Feb 21

Trump’s solution to school shootings: arm teachers with guns

‘It is the gun, it’s the person behind the gun and it’s about helping people before they ever reach that point,’ said a mother whose daughter died at Sandy Hook elementary

Donald Trump has said he will consider a proposal to arm school teachers in an attempt to prevent mass shootings, a move certain to prove fiercely divisive.

The US president, holding a listening session at the White House with survivors of last week’s Florida school shooting and others affected by gun violence, claimed that allowing airline pilots to carry and conceal guns had demonstrated the measure could be a success.

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US politics | The Guardian

Feb 21

At emotionally raw White House ‘listening session,’ Trump reminded himself to say, ‘I hear you’

The White House “listening session” on guns Wednesday was full of raw emotion, some competing ideas for solutions, and of course, bluster from Donald Trump. 

“It’s not going to be talk like it has been in the past,” Trump promised, saying that he would be “very strong on background checks” and “mental health” issues (too bad he already signed a law revoking Obama-era gun restrictions for people with mental illnesses). Trump also promoted the NRA-backed idea of putting more guns in schools to keep kids safer.

”It’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them,” Trump said. The fact that he was carrying a cheat sheet of notes at the event reminding himself to say “I hear you” didn’t exactly inspire confidence.  

But some goodness did emerge from the White House gathering in the sense that at least it amplified the voices of Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivors and parents of the victims. 

Shooting survivor Justin Gruber, 19, who was born the same year as the Columbine massacre, told the room: “I was born into a world where I never got to experience safety and peace.” 

Andrew Pollack, a grieving father who lost his daughter in the shooting, became visibly angry as he spoke flanked by his three sons. 

We’re here because my daughter has no voice. She was murdered last week and she was taken from us. Shot nine times on the third floor. We as a country failed our children. […] Should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it. And I’m pissed because my daughter I’m not going to see again. She’s not here. She’s not here. […] Never ever will I see my kid. I want it to sink in—it’s eternity. My beautiful daughter, I’m never going to see again.

And Sam Zeif, 18, another shooting survivor, choked back tears as he talked about texting his family members that he might never see them again. “And then it occurred to me that my 14-year-old brother was directly above me—in that classroom where Scott Beigel was murdered,” Zeif said of the teacher who saved his brother’s life. “He was the last kid to get back into that class.” 

Zeif continued, “To feel like this, ever—I can’t feel comfortable in my country knowing that people have, will have, are ever going to feel like this. I want to feel at school. […] I don’t know how I’m ever going to set foot on that place again.” (Please check out the Zeif videos below—it’s required viewing.)

Daily Kos

Feb 21

This Pro-Trump Dating Website Is Exactly as Vile as It Sounds

Think Tinder for the deplorables.

A website that promises to “Make Dating Great Again!” matches Trump supporters looking for companionship, but it only allows users to register as a “straight man” or “straight woman”, although their relationship status is not limited to single. Heavily recycling President Donald Trump’s campaign slogans and featuring a Trump-like hairstyle in their logo, the dating website… Continue reading

Feb 21

Spotlight on green news & views: Why trees do it naked; sea ice hits 12,000-year low

This is the 546th edition of the Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) usually appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Here is the February 3 Green Spotlight. More than 28,428 environmentally oriented stories have been rescued to appear in this series since 2006. Inclusion of a story in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.


Photo of Pikin and Appolinaire taken by Jo-Anne McArthur.

Tevye writes—Wildlife Photograph Of The Year Award Has Been Chosen. Two Survivors Of Horror Find Connection: “Appolinaire Ndohoudou was from Chad. During their civil war, most of his family and friends were killed. With little possessions, he escaped to Cameroon. He wanted to ease the suffering of other living beings. To help other displaced creatures find peace. Pikin is a 6-year old lowland gorilla whose mother, family and friends were also killed, by poachers. For bushmeat. It was what was in store as well for Pikin until she and other gorillas were rescued by Ape Action Africa, an organization dedicated to the conservation of endangered gorillas and chimpanzees, where Appolinaire works as a rescuer and rearer. After their parents are slaughtered for meat, baby apes and chimps are then sold as pets or end up dying in the wild. Pikin was being transferred to a new sanctuary in Cameroon in the lap of Appolinaire when the mild sedatives wore off. As she woke up, she recognized her rescuer, one of the men who freed her from the poachers. They looked at each other. Appolinaire smiled at her and talked gently and quietly to her. Pikin put both both arms around him, the man who will be her caretaker, and relaxed for the hour long trip. It is here that the photograph was taken.”

