intelligence agencies that a foreign power was influencing our election. We also wanted to give warning directly to the Russians, in public and in private, numerous times, that we knew what they were doing and were preparing a response. We wanted them to absorb that message and have that affect their behavior. We were concerned about securing the election – and there is no evidence that the Russians tampered with the vote. The priority for our cybersecurity efforts was to make sure our election was secure. But the material that had been hacked and was being released – it was not like that genie could be put back in the bottle. We were putting this together in context with [hacked] information being shared, publicly released and reported on by the news media. We wanted to do [respond] as methodically as possible: what we could do with sanctions, with diplomats, with the Joint Analysis Report (JAR), and preparing other elements.”

They added that it takes considerable time to put together a package of sanctions – you need to have the evidence sufficient to stand up in court to justify the actions.

“Sanctions packages are time consuming – establishing the basis, then finding the target list. JAR itself is complex procedure as putting together info we can share publicly that provides the best possible guidance about what we know – and response to harassment [of our diplomats] is something focusing on for some time.”

The incoming administration, under Donald Trump, has dismissed the allegations. Trump stated that “we should just get on with our lives,” and signaled he would undo sanctions leveled against Putin, including the sanctions that were put into place after Russia annexed Crimea and engaged in hostilities intended to overthrow the Ukrainian government.

But the Administration officials, pointing to “flagrant violation of norms” that have also seen in interference in our election as well as a level of harassment of US diplomats in Russia – one even being assaulted by a Russian police officer – along with malicious cyber attacks that have been leveled against critical American infrastructure and American companies. to a level that is unprecedented during in the post-Cold War era and has been developing over a period of years,” threaten national security and democratic regimes.

“There is no debate in the US administration: it is a fact that Russia interfered in our democratic election. We have established that to our satisfaction. We would never expect Russia to acknowledge what they did, don’t do it; still deny they are interfering in Ukraine. We say to journalists, look at what they say and what they do. This is a country that has intervened in sovereign country even though can see – bombed civilians, but they deny it. It is not a ‘he said/she said’ situation.  There are facts.”

“We have one president at a time. President Obama will execute the duties of his office until January 20. He’s acting on what he believes is in best interest of the United States.”

There are any number of actions that we’re taking that will [fall to next administration]. .When a new administration takes office, entirely in their judgment a to whether to continue the course we set in number of areas.

“But Russian actions have been sustained over an extended period of time, and by any definition, are against our national interest, not just the interests of this president – harassment of our diplomats is a direct threat of ability of US to conduct diplomacy. Interference with our election is a pattern we see in other western democracies, including some of our closest allies. Malicious cyber targeting of American critical infrastructure would be of concern to future administrations.

“We know from our own consultations this is of concern to American business, and we would expect future administrations to be concerned about the impact on the American economy of Russian cyber activity.  We are taking these actions because of pattern of behavior of period of time, replicated in other countries. We believe is the right approach to take.

“We’re taking these actions consistent with our assessment of what Russia has done – they have been interfering in both the American democratic process and in the conduct of American diplomacy. That should concern all Americans and members of both parties – a sustained effort to both harass our diplomatic personnel and interfere in our democratic process. We have no reason to believe that Russia’s activities will cease – they have been engaged in malicious cyber activity not just here in the United States but in other democratic countries. One reason to sustain [these] activities is that there is every reason that Russia will continue to interfere… These are executive actions. If a future president decided to allow in Russian intelligence agents, reopen those diplomatic compounds that are being used for intelligence, that compromises US national security.”

Here are the details from the White House:

Sanctioning Malicious Russian Cyber Activity

In response to the threat to U.S. national security posed by Russian interference in our elections, the President has approved an amendment to Executive Order 13964.  As originally issued in April 2015, this Executive Order created a new, targeted authority for the U.S. government to respond more effectively to the most significant of cyber threats, particularly in situations where malicious cyber actors operate beyond the reach of existing authorities.  The original Executive Order focused on cyber-enabled malicious activities that:

  • Harm or significantly compromise the provision of services by entities in a critical infrastructure sector;
  • Significantly disrupt the availability of a computer or network of computers (for example, through a distributed denial-of-service attack); or
  • Cause a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain (for example, by stealing large quantities of credit card information, trade secrets, or sensitive information).

The increasing use of cyber-enabled means to undermine democratic processes at home and abroad, as exemplified by Russia’s recent activities, has made clear that a tool explicitly targeting attempts to interfere with elections is also warranted.  As such, the President has approved amending Executive Order 13964 to authorize sanctions on those who:

  • Tamper with, alter, or cause a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.

