February 27, 2017

Father of Dead Hero Refuses to See Trump Asks for Investigation

Miami Herald obtained this interviewed  with the father of William “Ryan” Owens
 A family photo of William ‘Ryan’ Owens, who was killed in Yemen on Jan. 28, 2017. Owens was the first known U.S. combat casualty under President Trump. Courtesy of the Owens family

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article135064074.html#storylink=cpy

When they brought William “Ryan” Owens home, the Navy SEAL was carried from a C-17 military plane in a flag-draped casket, onto the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base, as President Donald Trump, his daughter, Ivanka, and Owens’ family paid their respects.

It was a private transfer, as the family had requested. No media and no bystanders, except for some military dignitaries.

Owens’ father, Bill, had learned only a short time before the ceremony that Trump was coming. Owens was sitting with his wife, Marie, and other family members in the solemn, living room-like space where the loved ones of the fallen assemble before they are taken to the flight line.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,’’ Owens recalled telling the chaplain who informed him that Trump was on his way from Washington. “I told them I don’t want to meet the President.”

It had been little more than 24 hours since six officers in dress uniform knocked on the door to Owens’ home in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. It was not yet daylight when he answered the door, already knowing in the pit of his stomach what they had come to tell him.
Now, Owens cringed at the thought of having to shake the hand of the president who approved the raid in Yemen that claimed his son’s life — an operation that he and others are now calling into question.

“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Owens said Friday, speaking out for the first time in an interview with the Miami Herald.

Owens, also a military veteran, was troubled by Trump’s harsh treatment of a Gold Star family during his presidential campaign. Now Owens was a Gold Star parent, and he said he had deep reservations about the way the decision was made to launch what would be his son’s last mission.

Ryan and as many as 29 civilians were killed Jan. 28 in the anti-terrorism mission in Yemen. What was intended as a lightning raid to grab cellphones, laptops and other information about terrorists turned into a nearly hour-long firefight in which “everything went wrong,” according to U.S. military officials who spoke to the New York Times.

Bill Owens said he was assured that his son, who was shot, was killed early in the fight. It was the first military counter-terrorist operation approved by the new president, who signed the go-ahead Jan. 26 — six days into his term.

“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?’’

In a statement from the White House Saturday, spokesman Michael C. Short called Ryan Owens “an American hero who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country.”

The White House did not address his father’s criticisms, but pointed out that the Department of Defense routinely conducts a review of missions that result in loss of life.

Bill Owens and his wife sat in another room as the President paid his respects to other family members. He declined to say what family members were at the ceremony.

Trump administration officials have called the mission a success, saying they had seized important intelligence information. They have also criticized detractors of the raid, saying those who question its success dishonor Ryan Owens’ memory.

His father, however, believes just the opposite.

“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” said the elder Owens, pointing to Trump’s sharp words directed at the mission’s critics, including Sen. John McCain.

“I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation,” he said. 

Next week, Ryan Owens would have turned 37. At the time of his death, he had already spent half his life in the Navy, much of that with the elite SEAL Team 6 — chasing terrorist leaders across deserts and mountains around the world. The team, formally known as DEVGRU,had taken part in some of the most high-profile operations in military history, including the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

At the time of the 2001 9/11 attacks, Owens was in SEAL training, arguably the most physically grueling and mentally grinding regimens in the military. The team, tasked with tracking terrorists and mythologized in books and movies, had once been dubbed a “global manhunting machine” by the Times.

Despite the lore surrounding the SEALS’ exploits, almost everything about them is kept secret, even their names. Bill Owens knows very little about the actions that his son participated in, but takes pride in the dozens of awards he earned during his 12 deployments. Among them: the Silver Star, Navy and Marine Corps Medal, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Ryan joined the Navy after high school, following in his brothers’ footsteps. His brother, John, 42, was also a SEAL, and his oldest brother, Michael, 44, a Hollywood police officer, was also in the Navy for a time.

They in turn were inspired by their father: Bill Owens served four years in the Navy, then joined the Army Reserves in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Ryan was born in downstate Peoria. While in the Reserves, Bill worked for Caterpillar tractor company, until he was laid off during the recession in the 1980s. Shortly thereafter, he saw a notice in a military magazine for new recruits for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, and he successfully applied.

Owens and his then-wife, Ryan’s mother Patricia, moved with Ryan to South Florida. His elder sons remained with Owens’ first wife in Illinois.

Despite the distance between them, the half-brothers were very close, Owens said. They played sports and spent many summers and holidays together. Ryan and his brothers became interested in the military at a very young age. And Ryan dreamed of becoming a SEAL.

“He was always happy,” Bill Owens said of Ryan. “Every picture you see he has a smile on his face. He just had a real positive attitude.”

He was also driven. Ryan was so determined “to be the best” his father said, that when he failed the dive phase of SEAL training, he went out and hired a private instructor to get more training on his off time, and was initially certified as a civilian.

