UN Ambassador "Haley on Russia and Iran: 'I don't think anything is off the table'" seems to be contradicting earlier Trump administration statements, but I guess since the entire team - what there is of it - consists of clusterfuck after clusterfuck, we shouldn't be surprised. "Trump aide drew plan on napkin to partition Libya into three" - that would-be imperial realignment mastermind would in fact be neo-fascist Gorka. We also have "U.S. Threatens More Pressure on Syria After Missile Strikes," "Trump’s foreign policy is dangerously impulsive," and the most important statement, "The Scariest Part About the Syria Attacks Is What Donald Trump Will Learn from Them."
Though no, that's wrong, the most important thing is that this missile attack started media normalisation of the Trump administration, and that can't be allowed to happen. Journalists need to be reminded that this is still not a normal administration and to stop treating it like one, because they're trying to reset to that mode now that they've seen something familiar: bombing runs.
But we also need not to start digging into conspiracy bullshit. "MSNBC host’s conspiracy theory: What if Putin planned the Syrian chemical attack to help Trump?" NO EVIDENCE. Until such evidence exists, DO NOT DO THIS. DO NOT PROMOTE THIS. (The MSNBC version, not the article calling it out.) We can't let the shitty mainstream media suddenly make "Fake News" into an actual thing across the board in the same way that the right has made all the weird conspiracy theories of the 90s become real! It's the only thing we have.
I haven't seen anything on the Russia-Trump election meddling except for this weird little story: "Tillerson: Election Meddling Something 'Russia Needs To Confront Themselves'." Um, how about an independent investigation confronting it? That'd be good.
In corrosion of civil rights news, we have "After violently dragging a passenger from overbooked flight, United Airlines apologizes to everyone else," and "My phone was searched at LAX, which apparently is the new normal." I imagine you've seen the violent assault on the passenger. The LAX story is targeting a US citizen at a US airport and threatening her with more abuse to come.
Finally, "Big Pharma Funds “Independent” Advocacy Groups Attacking Drug-Price Reduction Bill." It's more ordinary corporatism, but I thought I'd bring it in.
Good luck out there.
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Horrifying News out of Chechnya: "World's First Concentration Camp for Homosexuals Since Hitler's in the 1930s"
by Christopher Frizzelle | The Stranger | Apr 10, 2017
[Remember: Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation]
Reports of "mass detentions" were first seen in Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta on April 1. Citing that story, a New York Times story quickly followed. Chillingly, President Ramzan Kadyrov's regime denied the reports of the "world's first concentration camp for homosexuals," calling them "absolute lies and disinformation" and explaining: "You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic."
A spokesperson for the regime added, "If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return."
That sounds like something the president of Iran has said: "We don't have any gays in Iran." (That is not true.)
As for what's happening in Chechnya, the New York Times reports that officials there find and arrest closeted gay men "partly by posing as men looking for dates on social networking sites." The men are closeted because being out in the Caucasus region "is equal to a death sentence.”
----- 2 -----
Haley on Russia and Iran: 'I don't think anything is off the table'
By Daniella Diaz, CNN
Updated 1001 GMT (1801 HKT) April 10, 2017
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said nothing "is off the table" when it comes to imposing tougher sanctions on Russia and Iran in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN.
"We're calling (Russia and Iran) out," Haley told "State of the Union" anchor Jake Tapper. "But I don't think anything is off the table at this point. I think what you're going to see is strong leadership. You're going to continue to see the United States act when we need to act."
Haley's comments came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told lawmakers he would look into stepping up sanctions on both countries, whose leadership supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who US officials say is responsible for a chemical weapons attack against civilians last week.
In response to that attack, President Donald Trump ordered a US military strike against a Syrian air base where the attack is thought to have originated.
----- 3 -----
My phone was searched at LAX, which apparently is the new normal
Lubana Adi | 7 April 2017 | The Los Angeles Times
One of the happiest moments in my life was the day in 1999 when I became an American citizen. Studying for the citizenship test, I had learned to appreciate the Bill of Rights, including the 4th Amendment, which guarantees the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
More recently I was made to wonder: Does the 4th Amendment apply to Muslim citizens at LAX?