webranding writes—How To Get Folks Using Public Transportation: “I can get on a bus less than two blocks from my house. I live in a small rural town of under 10,000 folks. Rail line both 3 and 8 miles from my house. But nobody uses it. $ 2.50 for two hour rail service. Ride wherever you want. $ 7 for the day. Any rail service gives you a free bus transfer. Parking at the rail lines is free. Super clean. Safe. Senior citizens ride for free. […] School bus stop a little over a block from my house. On a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, 75°, parents drive to pick up their kids in a car to drive them a block or two. How do I explain to them public transportation is a good idea? I had one person say to me that only ‘poor people’  public transportation. In kind of a weak moment on my part I said I could ‘buy you.’ I am not poor. We just have a wonderful service right in front of us and you won’t use it’.”

Daily Kos

Feb 21

South Carolina’s Horrendous New Anti-Abortion Rights Bill Could Put Women’s Rights in Peril

The legislation seeks to end all legal abortion in the state.

The battle over abortion rights in South Carolina continued this week, with legislation moving through the Senate Judiciary Committee that intends to end legal abortion in the state. As the “Personhood Act of South Carolina” now goes to South Carolina’s Senate, the restrictions proposed are expected to lead to a larger debate.  

The Personhood Act seeks to end all abortions, including those that would terminate pregnancies that result from rape or incest. As The State reported, the bill would “extend legal rights to fertilized eggs at the moment of conception.” 

This component is one of the most controversial portions of the legislation. The bill’s proponent, Richard Cash, responded to a theoretical example in which an 11-year-old was impregnated after a rape: “If a child is raped, yes, that is a horrible act,” Cash said. “Two wrongs don’t make a right. You cannot erase the rape by killing the child. The child is an innocent person,” he stated.

This legislation is part of larger efforts to restrict access to abortion and define when life begins. Abortions after 20 weeks have been banned in South Carolina since 2016. The Personhood Act is supported by Governor Henry McMaster, who stated during his State of the State speech in January, “I believe that human life begins at conception. That’s why, in August, I directed state agencies to stop providing state funds to abortion clinics.”

McMaster went on to say, “This right to life is the most precious of rights, and the most fragile. We must never let it be taken for granted.”

There will now be a full South Carolina Senate vote on the bill, which Democrats oppose. Of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the vote was divided between parties, with one Republican abstaining.

Prior points of contention raised included the issue of eggs in fertility treatments, and abortions during medical emergencies. An amendment was added that accounts for abortions performed in case of medical emergencies; however, the language around this is vague. As The Hill reported, it “would make an exception for ‘unintended’ death if the doctor makes ‘reasonable medical efforts’ to save the life of both the mother and child.”

Democrat Thomas McElveen said there are too many unknowns in regards to the legislation. “I don’t think the authors of this bill and the authors of this amendment have considered the consequences,” McElveen said.

The amendment to the bill does not address fertility treatments like IVF. As the Greenville News reported, Cash said fertilized eggs should not be thrown away, but that the Personhood Act does not address IVF.

In addition to the previous ban on abortions after 20 weeks, there is another piece of embattled legislation currently in committee, titled the South Carolina Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act. The bill seeks to outlaw an abortion procedure that, as The State reported, “doctors consider the safest method of second-trimester abortions.”

Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic has been calling for opposition to the so-called Dismemberment Act and the Personhood Act.

While the new legislation continues to infringe on reproductive choice, for Republicans in support of the bill, it’s part of a much longer political plan to push back against Roe V. Wade, the landmark case marking its 45th anniversary.


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Feb 21

Dallas official urges NRA to take its convention elsewhere and address the ‘madness now’

Dallas is home to this year’s National Rifle Association’s annual convention. Since 2012, the city arranged to be the host to the meeting in exchange for the revenue brought in by the attendees. But this could all change as one city council member and mayor pro tem is urging the NRA to take its convention elsewhere.

After the country’s tragic number of mass shootings in recent months with the most recently taking place in Parkland, Florida last week where 17 people were killed, Dwaine Caraway is asking the NRA to find another place to host this year’s annual convention, which is scheduled to take place May 4-6, as well as urging members to take a stand on the issue.

“It is a tough call when you ask the NRA to reconsider coming to Dallas,” Caraway said. “But it is putting all citizens first and getting [the NRA] to come to the table and elected officials to come to the table, and to address this madness now.”

There are huge protests already planned in Dallas if the NRA goes forth with the convention. The NRA, which “aggressively marketed” the AR-15 as “America’s most popular rifle,” will “permit the sale of ammunition at its convention,” according to Common Dreams.