“He went out on his own and became more proficient. That’s the kind of dedication and determination that he had,” his father said.

Bill Owens’ marriage to Ryan’s mother ended soon after they moved to South Florida, and Patricia, who also became a Fort Lauderdale police officer, eventually moved with Ryan and her new husband back to Peoria. She died in 2013.

Ryan spent summers and holidays with his father and brothers in Fort Lauderdale and played catcher during the school year for the Illinois Valley Central High School baseball team, the Grey Ghosts.

  Ryan dreamed of serving in the military from a very early age, his father says. In this family photo, he is playing soldier with his older brothers. Courtesy of the Owens family
A SEAL’s heartache

Standing 6-4, and weighing about 225 pounds, Ryan loved the physical part of the job and serving his country, even though it took him away from his family much of the year.

“I always kept hoping that we would eventually make up for lost time, but that’s not going to happen,” his father said.

Ryan’s military career wasn’t always filled with the adrenaline of hostage rescue missions and midnight raids. In between, there were endless hours of training and planning.

There was also the heartache of losing his military brothers. Ryan was tasked in 2011 with escorting the bodies of 17 of his fellow SEALS home following a CH-47 helicopter crash in Afghanistan, his father said.

“He came back from Afghanistan and had to go to their funerals. It’s unnerving to go through something like that. It was one of the worst days in SEAL history as far as casualties go. He didn’t talk about it,” his father said. “A lot of them, they don’t talk about it, even with their parents.”

Doomed mission

Owens and his SEAL commandos set out in the dark of night. Planning for the Yemen raid began last year during the Obama administration, but the execution was tabled because it was decided it would be better to launch the operation on a moonless night, which wouldn’t occur until after President Trump took office Jan. 20.

According to a timeline provided by the White House, then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn briefed the president about the operation Jan. 25 over a dinner that included Vice President Mike Pence, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and top security aides. It was not held in the Situation Room, as had been a practice under previous administrations.

President Trump signed the memo authorizing the action the next day, Jan. 26.

  The younger Owens served under three presidents and met one of them: Barack Obama. This photo is from a visit to the White House. Courtesy of the Owens family
“This was a very, very well thought-out and executed effort,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Feb. 2 as questions first arose about the mission. He stressed that it had been thoroughly vetted and planned on Obama’s watch.

Colin Kahl, a national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, however, tweeted his contention that Spicer was mistaken.

“Obama made no decisions on this before leaving office, believing it represented escalation of U.S. involvement in Yemen,” he wrote on Twitter.

At the time of the firefight, Trump was not in the Situation Room, where he would have been directly involved in monitoring developments. Spicer said he kept in touch with his national security staffers, who were directly plugged in. White House officials also pointed out that, in general, counter-terrorism operations are routine and presidents are not in the Situation Room for every mission.

U.S. forces, targeting a suspected al-Qaida compound, immediately faced armed militants, a sign that their cover had been blown. The Washington Post reported that militants, some of them women, fired from the rooftops. Three other commandos were injured when an MV-22 Osprey, sent in to evacuate the troops, crash-landed. It was later destroyed by a U.S. airstrike to prevent it from falling into militant hands.

Some reports have said as many as 23 civilians, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed.

Afterward, McCain characterized the mission as a failure, and Trump responded with a series of tweets defending the Yemen action, and criticizing McCain. The rancor further escalated when Spicer later stated that McCain — or anyone — who “undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and a disservice to life of Chief Owens.”

There is no SEAL mission that is without risk, said Don Mann, a 21-year veteran Navy SEAL, now retired. Mann, the author of “Inside SEAL Team Six: My Life and Missions with America’s Elite Warriors,” said that if the assault team knew ahead of time that it had been compromised, the SEAL commanders on the ground had the ability to abort the raid at any time.

Some reports said that they did know, and went forward anyway.

“The SEALS, unlike other forces, make their decision on the ground and that decision — in this case — cost a life, which is very very tragic, but that’s war,” Mann said.

“These people are good human beings. It weighs heavily on them. Seeing one person die, especially a teammate or friend, is beyond comprehension.”

He said it’s natural that Owens’ loved ones would have questions about what happened, but they shouldn’t be swayed by the politics surrounding the tragedy.

“Nobody knows the truth of what happened except the person on the ground. When politicians get it, they warp it far from the truth,” he said.

Powerful hands

There were so many SEALS at Ryan’s service at Arlington National Cemetery that his father’s arm got tired from shaking so many muscled hands. At the end, before his coffin was lowered, each of the SEALS removed their badges from their uniforms and pounded them one by one into the casket. When it over, the casket was covered in gold eagle tridents.

Bill Owens doesn’t want to talk about Ryan’s wife or his three young children. There are other things that he believes should remain private. He spoke out, he says, at the risk of offending some of his family and friends.

