October 7, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:40 PM


Fox News in Disarray as Hosts Struggle to Digest Trump's Betrayal of the Syrian Kurds (Robert Mackey, October 7 2019, The Intercept)

"What a disaster, I mean, the president's statement through Stephanie Grisham is, you know, 'We defeated the caliphate, the caliphate's destroyed.' We would not have done that without the Kurds, who did all of our fighting," Kilmeade said to his stunned co-hosts on the morning show. "Now we're saying, 'Okay Turks, go wipe them out, or force them out.' What kind of message is that to the next ally that wants to side with us?" he asked.

When another of the show's hosts, Steve Doocy, tried to defend Trump, saying, "I think the president is doing exactly what he wants to, because he has made from the get-go very clear, campaign promises-" Kilmeade interrupted to ask sarcastically, "to release ISIS fighters?"

Later in the morning, the show's hosts looked deeply uncomfortable as Sen. Lindsey Graham, another regular Trump supporter, lambasted Trump's decision as "impulsive."

"I hope I'm making myself clear, how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view," Graham added. "This to me is just unnerving to its core. To say to the American people ISIS has been destroyed is not true."

Doocy once agains tried, without much force, to argue Trump's corner, telling Graham, "Senator, there are a lot of military families who would like to see our personnel come home."

Later Monday morning, the hosts of "America's Newsroom," Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith, looked taken aback when Fox Middle East correspondent Trey Yingst offered a clear and unstinting description of Trump's about-face as a broken promise.

"Bill, the Kurds had an agreement with the Americans: help the West battle ISIS in exchange for protection of their people. This was a promise made by President Trump, and a promise that today, according to the White House, will not be kept." Yingst reported live from Jerusalem.

The Humiliation of Lindsey Graham (CHARLES SYKES October 07, 2019, Politico)

[T]his was at the heart of Graham's Bargain.

Graham told himself: by staying close to Trump, he could influence him and prevent horribly bad decisions. Others made the same calculation, but Graham made the uber-tradeoff, because the stakes were so high. What did it matter if he had to endure temporary embarrassments, abase himself on cable television, or even become a political punchline, if he could stop Trump from impulsive decisions regarding Russia or North Korea? Or Syria?

The world saw Graham as a craven, cringing Uriah Heep. Graham saw himself as someone who could save the world, or at least the Kurds.

Graham calculated: If he didn't play golf with Trump and indulge his penchant for pillow talk, Trump would be putting and chatting with Rand Paul, listening to the counsels of isolationism, appeasement and international amorality. He was not simply the adult in the room; he was the adult BFF in the room, who would temper Trump's worst instincts.

And then came Trump's decision.

Despite Graham's compulsive turd-polishing of the last few years, Trump didn't even consult him before making the decision to abandon the Kurds. Graham, who had given up so much self-respect to prevent just this outcome, was not even in the room. He didn't even get a text.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM



"President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something--but we are not getting something," the National Security Council source told Newsweek. "The U.S. national security has entered a state of increased danger for decades to come because the president has no spine and that's the bottom line."

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman: Trump wrong to seek help from Ukraine, China (Darrel Rowland, 10/07/19, The Columbus Dispatch)

The Ohio Republican also disputed Trump's characterization of an ousted Ukrainian as an aggressive battler of corruption, whom the president asserts was fired because he was digging into Biden and his son Hunter's business dealings. Portman was part of a bipartisan group of senators who wrote a letter to the Ukraine president in 2016 seeking reforms in the prosecutor's office; today, Portman said the senators believed the prosecutor wasn't doing nearly enough to root out corruption -- not because he was doing too much.

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


Judge tosses a Trump lawsuit to keep his taxes secret (KYLE CHENEY and JOSH GERSTEIN, 10/07/2019, Politico)

In a 75-page ruling on Monday, Judge Victor Marrero, also issued a sharp rejection of longstanding Department of Justice opinions that say a president cannot be indicted or criminally prosecuted while in office, calling their conclusions "not warranted" or backed up by the authority of the courts.