Using this new authority, the President has sanctioned nine entities and individuals:  two Russian intelligence services (the GRU and the FSB); four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.

  • The Main Intelligence Directorate (a.k.a. Glavnoe Razvedyvatel’noe Upravlenie) (a.k.a. GRU) is involved in external collection using human intelligence officers and a variety of technical tools, and is designated for tampering, altering, or causing a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with the 2016 U.S. election processes.
  • The Federal Security Service (a.k.a. Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti) (a.k.a FSB) assisted the GRU in conducting the activities described above.
  • The three other entities include the Special Technology Center (a.k.a. STLC, Ltd. Special Technology Center St. Petersburg) assisted the GRU in conducting signals intelligence operations; Zorsecurity (a.k.a. Esage Lab) provided the GRU with technical research and development; and the Autonomous Noncommercial Organization “Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems” (a.k.a. ANO PO KSI) provided specialized training to the GRU. 
  • Sanctioned individuals include Igor Valentinovich Korobov, the current Chief of the GRU; Sergey Aleksandrovich Gizunov, Deputy Chief of the GRU; Igor Olegovich Kostyukov, a First Deputy Chief of the GRU; and Vladimir Stepanovich Alexseyev, also a First Deputy Chief of the GRU.

In addition, the Department of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals,Evgeniy Bogachev and Aleksey Belan, under a pre-existing portion of the Executive Order for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.

  • Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev is designated today for having engaged in significant malicious cyber-enabled misappropriation of financial information for private financial gain.  Bogachev and his cybercriminal associates are responsible for the theft of over $100 million from U.S. financial institutions, Fortune 500 firms, universities, and government agencies.
  • Aleksey Alekseyevich Belan engaged in the significant malicious cyber-enabled misappropriation of personal identifiers for private financial gain.  Belan compromised the computer networks of at least three major United States-based e-commerce companies.

Responding to Russian Harassment of U.S. Personnel 

Over the past two years, harassment of our diplomatic personnel in Russia by security personnel and police has increased significantly and gone far beyond international diplomatic norms of behavior.  Other Western Embassies have reported similar concerns.  In response to this harassment, the President has authorized the following actions:

  • Today the State Department declared 35 Russian government officials from the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Russian Consulate in San Francisco “persona non grata.”  They were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status. Those individuals and their families were given 72 hours to leave the United States.
  • In addition to this action, the Department of State has provided notice that as of noon on Friday, December 30, Russian access will be denied to two Russian government-owned compounds, one in Maryland and one in New York.

Raising Awareness About Russian Malicious Cyber Activity

The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing a Joint Analysis Report (JAR) that contains declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence services’ malicious cyber activity, to better help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.

  • The JAR includes information on computers around the world that Russian intelligence services have co-opted without the knowledge of their owners in order to conduct their malicious activity in a way that makes it difficult to trace back to Russia. In some cases, the cybersecurity community was aware of this infrastructure, in other cases, this information is newly declassified by the U.S. government.
  • The report also includes data that enables cybersecurity firms and other network defenders to identify certain malware that the Russian intelligence services use.  Network defenders can use this information to identify and block Russian malware, forcing the Russian intelligence services to re-engineer their malware.  This information is newly de-classified.
  • Finally, the JAR includes information on how Russian intelligence services typically conduct their activities.  This information can help network defenders better identify new tactics or techniques that a malicious actor might deploy or detect and disrupt an ongoing intrusion.

This information will allow network defenders to take specific steps that can often block new activity or disrupt on-going intrusions by Russian intelligence services.  DHS and FBI are encouraging security companies and private sector owners and operators to use this JAR and look back within their network traffic for signs of malicious activity. DHS and FBI are also encouraging security companies and private sector owners and operators to leverage these indicators in proactive defense efforts to block malicious cyber activity before it occurs. DHS has already added these indicators to their Automated Indicator Sharing service.

“Cyber threats pose one of the most serious economic and national security challenges the United States faces today.  For the last eight years, this Administration has pursued a comprehensive strategy to confront these threats.  And as we have demonstrated by these actions today, we intend to continue to employ the full range of authorities and tools, including diplomatic engagement, trade policy tools, and law enforcement mechanisms, to counter the threat posed by malicious cyber actors, regardless of their country of origin, to protect the national security of the United States,” the White House stated.

