Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,

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good morning, it's 19 april 2017

"Ivanka's biz prospers as politics mixes with business" and "Ivanka Trump awarded 3 China trademarks on the same day she dined with Chinese president: report" are talking about some of the same corruption.

Russia: "Blackwater Founder Prince Said to Have Advised Trump Team" - this ties in with his secret (and denied) trip to set up a Putin backchannel. "Alexander Dugin and Steve Bannon’s Ideological Ties to Vladimir Putin’s Russia" talks about how while Bannon-Putin ties are not showing up as much, the ideological ties are very clear.

White supremacy/neofascism: "Globe editorial: Turkey, Erdogan and the end of liberal democracy." Basically, Turkey just passed - in a very dirty election - their version of Nazis' Enabling Act. Trump tweeted his congratulations to Erdogan, so we see what he thinks of representative government. Also, "White nationalist argues Trump should be liable for inciting violence at rally." "At least 100 gay men in Chechnya have been abducted by police" talks about the long and brutal history in Chechnya of targeting LGBT people (and others) to prop up support for their absolutist government within the Russian Federation. And "Spicer Argues That More Public Disclosure Is Unnecessary, Even Harmful" speaks more or less for itself. "Betsy DeVos wants more character development in schools. That’s a big problem." And the problem is that it's mostly about beefing up the school-to-prison-pipeline. And it's a lot easier to run a dictatorship when fewer people are going to notice: "A month after dismissing federal prosecutors, Justice Department does not have any U.S. attorneys in place."

Other Trump actions: "Donald Trump’s nuked credibility: How can a flagrantly dishonest president manage an international crisis?" The problem is I don't even entirely think he knows when he's lying. I'm not sure of that, but... damn. "The Latest: White House cancels meeting on Paris accords." They're claiming they'll reschedule. "Trump targets visas program for highly skilled workers" - which would be less of a problem if tech stopped driving women out of the workforce through harassment. Maybe that'll be the silver lining HAHAHAHAHAHAHA I kid, I kid.

"No cameras for ‘worst political attack on women’s health in a generation’" is so underreported.

"Amazon workers rail against company ads on Breitbart" is a good bit of resistance, but the number should be larger. Steve Ballmer is _shocked_ that so many tax subsidies go to the well off, in "Steve Ballmer Serves Up a Fascinating Data Trove." "Hiring Anti-Trump Conservative Is Part Of New York Times' Effort To Expand Opinion" - too bad he's a climate denialist. But then, what sanity is left?

"Opening of UN files on Holocaust will 'rewrite chapters of history'" - or won't, really? But will make a _lot_ more direct evidence directly public. I don't know that it'll help with that kind of denialism, really, but it won't hurt.

Finally, some environmental commentary: "Joel Connelly: Inslee calls Trump budget cuts 'devastating'." Because they are.

Good luck out there.

----- 1 -----
Ivanka's biz prospers as politics mixes with business
By ERIKA KINETZ and ANNE D'INNOCENZIO | Associated Press | 18 April 2017

SHANGHAI (AP) — On April 6, Ivanka Trump's company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world's second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago.

The scenario underscores how difficult it is for Trump, who has tried to distance herself from the brand that bears her name, to separate business from politics in her new position at the White House.

As the first daughter crafts a political career from her West Wing office, her brand is flourishing, despite boycotts and several stores limiting her merchandise. U.S. imports, almost all of them from China, shot up an estimated 166 percent last year, while sales hit record levels in 2017. The brand, which Trump still owns, says distribution is growing. It has launched new activewear and affordable jewelry lines and is working to expand its global intellectual property footprint. In addition to winning the approvals from China, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC applied for at least nine new trademarks in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Canada and the U.S. after the election.

----- 2 -----
Ivanka Trump awarded 3 China trademarks on the same day she dined with Chinese president: report
Brad Reed | Raw Story | 18 Apr 2017 at 08:05 ET

President Donald Trump’s daughter won provisional approval for three trademarks in China on the same day that she had dinner with China’s president.

The Associated Press, via the Boston Globe, reports that earlier this month, “Ivanka Trump’s company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy.”

