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London’s mayor wants to deny Trump a state visit due to his ‘cruel’ immigration policies

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 9:40am
Parliament is scheduled to debate whether Trump deserves state honorsLondon Mayor Sadiq Khan CREDIT: Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

On Monday, British parliamentarians will debate whether President Trump should not receive the honors accorded a foreign leader during a state visit, thanks to a petition calling for Trump’s visit later in the year to be downgraded.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is backing the petitioners. Trump’s immigration policies, Khan said, are “cruel.” The mayor cited Trump’s “ban on people from seven Muslim-majorities countries” as a particular outrage.

Trump issued an executive order prohibiting many people from these seven nations from entering the United States. Though the White House claims this order is intended to protect national security, even some of Trump’s advisers have stated openly that it’s real purpose is to act as a kind of “Muslim ban.”

The executive order currently is not in effect, thanks to multiple court decisions halting it in whole or in part.

If Trump’s visit is downgraded, it does not appear that the British government will treat Mr. Trump as Trump wishes to treat Muslims — that is, they will allow Trump to enter their country. The American president would be denied certain honors, however, such as a stay at Buckingham Palace.

Khan, who is London’s first Muslim mayor, said that “we shouldn’t be rolling out the red carpet” for Trump.

London’s mayor wants to deny Trump a state visit due to his ‘cruel’ immigration policies was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

John McCain rebukes Trump’s criticism of the press: ‘That’s how dictators get started’

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 9:12am
The Arizona Senator argued for the importance of a free, sometimes adversarial, press.CREDIT: Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP

Arizona Senator John McCain (R) warned against President Donald Trump’s distrust of the free press on Saturday, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd that suppressing the press is “how dictators get started.”

Todd had asked McCain to respond to a tweet posted by Trump on Friday night, which referred to the media as “the enemy of the American People.”

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The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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“Do you believe the press is the enemy?” Todd asked. “Do you believe any group of Americans are the enemy of another group of Americans?”

“I was talking about the period, as you know, the new world order. A fundamental part of that new world order was a free press,” McCain answered.

“I hate the press. I hate you, especially,” he continued. “But the fact is,we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital. If you want to preserve — I am very serious now. If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free, and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

https://medium.com/media/8a62730419c4b65181bde3f3a22ba97e/href

McCain was quick to note that he was not accusing Trump of being a dictator, but urged people to remember “lessons of history” that show authoritarians cracking down on the press.

“When you look at history the first thing dictators do is shut down the press,” he said. “I am not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I am just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

McCain has been a vocal critic of Trump, especially regarding his foreign policy approach. In a speech to the Munich Security Conference on Friday, McCain talked about the establishment of a world order after World War II that established the United States as a protector of democracy in the Western world. He said that there is now a sense that people in the United States are “giving up on the West,” an allusion to Trump’s disinterest in continuing traditional NATO alliances.

Despite his criticism of Trump, McCain has voted 94 percent of the time in line with Trump’s positions, according to analysis by FiveThirtyEight. McCain has voted to approve all of Trump’s cabinet nominees except for Mick Mulvaney as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). He did not vote for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt because he was out of the country when the vote took place.

John McCain rebukes Trump’s criticism of the press: ‘That’s how dictators get started’ was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Scott Pruitt makes it clear that the Clean Power Plan is going away

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 7:41am
In his first interview as EPA administrator, Pruitt says he wants to refocus the agency on a more narrow role.Supreme Court associate justice Samuel Alito, right, swears in Scott Pruitt as the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

In his first interview as EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt made one thing very clear: the Clean Power Plan, the signature climate regulation of the Obama administration, is not long for this world.

Pruitt told the Wall Street Journal on Friday that he expects to quickly withdraw both the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States Rule, the Obama administration’s attempt at clarifying the EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act.

“There’s a very simple reason why this needs to happen: Because the courts have seriously called into question the legality of those rules,” Pruitt said.

As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt was party to lawsuits against the EPA for both the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States Rule. Challenges to both rules are currently working their way through the court system, but Pruitt made clear that he does not intend to wait for the courts to decide before initiating the rule-making process necessary to withdraw both rules. Altogether, Pruitt sued the EPA fourteen times before becoming administrator.

Trump’s EPA pick recently called climate change a ‘religious belief’

Pruitt refused to say whether he thought the EPA should have a role in regulating carbon and other greenhouse gases, something that had been a priority for the agency under the Obama administration. Pruitt has consistently challenged the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change, arguing that their is significant debate as to whether it is happening and whether humans are the primary cause (in reality there is little to no debate about those questions — 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is both happening and that human activity is contributing to it).

“There will be a rule-making process to withdraw those rules, and that will kick off a process,” Pruitt told the Wall Street Journal. “And part of that process is a very careful review of a fundamental question: Does EPA even possess the tools, under the Clean Air Act, to address this? It’s a fair question to ask if we do, or whether there in fact needs to be a congressional response to the climate issue.”

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts vs. EPA that the EPA does, in fact, possess the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants. That decision helped pave the way for the Clean Power Plan, though critics have attacked the specific methods the Obama administration used to fight climate change, arguing that they were illegal.

Pruitt told the Wall Street Journal that as EPA administrator, he is most focused on issues like cleaning up Superfund sites and bringing states into compliance with federal air quality standards. In this area, Pruitt has less of an established track-record than he does with litigation against the EPA: as Oklahoma Attorney General, he disbanded the office’s Environmental Protection Unit, dedicated to pursuing environmental law violations, and pursued only three environmental enforcement cases during his six years as Attorney General.

Scott Pruitt’s record reveals a long history of industry favoritism

Pruitt also told the Wall Street Journal that he intends to restore power to states, echoing a long-held belief of Pruitt’s that the EPA’s actions under the Obama administration have constituted federal overreach. He said that environmental laws were not meant to be a “one-size-fits-all model,” and that “the state departments of environmental quality have an enormous role to play.”

During his confirmation hearing, however, Pruitt refused to say whether he would grant California a waiver, under the Clean Air Act, to create stricter vehicle emission standards than the rest of the country. California has been denied such a waiver only once, during George W. Bush’s administration.

Pruitt also said that, as EPA administrator, he would focus on creating regulatory certainty that will help industry and spur job growth. Pruitt has long been a friend of the fossil fuel industry — emails revealed during a 2014 investigation by the New York Times showed Pruitt sending a letter of complaint to the EPA, in his role as Oklahoma Attorney General, drafted by Devon Energy, the largest energy company in Oklahoma.

The night before Pruitt was confirmed as EPA administrator by the Senate, a judge in Oklahoma ordered Pruitt’s office to release thousands of emails between the nominee and oil and gas companies. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) had requested access to those emails two years ago, but Pruitt’s office refused. The office has until Tuesday to release some 3,000 documents, which may reveal more coordination between Pruitt and industry actors.

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I'm dedicated to working w/stakeholders - industry, farmers, ranchers, business owners - on traditional values of environmental stewardship.

 — @EPAScottPruitt

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Meanwhile, in one of his first tweets as EPA administrator, Pruitt pledged to working with important stakeholders — like industry — in his new role.

Scott Pruitt makes it clear that the Clean Power Plan is going away was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump invents fake attack on Sweden

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 6:48am
An even greater tragedy than the Bowling Green massacre.CREDIT: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

“We got to keep our country safe!” President Trump warned at a rally in Melbourne, Florida on Saturday night. He told a horror story about a Northern European nation that “took in large numbers” of refugees and is now facing “problems like they never thought possible.”

“Look at what happened last night in Sweden!” Trump told his audience. “Sweden! Who would believe this, Sweden?”

Trump is right to wonder who would believe his tale of innocent Swedes cowering before a grave new threat, because as multiple journalists and at least one former Prime Minister of Sweden pointed out not long after Trump’s remarks, there was no attack on Sweden Friday night.

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Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound. https://t.co/XWgw8Fz7tj

 — @carlbildt

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Though the Swedish Bowling Green Massacre did not happen Friday night, one thing that did happen that evening is Fox News’ Tucker Carlson aired an interview with Fox personality and filmmaker Ami Horowitz, whose most recent documentary film claims that Muslim refugees committed crimes after arriving in Sweden.

https://medium.com/media/2c164e055e90323b46b42b54638659ad/href

It appears that the President of the United States may have watched this Fox segment and mistakenly believed that he was watching a live report on a specific incident that occurred Friday evening.

Trump invents fake attack on Sweden was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Angry protesters are swarming Republican town hall meetings over Trump’s agenda

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 12:35pm
They’re bombarding lawmakers with questions about GOP plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, among other criticisms.People react to Rep. Jason Chaffetz during a town hall meeting Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Republican lawmakers are getting more than they bargained for at town hall meetings across the country this weekend.

Instead of calm question and answer sessions, residents are showing up in hordes to tell their members of Congress what they think about the GOP’s plans to dismantle health care reform and reproductive rights, as well as general criticisms of President Donald Trump’s policy decisions.

South Carolina’s Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Mark Sanford were greeted by a boisterous crowd on Saturday that was so big the meeting had to be moved outside. The town hall in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. lasted four hours with constituents asking their representatives tough questions about Trump, such as “Are you personally proud to have this person representing our country?” to which Scott replied that he was “thankful” given the choices of presidential candidates. A woman shouted back, “You’re not proud!”

“I think we’re all struggling a little,” Sanford said.

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Are you "proud" Trump is president? Scott: "given the two choices I had, I am thankful" Sanford: "I think we're all struggling a little.

 — @alexis_levinson

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A similar scene played out in New York, where Republican Rep. Tim Reed was confronted with boos and jeers at a town hall meeting in North Harmony, N.Y. on Saturday. The crowds were so large that Reed also had to relocate the event outside to accommodate the constituents.

After Reed said that he does not support “taxpayer-funded paying of abortion,” referring to Planned Parenthood receiving some government funds, he garnered a roomful of boos and a fact-check from the audience.