  William Owens said he had deep reservations about the way the decision was made to launch what would be his son’s last mission.Emily MichotMiami Herald Staff
“I’d like some answers about all the things that happened in the timeline that led up to it. I know what the timeline is, and it bothers me a lot,” said Owens, who acknowledges he didn’t vote for Donald Trump.

One aspect of the chain of events that nags at him is the fact that the president signed the order suspending the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen, on Jan. 27 — the day before the mission.

Owens wonders whether that affected friendly forces in Yemen who were assisting with the raid.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to do something to antagonize an ally when you’re going to conduct a mission in that country,” he said. “Did we alienate some of the people working with them, translators or support people. Maybe they decided to release information to jeopardize the mission.”

These are only some of the many questions that Owens believes should be thoroughly examined, including the possibility that the decision to move forward with the mission was motivated by politics.

“I think these are valid questions. I don’t want anybody to think I have an agenda, because I don’t. I just want the truth.”

[McClatchy reporters Vera Bergengruen and Anita Kumar contributed from Washington.]

February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton Dead at 61

Bill Paxton in 1993, Apollo 13

We're told Paxton underwent heart surgery and had complications post-op and suffered a fatal stroke.

We're told the actor died suddenly Saturday due to complications from surgery.  
Paxton had a string of hits, including "Twister," "Titanic" and "Aliens."   He won an Emmy for "Hatfields and McCoys."  He was on a CBS series, “Training Day" at the time of his death.

The 61-year-old actor had 2 children and was married to Louise Newbury for 30 years.

The family says, "It is with heavy hearts we share the news that Bill Paxton has passed away due to complications from surgery."  The family accurately describes his "illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and flimmaker."  The family adds, “Bill's passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable."

Kremlin Scratching Heads Concern Trump Unleashing Nuke Arms Race

MOSCOW — Russian politicians close to the Kremlin said on Friday U.S. President Donald Trump's declared aim of putting the U.S. nuclear arsenal "at the top of the pack" risked triggering a new Cold War-style arms race between Washington and Moscow.

In an interview with Reuters, Trump said the United States had fallen behind in its nuclear weapons capacity, a situation he said he would reverse, and he said a treaty limiting Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals was a bad deal for Washington.

Russian officials issued no reaction, with Friday a public holiday, but pro-Kremlin politicians expressed consternation about the comments from Trump, who Moscow had hoped would usher in new, friendlier relations between the two countries. 

"Trump's campaign slogan 'Make America great again', if that means nuclear supremacy, will return the world to the worst times of the arms race in the '50s and '60s," said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament.

The president's remarks in the interview with Reuters were, Kosachev said in a post on his Facebook page, "arguably Trump's most alarming statement on the subject of relations with Russia."
Over the course of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States realized that achieving supremacy was dangerous, and accepted the doctrine of parity as the best way to ensure peace, Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page.

"Are we entering a new era? In my view we need an answer to that question as soon as possible."

During the U.S. presidential race, Trump said he would try to end the enmity that broke out between the Kremlin and Washington during Barack Obama's presidency. Russian officials looked forward to re-setting relations.

But just over a month into the Trump presidency, that prospect has receded, especially with the sacking of Michael Flynn, a leading proponent of warmer ties with Moscow, from his job as national security adviser.

Another pro-Kremlin lawmaker, Alexei Pushkov, wrote on Twitter that Trump's comments on increasing U.S. nuclear capacity "put in doubt the agreement on limiting strategic arms, returning the world to the 20th century".

He said a Cold War arms treaty laid the foundation for nuclear stability between Moscow and Washington. "That needs to be preserved. And the United States cannot achieve decisive superiority."

"Instead of trying to achieve an illusory nuclear supremacy over Russia, the U.S. administration should find a solution to the exceptionally complicated nuclear problem of North Korea," wrote Pushkov, a member of the defense and security committee in Russia's upper house of parliament.

Pushkov and Kosachev are not directly involved in decision-making on Russian defense and foreign policy, but they generally reflect the Kremlin position. 

The Hunt for the Gay Whale

The Hunt for the Gay Whale

Can animals be gay? Hermione Cockburn investigates the biologists who say they can.

It may sound like a bumper sticker slogan but a new generation of zoologists are hunting for gay whales - and ducks, penguins and otters. They are painstakingly recording examples of frottage, group sex, self pleasuring and aspects of sexual behaviour which owe more to Fellini than Johnny Morris.

Classic Darwinian theory posits that sexual activity is procreational in nature and serves the needs of evolution. Whilst human beings often have recreational sexual activity, this is seen as an anomalous result of human enculturation. Animal sex is seen as having one purpose: breeding.

To that end, Darwin dismissed or recategorised animal sexual behaviours which did not seem to meet the procreational model. If a male animal studded on another it was categorised as "dominance behaviour."

