"From the point of view of U.S. power, (Trump) is harming it, but from the point of view of U.S. elites, he's giving them everything they want," Chomsky said, describing the current administration as a "two-level wrecking ball."
The political activist and cognitive scientist went on to describe the incumbent U.S. president as a "con man."
"Everyday there's one insane thing after the other... and while this show is going on in public, in the background, the wrecking crew is working.
"What they're doing is systematically dismantling every aspect of government that works for the benefit of the population. This goes from workers' rights to pollution of the environment, rules for protecting consumers, anything you can think of is being dismantled."
Chomsky reasoned that the ultra-wealthy, Wall Street and the constituents of those in power couldn't be more pleased with efforts made to increase their fortunes.
"That's why the stock market goes up: the stock market has not much to do with the economy, but it keeps booming because that's the rich people."
Chomsky pointed out that the decline of the United States, a trend tacitly expressed whenever Trump vows to "make America great again," began not recently but back in 1949 when China became independent.
The loss of China was followed, Chomsky said, by "McCarthyism, repression and the destruction of unions." It continued under President John F. Kennedy when he was weighing whether to escalate in Vietnam and said: "I don't want to be responsible for the loss of Indochina."
The decline of the U.S. empire further accelerated when Europe and other industrial societies reconstructed in the wake of World War II: "decolonization took place" and the empire has yet to recover, Chomsky said.
Russia has reminded the US that its presence in Syria is illegal after the coalition struck pro-government militias. Washington however reserved the right for “defensive” attacks to achieve peace “from a position of strength.”
The US presence in Syria is “actually illegal,” the Russian Ambassador to the UN reminded his Western counterparts on Thursday at a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council. “Nobody invited them there,” Vasily Nebenzya stated, emphasizing that a hard fought for stability in Syria is being jeopardized by US actions.
On Wednesday, the US-led coalition said it carried out several “defensive” airstrikes on Syrian forces in Deir Ez-Zor province in retaliation for what they described as an “unprovoked” attack on the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and foreign military “advisers.”
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Syrian militia unit was advancing against a “sleeper cell” of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists near the former oil processing plant of al-Isba, when it suddenly came under massive air strikes. At least 25 militiamen were injured in the attack, the Russian MoD noted, clarifying that pro-government troops targeted by the coalition did not coordinate their operation with the Russian command.
The US, however, maintains that the militia attacked the SDF. The Pentagon said Syrian forces moved “in a battalion-sized unit formation, supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars.” The battle which lasted over three hours, the US claims, began after 30 artillery tank rounds landed within 500 meters of the SDF unit’s location.
“At the start of the unprovoked attack on Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition advisers, coalition aircraft, including F-22A Raptors and MQ-9B Reapers, were overhead providing protective overwatch, defensive counter air and [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] support as they have 24/7 throughout the fight to defeat ISIS,” Air Forces Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told Military.com.
“Following a call for support from Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, a variety of joint aircraft and ground-based artillery responded in defense of our SDF partners, including F-15E Strike Eagles,” he said in a statement Thursday. “These aircraft released multiple precision-fire munitions and conducted strafing runs against the advancing aggressor force, stopping their advance and destroying multiple artillery pieces and tanks.”
Damascus called the attack a “war crime,” while the Russian military asserted that Washington’s true goal is to capture “economic assets” in Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova affirmed that the US military presence in Syria poses a dangerous threat to the political process and territorial integrity of the country, while Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the strike another violation of Syria’s sovereignty by the US.
The US, however, remained unmoved, promising to continue to support the US-allied forces in Syria at any cost. “We continue to support SDF with respect to defeating ISIS... ISIS is still there, and our mission is still to defeat ISIS,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Thursday. “We will continue to support them. Our goal is to ensure that our diplomats can negotiate from a position of strength, with respect to the Geneva process.”
“They [US] constantly assert that they are fighting international terrorism there, but we see that they go beyond this framework,” Nebenzya told the UNSC. He warned the US-led coalition members that it is “criminal” to engage the only forces “who actually fight” international terrorism in Syria.
ICE carried out more than 140,000 arrests that year after Trump authorized federal agents to target all immigrants regardless of criminal record.
Arrests of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. rose by 30 percent in 2017 compared to a year earlier under the administration of Donald Trump who has expanded the authority of immigration agents and ramped up anti-immigration policies in the United States, an analysis by the Pew Research Center showed Thursday.