Hundreds of Republican lawmakers aren’t holding town halls this recess

“You, an elected official, [are] giving misinformation,” a woman said in response, as the Huffington Post reported. “Right now, our taxes do not pay for abortions. They pay for mammograms, they pay for birth control.”

“Planned Parenthood, less than 3 percent of the services they provide is abortion. And none of that 3 percent is funded by you,” she added.

Angry attendees also booed Reed when he said he doesn’t support an investigation into Russia’s potential involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

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@RepTomReed asked about investigation into Russia connections to election -- he opposes https://t.co/EGqhk300ol

 — @JessicaTaylor

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Reed seemed to take day’s criticisms in stride, saying, “What I have heard is passion” and “What I have heard is democracy,” as the New York Times reported.

The raucous town hall meetings fall on a recess week for Congress, which is intended to give lawmakers time to spend in their districts. But many Republicans seem to be avoiding public engagements with their constituents right now. Compared to data from 2015, scheduled Republican town hall events are down 84 percent.

Republicans who have held public events are frequently met with opposition. One of the groups responsible for such mobilization is Indivisible, which provides a protest guide for “resisting the Trump agenda” and encourages people to get involved in local political events.

Indivisible’s Charleston chapter helped organize the town hall opposition in South Carolina on Saturday.

“Our concerns are not based on Republican values or Republican mindset. Our views are based on inclusion, respect and fairness for all people, and we’re seeing the Trump agenda is taking us in the opposite direction of that,” Indivisible Charleston’s media coordinator Blake Dahlstrom told the Post and Courier.

“Our focus is the Republican Party because that’s where we’re seeing opposition to our ideals of inclusiveness, respect and fairness.”

Angry protesters are swarming Republican town hall meetings over Trump’s agenda was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump is allowing his club members to have input into his policy

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 9:30am
Mar-a-Lago can rake in at least $8 million per year selling access to the president.Donald Trump speaks to supporters at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File

Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort — which he refers to as “the Winter White House” — will bring in millions of dollars in membership fees each year while allowing members to have the ear of the president.

According to a New York Times piece published on Saturday, Trump’s son Eric told the newspaper that Mar-a-Lago admits about 20 to 40 new members each year. Considering that Mar-a-Lago raised its initiation fees to $200,0000 after Trump’s presidential inauguration, that’s up to $8 million dollars coming in from new members per year. And that doesn’t include taxes or the $14,000 charge for each member’s annual dues.

Trump and his closest advisers have repeatedly denied there’s anything improper about Trump’s members-only club in Palm Beach. They say it doesn’t amount to paying for access to President Trump because the club is social, not political. And they argue the powerful people who pay for membership have other avenues of communicating with the president.

Trump’s effort to profit off the presidency gets underway in earnest

“He has not and will not be discussing policy with club members,” White House spokesperson Holly Hicks said in a statement provided to the New York Times.

But reporting from the Times and from Politico suggests otherwise.

Real estate executive Bruce Toll told the New York Times that he does occasionally discuss national policy issues, particularly when it comes to Trump’s plans to increase spending on infrastructure projects, when he sees Trump at Mar-a-Lago. According to Toll, Trump sometimes receives advice from other club members about what to do policy-wise.

Developer Richard LeFrak, a close friend of Trump’s, recounted a discussion at Mar-a-Lago last weekend during which Trump asked him for help with the proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico. Trump was unhappy with the projected cost of the wall, wanted to come up with a way to build it more cheaply, and suggested that the head of the Department of Homeland Security would give LeFrak a call to talk about it.

And according to an audio tape obtained by Politico from one of Trump’s New Jersey clubs that was also published on Saturday, Trump has asked his club members for their guidance selecting his cabinet appointees.

“We were just talking about who we [are] going to pick for the FCC, who [are] we going to pick for this, who we gonna accept — boy, can you give me some recommendations?” Trump said to a member, according to the tape.

The tape reveals that Trump also invited his guests to join interviews with people under consideration for jobs in his administration.

“We’re doing a lot of interviews tomorrow — generals, dictators, we have everything,” Trump said. “You may wanna come around. It’ll be fun. We’re really working tomorrow. We have meetings every 15, 20 minutes with different people that will form our government.”

This weekend, Trump is planning to use Mar-a-Lago to meet with potential candidates he’s considering to fill the National Security Adviser position recently vacated by Michael Flynn.

Of course, it’s not unusual for world leaders to surround themselves with rich and powerful people. But it is unique to be able to pay $200,000 for entry into a private club where multiple sources close to the president have confirmed he’s at his most relaxed and ready to mingle.

Trump headed to Mar-a-Lago for third straight weekend, obliterating campaign promise

Applications to Mar-a-Lago have surged since Trump won the presidency.

Democratic lawmakers in both the House and the Senate have demanded more information about who holds a membership at Mar-a-Lago and how closely they have been vetted. The urgency increased after last weekend, when Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed a potential North Korea crisis in full view of the diners and waiters at his club.

Trump has spent the past three weekends at Mar-a-Lago even though he promised during the campaign that he would “rarely leave the White House.” His weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago each cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $3 million in Secret Service fees.

Trump is allowing his club members to have input into his policy was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump calls media ‘enemy’ of Americans, then launches survey to see who agrees

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 9:07am
Trump’s election campaign released a new survey to get the public on its side about the mainstream media’s ‘unfair’ coverage.President-elect Donald Trump. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump is on a mission to make the media great again, starting with a public survey.

Presidential campaign company, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., released a 25-question survey to measure the public’s satisfaction with how accurately mainstream broadcast media organizations, such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, report on the Trump administration.

The survey’s release comes after Trump called major media outlets including the New York Times, NBC News, and CBS “enemies of the American People” on Twitter on Friday.

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The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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The president followed up Saturday morning, saying that his administration “inherited a mess” and the public should distrust mainstream media.

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Don't believe the main stream (fake news) media.The White House is running VERY WELL. I inherited a MESS and am in the process of fixing it.

 — @realDonaldTrump

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Trump’s campaign survey tries to establish whether the public, or more specifically his supporters, feel the same way he does about mainstream media unfairly reporting on the new administration.

Questions cover a range of topics, asking whether “the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement,” whether “the mainstream media has been too eager to jump to conclusions about rumored stories,” and whether “the media has been far too quick to spread false stories about our movement.”

The survey also asks what other sources respondents use to get news and whether the White House “breaking from tradition by giving lesser known reporters and bloggers the chance to ask the White House Press Secretary questions” is the right thing to do.

From the campaign trail to the White House, media has continued to be one of Trump’s main focuses. An Axios analysis of the 45th president’s tweets in the month since taking office showed that 26 percent — or one in four tweets — mentioned media or ratings.

Trump’s approach drives at the heart of an ongoing debate over “fake news”: media distrust. While trust in media has been declining for decades, the Trump administration has been able to capitalize on a climate that conflates good-faith mistakes or unflattering reports with fabricated or duplicitous content. That sentiment has led the White House to deprioritize established media outlets in favor of smaller ones that don’t adhere to accepted journalistic standards.

Trump has repeatedly publicly denounced mainstream media outlets. Just before taking office, the reality star and real estate magnate dismissed CNN reporter Jim Acosta as “fake news” and refused to answer his questions during a news conference in January because he didn’t like the outlet’s coverage of an unverified intelligence report that claimed to link Russia to Trump’s business interests.

The president lambasted Acosta and CNN again earlier this week, saying the media company’s coverage was full of “hatred.”

“The reporting is fake, and I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know, the word tone. The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way,” Trump said during a news conference Thursday.

After a back-and-forth, Acosta asked if Trump was “concerned” about “undermining the people’s faith in the First Amendment, freedom of the press” when calling “stories you don’t like fake news.”

Trump responded to Acosta at length, saying that he doesn’t undermine the First Amendment by calling stories he doesn’t like “fake” because he knows “what’s good” and “what’s bad” media practice.

…I know what’s good. I know what’s bad. And when they change it and make it really bad, something that should be positive — sometimes that should be positive, they’ll make OK. They’ll even make it negative. So I understand it. So — because I’m there. I know what was said, I know who was saying it. I’m there. So it’s very important to me.

Trump closed by saying the public just didn’t believe in the media anymore and regardless of whether he had something to to with it, it’s media outlet’s responsibility to be “straight.”

“Look, I want to see an honest press,” he said. “The press — the public doesn’t believe you people anymore. Now maybe I had something to do with that. I don’t know. But they don’t believe you…But if you were straight, I would be your biggest booster. I would be your biggest fan in the world, including bad stories about me.”

Trump calls media ‘enemy’ of Americans, then launches survey to see who agrees was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Immigrants are fleeing the United States to seek refuge in Canada

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 7:40am
Some of them are crossing the border on foot in freezing conditions.The Morses Line border station along the Canadian-U.S. border in Franklin, Vermont. CREDIT: AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File

A growing number of immigrants who initially sought refuge in the United States are now fleeing to Canada — and, in many cases, are risking frostbite to make it across the northern border on foot.

Immigrant advocates say desperate people are being driven away from the U.S. thanks to the fear and uncertainty sparked by President Donald Trump’s policies — including, recently, an executive order that temporarily halts refugee resettlement from Syria and bars people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Nine asylum-seekers from Sudan, including four children, barely made it across the Canadian border on Friday in an exchange that was captured by a photographer from Reuters. After a cab dropped off the group near the border line in Champlain, New York, they dodged a U.S. border patrol officer trying to examine their passports, climbed over snowbanks, and rushed toward the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the other side.

Trump is reportedly preparing a new Muslim ban. It looks like more of the same.

The family had been living in Delaware for two years before deciding to leave for Canada. “Nobody cares about us,” one of the men told reporters.

And according to a CBC News reporter, a Somali man identified only as Mohamed walked 21 hours in below-freezing temperatures this week to cross the U.S.-Canadian border into Manitoba. The man told the reporter he was fleeing to Canada because the United States is a “problem” now.

