A short history of ‘dotard,’ the arcane insult Kim Jong Un used in his threat against Trump

Rachel Chason and J. Freedom du Lac report: In the latest war of words between the United States and North Korea, Kim Jong Un did not pull any punches.

But he may have pulled out an old dictionary.

“I will surely and definitely tame the deranged U.S. dotard with fire,” Kim declared in an unusually direct and angry statement published Thursday by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency.

The North Korean leader’s warning about “fire,” which echoed President Trump’s August statement threatening “fire and fury,” was par for the course in the increasingly tense relationship. On Thursday, Trump announced new financial sanctions to further isolate the country as its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities rapidly escalate.

But Kim’s use of “dotard” was what raised eyebrows, prompting people around the world to Google the old-time insult.

Merriam-Webster defines the noun as “a person in his or her dotage,” which is “a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness.”

Urban dictionary, meanwhile, defines dotage as “a female’s adams apple.”

The word trended on Twitter, and searches for the term were “high as a kite” following the release of Kim’s statement, Merriam-Webster noted. [Continue reading…]

Journalists might react to Kim’s use of dotard by thinking, how quaint, but given the infrequent usage of the term, this may well be an indication that North Korea’s social media strategists are quite sophisticated. What better way of amplifying social media activity than by using a rarely used phrase that through searches, tweets, and posts has thereby now become firmly anchored to Trump.

Trump, on the other hand, has had the dubious success of loosely creating a link between Kim Jong Un and Elton John which will probably have no adverse consequences for either of them.

Facebooktwittermail

Trump imposes new sanctions on North Korea, Kim says will ‘tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire’

The Washington Post reports: President Trump on Thursday announced new financial sanctions targeting North Korea as his administration seeks to build international support for more aggressively confronting the rogue nation, whose escalating nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities have reached what U.S. officials consider a crisis point.

The new penalties seek to leverage the dominance of the U.S. financial system by forcing nations, foreign companies and individuals to choose whether to do business with the United States or the comparatively tiny economy of North Korea. U.S. officials acknowledged that like other sanctions, these may not deter North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s drive to threaten the United States with a nuclear weapon, but is aimed at slowing him down.

Kim on Thursday reacted angrily to Trump’s remarks and actions this week, calling the president a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and Trump’s earlier speech at the U.N. “unprecedented rude nonsense.” Kim said that he was now thinking hard about how to respond. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Facebook to turn over thousands of Russian ads to Congress, reversing decision

The Washington Post reports: Facebook on Thursday announced it would turn over to Congress copies of more than 3,000 politically themed advertisements bought through Russian accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, reversing a decision that had frustrated lawmakers.

The company has been struggling for months to address the steadily mounting evidence that Russians manipulated the social media platform in their bid to tip the presidential election in favor of Republican Donald Trump.

Democratic lawmakers in recent days had demanded that Facebook be more open about what it knows and to dig more deeply into its troves of data to analyze the propaganda effort, which the company has acknowledged involved at least 470 fake accounts and pages created by a shadowy Russian company that spent more than $100,000 targeting U.S. voters. Lawmakers particularly wanted copies of the ads bought through the fake accounts, some of which Facebook officials showed to Hill investigators and then took away, making further study impossible. The company said sharing the ads would compromise users’ privacy. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

How a Russian outlet sought to reach American voters on Twitter

Foreign Policy reports: Before Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had even wrapped up their respective bids to secure the nomination for president, Kremlin-funded media outlet RT was plotting to promote its election coverage in the United States, Foreign Policy has learned.

RT hoped to take over at least two Twitter accounts or handles for its media coverage: @NotHillary and @NotTrump. Their goal, RT told Twitter’s advertising department, was to use the accounts to push their 2016 election coverage, but neither handle or username has any identifying information tracing the owner back to the Russian government-funded media organization.

Twitter denied the request. The company declined to comment on the record on the specific accounts “for privacy and security reasons.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

U.S. monitored Manafort after he left Trump campaign

The Wall Street Journal reports: U.S. authorities placed Paul Manafort under surveillance after he was ousted as Donald Trump’s campaign manager in the summer of 2016, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter.