______________

© 2016 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

 

Clinton in Major Foreign Policy Speech, Draws Contrast with Trump as ‘Unprepared, Misguided and Tempermentally Unfit’ for Commander-in Chief

America’s newest warplane, the F35. Hillary Clinton, in a major foreign policy speech, raises questions about Donald Trump’s fitness to be Commander-in-Chief: ‘Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal.’ © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
America’s newest warplane, the F35. Hillary Clinton, in a major foreign policy speech, raises questions about Donald Trump’s fitness to be Commander-in-Chief: ‘Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal.’ © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In a major speech on Thursday, Hillary Clinton painted a clear picture for the American people of the choice they will face this November — a choice between steady, principled American leadership, and a dangerously uncertain future governed by an unprepared, misguided and temperamentally unfit commander-in-chief.

Here are highlights from her remarks:

On Monday, we observed Memorial Day – a day that means a great deal to San Diego, home of so many active-duty and former military and their families.  We honor the sacrifice of those who died for our country in many ways – by living our values, by making this a stronger and fairer nation, and by carrying out a smart and principled foreign policy.

That’s what I want to speak about today – the challenges we face in protecting our country, and the choice at stake in this election.

It’s a choice between a fearful America that’s less secure and less engaged with the world, and a strong, confident America that leads to keep our country safe and our economy growing.

As Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady, I had the honor of representing America abroad and helping shape our foreign policy at home.  As a candidate for President, there’s nothing I take more seriously than our national security. I’ve offered clear strategies for how to defeat ISIS, strengthen our alliances, and make sure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon.  And I’m going to keep America’s security at the heart of my campaign.

Because as you know so well, Americans aren’t just electing a President in November.  We’re choosing our next commander-in-chief – the person we count on to decide questions of war and peace, life and death.

And like many across our country and around the world, I believe the person the Republicans have nominated for President cannot do the job.

Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different – they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas – just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies.

He is not just unprepared – he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.

This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes – because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.

We cannot put the security of our children and grandchildren in Donald Trump’s hands.  We cannot let him roll the dice with America.

This is a man who said that more countries should have nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia.

This is someone who has threatened to abandon our allies in NATO – the countries that work with us to root out terrorists abroad before they strike us at home.

He believes we can treat the U.S. economy like one of his casinos and default on our debts to the rest of the world, which would cause an economic catastrophe far worse than anything we experienced in 2008.

He has said that he would order our military to carry out torture and the murder of civilians who are related to suspected terrorists – even though those are war crimes.

He says he doesn’t have to listen to our generals or our admirals, our ambassadors and other high officials, because he has – quote –’a very good brain.’

He also said,  ​

‘I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.’​ ​

You know what? I don’t believe him.

He says climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, and he has the gall to say that prisoners of war like John McCain aren’t heroes.

Exactly.

He praises dictators like Vladimir Putin and picks fights with our friends – including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico and the Pope.

He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.

And to top it off, he believes America is weak.  An embarrassment.  He called our military a disaster.  He said we are – and I quote – a ‘third-world country.’​ ​

And he’s been saying things like that for decades.

Those are the words my friends of someone who doesn’t understand America or the world.

And they’re the words of someone who would lead us in the wrong direction. Because if you really believe America is weak – with our military, our values, our capabilities that no other country comes close to matching – then you don’t know America.

And you certainly don’t deserve to lead it.

That’s why – even if I weren’t in this race – I’d be doing everything I could to make sure Donald Trump never becomes President – because I believe he will take our country down a truly dangerous path.

Unlike him, I have some experience with the tough calls and the hard work of statecraft. I wrestled with the Chinese over a climate deal in Copenhagen, brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, negotiated the reduction of nuclear weapons with Russia, twisted arms to bring the world together in global sanctions against Iran, and stood up for the rights of women, religious minorities and LGBT people around the world.

And I have, I have sat in the Situation Room and advised the President on some of the toughest choices he faced.

So I’m not new to this work.  And I’m proud to run on my record, because I think the choice before the American people in this election is clear.

I believe in strong alliances; clarity in dealing with our rivals; and a rock-solid commitment to the values that have always made America great.  And I believe with all my heart that America is an exceptional country – that we’re still, in Lincoln’s words, the last, best hope of earth.  We are not a country that cowers behind walls.  We lead with purpose, and we prevail.

And if America doesn’t lead, we leave a vacuum – and that will either cause chaos, or other countries will rush in to fill the void.  Then they’ll be the ones making the decisions about your lives and jobs and safety – and trust me, the choices they make will not be to our benefit.

That is not an outcome we can live with.

As I see it, there are some important things our next President must do to secure American leadership and keep us safe and our economy growing in the years ahead.  These are all areas in which Donald Trump and I profoundly disagree.  And they are all critical to our future.

First, we need to be strong at home.