What’s significant is that the trademarks were awarded on April 6 — which just happened to be the same day that the Trump family entertained Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush, tells the AP that Ivanka Trump should stop seeking valuable overseas trademarks at the same time that she’s an unpaid official at the Trump White House.

“Put the business on hold and stop trying to get trademarks while you’re in government,” he said.

----- 3 -----
Blackwater Founder Prince Said to Have Advised Trump Team
by Keri Geiger and Michael Riley | Bloomberg
April 18, 2017, 5:00 AM EDT

In the very public, post-election parade of dignitaries, confidantes and job-seekers filing in and out of Donald Trump’s marquee Manhattan tower, Blackwater founder Erik Prince was largely out of sight. And yet Prince was very much a presence, providing advice to Trump’s inner circle, including his top national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with his activities.

Trump was weakest in the area where the stakes were highest -- foreign affairs. Among those his aides turned to was Prince, a man whose specialty is paramilitary security forces, and whose company is best remembered after its employees were convicted of killing Iraqi citizens, including children, in the notorious 2007 Nisour Square gun battle. Prince wasn’t implicated in the shootings. In the decade since, Prince has carved out a role as a controversial critic of U.S. policies to fight terrorism, a view often espoused by the incoming Trump administration, which was eager to ramp up its anti-terrorism policies.

According to people familiar with his activities, Prince entered Trump Tower through the back, like others who wanted to avoid the media spotlight, and huddled with members of the president-elect’s team to discuss intelligence and security issues. The conversations provide a glimpse of Prince’s relationship with an administration that’s distanced itself from him since the Washington Post reported earlier this month that Prince had met with a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles in January.

----- 4 -----
Spicer Argues That More Public Disclosure Is Unnecessary, Even Harmful
By GLENN THRUSH | The New York Times | APRIL 17, 2017

WASHINGTON — White House officials on Monday mustered a sweeping defense of their less-is-more public disclosure practices, arguing that releasing information on a wide array of topics would strike a blow against personal privacy and impede President Trump’s ability to govern.

This stance, critics say, represents a shift from Mr. Trump’s own drain-the-swamp campaign message and his promise to decrease the influence of lobbyists, special interest groups and big political donors.

----- 5 -----
Amazon workers rail against company ads on Breitbart
By Daniel DeMay, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Updated 4:07 pm, Monday, April 17, 2017

Amazon workers are not pleased with some of their employer's advertising campaigns, namely those ads that appear on right-wing news site Breitbart.

Nearly 600 workers have signed a petition demanding Amazon stop advertising products on Breitbart, according to a report by BuzzFeed News.

BuzzFeed obtained an email exchange between employees and CEO Jeff Bezos and senior vice president Jeff Blackburn noting 564 signatures on the petition.

The email said an employee had raised the issue at the company's March all-hands meeting.

"Breitbart news regularly publishes hateful and bigoted content, but we still advertise there as far as I know," the person said at the meeting, according to the email. "For many employees, candidates and customers, this doesn't seem to match our company principles and it's deeply troubling."

----- 6 -----
Trump targets visas program for highly skilled workers
Catherine Lucey and Scott Bauer, Associated Press
Updated 9:24 am, Tuesday, April 18, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump heads to the politically important state of Wisconsin Tuesday to sign an order aimed at curbing abuses in a visa program used by technology companies that rely on high-skilled foreign workers.

The order, dubbed "Buy American, Hire American," marks a return to the populism Trump seemed to all but abandon with a series of recent reversals on economic policies.

Trump will sign the directive at the headquarters of tool manufacturer Snap-on Inc. in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a state he narrowly carried in November on the strength of support from white, working class voters. But Trump is currently facing a 41 percent approval in the state.

Trump is targeting the H-1B visa program, which the White House says undercuts American workers by bringing in large numbers of cheaper, foreign workers, driving down wages.

The tech industry has argued that the H-1B program is needed because it encourages students to stay in the U.S. after getting degrees in high-tech specialties — and they can't always find enough American workers with the skills they need.