By the time the reporter found him, Mohamed had been wandering around in the dark for hours and wasn’t sure where he was. He was eventually intercepted by Canadian police, who helped him get medical attention.

https://medium.com/media/47ebce6899e5528cad8abbf295b42b38/href

The journey can be dangerous, particularly during the harsh winter. One Ghanian refugee who walked across the border to Manitoba on Christmas Eve suffered severe frostbite and had to have all his fingers amputated. He said it was worth it for the chance to live in Canada.

Altogether, refugee claims at the U.S.-Canada border have doubled over the past two years.

“There’s no question what’s driving them,” Paul Caulford, a doctor at the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Healthcare who has seen a significant uptick in the number of people seeking medical help at his clinic, told Public Radio International in an interview this week.

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Here's Canadian Mounties greeting refugees from Somalia who walked across the border into Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS photo by Paul Chiasson

 — @CdnPress

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“Virtually every person who’s crossed, from pregnant women in the back of trucks to those shepherding their children to safety, have said to us that the United States is no longer a safe country for them to be in.”

Under existing policy, people who have already applied for asylum in the United States can’t also apply in Canada. But there’s a loophole: If asylum seekers simply show up in Canada, without an official record of them crossing the U.S.-Canada border, then they can seek refugee status there. Experts say that’s why there’s been an increase in people risking their lives to walk across the border to circumvent formal checkpoints.

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To those fleeing persecution, terror &amp; war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada

 — @JustinTrudeau

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Canada is more welcoming to refugees than the United States historically has been. And it’s specifically positioned itself as a refuge for people worried

about President Trump’s administration. Immediately after Trump’s executive orders barred people from Muslim-majority countries, halted refugee resettlement, and created chaos in U.S. airports, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent a clear message: Canada will welcome you.

Immigrants are fleeing the United States to seek refuge in Canada was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

China violated its own law to grant Trump a trademark

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 7:13am
China’s Valentine’s Day present to Trump could put him in legal jeopardy.The headline reads: “President Donald Trump delivers a mighty shock to America.” CREDIT: AP Photo/Andy Wong

By Laurel Raymond and Judd Legum

When China awarded President Donald Trump a long-coveted trademark of the “Trump” brand this week, it violated its own regulations. Chinese legal standards prohibit trademarks of the names of foreign leaders.

Trump secured exclusive rights for the use of his name for “building construction services” in China on February 14 after a 10-year legal battle. But he had little success in his quest for a Chinese trademark before he became the Republican nominee last summer.

The apparent preferential treatment for the U.S. president could land Trump in legal trouble back at home.

Prohibited trademarks in China

In China, the rules for trademarks are established by China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC). The Trademark Office of SAIC is responsible for trademark registration and administration and issues the Trademark Review and Hearing Standards.

Section 9 of the Chinese Trademark Review and Hearing Standards, published online on January 5th, 2017. Translation by Blaine Johnson.

The relevant section of the standard is entitled: “Review of logos forbidden from trademark.” Among the trademarks that are prohibited are those that “harm socialist moral customs or have other ill effects.”

The Chinese code lists several categories of prohibited trademarks, along with examples. The eighth category of prohibited trademarks includes those that “harm socialist moral customs or have other ill effects,” including those that have “ill effects related to politics.” This is further defined, under one subcategory, as trademarks that are “the same as or similar to the name of leaders of national, regional, or international political organizations.”

Chinese law prohibiting trademarking the names of political leaders, using Mao Zedong and Vladimir Putin as examples, published online on January 5th, 2017. Translation by Blaine Johnson.

The Chinese standards — an excerpt of which is pictured above — include several examples of prohibited trademarks. On the left, there’s an example of a trademark for a variation of the name of Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China. On the right, there’s an example of a trademark for Russian President Vladimir Putin (PUJING).

The fact that Trump’s trademark is prohibited under Chinese standards has caught the attention of top experts in the field.

“The Chinese trademark examination standards prohibit trademarks that hurt social morality or have other ill political effects. Amongst the enumerated bad political effects are trademarks that are identical or similar to a country, region or international organization’s leader’s name,” Mark Cohen, one of the leading experts in China intellectual property law, wrote on his blog.

Trump’s lawyers, meanwhile, insisted the decision was merely the routine culmination of a long legal battle, and that Trump got no special treatment.

“The Trump Organization has been actively enforcing its trademark rights in China for more than a decade and its latest trademark registration is a natural result of those efforts — all of which took place years before President Trump even announced his candidacy,” Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, told CNN.

A 10-year legal battle

Trump filed for the original trademark on December 7, 2006. He was not successful. A man named Dong Wei filed for a similar trademark on November 24, 2006 — beating Trump by two weeks — and, since China awards trademarks on a first-to-file basis, Wei’s claim won out.

Trump spent the next 10 years fighting for the trademark over “TRUMP.”

“Trump opposed [Dong’s trademark], and was unsuccessful. Then he appealed that, and he was unsuccessful. And then it went on and on,” Mathew Dresden, an Seattle attorney who specializes in Chinese intellectual property law, told ThinkProgress. “Meanwhile, Trump’s trademark application was rejected. And he appealed that, and he was unsuccessful. Then he appealed that, and it was unsuccessful. And on and on.”

Trump appealed the decision all the way up the Chinese court system to the Beijing High People’s court, losing every time.

Trump’s last defeat in the case was in May 2015. He declared his candidacy for the presidency one month later.

Following his May 2015 setback, Trump’s lawyers went back to the Chinese Trademark Review and Adjudication Board, the first rung in the ladder. His lawyers made a parallel but slightly different argument, asking the Board to invalidate Dong’s trademark specifically with regards to construction services. This time, they were successful.

‘This is the thing people have seized on as being strange — and it is strange.”

“It should have been the same argument, and it was before the same body. And this is the thing that people have seized on as being strange — and it is strange,” said Dresden. “Because this was before the same appellate body and he was successful. He’d been trying for years and years, so why did they say, ‘OK, yeah, now we are going to invalidate the competing trademark?’”

That decision was published on September 6th, 2016. According to Dresden, decisions are made a few months before publication. That puts the decision invalidating the competing trademark in June or July — right around the time when Trump clinched the Republican nomination for president.

The invalidation of Dong’s trademark cleared the way for Trump’s trademark. Trump had filed another application for the trademark in 2014, which he appealed after it was denied. After Dong’s trademark was invalidated, it was this trademark that went through.

Trump’s trademark was granted provisionally on November 13th, 2016 — just days after he became the President.

China ignoring its own laws creates legal problems for Trump

If China approved Trump’s trademark because of his current position of political power, that could present a problem for Trump himself.

That’s because Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

Many legal scholars interpret this clause broadly and say it applies to a foreign state providing the president virtually anything of value — like, for example, a trademark.

Trump has violated his oath to the Constitution

If China granted a trademark to Trump in violation of existing Chinese legal standards, it “would seal Trump’s fate from an emoluments clause perspective because it would show beyond doubt that this unusually valuable trademark was indeed a ‘present,’ and not simply a recognition of Mr. Trump’s preexisting rights under the law of China,” Larry Tribe, a nationally renowned constitutional scholar and a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, told ThinkProgress.

In other words, it becomes harder to argue that China is giving Trump the same treatment that anyone would be legally entitled to receive. It seems clearer that President Trump is actually receiving special treatment.

That would “eliminate the only defense the Trump people have offered against the charge that accepting this ‘present’ put him in deliberate violation of Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution,” Tribe said.

One China, one trademark

The timing of China’s moves has attracted attention.

The first decision to tentatively grant the trademark was made just days after Trump was elected president. The next month, Trump angered Chinese leaders by saying the United States was not bound by the “One China” policy, which officially treats Taiwan as part of a unified China.

Trump said he didn’t feel the need to abide by a “One China” policy “unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things…”

https://medium.com/media/da7bc4ae9089f6cf4e6ac875b74491e4/href

On February 9, Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping. “President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our ‘one China’ policy,” according to a White House statement.

Five days later, Trump was officially awarded his trademark by the Chinese government.

Although the timing has raised eyebrows, there is currently no direct evidence of a quid pro quo. But from the perspective of American law, it doesn’t matter.

“Whether there was a direct causal connection between that special dispensation from Chinese law and Trump’s remarkable turnabout from his pre-inauguration suggestion that the one-China policy was up for grabs is not legally material, although the danger that there was precisely such a quid pro quo and thus an instance of outright bribery is among the things the Foreign Emoluments Clause was designed to head off at the pass,” Tribe said.

It is the fact that Trump received something of value from China, in apparent violation of Chinese rules, is what places him in legal jeopardy.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) sounded the alarm about Trump’s conduct in a statement released Friday.

“China’s decision to award President Trump with a new trademark allowing him to profit from the use of his name is a clear conflict of interest and deeply troubling. If this isn’t a violation of the Emoluments Clause, I don’t know what is,” Feinstein said. “And this is just the start. Media reports state that the president has dozens of additional trademark applications pending just in China.”

Trump’s expensive obsession with his Chinese trademark

How valuable is Trump’s name in China to him? Very, according to a letter he sent to the Obama administration asking it to intervene in the matter in 2011. Trump sent a fiery letter to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke that was obtained by the Huffington Post in a FOIA request.

“I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to secure my own name and globally recognized brand from Chinese individuals who seek to trade off of my reputation,” Trump wrote. “Despite more than a year of waiting, the Court determined that the illegal use of my internationally recognized name does not breach the truth principle applied by the Court.”

Trump seemed particularly incensed the judges didn’t find that he was famous enough to deserve trademark protection, despite, in his words, “having had books that became best sellers and The Apprentice television show, which was big in China.”

Trump also details the lengths he went to prove his fame to the court at the time:

CREDIT: Screenshot via The Huffington Post

China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce could not be reached for comment. The Chinese Embassy told CNN that Trump’s case was “handled in compliance with China’s trademark law.”

