Archive

January 3rd, 2017

Trump keeps trolling U.S. foreign policy on Twitter

    President-elect Donald Trump, having jumped the gun on his Jan. 20 inauguration by seeming to challenge Russia to a new nuclear arms race, has done it again.

    He has now contradicted retiring President Obama on his refusal to order the American ambassador to the United Nations to veto a Security Council resolution that condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

    Once more taking to Twitter as a vehicle for his unsolicited diplomacy, Trump has signaled to Russian President Vladimir Putin that a new American policy toward Israel is on the way, and Putin should hold his horses on the issue until Trump takes charge here.

    Concerning the abstention on that UN vote, the president-elect tweeted: "Stay strong, Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!"

    This and other premature Trump insinuations are unprecedented intrusions, based on his self-conceived superior judgment and wisdom, even in areas far outside his experience and knowledge as a real estate tycoon.

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Understand the Energy Department before closing it

    When you hear the name Rick Perry, you might recall that time during the 2012 Republican presidential primary race where he forgot the name of a government agency he wanted to eliminate. After saying he wanted to ax the departments of Commerce and Education, he blanked on the third. Later in the debate, he said that his forgotten target for destruction was the Department of Energy.

    A responsible leader doesn't forget the name of a government agency that he wants to shut down. A responsible leader studies the department in detail, learning all of the things that it does, and thinks about how things would change if the department were abolished. And so for Perry, that "oops" moment was enough to persuade voters that he lacked the firm grasp of the facts needed in a presidential candidate. He soon abandoned the race.

    But it seems like in the Republican Party of 2016, leaders are not rewarded for being responsible and informed. Instead, the party's leaders are rewarded for finding new targets, justified or not, for the outrage of their voter base.

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January 2nd

What it's like to be expelled from Russia with your toddler and dog

    In February 2001, when the street corners and sidewalks of Moscow were still piled high with dirty, gray snow, FBI agent Robert Hanssen was arrested near his Virginia home and charged with espionage, accused of passing secrets to the Russians.

    His arrest made the news, as did the U.S. government's decision to expel 50 Russian diplomats from the United States in retaliation. For most Americans, the news of the expulsions was a brief blip in their day, something they heard on the radio en route to the office.

    For me, it was life-shattering.

    I was living in Moscow at the time, with my dog, a toddler son and my husband, a Diplomatic Security Service special agent who was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The Diplomatic Security Service is the law enforcement arm of the State Department, charged with threat analysis, cybersecurity and protection. As soon as we heard of the expulsions, we knew what was coming. And this week's news that Washington would expel 35 Russians in retaliation for alleged election hacking brought those memories flooding back.

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What kind of democracy will Israel be?

    The opportunity for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may already have expired. The question going forward, then, is what kind of democracy Israel intends to be.

    The Obama administration's frustration with the situation is understandable. The continued building of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is indeed unhelpful, and the decision to abstain on a U.N. Security Council resolution declaring the settlements illegal brought renewed focus and urgency to the problem. To what end, however, is unclear.

    When everyone stops shouting, Israel will remain one of the United States' closest allies -- and, courtesy of President Obama, the recipient of a $38 billion aid package that will ensure the Jewish state's military dominance over its neighbors. Palestinian leaders in the West Bank will remain wary of negotiating any sort of two-state deal from a position of weakness. And the passage of time will make facts on the ground -- expanding settlements and the ongoing security threat -- ever more stubbornly entrenched.

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A Month Without Sugar

    It is in chicken stock, sliced cheese, bacon and smoked salmon, in mustard and salad dressing, in crackers and nearly every single brand of sandwich bread. It is all around us — in obvious ways and hidden ones — and it is utterly delicious.

    It’s sugar, in its many forms: powdered sugar, honey, corn syrup, you name it. The kind you eat matters less than people once thought, scientific research suggests, and the amount matters much more. Our national sugar habit is the driving force behind the diabetes and obesity epidemics and may be a contributing factor to cancer and Alzheimer’s.

