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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christian survivors in Iraq

A Christian Science Monitor report about the brave Irqai Christians who have (so far) apparantly survived ISIS, the evil Islamic Caliphate (self declared government).

"They’ve suffered a lot,"- Father Ammar Siman, priest of the St. George Syriac Catholic church in Bartalla

Their town now liberated, Iraqi Christians talk of life under ISIS
SPIRIT OF HUMANITY
The historic heartland of Assyrian Christians in Iraq was seized by the militants in 2014, and nearly all fled in the face of demands to convert, pay a tax, or die.
Ismail Ibrahim Matti and his mother, Jandark Behnam Mansour Nasi, are Assyrian Christians who pretended to convert to Islam to escape execution by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), when their hometown of Bartalla, Iraq, was overtaken in 2014. They endured two years of beatings and captivity before finally escaping, under sniper fire, to the Iraqi Army in early November.

CSM: By Kristen Chick, Correspondent NOVEMBER 28, 2016

ERBIL, IRAQ — When Christians fled the small town of Bartalla in August 2014, as Islamic State militants swept toward them, then-14-year-old Ibrahim Matti and his elderly mother stayed behind. Without a car, they waited on a relative who promised to return for them after ferrying his own family to safety.

But by then, it was too late. Matti and his mother, Jandark Nasi, both Assyrian Christians, spent more than two years living under IS control in and around Mosul. They endured physical violence, constant threats and intimidation, and forced conversion before finally escaping as the Iraqi Army pushed into Mosul in recent weeks.

They are among just a handful of Christians who have so far emerged from territory controlled by the self-declared Islamic State amid the Iraqi offensive that has retaken parts of northern Iraq.

The historic heartland of Assyrian Christians in Iraq was part of the territory seized by the militants in 2014, and nearly all fled in the face of IS requirements: convert, pay a tax, or die. The ordeal of Matti and Ms. Nasi offers a glimpse of what life was like for those unable to escape.

Father Ammar Siman, priest of the St. George Syriac Catholic church in Bartalla, around 14 miles east of Mosul, says around 100 Christians were missing from the Christian villages around Mosul after August 2014. The relatives of many of the missing fear they did not survive.

Fr. Siman fled to Erbil in 2014. Although he has been back to see the church, he says no one has moved back to the town yet.

“We are very happy to receive them alive,” he says of those who had recently managed to escape. “Of course they need too much help. They’ve suffered a lot.”

Three days ISIS took Bartalla, Matti and his mother also tried to flee to Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region where many Christians took refuge. But militants stopped them at a checkpoint and sent them to a detention center in Mosul, and then to one in Bartalla. The prison was full of other Christians and Shiites, all of whom were being beaten, he says. There, militants told the teenager he must convert to Islam, urging him to say the Islamic profession of faith.

“I said there is no God but Jesus,” he recalled recently.

The militants then went to the next cell, where they were holding Shiite Muslims, whom they consider heretics. Matti could hear as an IS member demanded a man convert to Islam. “He didn’t accept, so they shot him in the head. Then they took me to his cell, showed me his body, and told me if you don’t convert to Islam, you will have the same fate,” he says. “I was frightened. I was scared.”

When the militants again demanded that the two recite the Islamic profession of faith, they complied. “We said it. But it wasn’t coming from our hearts,” he says. “I have strong faith, but with everything that happened, we were under threats and pressure. When you say something that’s not from the bottom of your heart, it’s not to be believed.”

Yet even that did not end their torment. Over the next two years, as they were living on the outskirts of Mosul and in the village of Bazwiya, IS militants regularly visited the two to test their commitment to Islam.

“I didn’t memorize their prayers, so they were beating me,” says Matti. “They beat my mother with sticks because she didn’t know how to pray.”

Militants would torture them with needles if they answered questions incorrectly, he says, and told him that if he missed three consecutive Fridays at the mosque they would kill him. Whenever he didn’t go to the mosque, they found and beat him, he says. He was forced to wear the short trousers preferred by the militants, and to grow his beard.

At the mosque, Matti listened to the imam proclaim the rest of the world infidels and urge residents to pledge obedience to the leader of IS and participate in jihad. Over the two years, he says he often saw members of IS who were not Iraqi. He also saw public executions, including the stoning of a woman accused of adultery, when he visited a central Mosul marketplace to buy food. But the two say that some Mosul residents secretly helped them, risking the ire of IS members by giving them food and supplies.

“I was always praying in my heart to Mary and Jesus,” says Nasi. “I was praying in the bottom of my heart, and crying. For the sake of my son, my gift from God.”

When the Iraqi Army offensive reached the area they were living on the eastern outskirts of Mosul, IS members gathered all the residents and forced them to retreat into the city. From there, Matti and Nasi were able to flee to territory taken by Iraqi forces.

Asked how it felt to finally be free, Matti smiles for the first time in an hour and a half of talking. “I still don’t believe it,” he says.

While Matti and Nasi lived in and near Mosul while under IS, two elderly Christian women stayed in the town of Qaraqosh.  Zarifa Baqous Daddo didn’t leave as all her neighbors fled the IS onslaught in August 2014 because her sick husband wasn’t able. He died after 15 days, and Ms. Daddo went to stay with another elderly Christian couple who’d stayed behind.

But one day, the man went out and never returned, she says, leaving the two frail women to spend the remainder of the two years alone. Militants briefly took them to Mosul before returning them to Qaraqosh and forcing them to recite the Islamic profession of faith under threats of violence.

She said the militants didn’t beat them, possibly showing some deference to their age, and regularly brought food and water to the house where the two women remained. But they terrorized them, including with false reports of territorial conquest.

“They were always telling us, you have no relatives left, we have taken over Erbil, we have taken over everything,” she says. Amid it all, she said she clung to her faith. “We didn’t have anything but our prayers. This was the only thing we had to do.”

Security forces found the pair after they pushed IS from the village.

Daddo, Matti, and Nasi say no one has blamed them for doing what they had to do to stay alive.

“We were visited by two priests, they told us not to worry about that,” says Nasi. “They said ‘you don’t have to fear anything now, we are your people, we are your family.’ ”

Siman, the priest from Bartalla, said they would receive only love from God and the church. “I think they were obligated to accept something they didn’t believe,” he says.“Do we blame them? No.”

Matti, a quiet and slight teenager, and his mother now live in a small room in a church-run center for displaced people in Erbil. Rosaries hang on the wall above the two simple beds, and the floor is covered by carpet scraps. A bare light bulb hangs from the wall. After more than two years without television, they enjoy a Bollywood film on a donated television – the pair are partial to Indian and Egyptian films.

Now out from under the caliphate, Matti says he wants to obtain medical care for his mother and to continue his studies, which stopped at 8th grade. But both see a future that lies outside of Iraq and their hometown.

“We spent two years [under IS], two horrible years. We don’t want to go back,” says Nasi. “We want to leave Iraq, to leave this pain.”

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

One Electoral voter resigns takes courage

Although I would've preferred to see this resigned Electoral College voter remain, to cast a dissenting vote, the very rare resignation from what was, in the past, an honorable role, is yet another dent in the irresponsible decision to elect Donald Trump.
Image result
Alexander Hamilton:  "the office of the President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications
Texas Elector to Resign Instead of Voting for Trump
Art Sisneros says he won’t be ‘faithless,’ but he also can’t in good conscience signal his approval of the president-elect.


A Republican elector from Texas says he is resigning his position instead of casting his vote for Donald Trump, calling the Electoral College "corrupted from its original intent" and saying voting for the president-elect would "bring dishonor to God."

Art Sisneros was considering in August the possibility of becoming a so-called faithless elector, meaning he would refuse to vote for Trump if the GOP candidate won the Lone Star State and its 38 electoral votes in November.