----- 7 -----
Steve Ballmer Serves Up a Fascinating Data Trove
Andrew Ross Sorkin | The New York Times | APRIL 17, 2017

Guess what Steven A. Ballmer has been up to for the last several years. (No, not just cheering for the basketball team he owns, the Los Angeles Clippers.) It’s a novel project, and he plans to take the wrapping off it Tuesday.

But first the back story, which is a valuable prelude to a description of the project itself.

When Mr. Ballmer retired as chief executive of Microsoft in 2014, he was only 57 and quickly realized “I don’t, quote, ‘have anything to do.’”

As he looked for a new endeavor — before he decided to buy the Clippers — his wife, Connie, encouraged him to help with some of her philanthropic efforts, an idea he initially rejected.

“But come on, doesn’t the government take care of the poor, the sick, the old?” Mr. Ballmer recalled telling her. After all, he pointed out, he happily paid a lot of taxes, and he figured that all that tax money should create a sufficient social safety net.

Her answer: “A, it won’t, because there are things government doesn’t get to, and B, you’re missing it.”

Mr. Ballmer replied, “No, I’m not.”

That conversation led Mr. Ballmer to pursue what may be one of the most ambitious private projects undertaken to answer a question that has long vexed the public and politicians alike. He sought to “figure out what the government really does with the money,” Mr. Ballmer said. “What really happens?”

On Tuesday, Mr. Ballmer plans to make public a database and a report that he and a small army of economists, professors and other professionals have been assembling as part of a stealth start-up over the last three years called USAFacts. The database is perhaps the first nonpartisan effort to create a fully integrated look at revenue and spending across federal, state and local governments.


At one point, as he showed me the value of certain tax deductions and blurted out, “If you look at these tax deductions for employer-provided health or for state and local taxes or mortgage-interest deductions, they’re really subsidies to the affluent, which I guess I hadn’t thought about them.”

“Take the mortgage deduction,” he continued. “This is to stimulate homeownership amongst people who are already going to own homes. That is worth, to a middle-income family, a hundred bucks a year. I was a little surprised by that. You can have your own reaction; I was a little surprised by that.”

----- 8 -----
Hiring Anti-Trump Conservative Is Part Of New York Times' Effort To Expand Opinion
Bret Stephens won over progressive critics of the president, but his climate change views have sparked backlash.
By Michael Calderone, Nick Baumann
The Huffington Post

The New York Times’ decision to hire Bret Stephens, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal columnist, is part of a larger effort to “further widen” the range of views the paper presents to readers, James Bennet, the paper’s editorial page editor, told The Huffington Post Friday.

Long a conventional conservative columnist, Stephens emerged during the 2016 campaign as liberals’ favorite writer on the right. As other conservatives lined up behind Donald Trump, Stephens wrote blistering columns in the opinion pages of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal lambasting the Republican presidential nominee. He feuded with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Twitter. And unlike some NeverTrumpers, he still hasn’t come around to the president. That won him praise to his left — including from Bennet, who said Stephens “demonstrated his guts,” as some other conservative writers were dropping “their principles to accommodate the radically unorthodox politics of Donald Trump.”

But liberal Times readers who enthusiastically tweeted Stephens’ anti-Trump broadsides may find his other views less palatable. Stephens has dismissed climate change an “imaginary enemy.” He’s referred to the “disease of the Arab mind,” a characterization he defended as a “figure of speech not biology.” And he’s called former President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran worse than appeasing Hitler.


The paper’s current right-leaning columnists, David Brooks and Ross Douthat, are seen as representing a high-brow strain of conservatism, hailing from elite schools and magazines like The Weekly Standard and The Atlantic, respectively. And they share their more liberal colleagues’ rejection of the bomb-throwers in the talk-radio world and unsavory aspects of Trumpian conservatism. Brooks called out Trump’s “bigotry, dishonesty and promise-breaking” in a column just days after the election, and predicted that the president will “probably resign or be impeached within a year.”

----- 9 -----
No cameras for ‘worst political attack on women’s health in a generation’
Originally published April 18, 2017
Nicole Brodeur / Columnist | The Seattle Times

You noticed there was no fanfare, right?

