Fearing being bullied by Trump, American Bar Association stifled report that called him a ‘libel bully’

The New York Times reports: Alarmed by Donald J. Trump’s record of filing lawsuits to punish and silence his critics, a committee of media lawyers at the American Bar Association commissioned a report on Mr. Trump’s litigation history. The report concluded that Mr. Trump was a “libel bully” who had filed many meritless suits attacking his opponents and had never won in court.

But the bar association refused to publish the report, citing “the risk of the A.B.A. being sued by Mr. Trump.”

David J. Bodney, a former chairman of the media-law committee, said he was baffled by the bar association’s interference in the committee’s journal.

“It is more than a little ironic,” he said, “that a publication dedicated to the exploration of First Amendment issues is subjected to censorship when it seeks to publish an article about threats to free speech.”

In internal communications, the bar association’s leadership, including its general counsel’s office and public relations staff, did not appear to dispute the report’s conclusions. [Continue reading…]


The definitive compendium of insults made by Donald Trump on Twitter

The New York Times reports: The mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey is “not a nice person.” The golf swing of the actor Samuel L. Jackson is “not athletic.” A lectern in the Oval Office “looks odd,” and the mobile carrier T-Mobile’s service “is terrible.”

These comments are not private thoughts, nor are they the result of an embarrassing hidden camera, an off-the-record comment or a document release. They are public statements made by Donald Trump to his 5.9 million Twitter followers.

We know this because we’ve read, tagged and quoted them all.

The end result is “Donald Trump’s Twitter Insults: The Complete List (So Far).” It’s not a sample of some insults, or just those about his political rivals — though plenty of those exist. It’s the full count — a 100 percent sample, in polling terms — representing our best effort to categorize more than 4,000 tweets Mr. Trump has made since he declared his candidacy in June 2015.

Of those, we found that one in every eight was a personal insult of some kind. [Continue reading…]

Julie Irwin writes: Research shows that one of the primary reasons to denigrate people is to signal membership in a group: They are out, so you are in. People are always looking to belong, and Trump may represent, for some people, a particularly attractive membership opportunity. He is clear about what “his kind” of people are — the winners, the big men on campus.

When he insults people as not having these qualities, he is providing an opportunity for others to affirm themselves by joining him in the insulting chorus. They can call back to him by being insulting to the losers, too. It becomes a signaling contest, and humans engage in this type of behavior all the time, insulting people while other people are watching, chirping on Twitter and at rallies, looking for their groups.

One of my favorite social psychology experiments makes the point: Students in fraternities and sororities who wanted to signal their loyalty were especially likely to denigrate people other fraternities and sororities by judging them as “foolish” or “unintelligent” if the insults were public. The insults are not for the insulted but for the group calling out to them.

This process only works if it is linked with warmth within the group.

On Twitter, Trump is friendly and chatty with people who support him, especially if they try to get his attention by insulting nonbelievers. “Trump pummels his opponents — and the press” one recent tweet said from someone named John to a few hundred followers — and Trump retweeted it to 5.75 million. He commonly quotes ordinary folks’ tweets and says “Thanks!!!!” to them as if they were his best friends. [Continue reading…]


Turkish government gave security services ‘blank cheque’ to use torture says Human Rights Watch

Reuters reports: Turkey has effectively written a “blank cheque” to security services to torture people detained after a failed military coup attempt, a U.S.-based rights group said on Tuesday, citing accusations of beatings, sleep deprivation and sexual abuse.

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said a “climate of fear” had prevailed since July’s failed coup against President Tayyip Erdogan and the arrest of thousands under a State of Emergency. It identified more than a dozen cases raised in interviews with lawyers, activists, former detainees and others.

A Turkish official said the Justice Ministry would respond to the report later in the day; but Ankara has repeatedly denied accusations of torture and said the post-coup crackdown was needed to stabilise a NATO state facing threats from Kurdish militants as well as wars in neighbouring Iraq and Syria. [Continue reading…]


German terrorism case highlights Europe’s security challenges

The New York Times reports: The warning came to the German security authorities in early September from “our best partners,” as they euphemistically refer to the American intelligence agencies: A terrorist assault might be in the works.

In the weeks that followed, the Germans identified a suspect, a refugee from Syria. They unearthed evidence that he had been casing a Berlin airport for an attack, and they recovered powerful explosives from his apartment, only to see him slip through their fingers. When they eventually captured him, the suspect promptly hanged himself in his jail cell.

The case was notable for its dramatic turns. But it also underscored two central challenges facing the Continent: getting a handle on the security risk related to the arrival of more than a million migrants last year, and addressing the continued reliance of European governments on intelligence from the United States to avert attacks.

Both issues have been plaguing Europe since the high-profile attacks in France and Belgium over the past two years. Governments have scrambled to counter the threat even as migrants, many with little or no documentation of their identity or country of origin, came over their borders in previously unheard-of numbers. The challenge has become more pressing in Germany in recent months after a spate of arrests and attacks, some linked to migrants.

“In a way, we have outsourced our counterterrorism to the United States,” said Guido Steinberg, a terrorism expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “The Germans are not ready to build up their intelligence capabilities for political reasons, so this will continue.” [Continue reading…]


Gary Younge: America’s deserving and undeserving dead children

It’s rare to hear an author say, “Researching and writing this book has made me want to scream.”  But perhaps it’s not surprising, given the topic of Gary Younge’s Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives — the daily, weekly, monthly, yearly death-by-gun of startling numbers of kids in this country — and the time he spent tracking down the stories of the young Americans who died on a single day in November 2013 in separate incidents nationwide.

After all, these days, the U.S. is a haven and a heaven for guns.  It’s hard to find another nation on the planet — except in places like Syria or Afghanistan where whole populations have been thrown into desperate internecine conflicts — in which guns are so readily available. Between 1968 and 2015, the number of guns in the U.S. essentially doubled to 300 million. Between 2010 and 2013 alone, American arms manufacturers doubled their production of weapons to almost 11 million a year.  And those guns have gotten more deadly as well.  Military-style assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns are now the weapons of choice for mass killers and “lone wolf” terrorists in this country.  In almost all cases those killers got their guns and ammo (often high-capacity magazines capable of holding 15 to 100 rounds) in perfectly legal fashion. And it’s getting easier to carry concealed weapons all the time. Missouri, for instance, recently passed a law that allows the carrying of such a weapon without either a permit or training of any sort.

Under the circumstances, no one should be surprised that kids die in remarkable numbers from guns for all kinds of reasons. Believe me, though, that makes it no less shocking when you read Younge’s unsettling and moving book. Long a journalist, columnist, and editor for the British Guardian stationed here in the U.S., today he offers us a look at the death toll from guns among our young and the way we Americans generally like to explain that toll to ourselves (or rather how we like to explain it away). Tom Engelhardt

An all-American slaughter
The youthful carnage of America’s gun culture
By Gary Younge

Every day, on average, seven kids and teens are shot dead in America. Election 2016 will undoubtedly prove consequential in many ways, but lowering that death count won’t be one of them. To grapple with fatalities on that scale — 2,500 dead children annually — a candidate would need a thoroughgoing plan for dealing with America’s gun culture that goes well beyond background checks. In addition, he or she would need to engage with the inequality, segregation, poverty, and lack of mental health resources that add up to the environment in which this level of violence becomes possible.  Think of it as the huge pile of dry tinder for which the easy availability of firearms is the combustible spark. In America in 2016, to advocate for anything like the kind of policies that might engage with such issues would instantly render a candidacy implausible, if not inconceivable — not least with the wealthy folks who now fund elections.

So the kids keep dying and, in the absence of any serious political or legislative attempt to tackle the causes of their deaths, the media and the political class move on to excuses. From claims of bad parenting to lack of personal responsibility, they regularly shift the blame from the societal to the individual level. Only one organized group at present takes the blame for such deaths.  The problem, it is suggested, isn’t American culture, but gang culture.

Researching my new book, Another Day in the Death of America, about all the children and teens shot dead on a single random Saturday in 2013, it became clear how often the presence of gangs in neighborhoods where so many of these kids die is used as a way to dismiss serious thinking about why this is happening. If a shooting can be described as “gang related,” then it can also be discounted as part of the “pathology” of urban life, particularly for people of color. In reality, the main cause, pathologically speaking, is a legislative system that refuses to control the distribution of firearms, making America the only country in the world in which such a book would have been possible.

[Read more…]


Clinton’s careful courtship of Muslim voters

The Atlantic reports from Alexandria, Virginia: This Democratic headquarters one warm October night could have been practically anywhere in the country. Volunteers crammed into a dingy, decrepit office suite, complete with fake wood paneling from the era when Hillary Clinton still wore bell-bottoms, filling up every space—crouched over rickety tables or into corners, reciting a script as they called worked through long lists of voters, checking to see if people were supporting Hillary Clinton and whether they’d be willing to volunteer.

The only clue that this was an unusual event was sartorial: Several women wore headscarves, and a man sported a stylish kaffiyeh. The phone bank is one of dozens of Muslims for Hillary events that the Clinton campaign has arranged this year, part of what the campaign contends is an unprecedented effort to court a small but growing population.

On Friday, the Clinton campaign released an ad featuring Khizr Khan, the father of U.S. soldier Humayun Khan, who was slain fighting in Iraq. The ad, set to air in seven battleground states, is notable for its direct invocation of Islam. Telling the story of his son’s death saving comrades, Khan says, “He was 27 years old, and he was a Muslim American. I want to ask Mr. Trump, would my son have a place in your America?”


Such an ad would have been unthinkable as recently as four years ago, as Barack Obama grappled with false rumors that he was a secret Muslim. It’s surprising even now, amid a national campaign that has seen direct demonization of Muslims. But Donald Trump’s decision to demonize Islam has created what the Clinton team sees as an opening, leading the Democrat to court Muslim votes more boldly and methodically than any predecessor. [Continue reading…]


Iran is enjoying the U.S. presidential election

Robin Wright writes: The first season of “House of Cards,” the Netflix series about the demonic American politician Frank Underwood and his duplicitous wife, Claire, recently made its début on Iranian television, just in time for the finale of the American elections. The show has been dubbed in Farsi — as “Khaneh Poushaly,” or “House of Straw” — by a state-run television channel. It ran every night for two weeks. The timing seemed deliberate, and authorized from the top: the Islamic Republic vigorously censors most American programs, and the director of Iran’s broadcasting authority, I.R.I.B., is appointed by the Supreme Leader.

Among hard-liners, the response to the series has been gleeful. It fits their profile of the United States as the Great Satan. Mashregh, a Web site linked to the Revolutionary Guards, commented, “House of Cards has skillfully shown the deception in the complicated political sphere of liberal American civilization, as well as the treason, power-hungriness, promiscuities and crimes behind those ruling in the country.”

Iran’s media has generally been obsessed with the upcoming American contest, even more than with the country’s own Presidential election, scheduled for next May. Mashregh has an entire page devoted to it. For the first time, Iranian television broadcast an American Presidential debate live, in simultaneous translation — the October 9th encounter, in which Donald Trump denied sexually assaulting women and threatened to put Hillary Clinton in prison if he is elected. [Continue reading…]


Iranian human rights activist given six years in prison for hand-written unpublished story

IranWire reports: On Tuesday, October 4, writer and human rights activist Golrokh Ebrahimi received a strange phone call ordering her to present herself at Evin Prison by noon on Wednesday evening to start serving her prison sentence. By law, authorities much convey such an order by way of a written summons. But that was not the only unusual thing about the call.

“The arresting officer used the phone of Navid Kamran, a codefendant of mine,” Ebrahimi told IranWire hours before presenting herself at Evin. “They had gone to his shop to arrest him and used his phone. When I answered the call, the man who introduced himself as an agent of the Centre for the Implementation of Sentences said that I must present myself to serve the sentence. I said that I had received no official summons or a call from Evin Court. ‘You are using my friend’s phone to call me and it might be a joke,’ I said. ‘I don’t know you and I have no idea who is talking to me.’ He answered back that ‘you might think this is a joke but we are here to arrest your friend and you must present yourself at Evin’s court right away.’ I said that I could not get there by the end of business hours but perhaps I could do it the next day. He said that I would be arrested if I did not present myself by the next day.”

Ebrahimi’s ordeal began when the Revolutionary Guards arrested her along with her husband, Arash Sadeghi, at his workplace in Tehran on September 6, 2014. The Guards had no arrest warrant, but took the couple to their home, ransacked the place, and confiscated their computers, CDs, and notes. Among the confiscated items was a story about the punishment, under Islamic law, of death by stoning. According to a report from Amnesty International, “The story describes the emotional reaction of a young woman who watches the film, The Stoning of Soraya M, which tells the true story of a young woman stoned to death for adultery — and becomes so enraged that she burns a copy of the Quran.” [Continue reading…]


Donald Trump’s threat to reject election results alarms scholars

Max Fisher writes: Donald J. Trump’s suggestions that he might reject the results of the American election as illegitimate have unnerved scholars on democratic decline, who say his language echoes that of dictators who seize power by force and firebrand populists who weaken democracy for personal gain.

“To a political scientist who studies authoritarianism, it’s a shock,” said Steven Levitsky, a professor at Harvard. “This is the stuff that we see in Russia and Venezuela and Azerbaijan and Malawi and Bangladesh, and that we don’t see in stable democracies anywhere.”

Throughout October, Mr. Trump has claimed, without evidence, that the vote will be “rigged” and “taken away from us.” At the final presidential debate, he refused to say he would accept the election’s outcome, and later joked at a rally that he would accept the results “if I win.”

In weak democracies around the world, scholars warned Friday, political leaders have used the same language to erode popular faith in democracy — often intending to incite violence that will serve their political aims, and sometimes to undo democracy entirely.

The United States is not at risk of such worst-case scenarios. American democratic norms and institutions are too strong for any one politician to destabilize. But Mr. Trump’s language, the scholars say, follows a similar playbook and could pose real, if less extreme, risks. [Continue reading…]


Trump Organization is using horribly insecure email servers

Zack Whittaker reports: If you thought Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server was a mess, Donald Trump’s company is running email servers that look like a dumpster fire by comparison.

Security researcher Kevin Beaumont said in a tweet on Monday that the Trump Organization, the parent company of the alleged billionaire’s portfolio of realty, steaks, golf, and hotels, is running a set of email servers that are horribly outdated and long past the end-of-life, meaning they haven’t received security patches in over a year.

Beaumont said he found that the company’s email system is running the decade-old Windows Server 2003 and Internet Information Servers 6, both of which haven’t been supported in over a year.

Both sets of software are so old that Microsoft no longer patches even known security vulnerabilities. Instead, users should upgrade. Patches remain as one of the best ways for preventing hackers from exploiting security flaws.

A spokesperson for Trump, now the Republican presidential candidate, could not be reached on Tuesday. [Continue reading…]


Trump vs. Reagan vs. Bush


The cult of the expert — and how it collapsed

Sebastian Mallaby writes: On Tuesday 16 September 2008, early in the afternoon, a self-effacing professor with a neatly clipped beard sat with the president in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Flanked by a square-shouldered banker who had recently run Goldman Sachs, the professor was there to tell the elected leader of the world’s most powerful country how to rescue its economy. Following the bankruptcy of one of the nation’s storied investment banks, a global insurance company was now on the brink, but drawing on a lifetime of scholarly research, the professor had resolved to commit $85bn of public funds to stabilising it.

The sum involved was extraordinary: $85bn was more than the US Congress spent annually on transportation, and nearly three times as much as it spent on fighting Aids, a particular priority of the president’s. But the professor encountered no resistance. “Sometimes you have to make the tough decisions,” the president reflected. “If you think this has to be done, you have my blessing.”

Later that same afternoon, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, the bearded hero of this tale, showed up on Capitol Hill, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. At the White House, he had at least been on familiar ground: he had spent eight months working there. But now Bernanke appeared in the Senate majority leader’s conference room, where he and his ex-Wall Street comrade, Treasury secretary Hank Paulson, would meet the senior leaders of both chambers of Congress. A quiet, balding, unassuming technocrat confronted the lions of the legislative branch, armed with nothing but his expertise in monetary plumbing.

Bernanke repeated his plan to commit $85bn of public money to the takeover of an insurance company.

“Do you have 85bn?” one sceptical lawmaker demanded.

“I have 800bn,” Bernanke replied evenly – a central bank could conjure as much money as it deemed necessary.

But did the Federal Reserve have the legal right to take this sort of action unilaterally, another lawmaker inquired?

Yes, Bernanke answered: as Fed chairman, he wielded the largest chequebook in the world – and the only counter-signatures required would come from other Fed experts, who were no more elected or accountable than he was. Somehow America’s famous apparatus of democratic checks and balances did not apply to the monetary priesthood. Their authority derived from technocratic virtuosity. [Continue reading…]