In a Saturday blog post on his website, Sisneros said he had decided he was not comfortable defying his pledge to vote for his party's nominee, but neither could he cast his vote for Trump.

"Since I can't in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and yet have sinfully made a pledge that I would, the best option I see at this time is to resign my position as an elector," Sisneros wrote. "This will allow the remaining body of electors to fill my vacancy when they convene on Dec. 19, with someone that can vote for Trump."

His decision followed a previous post in which he posed the question of whether it was "acceptable for a Christian to vote for a man like Trump for president," and concluded that he could not "in good conscience" do so.


"I do not see how Donald Trump is Biblically qualified to serve in the office of the presidency," he said in his Saturday post. 

"Of the hundreds of angry messages that I have received, not one has made a convincing case from Scripture otherwise. If Trump is not qualified and my role, both morally and historically, as an elected official is to vote my conscience, then I cannot and will not vote for Donald Trump for president."

In the lengthy post, Sisneros explained his frustration with both progressives' and conservatives' approaches to the Electoral College and the failure to use the body in the way the founders intended, which Sisneros likened to parents acting "in the best interest of their children" even if in some cases their children desire otherwise.

"The people will get their vote. They will get their Skittles for dinner," he said. "I will sleep well at night knowing I neither gave in to their demands nor caved to my convictions. I will also mourn the loss of our republic."

Meanwhile, a separate movement is openly lobbying for enough electors to refuse to vote for Trump.

Calling themselves the Hamilton Electors – a nod to Alexander Hamilton’s explanation of the Electoral College’s job as to ensure “the office of the President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications” – the group spurred by Democratic electors hopes to trigger the selection of another candidate through electors either changing their votes or abstaining from voting for Trump.

Electors are set to meet in their respective states across the country on Dec. 19 to formally cast their votes for president.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Borowitz and El Chapo - all truth has a germ of humor

This Andy Borowitz on line report from The New Yorker is a metaphor in humor. Why not El Chapo? All truth has an element of humor, enough to create the germ of satirical genius.

TRUMP PICKS "EL CHAPO" TO RUN D.E.A. (for the people challenged by acronyms, that's "Drug Enforcement Agency")

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—Just days after picking Betsy DeVos (married to Amway executive Doug DeVos) to run the Department of Education, President-elect Donald Trump has tapped another wealthy outsider by naming Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán to head the Drug Enforcement Administration.
(Donald Trump told the website "Snopes" that he neither confirms nor denies this report.)

In an official statement, Trump said that El Chapo’s “tremendous success in the private sector” showed that he has what it takes to “shake things up” at the D.E.A.

Trump’s appointment of the former drug lord surprised many in Washington, in no small part because acrimony between the two allegedly prompted El Chapo, in 2015, to put a hundred-million-dollar bounty on Trump’s head.

But, appearing on CNN, the Trump surrogate Kellyanne Conway said that the selection of El Chapo should surprise no one. “Mr. Trump always said that he would surround himself with the best people,” she said.

When asked why Trump had readily offered a job to El Chapo while still mulling the fate of another former adversary, Mitt Romney, Conway said, “El Chapo might not have voted for Mr. Trump, but that’s because he’s Mexican and in jail, and Mitt Romney is neither.” In fact, the appointment of the former Mexican drug kingpin is far from a done deal. 

Nevertheless, the associates of El Chapo report that he is “concerned” that being a member of the Trump Administration 
will be bad for his brand.

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Submariner alert "Trump is in an uproar"

In the #Trumpertantrum now under way by Donald Trump about the Wisconsin election recount is the classic response to what William Shakespeare identified as the person who "doth protest too much".

As US Navy submariners might profanely say, "Trump has his balls in an uproar.."

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks" is a quotation from the c. 1600 play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. It has been used as a figure of speech, in various phrasings, to describe someone's overly frequent and vehement attempts to convince others of some matter of which the opposite is true, thereby making themselves appear defensive and insincere.


Again, Donald Trump resorts to the only communication he knows how to manipulate to make false accusations while the cloud of controversy about his conflicts of interest and foriegn investments are being investigated.  Here are the absolute facts:

1.  There is no evidence of election voter fraud.
2.  An election recount of votes in Wisconsin and other states will serve to provide integrity, clarity and closure to the election results.
3. Plenty of evidence exists about how Donald Trump continues to have ethical problems with his foreign investments.

"...Swiss pharmaceutical company, announced last year that it would close a plant in nearby Clarecastle, causing the loss of more than 200 jobs. 'If someone told them you’d save those jobs by building any wall, everyone would do it,' he said. 'The only reason people are objecting here is because of Trump'.” - The New York Times


Potential Conflicts Around the Globe for Trump, the Businessman President By RICHARD C. PADDOCK, ERIC LIPTON, ELLEN BARRY, ROD NORDLAND, DANNY HAKIM and SIMON ROMERONOV. 26, 2016
Lichuan Xia works for Caijing Magazine as editorial cartoonist and graphic designer.
Certainly the Trump meteor is frightening- he ran his campaign on fear and he'll evidently "rule" by leveraging his international investments in favor of his own best interest.

MANILA — On Thanksgiving Day, a Philippine developer named Jose E. B. Antonio hosted a company anniversary bash at one of Manila’s poshest hotels. He had much to be thankful for.

In October, he had quietly been named a special envoy to the United States by the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte. Mr. Antonio was nearly finished building a $150 million tower in Manila’s financial district — a 57-story symbol of affluence and capitalism, which bluntly promotes itself with the slogan “Live Above the Rest.” And now his partner on the project, Donald J. Trump, had just been elected president of the United States. 

(MaineWriter- I've been to Makati- the "business district" the slogan is descriptive as well as a metaphor about the Philippines.)

After the election, Mr. Antonio flew to New York for a private meeting at Trump Tower with the president-elect’s children, who have been involved in the Manila project from the beginning, as have Mr. Antonio’s children. The Trumps and Antonios have other ventures in the works, including Trump-branded resorts in the Philippines, Mr. Antonio’s son Robbie Antonio said.

“We will continue to give you products that you can enjoy and be proud of,” the elder Mr. Antonio, one of the richest men in the Philippines, told the 500 friends, employees and customers gathered for his star-studded celebration in Manila. Mr. Antonio’s combination of jobs — he is a business partner with Mr. Trump, while also representing the Philippines in its relationship with the United States and the president-elect — is hardly inconsequential, given some of the weighty issues on the diplomatic table.

Among them, Mr. Duterte has urged “a separation” from the United Statesand has called for American troops to exit the country in two years’ time. His antidrug crusade has resulted in the summary killings of thousands of suspected criminals without trial, prompting criticism from the Obama administration.

Situations like these are already leading some former government officials from both parties to ask if America’s reaction to events around the world could potentially be shaded, if only slightly, by the Trump family’s financial ties with foreign players. They worry, too, that in some countries those connections could compromise American efforts to criticize the corrupt intermingling of state power with vast business enterprises controlled by the political elite.

“It is uncharted territory, really in the history of the republic, as we have never had a president with such an empire both in the United States and overseas,” said Michael J. Green, who served on the National Security Council in the administration of George W. Bush, and before that at the Defense Department.

The globe is dotted with such potential Trump conflicts. 

In fact, Mr. Trump’s companies have business operations in at least 20 countries, with a particular focus on the developing world, including outposts in nations like India, Indonesia and Uruguay, according to a New York Times analysis of his presidential campaign financial disclosures. What’s more, the true extent of Mr. Trump’s global financial entanglements is unclear, since he has refused to release his tax returns and has not made public a list of his lenders.