No great flourish as he signed a bill that would affect millions of Americans’ lives. No holding up the folder like a finished page in a coloring book, as has become his custom.

Instead, President Donald Trump was sure to tuck himself away in the Oval Office when he signed a bill that lets states deny federal family-planning money to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortion services.

Curious, since Trump is a man who can’t resist the spotlight. Privacy isn’t really his thing. Nor is respecting the privacy of women — especially their private parts. (See “Access Hollywood bus” and “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”)

So what makes this bill different from all the others Trump signed before the cameras?

I may be giving him too much credit here, but my guess is that Trump didn’t want us to watch as he made the lives of women nationwide much harder and more worrisome than they have been in decades.

----- 10 -----
Opening of UN files on Holocaust will 'rewrite chapters of history'
Archive used in prosecution of Nazis reveals detailed evidence of death camps and genocide previously unseen by public
Owen Bowcott | Monday 17 April 2017 | The Guardian

War crimes files revealing early evidence of Holocaust death camps that was smuggled out of eastern Europe are among tens of thousands of files to be made public for the first time this week.

The once-inaccessible archive of the UN war crimes commission, dating back to 1943, is being opened by the Wiener Library in London with a catalogue that can be searched online.

The files establish that some of the first demands for justice came from countries that had been invaded, such as Poland and China, rather than Britain, the US and Russia, which eventually coordinated the post-war Nuremberg trials.

The archive, along with the UNWCC, was closed in the late 1940s as West Germany was transformed into a pivotal ally at the start of the cold war and use of the records was effectively suppressed. Around the same time, many convicted Nazis were granted early release after the anti-communist US senator Joseph McCarthy lobbied to end war crimes trials.

Access to the vast quantity of evidence and indictments is timed to coincide with the publication on Tuesday of Human Rights After Hitler: The Lost History of Prosecuting Axis War Crimes by Dan Plesch, a researcher who has been working on the documents for a decade.

The documents record the gathering of evidence shortly after the UN was founded in January 1942. They demonstrate that rape and forced prostitution were being prosecuted as war crimes in tribunals as far apart as Greece, the Philippines and Poland in the late 1940s, despite more recent suggestions that this was a legal innovation following the 1990s Bosnian conflict.

The Polish government in exile, the files also record, supplied extraordinarily detailed descriptions to the UNWCC of concentration camps such as Treblinka and Auschwitz, where millions of Jews were gassed. The accounts had been smuggled out of occupied eastern Europe. A charge sheet from April 1944 mention victims being forced to strip off clothing and how “the terracotta floors in the chambers … became very slippery when wet”.


“This is a huge resource for combating Holocaust denial,” Plesch said. “The German national authorities were never given access to the archive by the allies after the war. All of this has never seen the light of day.”

Some of the earliest files of evidence were collected to indict Adolf Hitler directly for his role in the coordinating and controlling massacres carried out by Nazi units in Czechoslovakia. Much of the evidence was collected by the Czech government in exile. There are more than 300 pages detailing his orders and responsibilities. The Nazi leader was eventually indicted in secret by a meeting of the UNWCC in late 1944 as Luftwaffe bombs fell on London.

One affidavit in the files is from a British soldier, Harry Ogden, who was captured at Narvik in Norway in 1940, escaped from a prisoner of war camp to join Polish partisans and was re-imprisoned in another POW camp alongside Auschwitz.

----- 11 -----
At least 100 gay men in Chechnya have been abducted by police
LGBTQ people wanted to have a pride march in Chechnya. Then 100 gay men were abducted by police.
Updated by Michelle Garcia Apr 18, 2017 | Vox

On April 1, a report in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta rocked the global LGBTQ community: At least 100 men who are gay or believed to be gay had been recently rounded up and tortured by authorities in Chechnya, in the Northern Caucuses region of southern Russia. And at least three, according to the report, had been killed.

The catalyst seems to have been an attempt to organize an LGBTQ pride march in the region, prompting a crackdown against local gay and bisexual men. A handful of men have shared their stories of torture and humiliation at the hands of Chechen law enforcement. One man, using the name Adam, told the Guardian newspaper he was apprehended by police, after they reportedly read his text messages and learned he was gay. He said that while he was detained and tortured with electric shocks, “Sometimes they were trying to get information from me; other times they were just amusing themselves.”