    Like me, you’ve probably just finished a couple of weeks in which you have eaten a lot of tasty sugar. Don’t feel too guilty about it. But if you feel a little guilty about it, I’d like to make a suggestion.

    Choose a month this year — a full 30 days, starting now or later — and commit to eating no added sweeteners. Go cold turkey, for one month.

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A two-state solution is the only one

    In recent days, the Obama administration has undertaken two significant actions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It refrained from vetoing a resolution at the U.N. Security Council that, among other things, detailed the devastating impact that Israeli settlement expansion is having on the prospects for a two-state peace agreement. And in a landmark speech, Secretary of State John F. Kerry warned that the trend toward a one-state reality is becoming increasingly entrenched, and he set out principles for a lasting peace based on a two-state solution.

    He rightly pointed out that the demise of the two-state option is to nobody's benefit - Israeli, Palestinian or American. We share Kerry's concerns and applaud the Obama administration for having set out the conclusions of its peace efforts in a transparent and compelling manner.

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Hollywood’s Mother-Daughter Fable

    Some years ago I had the privilege of a long evening with Carrie Fisher, starting at her house in Beverly Hills and proceeding to a nearby restaurant, and she talked so expansively — about her memories of “Star Wars,” about her electric shock treatments, about Diet Coke, about everything — that I didn’t come away with just a few impressions of her. I came away with a few hundred.

    Still, one stood out: She was obsessed with the subject of mothering. While giving me a tour of the house, she mentioned again and again that her mother, Debbie Reynolds, lived next door. Did I know that they shared a driveway? And that they saw each other daily? This proximity clearly rattled her, but it reassured her, too. It was equal parts intimidation and consolation — in other words, motherhood itself.

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In 2017, all news will be good (and real), I promise

    We have nearly escaped 2016. Good riddance, pestilent year! Everything that has gone wrong has been your fault.

    2017 will be nothing like that.

    First off, no more celebrities will be allowed to die.

    There will be a moratorium on celebrity death, starting Jan. 1 and continuing through Dec. 31. This goes for dogs, gorillas and pandas as well. In fact, there will be no deaths of any kind.

    Listen, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you may not like this any more than I do, but you are not allowed to leave the house any longer. Neither are you, Betty White. Sit down and stay there. We will send you approved, heart-healthy snacks and a pile of interesting reading material. We are sorry, but it cannot be helped.

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Lessons From the Media’s Failures in Its Year With Trump

    The last year has not been the news media’s finest.

    Despite some outstanding coverage, overall we misled many people into thinking that Donald Trump would never win the Republican nomination, let alone the White House. Too often we followed what glittered, yapped uselessly at everything in sight and didn’t dig hard enough or hold politicians accountable for lies.

    In 2008, the three broadcast networks, in their nightly news programs, devoted over the entire year a total of three hours and 40 minutes to issues reporting (defined as independent coverage of election issues, not arising from candidate statements or debates). In 2016, that plummeted to a grand total of just 36 minutes.

    ABC and NBC had just nine minutes of issues coverage each; CBS had 18 minutes. So ABC and NBC each had less than one minute of issues coverage per month in 2016.

    Those figures come from Andrew Tyndall, whose Tyndall Report monitors the news programs. By Tyndall’s measures, there was zero independent coverage in 2016 on those nightly programs about poverty, climate change or drug addiction.

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Trump keeps saying he wants unity - and keeps showing that it's up to everyone else

    The night he won the presidency, Donald Trump gave a speech that was praised for its magnanimity.

    "Now it's time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together," he said, reading his prepared remarks from the teleprompter.

    "To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It's time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I'm reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country."

    Those who opposed Trump didn't immediately embrace him. For several nights after he won, protesters marched in opposition to his victory - crowds that had large contingents of young people, women and people of color.

    After the two met in the Oval Office, President Barack Obama recommended that Trump's attempts to unify the country focus on those groups.

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