In an interview with The Times on Tuesday, Mr. Trump boasted again about the global reach of his business — and his family’s ability to keep it running after he takes office.

“I’ve built a very great company and it’s a big company and it’s all over the world,” Mr. Trump said, adding later: “I don’t care about my company. It doesn’t matter. My kids run it.”

In a written statement, his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said Mr. Trump and his family were committed to addressing any issues related to his financial holdings.

“Vetting of various structures and immediate transfer of the business remains a top priority for both President-elect Trump, his adult children and his executives,” she said.

But a review by The Times of these business dealings identified a menu of the kinds of complications that could create a running source of controversy for Mr. Trump, as well as tensions between his priorities as president and the needs and objectives of his companies.

In Brazil, for example, the beachfront Trump Hotel Rio de Janeiro — one of Mr. Trump’s many branding deals, in which he does not have an equity stake — is part of a broad investigation by a federal prosecutor who is examining whether illicit commissions and bribes resulted in apparent favoritism by two pension funds that invested in the project.

Several of Mr. Trump’s real estate ventures in India — where he has more projects underway than in any location outside North America — are being built through companies with family ties to India’s most important political party. This makes it more likely that Indian government officials will do special favors benefiting Mr. Trump’s projects, including pressuring state-owned banks to extend favorable loans.

In Ireland and Scotland, executives from Mr. Trump’s golf courses have been waging two separate battles with local officials. The most recent centers on the Trump Organization’s plans to build a flood-prevention sea wall at the course on the Irish coast. Some environmentalists say the wall could destroy an endangered snail’s habitat — a dispute that will soon involve the president of the United States.

And in Turkey, officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a religiously conservative Muslim, demanded that Mr. Trump’s name be removed from Trump Towers in Istanbul after he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. More recently, after Mr. Trump came to the defense of Mr. Erdogan — suggesting that he had the right to crack down harshly on dissidents after a failed coup — the calls for action against Trump Towers have stopped, fueling worries that Mr. Trump’s policies toward Turkey might be shaped by his commercial interests.

Mr. Trump has acknowledged a conflict of interest in Turkey. 

“I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” he said during a radio interview last year with Stephen K. Bannon, the Breitbart News executive who has since been designated his chief White House strategist. “It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers — two towers, instead of one. Not the usual one. It’s two.”

These tangled ties already have some members of Congress — including at least one Republican representative — calling on Mr. Trump to provide more information on his international operations, or perhaps for a congressional inquiry into them.

“You rightly criticized Hillary for Clinton Foundation,” Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan, said in a Twitter message on Monday. “If you have contracts w/foreign govts, it’s certainly a big deal, too.#DrainTheSwamp”

David J. Kramer, who served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor during the Bush administration, said Mr. Trump’s financial entanglements could undermine decades of efforts by Democratic and Republican presidents to promote government transparency — and to use the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to stop contractors from paying bribes to secure government work abroad.

“This will make it a little harder to be able to go out and proselytize around these things,” Mr. Kramer said.

Even if Mr. Trump and his family seek no special advantages from foreign governments, officials overseas may feel compelled to help the Trump family by, say, accelerating building permits or pushing more business to one of the new president’s hotels or golf courses, according to several former State Department officials.

“The working assumption on behalf of all these foreign government officials will be that there is an advantage to doing business with the Trump organization,” said Michael H. Fuchs, who was until recently deputy assistant secretary at the bureau of East Asian and Pacific affairs. “They will think it will ingratiate themselves with the Trump administration. And this will significantly complicate United States foreign policy and our relationships around the world.”

At the same time, Mr. Fuchs said, American diplomats in countries where Mr. Trump’s companies operate, fearful of a rebuke from Washington, may be reluctant to take steps that could frustrate business partners or political allies.

Another question is, who will be responsible for security at the Trump Towers around the world, especially in the Middle East, which terrorism experts say may now become more appealing targets as symbols of American capitalism built in the name of the president?

What is clear is that there has been very little division, in the weeks since the election, between Mr. Trump’s business interests and his transition effort, with the president-elect or his family greeting real estate partners from India and the Philippines in his office and Mr. Trump raising concerns about his golf course in Scotland with a prominent British politician. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is in charge of planning and development of the Trump Organization’s global network of hotels, has joined in conversations with at least three world leaders — of Turkey, Argentina and Japan — having access that could help her expand the brand worldwide.

Mr. Trump, in the interview with The Times on Tuesday, acknowledged that his move to the Oval Office could help enrich his family. He cited his new hotel a few blocks from the White House, which the Trump Organization has urged diplomats to consider patronizing when in town to meet the president or his team.

Federal law does not prevent Mr. Trump from taking actions that could benefit him and his family financially; the president is exempt from most conflict-of-interest laws. But the Constitution, through what is called the emoluments clause, appears to prohibit him from taking payments or gifts from a foreign government entity, a standard that some legal experts say he may violate by renting space in Trump Tower in New York to the Bank of China or if he hosts foreign diplomats in one of his hotels.

“I mean it could be that occupancy at that hotel will be because, psychologically, occupancy at that hotel will be probably a more valuable asset now than it was before, O.K.? The brand is certainly a hotter brand than it was before. I can’t help that, but I don’t care,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “The only thing that matters to me is running our country.”

Robert D. Blackwill, a former National Security Council member who also served as ambassador to India during the Bush administration, said Mr. Trump still had a chance to demonstrate that he could manage these challenges once he was sworn in.

“Let’s listen and not prejudge,” said Mr. Blackwill, a Republican who was so critical of Mr. Trump that he endorsed Hillary Clinton. “I want to see what he does as president.”

BRAZIL

Nation Under Pressure, Ventures Under Scrutiny

Donald Trump Jr., the president-elect’s oldest son, gushed with triumphalism when he announced a deal in 2014 to attach the family name to the Trump Hotel Rio de Janeiro, a lavish 171-room beachfront project featuring cavernous suites with private plunge pools and a 4,000-square-foot nightclub.

“This is an exciting time to develop our first project in South America and the perfect location to do so,” the younger Mr. Trump (his brother Eric is also involved in the family business) said at the time.

But just two years later, the venture is embroiled in a criminal investigation in Brazil, pointing to unfulfilled promises that are casting a pall over both the Trump business empire and the president-elect in their dealings in Latin America’s largest country.

Anselmo Henrique Cordeiro Lopes, a crusading federal prosecutor in the capital, Brasília, opened an investigation in the weeks before the American election into $40 million in investments made by two relatively small Brazilian pension funds in the Trump Hotel Rio.

The Trump hotel inquiry is looking at why the funds — Serpro, which invests on behalf of retirees of a state-controlled information technology firm, and Igeprev, which manages the pensions of public employees of the sparsely populated Tocantins State — put so much of their capital into the venture, which is owned by Mr. Trump’s Brazilian partner, LSH Barra.

Back in 2014, the hotel might have seemed like a good deal. Brazil was about to host the World Cup soccer tournament that year, while Rio was preparing to be the venue for the 2016 Summer Olympics. At the same time, Rio, the nerve center of Brazil’s energy industry, had been bolstered by large offshore oil discoveries.

But Brazil’s economy began to weaken in 2014, undermined by falling commodities prices, colossal graft scandals and political instability that culminated in the ouster this year of President Dilma Rousseff, who was replaced by her vice president, Michel Temer. The result: Brazil is still grappling with its most severe economic crisis in decades.

The hotel officially opened for the Olympics, but months later remains unfinished. The top floors of the property, whose design evokes a futuristic pyramid, are closed. Parts of the hotel still resemble a construction site, including the second floor, where pleasure-seekers were supposed to mingle in a nightclub overlooking the Atlantic.