The surveillance, which was part of a counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference with the presidential election, didn’t involve listening to Mr. Manafort’s phone communications in real-time, the officials said.

But armed with a warrant, investigators still could have conducted clandestine surveillance of Mr. Manafort, possibly by obtaining copies of his emails and other electronically stored communications, or by having agents follow him or conduct physical searches of his property.

The surveillance began after Mr. Manafort left the Trump campaign in August, but it is not clear when it was suspended. Mr. Manafort resigned after a spate of publicity about his consulting work in Ukraine on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

‘How do we use [this] to get whole?’: The most intriguing new Paul Manafort-Russia email

Aaron Blake writes: The trouble Paul Manafort is in is still coming into focus. The latest development: emails he sent to a Ukraine-based employee of his consulting business talking about setting up a briefing with a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin.

The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Adam Entous just broke that big story, and it comes on the heels of a New York Times report this week that investigators have told Manafort they plan to indict him — apparently in hopes of getting him to flip on President Trump.

For me, though, the most intriguing email in The Post’s report is this one:

In one April exchange days after Trump named Manafort as a campaign strategist, Manafort referred to his positive press and growing reputation and asked, “How do we use to get whole?”

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said Wednesday that the email exchanges reflected an “innocuous” effort to collect past debts.

“It’s no secret Mr. Manafort was owed money by past clients,” Maloni said.

We can argue over what’s innocuous and what’s not, but that seems to be an acknowledgment from his own spokesman that Manafort was discussing how he could leverage his status as a leading strategist on an American presidential campaign to chase down debts he was owed — i.e. to enrich himself financially. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Mueller wants lots of White House documents. Trump may be forced to comply

Cristian Farias writes: Just days before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, a federal court in Washington quietly expanded the powers of Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel investigating the long-running Whitewater controversy. Thanks to that court order, the prosecutor could now look into whether Lewinsky and others “violated federal law” in connection with an unrelated civil lawsuit by Paula Jones against President Bill Clinton. And that meant Starr even had the authority to subpoena White House lawyers who may know about potential crimes implicating the president and his office.

That bit of ancient ’90s history is suddenly relevant. Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating potential criminal activity arising from Russia’s interference in the presidential election, may rely on legal precedent from that era and beyond to get the White House to cooperate with the probe. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Mueller has requested a detailed list of documents related to 13 areas of interest to his inquiry. They include some of Trump’s more troubling moments while in office, such as the firing of James Comey in May. Or the time Trump told Russian officials visiting the Oval Office that getting rid of the FBI director, whom he had relieved a day earlier, took “great pressure” off the administration. Or the circumstances surrounding the firing of Michael Flynn, who remained in his post as Trump’s first national security adviser, despite warnings from Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, that he may be compromised by the Russians.

Ty Cobb, the attorney leading the White House response to Mueller, has already indicated that he wants to play nice with the special counsel and turn over as many documents as possible. But of all places, he seems to be facing resistance from within: Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, was described by Cobb — within earshot of a reporter — as someone who is “very conservative” with the production of documents, some of which he appears to keep “locked in a safe,” according to a Times report earlier this week. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Who’s the world’s leading eco-vandal? It’s Angela Merkel

George Monbiot writes: Which living person has done most to destroy the natural world and the future wellbeing of humanity? Donald Trump will soon be the correct answer, when the full force of his havoc has been felt. But for now I would place another name in the frame: Angela Merkel.

What? Have I lost my mind? Angela Merkel, the “climate chancellor”? The person who, as German environment minister, brokered the first UN climate agreement, through sheer force of will? The chancellor who persuaded the G7 leaders to promise to phase out fossil fuels by the end of this century? The architect of Germany’s Energiewende – its famous energy transition? Yes, the very same.

Unlike Trump, she has no malicious intent. She did not set out to destroy the agreements she helped to create. But the Earth’s systems do not respond to mission statements or speeches or targets. They respond to hard fact. What counts, and should be judged, as she seeks a fourth term as German chancellor in the elections on Sunday, is what is done, not what is said. On this metric, her performance has been a planetary disaster.

