Global fallout from Trump's remark

JANUARY 13, 2018, 1:17 PM| There's growing backlash over President Trump's controversial immigration remark. Foreign affairs columnist for McClatchy and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institute, Markos Kounalakis, talks to CBSN about the latest developments, as well as the ongoing threat from North Korea.

Pence presidency can’t come soon enough for America’s allies

Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” bestseller paints a picture of a dysfunctional Trump White House on the verge of collapse and on the edge of internal overthrow.

Figuring the odds for a 25th Amendment action is best left to bookmakers, however, not book authors. Whatever the odds, foreign leaders always need to hedge their bets. On their minds, if not their tongues, is what life would be like under a President Pence.

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Traditional foreign allies look to Vice President Mike Pence and his visits for American reassurance and resolve, continuity and commitment. The veep’s outwardly quiet demeanor and unfailing Trump loyalty has earned him the right to travel the world on the president’s behalf, carrying with him the credibility of presidential access and influence. Pence’s absence from the pages of Wolff’s book will certainly endear him further to President Trump, who perceives a White House otherwise under siege by internal enemies.  READ MORE

Iran riots boost Haley, Graham power

California has the largest population of ethnic Persians outside of Iran, but South Carolina’s powerful politicians are the ones aggressively representing Iranian-Americans’ pro-democracy agenda towards Tehran.

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There is no love lost in L.A.’s “Tehrangeles” for the theocratic henchmen who continue to jail or kill young Iranians seeking free expression and a better life. But a result of the 2016 election is that it marginalized California Democrats’ power and influence on Iran policy and gave much greater say to Republicans in the South. Now, a California-allergic president is much more responsive to South Carolina politicians and their foreign policies.

Senator Lindsey Graham’s and Ambassador Nikki Haley’s loud anti-mullah voices are heard both at the White House and on the world stage. Graham and Haley are actively making the case for regime change, a strategy partly developed at a Heritage Foundation that was until recently led by South Carolina’s former Senator Jim DeMint. The Carolinas have not had this much influence on American foreign affairs since North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the turn of the millennium.  READ MORE

Christmas comes early for Vladimir Putin

Christmas came a little early for Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin this year. Russia usually celebrates the holiday on January 7th, but President Putin’s present arrived a month early when he announced his intention to remain in office via a national voting process. He has unofficially already won.

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“Election” formalities are scheduled for March 18, 2018 and the legitimizing process will cost $300 million. The leading opposition candidates are already dead or disqualified. The handful of colorful and credible also-ran candidates will do their best, but be left in the dust. Putin losing the Russian presidential election is as likely as Siberian palm trees and banana plantations. Merry Christmas, Vlad.

If there is one global leader who has been winning so much he should be sick and tired of winning, it is Putin. He will enter his next term as the longest serving Russian head of state, winning his fourth non-consecutive six-year presidential term. Putin has already surpassed previous record holder Leonid Brezhnev’s 6,602 days in office, but unlike Brezhnev seems fit and in fighting form.  READ MORE

Star Wars and drone spies threaten America’s defenses

Star Wars’ newest episode “The Last Jedi” is hitting screens nationwide this week, but less entertaining is this season’s latest space weaponry and commercial drone deployments that increasingly threaten America’s national security.

Kim Jong Un may be planning to use his nuclear and missile technology not to land an explosion on U.S. soil, but to blast it in space. Such an explosion would trigger a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) that could cripple satellites and blind any nation that relies on orbiting communications for everything from airline navigation to financial transactions.

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A HEMP strike would bring about a “doomsday scenario” and an act of war that kills no one directly but plunges everyone into the first stages of a technological dark age. An October 2017 congressional hearing on this threat brought testimony that a North Korean HEMP attack could “shut down the U.S. electric power grid for an indefinite period, leading to the death within a year of 90 percent of all Americans.”  READ MORE

America’s sad history of looking the other way on child rape

Child sexual assault is the most repulsive of crimes, and the global verdict on rapists and molesters should be overwhelmingly damning. But if you’re surprised that the president of the United States and the Republican National Committee are throwing their support to a man who has been accused by multiple women, on the record, of pedophilia, remember that America has been looking the other way for a long time.