The examination of the project by Mr. Lopes, the federal prosecutor, has already found a series of “highly suspicious” potential irregularities warranting a criminal investigation, according to court documents. “It is necessary to verify if the favoritism shown by the pension funds to LSH and the Trump Organization was due to the payment of illicit commissions and bribes,” Mr. Lopes said in documents filed in October.

In his filings, Mr. Lopes said the size of the hotel investments relative to the overall holdings of the small pension funds reflected a highly unusual level of risk, especially for an unfinished venture that failed to capitalize fully on the demand for accommodations during the Olympics. Going further, Mr. Lopes positioned the inquiry within a broader investigation of public pension funds, pillars of the Brazilian economy that often work in tandem with large state-controlled banks and energy companies.

Mr. Trump first took interest in a Rio hotel venture in 2012, when Ivanka Trump was having lunch in Florida with Paulo Figueiredo Filho, a businessman who is a grandson of João Figueiredo, the last autocrat of Brazil’s 21-year military dictatorship, which ended in 1985. The younger Mr. Figueiredo spearheaded the hotel venture until recently.

In a statement, Mr. Trump’s Brazilian partner, LSH, said it was innocent of any wrongdoing in connection with the investments by the pension funds, and was cooperating with the criminal inquiry.

Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s general counsel, said in a statement issued Friday that the investigation was not targeting Mr. Trump or his company — given that it does not own the hotel — and “has no knowledge whatsoever regarding any governmental inquiry.”

The investigation of the Trump projects is unfolding at an awkward time for the Brazilian authorities. Foreign Minister José Serra, Brazil’s top diplomat, publicly declared in July that a Trump presidency would be a “nightmare.” Although President Temer has formally congratulated Mr. Trump on his victory in a letter, he is still among world leaders who have not yet spoken by telephone with the president-elect.

Even if Brazil’s executive branch actively tries to seek warmer relations with Mr. Trump, officials will face obstacles if they try to quell the investigation. Brazil differs from some other countries in Latin America where presidents can easily exert pressure on prosecutors and judges, with the judiciary steadily growing more independent.

“Brazilian diplomats could try to avoid the problem of referring to the investigation when dealing with the Trump administration, but that’s about all they can do,” said Maurício Santoro, a political scientist at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. “This is something that could hang over relations between the two countries for years.”

INDIA - Potential Pitfalls in Dual Roles

On the other side of the world, Donald Trump Jr. had other projects he was pushing.

In 2012, he flew into Mumbai for a brief meeting with the state’s chief minister at that time, hoping to salvage a residential tower representing the Trump Organization’s first planned project there. He was hoping the chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, would intervene on his behalf to get the permission needed.

The participants recall the meeting differently: Mr. Trump’s partner, Harresh Mehta of Rohan Lifescapes, said development regulations had changed, leaving the project in limbo, and they hoped Mr. Chavan could formalize a policy so that the project could continue. Mr. Chavan said that in a 30-minute meeting, Mr. Trump and his partner were “requesting a concession that could not be given.”

By the end of the meeting, in any case, it was fairly clear that the younger Mr. Trump’s presence had not worked any magic. The project was shelved soon after.

“He thought the name was so big, we would bend backwards to satisfy him, but that was not the case,” Mr. Chavan said.

Kalpesh Mehta, managing partner of Tribeca Developers of Mumbai, the Trump Organization’s development partner in India, confirmed that Donald Trump Jr. had met with the chief minister, but disputed the claim by Mr. Chavan that he had sought a special favor.

“The notion that a request was made by Donald Jr. to waive any regulations is absolutely false,” Mr. Mehta said in the statement, which was issued Friday. “The Trump Organization does not get involved in the regulatory aspects and/or interacting with government officials related to its projects in India.”

This example, analysts here say, points to a potentially serious ethical hazard for a United States president who is also a real estate mogul in India, with five projects underway. Mr. Trump was operating much like other developers in India, who cozy up to politicians — officially or unofficially — to push projects through the bureaucracy.

Often, they must obtain as many as 60 permissions and building permits from government officials, including bureaucrats “whose main goal in life is to attract rent,” said Saurabh Mukherjea, the chief executive of institutional equities at Ambit Capital, a leading investment bank in India.

One of Mr. Trump’s projects, Trump Towers Pune, is in fact under investigation by local authorities after another builder alleged that one of its permits was fraudulent. Panchshil Realty has disputed that accusation, saying the permit in question was not required for the construction. The very nature of the country’s real estate business, however, underscores larger concerns about potential damage to American efforts to discourage corruption in business abroad.

In India, real estate is the main vehicle politicians and businessmen have used to invest so-called black money, on which taxes have not been paid. In cities, where land is scarce and extraordinarily valuable, special favors from top political leaders can lead to windfall profits, and negotiations between developers and officials are informal affairs.

It is so routine for developers to pay bribes at every step of the approval process that many bureaucrats have informal rate sheets showing exactly how much must be paid to each official.

Politicians not only pressure the bureaucracy to approve their pet projects, sometimes even when they are against local regulations, they also squeeze government banks to give out favorable loans.

Top officials might “think in some way the U.S. president will help them,” and “can put in a friendly word with the banks” to extend loans for around 8 percent interest, rather than the characteristic 15 percent, said Vikas S. Kasliwal, the chief executive officer and vice chairman of Shree Ram Urban Infrastructure.

“If the son goes himself, if the son is willing to go and meet the prime minister of India, or the urban development minister, that is a very big thing,” he said. “They will think the president is meeting them.”

Another pitfall is that Donald Trump’s partners in major projects are, in some cases, politicians themselves. Most major Indian developers have some sort of alignment, direct or indirect, with regional political leaders, who can assist in acquiring the necessary permits.

Mr. Trump’s first projects in India, which are expected to increase in number over the next year, follow this pattern: His partner for Trump Towers Pune is Panchshil Realty, owned by a family that has a close and longstanding family relationship with one of the state’s most powerful politicians, Sharad Pawar, the head of the small but influential Nationalist Congress Party. (Mr. Trump was photographed — in an image distributed on Twitter but since taken down — with executives from Panchshil Realty on Nov. 15.) Mr. Pawar’s daughter, Supriya Sule, a member of Parliament, holds a 2 percent share in Panchshil’s parent company, she said in an interview.

Mr. Trump’s partner in the Trump Tower Mumbai is the Lodha Group, founded by Mangal Prabhat Lodha, vice president of the Bharatiya Janata Party — currently the governing party in Parliament — in Maharashtra State. The Lodha Group has already negotiated with the United States government; it announced a landmark purchase of a property, known as the Washington House, on tony Altamount Road, from the American government for 3.75 billion rupees, almost $70 million.

His partner in an office complex in Gurgaon, near New Delhi, is IREO, whose managing director, Lalit Goyal, is the brother-in-law of a Bharatiya Janata member of Parliament, Sudhanshu Mittal. Mr. Mittal, in an interview, has denied having any connection with the real estate company.

Suraj Hegde, the secretary of the All India Congress Committee, a national body of Indian National Congress party members, said he was troubled by the dual roles Mr. Trump and his family would play in Indian affairs — particularly given real estate’s important role in India’s fast-growing economy, and the clout the United States has on the world stage.

“Basically this is the globalization of lobbying across countries, which then tries to establish monopoly over real estate,” Mr. Hegde said in an interview. He added that he was already calling for an independent parliamentary investigation of such maneuvers, including Mr. Trump’s real estate ventures in India.

“Establishing monopoly at the cost of small players by business connections to Mr. Trump is very worrisome,” he said. “This is not at all healthy for a democracy.”