Merkel has a fatal weakness: a weakness for the lobbying power of German industry. Whenever a crucial issue needs to be resolved, she weighs her ethics against political advantage, and chooses the advantage. This, in large part, is why Europe now chokes in a fug of diesel fumes.

The EU decision to replace petrol engines with diesel, though driven by German car manufacturers, predates her premiership. It was a classic European fudge, a means of averting systemic change while creating an impression of action, based on the claim (which now turns out to be false) that diesel engines produce less carbon dioxide than petrol. But once she became chancellor, Merkel used every conceivable tactic, fair and foul, to preserve this deadly cop-out. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Twin earthquakes expose Mexico’s deep inequality

By Luis Gómez Romero, University of Wollongong

Early in the morning on Sept. 16, 1810, priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the bell of his church in the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato, Mexico. His parishioners gathered round, and he urged them to revolt against Spain’s two-year-old Napoleonic government.

Hidalgo’s call to arms, which later became known later as the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores), triggered the Mexican War of Independence. Every September 15, the president of Mexico takes to the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City to reenact it.

This year, just a week before Independence Day, a historic earthquake struck Mexico’s southern coast, killing nearly 100 people. So President Enrique Peña Nieto added a poignant element to his Grito by including in the incantation a reference to the impoverished states that were most devastated by the quake, crying “Long live the solidarity of Mexicans with Chiapas and Oaxaca!”

This year, the president’s ‘Cry of Pain’ included Oaxaca and Chiapas.

It was a nice twist on tradition, but these two states will need more than expressions of solidarity to recover. The 8.2 magnitude quake is the strongest Mexico has experienced in 100 years, surpassing even the Sept. 19, 1985 earthquake that killed up to 40,000 people in and around Mexico City, according to the highest estimates.

It was also significantly more powerful than the recent 7.1 magnitude earthquake that killed upwards of 200 people in and around Mexico’s capital on September 19.

[Read more…]

Facebooktwittermail

5 things to know about the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan

Morgan L. Kaplan and Ramzy Mardini write: On Sept. 25, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is expected to hold its long-awaited referendum on independence. While it has generated much nationalist excitement among Kurds in the KRI capital of Irbil and abroad, the central government in Baghdad and the international community have objected to the vote. The United States has mobilized diplomatic capital to persuade Irbil to postpone the vote. Last week, Western diplomats offered an alternative proposal: Postpone the vote and enter into new mediated negotiations with Baghdad. But without ironclad guarantees or a specified timetable, Irbil has rejected those initiatives, continuing to prepare for the referendum.

The referendum was never meant to be a silver bullet, ending negotiations on Kurds’ path to statehood. But recent escalations by all sides have produced a self-fulfilling crisis with the prospect of military conflict, fueled by both Arab and Kurdish nationalism.

Here are five things you need to know: [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Lewandowski: Manafort should go to jail for the rest of his life if he colluded

The Hill reports: President Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said this week that, if anyone on Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election, they should “go to jail for the rest of their lives.”

“I think if anybody, and I’ve said this, if Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, or Rick Gates or Carter Page, or anybody else attempted to influence the outcome of the U.S. election through any means that’s inappropriate – through collusion, coordination or cooperation – I hope they go to jail for the rest of their lives,” Lewandowski said at George Washington University on Tuesday, according to the Washington Examiner.

“It’s very simple. Our election process is too serious, our democracy is too important to allow people to try and try and have influence from the outside for their own gain,” he added.

Lewandowski’s comments came after CNN reported Tuesday that investigators had wiretapped Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, before and after the 2016 election. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Manafort used Trump campaign account to email Ukrainian operative

Politico reports: Former Donald Trump aide Paul Manafort used his presidential campaign email account to correspond with a Ukrainian political operative with suspected Russian ties, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

Manafort sent emails to seek repayment for previous work he did in Ukraine and to discuss potential new opportunities in the country, even as he chaired Trump’s presidential campaign, these people said.