Marrero said Trump's claim of "absolute immunity" from criminal proceedings is counter to the intent of the framers of the Constitution, who rejected an executive with the limitless power of a monarch. Marrero described the president's argument as "repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values."

In addition, the effort by Trump to scuttle the city prosecutor's subpoena would protect any potential accomplices from facing justice while Trump remained in office, Marrero noted -- a sweeping claim of immunity that could result in Trump and his allies being above the law. Similar arguments have been soundly and repeatedly rejected by the Supreme Court and other federal judges, he ruled.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rabbinate DNA tests seek Jewishness in the blood, become a bone of contention (MARISSA NEWMAN , 10/07/'19, Times of Israel)

The two ink-smudged, Soviet-era documents were the only official proofs they had of their Jewishness. The rest was memory and ash.

In 2000, Dinara Haya Isteleou and her mother, Galiya Rozendorf, immigrants to Israel from Kazakhstan, approached a rabbinical court in the central city of Bat Yam. They came under happy circumstances: to obtain a verification of Jewishness as part of a marital license application for Isteleou's upcoming wedding, which in Israel must be overseen by the state's Orthodox authorities, the Chief Rabbinate.
They left in tears, their evidence deemed a brazen forgery. A higher rabbinical court confiscated the papers and later fined them NIS 7,000 ($2,000) as a penalty. In protest, Isteleou never paid.

"They summoned my mother, and yelled at her there, 'How dare you say you're Jewish. You aren't Jewish.' In short, they laughed at her. She left there in tears. It was a... nightmare, disappointment, and we suffered, my mother and I. We didn't know how we could prove we're Jewish. We didn't know whom to turn to," she said.

In the wake of that devastating hearing, the bride-to-be and her mother, who had immigrated to Israel five years earlier, joined some 400,000 Israelis, primarily from the former Soviet Union and their descendants, whose Jewishness remains officially unrecognized or cast in doubt, a product of the parallel civil and rabbinical legal systems of the country. [...]

The introduction of two kinds of genetic testing in state rabbinical courts over the past few years -- one that seeks Ashkenazi Jewish markers through mitochondrial DNA by comparing it to databases, and one to confirm a family tie  -- flew under the radar at first, but erupted into a massive uproar in March when several cases hit the headlines.

The testing has been pilloried by activists representing immigrants, by scientists, and by politicians as a chilling, pseudoscientific development more suited to eugenics-crazy Nazi Germany than the Jewish state, and that dangerously risks turning Jewishness into a racial, rather than religious or national, identity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Capitalism Is Helping Us Use Less Stuff. No, Really.: We're getting more efficient about resource use because of, not in spite of, the world's dominant economic system (Andrew McAfee, 10/06/19, Medium)

How are capitalism and tech progress now getting us more from less? To get answers to these important questions, let's start by looking at a few recent examples of dematerialization.

Fertile farms

America has long been an agricultural juggernaut. In 1982, after more than a decade of steady expansion due in part to rising grain prices, total cropland in the country stood at approximately 380 million acres. Over the next 10 years, however, almost all of this increase was reversed. So much acreage was abandoned by farmers and given back to nature that cropland in 1992 was almost back to where it had been almost 25 years before. This decline had several causes, including falling grain prices, a severe recession, over-indebted farmers, and increased international competition.

A final factor, though, was the ability to get ever-more corn, wheat, soybeans, and other crops from the same acre of land, pound of fertilizer and pesticide, and gallon of water. The material productivity of agriculture in the United States has improved dramatically in recent decades. Between 1982 and 2015 over 45 million acres -- an amount of cropland equal in size to the state of Washington -- was returned to nature. Over the same time potassium, phosphate, and nitrogen (the three main fertilizers) all saw declines in absolute use. Meanwhile, the total tonnage of crops produced in the country increased by more than 35%.

