Be outraged about kids in cages. But save some ire for the worst refugee offender: China

Caging kids at the U.S. border is reprehensible. But as first ladies, governors, celebrities, and citizens of all political stripes line up and strike out against the inhumane practice of separating children from parents seeking refuge, everyone should save some ire and outrage for one of the world’s greatest offenders and dissemblers of refugee rights: China.

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Despite having signed onto the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, China has gone to incredible lengths to redefine and reclassify foreigners who seek asylum on Chinese territory, allowing an appearance of having received “foreign” refugees. In fact, China is practicing the same type of refugee policy it pursues when it comes to international trade. It is willing to export its massive population at high numbers, send them abroad for education, work, and to establish cultural beachheads and corporate outposts (as with steel), but is unwilling and vehemently opposed to accepting a modicum of duty-free imports or unwashed masses.

China, unfortunately, is not alone. Russia and Turkey use refugees as weapons, Italy’s new government is stalking them and preparing them for deportation, Hungary makes it clear that they are unwelcome public targets. Increasingly, the rest of the West sees them as an unmanageable burden or parasitic horde who threaten nativist cultures, take jobs, drain welfare, change the national character, overwhelm communities, breed terrorists, and create chaos. Refugees and their children are having a hard time finding a new home.  READ MORE

Guess who's coming to a White House dinner? Dictators and despots

Kim Jong Un just got one of the most coveted invitations for any foreign leader — a White House visit. If the Singapore Summit delivers results and continues to serve President Trump politically, that door will stay open and the invitation will remain valid. That would make Kim the latest in a string of despots and dictators who over the years get to pose for an Oval Office grip and grin.

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Washington, D.C., is no stranger to accommodating the dangerous and despised and Kim would feel right at home in a city that bends to the brutal and barbarous. The capital has never reflected the homegrown values of heartland America or the general piety of her people. It is guided by a moral compass that sometimes points to True North. More often than not, however, that “compass” resembles a moral weathervane. Cynicism is an established trait in the nation’s capital, where power is the currency of the realm and no amount of moral outrage will change the political need and diplomatic necessity to practice the unsatisfying art of the possible.

So strike up the band and hang the bunting for the next state visit by a foreign deplorable.  READ MORE

Angry about U.S. primary results? Be thankful it's not a Venezuelan-style sham election

Election day in America reinforces our democratic values and reminds us that power resides in the hands of the people. Depending on your party preference and perspective, the meaning of this week’s regional U.S. elections vary (Disclosure: My wife, Eleni Kounalakis, just won a primary race for Lt. Governor of California). Yet, unlike elsewhere in the world, the legitimacy of the 2018 midterm primary races is not questioned. No one is seriously crying wolf.

In too many nations, however, the electoral process and democratic institutions are fractured and failing.

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From Turkey to Russia, Venezuela to Iraq, recent foreign elections have harmed the spirit and promise of democratic participation by drowning out minority voices, enriching crony capitalists, and enshrining pseudo-royalty into more secure and permanent tenures.  READ MORE

Hawaii volcano and China Sea islands alter world's geography

Kilauea’s volcanic lava flows are not only burning down Hawaiian homes on their path towards the Pacific Ocean but also creating new territory, adding landmass to the American state and making the Big Island even bigger.

For years, Hawaii has been growing its shoreline with hardening, layered lava at a slow and steady pace. Since 1983, Hawaii has grown by 570 acres and is the only state to be physically expanding at a time of globally melting ice caps and rising oceans. Geologic change is usually a lot slower paced at altering the face of the earth and the facts on the ground.

 Lava burns a tree in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.

Lava burns a tree in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.