That means investing in our infrastructure, education and innovation – the fundamentals of a strong economy.  We need to reduce income inequality, because our country can’t lead effectively when so many are struggling to provide the basics for their families.  And we need to break down the barriers that hold Americans back, including barriers of bigotry and discrimination.

Compare that with what Trump wants to do.  His economic plans would add more than $30 trillion – that’s trillion with a ‘t’ – $30 trillion to our national debt over the next 20 yearsHe has no ideas on education.  No ideas on innovation.  He has a lot of ideas about who to blame, but no clue about what to do.

None of what Donald Trump is offering will make America stronger at home.  And that would make us weaker in the world.

Second, we need to stick with our allies.

America’s network of allies is part of what makes us exceptional.  And our allies deliver for us every day.

Our armed forces fight terrorists together; our diplomats work side by side.  Allies provide staging areas for our military, so we can respond quickly to events on the other side of the world.  And they share intelligence that helps us identify and defuse potential threats.

Take the threat posed by North Korea – perhaps the most repressive regime on the planet, run by a sadistic dictator who wants to develop long-range missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon to the United States.

When I was Secretary of State, we worked closely with our allies Japan and South Korea to respond to this threat, including by creating a missile defense system that stands ready to shoot down a North Korean warhead, should its leaders ever be reckless enough to launch one at us.  The technology is ours.  Key parts of it are located on Japanese ships.  All three countries contributed to it.  And this month, all three of our militaries will run a joint drill to test it.

That’s the power of allies.

And it’s the legacy of American troops who fought and died to secure those bonds, because they knew we were safer with friends and partners.

Now Moscow and Beijing are deeply envious of our alliances around the world, because they have nothing to match them.  They’d love for us to elect a President who would jeopardize that source of strength.  If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin.  We cannot let that happen.

That’s why it is no small thing when he talks about leaving NATO, or says he’ll stay neutral on Israel’s security.

It’s no small thing when he calls Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. We’re lucky to have two friendly neighbors on our land borders.  Why would he want to make one of them an enemy?

And it’s no small thing when he suggests that America should withdraw our military support for Japan, encourage them to get nuclear weapons, and said this about a war between Japan and North Korea – and I quote –​ ​

‘If they do, they do. Good luck, enjoy yourself, folks.’

I wonder if he even realizes he’s talking about nuclear war.

Yes, our friends need to contribute their fair share. I made that point long before Donald Trump came onto the scene – and a number of them have increased their defense spending.  The real debate here is whether we keep these alliances strong or cut them off.  What he says would weaken our country.

Third, we need to embrace all the tools of American power, especially diplomacy and development, to be on the frontlines solving problems before they threaten us at home.

Diplomacy is often the only way to avoid a conflict that could end up exacting a much greater cost.  It takes patience, persistence and an eye on the long game – but it’s worth it.

Take the nuclear agreement with Iran. When President Obama took office, Iran was racing toward a nuclear bomb. Some called for military action.  But that could have ignited a broader war that could have mired our troops in another Middle Eastern conflict.

President Obama chose a different path.  And I got to work leading the effort to impose crippling global sanctions.  We brought Iran to the table.  We began talks. And eventually, we reached an agreement that should block every path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.

Now we must enforce that deal vigorously. And as I’ve said many times before, our approach must be ‘distrust and verify.’​ ​

The world must understand that the United States will act decisively if necessary, including with military action, to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  In particular, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.  They’re our closest ally in the region, and we have a moral obligation to defend them.

But there is no question that the world and the United States, we are safer now than we were before this agreement.  And we accomplished it without firing a single shot, dropping a single bomb or putting a single American soldier in harm’s way.

Donald Trump says we shouldn’t have done the deal.  We should have walked away.  But that would have meant no more global sanctions, and Iran resuming their nuclear program and the world blaming us.  So then what?  War?  Telling the world, good luck, you deal with Iran?

Of course Trump doesn’t have answers to those questions.  Donald Trump doesn’t know the first thing about Iran or its nuclear program.  Ask him.  It’ll become very clear, very quickly.

There’s no risk of people losing their lives if you blow up a golf-course deal.

But it doesn’t work like that in world affairs. Just like being interviewed on the same episode of “60 Minutes” as Putin was, is not the same thing as actually dealing with Putin.

So the stakes in global statecraft are infinitely higher and more complex than in the world of luxury hotels. We all know the tools Donald Trump brings to the table – bragging, mocking, composing nasty tweets – I’m willing to bet he’s writing a few right now.

But those tools won’t do the trick. Rather than solving global crises, he would create new ones.