Meanwhile, Chechen authorities have denied the existence of gay people there. And a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin told ABC News that the Russian government does “not have any reliable information about any problems in this area.”

US-based organizations focused on LGBTQ rights including HRC and GLAAD have urged members of the Trump administration to step in, and the State Department condemned these acts on April 7.

While United Nations experts say the violence is at an “unprecedented scale,” the reality is that this wave of violence is not all that new to Chechnya. Last week, former Vice President Joe Biden said Chechnya’s history of “human rights abuses and the culture of impunity that surrounds them means that these hate crimes are unlikely to ever be properly investigated or that the perpetrators will see justice.”

Rachel Denber, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division, explains how the violence is not an isolated moment but a surge of ongoing hostility under Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

----- 12 -----
Joel Connelly: Inslee calls Trump budget cuts 'devastating'
By Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Updated 3:46 pm, Monday, April 17, 2017

The proposed cuts in President Trump's budget blueprint are "draconian" and would have "devastating impacts on communities in Washington," Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday in a letter to the state's congressional delegation.

"I ask for your support in sustaining crucial federal investments in our state," the governor told a delegation that consists of two Democratic senators, six Democratic House members and four Republicans.

The governor singled out programs vital to coastal areas, where Trump won support from counties that normally vote Democratic.

The draft budget would zero out money to the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, which has received $65 million in recent years and, in Inslee's words, "is the most essential federal program supporting recovery of endangered salmon and steelhead populations in Western states."

As well, Inslee took aim at proposed total elimination of the EPA's Puget Sound recovery program, which is currently receiving $28 million. The Trump budget ax would fall everywhere, from Chesapeake Bay to the Great Lakes to San Francisco Bay.

"Puget Sound is the nation's largest estuary, and the cultural center of the Pacific Northwest," Inslee wrote. "Millions live, work and recreate on its shores. Despite recent gains, the rate of degradation outpaces the rate of recovery . . .

"Elimination of this program would be a stark reversal of recent positive progress made by the federal government in its commitment to Puget Sound recovery, and would have devastating consequences for the health of our Sound."

In what little justification it has made for proposed cuts, the Trump administration has argued that states should take over responsibility from the federal government in a multiplicity of fields.

----- 13 -----
The Latest: White House cancels meeting on Paris accords
Updated 11:46 am, Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Associated Press

A White House meeting where President Donald Trump's aides were to hash out whether to keep the U.S. in an international climate agreement has been canceled.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders is blaming scheduling conflicts among some of the advisers who were expected to attend Tuesday's meeting.

She says the meeting will be rescheduled.

----- 14 -----
Donald Trump’s nuked credibility: How can a flagrantly dishonest president manage an international crisis?
The president's word is worthless, and that makes a potential North Korea confrontation all the more dangerous
Simon Maloy | Salon | 18 April 2017

Susan Rice, the former national security adviser under Barack Obama, has become the focus of an enthusiastic scandal-manufacturing effort by the Trump White House, its hapless allies in Congress and the conservative media. To hear them tell it, Rice apparently masterminded the illegal “unmasking” of Trump aides whose conversations were captured by U.S. intelligence agencies conducting surveillance of foreign officials. White House officials have been going on conservative TV and radio programs to hype these allegations as the biggest scandal in American political history. President Donald Trump himself went so far as to say that he thinks Rice broke the law.

Well, it now looks like Susan Rice did not commit a crime after all. CNN reported last week that Republican and Democratic investigators looking into the unmasking allegations have found no “unusual or illegal” behavior by Obama administration officials. CNN’s findings were corroborated by NBC, which cited bipartisan (and anonymous) congressional sources in reporting that there was “no inappropriate action by Susan Rice or any other Obama administration official.” The Trump White House, meanwhile, has not provided any evidence to support the president’s suggestion that laws were broken.