Why, for example, is the Pentagon suppressing a congressionally mandated independent report on Afghan allies who allegedly engage in systemic child sexual abuse?

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Afghanistan has revived an old and long-outlawed practice of men buying young boys, dressing them as dancing girls to be used as sex slaves for American-armed Afghan security forces. The boys are regularly raped by these American allies, engaging in “bacha bazi,” or “boy play,” while U.S. soldiers avert their eyes and try to ignore the raw violence against underage innocents.  READ MORE

Britain is seeing Trump as a royal loser. Can this special relationship be saved?

Donald Trump has a new royal headache. The next member of the British monarchy is outspoken Los Angeles native and Hollywood actress Meghan Markle, who called Trump “divisive” and “misogynistic.” Her fiancé, Prince Harry, is also reportedly miffed at Trump’s disinterest in human rights. A royal wedding invitation may not be in the offing for the House of Trump.

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But the UK royal family is not alone in its crowning criticism. Swedish Princess Madeleine’s American husband, Chris O’Neill, openly disrespects Trump, calling him “shameful” and “ignorant.” And civilian leaders around the world mock the White House as home to a 21st century American pseudo-monarchy, with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel earlier this year finding Trump progeny assertively acting “like members of a royal family.” Not in a good way.

None of this bodes well for American foreign policy.  READ MORE

The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses 2.0

Russia continues to seek a foothold in European politics by building relationships with fringe political parties and leaders and developing close personal and business ties with mainstream European politicians. Through these efforts, the Russian government has developed a network of Trojan Horses: organizations and individuals who work to support Russian interests and undermine European cohesion. This report comprises a comprehensive assessment of how the Kremlin influences politics and foreign policy in three of Europe’s major powers, with the aim of destabilizing the European Union and the transatlantic partnership.
 

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“A dialogue on Russian hybrid warfare against the West should be a strong component” of multilateral cooperation going forward, write the report’s authors. The report presents cases on Greece, Italy, and Spain, each written by leading experts: Dr. Markos Kounalakis, visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and senior fellow in the Center for Media, Data, and Society at Central European University; Dr. Antonis Klapsis, academic coordinator for the Centre of International and European Political Economy and Governance at the University of Peloponnese; Prof. Luigi Sergio Germani, director of the Gino Germani Institute of Social Sciences and Strategic Studies; Mr. Jacopo Iacoboni, political analyst at La Stampa newspaper; Mr. Francisco de Borja Lasheras, director of the Madrid office of the European Council on Foreign Relations; Mr. Nicolás de Pedro, research fellow at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs; and Dr. Alina Polyakova, David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Foreign Policy program’s Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution.  READ MORE

American companies are funding the Kremlin’s info war against us

Consumers have power. Companies know it. Just look at how quickly Keurig pulled its ads from Sean Hannity’s Fox News show over his coverage of Roy Moore’s alleged child molestation. Indeed, strategically spent big media money can take down talk show hosts, cut into the bank accounts of pro athletes and even elect an American president.

Imagine if consumers demanded the same kind of accountability from the American corporations that are bankrolling Moscow’s information-warfare campaign against U.S. voters.

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Western advertising has been filling the coffers of Russian propaganda outlets, underwriting a racistmisogynistanti-American media that keeps Vladimir Putin in place and actively threatens America’s political system. Writing in The Daily Beast, Mitchell Polman states clearly that “without those ad dollars it would be difficult for Russian media to function.”  READ MORE

2018 could lock-in Trump privilege, power in foreign policy

The last line of defense in checking President Donald Trump’s foreign-policy power is the old guard of the Republican Party, and those watchmen are about to go quietly into the night.

A 2018 Republican sweep would cripple two key Senate committees, moving them from painfully ineffective to plainly inconsequential. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee are supposed to oversee the foreign-policy and the national-security apparatus. Trump has brought them to heel.

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He has belittled the outspoken Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who became a lame duck by giving up a 2018 reelection bid (Disclosure: Corker held my presidential appointment from Senate confirmation in 2016). Sitting out alongside him is another committee member, Trump-critic Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, leaving a handful of cowed Republicans and the minority Democrats to try to counter Trump policy tweets and fight for a systematically well-formulated foreign agenda.  READ MORE

China is using fentanyl in a chemical war against America

Fentanyl is the synthetic opioid driving America’s public health crisis. Its cheap price, widespread use, addictive quality and deadly effect make it more dangerous than other narcotics classified by the DEA.