But a new generation of zoological enquiry aims to re-examine animal sexual behaviour and address the tricky issue of animal sexuality, a topic which is seen by some zoologists as simply anthropomorphism, human projection onto animal behaviour.

Joan Roughgarden, a professor of biology at Stanford University catalogued hundreds of varieties of what she categorises as "homosexual" behaviour amongst animals for her book Evolutions Rainbow. These include male big horn sheep who bond through genital licking and anal intercourse, or bottle nose dolphins who cavort in all male sexual groups. Roughgarden claims to have discovered regular same sex contact in 450 different species, proving, she says that homosexuality, far from being an anomalous condition which seems to be an evolutionary dead end, is an adaptive trait that has been carefully preserved by natural selection.
radio episodeDuration: 28 mins

Trump/Sessions Turn Back The Clock for Abusive-Costly Private Prisons

The Justice Department's plan to phase out its use of private prisons — the result of declining inmate populations and concerns about safety and security — ended this week without ever really taking effect. 
The reason is a new administration that has called for a crackdown on what it sees as a rise in crime. 
That crackdown could lead to more arrests, which in turn could result in more people in prison. Which, presumably, is why Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a six-month-old Obama administration directive that sought to curtail the government's use of private prisons

Image: Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice in Washington

Attorney General Jeff Sessions holds a meeting with the heads of federal law enforcement components at the Department of Justice in Washington on Feb. 9, 2017. Susan Walsh / AP

Sessions said in a Feb. 21 memo that the Obama move had "impaired" the U.S. Bureau of Prison's "ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system." 
Those "needs" are not yet clear. Asked for an explanation, a Justice Department spokesman said only that Sessions' move "returns discretion to the professionals at BOP who are in the best position to evaluate their needs." 
The memo itself suggests that the attorney general is concerned about running out of available space in the 122 prisons the BOP runs itself — although current trends run opposite. 
The number of people in federal prison has been declining since 2013, and the 189,078 currently there is the lowest in a decade. That includes 21,366 people in private prisons, just 12 percent of the total population. 
Compared to the more than 2 million people estimated to be behind bars across the American justice system, the private prisons under BOP contract play a bit role in a system that contributes to one of the world’s highest incarceration rates.

So, why does Session's memo matter? 
Here are some additional points to put the issue in context: 

The relationship goes back decades 

The Bureau of Prisons first turned to privately operated prisons in 1997 to help alleviate overcrowding. The partnership grew steadily, focusing primarily on low-security inmates designated as "criminal aliens" — non-citizens who've committed a crime — with less than eight years left on their sentences. In fiscal year 2014, the contracts were worth about $639 million, up from $562 million in fiscal year 2011. 

Private prisons mostly benefit two publicly traded companies 

Those companies are CoreCivic (which until recently was known as Corrections Corporation of America), and The Geo Group. The two companies, both generous contributors to President Trump, run the majority of the BOP's contracted prisons, as well as dozens of other facilities used to detain immigrants who are in the country illegally. 
The companies' fortunes climb and fall with federal criminal justice policies. Their stocks plunged after Obama's deputy attorney general issued the phase-out memo on Aug. 18, and shot up after Donald Trump, who'd called for more private prisons, won election on Nov. 8. Since then, companies' share prices have been steadily rising — and they enjoyed a bump from Sessions' memo. 

The federal government has predicted that private prison populations will drop 

Even before the August Obama administration memo, the Justice Department saw a weakening reliance on private prisons. The memo's author, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, noted that the BOP was already cutting contracts with for-profit companies, so much so that it planned to stop sending inmates to three private prisons, shrinking the private-prison population to less than 14,200 by May 1 — less than half of what it was in 2013. 

There are a lot of documented problems with private prisons housing federal inmates 

Yates' memo followed a report by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General that said privately run prisons had more safety and security incidents — including more assaults by inmates on each other and by inmates on prison staff — than those operated by the Bureau of Prisons. The companies, GEO and CoreCivic, responded in letters that the discrepancies were attributable to the fact that they primarily housed a wide array of foreign nationals, including gang members. 

Image: Officers stand on the roof of and outside the gates at the Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez, Miss., during an inmate disturbance at the prison, May 20, 2012.

Officers stand on the roof of and outside the gates at the Adams County Correctional Center in Natchez, Miss., during an inmate disturbance at the prison, May 20, 2012. Lauren Wood / AP

In December, just before the Obama administration left power, the inspector general released another report, which focused on CoreCivic's prison in Natchez, Mississippi, where a May 2012 prison riot, triggered by complaints of poor conditions, ended with a correctional officer's death. The December report found the prison "was plagued by the same significant deficiencies." CoreCivic responded that it had corrected many of its problems, and took issue with some of the methods used by government auditors. 
Investigative journalists have uncovered other alleged abuses. A series in the Nation documented dozens of deaths that the magazine attributed to substandard care. And a reporter for Mother Jones went undercover as an officer at a private prison in Louisiana, vividly detailing many of the problems documented by the government audits.