Data from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, shows that it made 143,470 arrests over the course of 2017 and that the biggest percentage increases of arrests were in Florida, northern Texas and Oklahoma.
Meanwhile from Jan. 20, when Trump was inaugurated, to the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 ICE made 110,568 arrests, 42 percent more than over the same time period in 2016, according to the research center.
“Recent immigration arrest patterns demonstrate a growing emphasis by federal authorities on interior enforcement efforts,” the center said meaning that ICE federal agents are targeting undocumented immigrants who live in cities around the U.S. rather than those around border areas with Mexico or Canada.
The rise in arrests stems from a Trump executive order signed shortly after he came to office expanding ICE enforcement to include all undocumented immigrants instead of the limits that had been placed on the agency by his predecessor Barack Obama to focus on those who committed serious crimes.
However, the research center points out that the number of arrests made in 2017 is far less than those made in Obama’s first year in office. ICE arrested almost 300,000 undocumented immigrants in 2009, which had prompted pro-immigration activists to call Obama “deporter-in-chief”.
Also the 2017 record of arrests is only the highest over the past three years, meaning that arrests during Obama’s presidency were still higher the first few years of his eight-year tenure before declining towards the end of his presidency.
Official data shows that between 2009 and 2015 his administration deported more than 2.5 million people through immigration orders.
However, Trump might manage to beat Obama’s record as he has signed several orders in recent months that could see the the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and other countries.
Some of the ICE arrests in recent months generated large backlash in the U.S. as they targeted immigration activists and immigrants who have been living in the country for decades with families and jobs and had not committed any crimes.
Jorge Garcia made international headlines last month when pictures of him hugging his family at the airport as he was being deported by ICE agents despite having lived in the U.S. for 30 years, paying taxes and having children in the country with no criminal record. The 39-year-old came to the U.S. when he was 10-years-old from Mexico and had sought legal status for years without luck.
Also last month, Jean Montrevil, Haitian immigrant rights activist and co-founder of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, was deported back to his country less than two weeks after he was arrested by ICE, agents, despite having lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years and having no criminal record.
World safety requires more disarmament initiatives, not more nukes, says German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, accusing the new US Nuclear Posture Review of endangering Europe.
“The decision by the US government in favor of new tactical nuclear weapons shows that the spiral of a new nuclear arms race is already under way,” Gabriel said in a statement, noting that “like the Cold War times, we in Europe are in particular danger.”
The newly-released US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) refers to Russia’s nuclear modernization as one of the reasons to renovate and upgrade the US nuclear arsenals making them more mobile by developing new, low-yield nuclear weapons.
Gabriel also put part of the blame for the deterioration of international security on Moscow, mentioning its 2014 reunification with Crimea and a “dramatic loss of confidence” in Russia as a result. The instability in the countries along Europe’s southern borders is another challenge to the global order, which “is increasingly being called into question,” Gabriel said.
But building more nukes is not the answer, he added. Instead, they send the “wrong signal” and trigger a new upward spiral in the arms race.
“Instead of new weapon systems, we need new disarmament initiatives,” Gabriel said, noting that all existing arms control agreements should be “upheld unconditionally” in a concerted effort to create a world free of nuclear weapons.
While not having nuclear weapons of its own, Germany stores about 20 American B61-4 nuclear bombs which it keeps at the Luftwaffe’s Büchel Air Base in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany. The base hosts German Tornado aircraft that can carry the US bombs under a nuclear sharing deal. Starting from 2021, the aging bombs will be gradually replaced by a new variant of the B61, the B-12, which is expected to go into full-scale production in 2020. The new bombs are considered to be more accurate and are set to be stored at the same base which has been housing US nuclear weapons since 2007, despite vocal protests from the German opposition.
Germany’s criticism comes after the US nuclear doctrine was denounced by Russia, China and Iran, all named in the document as potential nuclear threats to the US.
On Sunday the Chinese Foreign Ministry branded the report that accuses it of a major nuclear-build up “presumptuous speculation” calling on Washington to drop its “Cold-War mentality.” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet that it violates international non-proliferation treaties and brings the world “closer to annihilation.”
Decrying the US nuclear ambitions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that “Americans are shamelessly threatening Russia with a new nuclear weapon.”
Commenting on the document, Moscow said that the accusations against Russia in the review “have nothing to do with reality,” dismissing Washington’s “aggressive Russia” notion as a straw man, and a pretext for pumping more money into its military industry.