It is, ultimately, a chemical. And it’s being used as a weapon in China’s 21st Century Opium War against America.

Trump talks opioid and crisis in the White House, October 2017

Trump talks opioid and crisis in the White House, October 2017

President Donald Trump’s 12-day, five-nation Asia tour will focus on North Korean nukes and international trade. In Beijing, however, he plans to address China’s fentanyl production and distribution, an industry that fuels what the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission calls “China’s deadly export to the United States.” Trump holds undeniable moral authority when it comes to substance abuse, having personally seen and felt the effects on his family. Forcing China’s hand on fentanyl is the right thing to do.  READ MORE

Trump taps JFK files to distract from the file Mueller is building

I met Lee Harvey Oswald’s Soviet control agent. It is a story that is buried in my notebooks, but memorable. His name is KGB Colonel Oleg Maximovich Nechiporenko and he has been outed before. Nechiporenko met and conferred with Oswald via the Soviet Union’s embassy in Mexico City only weeks before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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Secret JFK assassination files are buried deep in the intelligence community’s basement, but will see the light of day when released by the 45th president, a White House occupant who believes and freely deals in global conspiracies.

Releasing these files allows President Trump yet again to distract the nation from his inability to govern effectively. Further, it gives him another shot at undermining an American intelligence community he deeply distrusts by exposing CIA and FBI dark secrets and asserting these agencies are up to no good. Presidential distraction and revenge aside, the hidden files will certainly contain information about Nechiporenko and his Soviet colleagues.  READ MORE

The call Trump hasn’t made: A coherent Africa policy

Dead service members and their families deserve recognition and respect, both from presidents and the American people. Active duty military also deserve a clear mission and the commitment of a nation to their service, fight, and future.

Families of the four Green Berets killed in a Niger ambush have now received condolence calls from President Donald Trump, but a growing American military engagement in Africa calls for a complete and coherent continental policy. That call remains unanswered.

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Since his inauguration, President Trump has failed to define America’s strategic interests in Africa. In fact, he’s failed to show much interest or competence in the continent, as during a short speech to African leaders last month where he called one country “Nambia” and hit a raw nerve by saying Africa was ripe for exploitation by his “many friends going to your countries trying to get rich.”

False first steps can be corrected, however. Next week’s planned visit to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo by Ambassador Nikki Haley could bring new attention and some clarity to U.S.-Africa policy, though the trip seems limited in scope and ambition. The Niger combat killing of special operations forces and the recent death of a Navy SEAL in Somalia should focus the president’s mind and be a defining moment for him to clarify Africa policy in an America First world.  READ MORE HERE: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/article179676221.html

Donald Trump is decimating America’s tourist economy

SAN FRANCISCO 

Brown soot-filled skies darken this San Francisco day as homes and fields burn a few miles north in Napa and beyond. It is the worst regional fire here in generations.

Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and now Northern California — tourist destinations all — are reeling from a death toll and economic hit brought by hurricanes, floods, and fires. Rebuilding everywhere will be expensive, and federal money will only go so far. America’s nearly $500 billion annual tourist industry would be expected to help fuel the revenue growth that will fund local economic resurgence.

But not this year.

An area resident evacuates his Silverado Trail home as flames from a wildfire approach Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Napa, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli AP

An area resident evacuates his Silverado Trail home as flames from a wildfire approach Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Napa, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli AP

On the heels of the Donald Trump election, Las Vegas mass shooting, Muslim travel bans, an alt-right resurgence, and a palpable negative shift in how America is perceived globally, nations are issuing U.S. travel warnings and fanning fears of an America that no longer welcomes foreigners or succors its own citizens.

Take Mexicans, for example. President Trump actively denigrates them, so they increasingly have decided to stay home this year. That means the U.S. will lose over a billion tourist dollars from Mexico. Estimates for 2018 are even worse. Travel professionals see the dramatic drop in U.S. tourism as an international reaction to America’s new politics. They call it the “Trump Slump.”