February 25, 2017

Bill Maher Slams Liberals and Tells the Media to Regain Its Respect


Bill Maher praised the media for getting tougher with Donald Trump but called on them to work toward reclaiming the public's trust on Real Time.
Paul Horner thought he was trolling Trump supporters – but after the election, the joke was on him
During the segment, Maher pointed out a Fox News poll where the majority of people believed that media was “less trustworthy than Donald Trump."
"Can you imagine how this must make a reporter feel, to be losing a truthfulness contest to Donald Trump? It's like losing a rap battle to Mitt Romney," Maher said. “For the press to be effective, these numbers have to change."

Maher, who drew the ire of liberals for having now-former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos on his program last week, called the press hypocritical after two years of showing Trump with attention. (In a separate New York Times interview, Maher took credit for Yiannopoulos's sudden downfall.)
"You can be mad at me for giving a platform to Milo, but Donald Trump is the apotheosis of the alt-right and the media gave him the biggest platform ever," Maher said.
"They covered every Trump rally like we put a game show host on the moon. They made him look like he was president before he was. Even during the primaries, Trump got three times the coverage of the entire rest of the field.”

Maher then criticized the fluffy segments found on the back half of the evening news.
"Guys, for the sake of the republic, you got to get serious again. You have to win your respect back, so Trump can’t say 'The people don't believe you, you're a joke,'" Maher said.

"The news media lost trust because they became eyeball-chasing clickbait whores who dumped the story about climate change for the ones about grizzly bears in the Jacuzzi."
Maher pointed out that, in the early days of television, the networks provided news as a public service, not something that was used for profit. Maher then asked for the media conglomerates to return to that bygone civil offering.

"CBS News is 3 percent of CBS' revenue, CNN, 4 percent of Time Warner's. ABC and NBC News are only 1-and-a-half percent of Disney and Comcast. Guys, take one for the team," Maher said. "It's not that much. It'll pay off in the long run, you know why? Because the best customers are alive.”

Bill Maher praised the media for getting tougher with Donald Trump but called on them to work toward reclaiming the public’s trust on 'Real Time.'


Same Sex Marriage Reaches Slovenia but Not Adoptions

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia permitted same-sex marriages for the first time from Friday (Feb 24) under a law giving gay couples largely the same rights as heterosexuals though barring them from jointly adopting children.

The head of the unit in charge of weddings in Slovenia's second largest city Maribor, Ksenija Klampfer, told Reuters the first lesbian wedding would take place there on Saturday.

"We are very happy and proud that we will perform the first same-sex wedding. We believe that such marriages are an important step towards formation of an inclusive society where people have equal rights," Klampfer said.

A number of other European Union states have legally recognised same-sex marriages, including Britain, France and Spain, but the issue remains contentious in many other EU countries.

The law was passed 10 months ago after a December 2015 referendum rejected a draft which would also have given gay couples the right to adopt children.

"This is a big step forward," Lana Gobec, spokeswoman for the Legebitra LGBT rights campaigning group, said. "But we will continue to strive for complete equality of heterosexual and same-sex couples."

Officials in Ljubjana said no same-sex couple had registered to marry in the capital so far.

Gay activists say more remains to be done in Slovenia. Apart from being denied the right to adopt children, they are also excluded from artificial insemination.

"We are still far from our goal... If you truly recognise human rights you recognise them in full. The new law solves some problems but does not solve the basic problem that all people in our country should have the same rights," gay partners Jure Poglajen and David Zorko said in a statement.

Homosexual couples in Slovenia, a European Union member with a 2 million population, have been able to register their relationship since 2006 and are also allowed to adopt children from a partner’s previous relationship - though not the children of others.

February 24, 2017

State Sex-Segregated Toilet Legislation

“I told You So” To Caitlyn Jenner, Now is Jenner Vs. TrumpVs.The Press,Medicaid and 58% of US

 That was Bloody saturday and followed by talk of impeachment,
Nixon resigned before being impeached

Vice President Mike Pence told conservatives at CPAC Thursday that the "Obamacare nightmare is about to end" and that the policy will be rolled back "despite the best efforts of liberal activists at town halls across the country." 
Caitlin Jenner is taking on Trump over his withdrawal of federal guidance regarding school bathrooms for transgender youth. 
From the New York Times: "Reduced to their weakest state in a generation, Democratic Party leaders will gather in two cities this weekend to plot strategy and select a new national chairman with the daunting task of rebuilding the party's depleted organization. But senior Democratic officials concede that the blueprint has already been chosen for them — by an incensed army of liberals demanding no less than total war against President Trump." 
Here's Alex Seitz-Wald's primer on how the DNC chair race will work. 
From the AP: "White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked a top FBI official to dispute media reports that President Donald Trump's campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election, a White House official says…. Priebus' discussion with FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe sparked outrage among some Democrats, who said that the chief of staff was violating policies intended to limit communications between the law enforcement agency and the White House on pending investigations." 
The New York Times, on Betsy DeVos: "[P]eople who have known and watched Ms. DeVos through the years — as a leading advocate of charter schools and school vouchers, a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman and a major Republican donor — warn against thinking that she will be a meek team player. She may be publicly gracious, even in the face of setbacks, they say. But in her home state, she earned a reputation as a driven, relentless and effective political fighter, using her family's vast fortune to reward allies and punish foes, and working behind the scenes to pass legislation and unseat lawmakers who opposed her." 
The Washington Post lays out the ongoing war over town halls - and how Gabby Giffords' name was invoked. 
Another Jared/Ivanka leak about their influence to help save an Obama policy, from the Wall Street Journal: "At the request of President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his wife, Ivanka Trump, language critical of a global climate deal was struck from an executive order that Mr. Trump is planning to sign soon, according to multiple people familiar with the move." 
"With each passing day, Donald Trump's Cabinet looks more like a clean-up crew," writes POLITICO. "The president's undiplomatic comments are repeatedly forcing his foreign policy and national security appointees into the awkward position of telling an anxious world that, basically, their boss didn't really mean what he said." 
From NBC's Benjy Sarlin: "Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon, the White House's much-scrutinized top two aides, lavished each other with praise on Thursday in a friendly panel discussion at the Conservative Political Action Conference where Bannon laid out President Donald Trump's "new political order." 
POLITICO: "[A]nalysts now caution that Trumphoria in the stock market could soon crash into a harsh Washington reality." 
The Wall Street Journal: "President Donald Trump's new strategy to accelerate the fight against Islamic State will, at least initially, tweak and add a little more muscle to the existing plan, U.S. officials said. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to provide to Mr. Trump a series of recommendations for that plan in the coming days. Mr. Trump on Jan. 28 signed an order directing his new Pentagon chief to come up with a preliminary draft of the plan to fight Islamic State within 30 days." 
Ruth Bader Ginsburg said last night that I will do this job as long as I can do it full steam.

Japan Takes Action to Stamp Out Bullying

 Japanese Same sex union

Last year, we interviewed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth from across Japan and what we heard was harrowing: harassment and violence were common, prompting some bullied kids to drop out of school. Our report shed light on the plight of this often-silenced minority, and how even well-intentioned teachers were ill-equipped to respond to cases of LGBT bullying.

That may be about to change.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) has added LGBT-specific protections to its revised draft on the national bullying prevention policy, scheduled to be finalized in March.

“In order to prevent bullying toward students based on their gender identity…or sexual orientation/gender identity, schools should promote proper understanding of teachers on…sexual orientation/gender identity as well as make sure to inform on the school’s necessary measures regarding this matter,” the current draft reads.

MEXT has been at the forefront of progress in the area of education-related rights for sexual and gender minority students. The 2015 MEXT directive sent to all school boards titled, “Regarding the Careful Response to Students with Gender Identity Disorder,” describes several accommodations schools should make regarding transgender students and also mentions “sexual orientation.” The 2016 MEXT “Guidebook for Teachers Regarding Careful Response to Students related to Gender Identity Disorder as well as Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” signaled an evolving view on LGBT rights and recommended several protective measures for LGBT students.

By amending the Basic Policy for the Prevention of Bullying to include “sexual orientation and gender identity,” the government is bringing its policies in line with its international human rights obligations and reputation as a regional and international leader. Human Rights Watch’s public submission lauds this development.

Japan supported two recent United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions on ending sexual orientation and gender identity-based violence and discrimination, and also co-chaired the 2016 UNESCO International Ministerial Meeting: Education Sector Responses to Violence based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression.

Hateful anti-LGBT rhetoric is nearly ubiquitous in Japanese schools, driving students into silence, self-loathing, and self-harm. An anti-bullying policy that addresses the needs and vulnerabilities of LGBT students will change their lives by allowing teachers and school officials access to appropriate training, resources, and information.