And so, once again, we are drawn back to the issue of credibility. As I wrote last month, Trump and his aides have done everything in their power over the course of this very young administration to sacrifice every presumption of honesty and good faith. In March Trump was flailing about trying to prove his false claim that Barack Obama had “wiretapped” Trump Tower. The Rice allegations emerged as a means for the president to allege that his wiretapping claims had been vindicated (they weren’t) and that the real scandal involved his predecessor. The word of the president is worthless and, as I wrote last month, that lack of credibility will prove debilitating in the event of a crisis.

----- 15 -----
White nationalist argues Trump should be liable for inciting violence at rally
By Paulina Firozi - 04/17/17
The Hill

A white nationalist leader accused of assaulting a protester at a campaign rally for then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump last year has filed a countersuit, arguing that it was the president who incited violence.

Matthew Heimbach claims he “acted pursuant to the directives and requests of Donald J. Trump and Donald J. Trump for President,” according to a report by Politico.

Heimbach, who is a leader of the white supremacist Traditionalist Youth Network, says “any liability must be shifted to one or both of them.”

Three people who were protesting at a March 2016 rally in Louisville, Ky., filed civil assault and battery claims against Heimbach and other Trump supporters, claiming they were ejected after the Republican candidate yelled “get ‘em out of here” from the stage.

----- 16 -----
Alexander Dugin and Steve Bannon’s Ideological Ties to Vladimir Putin’s Russia
By Owen Matthews | Newsweek | 4/17/17

These days, having any sort of ties to Moscow is politically toxic in Washington. Recent reports indicate Donald Trump may have borrowed Russian money to keep his property empire afloat—while several investigations loom into alleged Kremlin interference in the U.S. presidential election and a host of murky connections between Trump campaign officials and Russian hackers and spies.

Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, hasn't been implicated in any of the ongoing probes. And unlike former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Carter Page, he isn’t under investigation by the FBI for possible collusion with the Kremlin. But Bannon’s ties to Russia are ideological—and therefore, arguably, they’ve had a more profound impact on White House policy with Moscow.

At least until now. In early April, Bannon was booted off Trump’s National Security Council in a White House coup that was—among other factors—also a scuffle about whether to appease a resurgent Kremlin or confront it. Days later, he lost a heated debate inside the White House with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, over whether to strike Syria after the Moscow-protected regime of Bashar al-Assad killed civilians in a chemical attack.

Bannon, a former banker turned film producer and right-wing polemicist, has praised not only Putin but also a brand of Russian mystical conservative nationalism known as Eurasianism, which is the closest the Kremlin has to a state ideology. Eurasianism proclaims that Russia’s destiny is to lead all Slavic and Turkic people in a grand empire to resist corrupt Western values. Its main proponent is Alexander Dugin. With his long beard and burning blue eyes, Dugin looks like a firebrand prophet. His philosophy glorifies the Russian Empire—while Bannon and the conservative website that he founded, Breitbart News, revived the slogan of “America first,” which Trump later adopted in his campaign.

----- 17 -----
Globe editorial: Turkey, Erdogan and the end of liberal democracy
The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Apr. 17, 2017

There are two important takeaways from the Turkish referendum result on Sunday, in which a slim majority appears to have voted to replace the country’s liberal-democratic system of government with what amounts to a dictatorship. One of the takeaways is ominous, especially today. But the other is positive and speaks to the courage of people who resist cynical attempts to undermine democracy.

The ominous first. A terrifyingly large portion of the Turkish people has been fooled into voting against their highest interests by a wannabe despot who played to their fears, nationalism and ignorance. Thousands of these people were out on the streets on Sunday night, celebrating the fact that they had just demolished the institutions that protect their freedoms.

It was a sickening sight. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in a referendum that will give the president unilateral powers of decree, eliminate the competing position of prime minister, reduce the country’s elected parliament to a non-entity and make every judge the personal appointee of the country’s omnipotent ruler.

The Turks who voted Yes were rejoicing in nothing less than the end of their liberty. In interviews, they told foreign reporters that Mr. Erdogan will use his new powers for good, of course – that prosperity and security are around the corner now that this great man will be unfettered by the chains of parliament, the courts and any other check on the whims of the head of government.