Thin cans

Tin cans are actually made of steel coated with a thin layer of tin to improve corrosion resistance. They've been used since the 19th century to store food. Starting in the 1930s, they began also to be used to hold beer and soft drinks.
In 1959 Coors pioneered beer cans made of aluminum, which is much lighter and more corrosion resistant than steel. Royal Crown Cola followed suit for soda five years later. As Vaclav Smil relates, "A decade later steel cans were on the way out, and none of them have been used for beer since 1994 and for soft drinks since 1996. [. . .] At 85 g the first aluminum cans were surprisingly heavy; by 1972 the weight of a two-piece can dropped to just below 21 g, by 1988 it was less than 16 g, a decade later it average 13.6 g, and by 2011 it was reduced to 12.75 g."

Manufacturers accomplished these reductions by making aluminum cans' walls thinner, and by making the sides and bottom from a single sheet of metal so that only one comparatively heavy seam was needed (to join the top to the rest of the can). Smil points out that if all beverage cans used in 2010 weighed what they did in 1980, they would have required an extra 580,000 tons of aluminum. And aluminum cans kept getting lighter. In 2012 Ball packaging introduced into the European market a 330 ml can that held 7.5% less than the U.S. standard, yet at 9.5 g weighed 25% less.

Gone gizmos

In 2014 Steve Cichon, a "writer, historian, and retired radio newsman in Buffalo, NY," paid $3 for a large stack of front sections of the Buffalo News newspaper from the early months of 1991. On the back page of the Saturday, February 16, issue was an ad from the electronics retailer Radio Shack. Cichon noticed something striking about the ad: "There are 15 electronic gimzo type items on this page. [. . .] 13 of the 15 you now always have in your pocket."

The "gizmo type" items that had vanished into the iPhone Cichon kept in his pocket included a calculator, camcorder, clock radio, mobile telephone, and tape recorder. While the ad didn't include a compass, camera, barometer, altimeter, accelerometer, or GPS device, these, too, have vanished into the iPhone and other smartphones, as have countless atlases and compact discs.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Former Trump Organization executive says she expects President Trump will resign (Clare Duffy, 10/07/19, CNN Business)

A former Trump Organization executive says she thinks President Donald Trump may resign rather than face possible removal from office by impeachment.

"He does a lot of things to save face," Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization vice president, told CNN's Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources Sunday.

"It would be very, very, very bad for him to be impeached," Res said. "I don't know that he'll be found guilty but I don't know that he wants to be impeached. I think that's what this panic is about. And my gut [instinct] is that he'll leave office, he'll resign. Or make some kind of a deal, even, depending on what comes out."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Brooklyn Nets owner, Alibaba co-founder Tsai decries Houston Rockets GM's Hong Kong tweet (Josh Horwitz, 10/07/19, Reuters) 

Joseph Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets and co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, said that the damage from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's tweet in support of Hong Kong's protesters "will take a long time to repair." [...]

"Supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues, not only for the Chinese government, but also for citizens of China," he wrote.

"The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China, is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country's sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable," he added.

If the league is too craven to speak then the fans and players should do so.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In Major Policy Shift, U.S. Will Stand Aside As Turkish Forces Extend Reach In Syria (SCOTT NEUMAN, 10/07/19, NPR)

The White House announced late Sunday that Turkey is ready to launch an offensive in Northern Syria and that U.S. forces will stand aside, likely renewing fears that America is abandoning Kurdish allies who stood on the front line in the years-long fight against ISIS.

A two-paragraph statement released by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that President Trump and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had spoken by telephone and that "Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation in Northern Syria."

"The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial 'Caliphate,' will no longer be in the immediate area," it added.

Ankara considers many of the Kurds to be terrorists who are allied with Kurdish separatists inside Turkey. However, U.S. forces on the ground in Syria recruited and trained the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, which bore the brunt of the fighting on the ground against Islamic State fighters, assisted by U.S. air strikes.