Manafort had been a longtime consultant for Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president until 2014, and his Party of Regions. During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Ukrainian investigators said they had discovered evidence that Manafort received millions of dollars in off-the-books payments for his work there.

In the emails to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort protégé who has previously been reported to have suspected ties to Russian intelligence, the longtime GOP operative made clear his significant sway in Trump’s campaign, one of the people familiar with the communications said. He and Kilimnik also met in the United States while Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, which he chaired until an August 2016 shake-up. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

In the Caribbean, colonialism and inequality mean hurricanes hit harder

File 20170919 32019 q2k6rl
A satellite image of Hurricane Irma spiraling through the Caribbean.
NOAA/AP

By Levi Gahman, The University of the West Indies: St. Augustine Campus and Gabrielle Thongs, The University of the West Indies: St. Augustine Campus

Hurricane Maria, the 15th tropical depression this season, is now battering the Caribbean, just two weeks after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in the region.

The devastation in Dominica is “mind-boggling,” wrote the country’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, on Facebook just after midnight on September 19. The next day, in Puerto Rico, NPR reported via member station WRTU in San Juan that “Most of the island is without power…or water.”

Among the Caribbean islands impacted by both deadly storms are Puerto Rico, St Kitts, Tortola and Barbuda.

In this region, disaster damages are frequently amplified by needlessly protracted and incomplete recoveries. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan rolled roughshod through the Caribbean with wind speeds of 160 mph. The region’s economy took more than three years to recover. Grenada’s surplus of US$17 million became a deficit of $54 million, thanks to decreased revenue and the outlays for rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Nor were the effects of a 7 magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010 limited to killing some 150,000 people. United Nations peacekeepers sent in to help left the country grappling, to this day, with a fatal cholera outbreak.

A tent city in post-earthquake Haiti.
Fred W. Baker III/Wikimedia Commons

These are not isolated instances of random bad luck. As University of the West Indies geographers who study risk perception and political ecology, we recognize the deep, human-induced roots of climate change, inequality and the underdevelopment of former colonies – all of which increase the Caribbean’s vulnerability to disaster.

[Read more…]

Facebooktwittermail

The White House’s preposterous policy analysis on refugees

In an editorial, the Washington Post says: A quirky thing about government programs is that, in addition to costs, there are benefits, the latter of which may also include revenue. Yet in the case of U.S. refugee programs, xenophobes seeking an upper hand in the Trump administration have covered up half the ledger.

A report ordered up by President Trump in March, and produced by officials in July, concluded that refugees had delivered $63 billion more in federal, state and local tax revenue than they had cost in federal benefits through the decade ending in 2014. According to the New York Times, however, the administration sent the report back for a redo, insisting that any mention of revenue be dropped. The Department of Health and Human Services obliged in a final, three-page report this month, which concluded that per-person departmental program costs for refugees were $3,300, compared with a per-person cost of $2,500 for the U.S. population as a whole.

That’s not exactly a shocker. Refugees, by definition legal immigrants, tend to be poor or penniless. As the report from Health and Human Services says, they naturally draw more heavily on the department’s programs, particularly in their first four years of residency. The fact that they pay more in taxes than they draw in benefits cuts against the administration’s spin and, according to the Times, was suppressed by Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s nativist senior policy adviser.

Mr. Miller is leading the charge to slash the number of refugees admitted in the fiscal year starting in October, below even the cap of 50,000 that Mr. Trump imposed this year — itself the lowest number in more than 30 years. (Before leaving office, President Barack Obama had set this year’s target at 110,000.) In addition to his general dislike of immigration, Mr. Miller sees refugees in particular as a terrorist threat and a fiscal burden. The fact that there’s extremely little historical evidence of the former, and that the latter is demonstrably false, doesn’t interest him — or Mr. Trump, who on Tuesday told the U.N. General Assembly that it would be much cheaper for Washington to send money for refugees rather than resettle them in the United States. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire ‘private briefings’ on 2016 campaign

The Washington Post reports: Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Iranian president aptly describes Trump as a ‘rogue newcomer’ to world politics

The Washington Post reports: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blasted President Trump on Wednesday for his “ignorant, absurd and hateful” speech before the United Nations a day earlier and vowed Iran would not be the first to walk away from the historic 2015 nuclear deal.