Blaine Johnson, a policy analyst for China and Asia policy at the Center for American Progress, provided the translations for this piece. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent site housed at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

China violated its own law to grant Trump a trademark was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

‘Brown Girls’ is showing queer women of color as we’ve always existed

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 5:51am
On ‘Brown Girls,’ media representation, and being a queer person of color in America.CREDIT: Screenshot/Brown Girls

It’s a tumultuous time to be queer and of color in the United States.

Hate for the queer community is nothing new, and the new president seems to be fueling this at every turn. Donald Trump has embarked on a radically anti-LGBTQ agenda, railing against marriage equality, claiming anti-trans bathroom policies should be left up to states, and promising to allow religious discrimination against same-sex couples. Trump’s racism and xenophobia can’t fit in this introduction.

In this environment, the web series Brown Girls, which debuted on Wednesday, speaks volumes. The highly-anticipated series puts queer people of color in the spotlight, finally giving them a voice in a media environment that too often forgets their existence completely.

The premise of Brown Girls is simple:

“Leila is a South Asian-American writer just now owning her queerness. Patricia is a sex-positive Black-American musician who is struggling to commit to anything: job, art and relationships. While the two women come from completely different backgrounds, their friendship is ultimately what they lean on to get through the messiness of their mid-twenties.”https://medium.com/media/a3b13dd871ee335eff01cb219898cf0b/href

The show itself is pretty simple. It shows Leila, Patricia, and their friends and family — all of whom have their own intersections of identity through race and sexuality — just going about their daily lives. From the one-liners with a dry sense of humor, to the chill realistic tone of the theme song playing in the preview, it’s clear that the aim of Brown Girls is to simply show queer women of color as we’ve always existed: dynamic, multi-faceted, and most importantly, human.

The creation of Brown Girls is so important, given the serious lack of queer people of color in the rest of media.

Being a Black queer woman, there’s a certain level of hypervisibility and invisibility that I try to navigate daily. Existing between what’s often seen as three separate worlds — womanhood, Blackness, and queerness — can be a tiring, exhausting affair. And in times like this, I look for solace. Often, I find that in the media.

I’ve always been drawn to media — particularly movies, television shows, and comics — for the way that they tell universal yet simultaneously specific stories about people being their best selves. As I’ve navigated my various identities, media has not only played a significant role in helping me shape my own identity, but it has also helped me understand the ways that others perceive me. And if today’s media representations serve as any indication: society doesn’t see me and other queer people of color at all.

Queer representation has been gaining more popularity within mainstream culture in recent years, but there are still a lot of problems. The queer media that does exist is mainly targeted toward white audiences. Television shows like The L Word, Will & Grace, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Queer As Folk were popular in the early 2000s — all with lead characters from communities of privilege. These white, middle class or affluent, cisgender, and widely able-bodied portrayals brought awareness to sexuality beyond heterosexism but, erased so many within the queer community in the process.

When queer people of color are allowed to exist, it’s often in the role of a troupe or sidekick. Or we’re invisible altogether.

Many shows will refer to their characters’ queerness in passing, or as a way to advance plot points of heterosexual characters who take the lead of the story. One of the most well-known examples come in the death of Tara in season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when she is killed by a stray bullet only to further the storylines of both her girlfriend Willow and season antagonist Warren. We can also see how the “Bury Your Gays” trope is used in more recent shows, such as The CW’s The 100, when fan favorite Lexa is killed accidentally by a bullet meant for her girlfriend Clarke, a short time after they were intimate together on-screen. Lexa’s death represents the struggle that queer characters face in being heroes of their own stories.

The issue with queer POC representation is that it’s rarely three-dimensional. Of course, there are a few shows changing that, like HBO’s True Blood, Netflix’s Sense8 and Orange Is The New Black, and the animated shows Steven Universe and Adventure Time. Still, there’s a long way to go.

The issue is not that these characters are members of communities outside of just being queer — it’s that they aren’t allowed to exist as someone that stands at the intersection of race, gender, class, and ability while also being their own individual person. Reducing them to stereotypes makes for not only off-putting storywriting, but also sends the message that queer people of color don’t matter.

The few accurate portrayals of queer characters of color that exist come mainly from independent media. The movie Pariah (2011) starring Adepero Oduye, for example, was one of the first to show what it’s like to be a young Black queer woman. Brown Girls, too, is independently produced.

There’s an underrated power that media holds, and allowing queer people of color to exist will do more than just promote better diversity on screen — it will give queer people permission to be themselves, in a society that thrives on conforming instead. By only showing specific communities associated with queerness, media influences the ways that queerness is allowed to be expressed. Many of us exist at the intersection of identities that go beyond our sexuality — and can coexist with religion, race, gender, gender identity, and ability. The media needs to reflect that.

There’s far more work that needs to be done when it comes to queer representation. We need to examine representation not just on screen, but in places like the writer’s room, production team, and executive board room in order to truly change media portrayals of queer people, and especially queer people of color.

For now though, Brown Girls may be standing alone as one of the few spaces where queer people of color can be themselves, but there’s optimism that more queer-focused media will soon follow. Media is so often the way that we see ourselves and learn how to navigate the world around us, and in the future to come, we need more images that reinforce the magic that comes with being a queer person of color.

Cameron Glover is a writer and sex educator living in New Jersey, whose work has been published in publications such as Ebony, Extra Crispy, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. When she’s not writing, you can find her on Twitter talking about comics, memes, and Internet culture at large.

‘Brown Girls’ is showing queer women of color as we’ve always existed was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Citing Trump’s voter fraud lie, states are working to make it harder to vote

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 5:02am
Secretaries of state say legislation like voter ID laws are necessary.Voters wait in line outside a polling place at the Nativity School on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Cincinnati. CREDIT: AP Photo/John Minchillo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Trump will never come up with real evidence to support his claim that three to five million ballots were cast illegally in the 2016 election. The allegation is false, and no number of investigations or committees will be able to substantiate Trump’s claim.

But that doesn’t mean that the lie won’t have consequences. Already, at least 21 states across the country are capitalizing on political rhetoric about fraud to push for laws that make it harder for eligible citizens to vote.

At the annual gathering of secretaries of state in Washington, D.C. this week, Republican elections chiefs blocked an attempt to official denounce Trump’s lie. Instead, they cited the president’s claims, telling ThinkProgress they support measures like voter ID laws, cuts to same-day registration, and efforts to make it harder to register to vote.

Alabama’s Republican Secretary of State repeated the White House’s unsubstantiated claim that thousands of out-of-state citizens cast ballots in New Hampshire, potentially handing the state to Hillary Clinton. New Hampshire’s Secretary of State defended his state’s voter accessibility while his legislature pushes for a measure that would potentially block thousands of college students from casting ballots. And Nevada’s Secretary of State said she supports voter ID laws because she has never had a problem showing an ID to vote.

Trump’s lie about illegal votes will have dangerous consequences

Study after study has shown that voter fraud is non-existent, yet the Republican party has used the false narrative of rampant fraud to push for laws that have shown to disenfranchise minority, low-income, and younger voters. Voter suppression laws do not prevent voter fraud, but they do prevent a disproportionately large share of Democratic-leaning voters from casting ballots, helping Republicans to win elections.

Democratic secretaries of state, though fewer in number, were also at the gathering, where they told ThinkProgress that their work countering the “voter fraud” narrative has become more challenging with President Trump in the White House. Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill (D) said she worries for the future of voting laws with Republicans controlling all three branches of government. And New Mexico’s Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) said that all state election chiefs should know that Trump’s claims of massive fraud are false, given the small number of fraud cases each state has documented.

“This group knows better and is potentially poised to be very vocal about that,” she told ThinkProgress. “I would be dismayed to hear that those false claims are being used to make things harder for voters.”

Looking for proof of fraud, GOP grasps at straws

Voting experts have repeated since the election that there is no proof of fraud on the level that Trump has claimed. At the National Association of Secretaries of State convention, David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, reminded the attendees that if massive fraud had occurred, they would be the first to know.

“There is a system of checks and balances in place,” he said during a panel on trust in elections. “We all know in this room that if there were massive voter registration fraud, we would have seen large numbers of flagged records that didn’t match DMV records or social security records, that we would have seen unusual levels of activity we hadn’t seen before, that we would have seen large numbers of requests for out of state mail ballots that we hadn’t seen before.”

None of that occurred, but that hasn’t stopped elections chiefs from crying fraud.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) said that he has identified 304 potential cases of voter fraud in his state since he took office in 2015, and a far smaller number ended with convictions. Though that number pales in comparison to Trump’s claim of millions, Merrill said he can never be sure that other states don’t have more rampant fraud.

“I’ve had some information that’s been introduced to me that’s been very disconcerting,” he told ThinkProgress. “We’ve been very concerned that there are instances in other states that may have a higher level of credibility than had been widely known before now.”

Alabama Republican Secretary of State John Merrill. CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

The instance Merrill was referring to was a claim that roughly 6,000 people registered to vote on Election Day in New Hampshire using out-of-state ID cards. Though it’s currently legal to same-day register and to use a different state’s ID, Merrill claimed that it could be evidence of massive vote fraud.

“Some people would look at that as fraudulent activity because in their state law, it only indicates that you have to have intent to live there,” he said. “Well, their intent could be that I show up and then I go back to my home [state].”

The White House has also pointed to vote fraud in New Hampshire, without any evidence. Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller was unable to substantiate his claim that out-of-state voters were bused into New Hampshire to commit fraud; neither could Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), a Trump ally, who told CNN the same lie.

“Statements that come from the White House are usually based on data or evidence or facts, and that’s clearly not the environment we’re living in right now,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) told ThinkProgress.

For his part, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner (D) has said he will not buy the claims without proof, but told ThinkProgress he welcomes investigators in his state to determine whether the small number of fraudulent votes he has seen could mean there are many more that go unreported.

“People say that if you get picked up for a DWI, you’ve probably done it at least ten times, maybe more,” he told ThinkProgress. “We don’t know how to quantify it… We have many races that are decided by less than five votes.”