On Feb. 23, I arrived at LAX to begin a long trip to Gaziantep, Turkey, where my aged mother and two brothers are living as refugees from the Syrian wars. At the security checkpoint, I was sent to a separate line, where my purse and carry-on were emptied out, and where I was required to remove my back brace and undergo the usual full-body scan, twice, and an aggressive body search, again twice.
The first body-searcher reached between my legs and groped under my hijab. When I asked the second one to please be gentle with my injured back, she gave me a sharp jab instead. I cried out, lurched forward in pain and demanded to speak to her supervisor. The supervisor released me, but my problems were only beginning.
At the gate, I heard a voice over the loudspeaker: “Lubana Adi, come to the counter!” Several armed men and a woman were waiting for me. I was required yet again to undergo a body search and to have my purse and carry-on emptied. This time, my hands and feet were checked with a paper device that, as was explained, would reveal whether I had recently worked with explosives.
[It gets worse]
----- 4 -----
Tillerson: Election Meddling Something 'Russia Needs To Confront Themselves'
By Esme Cribb | PublishedApril 9, 2017 | Talking Points Memo
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday suggested that in order to deter further electoral meddling, Russia "needs to confront" its own interference in the 2016 U.S. election as well as upcoming elections in Europe.
"This is something that Russia needs to confront themselves and I think examine carefully as to how this is helping them achieve their longer-term objectives," Tillerson said on ABC's "This Week."
He said the U.S. will "continue to talk with" Russian officials "about how this undermines any hope of improving relations not just with the United States," but appeared to suggest that self-reflection will be a stronger deterrent than external pressure.
"It's pretty evident that they are taking similar tactics into electoral processes throughout Europe and so they're really undermining any hope for improved relations with many European countries as well," Tillerson said.
----- 5 -----
U.S. Threatens More Pressure on Syria After Missile Strikes
Julie Pace / AP
Apr 08, 2017
(PALM BEACH, Fla.) — The United States is vowing to keep up the pressure on Syria after the intense nighttime wave of missile strikes from U.S. ships, despite the prospect of escalating Russian ill will that could further inflame one of the world's most vexing conflicts.
Standing firm, the Trump administration on Friday signaled new sanctions would soon follow the missile attack, and the Pentagon was even probing whether Russia itself was involved in the chemical weapons assault that compelled President Donald Trump to action. The attack against a Syrian air base was the first U.S. assault against the government of President Bashar Assad.
Much of the international community rallied behind Trump's decision to fire the cruise missiles in reaction to this week's chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of men, women and children in Syria. But a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the strikes dealt "a significant blow" to relations between Moscow and Washington.
----- 6 -----
Trump aide drew plan on napkin to partition Libya into three
Exclusive: Sebastian Gorka told proposal would be ‘the worst solution’ when he suggested it to senior European diplomat
The Guardian | Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome and Julian Borger in Washington | 10 April 2017
A senior White House foreign policy official has pushed a plan to partition Libya, and once drew a picture of how the country could be divided into three areas on a napkin in a meeting with a senior European diplomat, the Guardian has learned.
Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to Donald Trump under pressure over his past ties with Hungarian far-right groups, suggested the idea of partition in the weeks leading up to the US president’s inauguration, according to an official with knowledge of the matter. The European diplomat responded that this would be “the worst solution” for Libya.
Gorka advocates hardline policies aimed at defeating “radical Islam” and sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group bent on infiltrating the US. As a former Breitbart editor, he is close to Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, who believes the struggle against radical Islam should be the central theme of US foreign policy. But Bannon’s star is on the wane in the White House and he lost his seat on the national security council last week.
Gorka has alarmed foreign diplomats with his views on Libya’s future. The map he drew on a napkin during the transition period cut Libya into three sections, apparently based on the old Ottoman provinces of Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitania in the north-west and Fezzan in the south-west.