Rouhani, during a 23-minute address at the U.N. General Assembly, never mentioned Trump by name. Instead he referred to him obliquely, at one point saying it would be a pity if the nuclear deal were undone by “rogue newcomers to the world of politics.”

Rouhani denied that Iran had ever sought to obtain nuclear weapons and said the ballistic missiles it has been testing would be used only for defensive purposes.

“Iran does not seek to restore its ancient empire, impose its official religion on others or export its revolution through the force of arms,” he said. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Russians appear to use Facebook to push Trump rallies in 17 U.S. cities

The Daily Beast reports: Suspected Russia propagandists on Facebook tried to organize more than a dozen pro-Trump rallies in Florida during last year’s election, The Daily Beast has learned.

The demonstrations—at least one of which was promoted online by local pro-Trump activists— brought dozens of supporters together in real life. They appear to be the first case of Russian provocateurs successfully mobilizing Americans over Facebook in direct support of Donald Trump.

The Aug. 20, 2016, events were collectively called “Florida Goes Trump!” and they were billed as a “patriotic state-wide flash mob,” unfolding simultaneously in 17 different cities and towns in the battleground state. It’s difficult to determine how many of those locations actually witnessed any turnout, in part because Facebook’s recent deletion of hundreds of Russian accounts hid much of the evidence. But videos and photos from two of the locations—Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs—were reposted to a Facebook page run by the local Trump campaign chair, where they remain to this day. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Special counsel’s office has interviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has authority over probe

The Washington Post reports: Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office has interviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein as part of its probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election — a conversation that put investigators in the unusual position of obtaining the account of a man who has authority over their work, according to people familiar with the matter.

The interview was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said that it took place in June or July and that it was about President Trump’s removal of James B. Comey as FBI director. Special counsel investigators have been probing whether the president might have attempted to obstruct justice leading up to Comey’s firing.

Precisely what investigators have asked Rosenstein, or how key a figure he is in the probe, remains unclear. Rosenstein undeniably played a role in Comey’s firing — authoring a memo highly critical of the FBI director, which the White House used initially to justify the firing.

Rosenstein told the Associated Press in June that if his conduct were to become germane to the probe, he would step aside.

“I’ve talked with Director Mueller about this,” Rosenstein told AP. “He’s going to make the appropriate decisions, and if anything that I did winds up being relevant to his investigation then, as Director Mueller and I discussed, if there’s a need from me to recuse, I will.”

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment Tuesday night. Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said: “As the deputy attorney general has said numerous times, if there comes a time when he needs to recuse, he will. However, nothing has changed.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Seb Gorka joins pro-Trump group founded by Pizzagate truthers and a Seth Rich conspiracy theorist

The Daily Beast reports: Seb Gorka may have left the Trump White House. But he’s still working for a conspiracy theorist.

The controversial former White House adviser has officially signed on with a new pro-Trump super PAC founded and run by people who have promoted conspiracy theories about the 2016 murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich and outlandish falsehoods regarding a Democratic Party child-rape ring known in the right-wing fever swamps as “Pizzagate.”

In joining the group, dubbed the MAGA Coalition, Gorka has dramatically elevated its profile. But that hasn’t led its members to stop dabbling in urban myths and legends. Reached for comment on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the MAGA Coalition defended its leaders’ efforts to “raise questions” about both human trafficking rings run out of D.C. pizza shops and a murder they deemed mysterious even as police insist it was the result of a botched robbery.

The MAGA Coalition was created to promote Trump’s agenda and “compete against globalist corporatist interests,” according to the group. It is headed by Adam Gingrich—no relation to Newt—who worked on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Pennsylvania. Gorka joined the group as a “senior adviser,” Axios reported on Tuesday, not long after his unceremonious ouster from the Trump White House last month. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail