A Swiss town is divided over whether to take in refugees

Then someone filed a referendum and there was a mail-in vote — and this time, the town voted the other way, to NOT allow refugees in. And it takes a lot of strength, a lot of energy, and I did not feel quite as at home and at ease anymore as I used to.”
At the local grocery store, resident Marc Bierty is picking up a few things. It turns out that under his leadership the town had opted to pay a $300,000 fine rather than accept its federal quota of eight refugees. He’s still keeping up his populist right-wing rhetoric, but the trip softened his views enough that he’s now leading a move to allow a single refugee family to move to town. That’s really a big problem. It was. The country grants asylum to a few thousand refugees each year and tries to resettle them evenly across the country. He says he voted to allow migrants in, but his involvement stopped there. He earned a seat here after campaigning on his anti-migrant rhetoric. He says as divisive as this question was, most people are just concerned with living their lives. Graduate student Johanna   Gü​ndel, 25,   loved growing up in a town where her family has lived for generations. He says this while in the Parliament building in Bern, Switzerland’s capital. But last year, a university roommate of hers posted a video to Facebook of a mayor boasting to a reporter that his town was safe and idyllic —   and that it was going to stay that way because no refugees were there. All those years there weren’t refugees there, it was because the town had been paying the fine to their canton, similar to a state. “My town changed for me. There’s a mass migration to Europe and we should stop it,” he said. Oberwil-Lieli is right outside Zurich, Switzerland’s biggest city. PRI.org

In   Oberwil-Lieli, a small, wealthy town,   the immigration battle recently   came to a head. But not every community welcomes those refugees.Player utilitiesPopout
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downloadListen to the Story. And the mayor,   Andreas Glarner, was boasting about it because he was running for a seat in Swiss Parliament. The mayor and member of Parliament visited migrant camps in Greece a few months ago. Gü​ndel organized protests and introduced a vote on the issue at a town meeting. She was incensed —   and she wasn’t alone. “We cannot take the whole world into Switzerland. News footage shows him gleefully standing in front of housing where refugee Bosnian families had once lived, as they were demolished. Andreas Glarner is mayor of the town of Oberwil-Lieli and a member of the Swiss parliament. “It’s very Swiss to keep our own country as we like to have it. And we are free in our decisions and we should make what is good for Switzerland,” he said. As for Glarner? Meanwhile, the mayor kept campaigning, calling migrants terrorists and warning they’d take jobs and resources. Others in her town of slightly more than 2,000 people were shocked. It feels like a different world here — there are rolling hills, and people drop by each others’ houses on horseback. Credit:

Erika Beras

Glarner says he had them torn down because they were for refugees. Recently, the size of the fine has been increased tenfold. Back in Oberwil-Lieli, even individual families are divided as to whether the town should welcome refugees. Gü​ndel says it’s been hard. “I don’t have the time for that because I’m employed, I have two kids, I have to provide for them and I have a lot of things on my mind despite that,” he said. It won’t be anytime soon though — he can’t find a landlord with space to rent. “They didn’t have an opposition or on the other side they didn’t have maybe a pro side — so it was really Swiss like —   we’re in the middle,” he said with a laugh. Both elections were tight, nearly 50-50. “Every time you meet someone you think is this person for me or against me. “That was the time when we kind of woke up and realized,   is that what was going on all those years?” she said. It was difficult to walk the dog on the streets because some people wouldn’t greet me anymore,” she said. “Just the fact how he talked about we here in Oberwil-Lieli do this and want this and I did not feel like I in any way belonged to that we,” said Gü​ndel. That includes Switzerland, population 8.5   million. He proudly shows off his seat on the Parliament floor and walks me around the building as he talks about the importance of maintaining what he thinks of as Swiss identity. Across Europe, countries are grappling with how to best accommodate the surge of migrants. The fine had been put in place in case a community couldn’t accommodate the refugees they were mandated to take in — the Swiss government has each town take refugees based on how many adults live in a community. We are not in the European community. “And then I watched and I said ‘oh my God, that’s my town, that’s my mayor,’” she said. The residents voted to allow refugees in. This was the first   Gü​ndel had heard of this.  

Way more migrants are now sneaking across the US-Canada border

Why do they do it? The Trump effect? Migrants were spotted with luggage marked with Plattsburgh, New York, an airport near the Quebec border. What’s more, “the United States is not necessarily safe for all refugees,” Dench adds. The process of being admitted as a refugee once a person is already inside Canada is faster than applying from outside the country. However, 187 Americans requested to be admitted as refugees at Canadian land border crossings last year — more than double the previous total, according to Canada’s border agency. That’s not including undocumented immigrants who reside in the US and their children who may have been born in the country. We can’t speculate on the motives,” says Jacqueline Roby, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency. Related:   20 years ago, asylum-seekers in the US were not automatically put in immigration detention
On average 60 percent of all people who go before the tribunal are granted asylum in Canada, although the acceptance rate varies by country of origin, says Melissa Anderson, the spokeswoman for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. So the Safe Third Country Agreement lures asylum-seekers to cross the border into Canada illegally, Dench says. Based on data provided to PRI by the Canada Border Services Agency. “There could be new movements of people.”
Other refugees pass through the US only briefly on their way to Canada, simply because it’s easier to get American tourist visas than Canadian visas, attorney Handfield says. Unlike in the US, they don’t have to wait in detention centers for that court date to come. The tally in November alone was higher than the whole of 2015. One reason is the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement, explains Janet Dench, the executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, a nonprofit group that advocates for refugee rights. US border patrol has the authority to take into custody anyone who is in the US illegally who’s caught near the border, according to Stephanie Malin, a public affairs officer with US Customs and Border Protection. What happens to the refugees in Canada
Canadian officials are confident they catch most people entering illegally, thanks to surveillance cameras and reports from residents. According to this 2004 agreement, a person who is in the US, which is considered a safe country, cannot request admittance as a refugee into Canada. Whatever the case may be, there is no talk in Canada about building a wall on the American border. “I know there’ve been some rumors since Donald Trump has been elected, but I haven’t seen any Americans crossing illegally,” Doré says. Julie Masis reported from Montreal. There is less racism in Canada,” he said. 20. Members of the Roma minority from Romania and Hungary are also generally accepted, says Stephane Handfield, an immigration attorney in Montreal. A very low rate of US citizens, on the other hand, win refugee claims in Canada. He says he sees refugees from his window every week, sometimes two dozen people in a single day. In November, Trump said on the TV show “60 Minutes” that he plans to deport or incarcerate “2 million or 3 million” undocumented immigrants with a criminal record after he takes office on Jan. Some may think they may not be able to continue safely in the US,” she says. Plans like that could be pushing refugees into Canada, says Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees. They walk on little roads, gravel roads. For example, if someone in America on a tourist visa asks for asylum at a Canadian border crossing, they will most likely be denied. “Sometimes they say that Canada is a better country for refugees. Their cases have a higher chance of approval. One popular route leads into Quebec. Eventually they get to places where we can find them.”
Officials check the migrants for injuries or other health conditions like frostbite, Habel says. Despite repeated efforts to contact the asylum-seekers, officials and nongovernmental groups would not let us speak to them directly because refugee protection claims are private under Canadian law. “We catch most of them. According to the data, very few of the asylum-seekers walking across Quebec’s border illegally are US citizens. Families lug   suitcases “over a little ditch,” as one resident described it, to   avoid   passport checkpoints. “Everyone is well treated, everyone is treated the same as any other human being in Canada. Related:   A Syrian family finds sweet success in Canada
Retired policeman François Doré lives in Hemmingford, Quebec, less than a mile from the US border. The top five countries of origin in 2016 were Colombia, Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and Pakistan. For instance, the citizens of Syria, Iraq and Eritrea have an acceptance rate of more than 80 percent and are even exempt from appearing before the refugee tribunal in person. Credit:

Chris Wattie/Reuters

After they’re caught, the migrants generally request to be admitted into Canada as refugees. Last year overall, Canadian land-border refugee claims were up 50 percent from 2015. So why are people crossing the Canadian border illegally? Credit:

Google Maps

He sees them travel in family groups, with suitcases and strollers, often with stickers from the nearby airport in Plattsburg, New York. They are generally granted asylum in Canada, unless they already have refugee status in another country, Anderson explains. “There are a lot of people who are watching with concern what the election of Trump means to them. “Often people don’t mind that we find them. But some migrant rights advocates say that Trump’s promises to get tough   on   immigration, coupled with Canada’s reputation for welcoming refugees, could be factors. Refugee claims made from outside Canada can take longer than five years to process for some countries, according to the government’s immigration website. Some cross in the forest. The largest groups are from Eritrea, Syria, Sudan, Yemen and other countries facing economic or war catastrophe. The authorities won’t say whether Donald Trump’s November election win has anything to do with the surge. Canadian border officials are spotting a noteworthy trend: The number of people sneaking in from the United States and asking for asylum has gone way up. “The entrance is illegal, but it’s not a criminal case,” Habel says. The only reason they can be put in prison is if they had done something illegal like [trying] to smuggle drugs or contraband, or if we find out they’re part of a criminal network.”
Canadian officials can also detain individuals who cannot establish their identity, are determined to be a flight risk, or if there is a security concern. This past year, 1,222 people entered Quebec illegally and requested refugee status — almost five times the total in the previous year, according to the Canada Border Services Agency. “That’s the reason we believe the government should pull out of the Safe Third Country Agreement — people could cross legally, and it would take out the market from the smugglers who are taking a huge amount of money from people,” Dench says. “We can’t speculate on that. However, if they request refugee status when they’re already on Canadian soil, and pass a criminal check, their case will be considered. He says most of the women wear traditional Muslim headscarves. If someone is put in detention, they have the right to see a judge within 24 hours, Habel says. At least 90 percent,” asserts Camille Habel, a media representative for Canada’s police, the RCMP. Canada’s then-Immigration Minister John McCallum, left, and Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan speak to reporters in Ottawa, Canada on Nov. “They used to cross at night through the woods, now they just walk over the little ditch and walk into Canada,” he says. Undocumented immigrants in the US, estimated at 11 million, are particularly vulnerable. Canada accepts more refugees than the US. They receive a date to appear before a refugee tribunal, which by law cannot be more than two months away. Should they try to flee to Canada, it won’t be easy. 24, 2015.

What it’s like to cover Trump for a German audience

That’s according to reporter   Matthias Kolb, who covers the United States   for   the Munich-based news outlet   Suddeutche Zeitung. “I think in total we had about half a dozen stories that only dealt with the press conference,” Kolb says. Trump refused to take Acosta’s question and attacked   CNN over its choice to report on a dossier of unverified and damaging claims about Trump’s connections to Russia. “Your organization is terrible,” Trump said, as he and Acosta spoke over each other. This is exactly why, he says,   journalists need to cover the next US administration   with care, attention and guts. “You are fake news.”
“The ‘media’ is getting attacked in this country a lot and also back in Europe,” Kolb says, “and I think it would be good to try and stick together and fight for the profession.” For example, Kolb wants to see journalists stand up for one other when Trump singles them out, as he did with CNN’s   Jim Acosta during this week’s press conference. “We have this right-wing populist   party,   Alternative fur Deutschland   — Alternative for Germany — who are also very pro-Putin and think that it was totally OK   that [Russia] annexed Crimea,” he says. Germans are closely following President-elect Donald Trump’s path to the White House. Like news organizations in the US, Suddeutche Zeitung   is grappling with how to cover Trump, who has been more inclined to communicate with the public through his Twitter account than through the press. When Trump gave his first press conference as president-elect on Wednesday,   Suddeutche Zeitung   ran a live blog and   live stream so that readers could   follow along. Once the press conference was over, it   published analysis and summary. “I think it really shows what are the issues that he pays attention to.”
(Kolb’s advice for reporting on Trump’s tweets? Fact-check   and give   context.)
Germans are especially interested in the future of   US-Russia relations, Kolb adds. “I think his Twitter feed is really a window into his personality,” Kolb   says.

Victims of online romance scams, there’s a place you can go for help

It was pretty gratifying, she says; the son was ecstatic. She finally realized she’d been scammed. “You pretend to be a victim and string them along, try to get them to waste as much of their time, money, and resources as you can,” he says. “My friends advised me to go online and try to find someone to share my life with,” she says via Skype. But for Mays, who co-hosts a scam-baiting podcast, “it’s also like improve comedy.”
Most people aren’t turning to him for comic relief, though. But soon after, she learned that the son had had an accident at school and needed help paying hospital bills — urgently. The site tends to be a last resort for victims who are afraid to go to the police, or to tell anyone in their life what’s happened, because they’re ashamed. Go deactivate all your social media accounts,” he says. One day, scrolling through an online forum, she met Wayne Mays (not his real name) from the UK. “Of course I was sending money again to Western Union,” Firefly says. Mays is a romance scam-baiter, which means he hangs out on dating sites, posing as a naive love-seeker, with the goal of unmasking — and exhausting — confidence men and women. But she also realized something else: There were probably a lot of people, just like her, being victimized on dating sites, and Firefly was determined to do something about it. The most common complaint Scam Survivors receive is for “sextortion,” where scammers make tapes of sexual encounters with their victims, then press them for money in exchange for keeping the video private. Her new boyfriend had a complicated backstory: He was an American soldier serving in Iraq, and he had a son living in Ghana. Then, after about a week of heavy correspondence, Firefly’s boyfriend announced his son’s birthday was coming up, and suggested she send him a gift. He suggested they ditch the dating site and switch to email. Their partner has either died or they’ve divorced and they’ve just started looking at online dating. According to Mayes, they’ve handled more than 14,000 such cases in the past three years. But on the internet, she’s still looking for love in all the wrong places — this time, with a mission. So she wired a few hundred euros to Ghana. Within 10 minutes of posting, she had a handful of virtual suitors — and one stood out. Five years ago, he and a small team of international volunteers, including Firefly, created Scam Survivors, a hotline and information resource center for victims of online scams — mostly, as it turns out, romance scams. In Mays’ experience, romance scammers typically target 30 to 40 people a day, and will eventually move on to easier prey if they encounter resistance. Five years ago, an Austrian woman decided to give online dating a try. “These people are not stupid at all.  
Mays would post any identifying details that scammers used online — from the email addresses they created to the back stories they recycled — to make them searchable. (She asked that I only use her internet handle, Firefly, for reasons that will soon become clear.) It had been about a year since Firefly got divorced. Within the space of about three months, Firefly wired the equivalent of about $1,000 to Ghana. Whatever you do, he adds, don’t ever pay them — that will only make a scammer more aggressive. They’re just trusting,” Mays says. As for Firefly, she now refuses to date anyone she doesn’t meet the old-fashioned way, face to face. So they have no idea that these scammers are out there.”
While Mays admits that they can’t get victims’ money back, they can help get victims out of scary situations, especially when romance scammers resort to extortion. It’s not uncommon for victims to lose tens of thousands of dollars. (I know; red flag.)
“He even called me, calling me ‘Mom’ a few times,” she says. And it involves a nearly trillion-dollar-a-year industry — romance scams. Scarcely had the boy recovered when he was struck by cholera, which required another expensive course of treatment. This is a detective story that started off as a love story. She decided to do a little research online and discovered that, yes, cholera is a problem in Ghana, and yes, treating it can be expensive — except that Ghana actually has a free cholera treatment program. But she had revealed to her new online beau how much she wanted children, and soon his 14-year-old son was emailing her. “We will advise them, first of all: Don’t panic. “With the romance scam, it could be someone who’s been married for a number of years. Firefly spent a lot of time on her profile, thinking she needed to be entirely honest and open if she hoped to really connect with someone. “In that moment, something was not sounding right to me,” Firefly says. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, online romance scams account for higher financial losses than any other internet-based crime. It’s a form of low-grade, guerrilla cyberwarfare.

Trump: The public doesn’t care about my tax returns. Our audience: Wrong!

His   answer Wednesday was no different: “Only reporters care about my tax returns. In Wednesday’s press conference with reporters, President-elect Donald Trump was again asked whether he would release his tax returns. Can I see your tax returns and make them public to the world?”
People who wrote in said Trump might not be willing to release his taxes because   he has something to hide. “No tax returns, Lock Him Up !”
And then there’s this sentiment, though it was rare in our poll: “Why is it any of anyone’s business? We as a nation need to understand he is going to be our President and stand behind him. “[His] tax returns tell us everything we need to know about his past dealings his current dealings and what kind of a person he really is. Obama humored the racist vitriol of the birther movement and show the press his birth certificate – Trump can do the same for a reasonable request like tax returns. his taxes are irrelevant but only to those looking for dirt… From @Eh_Double: “If Trump can fight to see Obama’s birth certificate then we should be able to see his taxes.”
Richard Wittman Horan added something a little harsher. ”I think it is the essence of our democracy that our leaders are completely transparent with their finances,”   said Greg Tyler. “I am a US citizen. he takes the maximum legal deductions and pays the minimal allowable tax LIKE YOU AND ME… Well sorry he’s been elected as your president stop whining about it, its over and done. He can either do the job or not and in 4 years you can vote and judge him then.”
And from Mary Chiasson: “Regardless if Trump releases his tax records people will still find a reason to distrust him. I also appreciate a president who sets a precedent for transparency, and Trump is the least-transparent PEOTUS in decades (perhaps ever). So, we decided to ask you, our listeners and readers, whether you cared if Trump released his taxes. Some of you tweeted in your answer. If he is framing tax returns as a ridiculous issue, he ought to release them like he said he would. The American people don’t care. I am interested.”
Jane Palomera Moore had more to say: “I really want to see them. Its almost like people want him to fail. Like @Bethnoteliza. Yes, @pritheworld I want to see @realDonaldTrump tax returns before Jan20 #thatmeansnow”
And @bikesunnybike said, “I am not newsmedia and I would like to see #Trump release his tax returns and follow through on his promise.”
Some of you said that if Obama had to produce a birth certificate for legitimacy, then Trump should show details of his finances. And the public seems to expect it. But custom and history has led nearly every major US presidential candidate in modern history to release his taxes. That he is the first president ever to not share his tax return is offensive and an affront to the American people who all work hard for what we haveeven to the extent that it might be something we have to have put into law.”
The president’s   taxes aren’t required to be disclosed by law. Joan Dulbergsaid wrote in an email to us: “I’m extremely concerned that this sets a very bad precedent for the future. While we got a few from people who don’t care if Trump releases his taxes, the vast majority of you said yes, you do care. Here’s a sampling of responses from our Facebook pages:
Robin Schlatter said, “I’m a welder not a reporter. I am so tired of hearing how he’s not my president. You responded. Boy, did you respond. I won the election,” he quipped. Within a day we received more than 700 comments on our Facebook   pages, more than 900 tweets   and about a dozen emails. It’s been a burning question throughout the campaign and since his election — and one that Trump has dodged repeatedly. Carter had this to say: “Idiocy… Trump has high paid CPAs and Tax Lawyers handle his taxes… I do think releasing tax forms would be a step to inspiring confidence in the over 50% of Americans who voted against him, and also would be a productive step taken to dispel the suppositions and rumors about less-than-savory business doings. From now on, everyone running for office could say they’re not releasing their tax returns because if the president didn’t, why should they?”
Here are a couple more people, though, who think we all need to move on:
Charles N. How does America win in that situation?”

America is divided — and that’s by design

And it seems to me one of the jobs and what I will be working on over this next year is trying to develop indicators and signs of what’s illegitimate in American democracy and where it’s appearing. It includes not calling into question the integrity of the very system in which you serve. Mann and Norman J. “Newt outlined a strategy to achieve that objective by basically destroying the legitimacy of Congress as an institution and the people who occupy it, and lowering public trust in government,” Mann says. And these are not coups or revolutions. You’ll be fine. Rather, they say, it started as a deliberate strategy by some Republicans almost four decades ago, to pry away from the Democratic Party the lock on Congress they’d enjoyed for the four decades up to that point. “We believe the public was disserved by emphasizing the importance of equivalence and treatment that doesn’t mean you treat one fairly and the other unfairly,” he says. “People have separated on tribal grounds, with strong social, cultural and partisan identities, and they tend to believe what they hear from their own echo chamber and reject everything else,” he says. Thomas Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and co-author of “It’s Even Worse Than It Was: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism.”

Credit:

US State Department

So what’s a citizen to believe, or to trust? That includes accepting when the other side wins, and respecting the rules of the game. Donald Trump has set new records in espousing all kind of thoughts that are patently untrue. He insinuated that his supporters should think about taking out the other candidate, if she won. He thinks more journalists and public commentators should do the same. Since being elected, he has questioned the competence and integrity of the US intelligence community. When unverified documents were released, suggesting that the Russians have dirt on him, he called it disgraceful   fake news, and releasing it was like what Nazi Germany used to do. It’s what lets you walk down the street and go to farmers   markets, concerts and sporting events, knowing that you’ll be safe among strangers. And it doesn’t bother him one bit and he may or may not know it is when he’s making those statements. “It’s the Republican Party that has really tried to weaken the institutions of government and to break the norms of our democratic system. It now reads: “It’s Even Worse Than It Was.”
“Perhaps the most worrisome is the absence of acceptance of facts and truth — even science,” Mann says. Historians may look back on this era as another of those rough patches. Obviously some people are not at all engaged in politics and don’t care about it. The hope is there’s enough of a more attentive activists concern segment of the public that can be active and in so doing help preserve a democratic system that’s carried us 240 years.” And it’s time for using public shame on such things and riling up people about the right kind of issues and it won’t be easy. And that creates opportunities for very different kind of forces to operate in a democracy.”

Community members take part in a protest to demand a stop hate crimes during the funeral service of Imam Maulama Akonjee, and Thara Uddin in New York City. But you hoped over time there were at least enough ordinary citizens out there who would be moved by just sort of practical evidence and logical reasoning, and come up with the right thing. “And it all starts with a successful election. “This is the first real threat we’ve had in a long time, and will the institutions and rules and norms be sufficient to keep us from falling the way of many other countries toward a more authoritarian leadership.”

It’s Even Worse Than It Was, book cover

Credit:

Thomas E. “You know, populist movements have succeeded in changing democracies into autocracies all around the world,” Mann says. And he worked hard at it and created the Conservative Opportunity Society, some of which was substantive and ideological. Trust is also part of what lets a democracy function. They’ve operated very differently. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and other new conservative radio shows soon emerged. He has nominated heads of government departments who are on record saying they’d like to gut or get rid of those very departments. Candidate Donald Trump said repeatedly that the system is rigged, and that he might not accept the election results unless he won. He appears to be much more concerned about the making public of those documents, than of the US intelligence community’s unanimous finding   that Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered and oversaw a covert campaign to throw the US election to Trump. Or it could turn out to be a different kind of era altogether. But now we see it’s too tribal for that to happen. Credit:

Bill Pugliano

Mann says it has troubled him, especially in the most recent presidential campaign, that journalists and commentators treated the two parties as though they both do the same thing, in roughly equal measure. Ornstein

Mann is co-author with Norman Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute, of the books “The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America” (2006) and “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.” The second book, released in 2012, struck a chord, went viral, and was even read in part on the floor of the US Senate. Credit:

Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

America’s democracy has been tested and has proven resilient in the past, albeit with significant rough patches —   the Civil War, the McCarthy Hearings, Jim Crow laws. “Because the parties aren’t the same, especially in this period. Ironically, purveyors of fake news loved Donald Trump, because his supporters were willing to believe just about anything that made him look good, and his opponents look bad. Speaker of the House and Republican candidate for president Newt Gingrich speaks during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference on June 16, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Its rerelease in 2016 has the word “looks” crossed out in the title. “He thought the only way to throw off the majority Democrats was to discredit the institution and their leadership of it. And he has regularly denigrated journalists —   real journalists —   while staying apparently sanguine about the fake news that his supporters shared around during the campaign, to help gain support. And if there are real important consequential asymmetries between the parties, then, you’d do well to speak up.”
The problem is, Mann says, the strategy that Gingrich outlined almost 40 years ago, to undermine trust in democratic institutions, has worked so well that many Americans no longer know who or what to believe. Trust in democratic institutions, formal and informal — the integrity of the vote, the balance of power, the role of serious journalism, the idea that —   while politics can be a dirty business, most people play fair, most of the time. Mann says he and Ornstein have approached their work not as partisans but as scholars, looking at the evidence. PRI.org

Trust is what lets you enter into relationships with friends, lovers and business partners. But mainly he was out there recruiting and training candidates in the best ways to demonize their opponents.”
Part of the strategy was to discredit the legitimacy of Congress; part of it was to discredit the mainstream media, and offer an alternative worldview, set of values and narratives via a range of new, conservative media. “The problem is less in the stimulus, because we’ve always had disputes that had lots of lies and untruths in them. Hard won, easily lost, that much harder to regain.Player utilitiesPopout
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downloadListen to the Story. But the man who is about to become president spent years claiming his predecessor wasn’t an American citizen —   when he is, and always has been. “This is a time of testing of our democratic system” says Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a scholar who for half a century has studied and written about American governance. Trust is a fragile thing. It’s kind of Orwellian.”

Former U.S. Mann says he and Ornstein first encountered the idea for the strategy when interviewing a newly elected House representative after the 1978 midterm election —   Newt Gingrich. They have different value,” he says. Credit:

Justin Sullivan

But the rot didn’t start with Trump, Mann and Ornstein argue in their books. “It means you treat them both fairly and honestly. But I think it’s going to take a more vigilant public. Rush Limbaugh speaks at a May 2007 event in Novi, Michigan. “It’s the dispute among elites and with ordinary citizens about what should be taken as the basis of beginning a conversation.

Kenyans in Obama’s ancestral village worry the world will forget them now

“The foundation congratulates   Donald J. Malik Obama, who has often expressed his disappointment with his half-brother for not visiting Kogelo more often, even endorsed Trump and voted for him in mock elections that have been held regularly in the village, both as a tourist draw and a superstitious way to influence the American vote. You will never hear about us again.”
Tonny Onyulo reported from Kogelo, Kenya. Obama is younger than Trump.” The Constitution wouldn’t allow for that, of course, but Otieno’s sentiment is clear. “We are very sad because Obama is leaving,” she said. Standing outside her tiny mud house in this remote village, Mary Anyango lamented President Barack Obama’s departure from the White House next week.Player utilitiesPopout
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downloadListen to the Story. Both educate children referred by The Mama Sarah Obama Foundation, which cares for widows and orphans who have lost spouses and parents to HIV and AIDS. This is all happening because of Obama.”
Obama’s Kenyan roots have been a source of pride for this village of about 3,700 souls in western Kenya. Now Anyango is afraid those funds will dry up, especially after the stunning loss of Hillary Clinton, whom most Kogelo residents supported. Since Obama became president, the village has been in the local and international limelight, attracting public and private investment that has brought electricity, paved roads and other improvements. We are not going to experience any development again.”

Mary Anyango holds her daughter’s hangd in Kogelo, President Obama’s ancestral home in Kenya. Credit:

Tonny Onyulo

Nicholas Rajula, the Obama family spokesman, said Clinton’s loss was a big blow to the region. PRI.org

“Life is going to be very difficult in this village without Obama’s presidency,” said Anyango, 48, a single mother of six. “I think the world is not going to pay attention to us any more since Obama is leaving the presidency. Auma Obama, the president’s half-sister, cares for disadvantaged children and young people. “We supported Mrs. He last visited the village in 2006 when he was a US senator. The Sauti Kuu Foundation headed by Dr. Our son Obama has made us proud.”
Those uncertainties now dominate village concerns. Obama hasn’t directly supported or advocated for investment in Kogelo. Clinton as a [part of the Clinton] family, but the American people elected Trump,” said Rajula. Obama Foundation, created by the president’s half-brother Abon’go Malik Obama, develops sources of clean drinking water. Vincent Okoth, a taxi driver who guides tourists flocking to the village, said he was still mourning Obama leaving the White House. “This will affect the future of the village. Many here were deeply disappointed in 2015 when he visited Kenya and didn’t stop by, instead meeting with his relatives in Nairobi. Trump   on his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States of America,” read a statement on the Barack H. Obama Foundation’s webpage. Anyango, the mother of six, wasn’t optimistic that the university and other projects will be completed. “We are going to suffer because of Americans,” said Stephen Otieno. After Obama’s 2006 visit, Kogelo’s two schools were renovated and renamed the Senator Obama Secondary School and Senator Obama Primary School. “I think Malik should cement his relationship with Trump so that the president can bring developments.”
As Obama exits office, several big projects are on the drawing board. “Americans could have allowed our son Obama to continue being president. Auma Obama has raised funds for the construction of a recreational-education complex in nearby Alego, for example. Some residents said they hoped   Trump would not abandon them. They are putting up houses for us. “Will the white people continue visiting our village?” she asked. It’s now home to Mama Sarah Obama, his 95-year-old step-grandmother. At Kogelo’s central market, which opens every day at dawn, the potential adverse effects of Obama leaving the White House are a common topic of conversation among worried townsfolk. Recently, as the orange sun rose over the horizon, they murmured in low tones in their local dialect to express their disappointment. She has also begun construction of an Obama family-affiliated university on 50 acres of land in Kogelo, but lacks the funding to complete the school. I have been working as a driver for eight years. But his celebrity attracted important investment and development projects. She’s worried about how Obama’s exit from the White House will affect her life. “We hope this will not affect development projects in the village and our country. “We have many non-governmental organizations here, which are helping our children pay fees. “We have been depending on him,” said Okoth. I depend on visitors who come to the village to trace Obama’s roots.”
Five important institutions have sprung up here because of the US president’s ancestral connections. The project is slated to be completed in April. Around 250 miles from Nairobi, Kogelo first came to wide public attention in Barack Obama’s “Dreams From My Father,” his acclaimed memoir   published in 1995. “But for now we are in darkness because we don’t know how our future will look like minus his presidency. The Barack H. “We are very sure that Trump will support Kenya and people from this village, because Malik supported him,” said James Ochieng, a teacher at Senator Obama Primary School. “Make America Great Again.”
Residents said it was time for Trump to show the village that he has their interests at heart by supporting projects initiated during President Obama’s reign. Obama’s father, Barack Obama, Sr., was born and died in Kogelo, after studying economics in the US and working for the Kenyan government.

Watch live: Senate confirmation hearings for Defense, CIA and HUD

James Mattis, who is nominated to be defense secretary, will sit before the Senate Arms Services Committee. You can watch the hearings live below:
1. 2. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence   will question   Rep. Three of Trump’s nominees are appearing concurrently on Capitol Hill before three separate committees. Retired Gen. James Mattis, nominee for secretary of defense. Senate confirmation hearings   on President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees continue Thursday. Rep. Retired   Gen. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan, Trump’s pick to head the CIA. Ben Carson, nominee for secretary of housing and urban development And the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs will hear from Trump’s choice for secretary of   housing and urban development, Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who ran against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan, nominee for director of the CIA

3.

The reconciliation of Mark Wahlberg

The list of actor Mark Wahlberg’s offenses is not inconsequential. When asked if he would consider an official exculpation at this point, the governor responded, “I think he withdrew his application.”   When pressed if he would consider pardoning Wahlberg had he not withdrawn his application, the governor said, with a laugh,   “I don’t speak in hypotheticals about pardons. Both Wahlberg and his victims are dealing with the lingering impact. But the G-word is for us,” said Nam Pham, a leader in Dorchester’s 8,000-strong Vietnamese community, who is all too familiar with the term. A movie that would embrace the concept of brotherhood, of living together, making our neighborhood a much better place. The film, he said, is about “how people from all walks of life ran towards the problem and went to help people because it was the right thing to do.” The movie “Patriot’s Day”   will be released to general audiences nationwide Friday. When it began, white residents of Boston’s notoriously insular neighborhoods tried to torpedo a judge’s desegregation order by pelting yellow buses carrying black kids with rocks. “He’s a big movie star. Baker met with Wahlberg in early 2016 to discuss his upcoming movie. PRI.org

“Gook — just like the N-word. “He was a youthful offender. It doesn’t make him any exception,” she said. Tommy Saunders, played by Wahlberg, is in a frantic race against the clock to hunt down the Tsarnaev brothers. Physical attacks on immigrants and African Americans were not uncommon in the post-anti-school busing era. Later the same day in 1988, he punched another immigrant from Vietnam and allegedly peppered him with a racially derogatory term directed at Asians.Player utilitiesPopout
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downloadListen to the Story. Busing for the purpose of desegregating schools began in 1974, but its effect lasted into the 1990s. Tommy Saunders in “Patriot’s Day.” The film is about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and has nationwide release on Friday, January 13. He served his time. In the meantime, Wahlberg hopes that “Patriot’s Day” will serve as one kind of movie about reconciliation. “I give Peter Berg [the director] and Wahlberg and the rest of them a lot of credit for what I believe capturing the story in the right way,” said Baker. The A-list actor was,   until recently, trying   to win an official pardon for his crimes. Latinos, Asians and newly arrived Cape Verdeans were also among those targeted. To become a better person, a better father, a better husband and a better Bostonian. “Considering where I came from and coming up in an area like this is not an easy thing to do, but that’s why I want to focus so much on giving back and make sure I can create opportunity for   kids growing up in Dorchester, Roxbury, inner city average youth, and tell them that if I can accomplish what I set out to do through hard work and dedication, they can do the same,” Wahlberg said. “The interesting part about this one is, if his name was Mark Smith, this would not be controversial at all,” Albano said. I think that would be a wonderful thing to do.”
When I mentioned this proposal to Wahlberg, he actually seemed open to the suggestion. It details the immediate aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings where police Sgt. “I don’t really care who he is. Never!”
The road to a pardon in Massachusetts would go through the Governor’s Council and at least one member, Mike Albano, was ready to grant it. Credit:

Lionsgate

Before stardom, Wahlberg was something else: a juvenile delinquent, making life hell for Vietnamese immigrants and African Americans on Boston’s racially divided streets. Mark Wahlberg as Sgt. Pham, the Vietnamese American leader who now works for the Baker administration, suggests a novel way he thinks that Wahlberg can atone for his past. “If you’re a racist, you’re always going to be a racist.”
Another victim, Johnny Trinh (Hoa Trinh), a Vietnamese man now living in Texas,   told a Daily Mail reporter   he does forgive Wahlberg, and denies a popularly held belief that the permanent injury to his left eye was caused by the actor during the 1988 assault. If you look at his record, the contributions he’s made back to the community with veterans and young people, he’s a perfect fit for a pardon.”
Though the pardon is now moot, Wahlberg remains self-conscious about his past and told me during a recent press conference for “Patriot’s Day” that he is trying to make up for it through charitable work with the Boys and Girls Clubs and through his own life example. “Perhaps he can make a movie talking about race.”
Pham suggested this pitch:
“A man from Dorchester who was a troublemaker and now trying to make things better for everybody. “It was very common.”
This is why Wahlberg’s on-screen portrayal of a Boston cop is filled with irony given the crimes he committed as a young man, including several assaults on people of color. “I first came to Dorchester’s Field’s Corner in 1981, and once in a while I would run into people who would tell to my face, ‘Go home gook,’” Pham said. “And as far as telling my own story, these are things that I’ve worked hard [to achieve] every day. The conflict spilled over to local beaches, night clubs and street corners. That would be the toughest task,” he said. So, the last act of my story is yet to be written but I am very proud to be a Bostonian, to be a part of this story.”
Hollywood has never made a full-length movie about the collective trauma of racism and anti-busing that enveloped Boston in the 1970s   and 80s. Wahlberg grew up in a tough, white working class part of Dorchester. Also: Two young filmmakers grapple with their high school memories of the Boston marathon bomber
Wahlberg was convicted of assault and served a little more than a month in detention for attacks on the Vietnamese men. We all believe in a second chance,” said Pham. He says Wahlberg’s fame made his case more difficult. He never encountered Wahlberg, but he encountered the term frequently. “Yeah, growing up in Boston during the 70s and 80s there was a huge racial divide. One victim, Kristyn Atwood of Decatur, Georgia, a black woman who was ten at the time,   told the Associated Press   in 2015 that she will never forgive him. But in a recent interview, the governor still appeared unsympathetic to the notion of a pardon, despite Wahlberg’s work on “Patriot’s Day”. At 16, during an attempted robbery, he pummeled a Vietnamese man with a wooden stick and knocked him unconscious. “Well, I’ll have to figure out who’s going to play me in the movie first. Both former Governor Deval Patrick and current Governor Charlie Baker were disinclined to act on his request for a pardon, so in September Wahlberg dropped it. It was pretty much all we knew growing up and one of the things I continue to go back to is to see how far cities come, how much people have grown and how people from all walks of life,” Wahlberg said.

Four important news stories that aren’t about Donald Trump

The BBC says the track for this new rail runs next to one with the same route, built more than a century ago. This could be a big deal for Turkey, a country that’s wanted to become a part of the European Union for decades, but has been   in part   hindered by the conflict in Cyprus. Some protesters have also tried to disrupt border rail crossings. The talks are geared toward outlining a “bizonal state with some form of central administration,” Reuters reports. Finally, East Africa
Ethiopia’s shiny new electric railway was switched on this week. Manu Prakash is one of the researchers who came   up with the idea. The device is like a disk with two strings passing through it. Donald Trump this, Rex Tillerson that. Key players are meeting at a   UN conference in Switzerland to try to hammer out a deal. The nearly 500-mile-long railway connects the Ethiopian   capital Addis Ababa to Djibouti on the Red Sea. And the twisting motion makes the disk rotate fast. China paid for the $4 billion railway that will cut travel time from three   days by car to 12 hours by train. One official said the Ethiopia to Djibouti railway will eventually link up with neighboring Sudan and Kenya. The government said protesters had delayed 11 trainloads with about 1,000 cars of merchandise headed for the US. It’s been a week of heavy news about US politics and America’s relationship with the world. It’s a centrifuge made out of cardboard, inspired by a whirligig toy made out of cardboard. It spins liquids at high speed to separate them, and doctors could use the device to separate blood samples to spot HIV or malaria. Let’s catch up now on some news that’s been bumped off the front page by all that’s going on in Washington. Let’s start with Mexico
Thousands of Mexicans marched in Mexico City this week to protest the 20 percent hike in gasoline prices that took effect on New Year’s Day. And now, let’s go to Cyprus
The island in the Mediterranean has been divided for more than 40 years: People   loyal to Turkey live in the north, and the larger Greek population lives in the south. The protests have caused looting and casualties. Now, some news about medical tech
Researchers at Stanford University have come up with a cheap innovation that could help spot diseases. Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has called on business leaders to find ways of softening the price hike’s blow to Mexican families. He says, to his knowledge,   “it’s the fastest spinning object driven by human power.”
The researchers hope the innovation will benefit patients in parts of the world with no hospitals and no electricity. But today,   there’s talk of reunification. Russia, Russia, Russia. East African officials were on hand for the inaugural cross-border train ride, as   were Chinese officials.

Climate change is fueling a second chance for nuclear power

 
According to O’Brien’s NOVA special, a DC-based think tank called Third Way found in 2015 that more than 40 startups across the US were developing advanced nuclear power designs. Instead, O’Brien found himself chasing a very   different story about nuclear power.   Science journalist Miles O’Brien recently returned to Fukushima, Japan, for the sixth time since a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear meltdown there nearly six years ago.Player utilitiesPopout
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downloadThis story is based on a radio interview. And sodium-cooled reactors generate plutonium as a waste material. “But I can’t tell you, ‘Oh yes, we’ve already been successful.’ It’s going to be many more years of hard work before we are successful.”
“So we made a crazy bet,” he says, “and we’re going to keep making that crazy bet.”
Next-generation nuclear reactors have their risks too, of course. “If you want the lights to go on 24/7/365, you kind of have to pick your poison. As fears over global warming continue to simmer, nuclear power is experiencing something of a renaissance even as the Fukushima clean-up continues. Reactors that can withstand a loss of power for longer are already being built in the search for better nuclear energy. If the reactors lose power, as they did at Fukushima,   those coolant pumps shut down, the water boils away   and a nuclear meltdown ensues.  
But a new, potentially safer, generation of reactors is also being developed by engineers and energy startups around the country. Solutions to those problems will emerge, O’Brien says, but “in the meantime we’ve got a problem that is immediate and we have some technology that could be available sooner.”
Reviving an old technology
Today, the nuclear fuel sources in most reactors are cooled by water.  
Meanwhile pollution released by burning coal and other fossil fuel power sources sickens millions each year. The highest-profile liquid sodium project is being developed by TerraPower, backed by Bill Gates and his former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold. “There are issues to work through here, but there’s no free lunch,” O’Brien says. Credit:

Courtesy of WGBH  

Now, the idea of cooling a reactor with liquid sodium is being revived by a generation of nuclear scientists and entrepreneurs who see climate change as a bigger threat than nuclear power. “From a technical perspective, we’ve solved every technical problem that’s occurred,” Myhrvold says. Maybe this is one way to do it, if we look at adopting the proper safety measures.”  
The World has been reporting on stories about the human relationships at the heart of the atomic age. “So the important question is:   Is nuclear the villain here, or is it inattention to iterating and improving the technology?”  
O’Brien reports in his NOVA documentary “The Nuclear Option,” which airs tonight on PBS stations, that 18,000 people died in the wake of the 2011 tsunami and quake in Japan, but no one has been killed by the radiation from the Fukushima meltdowns. A liquid sodium reactor operated without incident for nearly 30 years   at an Argonne National Laboratory testing site in Idaho. But nuclear power lost political support in the US after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, and the Argonne reactor was eventually moth-balled by President Bill Clinton. “If the Japanese had either closed or improved those plants in significant ways, we would not have had the meltdown,” O’Brien says. “We got scared in the ’70s and we walked away from this technology,” O’Brien says. PRI.org

O’Brien thought he would be reporting on the massive clean-up effort at the shuttered nuclear power plant, a decommissioning effort that requires 4,000 workers to suit up in Tyvek suits, three layers of socks, gloves and respirators every day.  
Some designs rely on liquid metal sodium as a coolant instead of water. Read and listen to them here. Listen to the full interview. These atomic business plans, they say, have garnered more than a billion dollars in investment. Nuclear physicist   Chuck Till at a control panel at what is now the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho.    
Solar and wind power hold promise, but storage problems mean neither can replace coal in the short term. O’Brien says that liquid metal can be volatile when it comes in contact with water. The liquid metal is better at absorbing heat, less risky when cut off from power   and doesn’t require building massive pressure chambers around the nuclear fuel, O’Brien says.

Norway begins the transition away from FM radio

Norway, generally a technology-friendly country, has been preparing for the switchover for years —   DAB and   FM   have existed side-by-side since 1995. it’s a tough ask.”  
And some governments are naturally reluctant to upset voters by forcing them to buy new radios. There are currently 22 national digital stations, along with around 20 smaller ones. Norway   on Wednesday became the first country in the world to start shutting down its   FM   radio network in favor of digital radio, a bold move watched closely by other countries around Europe.Player utilitiesPopout
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downloadListen to the Story. A poll in Dagbladet newspaper in December found 66 percent of Norwegians are against shutting down   FM, with only 17 percent in favor. “It’s taken an awfully long time,” said Simon Spanswick of the Association for International Broadcasting. Germany for example had set 2015 as the   FM   switch-off date, only to see it dumped by lawmakers in 2011. “Trying to persuade the public to invest in a new radio … Authorities also say DAB offers better coverage, allows listeners to catch up on programs they have missed and makes it easier to broadcast emergency messages in times of crisis. The   FM   spectrum has room for a maximum of only five national stations. “It’s far too expensive. But Torvmark insists the time is right. While around three quarters of the population have at least one DAB radio set, many motorists are unhappy, as only about a third of cars currently on the road are equipped. “It’s clear that when there’s a big technological change, some people ask difficult questions and are critical,” but “most listeners are ready,” he said. “It’s completely stupid, I don’t need any more channels than I’ve already got,” Eivind Sethov, 76, told AFP in Oslo. Converting a car radio involves buying an adaptor for between 1,000 and 2,000 kroner (110 to 220 euros), or getting a whole new radio. The big switch-off began in Nordland, in the country’s north, at 11:11 am (1011 GMT) on Wednesday and will expand to the rest of the country by the end of the year, making millions of old radios obsolete. PRI.org

Supporters of Digital Audio Broadcasting say DAB offers better sound quality and more channels at an eighth of the cost of   FM   (transmission, which was first launched in the US in 1945. I’m going to wait till the price of adaptors comes down before getting one for my car.”
So while the switch to digital will reduce the cost of transmission for broadcasters, it is listeners who will pick up much of the cost of the transition. The UK has not set a date but has said it will switch off the   FM   signal when 50 percent of all radio listening is digital —   the figure is currently over 35 percent —   and when the DAB signal reaches 90 percent of the population. ‘It’s too expensive’
But many think the shift is premature. Closely watched
The process will be watched closely in Europe by Switzerland, Denmark and Britain, where listeners have taken strongly to digital radio and which all plan plan to shut down   FM   radio broadcasts at some point in the future. But other countries, including France, where neither commercial nor public broadcasters have been convinced by the new technology, are lagging behind. “Every week more than 2.1 million listeners —   half of the listeners —   listen to stations that wouldn’t have existed without this technological transition.”
Part of the reason   Norway   is the first country to switch away from traditional analogue transmission has to do with topography —   it is expensive to get   FM   signals to a small population scattered around a landscape riven with fjords and high mountains. “The big difference and the main reason behind this big technological shift is that we want to offer a better radio service to the whole population,” Ole Jorgen Torvmark, the head of Digitalradio Norge, a company owned by public broadcaster NRK and commercial radio station P4.

Moscow’s long history of gathering ‘kompromat’

anyone you think you might be able to manipulate.”
“We all assume that we are kind of being looked after,” says Filipov, “somebody’s on your phone, or somebody’s on your computer, somebody’s listening to you or whatever. in what was a five-room office/apartment. Who knows. You can use it to recruit them. Listen to the full interview. It’s anything that might be going on that’s interesting,” Filipov continue. And he says all kinds of people are gathering komptomat. So they’ll record you, they’ll do surveillance, see what you’re up to. Maybe the guy they’re using it against is a friend now, but might be an enemy later.”
“So it’s various security agencies. It’s so common it even has a special name: kompromat.Player utilitiesPopout
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downloadThis story is based on a radio interview. “They’ve been saying we don’t want to hack anybody, we don’t want to hurt anybody.”   “Anyone who might be an interesting figure … And that was 1994.”
Trump began visiting Russia in the 1980s. You can use it to — if it’s an official —   coax out of them positions, policy positions that you want them to have.”
Filipov is Moscow bureau chief for the Washington Post. You show up and they say,   let’s just see what this guy does. Some stuff gets in a file and maybe they can use it, maybe they can’t use it. At his news conference Wednesday, Trump acknowledged that he and everyone knew hotel rooms there were bugged. And the guy found 135 listening devices … And then individual companies and organizations have their own intelligence, and everybody is gathering it.”
“This was something former KGB officers were telling us here,” adds Filipov, “they’re not necessarily targeting you. You can use it to make them do something you want. Somebody said to me today, it’s like a vacuum cleaner. “There are more than one, as we’re all learning now, intelligence agencies in Russia. PRI.org

“Kompromat,” says David Filipov, “means ‘compromising material’ that can be used down the road as leverage over somebody. “They’ve been professing disbelief about all of it,” says Filipov. And the idea is — part of it is security —   but also just having an eye out.”
“When I was the bureau chief for the Boston Globe, after the Soviet [Union] ended,” explains Filipov, “we hired a firm to come in and see if there were any bugs in our office. The Russian security services are basically sucking everything up, which maybe someday they can use. Moscow rejects any notion that it collects compromising material on anyone. Moscow has a long tradition of gathering and using compromising material. “A high profile person comes in from the United States, goes to a hotel, we happen to have cameras in the hotel, let’s just record what’s in there, maybe he orders champagne and caviar and charges it to the Washington Post, you know what I mean?”
Anyone could be monitored: journalists and businessmen, foreign and Russian.

Kremlin spokesman says claims against Trump, printed in BuzzFeed, are ‘pulp fiction’

“The Kremlin does not have compromising information on Trump,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists. He also denied allegations that the Kremlin gathered compromising information on the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, saying that “the Kremlin does not work on gathering compromising information.”
The Kremlin spokesman described the dossier as “pulp fiction,” adding that “undoubtedly you need to react to this with a degree of humor.”
But he said that it showed that “there are people whipping up hysteria in order to maintain this atmosphere of a witch hunt.”
He spoke after Trump on Twitter called the allegations “a total political witch hunt.”
The Kremlin works to “arrange relations of the Russian president with our Western partners firstly in the interests of the Russian people and secondly in the interests of global peace and security,” Peskov insisted.   The Kremlin on Wednesday denied claims that Russia gathered compromising information on US President-elect Donald Trump, saying they were aimed at damaging Moscow’s relations with Washington. He called the claims published by US media outlet BuzzFeed and attributed to a former British intelligence operative a “total fake” and “an obvious attempt to harm our bilateral relations.”
The claims are aimed at “keeping relations [with the United States] in a state of deterioration,” instead of becoming constructive, Peskov said.

Cameroon has been using witchcraft to fight Boko Haram

“I was recently alerted that two women were in possession of a bomb. These would be spiritual, not literal, accomplishments. “Regarding witchcraft, we don’t have the resources to assess the level of its impact on the ground.”
But locals believe. But there is much more left to do. Soldiers on patrol saved us.”

This 1998 file photo shows a witch doctor from Cameroon casting a spell on a soccer ball prior to a national team practice session. “One morning the terrorists entered our house,” said a 32-year-old woman who fled Kérawa, a village on the Nigerian border, with her 9-month-old baby. Another militia fighter, a 30-year-old who gave his name only as Delli, said he possessed an amulet that allowed him to turn invisible and sneak up on Boko Haram terrorists in Kérawa. “I pronounced the magic phrases and I appeared before them. The law imposes fines and prison sentences of as long as 10 years on those convicted of black magic. “When one comes to advocate the practice of witchcraft, it is because one is not sure of one’s army,” she said. Filled with supposedly magic objects and paper inscribed with verses from the Koran, Bible or other holy scriptures, gris-gris originated in Africa but are common among voodoo practitioners in the Caribbean as well. Credit:

Reuters

Ironically, witchcraft is illegal in Cameroon due to its perceived pernicious effects in tribal communities, where believers frequently cast spells in hopes of hurting their enemies. And locals in Mora, a remote mountainous district in the Far North province near Nigeria, said they would try anything to end the Islamic State’s reign of terror. “Since I have this gris-gris, I have no problem,” said Mohamad Ahmed, a gym teacher and member of a local militia in Mora, referring to a small cloth bag typically worn around the neck or wrist. “I am concerned about the consequences,” said Ngue Bong Simon Pierre, a lawyer in Douala. If someone shoots at you, the bullets have no effect. Fight for your country.”
Many viewed the move as a sign of Biya’s desperation as the jihadists continue their rampage of suicide attacks, pillaging and kidnapping throughout Cameroon, as well as in Chad and Nigeria. “We expect every village to have brilliant actions in this direction,” said Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of the Far North region of the country, echoing the president. This is very serious for the morale of the troops.”
“What is surprising,” she went on, “is that the head of state advocates the practice of witchcraft prohibited in Cameroon. “Some members of the vigilance committees now have the ability to mystically eat the hearts of enemies or make them slaves by pronouncing incantations,” said Boukar. “They murdered my husband before our eyes,” she said. “We pass the information of the higher-ups to the populations concerned,” said Toudje Goumo, a deputy prefect of the Mayo-Sava area in Cameroon’s Far North region. The three countries have made headway against the group —   some commercial routes between Cameroon and Nigeria that had been closed due to the violence have reopened, and some of the people displaced from villages near the Nigerian border have been able to return home. Women often don them for contraception. “I put it on at the moment I go into the field of fighting. “It is not up to a head of state to advocate practices of black magic in a theater of operations where it is the weapons that must inflict defeat on Boko Haram, not magicians or sorcerers. The bomb was defused.”
Still, officials don’t know if the wizardry has been working or not. So Cameroon is trying spells and curses too. I wanted to surprise them,” he explained. They fall on the ground like small pebbles.”
Ahmed noted that he has not been shot to test the charm, however. Against Boko Haram, he said his disciples could choose between magic trinkets like Ahmed’s, or vampirism. “Then they raped my neighbor before setting fire to the whole village. However, “it is well known that occult ceremonies are practiced in the political circles of Cameroon at a very high level,” said Henriette Ekwe, a Cameroonian political analyst and good government advocate. “Isn’t it possible that those responsible for performing these rites might also abuse them?”
Christian Locka reported from Yaounde, Cameroon. In the war on terror, guns and bombs just haven’t been enough. After Biya’s call to employ witchcraft against Boko Haram in January 2016, hundreds of militia fighters rushed to sorcerers, commonly called “marabouts,” to obtain lucky charms and talismans to protect them in battle. About a year ago, Cameroonian President Paul Biya urged citizens to use witchcraft against Boko Haram, the Islamic State-affiliated militants who have terrorized West Africa for years. In fact, faith in the supernatural is so strong among Cameroonians that some said they feared militia members might use magic to commit crimes or exact revenge for grievances against their neighbors. She declined to provide her name out of fear of retribution from Boko Haram militants. In the past two years, more than 1,500 Cameroonians have died in the war against Boko Haram, while the violence has displaced 155,000 people, according to the government. She maintains that the call for occult help isn’t a good sign. The fetish protects its wearer. To locals, there are two types of witchcraft: fetishism, which employs charms to harm or do good, and vampirism, in which incantations replace the physical objects. “It is so powerful,” said Ahmed. The woman, now in Mora, was a farmer in Kérawa. “We want to hear that this or that village has wiped out or limited the sect’s damage through witchcraft. How many times have we thrown old people into cells on the grounds that they are accused of practicing black magic in the villages?”
Baba Boukar, a marabout, claimed that he had studied witchcraft for years and could invoke curses and cure the sick.

Police to Trump, Clinton and Sanders: ‘Pay your bills already’

“My goal is to make sure the candidate gets in and out — regardless of money or who they are — safely.”
Sheriff John R. When a barnstorming presidential candidate sweeps into a city for a campaign rally, often on just a few days notice, if that, it’s often unclear who’s financially responsible for securing the event.  
And Trump arguably owes more. Still no response. I’ll definitely be doing my homework before late 2019.”
The Center for Public Integrity   is a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington DC. In his letter, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, McGahn disputed Rankin’s interpretation of Tucson’s contract with the Trump campaign and even criticized the Tucson police’s performance at the rally. There’s a “significant amount of ambiguity” in FEC regulations regarding what candidates must publicly disclose as debt, said Brett Kappel, a DC-based election lawyer at Akerman LLP. In Wisconsin, Green Bay officials say the Clinton campaign has yet to pay off bills from events in March, September and November totaling nearly $12,800. Toomey added that he considered taking the Sanders campaign to court for nonpayment but decided against it. ‘The City may pursue all of its remedies’
Rhetorically, Trump supports police with aplomb. They’ll then deploy officers to serve a variety of functions: crowd control, perimeter patrols, closing streets, escorting dignitaries. Three months later, it sent the campaign a debt collection letter. Some officials explained that the exercise is pointless, as campaigns over the years have rarely paid them back. When Trump conducted a last-minute rally on June 10 in Richmond, the city coughed up more than $41,000 for public safety efforts and police personnel. It had nearly $255,000 remaining it its account. I’m the one who gets skewered — the negatives are endless.”
Ultimately, the Sanders campaign gave the Upper Providence Township Police Department $2,250, and the two sides settled, Toomey said. Since Election Day, it’s been in a fight with the federal government to recoup what it says are the roughly $500,000-per-day costs of securing Trump Tower in Manhattan, where the president-elect conducts much of his transition business. But Tucson, Arizona, officials say Trump owes them $81,837 for security and traffic control services during his “Make America Great Again Rally” on March 19 at the Tucson Convention Center. During presidential candidate events, police forces and municipalities arguably provided governmental services for which campaigns — absent a contract or other security services agreement — aren’t financially responsible, said Eric Wang, a Washington DC-based election lawyer at Wiley Rein LLP and former counsel to current Federal Election Commission Vice Chairwoman Caroline Hunter. While some do, others don’t even bother. Secret Service is not funded during the appropriations process to reimburse state and local police departments assisting the Secret Service in protective operations,” Secret Service spokeswoman Cathy L. Al Sharpton and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, remain in debt to a variety of non-law enforcement creditors. The contract also stated that convention center staff reserved the right to “increase or change its security arrangements” — and that the Trump campaign “shall promptly comply with such request” and pay any additional fees. Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier declined to comment on the other presidential candidates’ debt situations, but said Cruz, who quit the presidential race in May, put “a high value on running an organized campaign” that promptly paid vendors and creditors. That’s because the Trump campaign — despite receiving demand letters and collection notices — doesn’t acknowledge in federal campaign financial disclosures that it owes cities a cent. 20 letter, sent six months after the original bill. “The Campaign did not contract for, not did it request or arrange for the Tucson Police Department to provide public safety at the Campaign event,” wrote Deutsch, who declined to speak on the record for this story. “We, of course, would like them to pay the invoices that we sent previously,” she said. Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs declined to comment, referring questions to the Secret Service. New duties placed on law enforcement related to federal homeland security mandates, as well as difficulty securing federal funds, have also constrained city budgets, the National League of Cities wrote. Eau Claire, Wisconsin, says Clinton won’t pay a $6,812 from a visit in April.  
Many police departments would disagree: The Sanders campaign in December reported to the Federal Election Commission that it owed 23 local governments and law enforcement agencies a combined $449,409 for “event security.” In its filing, the Sanders campaign doesn’t dispute the debts. In March, as the Democratic presidential primary raged, the pro-Sanders Veterans for Bernie organization chided the Clinton campaign for local news reports indicating Clinton was slow to pay her bills for police protection. The Trump, Clinton and Sanders campaigns wouldn’t comment. It likewise boasted that the Sanders campaign showed “an understanding and respect for the challenges faced by municipalities and local police departments” by reimbursing local governments for police protection. Federal law doesn’t offer much clarity. Why bill the campaign and not the Secret Service? “We are also very appreciative when they honor their debts.”
Green Bay is no anomaly. Officials in Eau Claire are similarly steamed, noting in a Sept. Contract or not, many mayors, police chiefs and city managers say presidential candidates who profess to support law enforcement should back up their words with dollars. “You are responsible for these payments,” Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin reiterated to the Trump campaign in a Sept. Spokane, Washington, is still waiting for Trump’s campaign to pay a bill of $65,124. Some local officials said they feared the campaigns might go elsewhere if they haggled over bills. And if a city government decides to bill a presidential campaign for its campaign-related police work? But officials at Green Bay City Hall sure do. “The Campaign has had numerous reports from people who attended the event that the on-site police officers refused to do anything to control protestors or otherwise protect attendees of the event.”
As of early January, Trump’s campaign had not paid its bill, and Tucson officials are still weighing their options. We do not give them the kind of respect that they have to have,” Trump said in a campaign video from February. Senate Appropriations Committee spokesman Stephen Worley concurred, noting that Congress also does not provide funding to reimburse state and local law enforcement agencies for presidential visits, heads of state or other high-level dignitaries. But this widespread failure to pay follows an election season when many presidential candidates — particularly Trump — argued that law enforcement deserved both more resources and more respect. Complicating cities’ collection efforts: local officials often can’t force campaigns to pay unless they signed a formal, contractual agreement with the campaigns, which many have not. 27, Trump’s campaign lawyer Don McGahn — now incoming White House counsel — wrote Rankin back. “What if I said, ‘Look, you’re on your own, have fun,’ and a fight breaks out, or something terrible happens? So … why not? “There shouldn’t be much debate about it — cities across America provided protection at a cost and should be reimbursed for it,” said Mayor John McNally of Youngstown, Ohio, which is still waiting for the Sanders campaign to pay a nearly $6,000 bill for security the city provided at a March 14 campaign event. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Tucson assigned 76 police officers to staff Sanders’ March 18 campaign rally at Tucson Arena. “Who wants to get bogged down in that?” he asked. Curiously, Clinton’s campaign did pay Philadelphia’s $8,500 security bill from a Nov. It’s a situation that, for Mayor Dwight Jones of Richmond, Virginia, is perplexing. “If you fail to remit payment in a timely manner, the City may pursue all of its remedies,” including suing the Trump campaign. While West Allis, population 60,000, didn’t bill presidential candidates for event security costs during the 2016 election, Devine says he’ll push to change that. “I received no reply,” Gossage said. Another reason for not sending bills: Local officials don’t want to dampen the economic benefits — full restaurants, busy storefronts, happy hoteliers — of an event attracting thousands of people. “I want to support them, our police officers, with the resources they need to do their jobs, to do them effectively, to learn from their efforts and to apply those lessons across our nation,” Clinton said in August during a meeting with law enforcement officials. At least three-dozen municipal governments and law enforcement agencies say presidential campaigns have ignored hundreds of thousands of dollars in outstanding bills stemming from police security for campaign events — from Vallejo, California, to the University of Pittsburgh. “The campaigns ought to respect a city’s decision, whatever it may be,” Stephens said. On Oct. 5 event Clinton conducted with musician Katy Perry at Mann Music Center. Back in Green Bay, Wisconsin, for example, which continues to wait for Trump, Clinton and Sanders to pay up, the Cruz presidential committee long ago settled a nearly $1,200 security bill related to Cruz campaign events in March and April, according to city records. And they’re miffed the three politicos have stiffed them on police protection bills totaling $24,000. “We are also, however, not averse to being reimbursed,” he added. But the campaign hasn’t settled up on the $9,380 security tab from an Aug. 17. Officials are about to try one more time with a “final collection letter” and “additional steps” to contact Clinton’s campaign committee. “Just because the local police departments and governments may want the campaigns to reimburse them for the additional security costs doesn’t necessarily mean that, as a matter of law, there is a ‘debt.’”
After all, if candidates had to pay (or at least publicly disclose as “debt”) any bill they received, what would stop someone, particularly scam artists or unscrupulous political actor, from attempting to bleed a campaign of money it doesn’t owe? 5 rally, and the city could not explain why. Many municipal governments “face great difficulty in purchasing necessary public safety equipment because of budget constraints,” the National League of Cities further asserted in a resolution aimed at newly inaugurated federal lawmakers. “I am concerned that the campaign was overly selective as to what service/organization they would reimburse for protective services rendered,” Gossage wrote back, noting that the Sanders campaign did pay one of its bills — all $11,472 of it — that Green Bay’s city government sent it. Cities also want Clinton, Sanders to pay
Clinton, like Trump, talked a blue streak about boosting law enforcement. On Monday, Trump marked National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day by tweeting six pictures of himself standing with police offers and other emergency personnel. In Green Bay, officials said the Trump campaign paid a $1,403 police bill for hotel security on March 29 and a $9,550 bill for an event Oct. In a July letter to Douglas Mease, special agent-in-charge of the Secret Service’s Richmond Field Office, Jones argued that his city should be compensated for the “coordinated and massive planning and operational effort by a number of local public safety agencies.”
Richmond has yet to recoup its money.  
Clinton’s campaign committee has enough money to pay its bills, having last month reported carrying a more than $838,000 surplus on its books. “They said [the bill] was exorbitant and too high, and that they didn’t ask for the manpower,” Toomey said. No luck. But officials chose to not bill the Trump campaign for them. Deciding whether to fight
A city government’s decision to invoice a presidential campaign for police and security services depends on the city government itself. But Sanders campaign lawyer Brad Deutsch, in responding to a demand letter from Tucson, argued that the Sanders campaign shouldn’t have to pay bills for services that the Secret Service — not the campaign itself — requested. “Thank you to all of the men and women who protect & serve our communities 24/7/365!” Trump wrote. Others consider police protection of political events part of their taxpayer-funded responsibilities — similar to policing a holiday parade, or a peaceful public protest. Rick Santorum, the Rev. “We appreciate, and we feel honored, when the candidates come to Green Bay,” said Celestine Jeffreys, chief of staff to Mayor Jim Schmitt. Tucson, which signed a contract with the Trump campaign, is particularly adamant.  
  And in Wisconsin, where Trump beat Clinton by fewer than 23,000 votes, city officials in Eau Claire want Trump to cough up $47,398. The Sanders campaign, in contrast, says in federal campaign filings that it owes $449,409, spread among nearly two-dozen municipalities and law enforcement agencies. Milhoan said in a statement. The Trump transition team did not respond to numerous requests for comment regarding its unpaid police protection bills or how it determined which police bills to pay or not pay. The differing approaches make it difficult to determine just how many security-related bills have been sent to the major White House hopefuls since their campaigns began touring the nation in earnest in mid-2015. It did not report police bills from Philadelphia, Green Bay or any other locality as campaign debt. 27 demand letter to Trump’s campaign that his visit on April 2 “incurred a significant amount” of costs for the city of 68,000. Because the Secret Service doesn’t reimburse local police jurisdictions, even when it asked for the help. And it’s impossible to know how many presidential candidates of yore never paid police bills they received — and never reported them as debt. “The campaign should pay for the services.”
‘Morally, it’s the thing to do’  
One presidential campaign that municipal officials across the country consistently lauded for paying its local police-related bills was that of Sen. “We do realize that our communities face unique circumstances and costs may start to become oppressive in today’s world in which all communities around the globe harbor concerns over foreign and/or domestic terrorism.”
Just ask New York City. If that fails, the matter will be sent to the city’s legal department “for collective action at the appropriate time,” said Ajeenah S. “City resources are already stretched thin without presidential candidates visiting. The charges range from calling in help from three nearby police departments to providing cops with pizzas while they stood guard throughout the day. Amir, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.  
The March 18 contract signed by then-Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski and Tucson Convention Center General Manager Glenn Grabski stipulated that the Trump campaign was financially responsible for “security, crowd and traffic personnel” that convention center staff deemed necessary. No response. Clinton campaign officials would not talk about the campaign’s nonpayment of police bills despite several calls and emails requesting comment. The only debt it reported was a $766,756 campaign polling expense that it labeled as contested in federal filings. “The U.S. While the financial condition of US cities is returning to pre-Great Recession levels of health, municipal governments last year ranked public safety costs among factors that most negatively affect their budgets, according to the National League of Cities’ 2016 City Fiscal Conditions report.  
Local cops also found themselves in the midst of numerous unruly, even violent, Trump rallies, with Trump himself sometimes directing security to eject protesters and hecklers. The cities of Santa Monica, California ($117,047), Irvine, California ($67,000), Tucson ($44,013), Spokane ($33,318) and Vallejo, California ($28,702) are listed as Sanders’ campaign’s top creditors. Who should pay for candidate safety? The Fraternal Order of Police, the world’s largest law enforcement officer organization, which endorsed Trump during the general election, also did not respond to requests for comment. Green Bay leaders are seeking $9,380. “In the interest of public safety and managing traffic, we just do the job,” said Steve Hegarty, spokesman for the Tampa Police Department in Florida. Gossage of Brown County, Wisconsin, wasn’t pleased when Casey Sinnwell, Sanders’ national director of scheduling and advance, told him to contact the Secret Service to collect on a $2,883 event security bill. Two-thousand miles away, Deputy Sheriff Christine   Castillo of the Solano County Sheriff’s Office in California says the Sanders campaign never once responded to the more than $22,100 worth of invoices it sent after staffing campaign events before the state’s Democratic primary on June 4. “The police in our country are not appreciated. “Morally, it’s the thing to do,” he said of candidates paying for local police protection. Blame Congress. Offering presidential candidates security while they speak publicly to city residents is “part of our basic public safety mission,” Barwin said.   “The senator wants to treat people well,” Frazier said, noting that paying bills “is ultimately a reflection on him.”
For his part, Mayor Dan Devine of West Allis, Wisconsin, which twice hosted Trump campaign events last year, wishes all presidential candidates would follow suit. Trump’s campaign alone hasn’t paid nearly $204,000 worth of police-related invoices, according to municipal billing records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. Several prominent law enforcement organizations later endorsed him. Local governments almost never refuse. Scott Walker, former Sen. Through November, Cruz’s still-technically-operational presidential committee reported owing no money to anyone, including municipal governments. The Trump campaign in December disclosed having more than $7.6 million remaining in its account. Presidential campaigns asserted in communications with some city governments that they’re not responsible for many security costs. Here’s how events typically unfold: Before a campaign event, the US Secret Service, which is primarily responsible for ensuring the safety of presidential candidates, asks local police departments or other public safety agencies to assist them. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders may not remember much about the rallies they each held last year in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Sanders could conceivably pay all his police bills immediately: His campaign in December reported having more than $4.71 million cash on hand.  
Mayor Paul Finley of Madison, Alabama, estimated that his little city provided the Trump campaign $30,000 worth of city services related to a large rally in February. It should be the purview of individual municipalities to decide whether they want to bill presidential candidates for police services they provide the candidates, said Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which represents top police officials in the United States and Canada. Devine notes that candidates often conduct campaign fundraisers before and after public events, and they receive municipal police services for them, too. What happened then? “Reasonable people could certainly dispute whether there is any disputed debt to be reported here,” Wang said. “Everyone is safer when there is respect for the law and when everyone is respected by the law.”
But Clinton’s campaign, too, has failed to pay some police bills. The campaign “was, in fact, frustrated by the refusal of Tucson Police to do anything to control the violent and angry protestors outside the Convention Center,” McGahn wrote. That’s according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal campaign disclosures and municipal invoices, as well as interviews with more than 60 local government officials. After the candidate comes and goes, the host city sometimes bills the presidential campaign for police officer overtime and other related costs. Philadelphia officials, for one, sent the Clinton campaign a $2,678 invoice for security surrounding an April 25 campaign rally at Philadelphia City Hall. Officials in Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Detroit; Kansas City, Missouri; Milwaukee; Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida, for example, said their municipalities generally do not bill presidential campaigns for police protection they provide at campaign events staged within their cities’ limits. “The prevailing argument has been that state and local law enforcement are responsible for protecting public safety in these circumstances, just as they would around any other event,” Worley said. “The level of security or public safety requirements anticipated for any particular event were not dictated by the campaign.”
In Pennsylvania, Chief Mark Toomey of the Upper Providence Township Police Department attempted to convince Sanders’ campaign to pay a $25,620 invoice related to a Democratic primary campaign event in April. (The Trump campaign paid up front and in full when renting Madison City Stadium.)
City Manager Tom Barwin of Sarasota, Florida, says his city also chose not to bill presidential campaigns for police protection they provided to Trump when he twice visited last year. Nor does the Clinton campaign. Many past presidential candidates, including Wisconsin Gov.

Rex Tillerson’s long, troubled history in Venezuela

Anti-Exxon, anti-America. ExxonMobil aimed to receive market value for its investments, assessed at $15 billion. But he nonetheless knows the world and is well-known on the international stage. He might compel Venezuela to honor its   international financial commitments   and act pragmatically given its situation, by privatizing confiscated unproductive industries, reducing the mandatory 60 percent   PDVSA national ownership in all oil projects and ending price controls for domestic production. Venezuela’s ties to ExxonMobil were severed in 1976, when Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Pérez sought to   nationalize the oil industry. In this scenario, the US and Venezuela might even reach an agreement to alleviate domestic food and medicine scarcity. In 2014 Venezuela was ordered to   compensate ExxonMobil   $1.6 billion. His relationship with Venezuela, the world’s   11th ranked producer of crude, has been more fraught. Today both countries are seeking a peaceful agreement to this old border dispute with   the UN Secretary General. They were reestablished in the 1990s when Pérez, in his second term, launched the so-called “Apertura Petrolera” (“oil opening”), seeking to attract foreign investment and develop the Orinoco oil belt. But when Chávez decided to re-nationalize the oil business in 2007, Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, acquired a majority stake in domestic oil ventures. Which path will Tillerson follow with Venezuela? Having worked his way up through different positions in Exxon since 1975, he became chairman and CEO in 2006. What’s happened since, particularly during the governments of the so-called “Socialism of the 21st Century” under the successive administrations of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, does not necessarily augur well for bilateral US-Venezuela relations under Tillerson. 11, 2017. Tillerson has   no experience in government, the military or as a public servant. Any of these measures would further devastate the country’s already critical economic situation and increase the Maduro government’s international isolation. Given Tillerson’s experience and negotiating mastery, however, it is feasible that he could see beyond the radical left-wing discourse. — Donald J. Credit:

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Exxon and Venezuela: a rocky road
ExxonMobil’s history in Venezuela starts in 1921, when its predecessor, Standard Oil, set up shop there. In the second, the pragmatism and traditional interests of international business — that is, Tillerson’s own instincts — may predominate. In the first scenario, Tillerson’s ExxonMobil proclivities are set aside in the service of a relationship based on hard principles and American values of the sort the incoming US president has said he seeks to resuscitate. This position provides a familiarity with international diplomacy, expertise in managing large operations, and skills negotiating with global leaders. We’ll have to wait for his confirmation to find out. In 2000 and 2002 the Venezuelan government brought   claims to the World Petroleum Congress   about Guyana’s proffered concessions in the Essequibo. This might include increasing sanctions against Venezuelan officials (similar to those currently   in force until 2019), severing diplomatic relations or suspending or significantly reducing Venezuelan oil purchases. In September, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who supported the 2014 sanctions   levied against Venezuelan officials   (not general economic sanctions),   expressed concern. But conflicts of interest could haunt his term. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2016
These features could make Tillerson the Trump administration’s ace card, bringing an extraordinary understanding of the role oil plays in the world — particularly in Russia and China — and of how to rebuild American political power in the global arena. Political bluster or business pragmatism? ExxonMobil, by now under Tillerson’s leadership, rejected the government’s offer to pay book value for its assets, countering with a request for arbitration by the World Bank’s investment disputes settlement centre. Tillerson has close ties to Russia: In 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin   granted him the Order of Friendship award, and a   recent leak   revealed that he once served as director of the Bahamas-based US-Russian oil firm, Exxon Neftegas. A possible future Secretary of State Tillerson could take one of two paths. Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez holds a paper declaring “PDVSA has beat Exxon.”

Credit:

Jorge Silva/Reuters

Another problem arose in 2015, this time under Maduro, when ExxonMobil   launched oil operations   off the coast of neighboring Guyana. But a historically troubled relationship with Venezuela, coupled with its anti-American discourse, could nonetheless bring about an aggressive US stance toward Venezuela. But of course that won’t summarily erase the relationships he has built with leaders of oil-producing countries, which stand to influence his tenure. This story was first published by The Conversation. That area lies very close to Venezuela’s Delta Amacuro state, in the Essequibo territory over which Venezuela has   asserted ownership   for more than a century. Rex Tillerson   testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing to become US   secretary of state in Washington, DC, Jan. Stay tuned! Maduro has accused ExxonMobil of trying to   destabilize   the region by siding with Guyana, while ExxonMobil has complained about the Venezuelan government trying to   turn countries against the company. “We’re very, very concerned for the people of Venezuela, for the level of conflict, starvation, lack of medicine,” he said. Credit:

Jorge Silva/Reuters

Despite the terrible situation that’s now worn on for over a year, there is no sign of policy correction. — Donald J. Traditionally, Tillerson and ExxonMobil have been against   economic sanctions as international policy. Or, to quote Trump:
I have chosen one of the truly great business leaders of the world, Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, to be Secretary of State. The weaknesses of Venezuela’s economic model —   a political-ideological project in which the country was able to leverage oil to buy domestic and international support — have   been brought into stark perspective. Meanwhile, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd, an ExxonMobil subsidiary, has declared that it will continue developing the region, which is part of a $200 million, 10-year contract between Esso and the Guyanese government. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
Whether I choose him or not for “State”- Rex Tillerson, the Chairman & CEO of ExxonMobil, is a world class player and dealmaker. This raises questions about how a Tillerson-run State Department would engage the crisis-stricken, oil-rich South American country. After dismantling the private domestic productive apparatus (creating absolute dependence on oil exports) and weakening state institutions, Venezuela now has insufficient fiscal revenues, massive debt, a debilitated currency on the road to hyperinflation, scarcity of basic products — plus skyrocketing crime, legal insecurity, political imprisonments, social unrest   and so on. International companies were initially compelled to cease drilling, but in 2012 operations resumed. Oil and the Venezuelan crisis
Venezuela is now facing the worst chapter of history since its 19th century civil war, and is experiencing a   major humanitarian crisis   — despite having enjoyed the greatest oil boom of its history during the first decade of this century. If Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil and President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, is confirmed by the   Senate, he has agreed to   sever all ties   with the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas company. The Maduro government blames an   imperial economic war, wherein the US is highly culpable, along with the local oligarchy.

Watch live: Donald Trump’s first press conference since election

Although the Texan embodies Trump’s ideal of a globetrotting deal-maker, he has come under suspicion from the president-elect’s opponents for close ties to Putin. The dossier
Without corroborating its contents, BuzzFeed published a 35-page dossier of memos on which the synopsis presented to Trump is based. 20. “The Kremlin does not have compromising information on Trump,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling journalists. Trump called it more evidence of a political witch hunt to delegitimize his November victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, with nine days to go before the 70-year-old billionaire takes office. The Kremlin spokesman called the dossier a “total fake” and “an obvious attempt to harm our bilateral relations.”
No more rule book
No other US president-elect in modern times has waited so long to go formally before the media, considered important to shore up public accountability, yet Trump has reveled in ripping up the rule book. Washington’s feud with Russia will be scrutinized even further at the Senate confirmation hearing — also on Wednesday — of former ExxonMobil boss Rex Tillerson as Trump’s pick for secretary of state. Even before the allegations surfaced widely in US media on Tuesday, reporters had been expected to grill Trump over his ties to Russia after the US intelligence community concluded Moscow interfered in the November election in a bid to tip the race in Trump’s favor. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”  
Trump called the situation “a sorry state.”
“I win an election easily, a great ‘movement’ is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS,” he said. “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. While he has conducted one-on-one interviews with select media and taken questions from reporters in informal settings, his performance at the press conference will be scrutinized, as polls show his already bleak approval ratings deteriorate further as the clock ticks down to inauguration day on Jan. US President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday furiously denied explosive claims that Russian intelligence has gathered compromising personal and professional information on him, hours before he faces the media for the first time since his election win. “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. They also suggest Russian officials proposed lucrative deals in order to win influence over the real estate magnate. The news conference at Trump Tower will be the president-elect’s first in nearly six months. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” he said on Twitter. The memos, which had been circulating in Washington for months, describe sex videos involving prostitutes filmed during a 2013 visit by Trump to a luxury Moscow hotel, supposedly as a potential means for blackmail. The Kremlin has dismissed the dossier — drawn up by a former British intelligence agent hired to do “opposition research” on Trump during the presidential campaign and published by US media outlet BuzzFeed — as a “total fake” aimed at damaging bilateral ties. Trump was reportedly informed of the existence of the dossier — and its salacious details — last Friday when he received a briefing from US intelligence chiefs on alleged Russian interference in the presidential election. Watch his remarks live here, starting at 11:00 am EST:

Intelligence chiefs last week presented America’s incoming 45th president, as well as current President Barack Obama, with a two-page synopsis on the potentially embarrassing but unsubstantiated allegations, according to CNN and The New York Times, who cited multiple unnamed US officials with knowledge of the meeting. The New York billionaire, never previously elected to office, has preferred to make off-the-cuff statements, punch out incendiary tweets and call out anyone who dares cross him — from Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep to an Indiana union leader. The classified two-page synopsis reportedly included allegations that there was a regular flow of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and Russian government intermediaries, which a Trump aide denied.

Watch live: Rex Tillerson’s Senate confirmation hearing

He also hit out at China, warning that the Asian power pursues its “own goals” and has not sufficiently helped rein in a nuclear-armed North Korea. “Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia,” he said, adding that the United States “must also be clear-eyed about our relationship with Russia.”
“Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests,” he said. And Trump, himself a billionaire businessman with property interests around the world, was impressed. Beijing is a close Pyongyang ally and is seen as critical in helping contain the pariah state’s nuclear activities. The Democratic minority in the Senate will try to make life difficult for Trump’s cabinet nominees, and a handful of Republicans have raised concerns about Tillerson’s candidacy. “The thing I like best about Rex Tillerson is that he has vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments,” Trump tweeted. We have to deal with what we see, not what we hope,” Tillerson said. Until he stepped down from ExxonMobil on New Year’s Eve, Tillerson was also director of Exxon Neftegas, an affiliate that operates the Sakhalin-1 field in Russia’s Far East. The former ExxonMobil chief executive’s remark in his opening statement came against a backdrop of controversy over alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election and his own close ties to President Vladimir Putin. The US parent firm was chasing greater investments in Russia, including Arctic fields, and Tillerson was a familiar and popular figure in Moscow, winning his medal from Putin in 2012. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, acknowledged Wednesday that Russia poses an international danger and that its recent actions had “disregarded” US interests, as he faced a Senate grilling. “To achieve the stability that is foundational to peace and security in the 21st century, American leadership must not only be renewed, it must be asserted,” he said. But the former oil executive said disagreements with Beijing on some issues should not preclude “productive partnership” on other matters. “While Russia seeks respect and relevance on the global stage, its recent activities have disregarded American interests,” Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, without offering specifics. Tillerson’s ties to Russia have faced scrutiny. But he stressed that as Washington’s top diplomat, he will conduct a more robust US foreign policy than in recent years. ‘Vast experience’
Republican former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and secretary of defense Robert Gates — whose consulting firm has worked for ExxonMobil — recommended the 64-year-old Tillerson to Trump. Watch the ongoing hearings live here:

Tillerson, whose entire professional career has been in the energy industry, has faced criticism for negotiating with several authoritarian leaders around the globe in his decades with Exxon. But on Wednesday, Tillerson admitted Russia had taken “illegal action” with respect to Crimea. If just three Republicans jump ship, Tillerson could be among the first and most high-profile victims of the spat, despite heavyweight players mobilizing in his support. “China has proven a willingness to act with abandon in the pursuit of its own goals which at times has put it in conflict with American interests. “It has not been a reliable partner in using its full influence to curb North Korea,” he added. This made ExxonMobil under Tillerson a staunch opponent of US and international sanctions against Russia for its aggressive behavior in Ukraine, where it annexed the Crimea region. Trump has publicly stated he would like closer US ties with Russia and Putin, but Tillerson appeared keen to assure lawmakers, including some skeptical Republicans, that he will hold a tough line on Moscow.

As Mexico struggles with a down economy and corruption, protesters take to the streets

Protesters are taking to the streets throughout Mexico to express their outrage over an increase in gas prices, corruption scandals plaguing the country, and the plummeting peso, which hit record lows last week.Player utilitiesPopout
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downloadThis story is based on a radio interview. Elisabeth Malkin, Mexico correspondent for The New York Times, says demonstrations are growing throughout the country. “The question is really how far will he go in keeping his campaign promises, because if he does, that will have a huge impact on Mexico, especially renegotiating or even tearing up the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has brought a lot of investment to Mexico and has created jobs.”
Though he hasn’t officially taken office yet, Trump’s influence has already reached south of the border. “There was another protest again [in Mexico City] [Monday], and there are protests on the border. “People are being asked to sacrifice, but there’s a sense that politicians have continued in their corrupt ways,” she says. On top of all this is the question of President-elect Donald Trump. It’s really been quite widespread.”
Though people are taking to the streets and to social media with the hashtag #Gasolinazo to protest a 20 percent increase in gas prices, Malkin says the fuel demonstrations have actually come to symbolize a myriad of issues. The Trump Administration plans to put more economic pressure on Mexico and build a wall along the southern US   border, something that could make the situation in Mexico worse. “Now, it’s unclear really how much President-elect Trump’s threats and bullying on Twitter was the reason for that, it also has to do with the market for small cars — Mexico’s really become a center for producing small cars. Listen to the full interview. PRI.org

Meanwhile, the popularity of President Enrique Peña Nieto continues to sink, with his approval ratings dropping below 25 percent. “Mexico has seen a number of corruption scandals that have cost hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars. “On Saturday for example, there was a protest in Mexico City, and a much bigger one in Mexico’s second city of Guadalajara,” she says. People are saying, ‘Wait a minute. “There’s a great deal of anxiety here about the Trump presidency,” says Malkin. But if we see more of that, that’s of great, great to Mexicans.”
This story first aired as an interview on PRI’s The Takeaway, a public radio program that invites you to be part of the American conversation. “Last week, we saw an announcement that Ford would cancel a planned new assembly plant here,” Malkin says. We’re being asked to sacrifice and the prices of our ordinary lives are going up, and yet the government seems to be unwilling to do anything about all of the money that’s been stolen?’”
On Monday, Peña Nieto announced an agreement to ease the fiscal burden on ordinary families, but the plan lacked concrete details, Malkin says.