Human time, however, is much faster and accelerates dramatic changes in political geography. New Chinese islands arise today where there once were only coral reefs. Russia expands and redefines its own territory by building bridges to foreign peninsulas it occupies and claims. Israel and China legitimize their claims over contested towns and turf, asserting their regional dominance by achieving the world’s diplomatic recognition.  READ MORE

Trump moves fast and breaks things to disrupt world

Hang out in any Silicon Valley café and the word “disruption” is sure to be uttered at a nearby table. It is the keyword to unlock funding for forward-leaning ideas and the approach toward cutting out the middle man in transactions, leaving behind the inefficiencies in mediation, and burying the slow-to-change and inertia-bound in industry. Disruption is everything and everyone wants a piece of it. Including the American people.

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Disruption has hit every industry, from car transportation services to hotel lodging. 2016 brought it to foreign policy when a tried, tested and predictable former secretary of state was turned down for her star turn at the U.S. presidency in favor of a bull in the china shop disruptive agent of anti-globalist chaos and firm believer in realism’s international anarchy.  

As in every case of disruptive change, there are decided winners (Uber, Airbnb) and clear losers (taxis, hotels) and a lot of people out of work and scratching their heads because they didn’t see what just hit them.  READ MORE

Deal or no deal: America wants a new Iran

The rift between America and Iran is currently as unbridgeable as the Persian Gulf. Iran and the United States are in a full-fledged battle to exert more influence over the Middle East, control the flow and price of energy, and to effect Israel’s status and survival. With President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the next phase of this battle has just begun.

 In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of school teachers in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Khamenei has challenged President Donald Trump over America pulling out of the nuclear deal, saying, "You can not do a damn thing!" a day after Trump announced he was renewing sanctions on Iran. 

In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of school teachers in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Khamenei has challenged President Donald Trump over America pulling out of the nuclear deal, saying, "You can not do a damn thing!" a day after Trump announced he was renewing sanctions on Iran. 

Relations between the two nations are complex and will be forever colored by the 1979 Iranian Revolution that filled American TV screens with images of a helpless nation held hostage. Violent images are seared into the American mind of blindfolded U.S. embassy personnel in Iran and American flag-burning student protesters shouting, “Death to America.” President Jimmy Carter’s failed attempt at a hostage rescue resulted in a crashed helicopter and more death. Fear, anger and hate grew between Tehran and Washington. Iran’s current Islamic theocratic government was born of this revolution and is the direct inheritor of this violent legacy.  READ MORE

The Other White House Correspondents Dinner – Russia Edition

On the banks of the Moscow River, standing tall, a gleaming white edifice, the site of the 1991 Russian resistance, where Boris Yeltsin climbed atop a tank and stood up against a Soviet military coup, is the Russian White House - the “Bely Dom” on the Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment.

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Unbeknownst to most is that they, too, have an annual correspondents dinner. It is lesser known because it is held in an undisclosed location, in a bunker near Gorky Park. The few surviving Russian White House correspondents gather to celebrate their dwindling numbers, giving scholarships to the families of “missing” and defenestrated journalists.

This year’s guest speaker was comedian Wolf Sheepovich Michellovskaya. As always, it was held on May Day, International Workers Day, and portions were surreptitiously recorded. President Vladimir Putin was not in attendance, off instead to Sevastopol to celebrate the holiday in a springtime pageant and parade in his honor.  READ MORE

Kanye West can help Trump recognize the Armenian genocide

Armenia is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Kanye West and the Kardashians. Truth is, however, Kanye has always cared and sang about justice and his wife's Armenian-American family has always felt strongly about the need to recognize one of the world's greatest crimes and injustices — the Armenian genocide.

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Kanye should leverage his newfound kinship with President Trump to prod him towards doing what no other sitting American president has done: Use an executive order to declare that the murderous events of 1915 were the world’s first modern genocide.

Genocide means a single group is targeted for systematic and premeditated death and extinction. Armenian families who survived the genocide await the world’s recognition of this reprehensible event. America officially regards it as regrettable, unfortunate, and tragic, but does not recognize it as the event that spurred the word “genocide.” It is time.  READ MORE

First Lady Barbara Bush made a difference. Can Melania?

