Wednesday, January 29, 2020

SCRIPPS - Gets Additional $50M

"Gates Foundation gives $50M to Scripps" by Gary Robbins, San Diego Union-Tribune 1/29/2020

NOTE:  Article copied from e-newspaper therefore no link to article.

Money intended to fight tuberculosis, malaria as well as other threats to global health

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is giving Scripps Research $50 million to fight two of the world’s biggest killers — tuberculosis and malaria — and to help the La Jolla institute gear up for other global health threats, such as China’s deadly coronavirus.

The money will be shared with Scripps’ drug development division, Calibr, which has had success in creating therapies for malaria and HIV, both which have ravaged parts of Africa and southeast Asia.

Calibr researchers also are working on an injectable anti-malarial drug that’s meant to prevent people from contracting a disease that kills roughly 1 million people a year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.  By comparison, tuberculosis annually kills 1.5 million, which is roughly the population of San Diego.

The foundation — which has a heavy focus on global health — began investing in Calibr in 2014, giving the institute $30 million to speed up drug development.

Calibr later merged with Scripps Research, which conducts basic research, work that is essential to identifying new drug candidates.

The new gift raises the Gates Foundation’s total support to Calibr and Scripps to $135 million, making the foundation — created by Microsoft’s co-founder and his wife, a former general manager at the software giant — one of the largest private supporters of life science research in San Diego over the past six years.

“Our basic science and drug development gives us the capabilities of a pharmaceutical company,” said Arnab Chatterjee, Calibr’s vice president for medicinal chemistry.

“We can test drugs in patients.  That helps us get a jump on diseases that are happening across the globe, but which can show up on your doorstep in weeks.”

That’s exactly what has happened with the Chinese coronavirus.  It began infecting people in central China in mid-December and soon spread to at least 13 other countries, including the U.S.

Individual cases have been reported in Orange and Los Angeles counties.  And San Diego County health officials are examining if a case has been confirmed in a local hospital.

Many Scripps Research scientists quickly shifted their attention to studying aspects of the coronavirus.  They included immunologist Kristian Andersen, who has taken on a central question in the outbreak: Does the coronavirus get transmitted when people have symptoms of the virus or when they don’t?

“If it occurs when people are symptomatic it would be easier to contain because you could isolate those who get it,” Andersen said.

Scripps scientists work broadly across the fields of health and medicine, studying everything from HIV, tuberculosis and cancer to Lyme disease and influenza.

In recent years, Calibr has come up with five potential drug candidates for problems as different as malaria and parasites.

Most drugs don’t make it beyond the test stage.  And those that do can be of limited effect.

“The vaccines for malaria only work 30 to 40 percent of the time, which is why we’re working on a chemical drug that could be injected,” Chatterjee said.  “We think it would be more efficient and efficacious.”

Scripps has had breakthroughs in the past.  Its scientists played a lead role in developing Surfaxin, an FDA-approved drug that’s given to premature babies with certain breathing problems.  The institute also invented Tafamadis, a medicine the FDA approved last year to treat a form of cardiomyopathy.

The key to more success involves Scripps’ growing relationship with the Gates Foundation, said Matt Tremblay, Scripps’ chief operating officer.

“The foundation has people spread all over the world, where they really see what the problems are,” Tremblay said.

“They share that with our basic scientists, and with our drug developers, who will have different perspectives.  This is a model that works.”


Friday, January 24, 2020

AMERICAN POLITICS - Self-Serving Republicans

"Republicans aren’t serving the country, or even the President.  Just themselves." by Michael Gerson, The Washington Post 1/23/2020

It is another of President Trump’s dubious achievements to turn the ultimate constitutional check on Presidential abuses of power into an utter farce.  Watching Republican senators complain that there is “nothing new” in the case made by House impeachment managers, while they are actively opposing the introduction of new evidence and new testimony, is confirmation of barefaced bad faith.  In this matter, elected Republicans are mainly serving, not the President, and certainly not the republic, but themselves.  Having decided that no amount of evidence would be sufficient for conviction, they realize that the presentation of a full and compelling case would convict them of servility and institutional surrender.  So a quick and dirty Senate trial is the best way to limit the exposure of their malpractice.

This crime against democracy is compounded by the eagerness of Republicans to use impeachment as a fundraising opportunity and method to energize base voters.  The theory seems to be: If you are going to betray the constitutional order, you might as well profit from it.

In the impeachment trial, all the dismal signs point to acquittal at any cost.  And it is not the first time the President has skated.  Despite compelling evidence of wrongdoing and obstruction of justice in the Mueller report, Trump largely escaped accountability (even as many of his smarmy advisers did not escape jail).  The appearance of vindication in this case immediately preceded the President’s decision to squeeze an embattled foreign power for his political benefit.  Give Trump an inch, and he’ll take Ukraine.

How has the President largely avoided the consequences of his corruption?  By employing the methods of his mentor Roy Cohn.  Admit nothing.  Stonewall investigators.  Defy subpoenas.  Viciously attack opponents.  Flood the zone with exculpatory lies.  Feel no shame.  Show no mercy.  Claim anything short of prison to be complete exoneration.

In terms that would have gladdened the heart of Richard Nixon in his day, the coverup is working.  Senate Republicans seem determined to cover up for Trump’s coverup.  What is essentially state-run media — Fox News and conservative talk radio — have created a narrative of establishment persecution that covers up for the Senate’s coverup of the Trump coverup.  The President is protected by layer upon layer of obfuscation, misdirection and deception.  Gradually at first, but now in a sudden rush, the norms of truthfulness, public service and ethical behavior have given way.  And the message has been sent to Trump and future iterations of Trump: Corruption has no consequence.

This is a danger to the country because success breeds replication.  Politicians who never dreamed of being anarchic and transgressive now conduct their public business like the Marx Brothers on a caffeine high.  Consider Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) responding to a perfectly appropriate question by CNN’s Manu Raju by saying, “You’re a liberal hack.”  It is nothing new for a senator to show his or her temper.  But McSally then posted her petulance on Twitter and began raising money on the basis of it.  It is human to lose your cool; taking pride in it is to lose one’s marbles.  But this is normal political behavior in the age of Trump.

There is further danger in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s likely acquittal by the Senate.  The President never views a near-miss as an opportunity for reflection and reformation.  He sees it as permission to indulge his every urge.  And his most consistent urge has been to seek unfair advantage in the upcoming Presidential election.  The months between Senate acquittal and the November vote will be fertile ground for further cheating.

