Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,

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good morning, it's 8 may 2017

Trump and Corruption starts with "Flynn was warned by Trump transition officials about contacts with Russian ambassador." Apparently it was bad enough even some of their team found it dodgy. Or at least, revealing. Meanwhile, "In a Beijing ballroom, Kushner family pushes $500,000 ‘investor visa’ to wealthy Chinese" - perfectly legal visas, but it you want to make it any clearer that this is a looting operation, I'm not sure how you would. "E.P.A. Dismisses Members of Major Scientific Review Board" - to replace them with reps of the industries the EPA regulates. Because regulatory capture isn't complete until you can really rub peoples' noses in it.

In neofascism and similar tactics, we have "The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked," which is more into Palintir and Cambridge Analytics and so on. Important background data. "White House argues Dems shouldn’t hurt Trump’s feelings" sounds like something out of a tinhorn dictatorship, but there it is and there you have it. "The American Health Care Act's Prosperity Gospel" outlines the specifically fundamentalist Christian version of all this, and ties back in to my essay on the social takeover of the GOP by the fundamentalist mindset. "FDA is now all Fox News, all the time" - you know this by now, there have been several stories, but the vision of propaganda blasting from every point is pretty vivid.

Meanwhile, "Lawsuit depicts Fox News as not just sexist. Not just misogynistic. Barbaric." which is pretty strong language even now, and "Why Opposing Trump Isn't Like the GOP Obstructing Obama" talks about media gaslighting of antifascist opposition.

Racism and the war on women - which ties into the previous section - includes "Texas police chiefs slam sanctuary city bill," as in yes, Texas police chiefs think it goes too far. Think about that. "ICE 'Victim-Blames' Immigrants With Sexual Assault Policies" - but it's more obvious in Spanish than in English, where I guess they thought they could get away with more. "GOP rep says no need for Planned Parenthood, women can simply get birth control at the grocery store." What aisle has pap smears and cervical cancer screenings? And, of course, "Republicans defend having no women in health care group," because their complete and stunning disgust with anything having to do with women's health hasn't been made clear enough already.

Finally, we close with, "Did Macron Outsmart Campaign Hackers?" - spoiler alert: probably; well done, Team Macron - and "What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know."

Good luck out there.

----- 1 -----
FDA is now all Fox News, all the time. Email sent yesterday to CBER, the biologics section at #FDA
Seen on Twitter | 5 May 2017
[Image at link]

----- 2 -----
Lawsuit depicts Fox News as not just sexist. Not just misogynistic. Barbaric.
By Erik Wemple May 4 at 4:06 PM | The Washington Post

The lawsuit filed by Diana Falzone differs from the sort of workplace concern we’ve learned to expect from female employees of Fox News over the past year. It doesn’t allege sexual harassment; it doesn’t claim that some old man tried to leverage authority for favors; there’s no mention of a dress code or requests to “spin.”

It merely alleges barbarism at the headquarters of Fox News.


So perhaps Falzone worked under a regime of benign neglect in her digital hive. In any case, in January she wrote a story under the headline, “Women should never suffer in silence.” The subject matter is a touch more grave than neighboring posts such as “8 reality stars who have fallen the furthest” and “Josh and Anna Duggar deny divorce rumors.” In the story, Falzone discussed her struggle with endometriosis, which the Mayo Clinic defines as “an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus.”

Pain is confirmed in Falzone’s first-person account. “I suddenly became very ill. I was bleeding heavily; I had an intense pain on my right side,” writes Falzone of her first bout with the disorder. The malady struck on what was otherwise a great day at work — in February 2016 — when she was working on an “Animal Planet” segment on cute puppies. Her endometriosis piece went viral, according to Falzone’s complaint, and carried the approval of her supervisors, Refet Kaplan and Chris Kensler. It hadn’t been publicly known that Falzone suffered from endometriosis.

All good, right? Not quite. Not long after the Jan. 24, 2017, essay hit the Internet, Falzone some alarming news. From that point onward, said Kaplan, she was “permanently banned from ever appearing on air on any, Fox News Network, Fox Business News Network [sic] or any other Fox News medium and would never again be permitted to host her own shows or conduct her own interviews.” Such instructions, claims the suit, came from the “second floor,” which is where Fox News suits reside — specifically, co-presidents Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine, the latter of whom left the network earlier this week over his proximity to the excesses of the Ailes regime.