He has no sense of what it takes to deal with multiple countries with competing interests and reaching a solution that everyone can get behind. In fact, he is downright contemptuous of that work. And that means he’s much more likely to end up leading us into conflict.

Fourth, we need to be firm but wise with our rivals.

Countries like Russia and China often work against us. Beijing dumps cheap steel in our markets. That hurts American workers. Moscow has taken aggressive military action in Ukraine, right on NATO’s doorstep. Now I’ve gone toe-to-toe with Russia and China, and many other different leaders around the world. So I know we have to be able to both stand our ground when we must, and find common ground when we can.

That’s how I could work with Russia to conclude the New START treaty to reduce nuclear stockpiles, and with China to increase pressure on North Korea. It’s how our diplomats negotiated the landmark agreement on climate change, which Trump now wants to rip up.

The key was never forgetting who we were dealing with – not friends or allies, but countries that share some common interests with us amid many disagreements.

Donald doesn’t see the complexity.  He wants to start a trade war with ChinaAnd I understand a lot of Americans have concerns about our trade agreements – I do too.  But a trade war is something very different. We went down that road in the 1930s. It made the Great Depression longer and more painful. Combine that with his comments about defaulting on our debt, and it’s not hard to see how a Trump presidency could lead to a global economic crisis.

And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald’s bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America. He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.  

He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea – something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie. And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A.

Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.

I just wonder how anyone could be so wrong about who America’s real friends are. Because it matters. If you don’t know exactly who you’re dealing with, men like Putin will eat your lunch.

Fifth, we need a real plan for confronting terrorists.

As we saw six months ago in San Bernardino, the threat is real and urgent. Over the past year, I’ve laid out my plans for defeating ISIS.

We need to take out their strongholds in Iraq and Syria by intensifying the air campaign and stepping up our support for Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground. We need to keep pursuing diplomacy to end Syria’s civil war and close Iraq’s sectarian divide, because those conflicts are keeping ISIS alive.  We need to lash up with our allies, and ensure our intelligence services are working hand-in-hand to dismantle the global network that supplies money, arms, propaganda and fighters to the terrorists. We need to win the battle in cyberspace.

And of course we need to strengthen our defenses here at home.

That – in a nutshell – is my plan for defeating ISIS.

What’s Trump’s?  Well he won’t say. He is literally keeping it a secret. The secret, of course, is he has no idea what he’d do to stop ISIS.

Just look at the few things he’s actually said on the subject.

He’s actually said – and I quote –’maybe Syria should be a free zone for ISIS.​’  

Oh, okay – let a terrorist group have control of a major country in the Middle East.

Then he said we should send tens of thousands of American ground troops to the Middle East to fight ISIS.

He also refused to rule out using nuclear weapons against ISIS, which would mean mass civilian casualties.

It’s clear he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. So we can’t be certain which of these things he would do. But we can be certain that he’s capable of doing any or all of them. Letting ISIS run wild. Launching a nuclear attack. Starting a ground war. These are all distinct possibilities with Donald Trump in charge.

And through all his loose talk, there’s one constant theme: demonizing Muslims and playing right into the hands of ISIS’. His proposal to ban 1.5 billion Muslims from even coming to our country doesn’t just violate the religious freedom our country was founded on.  It’s also a huge propaganda victory for ISIS.  And it alienates the very countries we need to actually help us in this fight.

A Trump Presidency would embolden ISIS. We cannot take that risk.

This isn’t reality television – this is actual reality.

And defeating global terrorist networks and protecting the homeland takes more than empty talk and a handful of slogans. It takes a real plan, real experience and real leadership. Donald Trump lacks all three.

And one more thing. A President has a sacred responsibility to send our troops into battle only if we absolutely must, and only with a clear and well-thought-out strategy. Our troops give their all. They deserve a commander-in-chief who knows that.

I’ve worked side-by-side with admirals and generals, and visited our troops in theaters of war.  I’ve fought for better health care for our National Guard, better services for our veterans, and more support for our Gold Star families. We cannot put the lives of our young men and women in uniform in Donald Trump’s hands.

Sixth, we need to stay true to our values.

Trump says over and over again, ​ ​

‘The world is laughing at us.’​ ​

He’s been saying this for decades, he didn’t just start this year. He bought full-page ads in newspapers across the country back in 1987, when Ronald Reagan was President, saying that America lacked a backbone and the world was – you guessed it – laughing at us. He was wrong then, and he’s wrong now – and you’ve got to wonder why somebody who fundamentally has so little confidence in America, and has felt that way for at least 30 years, wants to be our President.