And the election itself presents the greatest danger.  Trump avoided accountability after the Mueller probe.  He is likely to avoid accountability for the Ukraine squeeze.  That leaves one last source of accountability — the election in November.  This will be a test, not of the Republican Party, but of the republic.

Every Presidential election is important.  This one will have an added dimension.  It will be more than a referendum on the President.  It will be a referendum on the moral and ethical standards we apply to our political life.  Will corruption, cruelty and coverups be excused and encouraged?  Or will the boundaries of integrity, honesty and public spirit be redrawn?

Congress — with the large exception of the House majority — has largely failed to defend the democratic virtues essential to self-government.  American voters had better do better.

Monday, January 20, 2020

NATIONAL ARCHIVES - Thou Shalt Not Criticize Trump

"National Archives exhibit blurs images critical of President Trump" by Joe Heim, The Washington Post 1/17/2020

The large color photograph that greets visitors to a National Archives exhibit celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage shows a massive crowd filling Pennsylvania Avenue NW for the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

The 49-by-69-inch photograph is a powerful display.  Viewed from one perspective, it shows the 2017 march.  Viewed from another angle, it shifts to show a 1913 black-and-white image of a women’s suffrage march also on Pennsylvania Avenue.  The display links momentous demonstrations for women’s rights more than a century apart on the same stretch of pavement.

But a closer look reveals a different story.

The Archives acknowledged in a statement this week that it made multiple alterations to the photo of the 2017 Women’s March showcased at the museum, blurring signs held by marchers that were critical of Trump.  Words on signs that referenced women’s anatomy were also blurred.

In the original version of the 2017 photograph, taken by Getty Images photographer Mario Tama, the street is packed with marchers carrying a variety of signs, with the Capitol in the background.  In the Archives version, at least four of those signs are altered.

A placard that proclaims “God Hates Trump” has “Trump” blotted out so that it reads “God Hates.”  A sign that reads “Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women” has the word Trump blurred out.



Signs with messages that referenced women’s anatomy — which were prevalent at the march — are also digitally altered.  One that reads “If my vagina could shoot bullets, it’d be less REGULATED” has “vagina” blurred out.  And another that says “This Pussy Grabs Back” has the word “Pussy” erased.

The Archives said the decision to obscure the words was made as the exhibit was being developed by agency managers and museum staff members.  It said David S. Ferriero, the archivist of the United States who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, participated in talks regarding the exhibit and supports the decision to edit the photo.

“As a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the President’s name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy,” Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman said in an emailed statement.  “Our mission is to safeguard and provide access to the nation’s most important federal records, and our exhibits are one way in which we connect the American people to those records.  Modifying the image was an attempt on our part to keep the focus on the records.”

Archive officials did not respond to a request to provide examples of previous instances in which the Archives altered a document or photograph so as not to engage in political controversy.

Kleiman said the images from the 2017 and 1913 marches were presented together “to illustrate the ongoing struggles of women fighting for their interests.”

The decision to blur references to women’s genitals was made because the museum hosts many groups of students and young people and the words could be perceived as inappropriate, Kleiman said in the statement.

Kleiman said the National Archives “only alters images in exhibits when they are used as graphic design components.”

“We do not alter images or documents that are displayed as artifacts in exhibitions,” she said.  “In this case, the image is part of a promotional display, not an artifact.”

When told about the action taken by the Archives, prominent historians expressed dismay.

"There's no reason for the National Archives to ever digitally alter a historic photograph," Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley said.  "If they don't want to use a specific image, then don't use it.  But to confuse the public is reprehensible.  The head of the Archives has to very quickly fix this damage.  A lot of history is messy, and there's zero reason why the Archives can't be upfront about a photo from a women's march."

Wendy Kline, a history professor at Purdue University, said it was disturbing that the Archives chose to edit out the words "vagina" and "pussy" from an image of the Women's March, especially when it was part of an exhibit about the suffragist movement.  Hundreds of thousands of people took part in the 2017 march in the District, which was widely seen as a protest of Trump's victory.

"Doctoring a commemorative photograph buys right into the notion that it's okay to silence women's voice and actions," Kline said in an email.  "It is literally erasing something that was accurately captured on camera.  That's an attempt to erase a powerful message."

The altered photograph greets visitors to "Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote," an exhibit that opened in May celebrating the centennial of women's suffrage.  The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1920, prohibits the federal government and states from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex.

"This landmark voting rights victory was made possible by decades of suffragists' persistent political engagement, and yet it is just one critical milestone in women's battle for the vote," reads a news release announcing the exhibit on the Archives website.

Archives spokesman John Valceanu said the proposed edits were sent to Getty for approval, and Getty "then licensed our use of the image."

A Getty spokeswoman, Anne Flanagan, confirmed that the image was licensed by the National Archives Foundation but said in an email Friday evening that Getty was still determining whether it approved alterations to the image.

Karin Wulf, a history professor at the College of William & Mary and executive director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, said that to ensure transparency, the Archives at the very least should have noted prominently that the photo had been altered.

"The Archives has always been self-conscious about its responsibility to educate about source material, and in this case they could have said, or should have said, 'We edited this image in the following way for the following reasons,'?" she said.  "If you don't have transparency and integrity in government documents, democracy doesn't function."


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

IRAN - Protests Over Downing of Ukrainian Jetliner

NOTE:  This article was copied from the e-newspaper, therefore no link to article.

"Iranian rage over downing airliner intensifies" by Jon Gambrell, San Diego Union-Tribune 1/14/2020

Security forces appear to fire on protesters with live ammunition

Popular anger swelled Monday in Iran over the accidental shoot down of a Ukrainian jetliner and the government’s attempt to conceal its role in the tragedy, as online videos appeared to show security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protests in the streets.

Iranians, already suffering under crippling U.S. sanctions, expressed shock and outrage over the plane crash that killed scores of young people.  They also decried the misleading statements from top officials, who only admitted responsibility three days later in the face of mounting evidence.

The country began last week engulfed in mourning after a U.S. drone strike killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who led Iran’s regional military interventions.  Then on Jan. 8, it responded with a ballistic missile attack on two bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq, although there were no casualties.

U.S. commanders at the base said Monday they believe the attack was intended to kill American personnel, an act that could have pushed the two powers to outright war.