But they are fooling themselves. This imaginary benevolent potentate is not the Mr. Erdogan the world has seen for the past decade. Once a secular reformer, the former prime minister has duplicitously and violently accreted power in the office of the president, so much so that the constitutional changes proposed in the referendum are essentially a moot point.

Those who imagine Mr. Erdogan would never use totalitarian powers against them were not paying attention when he arrested and jailed tens of thousands of teachers and bureaucrats after a weak coup attempt last year, closed newspapers, detained journalists and neutered his political opposition. They were probably equally unfazed by his announcement on Sunday that he might bring back the death penalty.

And why? Because they were charmed by Mr. Erdogan’s conceit that he, and only he, can protect them from terrorism, from economic insecurity, and from the meddling of “crusaders” in Europe and beyond. He played to their prejudices and fears, all the while resorting to violence and false arrest to silence reasonable voices.

----- 18 -----
Betsy DeVos wants more character development in schools. That’s a big problem.
Carimah Townes | Think Progress | 18 April 2017

You’ve read the stories.

An eighth grader was locked up for throwing skittles on a schoolbus. A 6-year-old girl was handcuffed for taking candy from a teacher’s desk. An officer slammed and dragged a high school girl, because she wouldn’t put her phone down. A Texas cop choked a 14-year-old boy over a shoving match in school. A middle school student was suspended and charged for allegedly stealing a carton of milk from a cafeteria — even though he didn’t do it.

Across the country, teachers rely on law enforcement and draconian punishments to correct students’ behavior in the classroom. In the Era of Trump, extreme discipline is poised to get worse.

During an interview with Townhall columnist Cal Thomas in February, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that character development and values are lacking in schools, which contributes to poor achievement. But education advocates and legal experts say poor achievement stems from racist and punitive policies disguised as character development, and worry about the future of the school-to-prison pipeline under DeVos’ leadership.

The pipeline is the result of treating students like criminals in schools —often for non-criminal behavior. Institutions with zero-tolerance disciplinary policies suspend and expel students — or have cops make arrests — for minor infractions, such as wearing the wrong uniform, truancy, disobeying teachers’ instructions, or getting into schoolyard fights.

Forced out of the classroom, kids are more likely to fall behind in coursework, drop out of school, and commit future offenses that land them in the criminal justice system. They also miss out on social and emotional learning that leads to maturation, self-control, and positive habits.

The discipline-centric approach “mirrors that broken windows policy that’s also discredited in law enforcement — that you attack the small things to prevent somebody from becoming a larger-scale criminal,” Karen Dolan, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, told ThinkProgress. And just as biased police disproportionately target people of color on the streets, biased educators determine which students are in need of correcting.

Based on national data, researchers have been able to create a general profile of the students most impacted by the pipeline. Black kids are most likely to be disciplined because of zero-tolerance policies — a trend that begins in preschool. Students who have disabilities are suspended two times more than those who do not, and account for one-fourth of students “arrested and referred to law enforcement,” per data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

----- 19 -----
A month after dismissing federal prosecutors, Justice Department does not have any U.S. attorneys in place
By Sari Horwitz | April 18, 2017 | The Washington Post

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is making aggressive law enforcement a
top priority, directing his federal prosecutors across the country to
crack down on illegal immigrants and “use every tool” they have to go
after violent criminals and drug traffickers.

But the attorney general does not have a single U.S. attorney in place
to lead his tough-on-crime efforts across the country. Last month,
Sessions abruptly told the dozens of remaining Obama administration
U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations immediately — and none of
them, or the 47 who had already left, have been replaced.

“We really need to work hard at that,” Sessions said when asked Tuesday
about the vacancies as he opened a meeting with federal law enforcement
officials. The 93 unfilled U.S. attorney positions are among the
hundreds of critical Trump administration jobs that remain open.

Sessions is also without the heads of his top units, including the
civil rights, criminal and national security divisions, as he tries to
reshape the Justice Department.

U.S. attorneys, who prosecute federal crimes from state offices around
the nation, are critical to implementing an attorney general’s law
enforcement agenda. Both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama
administrations gradually eased out the previous administration’s U.S.
attorneys while officials sought new ones.

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