TURKEY - Mixing Business, Politics and Islam

Mr. Trump’s business interests in Turkey are emblematic of two weighty contradictions for a businessman turned politician.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump railed against moving American jobs overseas and promised to do something about it. As a businessman, he invested in a partnership with a furniture company here, making luxury furniture in the firm’s factory in western Anatolia and selling it in the United States and worldwide — a partnership that apparently remains active.

Mr. Trump the candidate inveighed against Muslims and threatened at least a temporary ban on their entering the United States. Mr. Trump the businessman has in recent years had some of his biggest expansions overseas, including in Muslim countries like Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and even Azerbaijan.

One of the most visible Muslim-world symbols of that contradiction is in the bustling commercial district of Sisli, on the European side of Istanbul, where a pair of cantilevered modernist towers, nearly 40 stories high, bear Mr. Trump’s name.

Turkey’s leader, Mr. Erdogan, visited Trump Towers Istanbul — one holds luxury apartments and one office space, with a shopping mall connecting the two — after their completion in 2012, with Mr. Trump and Ivanka Trump appearing as part of the celebration the next day.

“We look forward to this being the first of many world-class developments undertaken together in Istanbul and throughout Turkey,” Mr. Trump saidin a statement issued during the visit.

Beyond real estate, there is the Trump Organization’s 2013 partnership with Dorya International, a luxury furniture maker with a factory in Manisa Province, near the city of Izmir, to build pieces sold under the Trump Home Collection.

But the presidential campaign demonstrated how the goals of his business and politics ventures can come into direct conflict, particularly once Mr. Trump in December proposed barring Muslims from entering the United States, implying that all Muslims might pose a terrorist threat.

“We regret and condemn Trump’s discriminatory remarks,” Bulent Kural, the manager of the Trump Towers Mall, wrote in an email to a reporter at the time, as he announced that the mall was considering removing Mr. Trump’s name. “Such statements bear no value and are products of a mind that does not understand Islam, a peace religion, at all. Our reaction has been directly expressed to the Trump family. We are reviewing the legal dimension of our relation with the Trump brand.”

Mr. Erdogan weighed in on the issue, too, saying, “The ones who put that brand on their building should immediately remove it.”

Mr. Trump’s next move helped re-establish his standing. After a failed coup in Turkey in July, he defended Mr. Erdogan’s crackdown on dissidents, saying in an interview with The Times that the United States has to “fix our own mess” before trying to alter the behavior of other nations.

“I don’t think we have a right to lecture,” Mr. Trump said in the interview.“Look at what is happening in our country,” he added, referring to violence in the United States. “How are we going to lecture when people are shooting policemen in cold blood?”

In between his two remarks — one infuriating the president of Turkey, the other comforting him — the calls for the renaming of the Trump Towers Mall ended. But much more is at stake in relations between the United States and Turkey than a shopping mall and two skyscrapers.

Turkey is a key player in United States efforts to combat the Islamic State in the Middle East, and sits next door to Syria as the United States has armed rebel groups in an attempt to remove Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, from power.

The recent postelection telephone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan suggests that business and political roles will continue to be mixed.

According to a Turkish journalist, Amberin Zaman, writing in the independent online news outlet Diken, Mr. Trump told the Turkish leader that he and his daughter — who participated in the call — admired both Mr. Erdogan and Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, Mr. Trump’s business associate in the towers, whom he called “a close friend.”

Ms. Zaman, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said no government officials had disputed her account of the conversation. “I’m of the opinion they were quite happy for this to be published,” she said. A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump declined to comment about the call.

Jennifer Harris, who served on the staff of the National Intelligence Council and on the State Department’s policy planning staff, said the twin hats that Mr. Trump and his family would be wearing in Turkey would almost certainly complicate the jobs of American diplomats there.

“It makes me wonder if the Trump administration will use the power of the state to help political or business allies and hurt political adversaries and business rivals,” she said.

THE PHILIPPINES - What Stance Toward Duterte?

President Duterte’s antidrug campaign has led to the summary deaths of thousands of suspected criminals at the hands of police and vigilantes since he took office June 30. The killing has been condemned by human rights activists — and the Obama administration.

In August, Elizabeth Trudeau, a State Department spokeswoman, said the United States was “very deeply concerned” about reports of “extrajudicial killings by or at the behest of government authorities of individuals who are suspected to have been in drug activity in the Philippines.” She added, “We have also made our concerns known.”

The question now, former State Department officials say, is just what kind of a stand the Trump administration will take as Mr. Trump and his family balance their personal and financial ties with foreign policy demands.

Mr. Antonio first met Mr. Trump casually in the 1990s and has been his business partner in the Philippines for five years. President Duterte named him special envoy to the United States as the Philippines angrily pushed back at President Obama for criticizing his deadly campaign. At the time of the appointment, Mrs. Clinton was leading in the polls in the United States presidential election.

Mr. Duterte has made clear that he does not appreciate American meddling in his country’s domestic affairs.

“I am a president of a sovereign state, and we have long ceased to be a colony,” Mr. Duterte told reporters in early September, before a scheduled meeting in Laos with Mr. Obama that never took place. “I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody.”

Mr. Duterte handpicked Mr. Antonio as his intermediary with the United States, said his press secretary, Ernesto Abella, because of his business success, his previous experience as a special envoy to China and the Philippine president’s “deep intuition about people.” The appointment will be advantageous for the Philippines, Mr. Abella added, because Mr. Trump already knows Mr. Antonio.

Even before Mr. Trump has been sworn in, Mr. Antonio flew to New York and visited Trump Tower, where he met with Mr. Trump’s children, who are executives at the Trump Organization — which oversees the president-elect’s real estate ventures. This was a business trip, not a diplomatic one, Robbie Antonio, Mr. Antonio’s son and the managing director of the family business, said in an interview.

The two families are considering new ventures as they finish work on the Trump Tower in Makati City, a financial center within metropolitan Manila, that is one of the country’s wealthiest enclaves and home to many of the nation’s elite.

The $150 million tower — one of the tallest in the Philippines — is on the gritty side of Makati about two blocks from Manila’s most notorious red-light district, where it is common to see prostitutes soliciting business and people sleeping on sidewalks. Completion, originally scheduled for this year, is now expected in 2017. About 240 of the 260 units have been sold, said Kristina Garcia, the director for investor relations.

“We are bringing Trump to the Philippines because we believe that Trump exemplifies the best quality of real estate anywhere in the world,” Mr. Antonio said in a 2011 video promoting the project — in which Mr. Antonio is identified as “ambassador” and Mr. Trump also appears. “It also exemplifies luxury and it exemplifies exclusivity.”

In the interview at the celebration in Manila on Thursday evening, Robbie Antonio said he had little doubt of his father’s priorities: He will put the Philippines’ interests above those of his company. “It is for the good of the country now,” he said.

But Mr. Fuchs, who helped oversee United States relations with the Philippines as the deputy assistant secretary of state until early this year, said he was deeply troubled by Mr. Trump’s overlapping priorities, particularly given the long list of globally significant issues in play with the Philippines. These include planned joint military exercises in the South China Sea, the fight against militant Islamic groups based in the country’s southern islands, and the human rights abuses taking place.

“What we already have is a blurring of the lines between official and business activities,” Mr. Fuchs said. “The biggest gray area may not be a President Trump himself advocating for favors for the Trump Organization. It’s the diplomats and career officers who will feel the need to perhaps not do things that will harm the Trump Organization’s interests. It is seriously disturbing.”

IRELAND and SCOTLAND - Over a Tiny Snail, Big Concerns

The vertigo angustior snail is only two millimeters long. But it punches above its weight.

The endangered little snail has helped stall Mr. Trump’s plans to build a sea wall to protect the coastline along his Trump International Golf Links course on the west coast of Ireland, in County Clare.