2017 could be a banner year for voter ID laws

Already this year, at least 12 states are pushing for restrictive voter ID laws. In Arkansas and North Dakota, bills have already passed in their state houses, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. While most proposals have come out of the legislatures, Iowa’s Secretary of State himself proposed a plan to implement voter ID.

Alabama already has a strict voter ID law, and Secretary of State Merrill said he recommends all of his colleagues push for similar requirements in their states. “I think everybody needs to have it because everybody needs to be interested in preserving the credibility and integrity of the election system,” he said.

When presented with recent studies that document how voter ID blocks certain populations from voting, Merrill responded: “It’s easy for people to say that. It’s easy for people to say it’s a restrictive mechanism or it limits participation.”

Not all state legislatures considering voter ID laws have the support of their elections chiefs. Legislators in Maine this week considered a voter ID bill, but Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D) told ThinkProgress he has always opposed it.

“It adds no additional security, it adds an unknown cost and we don’t know how it would be paid for, and it would put a barrier between voters and the polling places,” he said. “I see this as a cynical approach to keep low-income people, people under financial stress, minorities, the elderly from participating in their democratic form of self governance.”

Other efforts to curb voter participation

In addition to voter ID laws, elections officials are pushing for other, sometimes more subtle ways, to block people from the polls. Both Iowa and New Hampshire — states with crucial early presidential primaries — are considering eliminating same day registration. Texas is considering shortening the early voting period. And New Hampshire is also floating a residency requirement that would make it much more difficult for out-of-state students, military personnel, and other temporary residents to cast a ballot.

That bill, predicated on false claims that thousands of out-of-state voters came into New Hampshire to sway the election, would change the law from requiring voters to simply be “domiciled” in the state to vote to requiring them to be in New Hampshire for 210 days a year. At the same time, the state is considering requiring voters to be residents who plan to live in New Hampshire “for the indefinite future.”

Gardner, New Hampshire’s secretary of state, seemed unaware of the proposals when ThinkProgress asked him for comment.

Democrats take the opposite approach

Meanwhile, among most Democratic elections chiefs in Washington for the convention, the consensus was that states should implement automatic registration, expand early voting, and make registration easier to encourage more people to participate in election.

According to the Brennan Center, already these year, “99 bills that would modernize voter registration have been introduced in 29 states, with automatic voter registration being the most prevalent.”

Bills to introduce automatic registration have been introduced in Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

Alabama’s Merrill — who has said automatic registration would “cheapen” civil rights leaders’ work— questioned why any state would not “allow a person to decide what they want to do.” But a number of Democratic elections officials said there’s no reason not to make registration automatic.

“We know that in New Mexico the allegations that are being made by the administration don’t bear out,” Toulouse Oliver said. “We’re going to keep moving forward to try to expand the franchise.”

Denise Merrill of Connecticut agreed, saying she has collected data to prove the integrity of the voting process. Out of the millions of votes cast, a commission has only found 16 cases of potential fraud, most of which were mistakes or clerical errors.

“We have fought off any effort to claim that there’s voter fraud,” she said. “Unfortunately I think it’s far too easy today to get people to think there’s a conspiracy, and so just bringing this up is a problem. It erodes trust in democracy, and that’s the worst of it.”

Citing Trump’s voter fraud lie, states are working to make it harder to vote was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Keystone XL developer files pipeline application in Nebraska

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 12:06pm
TransCanada is expected to try to use eminent domain for parts of the route.A sign reading “Stop the TransCanada Pipeline” stands in a field near Bradshaw, Neb., along the Keystone XL pipeline route through the state. CREDIT: AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File

TransCanada just took another step toward getting its beleaguered Keystone XL pipeline back on track: the oil company filed an application Thursday with a Nebraska agency for route approval.

The move is the first state-level application for the company since President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum in January directing the State Department to review the pipeline’s federal application within 60 days. TransCanada submitted its new application to the State Department on January 26.

Trump uses executive action to revive Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines

“This application has been shaped by direct, on-the-ground input from Nebraskans,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “The thousands of Nebraskans we have met over the last eight years understand the value of this project and what it means to the state. As we have said consistently, safety and a respect for the environment remain our key priorities. We are listening and acting on what we have learned.”

TransCanada has already received permission from 90 percent of the Nebraska landowners Keystone XL would affect. The company has indicated it will seek to use eminent domain to acquire rights to the other 10 percent.

Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline became a major environmental cause between 2010 and 2015, galvanizing environmental organizations and communities across the country, including in Nebraska, where the Bold Alliance, led by Jane Kleeb, began.

“Keystone XL is a foreign-owned pipeline, using foreign steel, headed to the foreign export market,” Kleeb said in a statement. “Bold continues to stand with farmers and ranchers to protect property rights from being infringed upon by a pipeline for their private gain.”

According to Bold Alliance, the application filed this week will take between eight months and a year to go through Nebraska’s Public Service Commission and includes a significant public comment process. The company cannot apply to use eminent domain again until September 2017.

“The collective of Nebraska landowners who held out against selling their land to TransCanada remains strong — many are still in court suing TransCanada for the money they have already spent on attorneys and court costs battling eminent domain for over six years,” the organization said.

Landowners have said they are concerned about transporting oil through their property. TransCanada — like every oil company — has a history of pipeline spills. Last spring, thousands of gallons of oil spilled from the original Keystone pipeline. The company initially said only 200 gallons spilled.

Oil Leak From Keystone Pipeline 89 Times Worse Than Originally Thought

In 2015, President Obama announced that the State Department would not be approving Keystone XL’s application to bring 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from the Canadian border to refineries along the Gulf Coast, a distance of 1,700 miles. Citing national security concerns, Obama emphasized in his decision the need to get off fossil fuels.

At the time, environmentalists celebrated the decision, and many speculated that it would be a huge blow to the Canadian tar sands industry.

But during the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to reverse the decision, saying Keystone XL would bring jobs to the country. According to the company, the pipeline “will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in employee earnings in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana alone during construction, and once operating will provide millions of dollars annually in local tax revenues.”

State Department analysis said the pipeline would create 5,000–6,000 jobs during the construction period, and 20 permanent jobs.

Opponents to the pipeline say the small number of jobs isn’t worth the potential damage to farmland, water, and the climate.

“Keystone XL is and always will be all risk and no reward,” Kleeb said.

Keystone XL developer files pipeline application in Nebraska was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

McCain delivers brutal, thinly-veiled rebuke of Donald Trump

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 12:06pm
Speaking in Germany, McCain criticized Trump’s “turn away from universal values” and “hardening resentment” toward Muslims.Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. The annual weekend gathering is known for providing an open and informal platform to meet in close quarters. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

During his speech to the Munich Security Conference on Friday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivered a stinging rebuke of President Trump — without ever mentioning his name.

McCain began with a veiled critique of Trump’s “America first” approach.

Referring back to the Germans who founded the conference in the wake of World War II, McCain said they “did not assume the West would survive, because they had seen its near annihilation. They saw open markets give way to beggar-thy-neighbor protectionism, and the poverty that imposed. They saw a world order fracture into clashing ethnic and nationalist passions, and the misery that wrought.”

“From the ashes of the most awful calamity in human history was born what we call the West — a new, and different, and better kind of world order … one based not on blood-and-soil nationalism, or spheres of influence, or conquest of the weak by the strong, but rather on universal values, rule of law, open commerce, and respect for national sovereignty and independence,” he continued. “Indeed, the entire idea of the West is that it open to any person or any nation that honors and upholds these values.”

McCain went on to say that the founders of the conference would be alarmed by western nations’ “increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism… by the hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims… by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies… [and] that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.”

“But what would alarm them most, I think, is a sense that many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West… that they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without… and that while Western nations still have the power to maintain our world order, it is unclear whether we have the will,” he added.

McCain also tried to create some daylight between Trump and members of his administration that come from the political or military establishment, saying:

I know there is profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership. I can only speak for myself, but I do not believe that is the message you will hear from all of the American leaders who cared enough to travel here to Munich this weekend. That is not the message you heard today from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. That is not the message you will hear from Vice President Mike Pence. That is not the message you will hear from Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. And that is certainly not the message you will hear tomorrow from our bipartisan congressional delegation.

He then turned to taking veiled shots at Russia, and Trump’s recent dismissal of the idea that the United States is morally superior to Putin’s regime.

Referring to the “adversaries” of western countries, McCain said, “they have no meaningful allies, so they seek to sow dissent among us and divide us from each other.”

“They know that their power and influence are inferior to ours, so they seek to subvert us, and erode our resolve to resist, and terrorize us into passivity,” he said. “They know they have little to offer the world beyond selfishness and fear, so they seek to undermine our confidence in ourselves and our belief in our own values.”

McCain concluded by highlighting that international politics is not just about power — it’s also about morality.

“In the final analysis, the survival of the West is not just a material struggle; it is now, and has always been, a moral struggle,” he said. “Now more than ever, we must not forget this.”

https://medium.com/media/1ec05c5bb45ca2b329063de822ee3df6/href

The speech in Munich wasn’t the first time McCain has criticized Trump since he was sworn in. After McCain called Trump’s botched Yemen raid a “failure” earlier this month, Trump replied with a tweetstorm that said the war hero-turned-senator has “been losing so long he doesn’t know how to win anymore.”

Following the abrupt departure of Michael Flynn from his role as Trump’s national security adviser earlier this week, McCain characterized the move as “a troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national security apparatus.”

In a statement, McCain said Flynn’s departure “raises further questions about the Trump administration’s intention toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia, including statements by the President suggesting moral equivalence between the United States and Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, threats to our NATO allies, and attempted interference in American election.”

Trump knew Flynn talked sanctions with Russia, but didn’t tell Pence

But McCain’s rhetoric hasn’t really translated to action. Before he voted against Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), Trump’s choice to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, McCain had voted to approve all of Trump’s nominees who came up for Senate confirmation votes.