If the foregoing sounds bad, what follows is worse. A colleague announced to a group of employees, in Falzone’s absence, that she would disappear as a face on her usual platforms. No explanation, according to the suit, accompanied that disclosure, “leaving employees with the false impression that Falzone had done something terribly wrong.” A supervisor told Falzone that she should seek a new job; she filed a complaint with the company but did not secure reinstatement to her previous responsibilities.

Falzone’s legal action takes direct aim at what went down here: “The male-dominated senior management of Fox News obviously objected to the fact that a female on-air host had disclosed that she suffers from a women’s reproductive health condition, which, in their eyes, detracted from her sex appeal and made her less desirable.” A male colleague, says the suit, told her that management didn’t want women talking about this kind of material.

----- 3 -----
The American Health Care Act's Prosperity Gospel
With the bill 51 votes away from law, the central philosophy of the Trump era is one step closer to becoming policy.
Vann R. Newkirk II | The Atlantic | 5 May 2017

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A Trump voter in Trump country—maybe a coal miner in West Virginia or the patron of a sleepy diner in rural Kentucky—is a recipient of Medicaid coverage under Obamacare for a life-threatening illness or chronic condition, but still maintains total support for President Trump and a zeal for repealing the program.

Soon enough, there may be an addition to the tale of the anti-Obamacare Trump voter. On Thursday, the American Health Care Act, the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, passed the House after months of deliberation and frustration for the party. Party leaders celebrated in the Rose Garden; perhaps people in Trump country celebrated, too. But Democrats are likely fretting over the prospects of a bill that many of them deemed politically impossible. How did a bill that almost certainly makes health-care more expensive for low-income, sicker, older, and more rural voters who make up much of the Republican base even make it this far?

One good answer might come from a recent interview on the AHCA between Alabama’s Representative Mo Brooks and CNN’s Jake Tapper. “[The plan] will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool,” Brooks claimed. “That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people—who’ve done things the right way—that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”


Although public-health circles might want to believe that the view of sickness as a curse has been supplanted by epidemiology, it’s very clear that prosperity gospel has stuck around as one of the major pillars of American health policy.

It wasn’t too long ago that the HIV/AIDS epidemic sparked a moral crisis and sparked widespread condemnation of gay communities as cursed, in a wave bigotry that stretched from schools to the White House, and still influences policy today. And as Jim Downs’s book Sick from Freedom chronicles, the original exclusion of free black people from the American health-care system—indeed one of the most enduring features of the country’s health policy—was animated both by common racism and a belief that the immense burden of sickness among freedmen was a curse for their immorality.

Aside from race, perhaps the most direct societal predictor of health is still wealth, and as America has lionized its rich men, so it has often accepted health not as a basic right, but as an aspiration. But aspiration can be inspirational, even to the sick and the poor—perhaps especially so.

----- 4 -----
Texas police chiefs slam sanctuary city bill
By Rafael Bernal - 05/05/17 - The Hill

Police and sheriff's departments in Texas are decrying an immigration bill passed by the state legislature, saying it will drive a wedge between law enforcement and immigrant communities.

The bill in question, known as S.B. 4, passed the Texas Senate Wednesday, and Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is expected to sign it.

The measure includes provisions that would ban "sanctuary cities" in the state and force officers to ask the immigration status of every individual they detain, while enacting fines on police that refuse to comply with the law.

The police chiefs of Texas' two largest cities, Houston and Dallas, published an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News last week, calling immigration enforcement a "burden" on local law enforcement agencies.

And more Texas police chiefs are following suit, reported NBC News.

James McLaughlin, executive director of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, complained to NBC about the punitive measures police could face under S.B. 4 — fines, jail time, civil penalties and the prospect of removal from office — that would force police to act as immigration agents even in innocuous encounters with civilians.

"Let's not hang around asking people who jaywalk and decide who may be here illegally. Instead, let's go work," said McLaughlin.

----- 5 ----
E.P.A. Dismisses Members of Major Scientific Review Board
By CORAL DAVENPORT - The New York Times - MAY 7, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what critics call a campaign by the Trump administration to shrink the agency’s regulatory reach by reducing the role of academic research.

A spokesman for the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, said he would consider replacing the academic scientists with representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate, as part of the wide net it plans to cast. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” said the spokesman, J. P. Freire.

The dismissals on Friday came about six weeks after the House passed a bill aimed at changing the composition of another E.P.A. scientific review board to include more representation from the corporate world.


In his first outings as E.P.A. administrator, Mr. Pruitt has made a point of visiting coal mines and pledging that his agency will seek to restore that industry, even though many members of both of the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory boards have historically recommended stringent constraints on coal pollution to combat climate change.

Mr. Freire said the agency wanted “to take as inclusive an approach to regulation as possible.”

“We want to expand the pool of applicants” for the scientific board, he said, “to as broad a range as possible, to include universities that aren’t typically represented and issues that aren’t typically represented.”

Some who opposed the dismissals denounced them as part of a broader push by the E.P.A. to downgrade science and elevate business interests.

“This is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda,” said Ken Kimmell, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “What seems to be premature removals of members of this Board of Science Counselors when the board has come out in favor of the E.P.A. strengthening its climate science, plus the severe cuts to research and development — you have to see all these things as interconnected.”

----- 6 -----
ICE 'Victim-Blames' Immigrants With Sexual Assault Policies
A Spanish handbook at a family detention facility in Pennsylvania fills four and a half pages on sexual abuse and tells women not to drink or talk about sex so they won’t get assaulted during their time at the facility
By Alexandra Villarreal | NBC News Channel 10 Philadelphia

At an immigrant detention center in Pennsylvania, handbooks issued to undocumented families come in English and Spanish. The information inside depends on the language in which it’s written, especially where sexual assault is concerned.

In the English manual, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement claims a “zero-tolerance” policy toward sexual abuse and sums up how to report crimes or suspicions in a single paragraph with bullet points. The Spanish version, meanwhile, fills four and a half pages and tells women not to drink or talk about sex so they won’t get assaulted during their time at the facility.

“You’re basically putting the blame on the residents,” said Reading-based attorney Jackie Kline, who represents detainees at the Berks County Residential Center.

The facility, which lies along the backroads of Leesport, houses asylum-seeking families from predominantly Central American countries. It is one of three ICE family detention centers; the other two are in Texas and tend to be used for short-term stays. Berks, on the other hand, has held women and children for up to 18 months.

----- 7 -----
GOP rep says no need for Planned Parenthood, women can simply get birth control at the grocery store
Transcription by Jen Hayden | Daily KOS | Thursday May 04, 2017

Let’s all enjoy (and by enjoy, I mean RAGE, RAGE, RAGE about) Rep. Glenn Grothman mansplaining to a crowd of men and women at a town hall that he’s A-OK with voting to defund Planned Parenthood because women can simply get birth control and reproductive services at the pharmacy or even the grocery store! Cancer screenings? Meh. Quit your whining, ladies.

In this exchange (transcript and video below), a constituent asks Rep. Grothman why he supports defunding Planned Parenthood. She reminds him ZERO federal dollars go toward abortion services and warns him not to use that as an excuse. Rep. Grothman isn’t quite sure what Planned Parenthood does, but he is sure women can just hop on down to the grocery store and get the same services. Rep. Grothman’s response and similar responses from his all-white, all-male Republican colleagues in the House are precisely why we need more women in office. Women’s lives and their futures depend on it.

----- 8 -----
Republicans defend having no women in health care group
By Dana Bash, Lauren Fox and Ted Barrett, CNN
Updated 5:29 PM ET, Fri May 5, 2017

Just hours after House Republicans managed to pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, the Senate is signaling it will write its own proposal -- announcing a group of 13 Republican members who will be responsible for crafting the Senate's plan.

All are male.

Senators in the group include Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, Health and Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and conservatives Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.
A GOP aide defended the makeup of the group.

"We have no interest in playing the games of identity politics, that's not what this is about; it's about getting a job done," the aide said. "We'll work with any member of any background who wants to pass a health reform bill that will reduce premiums and take away the burdens that Obamacare inflicted.

"To reduce this to gender, race or geography misses the more important point of the diverse segments of the conference the group represents on policy -- from members who support Medicaid expansion, to those opposed to it, to those who have called for long term full repeal," the aide added.

----- 9 -----
White House argues Dems shouldn’t hurt Trump’s feelings
By Steve Benen | MSNBC | 05/03/17

Congress recently agreed to a spending bill that will prevent a government shutdown, but the end result represented the latest in a series of defeats for Donald Trump. The White House made all kinds of demands for the legislation, each of which was largely ignored. By the time the agreement was announced, it was Democrats who were smiling.

And that’s not sitting well with the president, who on Monday praised the measure. Politico reported that Trump “was furious Tuesday morning with news coverage about the spending deal,” because the reports he saw made him look like “the loser” in the deal.

It’s an extension of a familiar problem: because the president knows effectively nothing about policy, he doesn’t understand in advance whether developments have worked in his favor or not. Trump relies on media coverage to tell him, after the fact, whether he’s done well or poorly, and he then reacts accordingly.

----- 10 -----
Why Opposing Trump Isn't Like the GOP Obstructing Obama
The political press won't stop gaslighting anti-Trump Democrats and progressives
By Joshua Holland | April 14, 2017 | Rolling Stone

In the 230-year period between the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and Barack Obama's election, opposition parties blocked a grand total of 68 presidential nominees. In the three years and 10 months between Obama's inauguration and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's move to eliminate the filibuster for lower court nominees, Republicans had blocked 79 of them – that's 54 percent of the historic total in just under four years.

Last week, the current Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, moved to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees after the Democrats filibustered Donald Trump's pick, Neil Gorsuch, who had come off as aloof and unresponsive during his confirmation hearings and offered no reason for refusing to meet with two (women) Democratic senators. But as Media Matters noted, the political press largely portrayed the Republicans' choice to do away with the filibuster as the fault of Democrats – they said the Democrats forced McConnell's hand, and in some cases blamed both sides for generic "dysfunction." This followed weeks of stories about how the party's "liberal base" was forcing Democrats to block Gorsuch, and wondering if Dems would have the courage to stand up to their constituents.

Obama's nominee for the seat, Merrick Garland, is the only candidate in the history of the United States to be denied a hearing by the opposition. As one might expect, Democrats and progressives are outraged that Republicans effectively stole a seat that might have shifted the Court's ideological balance to the left for the first time since 1971. But the both-sides-do-it reporting we've seen makes their fury seem illogical, a simple case of sour grapes.

It's pure gaslighting – making someone think they're crazy when their sanity isn't the issue. For the most part, it's unintentional, a natural consequence of the Beltway press's tendency to see everything in strictly partisan terms. But even so, it's maddeningly common in reporting on the resistance to Trump, both in Congress and among the grassroots.

----- 11 -----
Did Macron Outsmart Campaign Hackers?
While it's still too early to tell, so far the big document dump by hackers of the Macron campaign has not been damaging.
Christopher Dickey | The Daily Beast | 05.06.17

PARIS—It was the dog that didn’t bark in the night, and its bite may be less impressive still. As a tale of hacking and political subversion unfolded in France on Friday and Saturday, it looked like a re-run of the American experience. But there are some critical differences.

In the last hours before midnight on Friday, just before a campaigning blackout imposed by French electoral law in anticipation of the crucial vote on Sunday, somebody dumped nine gigabytes of emails and documents supposedly purloined from the campaign of leading presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.

It looked like, and almost certainly was, a last-minute bid to tip the scales in favor of the centrist Macron’s opponent, the nativist, populist Marine Le Pen, who has received more-than-tacit endorsements from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who received her at the Kremlin, and U.S. President Donald Trump, who has declared his appreciation of her as the “strongest” candidate.

Macron, by contrast, is favored by those who want a strong European Union, a strong NATO, and a France looking to the future rather than clinging to the fearful and fictional nostalgia promulgated by Le Pen.

As the news broke, suspicion focused on the same “Fancy Bear” Russian hackers who fiddled with the American presidential campaign last year. As The Daily Beast reported 10 days earlier, they have been working hard for the election of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-European Union, anti-euro, anti-NATO, anti-American, Pro-Trump Le Pen.

Literally at the 11th hour, before the blackout would silence it, the Macron campaign issued a statement saying it had been hacked and many of the documents that were dumped on the American 4Chan site and re-posted by Wikileaks were fakes.

----- 12 -----
The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked
A shadowy global operation involving big data, billionaire friends of Trump and the disparate forces of the Leave campaign influenced the result of the EU referendum. As Britain heads to the polls again, is our electoral process still fit for purpose?
by Carole Cadwalladr | The Guardian | Sunday 7 May 2017

In June 2013, a young American postgraduate called Sophie was passing through London when she called up the boss of a firm where she’d previously interned. The company, SCL Elections, went on to be bought by Robert Mercer, a secretive hedge fund billionaire, renamed Cambridge Analytica, and achieved a certain notoriety as the data analytics firm that played a role in both Trump and Brexit campaigns. But all of this was still to come. London in 2013 was still basking in the afterglow of the Olympics. Britain had not yet Brexited. The world had not yet turned.

“That was before we became this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump,” a former Cambridge Analytica employee who I’ll call Paul tells me. “It was back when we were still just a psychological warfare firm.”

Was that really what you called it, I ask him. Psychological warfare? “Totally. That’s what it is. Psyops. Psychological operations – the same methods the military use to effect mass sentiment change. It’s what they mean by winning ‘hearts and minds’. We were just doing it to win elections in the kind of developing countries that don’t have many rules.”

