March 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 PM


Trump suggests Cohen hearing contributed to failure of North Korea summit (Reuters, 3/03/19) 

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that the Democrats' decision to interview his longtime fixer, lawyer Michael Cohen, on the same day as a meeting with Kim Jong Un may have led to the North Korea summit ending with no deal.

And Nancy still won't give him a safety word...

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


Egypt allows Mecca-bound Palestinians to exit besieged Gaza Strip (Al Jazeera, 3/03/19)

Security sources on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing confirmed it was the first such permission for the Muslim Umrah pilgrimage since the start of Egyptian military operations in northern Sinai in 2014.

Egypt halted the Umrah programme for Palestinians in Gaza in 2015 over instability in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula that borders the Palestinian enclave, but still allowed transit for the main annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Umrah is the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca that can be completed throughout the year, as opposed to the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Around 2,500 pilgrims are authorised annually to leave Gaza via Egypt to perform Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam which every able-bodied Muslim who is able to afford the journey is obliged to undertake at least once in their lifetime.

The Rafah border is the main exit point for the majority of Gaza's two million population. The Erez crossing, the other exit for Palestinians in Gaza, is managed by Israel, who puts severe limitations on the number of people who can pass through it.

Gaza has been under a land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel since 2007 when Hamas - the group that governs the Strip - took over power after winning a parliamentary election.

Posted by orrinj at 9:46 AM


Two sides of the globe, one painful lesson: Trump is debasing America (GARRY KASPAROV, MAR 03, 2019 , NY Daily News)

In this combination of images. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and President Donald Trump during their meeting Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Hanoi. (Evan Vucci / AP)
No matter how low your opinion may be of President Trump, he'll always find a way to lower it. On Wednesday, he outdid himself, breaking even the laws of physics by reaching new depths in two places at once. In Washington, Trump was revealed to be even more traitorous, venal and outright criminal than already assumed thanks to the congressional testimony of his long-time attorney and fixer Michael Cohen. Just hours later, in Hanoi, Trump was forced to walk away from his latest love-fest summit with one of the world's bloodiest dictators, North Korea's Kim Jong Un. [...]

He confirmed that Trump heard from Roger Stone that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would release emails that would damage Hillary Clinton. Assange and WikiLeaks have been lockstep collaborators with Russian intelligence services for years and cannot be considered to act independently from Putin's wishes.

Additionally, Deutsche Bank lent Trump hundreds of millions of dollars when no other institution would give him a dime. This is the same bank that was fined for laundering billions in Russian cash and was described by expert reporter Luke Harding as facilitating a "shuffle of money" between its business with Russians and its business with Trump. From Trump Tower to the hacked emails to the fishy loans to the polling data Manafort handed over to a Russian agent, the list of contacts and likely quid pro quos between Trump and Russia is long and growing. I believe the English term is "collusion."

Cohen's credibility was enhanced by his Republican interrogators, who debased themselves, their offices and Congress as an institution with their eagerness to attack one of the few people who can shed light on the threat Trump represents to the country. It is vital to understand what Putin extracted from Trump in exchange for keeping quiet about the Trump Tower arrangement and the Trumps' many lies about it. But it was clear from the start that the Republicans weren't interested in the truth, only in defending their Dear Leader.

They attempted to do this by calling Trump's right-hand man a liar and a crook, as if those characteristics aren't exactly why Trump relied on him for so many years. The GOP questioners didn't even try to exculpate Trump, conceding that his actions are indefensible so the only hope is discrediting the messenger. The GOP isn't angry with Cohen for lying to Congress in 2017 when he was doing it to defend Trump. They're angry that he stopped. [...]

Trump's wooing of murderous North Korean dictator would be inexcusable even if it achieved results. It hasn't. Instead, Kim has received the global elevation all dictators crave by being treated as an equal by the leader of the most powerful free country in the world and given up nothing he cares about. His country is still a concentration camp of 25 million souls, and he knows the only reason he is receiving first-class treatment is because of the nuclear weapons he will never relinquish.

Just as Russia loomed over the Cohen hearing, Putin's shadow was also present in Hanoi, with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov appearing right on time to claim that the "Americans are seeking our advice" on the negotiations. To be fair, if Kim listens to anyone, it's likely Putin, who helped turn the North Korean missile program into a global threat in record time.

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:13 AM


CPAC: Blexit Is Real!: Another day with the best that Conservatism Inc. has to offer. (MOLLY JONG-FAST,  MARCH 2, 2019, The Bulwark)

After Beck it went to the (other) future of the Republican party, Candace Owens. Say what you want about her grasp of history, but Owen is actually a really compelling speaker. And because she's from Trumpworld she also sells merch with the "Blexit" logo on it.

The idea of Blexit is that African-American voters are about to leave the Democratic party in droves because, Trump. This seems . . . unlikely? If you take Trump's net approval rating--which is right now only -9 (that's very, very good for him) and slice and dice it across a whole bunch of cohorts, you see that among African-Americans he is a staggering -64.7.

I want to take a minute and put that into some perspective for you. Pick a group of people that you think are really, super-duper anti-Trump. Maybe people who live in cities? They're a net -29. Okay, maybe people with post-graduate degrees? They're -30. There is literally no other measurable demographic group that thinks as negatively about Trump as African-Americans.

But wait--there's more! The best part is that Trump's approval rating among African-Americans is actually dropping. In January of 2017 he was "only" -47. Since then he's dropped by another third. Which means that since Candace Owens started selling Blexit gear, African-American voters actually became even more anti-Trump than they already were.

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


$15 a Day to Drive? Londoners Say 'Thanks, I'll Take the Train' (Irene Garcia Perez, February 28, 2019, Bloomberg Business Week)

For most of the past decade, Samantha Basham drove the 16 miles to work in central London from the suburban borough of Bexley, but last year she switched to the train. Why? London's congestion charging system was costing her hundreds of pounds a month. These days, "I don't drive in at all," says Basham, 45, a freelance makeup artist for magazines and broadcasters. "I take the train even though I have to carry a heavy suitcase full of makeup."

Basham is among the thousands of Londoners who've shifted to public transport since the city introduced the charges in 2003. Drivers pay as much as £11.50 ($15) to enter central London from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. The rules are enforced by cameras that snap photos of license tags at the zone's perimeter and by random camera checks inside. They've cut the number of cars entering the area by 30 percent on weekdays, the municipal transport agency says. While the primary goal of the charges was to ease traffic, they've also dampened auto sales: In 2017 some 710,000 cars were registered in London, down 2 percent from 2009, vs. an 11 percent increase across Britain.

More than a dozen cities worldwide have instituted similar programs, and after years of false starts, New York appears poised to impose a fee on vehicles in parts of Manhattan. Proponents say such plans result in time savings, fewer accidents, and lower carbon monoxide emissions--benefits that outweigh the cost of implementation.

To further limit pollution, London will double down on its system in April with an additional £12.50 daily fee for many older cars.