McCain voted against Mulvaney on Thursday because Mulvaney has been a supporter of cutting military spending.

McCain delivers brutal, thinly-veiled rebuke of Donald Trump was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Major outdoor retailers boycott Utah over threats to sell off public lands

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 11:41am
“It is important to our membership, and to our bottom line.”The “Moonhouse” in McLoyd Canyon, near Blanding, Utah. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File

By Jenny Rowland and Nicole Gentile

After countless attempts by Utah politicians to sell off or abolish national parks, forests, and national monuments, the world’s largest outdoor gear show has decided to take its business out of the state.

“Outdoor Industry Association will continue to support the efforts of Outdoor Retailer to seek a new home for the trade show,” Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, said in a statement. “It is important to our membership, and to our bottom line that we partner with states and elected officials who share our views on the truly unique American value of public lands for the people and conserving our outdoor heritage for the next generation.”

After 20 years of hosting the bi-annual outdoor retailer show in Salt Lake City, organizers of the show finalized their decision to move the $45 million event after a “disappointing” call Thursday with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R).

A spokesman for Herbert said OIA’s move perpetuated a “false narrative” about Utah, despite the fact that the governor has been pouring $4.5 million of Utah taxpayer dollars into a lawsuit to seize national public lands in the state each year; an effort that is opposed by Utah residents, and has very little chance of success.

Obama moves to protect nearly 2 million acres of public lands before Trump takes office

Earlier this month, Herbert signed a resolution asking President Donald Trump to rescind the recently-designated Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. He was joined by Utah Reps. Rob Bishop (R) and Jason Chaffetz (R), who also urged the White House to undo the designation (legal experts, meanwhile, question whether the president even has such authority). That was the final straw for Patagonia and other outdoor retailers.

By signing the resolution Herbert made “it clear that he and other Utah elected officials do not support public lands conservation nor do they value the economic benefits — $12 billion in consumer spending and 122,000 jobs — that the outdoor recreation industry brings to their state,” Patagonia president and CEO Rose Marcario said in a statement. “Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah.”

Jason Chaffetz uses meeting with Trump to promote disposal of public lands

Last week, Chaffetz, who chairs the committee on Oversight and Government reform, the chief investigative arm of the House of Representatives, met with Trump to talk about rolling back Bears Ears National Monument. Chaffetz has been widely criticized for using his half hour with the president to promote the disposal of national public lands, rather than addressing the myriad conflicts and controversies plaguing the new administration.

Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and leader of the congressional anti-parks caucus, is one of the most vocal members of congress in support of the movement to seize and sell public lands. Bishop has also introduced numerous bills to undermine the Antiquities Act, the law that gives the president authority to create national monuments like Bears Ears, and has notably told supporters of the law they should “die.”

Trump’s pick for Interior Secretary, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), who has a history of opposing national monuments, is expected to visit Utah and make a recommendation to the president on Bears Ears national monument after he is confirmed. Overturning the national monuments of a previous president is unprecedented and legal experts have said the president doesn’t have the authority to do.

A date for Zinke’s Senate confirmation has not been set.

Major outdoor retailers boycott Utah over threats to sell off public lands was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trans kids massively benefit from being allowed to socially transition

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 11:40am
A new study shows allowing trans kids to transition virtually eliminates higher rates of depression and low self-worth.Jenn Brewer, 13, is one trans kid benefiting from a Pentagon policy introduced last year to provide health insurance coverage for the trans kids of military personnel. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

A new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has good news for trans kids who just want to be themselves.

With young children increasingly expressing a gender identity that does not match their sex assigned at birth, both parents and doctors have had questions about whether to affirm such a gender identity. Before puberty, transition requires no medical interventions, but generally involves changes to appearance, name, and pronouns.

Previous studies about gender nonconforming kids who were not allowed to transition found they experienced high levels of depression anxiety. The new study shows, in “striking contrast,” that allowing this social transition can be greatly beneficial to these young people’s mental health.

When it came to self-reported depressive symptoms or anxiety, researchers found there was no difference between transgender kids who were allowed to transition and their peers and siblings — nor did they differ from national averages. Likewise, transgender children scored just as developmentally normal as their peers on measures of self-worth.

The study also debunked a myth that parents of trans kids may underreport how their children might be struggling. In this case, they actually reported having higher levels of anxiety about their children than the children actually reported for themselves.

Jack Turban, of the Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut wrote in a response to the study that when children are not allowed to transition, it can damage their relationships with their parents and therapists, “because these children feel judged for being transgender.” That perceived inner conflict and sense of stigma “can be dangerous and may lead to the high rates of anxiety, depression, and even suicidality that we see in these children.”

Lead researcher Lily Durwood, a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington, Seattle, cautioned that there is still a lot more research necessary before definitive conclusions can be drawn about young people transitioning. Nevertheless, she said that “the take-home message of this study is that it is possible for a child to socially transition before puberty and have normative mental health.”

The results jibe with a variety of other studies that have found that:

  • When kids are allowed to transition, including the use of puberty blockers, it improves their mental health.
  • When parents affirm their kids’ gender identities, they have normative rates of depression and anxiety.
  • When families reject their kids’ gender identities, it increases the likelihood of their suicidality and substance abuse.
  • Transgender kids identify as completely with their gender identity as their cisgender peers.

The Trump administration has already indicated that it is backing away from providing support and legal protection for transgender students at schools.

Trans kids massively benefit from being allowed to socially transition was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Republicans rush to confirm Trump’s EPA pick despite secret emails

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 10:40am
2,500 emails between the Oklahoma attorney general and oil and gas companies will be released next week.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, as Republicans prepare to use their majority to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, despite calls from Democrats to delay until requested emails are released. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and his fellow Republican senators voted Thursday to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), despite not knowing what kind of relationship Pruitt has with oil and gas companies.

The vote was almost exactly down party lines, although Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (ND) and Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) also voted to confirm. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) opposed.

There are more than 2,500 pieces of correspondence between Pruitt or his staff and oil and gas companies that have not yet been released.

A judge in Oklahoma ruled that Pruitt’s office must release the correspondence, responsive to a 2015 Open Records Act request by the Center for Media and Democracy, by Tuesday. Senate Republicans were not willing to wait.

During his confirmation process, Pruitt’s ties to oil and gas companies were repeatedly questioned, but he declined to provide emails documenting the nature of those ties. The AG’s office previously said it had 3,000 pieces of correspondence between. They released only 411 of those earlier this week. Under the judge’s order, the office will have to produce documents responsive to eight other requests from the non-profit as well.

An investigation by the New York Times in 2014 revealed that Pruitt sent a letter to the EPA on state letterhead that had been drafted by an oil company representative.

Trump’s pick for EPA admits acting on behalf of oil and gas interests as state attorney general

As attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA over a dozen times, alleging the agency had overreached its authority or had promulgated a rule that did not adequately account for its economic burden to industry.

Pruitt will likely be sworn in next week, as President Donald Trump will return to Florida this weekend.

Once sworn in, Pruitt is expected to work to reverse many of the regulations that were developed under the Obama administration. The Clean Power Plan, for instance, faces an uncertain future, as do other efforts to protect clean air and water in the United States.

Scott Pruitt hasn’t even been confirmed and EPA employees are already protesting

Pruitt’s nomination has faced unprecedented opposition. Hundreds of former EPA staffers signed a public letter opposing him, and current EPA workers staged a protest last week in Chicago against his confirmation.

Republicans rush to confirm Trump’s EPA pick despite secret emails was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

White House tells CNN they’re upset with 2 contributors. They’re both people of color.

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 10:08am
The story broke on the same day Trump claimed to be “the least racist person.”CREDIT: Twitter screengrab

During a recent meeting, White House Senior Adviser and Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner told an executive from Time Warner Inc., the parent company of CNN, that the Trump administration is upset with the network’s critical coverage of Trump, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The WSJ, citing “a White House official and other people familiar with the matter,” reports Kushner told the executive — Gary Ginsberg, executive vice president of corporate marketing and communications for Time Warner — that the Trump administration is particularly upset with two CNN contributors, both of whom happen to be people of color.

“Mr. Kushner has taken issue with specific CNN contributors including Van Jones, a Democrat who served in the Obama administration, and Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist, who have each criticized Mr. Trump in harsh terms, the people familiar with the matter said,” the WSJ reports.

Both Navarro and Jones responded to the report on Twitter:

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Got a lotta people tryna drain me of this energy." :) But y'all know @CNN has our backs. Do you? RT if yes! (@jaredkushner, u can RT, 2!) https://t.co/DQzfY15f9m

 — @VanJones68

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Really, Little Jared complaining about me cuz I get under President Daddy-in-Law's skin? Oh, baby boy, I'm so sorry. https://t.co/4W8Sh9sHxy

 — @ananavarro

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The WSJ’s report was published a day after one of the few black Republicans in the Trump administration was fired. Shermichael Singleton was dismissed from his role as a senior adviser to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson after it was revealed he’d written an op-ed critical of Trump’s rhetoric toward black voters and posted some related tweets.

And the WSJ story ran the same day Trump claimed to be “the least racist person” during a news conference — a claim he undermined less than 10 minutes later by asking a black reporter named April Ryan if she could set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus for him.

“Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours? Set up the meeting,” Trump told Ryan. “Let’s go — set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the black caucus.”

It took Trump less than 10 minutes to undermine his claim to be ‘the least racist person’

During that same news conference, Trump, who has repeatedly slammed CNN as “fake news,” upped the ante by calling the network “very fake news.” CNN has been racing with the New York Times and Washington Post to report out details of team Trump’s scandalous and unexplained connections with Russian officials.

Trump is a fan of at least one black CNN contributor, however. During remarks he gave commemorating the start of Black History Month on February 1, Trump praised black GOP strategist and CNN contributor Paris Dennard, saying he’s “done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community — he’s all by himself. Seven people and Paris. I’ll take Paris over the seven.”