Why would anyone want to intern with a psychological warfare firm, I ask him. And he looks at me like I am mad. “It was like working for MI6. Only it’s MI6 for hire. It was very posh, very English, run by an old Etonian and you got to do some really cool things. Fly all over the world. You were working with the president of Kenya or Ghana or wherever. It’s not like election campaigns in the west. You got to do all sorts of crazy shit.”


Cambridge Analytica worked on campaigns in several key states for a Republican political action committee. Its key objective, according to a memo the Observer has seen, was “voter disengagement” and “to persuade Democrat voters to stay at home”: a profoundly disquieting tactic. It has previously been claimed that suppression tactics were used in the campaign, but this document provides the first actual evidence.

But does it actually work? One of the criticisms that has been levelled at my and others’ articles is that Cambridge Analytica’s “special sauce” has been oversold. Is what it is doing any different from any other political consultancy?

“It’s not a political consultancy,” says David. “You have to understand this is not a normal company in any way. I don’t think Mercer even cares if it ever makes any money. It’s the product of a billionaire spending huge amounts of money to build his own experimental science lab, to test what works, to find tiny slivers of influence that can tip an election. Robert Mercer did not invest in this firm until it ran a bunch of pilots – controlled trials. This is one of the smartest computer scientists in the world. He is not going to splash $15m on bullshit.”

----- 13 -----
Flynn was warned by Trump transition officials about contacts with Russian ambassador
By Greg Miller and Adam Entous | May 5 2017 | The Washington Post

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was warned by senior
members of President Trump’s transition team about the risks of his
contacts with the Russian ambassador weeks before the December call
that led to Flynn’s forced resignation, current and former U.S.
officials said.

Flynn was told during a late November meeting that Russian Ambassador
Sergey Kislyak’s conversations were almost certainly being monitored by
U.S. intelligence agencies, officials said, a caution that came a month
before Flynn was recorded discussing U.S. sanctions against Russia with
Kislyak, suggesting that the Trump administration would reevaluate the

Officials were so concerned that Flynn did not fully understand the
motives of the Russian ambassador that the head of Trump’s national
security council transition team asked Obama administration officials
for a classified CIA profile of Kislyak, officials said. The document
was delivered within days, officials said, but it is not clear that
Flynn ever read it.

The previously undisclosed sequence reveals the extent to which even
some Trump insiders were troubled by the still-forming administration’s
entanglements with Russia and its enthusiasm for a friendly
relationship with the Kremlin.

----- 14 -----
In a Beijing ballroom, Kushner family pushes $500,000 ‘investor visa’ to wealthy Chinese
By Emily Rauhala and William Wan | May 6, 2017 | The Washington Post

[See also: - "NYT reporter says this part of presentation id 'd Trump as the "key decision maker" for visa program. Kushner family openly selling access." ]

BEIJING — The Kushner family came to the United States as refugees,
worked hard and made it big — and if you invest in Kushner properties,
so can you.

That was the message delivered Saturday by White House senior adviser
Jared Kushner’s sister Nicole Kushner Meyer to a ballroom full of
wealthy Chinese investors in Beijing.

Over several hours of slide shows and presentations, representatives
from the Kushner family business urged Chinese citizens gathered at a
Ritz-Carlton hotel to consider investing hundreds of thousands of
dollars in a New Jersey luxury apartment complex that would help them
secure what’s known as an investor visa.

The potential investors were advised to invest sooner rather than later
in case visa rules change under the Trump administration. “Invest
early, and you will invest under the old rules,” one speaker said.

The tagline on a brochure for the event: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate
to the United States.”

And the highlight of the afternoon was Meyer, a principal for the
company, who was introduced in promotional materials as Jared’s sister.

The event underscores the extent to which Kushner’s private business
interests have the potential to collide with his powerful role as a top
official in his father-in-law’s White House, particularly when it comes
to China, where Kushner has become a crucial diplomatic channel between
Beijing and the new administration.

----- 15 -----
What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know
At 97, Ben Ferencz is the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive and he has a far-reaching message for today’s world
7 May 2017 | Lesley Stahl | CBS News

It is not often you get the chance to meet a man who holds a place in history like Ben Ferencz. He's 97 years old, barely 5 feet tall, and he served as prosecutor of what's been called the biggest murder trial ever. The courtroom was Nuremberg; the crime, genocide; the defendants, a group of German SS officers accused of committing the largest number of Nazi killings outside the concentration camps -- more than a million men, women, and children shot down in their own towns and villages in cold blood.

Ferencz is the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive today. But he isn't content just to be part of 20th century history -- he believes he has something important to offer the world right now.

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