A Russian Su-25 warplane was likely shot down by a heat-seeking missile, senior official Vladimir Shamanov said. As Syrian forces try to reach the crash site, Moscow has launched a probe into the origins of the fatal weapon.
The existing evidence clearly indicates that the Russian Su-25 plane, shot down over Syria on Saturday, was hit by a heat-seeking missile, the head of the Russian lower house Defense Committee and former chief of airborne troops said. The exact type of man-portable air-defense (MANPAD) system used, however, could be only determined upon examining the remains of the plane, which crashed in a militant-controlled area.
“It’s impossible to determine which MANPAD it was until the crash site is secured – an old ‘Strela’, a newer ‘Igla’, or an American ‘Stinger’,” Shamanov told reporters on Monday. “It’s only clear, looking at the trajectory of the plane’s fall, that its right engine was burning. It means that a heat-seeking missile hit the engine.”
The Syrian military has been trying to reach the crash site, according to Shamanov.
“Syrian special forces are trying to get there for the third day straight. Regular Syrian troops are also conducting their operation in the area,” the official said. Russia, meanwhile, has launched its own investigation into the incident.
The Su-25 was downed over a territory in Syria’s Idlib governorate, controlled by the terrorist group Tahrir al-Sham, previously known as Al-Nusra Front, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. The pilot, Major Roman Filipov, managed to eject safely, but landed in the terrorist-controlled territory. The pilot engaged in a gun battle with the militants and detonated a grenade when surrounded.
In the Trump speech last night, there were no fewer than twelve such ‘gallery scenes’ to break up the mesmerizing stop-rise-clap-sit down nonsense.
Presidents’ State of the Union speeches used to report on accomplishments of the past year and proposals for new programs and policy changes for the next. Just as the country we once knew, those days are long gone.
In the 21st century, the format is mostly theatrical: The president offers a short sentence about how wonderful America is, cuts his sentence short, and waits for applause. The Congress rises and claps longer than the spoken sentence that brought them to their feet. This goes on every 15 seconds. Sometimes less. Up and down, up and down. Turn off the volume, and it’s similar to canned laughter in a TV situation comedy—with the visual effect of bouncing butts replacing the canned laughter. Except it’s all more tragic than it is comedic.
A stranger viewing for the first time must conclude that something anatomically must be wrong with their backsides. Up-down, up-down. But when the incessant pattern of ‘short phrase, rise and clap too long, sit down’ threatens to become too repetitive, a new theatrical effect is introduced. Now it’s the president introducing staged character actors in the gallery above the floor, each introduction providing an appeal to the tv audience’s emotions. In the Trump speech last night, there were no fewer than twelve such ‘gallery scenes’ to break up the mesmerizing stop-rise-clap-sit down nonsense.
First, there was ‘Ashley, the helicopter lady,’ then ‘Dolberg the firefighter,’ Congressman Scalise, whose only claim to fame was he got himself shot (definitely not on the level of the other ‘heroes’), followed. And how about the 12-year-old ‘Preston the flag boy,’ with whom Trump said he had a great conversation before the speech. (I’m sure it was of comparable intellect).
But clever by far was the next gallery event, the four parents whose kids were killed by MS13 gang members in Long Island, NY. All four were black, apparently to blunt the racist appeal by Trump injected into the scene, suggesting that all immigrants were gang members who came here as a result of ‘chained migration’ family policy. I guess MS13 gangsters never killed whites.
Not surprisingly, the next gallery scene was the ICE agent, a guy named Martinez who heroically smashed the MS13 gangsters. Of course, he too was Hispanic.
Both theatrical scenes dealing with ‘immigrant gangsters arriving by chained migration’ provided Trump a nice segway into describing his ‘4 pillars’ immigration bill, the only policy proposal he actually spelled out in his nearly hour and a half speech.
For a pathway to citizenship that would take 12 years for ‘Dreamer’ kids, Trump would have his $30 billion-plus border wall, a new immigration policy based on ‘merit’ (welcome Norwegians), as well as an end to family ‘chained migration policy’ (which somehow would also protect the nuclear family, according to Trump). The message: white folks’ nuclear families good; immigrant folks’ (especially Latino) extended families bad, was the suggested logic.
What it all added up to? If Democrats agreed to his pillars 2-4 right now, maybe there would be citizenship for Dreamers sometime by 2030! What a deal. But who knows, maybe the Democrats will take it, given that they retreated from their prior ‘line in the sand’ of pass DACA and dreamers or they’ll shut down the government.