Most Democrats and Therefore Americans Say “Impeach” Trump

Donald Trump has been president for about a month. And already, a sizable majority of Democrats say he should be impeached.
new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute shows 58 percent of Democrats are onboard with the idea of impeaching Trump.
That's not an unthinkable number in our polarized political climate, but it is extraordinarily early in a presidency for such a high level of support for impeachment. As PRRI notes, as late as 2014 — in the sixth year of Barack Obama's presidency — a similar proportion of Republicans supported impeachment: 56 percent. And even as the case for the Iraq War was being picked apart in 2006, Democratic support for impeaching George W. Bush was only at 48 percent — lower than it is today for Trump. Overall support for Trump's impeachment (27 percent) is still slightly lower than it was for Obama in 2014 (30 percent) and Bush in 2006 (30 percent). But the support for impeachment among Democrats appears to be what is keeping the overall number for Trump in the same ballpark.
It's a testament to just how insatiable Democrats' appetite is for opposing Trump — something we've seen in other polling as well. A Pew poll this week showed 72 percent of Democrats were more worried their leaders would do too little to oppose Trump vs. 20 percent who were worried they would do too much.
And according to this new poll, the vast majority of that 72 percent doesn't think impeaching Trump — even at this early juncture — is going too far. That’s not exactly a recipe for bipartisanship going forward. 
The grounds for impeaching Trump or any other president, it bears noting, are laid out in the Constitution, which says a president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota recently joked that such a situation was “months and months away,” since Republicans control Congress and would have to support impeachment. And that's a key point: Congress is always reluctant to move toward impeachment — especially since it can backfire, as it did late in Bill Clinton's presidency. But in the case of Trump, it’s even more unlikely given Republicans control the House, which would initiate any impeachment proceedings if it got to that point. 
Some Democrats and ethics groups have sued alleging Trump is already in violation of the law — specifically, the emoluments clause, which prohibits a politician from accepting any “present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” (The Post's Allison Michaels and David Fahrenthold have much more on this in this week's version of the “Can He Do That?” podcast.)
And there already are very real grass-roots efforts to push for impeachment. A petition with 850,000 signatures on it was delivered to Congress last week. And Democratic leaders are trying to beat back the growing calls for impeachment from their base.
Good luck with that.
Aaron Blake

Why are Trump’s Supporters Waving Russian Flags at CPAC and Other Q’s

A lot of these details about all the questions surrounding Trump and Russia are essentially trivia but they add up to a few big, explosive questions about why the president of the United States keeps needing to distance himself from his own associates, won’t reveal what’s going on with his money, and insists on advancing an unusual foreign policy doctrine.

*Did the Trump campaign, directly or indirectly, actively collaborate with the Russian government over the course of the 2016 campaign?

*Is the Trump Organization benefiting from ongoing or recent financial flows from the Russian government or people close to it?

*Does the Russian government have dirt on Trump, relating to past shady financing or to some of the more salacious blackmail material alleged in the infamous “Steele dossier,” that’s influencing American policy?

The small questions ensure the big questions won’t end
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” is a good dictum for forestry management but doesn’t really apply to politics.

Politicians try to avoid embarrassment, and a simple desire to own up to something embarrassing — rather than anything illegal or genuinely nefarious — often lies behind mysterious behavior. It’s entirely possible that Page ended up on the roster of Trump advisers simply because a disorganized campaign was taken in by a grifter. Trump’s refusal to engage in standard financial disclosure certainly seems to be about covering up something, but that something could have nothing to do with Russia.

The shifting and inconsistent stories about the Flynn timeline could be nothing more than a disorganized and distrustful White House staff bungling something and then compounding the bungling by not wanting to admit they were bungling.

Trump’s boast about meeting with oligarchs could just be a habitually dishonest person lying for no particular reason.

But especially in light of Trump’s unorthodox policy views on Russia, the sheer quantity of outstanding questions and loose threads is remarkable.

That’s doubly so because the Trump team has repeatedly tried to have it both ways on a number of these fronts — with Stone, Manafort, Page, and Flynn all distanced from Trump once their Russia connections came to light, even as Trump denies there was any underlying wrongdoing and appears not to have fully severed ties.

Trump has repeatedly, and increasingly angrily, suggested that the answer to the three big questions is uniformly no. But his inability to provide satisfactory answers to the myriad other questions means it’s hard to take him at his word.

33 Q’s about Trump and Russia

Trump Promised to Protect the LGBT then Forgets What the ’T' is for

 Ironic but now the LGBT community can see him as he is “An Emperor with no clothes”

In a total surprise after Trump said he will protect LGBT students he has turn around and forgotten what the “T” stands for. on LGBT which he promise he will protect.  No wonder people say his level of reading comprehension is very low. How can a man run and after winning, again doubles down on his supports and commitment for this LGBT community then turns around and sticks a knife in them.
We’ve learn that is his m.o. (modus operandi).

 Right after his election he tried to backtrack with the whole gay community but changed his mind thinking of how unpopular that would be and besides the gay community has reached the backing of the law by the Supreme Court and in many legislatures in many states. It is said his son in law Mr. Jarrett and his daughter,  convinced him otherwise to reconsider and so he did but he would have never have changed his mind if it wasn’t that he realized he was going to get a lot of heat in his presidency too early on. He figures there is always later.

The Transgender community does not enjoy the advances the gay community has enjoyed.
That is why they fought so hard when some red states made an issue where there was none, about the use of the bathrooms. At the same time you saw the bigotry against this community since it is the least understood, come out.  Now people who never knew the so called problem existed now they were “scared, concern could not let it go on” There was legislation on the pike for the Transgender community but the Republicans had been dragging their feet for two years on this. Everyone thought with another Democratic administration their protections would advance but no luck there. They got a man that can turn his promises around on a dime! It’s still stinging and hurtful.  The Emperor with no clothes now and also fat wearing a speedo with a full shoulder nudge from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is dropping protections for transgender youth looking to use, of all things, a school bathroom.

For a national leader who continually talks about unity and public support, it’s a divisive and cruel move. He’s erasing a guarantee in the battle for equality and basing the decision on the doctrine of states rights, a cloak that bigots misuse to dodge federal directives — especially those dealing with civil rights.

The net effect overturns an Obama directive and needlessly reignites a culture war issue. It allows states and school districts to set the rules on whether to allow transgender students to use toilet facilities and locker rooms based on their gender identity, not birth certificate. But it also gives license to bullying and discrimination and deepens a sense of separation for an emerging minority.

During his campaign, Trump signaled sympathy, saying transgender people had the right to “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.” But he also worked hard to win support from religious conservatives, who oppose the idea. Since taking office, he’s continued that shift by picking Sessions, a longtime foe of gay rights, as attorney general.
In California the reversal will have little impact since state laws and most school boards fully support transgender access. Nationally it will be another story. There are an estimated 150,000 transgender youths between 13 and 17 years old, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA law school.

The White House argues that the Obama administration went too far in using federal laws barring sex discrimination in schools. That, at least, was the legal rationale used by religious minded critics who talked up fears of sexual predators and wholesale loss of privacy.

If there’s any consolation, it’s that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reportedly struggled to convince Trump to stick with the access rule. But she lost out to Sessions, who viewed access as an intrusion on state powers and wanted no part of defending legal cases testing the law.

By backing away from transgender rights, Trump is punishing the group and rewarding his most strident followers. He’s also showing that his campaign rhetoric about tolerance can mean little when the pressure builds.

New Poll: Majority of Americans Disapprove of Trump’s Performance

A majority of Americans disapprove of the way President Donald Trump is handling his job after a month in office, according to results from the latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll, though divisions are wide along party, gender and racial lines. 

NBC News|SurveyMonkey Poll

Trump enjoys solid support from members of his party, but few outside it. 

NBC News|SurveyMonkey Poll

Almost 9 in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaners largely approve of the job their standard bearer is doing, while nearly the same share of Democrats and Democratic-leaners disapprove of his job performance. 
The aggregate low approval rating, below any other newly elected president since polls began tracking presidential job approval, is a result of the two-thirds of independents who disapprove of the job Trump is doing. 
Trump's job approval varies considerably across other demographic groups. For example, those under 30 years old largely disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job (67 percent) while those over 65 years old are more split (50 percent approve to 48 percent disapprove). 
A majority of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing regardless of their education level. However, those without college degrees are more evenly split on whether they approve or disapprove (46 percent to 51 percent, respectively) whereas 62 percent of college graduates disapprove of the way he's handling his job. 

NBC News|SurveyMonkey Poll

Among whites, a majority of those without college degrees approve (56 percent) of the way the president is handling his job, but a majority of whites with college degrees disapprove (59 percent). 

Overall, whites are the racial group most approving of the way the president is handling his job so far. A majority, 51 percent, approve and 48 percent disapprove. African-Americans (76 percent disapprove to 21 percent approve), Hispanics (67 percent disapprove to 31 percent) and Asian-Americans (66 percent disapprove to 31 percent approve) overwhelmingly disapprove of the way he's handling the job. 
Taking a closer look at the gender gap among these racial subgroups reveals that men are generally more approving than women. 

A majority of white men (58 percent) approve of the way the president is handling his job. Conversely, white women largely disapprove of the job he's doing (54 percent). 
Hispanic women overwhelmingly disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job (75 percent) but Hispanic men are more split — 42 percent approve and 57 percent disapprove. 
A majority of African-American men (69 percent) disapprove and only 28 percent approve. African-American women, like Hispanic women, were much more likely to disapprove than their male counterparts — 81 percent disapprove to 14 percent approve. 
A majority of Asian-Americans disapprove of the way he's handled the job, regardless of gender — 67 percent of Asian-American men disapprove and 66 percent of Asian-American women disapprove. 
Where Americans live also seems to play a part in whether they approve or disapprove of the job the president is doing. A majority, 59 percent, of those living in rural parts of the country approve, but urban and suburban Americans are not as supportive. 

Among white rural Americans, 64 percent approve and 36 percent disapprove. By contrast, white suburban Americans are more divided — 52 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove. A majority (61 percent) of white urban Americans disapprove. 
A majority of white suburban women disapprove (53 percent approve to 45 percent approve) but white suburban men, on the other hand, approve (59 percent) rather than disapprove (39 percent). 
The NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll was conducted online from February 13 through February 19, 2017 among a national sample of 11,512 adults. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from the nearly three million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Results have an error estimate of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points. 


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