Mattia Toaldo, a Libya expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations thinktank, said: “This is like a litmus test of how much you know about Libya. If you the only thing you know is that it was cut into three, then it shows you are clueless about the situation in Libya.”
----- 7 -----
Chechnya has opened concentration camps for gay men
Nick Duffy | Pink News | 10th April 2017, 12:52 PM
Gay men arrested in a ‘purge’ in the Russian region of Chechnya are being held in concentration camp-style prisons, reports have alleged.
Early reports emerged earlier this month that gay people are being targeted in the region, which is part of Russia but has substantial autonomy.
Based on interviews with eyewitnesses and survivors, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reports that a secret prison has been set up in the town of Argun to detain the men arrested in the purge.
One man who was released from the camp told the newspaper that he was subjected to violent “interrogations” at the camp, as Chechen officials attempted to get him to confess the names and locations of more gay men.
The newspaper reports allegations that the Speaker of the Parliament of Chechnya was among officials to visit the site, though the claims have not been substantiated.
The detainees face electric shock torture and violent beatings, while some of them have been held to ransom and used to extort their families.
The Russian LGBT Network, which is running a support line for men fleeing the region, has confirmed the reports.
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The Scariest Part About the Syria Attacks Is What Donald Trump Will Learn from Them
GQ | Jay Willis | 7 April 2017
Donald Trump is, among many other things, a profoundly unpopular president. The first 11 weeks of his administration have been marred by the type of records that a Commander-in-Chief really, really doesn't want to set: After posting the lowest inaugural approval rating in history, Trump beat his own benchmark, and again after that, and again after that, while pundits are unleashing increasingly scathing reviews of the White House's diligent efforts to run the country into the ground. Some of the latest numbers pin Trump's approval rating at 34 percent, an embarrassing trough to which he managed to sink faster than any other president in history. Talk about an innovator.
However, the man can take heart, because there is one tried-and-true measure for boosting a president's popularity: Fighting a war, baby. Historical examples of the "rally 'round the flag" phenomenon abound: Jimmy Carter's approval rating jumped 27 points in the early days of the Iran hostage crisis. President George H.W. Bush soared to 89 percent during the Persian Gulf War, and a decade later, his son edged him by one measly point after the September 11 attacks. (Yes, the the highest approval rating in history belongs to George W. Bush.) There's even a Dustin Hoffman movie about a beleaguered president who fabricates a war to divert attention from his scandal-ridden administration. Hilariously, it was released just six months before President Clinton, then embroiled in the Lewinsky affair, initiated a four-day bombing campaign of Iraq.
This is not to cynically suggest that Trump launched the attacks on Thursday solely because he craved a Toby Keith-esque, support-the-troops-fueled boost to his sagging poll numbers. But no matter what his true motivations for this particular incident are, the most worrying long-term development that will come out of these attacks is the Pavlovian popularity feedback loop that is calcifying right now in the president's head.
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Trump’s foreign policy is dangerously impulsive
Vox | Ezra Klein | Apr 7, 2017
The cruise missile strikes President Donald Trump launched in reprisal for Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapon attack in Syria are well within the norms of American foreign policy. But they fall far outside the stated boundaries of Trump’s foreign policy, and reflect an administration bereft of a consistent, considered approach to the world — an approach that would make America’s actions predictable to both our friends and enemies, and guide the commitments we’re willing to make in the event of escalation or reprisal.
What we are seeing, instead, is a foreign policy based on Trump’s gut reactions to the images flashing before him on cable news. And that’s dangerous.
Last week, despite Assad’s horrific, ongoing slaughter of his own people, the Trump administration was comfortable seeing him retain power. In March, Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, said, “Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”
Instead, Trump, in this as in so much else, appears to be going by raw instinct. It took a single chemical weapon attack for his policy toward Syria to dissolve completely. He launched his attack within three days of the Khan Sheikhoun massacre — spending time neither to build public support nor to build congressional support, and raising questions as to whether he’s really committed to the aftermath of this new policy, or certain of what he’ll do if it fails.
This, above all else, is what is worrying about Trump on foreign policy: He is unpredictable and driven by whims. He is unmoored from any coherent philosophy of America’s role in the world, and no one — perhaps not even him — truly knows what he’ll do in the event of a crisis.