First ladies since Eleanor Roosevelt have developed over the years to do more than serve merely as White House hostess-in-chief. Barbara Bush took on an issue, applied her passion, and tried to move the needle on literacy. It’s now time to deploy Melania Trump where she can potentially make a difference. It’s time for her to visit her Central European home region to try and bring those countries back to the American fold.

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Foreign-born and bred, Melania is the first modern First Lady who cannot accede to the presidency. A Slovenian immigrant to America, she speaks Central Europe’s language. Literally. A Southern Slav, she is familiar not only with the region’s spoken tongues, but also their unspoken cultural tics, social norms and political history.  READ MORE

CBS News Commentary with Errol Barnett

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The United States, along with the U.K. and France, attacked Syrian targets in retaliation for the Assad regime's alleged use of chemical weapons last week in Douma. Markos Kounalakis, a foreign affairs columnist for McClatchy News and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, joins CBSN to discuss Russia's response to the airstrikes - and more.  VIEW VIDEO

Journalists need to watch out for Turkey

Working as a Middle East correspondent can be hazardous to your health. Freelance journalist Austin Tice is approaching the six year mark since his kidnapping in Syria. Reporter Marie Colvin was tracked and targeted for lethal attack by the Assad regime.

Things have certainly gotten hairier for foreign reporters, but even more so for local journalists as regional tensions rise, alliances become fluid, nationalism grows, and refugee populations are on the move.

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It’s not just Syria and Iraq, either. While the Trump administration weighs how further to respond to Damascus’s latest chemical weapons attack, the whole neighborhood is in flux and rules are being actively rewritten. Slowly, surely, countries once considered welcoming and safe are turning more menacing for both citizens and strangers. Turkey is the latest to flip.  READ MORE

Facebook and its Global Village need a mayor to represent us

Facebook is the largest community in the world. It is also one of the least democratic institutions on earth. That’s why Facebook needs a mayor.

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In non-virtual communities – meaning “IRL” (In Real Life) physical cities and states – where people interact face-to-face daily, societies have developed self-governing structures and policing institutions to serve and protect them. Private companies like Facebook, however, were not organized around democratic ideas or social justice principles. Despite the often lofty mission statements of social media companies, they are businesses put together for one reason: To make money. Oodles of it.

Thanks to the “network-effect,” unplanned, but highly profitable, communities have grown on these internet platforms to number in the billions. Greater in size than any nation-state. More politically powerful than any party or person. They cross borders and span the globe.  READ MORE

Putin’s power, arrogance lead to costly Russian miscalculation that unites West

Vladimir Putin has spent years trying to divide the West by undermining elections, invading neighbors and aggressively using Russian oil and gas as a ham-handed bargaining tool. These concerted and clever efforts have suddenly, however, revealed the New Putin: Despite his best efforts and plans, he’s become a uniter, not a divider of the West.

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Early 2018 had Putin heading towards a staggering, but not surprising, electoral victory against dead and disqualified opposition candidates. This dominance allowed Russia’s president to ride his eventual 76.6 percent final poll tally to a new level of cavalier confidence on the global stage. Political dominance at home and fawning support from President Trump gave him a delusional sense of invincibility. It led him to overreach and miscalculate.

Now, well over 20 Western countries have joined together to give Putin the one-finger salute for a U.K. chemical agent attack he is suspected of either directing or condoning. The targets in the assassination attempt in Salisbury were a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia.  READ MORE

To cash in on Kushner influence Saudis must sell their agenda to America

Foreign royalty comes to America to experience the grandeur of the nation, its natural wonders, the success of its industry, the vast complexity of its society, and, ultimately, to do a little shopping.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, is no different. Except he’s here to buy some very pricey weaponry, a piece of the entertainment industry, and perhaps a few personal baubles. But this is not simply a shopping trip. MBS is also here to deliver the hard-sell.

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First on his list, is his desire to woo American financial centers for foreign direct investments in his development schemes, from building a new city to selling off parts of the Saudi cash-cow, the state oil company Aramco. To make his pitch credible, he needs to show that Saudi Arabia is in the midst of dramatic liberalizing reform, but also that the sweeping changes are manageable and that he’s really in charge.  READ MORE

Punish Russia for Skripal poisoning, or prepare to face bolder Putin attacks

Global spy games just got a little more dangerous with the byzantine poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the medieval-era UK city of Salisbury.

Extraterritorial assassination attempts are usually precisely targeted with the victim attacked in an unmistakable, but quiet, surgical strike. Among developed nations, there is not supposed to be any collateral damage and the attacking nation tries to maintain plausible deniability.

 Police officers seal off a cul-de-sac in Salisbury, England, near to the home of former Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal as a nerve agent is believed to have been used to critically injure him and his daughter Yulia. Britain's Home Secretary says the investigation into the nerve agent attack on a Russian ex-spy and his daughter is focusing on three sites â his home, a pub and a restaurant. Andrew Matthews AP

Police officers seal off a cul-de-sac in Salisbury, England, near to the home of former Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal as a nerve agent is believed to have been used to critically injure him and his daughter Yulia. Britain's Home Secretary says the investigation into the nerve agent attack on a Russian ex-spy and his daughter is focusing on three sites â his home, a pub and a restaurant. Andrew Matthews AP

But the Skripal case using the Russian Novichok nerve agent just changed things.

The message to double-crossing double agents? There is no place to hide. The message to host countries harboring these defectors? Drop dead. More and more countries are witnessing targeted foreign assaults and assassinations on their soil in a wanton and reckless disregard for diplomatic norms, innocent bystanders and respect for national sovereignty.  READ MORE

‘Great Firewall of China’ neuters internet dissent so Xi can rule for life

Dictators hate a challenge to their rule. That’s why China uses its vast policing and advanced technological resources both to arrest individuals and to disappear from public view any protest words, phrases, images or symbols that might be seen as threatening the state. The kinds of things that, if unchecked, can potentially overthrow a regime.

One of the high-priority targets of China’s security systems today? Winnie the Pooh.

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Yes, Pooh Bear is a danger to the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese state, and, most importantly, President Xi Jinping.

Xi should be feeling pretty confident these days, as China prepares to change its constitution to rid it of presidential term limits. Not since Chairman Mao Zedong will China have had a more powerful and unchallenged leader. But the power of Pooh must not be underestimated.  READ MORE

Trump’s awful phone diplomacy boosts Russian meddling in Mexico vote

Phone calls are not President Trump’s best tool for international charm offensives. He hung up on Australia’s prime minister a year ago, nearly changed U.S. policy toward Taiwan and China in another conversation when he was president-elect, and, this week, further offended Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The end result of the Feb. 20 call is that Peña Nieto canceled, for a second time, a planned White House visit. It may also have locked in a win for a far-left presidential candidate in the July 1 Mexican national election — an election in which the Russians are working overtime to actively disrupt and influence.

 In this photo taken Jan. 28, 2017, President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Transcripts of President Donald Trump’s conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia in January offer new details on how the president parried with the leaders over the politics of the border wall and refugee policy, with random asides on subjects including drug abuse in New Hampshire. Alex Brandon AP

In this photo taken Jan. 28, 2017, President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Transcripts of President Donald Trump’s conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia in January offer new details on how the president parried with the leaders over the politics of the border wall and refugee policy, with random asides on subjects including drug abuse in New Hampshire. Alex Brandon AP

The president’s poor phone etiquette further jeopardizes the already slow progress in the NAFTA renegotiation, adds a new strain to diplomatic relations with a border neighbor, hinders cooperation in combating drug trafficking and makes immigration issues even touchier. And with every notching up of tension with Mexico, the Trump border wall becomes an even harder sell in the nation he insists must underwrite itREAD MORE