Hours after that barrage, as it braced for a U.S. counterattack that never came, Iranian forces accidentally shot down the Ukraine International Airlines jetliner, killing all 176 people aboard shortly after it took off from Tehran for Kyiv.

For a growing number of critics — from ordinary citizens to notable athletes and artists — the events have revealed a government that is incapable of following through on its incendiary rhetoric and willing to mislead its own people about a national tragedy in order to avoid embarrassment.

Those sentiments first boiled over late Saturday, shortly after the Revolutionary Guard admitted shooting the plane down by mistake.  A candlelight vigil at a university rapidly turned into an anti-government demonstration.

“They are lying that our enemy is America! Our enemy is right here!” students shouted.

On Sunday night, protesters massed in Tehran’s Azadi, or Freedom, Square.

Videos sent to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran and later verified by The Associated Press show a crowd of demonstrators near Azadi Square fleeing as a tear gas canister lands among them.  People cough and sputter while trying to escape the fumes, with one woman calling out in Farsi: “They fired tear gas at people!  Azadi Square!  Death to the dictator!”

Another video shows a woman being carried away in the aftermath of the violence, a trail of blood visible on the ground.  Those around her cry out that she has been shot in the leg.

“Oh my God, she’s bleeding nonstop!” one person shouts.  Another shouts: “Bandage it!”

Photos and video after the incident show pools of blood on the sidewalk.

Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Hossein Rahimi, later denied that his officers opened fire.

“Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,” Iranian media quoted Rahimi as saying.  “Police did not shoot in the gatherings since broad-mindedness and restraint has been the agenda of the police forces of the capital.”

President Donald Trump has openly encouraged the demonstrators, even tweeting messages of support in Farsi and warning the government not to fire on them.

Trump, meanwhile, added to the controversy over his justification for killing Soleimani, saying Monday that “it doesn’t really matter” whether it was in response to an imminent threat to the United States.

In a tweet, Trump criticized Democrats for trying to determine whether Iranian attacks the administration has said were planned by Soleimani against U.S. targets were imminent.

“It doesn’t really matter because of his horrible past,” Trump wrote.  The administration has held Soleimani, as head of Iran’s Quds Force, responsible for orchestrating Iran’s use of proxy forces in terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, and the deaths of hundreds of U.S. soldiers over the years, long before the threat it has said justified the Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike that killed him.

In a separate tweet, Trump emphasized Soleimani’s past actions rather than the threat of future attacks.  “The Democrats and Fake News are trying to make terrorist Soleimani into a wonderful guy, only because I did what should have been done for 20 years,” he wrote.

Trump promoted a manipulated image of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) wearing a turban and a headscarf in front of an Iranian flag, claiming it showed “the corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue #NancyPelosiFakeNews.”

Many Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans have questioned the administration’s claims about the immediacy of the threat — and the targets — and charged that it has failed to provide full and accurate information about an action that brought the U.S. and Iran to the brink of war.

Gambrell writes for The Associated Press, The Washington Post and
The New York Times contributed to this report.


Monday, January 13, 2020

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 1/10/2020

"Shields and Brooks on Iran conflict, impeachment trial standoff" PBS NewsHour 1/10/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Amna Nawaz to discuss the week in politics, including how the Trump administration and Congress have handled conflict with Iran, indications House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is preparing to send articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial of the President and what all the tumult means for 2020 Democrats.

Amna Nawaz (NewsHour):  Back on Capitol Hill this week, the House of Representatives voted to check the President's war powers against Iran, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her Democratic Caucus to prepare for the next chapter on impeachment in the days ahead.

Here to help make sense of it all, as well as some eye-popping polling numbers from the Democratic primary field, are Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Happy Friday.  Welcome to you both.

Let's start overseas, shall we?

David, it was a week ago that the U.S. assassinated the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, three days since Iran retaliated.

President Trump says he wants peace.  They just rolled out new sanctions against Iran today.  Is this de-escalation?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes.

A week ago, we didn't know where we were going.  And it certainly looks a lot calmer than it did a week ago.  And it looks more like a normal Middle East terror episode, in which case you have a terror army, whether it's Hezbollah or Iranian-state sponsored terrorism.  They're ramping up ramping up activities.

And then the U.S. says, stop.  You — let's — we're going to be in conflict, but let's not get carried away here.  You're pushing the boundaries here.

And so we do an action, and when you do this kind of action, like killing Soleimani, it's using violence as a form of communication, saying you have pushed the boundaries, time to stop.

And then the other side, the terrorist side, has a chance to say, no, we're going to keep going, or they have a chance to say, message received, we won't push the boundaries, it's not in our interests either.

And that seems to have been what has happened.  We have seen that through the Israeli-Hamas or fights.  We have seen it through other terror fights.  And it looks like a much more conventional sort of communication between a nation and a terror organization.

Amna Nawaz:  At the same time, Mark, we have had 176 civilians killed as a result of those escalated tensions, right?  That didn't happen in a vacuum, necessarily.

And now Iraq and Iran are kind of on the same page, wanting U.S. troops out, out of Iraq from the Iraqi Parliament, and out of the region from Iran, which has always been a stated goal.

I guess the question is — and we may not know this yet — but are we safer?  That's what the administration is arguing.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  My argument, I guess, would be that we're not.

But I go to the words of one exceptionally well-read Marine general, who later became secretary of defense, who said, history teaches — history teaches us that nations with allies thrive, nations without allies wither.

Every year, Pew Research, a very respected polling operation, polls in the world, 32 different countries, on trust and confidence.  And the fact is, the United States under Donald Trump has plummeted in the world.

Among five world leaders, including Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin and Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Macron, the fact is that Donald is at the bottom.  He has 29 percent of the world has confidence in him; 64 percent don't.

This is a total reverse, total reverse from Barack Obama, when 64 percent of the world had confidence in his judgment.

We are isolated as a people.  I mean, Secretary Pompeo complained that the Brits and the Germans didn't go along.  (A) there is no support in their country for it.  (B) they were never consulted.

So, no, I think — I don't argue with David's assessment of the individual discrete events.  But I think the overall pattern is that we're paying a terrible price for isolation.

And alliances have been the saving strength of the United States and the Western world since World War II, and they are in total disrepair at this point.

Amna Nawaz:  A lot of the questions revolve around what will happen next, for sure, right?  There's concern there could be an increase in some of those proxy militias you had mentioned, David.