During that same event, Trump made some puzzling remarks about African American heroes, infamously characterizing Frederick Douglass as “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more, I notice.” Douglass died in 1895.

Trump commemorates Black History Month with bizarre ‘tribute’ to African American heroes

Later that day, Press Secretary Sean Spicer had an even harder time stringing together a coherent response to a question about Trump’s Frederick Douglass remarks.

“Well I think there’s — I think he wants to highlight the contributions that [Douglass] has made. And I think through a lot of the actions and statements that’s he’s gonna make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more,” Spicer told reporters during a press conference.

Racial implications aside, Mark Feldstein, journalism historian at the University of Maryland, told the WSJ that Kushner’s meeting with Ginsberg was unusual.

“Lord knows that every president has been angered by their news coverage, going back to George Washington,” Feldstein said. “But to engage in that kind of bare-knuckled tactics is extraordinary.”

White House tells CNN they’re upset with 2 contributors. They’re both people of color. was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

This week in Trump’s America: The Russia subplot returns

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 10:05am
It’s been almost a month, but not quite.CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Just as Week 3 was ending, Mother Jones asked, “Whatever happened to the Trump-Russia story?” — unknowingly foreshadowing the subplot’s return.

This week saw President Trump and his administration playing defense over National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The controversy reignited speculation about potential ties between Trump officials and Russia, and Trump caved to public pressure by asking for Flynn’s resignation.

Many questions remain, including about who knew what when in the current scandal, and they’ve returned to the forefront in Week 4. Needless to say, it’s been a hot mess.

Flynn is gone, but there are still a lot of other Islamophobes in this administration

  • Muslim ban 2.0: Trump is reportedly preparing a new Muslim ban to circumvent judicial holds on his first one. In the meantime, customs agents are targeting people from nations not even named in the first ban.
  • Best LGBT President?: Less than 48 hours after assuming his position, Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed a federal court that the Department of Justice would no longer be advocating for transgender kids.
  • Tolerating opaqueness: Congress had a chance to demand Trump’s tax returns, but Republicans voted it down. There may be another way to hold Trump accountable for his conflicts of interest that doesn’t require Congress.
  • Conway conflicts: The Office of Government Ethics has recommended investigating Kellyanne Conway and disciplining her for her promotion of Ivanka Trump’s product line.
  • Anti-vaxxer in chief: Trump reiterated his belief this week that vaccines are causing an increase in autism, despite there being no evidence to support that hypothesis.
  • Lyin’ Mnuchin: Steve Mnuchin was confirmed as Treasury Secretary despite lying to the Senate.
  • Facts aren’t beliefs: Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, recently called climate change “just a religious belief.” His confirmation is being forced through despite thousands of missing emails he exchanged with oil and gas companies, which won’t be released until at least next week.
  • Absent president: Trump promised to “rarely leave the White House,” but this weekend will be headed to Florida for the third weekend in a row. Each trip costs taxpayers an estimated $3 million.

Remember, you can always check out our interactive list of Trump’s 663 campaign promises here.

  • Media blackout: When press arrived at Mar-a-Lago last weekend to cover Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s visit, they found black plastic covering the windows, blocking their view of the golf course.
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Trump's press corps has been placed in a basement suite at Jupiter golf club. Black plastic over windows to give Trump privacy as he golfs.

 — @JenniferJJacobs

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Our view of Trump's Jupiter golf course from the pool hold.

 — @colvinj

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  • Club membership perk: Trump and Abe discussed the North Korea missile crisis in a public dining room where Mar-a-Lago guests were taking pictures on Instagram.
  • Checks and imbalances: Stephen Miller said that the President’s executive power “will not be questioned” by the courts.
  • That didn’t fix it: When asked about anti-Semitic violence, Trump responded by bragging about his electoral victory.
  • Petty tyrant: One of the only black staffers in Trump’s administration was fired this week because he had criticized Trump in the past, even though he had already been asked about the op-ed he wrote when he was hired.
  • Christie will do anything for love: When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) visited the White House, Trump made him order the meatloaf.
  • Who’s in charge?: Stephen Miller claimed, “Steve Bannon has no role whatsoever in drafting executive orders.”
  • Fake news about “fake news”: Trump tried to claim CNN cut Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) off because he joked about them being “fake news.” He probably got the idea from Infowars.
  • That didn’t happen: White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders invented a case of voter fraud from her home state of Arkansas.
  • Laughable: Sean Spicer claimed Trump has been “incredibly tough on Russia.”
  • Flashback: Vice President Pence said back before Inauguration that “of course” there had been no communication between the Trump campaign and Russia, but new reports contradict that.
  • That press conference: We mentioned that press conference and its many lies above, but seriously, what a doozy!

With the massive controversy over Michael Flynn’s call with the Russian ambassador, what he said on that call, and what he told others about that call, Trump once again targeted the media as being “very, very unfair.”

The White House put out several seemingly conflicting statements about the nature of Flynn’s resignation. Taken together, they may amount to Trump losing his first fight with the media.

On Monday, Kellyanne Conway said that Flynn had the “full confidence” of the President. But then Monday night, he resigned. The next morning, Conway said it was Flynn’s own decision to resign. But that afternoon, Sean Spicer said that the President asked for the resignation. None of the administration’s statements established clear timelines about who knew what when, given the White House was tipped off by the Department of Justice about Flynn’s calls weeks prior.

After the media reported on all the contradictions, Trump then attacked them Wednesday morning:

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The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. @MSNBC &amp; @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign.

 — @realDonaldTrump

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His first public remarks about the controversy came that afternoon, during his press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he has been treated very, very unfairly by the media. As I call it, the “fake media” in many cases. I think it’s really a sad thing he was treated so badly. I think in addition to that, from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked. It is criminal action, a criminal act. It has been going on for a long time — before me. Now, it is really going on. People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton. I think it’s very, very unfair what’s happened to general Flynn, the way he was treated and the documents and papers that were illegally — I stress that — illegally leaked. Very, very unfair.

So which is it? Does Trump respect Flynn, or did he ask for his resignation?

There is a tidy explanation, however, that ties this all up: Both statements are true. Trump didn’t want to ask Flynn for his resignation, and it doesn’t seem like he actually received any new information about the situation on Monday. But with more information available to the public, the questions and persistence could not be stopped. In other words, Trump caved to the public outcry and took action contrary to what he wanted.

But Trump would never admit that. Instead, he blamed the press, claiming they were “unfair” for accurately reporting about how Flynn broke protocol (and potentially the law), because the reporting kept him from getting his way. He’s also blaming leaks, which of course he loved back when they were hurting his opponent, but of course, it doesn’t make sense that the leaks are a problem if their content is all “fake news.” Even Thursday morning, he was trying to blame the New York Times for simply reporting on leaked information — expressing little concern about how damning the content of those leaks may be for his administration.

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Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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That continued at his press conference Thursday afternoon, where he continued to knock the leaks as “fake news” and even acknowledged that he would have directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Russia if Trump thought he wouldn’t. In fact, it seems he even knew about it.

Instead of trying to discredit the press, it now seems Trump is also trying to reprimand them for holding him accountable. And of course, he’s trying to distract from what they’re actually reporting. It’s never been truer that Trump is blaming the press for doing their job.

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This week's @TIME cover https://t.co/jzWbdsGLwo

 — @ZekeJMiller

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Citizens across the country continue to be energized and engaged, pushing their elected representatives to actually act on their behalf. This week, there was no shortage of viral clips of constituents courageously speaking out for their own health care and the safety of the planet and their communities.

One such video really stood out this week. A ten-year-old girl concerned about pollution asked Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) at a town hall whether he believes in science, as she does. When he avoided actually answering the question — instead launching into a defense of fossil fuels — the crowd loudly called him out.

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Utah Congressman Chaffetz gets totally owned by 10 year old girl's sick burn about science, refuses to answer her question &amp; crowd goes wild https://t.co/FxKUM2TklY

 — @somebadideas

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It has been an exhausting month, but this kind of engagement is still making a difference — and rattling Republican lawmakers across the country. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has even resorted to calling his constituents “enemies of American self-government and democracy” for demanding town halls to meet with him. Hundreds of Republican lawmakers are avoiding holding any town halls at all during this next recess.

There’s a quote going around some circles that has been attributed to Michael Moore, though it’s unclear if or when he actually said it. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile lesson many people probably learned from their music teachers:

This morning I have been pondering a nearly forgotten lesson I learned in high school music. Sometimes in band or choir, music requires players or singers to hold a note longer than they actually can hold a note. In those cases, we were taught to mindfully stagger when we took a breath so the sound appeared uninterrupted. Everyone got to breathe, and the music stayed strong and vibrant. Yesterday, I read an article that suggested the administration’s litany of bad executive orders (more expected on LGBTQ next week) is a way of giving us “protest fatigue” — we will literally lose our will to continue the fight in the face of the onslaught of negative action. Let’s remember MUSIC. Take a breath. The rest of the chorus will sing. The rest of the band will play. Rejoin so others can breathe. Together, we can sustain a very long, beautiful song for a very, very long time. You don’t have to do it all, but you must add your voice to the song. With special love to all the musicians and music teachers in my life.

On Monday, we’ll hit the one month mark — 47 more to go for this term.

←← Go back to Week 3.
See all our Trump weeks in review.

This week in Trump’s America: The Russia subplot returns was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Louisiana Republican’s interference with New Orleans police reform foreshadows Trump backlash

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 10:03am
Police and local leaders have been making progress in New Orleans for five years.Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, seen here hugging Mike Pence on the campaign trail in 2016, is destabilizing the progress New Orleans has made in restoring police accountability and citizens’ trust. CREDIT: AP Photo/Max Becherer

Ask the leaders of the New Orleans Police Department how their joint reform efforts with federal officials are going and they’ll tell you the city is already far better off just five years into the process.