----- 10 -----
MSNBC host’s conspiracy theory: What if Putin planned the Syrian chemical attack to help Trump?
Avi Selk | The Washington Post | 8 April 2017
A volley of U.S. cruise missiles had barely been launched into Syria
before the Internet filled up with fact-free theories about the real
reason for an international crisis.
A popular one on the right-most fringes: The U.S. government actually
carried out the chemical weapons massacre in Syria last week — a “false
flag” to trick President Trump into retaliating, thus entangling
himself in a foreign war.
A slightly more convoluted strain on the left: Russian President
Vladimir Putin ordered the chemical weapons massacre to help Trump —
distracting Americans from an investigation into Trump's campaign ties
to Russia by provoking the missile strike.
That theory — evidence-free — was laid out on a small anti-Trump
website shortly after the missile strike.
But it went mainstream Friday night, when Lawrence O'Donnell
advanced similar speculation on his MSNBC show, “The Last Word.”
----- 11 -----
Millennials face a unique challenge when resisting war — they've never known peace
Jack Smith IV | Mic | 10 April 2017
Since President Donald Trump's election, a sudden eruption of protests have risen to meet each of his measures, whether that's pushing the courts to move against the Muslim ban or putting the heat on Democrats to reject cabinet appointees.
So when Trump launched 59 cruise missiles on a Syrian airfield, organizers and progressives posed a question solidly ignored for a decade: What would it take to revive the anti-war movement in the United States?
One of the troubles facing the next generation of activists is that war is all they've ever known. Unlike the struggles of the Vietnam era, or even the Iraq War, today's activists grew up in a climate of conflict that began in 2001 and has no end in sight. The military has achieved a place of primacy in U.S. foreign policy. Now, Trump's presidency offers an opportunity to revive a movement that fizzled under President Barack Obama, beginning with a new understanding of the role of anti-war work in the broader scope of anti-Trump resistance.
"Anyone younger than 25 has never lived in a moment that's not defined by the United States being engaged in an overseas war," Vietnam scholar David Kieran said in a phone interview. "The omnipresence of war, and the notion of the war without end, can create the conditions under which war becomes ever-present."
"These wars are increasingly fought in an aura of secrecy that just didn't exist before and through covert government action that make it difficult to organize around," Stephen Miles, Director of anti-war coalition Win Without War, said in an interview.
----- 12 -----
Big Pharma Funds “Independent” Advocacy Groups Attacking Drug-Price Reduction Bill
Lee Fang | The Intercept | 2017-04-10T20:33:12+00:00
Advertisements from seemingly independent advocacy groups are swamping Beltway newspapers with dire warning that recent proposals to lower drug prices will lead to dangerous consequences. In the last week alone, the ads have appeared in the Washington Post, Washington Times, Roll Call, The Hill, and Politico.
The groups placing the ads have no obvious connection to pharmaceutical companies. For instance, the American Conservative Union (ACU), one of the organizations taking out an ad, describes itself as devoted to promoting “liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values, and strong national defense.”
But unbeknownst to readers, the organizations have undisclosed financial ties to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the umbrella lobbying group that represents the biggest names in the drug industry, including Merck, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Purdue Pharma, and Eli Lilly.
The ads have appeared as legislators are taking up proposals designed to lower drug prices — potentially cutting into the profits of the big drugmakers. A bill proposed by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., would reverse a 2003 law that prohibits Medicare from using its collective bargaining power to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. The ban on negotiation was originally authored by legislators working closely with PhRMA lobbyists, and the sponsor of the ban later became a PhRMA lobbyist.
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After violently dragging a passenger from overbooked flight, United Airlines apologizes to everyone else
boingboing | Rob Beschizza / 9:46 am Mon Apr 10, 2017
United Airlines had a passenger knocked unconscious and dragged violently from a full plane for refusing to yield his ticketed seat to an employee who wanted it. This is CEO Oscar Munoz's public apology, to those who needed to be re-accommodated.