Environmentalists, as well as surfers, list a host of concerns about the proposed wall, particularly its potential impact on sand dunes. Along with the snails, a patch of the dunes near the course is protected by European Union rules. But Mr. Trump’s organization has said the golf resort development might be dead in the water without the sea wall, and many locals welcome the business and the jobs it brings.

The battle is likely to be decided next year in front of a national planning board, in the weeks or months after Mr. Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20, several people said.

The planning board was overhauled in the 1980s to insulate it from political meddling, and it now has the confidence of environmentalists. But there is little precedent for the Trump situation, which could involve a public hearing.

“They can be long, they can be lively, and a lot of things could be aired,” said Sean O’Leary, the executive director of the Irish Planning Institute, which represents the majority of the country’s professional planners.

He noted that the national planning board had considered a development proposed by a politician before, but that was a holiday home that the Irish president wanted to build.

“The scale is slightly different,” he said.

Local officials have said the Trump Organization needs to resubmit its application by the end of the year. In a statement, the Trump Organization said it was “considering all potential coastal protection options at present” and would be in contact with the local authority before Christmas. The snail, the statement said, “is thriving on the site.”

“Its only material threat is that presented by coastal erosion,” it added.

Certainly, Mr. Trump’s golf courses in Scotland and Ireland have remained at the fore in the president-elect’s mind, even in recent days. Shortly after his election, he urged a group of “Brexit” campaigners led by Nigel Farage, the head of the U.K. Independence Party, to fight against wind farms in Britain. Wind farms have been a favorite target of Mr. Trump’s in both Britain and Ireland, where he has railed against proposed installations as a potential blight on the views from his resorts.

After a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump initially denied that the matter had been raised with Mr. Farage’s group, Mr. Trump conceded during his interview with The Times this past week that “I might have brought it up.”

Tony Lowes, an activist who runs a group called Friends of the Irish Environment, said Mr. Trump had once called him because Mr. Lowes’s group also happened to oppose a proposed wind farm near Mr. Trump’s Irish course on environmental grounds.

“He certainly hates wind farms, that’s for sure,” Mr. Lowes said about the call.

His group decided against working with Mr. Trump, and is now a leading opponent of his planned sea wall.

“The dune system will not be able to develop naturally,” Mr. Lowes said. “It will be starved of the sand it needs to develop and evolve and it will die.” He added, “The whole system there is alive and mobile and moving, and the wall is intended to stop that.”

Mr. Trump’s representatives have advanced a number of rationales for the sea wall, with the most straightforward being that they simply want to buffer the land from a continuing erosion problem. The proposal has previously attracted attention because an environmental-impact statement submitted by Mr. Trump’s team highlighted the risks of climate change and its influence on “coastal erosion rates.” That was a noteworthy claim, since Mr. Trump has called global warming a hoax perpetrated “by and for the Chinese.”

The Irish government has zealously courted Mr. Trump. When he visited the course in 2014, he was greeted on the airport tarmac in Shannon with a red carpet, a harpist, a violinist and a singer whose voice cut through the runway clamor.

Malachy Clerkin of The Irish Times called it “a preposterous welcome” and “the worst kind of forelock-tugging.”

Many locals, however, support Mr. Trump’s development. Hugh McNally, the owner of Morrissey’s Bar in Doonbeg Village, about two miles from the course, said the issue had been “sensationalized by the media” because of the Trump connection.

“I’ll give you an example,” he said. Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical company, announced last year that it would close a plant in nearby Clarecastle, causing the loss of more than 200 jobs. “If someone told them you’d save those jobs by building any wall, everyone would do it,” he said. “The only reason people are objecting here is because of Trump.”

THE WORLD

A Transition and a Business Plan

Mr. Trump’s family appears to have been preparing for the transition to the Oval Office and ways to capitalize on it both in the United States and around the globe.

In April, even before Mr. Trump had secured the Republican nomination, his business moved to trademark the name American Idea for use in branding hotels, spas and concierge services, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It was one of more than two dozen trademark applications that Mr. Trump and members of his family filed in the United States and around the world while he was running for president.

The applications offer a glimpse of where the Trumps may intend to focus their business endeavors. Last month, representatives of the Trump Organization in Indonesia, where Mr. Trump has been pursuing two hotel deals, filed trademark registrations for use of the Trump name in connection with hotel management. Similar filings have been made in Mexico, Canada and the European Union.

Ivanka Trump has filed at least 25 trademark registrations for her brand of clothing, cosmetics and jewelry in the United States, Canada, the European Union and Mexico since the beginning of the year, mostly recently in October. Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, filed an American trademark application for a line of jewelry in August.

As he prepares for the presidency, Mr. Trump has made at least one concession so far, he said in the interview with The Times this past week.

“In theory, I can be president of the United States and run my business 100 percent, sign checks on my business,” Mr. Trump said, before later adding, “but I am phasing that out now, and handing that to Eric Trump and Don Trump and Ivanka Trump for the most part, and some of my executives, so that’s happening right now.”

Richard C. Paddock reported from Manila, Eric Lipton from Washington, Ellen Barry from New Delhi, Rod Nordland from Istanbul, Danny Hakim from London and Simon Romero from Rio de Janeiro. Reporting was contributed by Mike McIntire from New York, Safak Timur from Istanbul, Sinead O’Shea from Ireland and Suhasini Raj from New Delhi. Karen Yourish and Gregor Aisch contributed research.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Japan is investing in the future

Frankly, the USA should be leading this advanced technology, but our government spends entirely too much money on defense, so we are unlikely to find enough extra to invest in staying ahead of this leading edge computer science.
In Japan, the money raised through taxation and municipal services is not applied to building a national defense. Instead, the money raised by the government helps to fund an improvment in the Japanese human condition. Now, the nation is focused on creating the world's fastest computer system. When companies want to grow faster than their competitors, where do you think they might turn for their technologies?

TECHNOLOGY (Reported in the Christian Science Monitor)
Japan to build world's fastest supercomputer

By Weston WilliamsAfter five years of falling behind the United States and China in peak computer performance, Japan is poised for a comeback.
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Artificial Intelligence (AI)- computers are doing it faster and faster

Japan announced its intention to build the world's fastest and most efficient supercomputer by the end of 2017. Bidding for the opportunity to build the computer, named Artificial Intelligence Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (AIBC), will end on December 8th.

If constructed, AIBC could represent another leap forward in super-computing, one that could greatly advance AI research as well as provide valuable processing power for various companies, startups, and academic institutions. 

As computing technology continues to advance, AIBC could also provide researchers with valuable information on how to continue to push processing power forward for personal computing devices.
The Artificial Intelligence Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (AIBC) will run at over 130 petaflops, far faster than the current record holder.

The current record-holder for most powerful supercomputer in the world is China's Sunway Taihu Light , which can perform 93 petaflops, that is, quadrillion floating-point operations per second, a common measure of supercomputer performance that clocks how fast a machine can perform arithmetic on numbers with fractions. AIBC would run at over 130 petaflops, according to Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), where the computer will be built. That's a huge leap over Japan's current fastest supercomputer, which runs at a mere 13.5 petaflops.
"As far as we know, there is nothing out there that is as fast ," Satoshi Sekiguchi, a director general at AIST, told Reuters.

The announcement of AIBC comes after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for Japan's governmental and private sectors to work more closely together to put the country at the forefront of new and growing technological markets. 

AIBC-assisted research will drive Japanese advances in self-driving cars, medical applications, robotics, and more. But the main goal is to use the calculating capacity of the supercomputer to accelerate aspects of artificial intelligence research, including "deep learning," an attempt to teach machines high-level abstract thinking similar to that of a human being.

The new computer is projected to cost the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry $173 million, or 19.5 billion yen. The price tag will likely be mitigated by allowing companies to rent time on the supercomputer for their own use , according to Ars Technica UK. In the meantime, various technology companies have begun bidding on the honor to build the machine themselves, though it is not known whether there are any frontrunners yet.

While advances in supercomputer technology are not generally felt by ordinary people for years, the techniques used to build supercomputers have led to a rapid increase in the speed and efficiency of consumer technologies. The Cray-2 supercomputer, for instance, the fastest machine in the world when it was released in 1985, has 2.7 times less processing power than Apple's iPhone 5 , which is now itself skirting obsolescence. In a few decades, it is possible we could see the equivalent of AIBC on the market for ordinary consumers in some form or another.

But for now, there are a number of technical challenges to overcome in order to make AIBC a reality. The most significant challenge is power consumption; AIST wants the computer to run on less than 3 megawatts of power. By comparison, Sunway Taihulight runs on 15 megawatts. AIBC will also have to use cutting-edge liquid cooling techniques to keep the heat generated by the supercomputer to tolerable levels.

ABCI will be constructed at the University of Tokyo's Kashiwa Campus. Like most currently active supercomputers, it will likely run on a Linux operating system.

(Meanwhile, our nation's national defense consumes money like deep sea divers eat oxygen.)

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro and other failed leaders

"A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past," said Fidel Castro (1926-2016) the failed leader of the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
It's surprising Castro lived to be 90 years old, given how many millions of people were planning for his early death and seeing the celebrations as a result of his ultimate demise on November 26, 2016.
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Fidel Castro (1925-2016)

Regardless of how vilified Fidel Castro was after the Cuban Revolution failed, the fact is, he died in the leadership role he took by force. It was an armed revolt conducted by Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement and its allies, against the authoritarian government of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. The revolution began in July 1953. It continued sporadically until the rebels finally ousted Batista on 1 January 1959, replacing the government with a revolutionary socialist state. The 26th of July Movement later reformed along communist lines, becoming the Communist Party in October 1965.

Fidel Castro outlived his life expectancy causing decades of economic hardships on the Cubans living in the island nation just 90 miles from Key West, Florida. He was the example of leadership without a plan for implementation.  In fact, a study of Fidel Castro's leadership style shows how dangerous one man's unchecked control is, especially when no one was allowed to live who opposed him.

Other failed leaders, to name a few were Russia's Joseph Stalin who purged his enemies and Adolf Hitler who murdered his opponents.  

In today's current events, Syria's evil President Bashar al-Assad and Russia's Vladimir Putin are a few who come to mind as failed leaders. Obviously, Putin is too egotistical to admit his leadership is "failed". Maybe his unhealthy alliance with the American businessman Donald Trump will turn things around for Putin. Shudder at the thought of being friends with a former KGB agent, in the days when Putin was adept at attempting to co-opt American spies by stealing their intelligence, while in Europe.

One man's leadership can destroy nations. For example, Cambodia's now dead former leader Pol Pot (1925-1998), led a genocidal movement. Pot was an evil communist leader who led the Khmer Rouge terror movement in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. During that time, about 1.5 million Cambodians out of a total population of 7 to 8 million died of starvation, execution, disease or overwork. Some estimates place the death toll even higher. One detention center, S-21, was so notorious that only seven of the roughly 20,000 people imprisoned there are known to have survived. The Khmer Rouge, in their attempt to socially engineer a classless peasant society, took particular aim at intellectuals, city residents, ethnic Vietnamese, civil servants and religious leaders. An invading Vietnamese army deposed the Khmer Rouge in 1979, and, despite years of guerrilla warfare, they never took power again. Pol Pot died in 1998 without ever being brought to justice.

Sadly, there are dozens of examples of how one man, or a determined, and ambitious leader, someone who rules without morals or principles can bring entire civilizations to the brink of disaster. Like Fidel Castro predicted in his quote about "revolution", these leaders force the difference between the past and the future.

In my opinion, our American Democracy appears to be on the brink of a similar "revolution", one brought about by deceitful "false news", a campaign of fear and slander against all opposition. Donald Trump sucked his support for his 2016 election from the right wing extremists who want to make America "white" again.

In fact, rich Donald Trump has lived the mirror opposite life of the humble Fidel Castro. Yet, they have shared an insatiable ambition to control and have power over others, regardless of how they could obtain their goals.

I suspect Donald Trump's leadership will be a failed effort to bring about a social revolution in the United States; but if he lives as long as Fidel Castro, he only has 20 years left to do it. Moreover, when it's time for the ultimate and natural demise of Donald Trump, as will inevitably happen, (Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Hitler and Stalin) there will be dancing in the streets in cities throughout the world, just like the joyous Cubans are doing in Florida's "little Havana's", today.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Sanctuaries in academia

It's impossible to think about just how low Donald Trump can go in his desecration of American democracy. Now, academia is bracing for mass deportations of foriegn students, a policy contrary to our history as an immigrant nation. Deportations of students is pushing out another sanctuary bottom.  Sadly, the Trumpzi cult population is enjoying the evil that comes from destroying families and students with cruel words and policies. 

These are scary days for immigrants and to those who may be feeling the impact, please accept my sincere apologies.  Perhaps, after Inauguration Day, I'll be one of the blogging journalists who will be sent packing along with the rest of you. I'm ready.

Even the Brunswick gem Bowdoin College, home of the Civil War Hero Joshua Chamberlain and where Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her immortal classic, "Uncle Tom's Cabin", is preparing to protect students in the event of Trumpzi cult deportation policies.

Petition seeks 'sanctuary' status for Bowdoin College- in Brunswick, Maine a report in The Forecaster
Image result for logo for DACA
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - those in colleges and universities need protection

BRUNSWICK — Following at least 100 colleges and universities across the country, a group of Bowdoin College students are circulating an online petition that would make the college a “sanctuary campus” and protect students at risk of deportation.

The action comes at the same week that Portland announced it would cooperate with federal officials if President-elect Donald Trump follows through with his pledge to immediately deport undocumented immigrants, according to the Bangor Daily News.

“We call on Bowdoin College to stand with other colleges and universities and investigate how to make Bowdoin a sanctuary campus that will protect our current and future students from intimidation, unfair investigation, and deportation,” the petition states.

As of noon on Monday, the petition had received 841 signatures from students, alumni, faculty, board members, and parents. It is addressed to college President Clayton Rose and four other top-ranking Bowdoin officials and deans.

Trump campaigned on the promise to repeal President Obama’s executive orders that provide protections to undocumented immigrants, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a measure that protects undocumented immigrant minors who arrived in the U.S. before age 16.

The letter states that “DACA-mented and undocumented peers are able to remain on campus and focus on their education instead of their fears of being forced to abandon their education and separate from their families.”

DACA provides protections to more than 700,000 students, according to the petition.

The petition enumerates an eight-point list of protections that would establish a sanctuary campus, which includes keeping students’ immigration status confidential, and the college’s refusal to share information or cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

The list is similar to characteristics of so-called “sanctuary cities” around the country, an unofficial term to describe cities that provide safe havens to undocumented immigrants, primarily by refraining to prosecute violations of federal immigration laws.

In the days following Trump’s victory, mayors in cities such as New York, Boston, and Los Angeles have reaffirmed their commitment to remaining places of sanctuary. 

But last week, the Bangor Daily News reported that spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said Portland is not a sanctuary city, and would comply with federal immigration officials.

A 2014 report by the Pew Research Center estimated there are fewer than 5,000 unauthorized immigrants living in Maine.

The student petition suggests the college has the ability to act independently of neighboring cities and municipalities.