The next theater event was no less interesting than the immigration scenes in the Trump play that was the presidential State of the Union address last night. In typical Trumpian worship of the police and military, Trump (the draft dodger) introduced an Albuquerque policeman in the gallery who had talked a pregnant woman on drugs from committing suicide. Seems the woman was desperate about bringing a kid into the world she’d be unable to afford to raise. The solution by the policeman was to offer to adopt her baby if she didn’t kill herself. It worked. The kid and mother were saved, and the policeman adopted the child. The policeman’s wife accompanied him in the gallery—with an infant in her arms of course. Not sure whose it was but no matter. Now that was double theater, a scene within a scene. Shakespeare would have been proud.
That impressive bit of theater, perhaps the high point of all the ‘gallery effects’ of the evening, was the intro to Trump’s solution to the Opioid crisis in America, where 60,000 a year now die from overdoses. In his speech, Trump’s solution to the opioid crisis was ‘let’s get tougher on drug dealers’. He failed to mention, of course, that the drug dealers in question most responsible for launching the opioid crisis were the prescription drug companies themselves who pushed their products like Fentanyl and Percoset on doctors a decade ago, telling them the drugs weren’t addictive.
As for the even larger prescription drug problem in American—i.e., the runaway cost of drugs that are killing unknown thousands of Americans who can’t afford them because of price gouging—Trump merely said “prices will come down substantially…just watch!” That solution echoed his press conference of several weeks ago when he publicly addressed the opioid crisis…but offered no solution specifics how. Watching Trump solve the opioid crisis will be slower than watching grass grow…in winter!
Trump’s speech was not all theater. Much of it was factual—except the facts were mostly misrepresentations and outright lies.
Like unemployment is at a record low. But not when part time, temp, contract and gig work is added to full time. More than 13 million are still officially jobless. The rate is still close to 10%. And that doesn’t count the 5-10 million workers who have dropped out of the labor force altogether since 2008, leading to record lows in labor force participate rates and employment to population ratios. That rate and ratio hasn’t changed under Trump.
Another lie was that wages are finally starting to rise. Whose wages? If you want to count average wages and salaries of the 30 million managers, supervisors, and self-employed, maybe so. But according to US Labor department data, real average hourly earnings for all non-farm workers in the US in 2017 rose by a whopping 4 cents!
Trump cited again his Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin’s, ridiculous figure that the average family income household would realize $4,000 a year in tax cuts. But no economist I know believes that absurd claim.
Perhaps the biggest facts manipulation occurred with Trump’s references to his recent tax cuts. He cited a list of so-called middle class tax cuts, leaving out wealthy individual tax cuts measures. Typical was his claim of doubling the standard deduction, worth $800 billion in tax cuts for the working poor below $24k a year in income. But he failed to mention the additional $2.1 trillion hikes on the middle class. (Or the $2 trillion in corresponding cuts for wealthiest households.) Independent studies show the middle class may get some tax cuts initially, but those end by the seventh year, and then rise rapidly thereafter by year ten. In contrast, the corporate, business, and wealthy household cuts keep going—beyond the tenth year.
What Trump conveniently left out in his speech regarding taxes also qualifies as lie by omission. He noted the corporate tax rate was reduced from 35% to 21% and the non-corporate business income deductions were increased by 20%. That was $1.5 trillion and $310 billion, respectively.
Or that the Obamacare mandate repeal saved businesses another $300 billion. And multinational corporations would reap the lion’s share of $1 trillion in tax cuts, at minimum. And all that still doesn’t account for accelerated depreciation under the Act. Or abolition of the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax. Or continuation of the infamous corporate loopholes, like carried interest, corporate offshore ‘inversions’, or gimmicks that corporate tax lawyers joke about—like the ‘dutch sandwich’ and ‘double Irish’.
Then there were the Trump jokes. I don’t mean anything actually funny. Nonsense statements like “beautiful clean coal” (the oxymoron statement of the year). Or that US companies offshore are “roaring coming back to where the action is”. And car companies are bringing jobs back (while laying off in thousands). “Americans (white) are dreamers too”. Or the phony infrastructure program that’s coming, where companies will be subsidized by the federal government in ‘public-private partnership’ deals. And his unexplained reference to ‘prison reform’ (really?). Perfunctory references to trade, job training, another non-starter.