I want to play a sound bite for you, though, from President Trump at a rally in Ohio last night.  He was responding to the House's move to try to restrict some of those Presidential war powers that Presidents have had for several years now post-9/11.

Take a listen to what President Trump had to say last night:

President Donald Trump:  They're all trying to say, how dare you take him out that way?  You should get permission from Congress.  You should come in and tell us what you want to do.

(BOOING)

President Donald Trump:  You should come and tell us, so that we can call up the fake news that's back there, and we can leak it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

Amna Nawaz:  David, to some degree, no surprise the House said, we want you to come to us before you take more action against Iran.

But then we also saw a Republican senator, right, Mike Lee from Utah, outraged after a briefing from military intelligence leaders that he felt was completely insufficient.

Is this the time you think Congress starts to claw back some of that power?

David Brooks:  No, I don't think so.

I mean, they have had the chance in bin Laden.  They have had a lot of chances, and the executive has taken this power.

I do think the laws we have are obsolete.  They're — for a time when not a terror war, whether it was like World War II or Vietnam, when there was a moment of peace and then a moment of war, and there was a transitionary moment where Congress would act between those two states.

But in an ongoing terror war, there's no moment of peace and there's no moment of war.  It's constant engagement.  And so for the President, in a position of constant conflict with Iran, where they're ramping up pressure, we're trying to fight them, a discrete episode seems to me outside the bounds of Congress.

Having said that, the President, executive branch shouldn't be running a long-running terror war without the constant communication with Congress and with the intelligence communities and the Intelligence Committees.

And so while I don't think Congress should be approving every little individual operation, it's certainly up to the executive branch to be in constant communication, so there are no surprises.  And that doesn't seem to have happened.

Amna Nawaz:  Mark, what do you make of the way the administration has been responding to those calls for greater oversight, maybe explaining and providing justification for this strike on Soleimani in the first place?

Mark Shields:  Oh, I don't think there's any question the President has asserted the total autonomy of his office.

I mean, he sees no need to consult.  He sees no congressional restraints.  And I think, in spite of the fact that the House did act on the war policy, it's not going to go anywhere in the Senate.

But there are there are pockets of resistance.  I mean, it was — whether it was Senator Lee or Congressman Gaetz in the House.  I mean, whether in fact it takes on a larger dimension remains to be seen.

But make no mistake about it.  Donald Trump and his administration make a serious mistake by not consulting.  If they're not with you on the takeoff, they're not going to be with you on the crash landing.

And there's no — they have no stake in what happens as far as his policy is concerned.  Obviously, they do care about the nation.  But as far as his policy and whatever political damage there is done to him, if they in no way are consulted or asked their opinion or their judgment or just told to shut up and join…

David Brooks:  And despite this episode with Soleimani, I do think there's a bipartisan move, almost a consensus, a populist consensus.

Trump has used military force less than any President since Jimmy Carter.

Mark Shields:  Yes.

David Brooks:  He's [Trump] not normally a military guy.

From the populists on the left and populists on the right in different versions, it's like the Middle East is a mess.  We are not good at dealing with that region.  Let's stay away.

And I do think, whether it's Mike Lee or people further on the left — Mike Lee's a Republican — there's a consensus, we shouldn't be involved in that region, or as little as possible.



BRIEF BUT SPECTACULAR - Ronan Farrow

"Ronan Farrow’s Brief But Spectacular take on interrogating the truth" PBS NewsHour 1/9/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For investigative reporter Ronan Farrow, the ability to produce a story hinges upon the courage of his interview subjects.  But the chance an abuse survivor has to exact justice is tied to the wealth and stature of those they accuse, and we need the transparency and accountability journalism demands to expose this imbalance.  Farrow shares his Brief But Spectacular take on interrogating the truth.



TAIWAN - The Vote

"In Taiwan, presidential election brings long-simmering tensions with China to the surface" PBS NewsHour 1/9/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For decades, Taiwan's political status has been a contentious issue between the U.S. and China.  The U.S. considers it a real democracy, while mainland China sees a rogue province that should be under Communist control.  Taiwanese voters will elect their next president Saturday, in a decision with major implications for Taiwan and U.S.-China relations.  Special correspondent Divya Gopalan reports.



WILDFIRES - Australia Burning

"Australia’s catastrophic and relentless battle with bushfires" PBS NewsHour 1/8/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The devastation from wildfires in Australia is on a scale that is difficult to comprehend.  More than 20 million acres have burned, destroying 2,000 homes and killing potentially hundreds of millions of animals, as well as 27 people.  Although the entire country has suffered from the fires, New South Wales is currently one of hardest-hit areas.  Kylie Morris of Independent Television News reports.




"How Australia is fighting fires while also mounting recovery effort" PBS NewsHour 1/8/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  As devastating bushfires continue to burn across Australia, how is the country’s government responding?  William Brangham speaks with David Littleproud, Australia’s minister for natural disaster and emergency management, about fighting fires while also embarking upon a recovery effort, whether the country has enough personnel and equipment and how it's preparing for hotter, longer fire seasons.



ITALIAN ALPS - Neanderthal Wilderness Survival Program

"This wilderness survival program offers a chance to live as the cavemen did" PBS NewsHour 1/7/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For those tired of the stresses and excesses of contemporary civilization, a survival expert in the Italian Alps offers a training program in living as the Neanderthals did.  Participants endure a rough existence in the wilderness, learning to kill prey for food and build their own shelter.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant left his own modern-day comforts to experience life as a caveman.



PERVERT ON TRIAL - Harvey Weinstein

"Harvey Weinstein’s New York trial gets off to a dramatic start" PBS NewsHour 1/7/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The long-awaited criminal trial of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein began in New York City this week.  Although more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual assault, harassment or misconduct, this trial is based on charges of rape and criminal sexual assault brought by two women.  Weinstein maintains the encounters were consensual.  The New York Times’ Jodi Kantor speaks to Amna Nawaz.



PUERTO RICO - First Hurricane, Now Earthquake

"Magnitude 6.4 tremor causes Puerto Rico’s worst earthquake damage in decades" PBS NewsHour 1/7/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Puerto Rico is under a state of emergency after experiencing a magnitude 6.4 earthquake Tuesday morning.  The tremor, part of a series that has shaken the U.S. territory since Christmas, caused substantial damage along the southern coast.  One man died when a wall caved in on his house, and many residents were left without power or water.  John Yang reports on the island's worst earthquake in years.



VENEZUELA - In Crisis

"Venezuela’s political crisis escalates as Maduro tries to wrest parliament from Guaido" PBS NewsHour 1/6/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Sunday saw new chaos in Venezuela’s enduring political and economic disaster.  Juan Guaido, leader of parliament and the opposition to President Nicolas Maduro, was physically barred from the National Assembly.  Maduro supporters then claimed they’d replaced him as the speaker.  But Guaido later rallied enough members of parliament to secure reelection.  Special correspondent Marcia Biggs reports.




"In Venezuela, dueling parliaments cast political crisis into further chaos" PBS NewsHour 1/7/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Venezuela’s political turmoil deepened Tuesday as supporters of President Nicolas Maduro tried to open a new session in the National Assembly without opposition members or their leader, Juan Guaido.  Guaido managed to force his way into the parliament, but the confusion left Venezuelans unsure of which contingent is running their government.  Special correspondent Marcia Biggs reports.



TRUMP vs IRAN - Weapon of Mass Distraction

Forget impeachment details, let the distraction begin......

"Iranians unite to mourn military icon Qassem Soleimani" PBS NewsHour 1/6/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets Monday to mourn Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike Friday.  Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, led funeral prayers and wept over Soleimani's body.  But the fallout is more than emotional; as Iran and President Trump trade threats, the U.S. military is bracing for potential retaliation.  Nick Schifrin reports.




"Ambassador: Iran vows revenge, but has nothing against Americans" PBS NewsHour 1/6/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Friday killing of Iran’s best-known military commander in a U.S. airstrike prompted an outpouring of grief in Tehran -- along with vows of vengeance.  In the aftermath of Qassem Soleimani’s death, the country’s leaders and President Trump exchanged threats about what might come next.  To share Iran’s perspective, Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht-Ravanchi joins Judy Woodruff.




"What killing of top Iranian general means for nuclear deal and the U.S. in Middle East" PBS NewsHour 1/6/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For two views on the latest developments in Iran and Iraq, Nick Schifrin speaks with Narges Bajoghli of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, author of “Iran Reframed: Anxieties of Power in the Islamic Republic,” and U.S. diplomat Ryan Crocker, who served as ambassador to Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon and is now diplomat in residence at Princeton University.




"Iran says it has launched ballistic missiles at American air bases in Iraq" PBS NewsHour 1/7/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  After trading threats with the U.S., Iran said Tuesday night it launched ballistic missiles on Iraqi facilities housing U.S. troops in retaliation for the American killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani.  The attacks come after President Trump and top U.S. officials defended the Soleimani strike, which has been blamed for pushing the U.S. and Iran closer to war.  Judy Woodruff and Nick Schifrin report.




" Foreign policy experts weigh in on Trump’s Iran strategy" PBS NewsHour 1/7/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The U.S. killing of one of Iran’s top military leaders has prompted questions about whether the Trump administration has an effective strategy for Iran, Iraq and the larger Middle East.  As Iran announces it has fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops, Nick Schifrin talks to Mara Karlin of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the Hudson Institute’s Michael Doran.




"After missile strikes on Iraqi bases, U.S. and Iran both appear to de-escalate" PBS NewsHour 1/8/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  President Trump says Iran is “standing down” after firing missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops -- but causing no casualties.  But Iran says its goal is to see U.S. forces leave the Middle East.  The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Karim Sadjadpour joins Nick Schifrin, Yamiche Alcindor and Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest developments.




"U.S. should ‘drive a wedge’ between Iranian regime and its people, says Rep. Gallagher" PBS NewsHour 1/8/2020

NOTE:  The effect is exactly opposite, the Iranian people and government are more united.

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For a congressional Republican’s perspective on the conflict between the U.S. and Iran, we turn to Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a former Marine who deployed twice to Iraq as a commander of intelligence teams.  He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why he supported the decision to kill Gen. Qassem Soleimani and what he expects next from Iran.




"Rep. Crow: Congressional questions about Soleimani strike ‘have not been answered’" PBS NewsHour 1/8/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For a congressional Democrat’s take on the conflict between the U.S. and Iran, we turn to Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) a member of the House Armed Services Committee.  Crow is a lawyer and former Army Ranger who deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan during his military career.  He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why he is not satisfied with the Trump administration’s handling of the Soleimani strike.




"Will fallout from Soleimani killing drive U.S. troops from Iraq?" PBS NewsHour 1/10/2020

Fallout?  Russia wins, ISIS wins, (war criminal) Bashar Hafez al-Assad wins.

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The fallout from the Trump administration’s killing of Qasem Soleimani continues to unfold -- and it could affect the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.  On Friday, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo rejected Iraqi calls for the U.S. to plan troop withdrawal.  Retired Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmit, who served in the George W. Bush administration, and York University’s Thabit Abdullah join Nick Schifrin to discuss.



TRUMP'S WMD - Weapon of Mass Distraction

"Did Trump Assassinate Soleimani and Risk WWW III to Divert Attention From Damning New Evidence Corroborating the Ukrainian Extortion Scheme?" by Steve Jonas, MD, MPH - BuzzFlash 01052020

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President ....... is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.  Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else.  But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else."

Theodore Roosevelt, Editorial in The Kansas City Star May 7, 1918

In brief, after an analysis of the all the information publicly available at the present time (that is, 1-3-20), and a review of all the indications that it was (to say the least) apparently done with no planning, no foresight, and no consideration of all the possible negative outcomes, given by a wide variety of authorities through the media to date (other than his "Trump-can-do-no-wrong" allies), it seems that the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Commander of the Iranian Quds Force, was ordered by President Trump for just one reason.  A word that begins with the letter "U." To which we shall come at the end of this missive.

"Assassination" is a word believed to be derived from Arabic that means "political murder."  Now Trump may think that the Iranians speak Arabic.  For after all, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt (no lefty he) in 2015, after he had declared for the Presidency, Trump did not know the difference between "Quds" (as in the Iranian Quds Force) and "Kurds."  Then when Hewitt pressed him a bit, Trump went on the attack against Hewitt for trying to "run a quiz show."  (Hewitt has since become a strong Trump supporter.)

Trump may also not know that Iran is not an Arab country; that they have a language of their own, Farsi; that they have a history of civilized settlements going back over 8000 years; that they had a revolution in 1952 that among other things nationalized what is now British Petroleum.  As a result, the democratically-elected government was overthrown by the CIA in a coup organized by Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. (a grandson of Teddy's)  Fast forward, when the US first invaded Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attack, Iran offered to help control the Taliban in Western Afghanistan but was officially turned down by President G.W. Bush (although there may have been informal assistance..)

Trump likely has very little Iran-specific historical knowledge, and very likely has a very poor grasp of what is actually going on the Middle East since, to fulfill one of his many random, not-thought-through, anti-Obama-policy political promises, he walked out of the Iran nuclear deal, without thinking through the potential consequences.  Thus, he likely gave little thought to what might, and very likely will, happen were Soleimani to be assassinated.  After all, this is an action contemplated under several US administrations but was never carried out because of the potential for dire consequences arising from it.

So why did Trump order the killing?  (We are leaving aside here all the Constitutional implications of essentially declaring war not only without consulting Congress, not even the pro forma consultation with the “Gang of Eight," although he told Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and a couple of other Republicans in Congress).  He offered no cover story beyond "I think that it is the right thing to do."  Which of course fits right into Trump's dictatorial approach to Presidential power: "I can do anything I want to."

There has been much speculation in the media and among his political supporters: Soleimani is a very bad man who needed to be dealt with, finally; Soleimani has killed many Americans; Soleimani ordered the recent attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad; Soleimani is indispensable to the Iranian military and government (BTW, a successor was appointed within about 12 hrs.; presumably the Iranian leadership, including Soleimani himself, given that he was targeted by the US and Israel, has likely been preparing for this possibility for quite some time).

Really?  Well, if it were for any of these reasons, particularly when the likely outcomes are taken into account, there would have been some long-range (or at least short-range) planning done at the Pentagon and the State Department to begin with to deal with the predictable fall-out.  But such planning was apparently scant, and apparently many senior officials were taken entirely by surprise.  Of course, this reflects the fact that there is no long-term strategy for dealing with Iran other than John Bolton's "regime change" by trying to grind it into the economic dirt through sanctions, which seems further away now than it ever was.

Furthermore, this assassination has, by all accounts thoroughly unified an Iranian politically that was beginning to show some cracks, especially under that US sanctions which have been decimating the Iranian economy and standard of living.  It is also apparently already unifying the US Western allies --- against the Trump US action.  The Russians and the Chinese are not going to take this very lightly, either.  (Putin must also be wondering if his control over Trump is starting to fail.  The attack came just after Iran, Russia and China ran a joint military exercise in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.  Given the adoration for Trump by his followers, it is possible that none of the ton of stuff Putin must have on him would carry much weight with them.  And anyway, Hannity would then quickly maneuver to make Putin part of the “Deep State.”)

OK.  So, no real understanding by Trump of what is really going on in Iran and Iraq for starters.  No long-range strategy for dealing with Iran in light of the US's unilateral abandonment of the nuclear deal.  No achievable goals for peace in the region.  No plans for war either, apparently.  No close allies for this latest provocation.  So why, and why now?

I have come to the conclusion that transactional Trump did this for just one reason.  It happens to have nothing to do with Iran, Iraq, the rest of the Middle East, Israel, or the US European allies.  As noted above, it all comes down to one word, that begins with the letter "U”: Ukraine of course.  If Trump is the master of anything beyond his constant strategy/tactic of "Always attack; Never defend," it is his mastery of his own WMD: Weapons of Mass Distraction.

On Dec. 29, 2019, came out The New York Times report on what really happened in the engineering and attempted implementation of the Ukraine extortion plot.  This report is supported by numerous unredacted emails made available under a FOIA request that the Administration was unable to block.  Indeed, the evidence drop confirmed an attempted extortion plot against Ukrian carried out under the direction Trump.

This report lays it all out, in a way that Trump, Mulvaney, Pompeo, and various White House staff would have.  Under oath, they could not have wriggled our of this one.  Trump clearly did commit an impeachable offense.  Now that the report shows that there was a clear violation of the 1974 Impoundment Control Act, Trump may have provided the basis for a Third Article of Impeachment to be added by the House.  (Please, Madame Speaker: do not send over the first two articles anytime soon!)

This news had been all over the front pages of the real newspapers, all over the chryons of television news.  Have you noticed?  It's not there today (that is Jan. 3).  And it is anybody’s guess if it will survive under Trump’s drumbeat of war.  Depending upon what the House does with the new Ukraine extortion plot emails it may come back into the news.  But for now, Trump has what he wants, transactionally.  The Trump-action has taken away almost all of the attention from a set of documents that seal the deal on the Trump-Ukraine extortion plot, to transform the narrative into "Trump as a man-of-action."  That is even though he didn't bother to leave Mar-a-Lago for the totally secure White House Situation Room in the face of the largest international crisis of his time in the Presidency.  Can't miss too many rounds of golf, donchaknow?

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books.  In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a “Trusted Author,” he is a contributor to Reader Supported News/Writing for Godot; a contributor to From The G-Man; a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement; an occasional contributor to BuzzFlashReborn; and a Deputy Editor, Politics, and a “Witness to History,” and an occasional contributor for The Greanville Post; He is also a triathlete (37 seasons, 256 multi-sport races).


Monday, January 06, 2020

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 1/3/2020

"Shields and Brooks on Iran general’s killing, 2020 Democrats’ fundraising" PBS NewsHour 1/3/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s political news, including the U.S. military’s killing of elite Iranian general Qassam Soleimani and its potential repercussions and how fundraising and polling numbers are stacking up for 2020 Democrats a month before the Iowa caucuses.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  Between the escalating conflict with Iran and the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination, 2020 has already been a busy year for American politics.

Here to help us make sense of it all, Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you, and happy new year.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Happy new year.

Judy Woodruff:  Although, as we have been reporting, the new year has gotten off to a sobering start.

Mark, what do you make of the Trump administration decision to target and kill this senior Iranian general?

Mark Shields:  I don't know.

Every act like this has risk and reward, and I don't know anybody who can predict what will happen, Judy.  I mean, it violates all of the rules that we have about going into armed conflict with disproportionate force and with fully understood objectives and with an exit strategy and with backing of our allies and so forth.

None of those was met.  And the President doesn't have the benefit of the doubt.  He treats truth like a second home.  He only lives there occasionally, and, therefore, he doesn't have the natural credibility that American Presidents — and it has been hurt.

The Afghan papers, most recently The Washington Post, revealed 18 years of deception and deceit and self-delusion about the United States in Afghanistan, the lying that we have had and the evasion.

So, you know, I don't see it — I see it more impulsive than strategic, just like the entire Trump administration.  It doesn't appear to be thought out.

Judy Woodruff:  How do you respond to that?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes.

Well, first, like the other 7.5 billion inhabitants of this Earth, I don't know either.  But I do see it sort of on three levels, first, in the near term, the immediate term, which is, I think it's a reasonably good thing that somebody who was responsible for the deaths of 600 Americans and hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East meet some justice.

I do think that's a good thing.  The fact that there were rallies around the Middle East celebrating his death is a sign of the destruction he has wrought.

Then there is the middle term, and that's somewhere between anxiety-inducing and terrifying, because we just — I don't think either Iraq or Iran or the U.S. want to have a war, but they have got to show they do something, and then we do something.  And it could escalate into something.

I think it's extremely unlikely.  But they play this game.  I have been covering the Middle East for 30 years.  And they play this game.  And, sometimes, it goes fine and somebody just finally quiet — walks away, but, sometimes, it doesn't.

And so, in the middle term, I think we're overall right to be worried about that.

And then, in the long term, I think talent doesn't grow on trees, and this guy was their best guy.  And so getting rid of your enemy's best guy probably in the long term yields some benefit.

And, second, his strategic — his basic signature move was to create militias around the Middle East, extragovernmental militias, in a sometimes hostile country.  And to the extent that we can weaken that there should be militias all around the Middle East, then we have stabilized the Middle East long-term.

The middle term is what you have to worry about.

Judy Woodruff:  And, Mark, do you get the idea the administration is prepared for what may come from this, as a result of this?

Mark Shields:  No.  No.

And I guess where take some — depart from David is, we have been down this road before.  We had a major Republican leader address the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention and assure us that the foreign leader has weapons of mass destruction, there's no doubt he's amassing them to use against us, against our allies, I'm confident that he's on the verge of having nuclear weapons.

That was Dick Cheney.  That was 18 years ago.  And that was hundreds of thousand of deaths ago.  As a consequence of this act, the Iraqi Parliament may very well do what it hasn't done.  And that is act in concert and ask us to leave.

If they ask us to leave, now, what does that mean for our troops in Syria?  What does that mean for any of our influence in the area?

Now, I just — I do not see any coherent, thoughtful policy emanating from this.  It's almost like the administration has been scrambling to come up with a rationalization.  They did it, and now, well, we're going to brief you on Tuesday.  We're going to brief you 120 hours after the event as to what happened.

We're going to do it from a resort in Florida, I mean, suggesting the gravity of the moment — all of that.  I mean, for a man who's sensitive to theatrics and optics, like Donald Trump is, none of this makes any sense.

David Brooks:  Yes, I guess the only — the first thing I would say was, what Mark raised, all those are real possibilities.

And, frankly, it's above my pay grade to know all the different details of this.  But a lot of people I admire, like Mike Mullen, who we just had on the show, or General Stan McChrystal, who was head of special ops, before running the Afghan war, they say, on balance, they see the risks and it's worth the risks.

And so these are really professional operators, and so you have to have some respect for that.

As for the Trump administration, I sort of agree.  I often ask the administration officials from past administration, what did you learn inside that you didn't learn outside?  And how is it going to affect your career as a pundit afterwards?

And they always say, you never know the actual information that is going on inside.  In most administrations, there's all these backroom signals they're all sending even to their adversaries.

And so you have some confidence, well, these people know what they're doing.

I don't have that confidence right now.  And so I do agree with Mark that I don't think there is a policy process in anything realm of the Trump administration.  And so, therefore, the thought they have sketched out scenarios B, C, D, and Q, that's probably not happened.  And so that's where the anxiety comes from.

Judy Woodruff:  Are you discouraged?

Mark Shields:  Judy, on the eve of going to war in Iraq, Jim Webb had been secretary of the Navy and later be secretary — senator from Virginia, asked a very straightforward question, which the administration, Bush administration, refused to confront.  Are we as a nation prepared to be an occupying country and force in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years?

And he was — oh, what do you mean?  What do you mean?

I mean, war begins with unintended consequences.  Admiral Mullen referred to that.  I mean, on the eve of World War I, the German general staff was absolutely convinced 42 days to conquer France and France's army.

I mean, and here we have 75 years after Victory in Europe Day, and we have troops in Europe, and we have American troops in Japan, and 67 years after the armistice in Korea, we're on the front lines in Korea.

I mean, so…

David Brooks:  I don't think anyone wants to do boots on the ground.

I certainly would find that appalling.  But the Middle East fights their wars differently.  They — it's like a little shot here and then a little shot there.  And it's choreographed.  You go up here.  You go there.  And so they have been doing this.  And they're professionals at it, which is — and we're not.  So that should be faced.



THE CHOSEN ONE - Carlos Ghosn

"How automotive tycoon Carlos Ghosn became a global fugitive" PBS NewsHour 1/2/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Carlos Ghosn was once in the driver’s seat of two of the world’s most iconic automakers -- and credited with saving both from insolvency.  But Ghosn went from the pinnacle of the corporate world to facing criminal allegations, a record bail and now, a mysterious escape from Japan to Lebanon.  John Yang reports.



AMERICAN TAX DOLLARS - 2020 Where It's Going

"What’s in the $1.4 trillion federal spending bill" PBS NewsHour 1/2/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Before leaving town for the holidays, lawmakers came together to pass a huge federal spending bill that illuminates the government’s policy priorities for 2020.  The deal allocates a total of $1.4 trillion to the military, education, a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border and much more.  Lisa Desjardins joins Nick Schifrin to discuss where American tax dollars will be going this year.



MILLENIALS - Losing Their Religion

"Millennials are leaving organized religion.  Here’s where some are finding community" PBS NewsHour 1/2/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The American religious landscape has changed dramatically over the past several decades.  While regular church, synagogue and mosque attendance has been on the decline since the late 1970s, a Pew Research Center study this year has found that the biggest generational dropoff has occurred with millennials -- young adults born between 1981 and 1996.  Special correspondent Cat Wise reports on why.



WILDFIRES - Australia Burning

"Deadly wildfires rage across Australia, with forecasts of worse to come" PBS NewsHour 1/2/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Vast swaths of Australia are still burning, with thousands of people under evacuation orders -- and forecasts of worse to come.  A record summer fire season has charred 12 million acres, destroyed 1,400 homes and killed 17 people.  The states of New South Wales and Victoria are hardest hit, but fires are also burning across the rest of the country.  Dan Rivers of Independent Television News reports.



NORTH KOREA - Kim Jong Un's New Year's Resolution

"Kim Jong Un’s ‘major’ strategy shift on North Korean weapons and economy" PBS NewsHour 1/1/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has announced he will no longer abide by a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.  With direct talks between North Korea and the Trump administration stalled, Kim also warned the people of his country about a “long confrontation” with the United States.  The RAND Corporation’s Naoko Aoki joins Nick Schifrin to discuss.



STATE LAWS - They Are Changing in 2020

"From marijuana legalization to minimum wage, how state laws are changing in 2020" PBS NewsHour 1/1/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Now that 2020 has arrived, scores of new laws are going into effect across the country.  From legalization of marijuana and criminal justice reform to raising minimum wage and the cost of electric cars, state legislatures are having a major impact on the nation’s laws.  The Hill’s Reid Wilson joins Lisa Desjardins to discuss specific changes as well as three broader trends to watch going forward.



AMERICAN ECONOMY - Trends and Tax Law

"What trends distinguished the U.S. economy over the past decade?" PBS NewsHour 12/31/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  As the year comes to a close, we look back at the past decade in the American economy -- the first without a recession since record-keeping began in the 1950s.  While unemployment remains at a historic low, wage growth has been sluggish, and inequality continues to divide the country.  David Wessel of the Brookings Institution and The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell join Jeffrey Brown.




"Is 2017 tax law responsible for declining share of U.S. charitable donors?" PBS NewsHour 12/31/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Thanks to large checks from the wealthy, financial contributions to the 100 largest charities in the U.S. rose 11 percent in recent months.  But the share of Americans who give to charity overall continued its long-term slide, with small nonprofits hit the hardest.  A number of factors are at play -- including the 2017 tax law.  Lisa Desjardins talks to the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Stacy Palmer.



ATTACKS - On Religious Communities

"Attacks on rabbi’s home, Christian church prompt questions about hate crimes" PBS NewsHour 12/30/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Religious communities across the country expressed shock and sorrow after two weekend congregation attacks.  The incidents, at a New York rabbi’s home and a Christian church in Texas, raise concerns that violence toward religious groups may be rising.  Tree of Life Congregation's Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Reverend Ted Elmore join Nick Schifrin to discuss.



IRAN - Let Leash the Dogs of War

Reminder from the past...


"How U.S. airstrikes could affect ongoing tensions with Iran" PBS NewsHour 12/30/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Words and actions between the U.S. and Iran are escalating.  On Sunday, U.S. military strikes on an Iraqi militia group backed by Iran killed 25 fighters in what the U.S. said was retaliation for rocket fire that killed an American defense contractor.  Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, and Vali Nasr of Johns Hopkins University join Nick Schifrin to discuss.




"Iraqis supporting Iran-backed militia attack U.S. Embassy, demand U.S. withdrawal" PBS NewsHour 12/31/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  In Baghdad, supporters of an Iran-backed militia remained outside the gates of the U.S. Embassy after attempting to storm the compound earlier in the day.  The U.S. military planned to move more Marines in, but the Iraqi protesters insisted they won’t leave until their demand -- that U.S. forces leave Iraq entirely -- is met.  The Washington Post’s Mustafa Salim joins Nick Schifrin from Baghdad.




"How Iran could benefit from Iraqi outrage over U.S. airstrikes" PBS NewsHour 12/31/2019

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  A tense new year has dawned in Baghdad after U.S. airstrikes against an Iranian-backed militia prompted one of the worst attacks on a U.S. Embassy in years.  Bilal Wahab of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Kirsten Fontenrose of the Atlantic Council join Nick Schifrin to discuss whether the U.S. is falling into an Iranian “trap,” what the Iraqi people want and what to expect next.




"Who was Qassam Soleimani, and what does his death mean for Iran — and the U.S.?" PBS NewsHour 1/3/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Qassam Soleimani was the Middle East's most recognized military commander, strategist and operational chief of Iran's militant proxies and a symbol of its regional ambitions.  He was killed in a targeted U.S. drone attack Friday at Baghdad’s international airport.  Nick Schifrin reports and joins special correspondent Jane Ferguson and Judy Woodruff to discuss his death and the regional response.




"Why the U.S. military targeted Qassam Soleimani — and how Iran might react" PBS NewsHour 1/3/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  How is Iran likely to react to the American military strike that killed top general Qassam Soleimani -- and how well prepared is the U.S. to withstand that response?  Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and retired Adm. Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, join Nick Schifrin to discuss Soleimani's role and how Iran will adapt without him.



The spin..........

"Kaine says Trump’s Iran policy hurts U.S. allies, pushes enemies closer together" PBS NewsHour 1/3/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  An elite Iranian general is dead, and the United States and Iran appear even closer to conflict.  In Washington, members of Congress had mixed reactions to the killing of Qassam Soleimani.  Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why he believes President Trump should have consulted Congress before the strike.




"Risch says Soleimani was ‘ratcheting up’ attacks on the U.S." PBS NewsHour 1/3/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  When the U.S. military killed an elite Iranian general in Iraq on Friday, Washington called it self-defense, while Tehran called it a crime -- and vowed vengeance.  Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the evidence that Qassam Soleimani presented an imminent threat to American lives and why his assassination “had to be done.”



..........end spin cycle.

"U.S.-Iran tensions: a diplomatic quagmire for the Middle East" PBS NewsHour 1/4/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Iran is vowing revenge after U.S. airstrikes on Friday killed the country’s military leader Qassem Suleimani.  Thousands of American troops are heading to the Middle East as tensions with Tehran escalate.  Douglas Ollivant, former Director for Iraq at the National Security Council under the Bush and Obama administrations, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the diplomatic fallout.




"Anger in Beirut as Hezbollah supporters mourn Suleimani" PBS NewsHour 1/5/2020

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Members of Hezbollah and their supporters gathered on Sunday in Beirut, Lebanon, to mourn the death of Iran's top military leader, General Qassem Suleimani, who was killed by a U.S. military airstrike on Friday in Iraq.  NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jane Ferguson reports on how Iran’s most powerful proxy group is responding to the loss of their revered hero.