The truth is, there’s not a country in the world that can rival us. It’s not just that we have the greatest military, or that our economy is larger, more durable, more entrepreneurial than any in the world. It’s also that Americans work harder, dream bigger – and we never, ever stop trying to make our country and world a better place.

So it really matters that Donald Trump says things that go against our deepest-held values.  It matters when he says he’ll order our military to murder the families of suspected terrorists.  During the raid to kill bin Laden, when every second counted, our SEALs took the time to move the women and children in the compound to safety. Donald Trump may not get it, but that’s what honor looks like.

And it also matters when he makes fun of disabled people, calls women pigs,
proposes banning an entire religion from our country, or plays coy with white supremacists.  America stands up to countries that treat women like animals, or people of different races, religions or ethnicities as less human.

What happens to the moral example we set – for the world and for our own children – if our President engages in bigotry?

And by the way, Mr. Trump – every time you insult American Muslims or Mexican immigrants, remember that plenty of Muslims and immigrants serve and fight in our armed forces.

Donald Trump, Donald Trump could learn something from them.

That brings me to the final point I want to make today – the temperament it takes
to be Commander-in-Chief.

Every President faces hard choices every day, with imperfect information and conflicting imperatives.  That’s the job.

A revolution threatens to topple a government in a key region, an adversary reaches out for the first time in years – what do you do?

Making the right call takes a cool head and respect for the facts.  It takes a willingness to listen to other people’s points of view with a truly open mind.  It also takes humility – knowing you don’t know everything – because if you’re convinced you’re always right, you’ll never ask yourself the hard questions.

I remember being in the Situation Room with President Obama, debating the potential Bin Laden operation. The President’s advisors were divided.  The intelligence was compelling but far from definitive. The risks of failure were daunting. The stakes were significant for our battle against al Qaeda and our relationship with Pakistan.  Most of all, the lives of those brave SEALs and helicopter pilots hung in the balance.

It was a decision only the President could make. And when he did, it was as crisp and courageous a display of leadership as I’ve ever seen.

Now imagine Donald Trump sitting in the Situation Room, making life-or-death decisions on behalf of the United States.  Imagine him deciding whether to send your spouses or children into battle.  Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal.

Do we want him making those calls – someone thin-skinned and quick to anger, who lashes out at the smallest criticism?  Do we want his finger anywhere near the button?

I have a lot of faith that the American people will make the right decision.  This is a country with a deep reservoir of common sense and national pride.  We’re all counting on that.

Because making Donald Trump our commander-in-chief would be a historic mistake. It would undo so much of the work that Republicans and Democrats alike have done over many decades to make America stronger and more secure. It would set back our standing in the world more than anything in recent memory. And it would fuel an ugly narrative about who we are – that we’re fearful, not confident; that we want to let others determine our future for us, instead of shaping our own destiny.

That’s not the America I know and love.

So yes, we have a lot of work to do to keep our country secure. And we need to do better by American families and American workers – and we will. But don’t let anyone tell you that America isn’t great.  Donald Trump’s got America all wrong. We are a big-hearted, fair-minded country.

There is no challenge we can’t meet, no goal we can’t achieve when we each do our part and come together as one nation.

Every lesson from our history teaches us that we are stronger together. We remember that every Memorial Day.

This election is a choice between two very different visions of America.

One that’s angry, afraid, and based on the idea that America is fundamentally weak and in decline.

The other is hopeful, generous, and confident in the knowledge that America is great – just like we always have been.

Let’s resolve that we can be greater still. That is what I believe in my heart.

I went to 112 countries as your Secretary of State.  And I never lost my sense of pride at seeing our blue-and-white plane lit up on some far-off runway, with ‘The United States of America’  emblazoned on the side.  That plane – those words – our country represents something special, not just to us, to the world.  It represents freedom and hope and opportunity.

I love this country and I know you do too. It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve America and I’m going to do everything I can to protect our nation, and make sure we don’t lose sight of how strong we really are.

Obama in Hiroshima: ‘The start of our own moral awakening’

 

President Obama with President Abe of Japan at the Peace Memorial, Hiroshima (White House pool)
President Obama with President Abe of Japan at the Peace Memorial, Hiroshima (White House pool)

President Obama, the first sitting American President to visit Hiroshima, japan, the site of the world’s only use of an atomic weapon, struck just the right tone in a speech thoughtfully, and carefully constructed to inspire reconciliation, rather than apologize for a decision made in a different time and context. And he made it about the future, the task and the challenge ahead in face of mankind’s scientific and technological know-how to destroy all humanity. The man who won a Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009, who struggled to extract the US from two wars, who worked to secure loose nukes and negotiated a nuclear agreement with Iran has nonetheless been stymied in his goal to reduce the nuclear menace. Here is the text of his remarks, highlighted, strangely idealistic and realistic at the same time:

 

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Hiroshima, Japan

 

5:45 P.M. JST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Seventy-one years ago, on a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed.  A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.

Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima?  We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not so distant past.  We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 in Japanese men, women and children; thousands of Koreans; a dozen Americans held prisoner.  Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.

It is not the fact of war that sets Hiroshima apart. Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man.  Our early ancestors, having learned to make blades from flint and spears from wood, used these tools not just for hunting, but against their own kind.  On every continent, the history of civilization is filled with war, whether driven by scarcity of grain or hunger for gold; compelled by nationalist fervor or religious zeal.  Empires have risen and fallen. Peoples have been subjugated and liberated.  And at each juncture, innocents have suffered, a countless toll, their names forgotten by time.

The World War that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations.  Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art.  Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth.  And yet, the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes; an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints.  In the span of a few years, some 60 million people would die — men, women, children no different than us, shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death.

There are many sites around the world that chronicle this war — memorials that tell stories of courage and heroism; graves and empty camps that echo of unspeakable depravity.  Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction; how the very spark that marks us as a species — our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our tool-making, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will — those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction.

How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to this truth.  How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause.  Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.  Nations arise, telling a story that binds people together in sacrifice and cooperation, allowing for remarkable feats, but those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different.

Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds; to cure disease and understand the cosmos.  But those same discoveries can be turned into ever-more efficient killing machines.

The wars of the modern age teach this truth.  Hiroshima teaches this truth.  Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us.  The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution, as well.

That is why we come to this place.  We stand here, in the middle of this city, and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell.  We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see.  We listen to a silent cry.  We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war, and the wars that came before, and the wars that would follow.

Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering, but we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.  Someday the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness.  But the memory of the morning of August 6th, 1945 must never fade.  That memory allows us to fight complacency.  It fuels our moral imagination.  It allows us to change.

And since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope.  The United States and Japan forged not only an alliance, but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war.  The nations of Europe built a Union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy.  Oppressed peoples and nations won liberation.  An international community established institutions and treaties that worked to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back, and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.

Still, every act of aggression between nations; every act of terror and corruption and cruelty and oppression that we see around the world shows our work is never done. We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations –- and the alliances that we’ve formed -– must possess the means to defend ourselves.  But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.

We may not realize this goal in my lifetime.  But persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe.  We can chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles.  We can stop the spread to new nations, and secure deadly materials from fanatics.

And yet that is not enough.  For we see around the world today how even the crudest rifles and barrel bombs can serve up violence on a terrible scale.  We must change our mindset about war itself –- to prevent conflict through diplomacy, and strive to end conflicts after they’ve begun; to see our growing interdependence as a cause for peaceful cooperation and not violent competition; to define our nations not by our capacity to destroy, but by what we build.

And perhaps above all, we must reimagine our connection to one another as members of one human race.  For this, too, is what makes our species unique.  We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past.  We can learn.  We can choose. We can tell our children a different story –- one that describes a common humanity; one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted.

We see these stories in the hibakusha –- the woman who forgave a pilot who flew the plane that dropped the atomic bomb, because she recognized that what she really hated was war itself; the man who sought out families of Americans killed here, because he believed their loss was equal to his own.

My own nation’s story began with simple words:  All men are created equal, and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Realizing that ideal has never been easy, even within our own borders, even among our own citizens.

But staying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for; an ideal that extends across continents, and across oceans.  The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious; the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family -– that is the story that we all must tell.

That is why we come to Hiroshima.  So that we might think of people we love — the first smile from our children in the morning; the gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table; the comforting embrace of a parent –- we can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here seventy-one years ago.  Those who died -– they are like us.  Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life, and not eliminating it.

When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

The world was forever changed here.  But today, the children of this city will go through their day in peace.  What a precious thing that is.  It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child.  That is the future we can choose -– a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare, but as the start of our own moral awakening.  (Applause.)

 

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate US-Israel Relations

Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues. 

Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14. 

Of all the issues raised during the Brooklyn debate, the only one of particular importance to the New York primary voters raised concerned US-Israel Relations. It also inspired surprising reaction from the audience. 

US-Israel Relations 

BLITZER: Senator, let’s talk about the U.S. relationship with Israel. Senator Sanders, you maintained that Israel’s response in Gaza in 2014 was, quote, “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life.” (APPLAUSE) What do you say to those who believe that Israel has a right to defend itself as it sees fit?  