Hidden between the lines were other serious references, however. Like his ominous threat to “remove government employees” who ‘fail the American people’ or ‘undermine American trust’, which sounded like a warning from Trump to the bureaucracy not to cross him or else. Or his slap at National Football League players for not saluting the flag. Or plans to expand Guantanamo and the US nuclear arsenal. Or reaffirmation of the definition of ‘enemy combatants’ (which may include US citizens). Trump re-established the fact of his threat to civil liberties.
On the foreign policy front it was mostly threats as well, new and old: To withhold UN funding. Renewed support for new sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela. But North Korea was left for last. Here the return to theater was among the most dramatic. The last ‘gallery scene’ involved a legless defector from North Korea, Seong Ho, brought all the way from So. Korea just for the speech. This was theater with props; applause was sustained as Mr. Ho raised and shook his crutches above his head after Trump’s introduction.
Trump then rode the emotional wave to conclusion with his closing theme that the American people themselves are what’s great about America. Too bad he doesn’t mean all Americans.
So far as Trump speeches go, it was a ‘safe speech’, a teleprompter speech. But typically Trump. Lots of false facts. Emphasis on dividing the country. Long on Theater and emotional appeals to ‘enemies within and without’. And short on policy specifics. But after all, apart from tax cuts and deregulation for corporations and the rich, and a failed Obamacare repeal, not much was achieved in 2017 for him to talk about. And so far as new ideas for 2018 are concerned, there’s ‘no there there’ as well.
Los Angeles, Jan 24 (Prensa Latina) After the announcement in Hollywood of the candidates or nominees in the different categories of actors and movie pictures, the US Recording Academy (formerly the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences or NARAS) mentioned the names of the aspirants to win the Oscar Awards in the musical aspects.
Among the aspirants, one of the names is the one of US female rhythm and blues (R&B), soul and hip-hop performer Mary J. Blige, for the Oscar for Best Original Song, nominated here Tuesday with the song called 'Mighty River', for the film called 'Mudbound'.
Mary J. Blige is accompanied in the competition for the Oscar by US songwriter Sufjan Stevens, with a song called 'Call Me by Your Name' for the movie soundtarck for the film with the same name, and rap singer Common, singing together with Diane Warren with a song called 'Stand Up for Something' composed for the film 'Marshall'.
In the same category as Best Original Song, Kristen Anderson López and Robert López were nominated for their song 'Remember Me', for the animated film 'Coco'; as well as Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who aspire to the win with 'This Is Me', from the feature film 'The Greatest Showman'.
In the category of Best Soundtrack, there is the guitarist of the group Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood, for his orchestrated work for the film 'The Invisible Thread'.
Greeenwood competes against very famous international musicians in this category, such as Hans Zimmer, Alexandre Desplat, John Williams and Carter Burwell.
The 90th edition of the Oscars will be at March 4, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
The potential collapse of the nuclear deal with Iran could set a dangerous precedent and will have serious consequences for the tense standoff on the Korean peninsula, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned.
Tensions between North Korea and the international community have steadily been rising over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. An already volatile situation has been further inflamed by hostile rhetoric and military provocations from both North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.
The case with Iran, whose own nuclear program is likewise viewed with suspicion by the US, has been soothed, so far, by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – agreed to in 2015 by Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, the so-called P5+1.
"It is evident that the failure of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, especially through the fault of one of the participants in the P5+1 group, will become an alarming signal for the whole architecture of international security, including prospects for the settlement of the nuclear problem of the Korean peninsula," Lavrov said before a meeting of the UN Security Council. Russia's Foreign Minister underlined that scrapping JCPOA will undermine any deal made with Pyongyang.
Last week, Trump announced that he would waive the economic sanctions on Iran, lifted under the JCPOA agreement, which sees Tehran scale back its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions. He warned America’s European allies, however, that Washington could still pull out of the agreement if its terms were not met. Trump previously referred to JCPOA as the “worst deal ever.”
At the UN, Lavrov reiterated the importance of seeking a peaceful solution to the Korean crisis. He again put forward the “double-freeze” strategy proposed by Russia and China, in which the US and its allies cease major military exercises in the region in exchange for Pyongyang suspending its nuclear and ballistic missile program. "We reaffirm the relevance of the road map proposed by Russia and China in the interests of an exclusively peaceful settlement of this problem," he said.
Washington has consistently rejected the plan. It did so again at a joint summit with Canada this week, proposing more sanctions on Pyongyang instead. In an interview with Reuters Wednesday, Trump said military action is still very much an option.