But broach the same subject with conservative elected officials in the state, and you will apparently get a very different answer.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry recently derided the reform project as “hug a thug” policing — a remark that appears to have riled the judge in charge of enforcing the Obama-era consent decree between New Orleans and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (CRD).

“There have been some people who have criticized the vehicle pursuit policy in the press, but the NOPD’s policy is the current best practice in the nation, and it’s been adopted for a very good reason, which is because it keeps from endangering the lives of citizens,” Judge Susie Morgan said Thursday at a hearing.

It is at least the second time Morgan has hit back at Landry’s interference in the city’s reform push, the New Orleans Advocate reports. The first was during a private conference in chambers with lawyers for the city and the CRD, where the Advocate says she “[took] the city’s side.”

Landry isn’t just antagonizing the general idea of police reform. He’s managed to land on the wrong side of the NOPD brass. Deputy superintendent Daniel Murphy “cited with pride a New Orleans Crime Coalition poll in September that found the highest level of public approval ever measured for the NOPD” at Thursday’s hearing and “suggested that was due to the consent decree,” according to the city paper.

Landry’s tilt with Murphy and other city leaders foreshadows similar conflicts that are likely to arise around the country as President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions consolidate power over law enforcement policy.

Black communities stop calling 911 after instances of police brutality, research shows

Sessions is not a fan of consent decrees as a tool. Both men cling to the ideological precept that police officers are almost never guilty of doing anything wrong. When wrongdoing does arise, the new regime in Washington believes, it should be treated as an isolated incident, rather than as a reason to bring cops and community leaders together to discuss the culture of a given department’s relationship to the people it serves.

Landry has much more in common with Sessions and Trump than he does with New Orleans cops. A one-term congressman elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave, Landry lost his re-election bid after redistricting and landed back in state politics. Landry epitomized the radical tilt of the national GOP in that era, dabbling in casual Islamophobic conspiracy-mongering and using his platform to argue against greater inclusion of the LGBT community in public life.

Now, as his state’s top law enforcement officer, Landry is happy to play johnny-come-lately in the New Orleans police reform effort. The city’s consent decree was agreed to in 2012, after about 16 months of investigation, discussion, and deliberation by CRD staff working in concert with police, city leaders, and community members.

Consent decrees are not haphazard things. The changes they mandate are designed with flexibility. Feds, locals, and courts work in concert and in an iterative fashion to achieve bespoke change with maximum buy-in, rather than imposing cookie-cutter solutions from afar. It doesn’t take much negativity to upset their delicate balance, as the case of Ferguson, Missouri illustrates.

The consent decree process bows to local expertise even as it insists that national principles embedded in the Constitution be upheld by the men and women society entrusts with guns and badges. In New Orleans, that process began while Landry was off in Washington claiming Barack Obama was trying to give Muslims special treatment at airport security checkpoints. He is now inserting himself into a complicated ongoing reform effort which the directly-affected parties agree is going well, and making the road rougher than it needs to be.

Such interference probably makes Trump administration hearts swell with pride. Sessions gave clear signals during his confirmation hearing that he sees little value in the department-wide investigations that make New Orleans-style reforms possible. Trump embodies a simplistic version of old-school law-and-order rhetoric which 175 of the nation’s top police officers — including David Brown, who headed the Dallas Police Department during last summer’s awful ambush — recently told him is counterproductive.

Jeff Sessions would blunt sharpest tool we have for police accountability

Together, the two can wield federal power to fuel a backlash against the 20 consent decrees which the Obama DOJ established in cities around the country.

Events at Thursday’s court hearing in New Orleans seem to hint that reform has taken root there after five years of hard work. But similar efforts in other places are more fragile, more subject to interference from the new right-wing posse in Washington.

In Chicago, for example, Obama’s CRD staff barely managed to complete its investigation before the White House changed hands — leaving every possibility that Sessions will simply put their report in a drawer and defer to his boss’s stated ambition to “send in the Feds!” A crackdown is not what Chicago needs, according to the findings of the CRD investigation. But with Trump’s itchy Twitter fingers and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s help, it may be exactly what Chicago gets.

The situation is similarly fragile in Baltimore, where the final consent decree of the Obama era was unveiled just days before Trump took office. The city’s top cop praised the agreement and the years-long collaborative process that produced it. Less than two years after the suspicious death of Freddie Gray and the ensuing riots, Baltimore is just beginning to walk the road New Orleans has been on since 2012.

Given time, and continued earnest effort from the federal attorneys who are party to the deal, the city can expect to see the same kind of uptick in public trust of police that the NOPD’s Murphy praised in court on Thursday.

But it’s no sure thing that Sessions and Trump will maintain the project, there or anywhere else.

Louisiana Republican’s interference with New Orleans police reform foreshadows Trump backlash was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Uber’s troubles have stretched into the world’s second largest market

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 9:59am
A bitter battle for taxi drivers’ rights has been playing out in the streets of New Delhi.Striking Uber and Ola drivers and protestors gather at Jantar Mantar Road in New Delhi, India, February 17, 2017. CREDIT: Ashish Malhotra

While Uber continues to deal with the fallout of the #DeleteUber campaign, the San Francisco based ride-hailing app is also engaged in crisis-management in the world’s second largest market: India.

Drivers who work for the company, and its local Indian competitor Ola, have been striking across the city for the past week, demanding better pay and amenities. In some cases, protests have even turned violent. And on Thursday, two protest leaders ended up in the hospital, after having been on hunger strike since the standoff first began last week.

The strike is a significant setback for Uber and Ola, after a period of remarkable success in major Indian cities. The companies have thrived by managing to offer low fares for customers, as well as high incomes for their drivers. Rates often fall as low as 6 rupees/km ($0.09), as opposed to more traditional cab companies, like Meru Cabs, which charges 21 rupees/km ($0.31).

The ride-hailing apps have been able to compensate drivers better than more expensive competitors through lucrative bonus and incentive schemes — Uber and Ola drivers have been known to make up to 100,000 rupees a month (about $1,500) — but many say their incentives have begun to disappear, and with them, their fortunes.

“Before there were incentives — good incentives,” said Rahul Singh,* who has been driving with Uber for a year and Ola for a few weeks. “Nowadays they’re not giving the incentives, only the 6 rupees per kilometer that you’re driving. That’s a very big loss for the driver.”

Singh says he used to be able to earn up to 80,000 rupees ($1,192.26) in a month with Uber, depending on how much he worked. Now, he says, he would only make about 30,000 rupees ($447.09) working at full capacity.

Though the strike has centered around New Delhi, it did briefly extend to some cities in the south of the country earlier this week. And on Sunday, an Uber driver in Hyderabad, unable to pay the monthly installment on his car, committed suicide.

Drivers gathered on Jantar Mantar Road, a main protest site in New Delhi, told ThinkProgress of similar financial troubles.

“Why did the company increase our work, and reduce our fare? With me, the company made a commitment, so I mortgaged my wife’s jewelry and financed the car through a private financer,” said one, on the condition of anonymity. “When I have more income, then naturally expenses rise. My daughter was admitted into an engineering college. How can I pay the fee?”

How Uber drivers are dealing with — and protesting — Trump’s immigration bans

Jagjit Ram,* who owns a cab that he and another worker both drive for Ola, believes the violence that has occurred has been an organized effort by a minority of drivers to keep others off the road. “These guys are hooligans,” he said. “They’re doing fake bookings and when a driver comes there to pick up, they snatch his phone and take the SIM card, and then they ask him to pay 600 rupees [to get it back].”

Though it is difficult to verify the specifics of these claims, the standoff — which has largely been peaceful — has been colored by numerous allegations of drivers being assaulted and their cars vandalized. And on Tuesday night, an Uber driver was stopped by protestors who set his car on fire just outside of Delhi.

Uber declined to comment for this story, but released a statement earlier in the week noting “isolated reports of threats and intimidation” and calling on authorities to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers.

A Delhi court order on Wednesday restrained two drivers’ unions from obstructing or interfering with the business interests of Uber, but in practice, little has changed on the streets. With no clear end in sight, the strike represents a potential turning point for Uber and Ola’s business models in India.

To some experts, this situation was inevitable.

“I think this is just a consequence of Uber and Ola screwing up. Because what they’ve done in their haste to add more and more cars, and because they were competing with each other for drivers, is increase incentives,” said Nikhil Pahwa, the founder of MediaNama, an organization analyzes digital and telecom businesses in India. “So I think it’s a flawed approach the way they’ve done this, to try and scale up this quickly in a manner that is unsustainable. This competition between Uber and Ola has been destructive.”

Destructive is a word providers of more traditional transport services know too well, having seen their earnings plummet as a result of Uber and Ola’s rise.

“Our business was totally destroyed,” says Vijay Bahadur, a 44-year-old owner and driver of an auto-rickshaw, a three-wheeled motorized vehicle. “First they started offering 6 rupees/km, then sharing [UberPool]. That’s why there was nobody on the street for our business.”

As Uber and Ola users have experienced abnormally long wait times and inflated prices throughout the week, however, many have returned to auto-rickshaws. For Bahadur, this has offered some much needed respite.

“Right now things are going well,” he says, “Before, wherever we went, we were roaming for half an hour or an hour to get a passenger….when I’m going now, it’s five or ten minutes.”

Where Uber and Ola go from here is unclear. This is not the first time the companies have experienced tension with their drivers — in India or elsewhere. But with no clear end in sight to the strike, Uber and Ola’s status atop the cab market in major Indian cities could be in jeopardy.

“It’s not sustainable, that’s very clear. But how they’re going to change, nobody knows,” says Pahwa of their business models. “If they hike rates, users might decline. You never know.”

And if that’s the case, #DeleteUber could take hold in India for entirely different reasons.

*Where noted, names of some drivers have been changed to protect their identities.

Ashish Malhotra is a freelance journalist based in New Delhi who has previously worked at Al Jazeera English and the Hindustan Times. You can find him on twitter at @amalhotra2.

Uber’s troubles have stretched into the world’s second largest market was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

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