SANDERS: Well, as somebody who spent many months of my life when I was a kid in Israel, who has family in Israel, of course Israel has a right not only to defend themselves, but to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attack. That is not a debate. (APPLAUSE)

“But — but what you just read, yeah, I do believe that. Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.

“Now, if you’re asking not just me, but countries all over the world was that a disproportionate attack, the answer is that I believe it was, and let me say something else. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING) As somebody who is 100% pro-Israel, in the long run — and this is not going to be easy, God only knows, but in the long run if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)

“So what is not to say — to say that right now in Gaza, right now in Gaza unemployment is s somewhere around 40%. You got a log of that area continues, it hasn’t been built, decimated, houses decimated health care decimated, schools decimated. I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people. That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I to an approach that works in the Middle East.”  (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)

BLITZER: Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Senator Sanders that Israel overreacts to Palestinians attacks, and that in order for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel must, quote, end its disproportionate responses?

CLINTON: I negotiated the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in November of 2012. I did it in concert with (APPLAUSE) President Abbas of the Palestinian authority based in Ramallah, I did it with the then Muslim Brotherhood President, Morsi, based in Cairo, working closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet. I can tell you right now I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages. (APPLAUSE)

“They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. And, so when it came time after they had taken the incoming rockets, taken the assaults and ambushes on their soldiers and they called and told me, I was in Cambodia, that they were getting ready to have to invade Gaza again because they couldn’t find anybody to talk to tell them to stop it, I flew all night, I got there, I negotiated that.

“So, I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist tact, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself. [She said with increasing assertiveness.] (APPLAUSE)

“That does not mean — that does not mean that you don’t take appropriate precautions. And, I understand that there’s always second guessing anytime there is a war. It also does not mean that we should not continue to do everything we can to try to reach a two-state solution, which would give the Palestinians the rights and…” 

BLITZER: … Thank you…

CLINTON: … just let me finish. The rights and the autonomy that they deserve. And, let me say this, if Yasser Arafat had agreed with my husband at Camp David in the Late 1990s to the offer then Prime Minister Barat put on the table, we would have had a Palestinian state for 15 years. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)

“…of course there have to be precautions taken but even the most independent analyst will say the way that Hamas places its weapons, the way that it often has its fighters in civilian garb, it is terrible. (AUDIENCE REACTION)

“I’m not saying it’s anything other than terrible…remember, Israel left Gaza. They took out all the Israelis. They turned the keys over to the Palestinian people.  And what happened? Hamas took over Gaza.

“So instead of having a thriving economy with the kind of opportunities that the children of the Palestinians deserve, we have a terrorist haven that is getting more and more rockets shipped in from Iran and elsewhere.”  

Sanders then attacked Clinton for not “discussing the needs of the Palestinian people,” in her speech to AIPAC, the American-Jewish organization that lobbies on behalf of Israel.

CLINTON: Well, if I — I want to add, you know, again describing the problem is a lot easier than trying to solve it. And I have been involved, both as first lady with my husband’s efforts, as a senator supporting the efforts that even the Bush administration was undertaking, and as secretary of state for President Obama, I’m the person who held the last three meetings between the president of the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of Israel.

“There were only four of us in the room, Netanyahu, Abbas, George Mitchell, and me. Three long meetings. And I was absolutely focused on what was fair and right for the Palestinians.

“I was absolutely focused on what we needed to do to make sure that the Palestinian people had the right to self-government. And I believe that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel’s security.” (APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: There comes a time — there comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”

CLINTON: If you are from whatever perspective trying to seek peace, trying to create the conditions for peace when there is a terrorist group embedded in Gaza that does not want to see you exist, that is a very difficult challenge. 

Sanders Strategist Weighs In

In the spin room after the debate, Sanders’ campaign strategist Tad Devine was asked whether Sanders’ comments about Israel could get him into trouble in New York?

Bernie Sanders campaign strategist Tad Devine © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Bernie Sanders campaign strategist Tad Devine © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The thing about Bernie Sanders is he doesn’t give answers to seek political advantage. He says what he believes. And I think he believes sincerely – and this is from someone who is Jewish, someone who spent 6 months on a kibbutz in Israel, who has a number of family members there –  he believes the best way forward for peace is the one he described tonight. I would just suggest that the answers he gives not just on that issue, but a number of issues, are not given for political calculation but are given because  this is what he believes.”

Next: Universal Health Care, Free College, Supreme Court

 

See also:

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Qualifications, Credibility 

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Gun Violence & Criminal Justice

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Climate Change, Energy & Environment

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate National Security & Foreign Policy

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