“U.S. Customs Enforcement officers are not able to enter college campuses without authorization. Bowdoin has the power to protect undocumented community members and students from law enforcement,” it states, citing an ICE policy that exempts “sensitive locations” like colleges and places of worship from enforcement actions.

However, the policy stipulates that “enforcement actions may occur at sensitive locations in limited circumstances, but will generally be avoided. ICE or CBP officers and agents may conduct an enforcement action at a sensitive location with prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official, or if the enforcement action involves exigent circumstances.”

Leah Alper, a Bowdoin senior, said the petition is modeled on similar petitions that are circulating on campuses around the country, but that the group has tailored the language to apply specifically to Bowdoin.

While she and a small group of students are coordinating the petition drive, Alper said “the organization that has been the real catalyst for this is Cosecha,” an action-network centered on promoting rights for undocumented immigrants, started by students with undocumented parents.

College spokesman Doug Cook said Friday that the college is aware of the petition, and will carefully review it and prepare an appropriate response once it is formally presented to leadership.

Cook could not comment on whether the college knows of specific students who might be threatened by Trump’s immigration plans, but wrote in an email that “I will emphasize that Bowdoin will continue to support all of our students.”

“Bowdoin will not be swayed from its values,” he added, quoting an email sent by Rose on Nov. 10 in response to the presidential election.

“(Bowdoin must) always reject hate; demand mutual respect, vicinity, and inclusion; encourage freedom of inquiry and expression; inspire a deep commitment to the common good; and ensure unwavering concern and support for one another,” Rose wrote.

Trump has yet to explicitly say he would repeal DACA, although he renewed his pledge to immediately deport undocumented immigrants during an interview with “60 Minutes” on Nov. 13, with a priority of targeting those with criminal records.

Maine Writer comment: These radical anti-immigrant policies are reminiscent of pre-World War II Germany, when Nationalism swept the nation at the expense of the Jewish population. One of the emigres who made his exodus during Alolf Hitler's purge of Jews was Albert Einstein.

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Republicans are wrong to call for unity without contrition

"...after spending an entire year fanning the flames of hate and misogyny and inspiring his supporters to threaten armed insurrection if he lost, Trump, Republican leaders and members of the right-wing media suddenly think liberals should just get in line and fall in love with their new president," Michael Hayne.
Although I'm a forgiving Christian, it's nevertheless difficult to forget how Republicans wasted 8 years obstructing President Obama's preogressive agenda, but now want the nation to unite around an alt-right elected Donald Trump, who won't denounce racism.  (Matthew 23do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.)

Image result for graphic for Biblical pharisees
They do not practice what they preach

GOP Obstructionists Now Insist We All Must Back Our New President The National Memo reports by Michael Hayne:
from AlterNet.

A former reality TV star who bragged about sexually assaulting women, cheated hundreds of contractors and workers out of pay, insulted the family of a slain Muslim soldier, mocked a disabled reporter, sent out mean-girl tweets to a former beauty queen at 3am like a psychotic ex-boyfriend, avoided paying millions in tax obligations, and made a whole political career out of resurrecting the racist birther movement with continuous assaults on President Obama, has been elected president.


Donald J. Trump will soon have access to nuclear launch codes and the power to do the following terrifying things: 
  • Nominate right wing judges to turn Amerca back at least 50 years
  • Fill the executive leadership with people as manifestly unqualified to lead as he is to ravage the planet, crash the economy, infringe on civil liberties, destroy reproductive rights, repeal Obama care (the Affordable Care Act) and;
  • Scrap long time alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) the international agency that won the Cold War against the USSR (ie "Russia")
  • Will allow the dictatorial Vladimir Putin to do as he pleases in the Middle East and in the Ukraine
If all of this sounds like grounds to curl up in a dark corner, that’s because it most certainly is.

Yet, the very same Republican Party that spent eight solid years making President Obama’s life a living hell, obstructing and blocking everything he proposed under the sun all while hurling vile and racist attacks on the man, well, suddenly wants the country to come together and sing kumbaya and accept the electoral outcome. 

To that end, Republicans have done everything to delegitimize the outbreak of passionate protests taking place across the country in the wake of Trump’s unexpected victory. While there have been a few reports of anti-Trump protesters engaging in violence, the demonstrations have remained largely peaceful.

And a bit of bad behavior might be expected with any major protest, especially after one of the most insane and contentious presidential election in modern history, which featured Trump’s frequent incitement of his supporters to violence. Even before he was telling supporters that the election would be “rigged” and they might want to arm themselves, Trump had shown a willingness to tolerate violent resistance when things did not go the way he wanted. Well before anyone had the inkling that he might run for, let alone win the presidency, Trump tweeted an invitation for resistance by any means necessary following President Obama’s reelection win in 2012: “We can’t let this happen,” he implored his army of Twitter followers. “We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided.”

He did not need to march on Washington, the recalcitrant Republican Congress did it for him, vowing to obstruct every single action the president attempted to take, refusing to hold hearings on his budget, and hitting peak obstruction when they refused to meet with his Supreme Court nominee. The American people be damned. They were not going to do their jobs.

Outgoing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, now Trump’s chief of staff, is one of the newly converted, peace- and democracy-loving Republicans admonishing anti-Trump protesters, while simultaneously claiming to love party unity. 

Indeed, the hypocrisy is so strong it needs to come with a warning label.

“I’m sure that the vast majority of people are just very disappointed with the outcome of the election, so I’ll give them that, and I’ll also say I understand the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights,” Priebus said. “But this election is over now. And we have a president-elect who has done everything he can do over the last 48 hours to say, ‘Let’s bring people together.’”

(Matthew 23do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.)

Priebus thinks 48 hours is plenty of time. Never mind that Republican obstruction and disrespect for President Obama endured eight long years. Not to mention the fact that this plea comes from the committed public servant who put his country in jeopardy when he assembled a task force to ensure that President Obama’s constitutionally mandated duty to nominate a justice for the Supreme Court would be blocked at all costs. But now that Priebus has landed the position of White House chief of staff, he’s just in love with bipartisanship and finding common ground.

But it’s not just high-ranking Republican officials who are guilty of this Olympic-level hypocrisy, some of the loudest voices in right-wing media are whining about how unfair it all is as well. After spending the Bush years serving as the state-sponsored media and hating on Americans upset with unwarranted surveillance, a dishonest war and the destruction of the environment, Fox News suddenly became a bastion of resistance and opposition at all costs when President Obama got into office. Now that their guy is in, it’s time again to toe the administration line. Cherry-picking protest movements is a regular Fox ploy. The network blatantly promoted Tea Party protests and more recently armed takeovers of federal lands, while showing utter contempt for anti-Trump protests, which Fox has said features “losers without jobs” and “paid insurgents by the DNC.”

Indeed, those million-moron marches of pre-deplorables spewing treasonous (and racist) hatred at President Obama not only received an infinite amount of positive coverage from Fox News, but reporters for Fox out and out supported them. Fox News’ embedded reporter Griff Jenkins lavishly praised Tea Party Express rallies in 2009, though he claimed he was “simply reporting” on them. Reporting, cheerleading, what’s the difference? The network vigorously promoted the 2010 Tea Party Express Tour, which featured a number of white supremacists who openly called for armed insurrection. You know, people just accepting an electoral outcome.

In short, after spending an entire year fanning the flames of hate and misogyny and inspiring his supporters to threaten armed insurrection if he lost, Trump, Republican leaders and members of the right-wing media suddenly think liberals should just get in line and fall in love with their new president. Where’s Michele Bachmann to mispronounce chutzpah when you really need it?

Michael Hayne is a progressive comedian, writer and voice artist. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook or visit ImpressionsGuy.com.

Republicans like Speaker Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus should show some contrition before making a hypocritical support request about their minority vote political leader.

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