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Nuke deals are for suckers

Nuke deals are all the rage these days. The United Nations sees nuclear accords as a path to world peace. President Barack Obama worked toward a “global zero” nuclear-free future.

President Trump, on the other hand, is highly skeptical of deals with Iran and North Korea because he understands what Tehran and Pyongyang leaders already know: Nuclear disarmament deals are for suckers.

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Countries generally balk at giving up their hard-won and expensive nuclear capabilities because nuclear weapons are a time-tested and reliable deterrent. Giving up these weapons requires faith that any agreement inked is rock solid and that the countries agreeing to unilateral nuclear disarmament are assured they will not wind up like Ukraine or Libya – invaded or overthrown.

Trump does not inspire this faith. Neither does he have faith that the other side will do as it’s told. READ MORE

Trump trash-talks his way into war

Sandbox politics is hard to watch, but easy to interpret. One side hurls an insult, the other responds louder and more offensively. The exchange ends with thrown sand or thrown fists. Bloody noses and bruised egos follow.

Ask any parent. Or Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who just called the President Trump-Kim Jong-Un war of words a “kindergarten fight.” No one wants to be lectured by Russians about civility, but the man has a point. The childish Trump-Un verbal showdown is frightening. It could lead to war.

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The world may be beyond shock or outrage given last year’s rude and raucous presidential election. But every once in a while it’s worth stopping to ask how we got here and what it means.

POTUS is name-calling, potentially making a bad situation with North Korea worse. Un deserves every epithet flung his way, of course, but what’s unprecedented is the loud, public invective coming from the leader of the free world and commander-in-chief of the world’s greatest military force.  READ MORE

This is the murderous version of Trump’s Muslim ban

Kill the Muslims. That's how the latest version of the Muslim ban is shaping up. Started shortly after Donald Trump made it clear to the world that Muslims were not welcome in the United States, other countries started their own, more brutal and deadly effective ban.

Rohingya Muslims stretch out their arms to reach food being distributed near Balukhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. With Rohingya refugees still flooding across the border from Myanmar, those packed into camps and makeshift settlements in Bangladesh are desperate for scant basic resources and fights erupt over food and water. Bernat Armangue AP

Rohingya Muslims stretch out their arms to reach food being distributed near Balukhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. With Rohingya refugees still flooding across the border from Myanmar, those packed into camps and makeshift settlements in Bangladesh are desperate for scant basic resources and fights erupt over food and water. Bernat Armangue AP

The Myanmar military maims and massacres Muslims as they run them out of their country. In Myanmar, it’s not enough to ban Muslims; they are being permanently banished. Army regulars are chasing Muslim Rohingya toward and over a recently beefed-up border wall that is a low-tech, high-risk strip of land made of land mines and barbed wire. There is no big, beautiful door in this border wall.

Without mincing words, the United Nations has now declared what is happening in Myanmar “ethnic cleansing.” Yale researchers and Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari agree that it looks like genocide.

Enter an expressly “America First” administration as ethnic cleansing returns to the world stage and hits the headlines. Not our problem, apparently. In this new world, Rohingya are as likely to see the American cavalry coming as Midwesterners are to experience Martians landing in Chippewa Falls.  READ MORE

Harvey and Irma were hard. But most of the world’s disasters are ignored

What a disastrous few weeks. Historic hurricanes, massive earthquakes, and large-scale wildfires have all simultaneously struck the Americas, grabbing headlines and inspiring telethons. The reporting has been extensive and the outpouring of generous homegrown support seems endless.

American society might be uniquely constituted to work together during crises, with national self-reliance a distinct part of this country’s character, heritage, and mythology. American leaders call attention to disasters and ask communities and their political representatives for help and money. A free, open and independent media report it all.

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Elsewhere in the world, however, bad instincts or habits lead political and corporate leaders to mislead, hide, and deny disasters or impending doom. Russia and China are particularly susceptible to this trait, but it is generally true for less democratic and minimally accountable governments and institutions where disaster can translate into political crisis or even the threat of regime change.

In the former Soviet Union, the initial reaction and official denial of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown and crisis set in motion the conditions for the eventual downfall of the entire empire. In a new biography about Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the Chernobyl cover-up was considered the turning point that put Gorbachev on the political reform path toward a greater openness that became unstoppable.  READ MORE