But instead of selling ammunition and assault weapons, which is the weapon of choice in many of the country’s mass shootings, Caraway is asking the NRA to “show leadership” in the wake of such tragic events.

“Yes, mental illness is an issue, but it’s not just an issue that should only be associated with guns,” Caraway said. “At the end of the day, we need to connect the dots. The NRA needs to step up to the plate and show leadership. Elected officials are receiving dollars from the NRA, and they’re afraid to set policy and to set necessary gun rules.”

Gun lobbying groups keep “insisting that greater presence of firearms through concealed carry legislation would make Americans safer, and that a stronger mental health treatment system would reduce mass shootings,” according to Common Dreams.

But Caraway believes a ban on military-style, semi-automatic weapons is necessary to curb mass shootings.

“Who needs an AR-15 to go hunting? Who needs an AR-15 to protect their house?” he said.

While Caraway is asking the NRA to take its annual convention elsewhere, Dallas’s city attorney is also examining whether the convention can be canceled altogether.

The post Dallas official urges NRA to take its convention elsewhere and address the ‘madness now’ appeared first on NationofChange.


Feb 21

The White House plans to crack down on security … for everyone except Jared Kushner

When asked about White House security at her first-in-a-week press conference on Tuesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quick to say that the White House was going to tighten up the ship. But in questioning, she repeatedly denied that it would impact one person in particular—senior advisor, son-in-law, and subject of interest Jared Kushner.

Sanders slapped back every question about Kushner’s continuing to grab up confidential material while on an interim pass. She also brushed off any concerns that perhaps there was a reason why more than a year after the start of an expedited process for a West Wing staffer, Kusher was still waiting on genuine clearance. Two weeks ago, it was discovered that Rob Portman’s final report from the FBI actually arrived months ago, and that he was only continuing on an interim pass because the White House was engaged in a juggling act where every time the FBI reported Portman as a risk, Trump’s team asked for more information, without ever taking away Portman’s clearance. Whether the same thing is underway for Kushner isn’t clear.

What is clear is that Jared is a very special boy.

Those who have been operating with interim access to top secret information since before June are set to see that access halted Friday under a new policy enacted last week by chief of staff John Kelly. Some officials are expected to leave their posts as a result, while others will continue working with reduced — or no — access to classified information.

The White House maintains that Kushner’s work will be unaffected by the change, but won’t explain why.

Clearly, Trump’s son-in-law doesn’t operate by the normal rules. Not when it comes to security. Or nepotism. But he is apparently having a bit of a West Wing tussle.

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is resisting giving up his access to highly classified information, prompting an internal struggle with John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, over who should be allowed to see some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, according to White House officials and others briefed on the matter.

It’s okay. When the Russians bring documents back to the Kremlin, they can just say “I got it from Jared.”

Daily Kos

Feb 21

CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Openly Questions Donald Trump Jr.’s Intelligence

"How gullible is this guy?"

CNN’s Alisyn Camerota raked Donald Trump Jr. over the coals on Wednesday after noting that he had given a thumbs-up on Twitter to conspiracy theories that attacked Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg for allegedly being a pawn of the FBI.

During a panel discussion with Brian Stelter, Camerota flayed the president’s son for seemingly embracing conspiracy theories about students who were traumatized just last week by a school shooting that left 17 people dead.

“Don Jr., the president’s son, liked some of these on Twitter — how gullible is this guy?” she asked. “He’s falling for these conspiracy theories that these kids who watched their friends be slaughtered and escaped with their lives?”

Stelter said that conspiracy theories about shooting victims were like “pollution” that is “making our society sick.” Camerota then added that this pollution isn’t just relegated to online fever swamps, as an aide to Republican Florida state Rep. Shawn Harrison on Tuesday sent out an email to reporters claiming that two of the school shooting survivors who are regularly interviewed on cable news are really paid actors.

“It’s making it to the White House in the form of Don Jr., and it’s making it to the Florida statehouse,” she said of conspiracy theories about Parkland students. “The good news is that that state rep’s aide was fired right after this because it was so appalling that he fell for this.”

She concluded that people like Donald Trump Jr. and the fired aide who fall for such conspiracy theories have a “lack of brainpower” and a “lack of critical thinking.”

Watch the video below.


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Feb 21

Attorney linked to Trump campaign pleads guilty to lying to investigators

An attorney hired by Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to federal investigators regarding the last time he spoke with former Trump campaign associate Rick Gates. The office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced indictments against both Gates and Manafort last year.

On Friday, the same day that Mueller’s office indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, Alex Van Der Zwaan was criminally charged with lying to federal investigators. A former associate in the London office of the New York-based law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Van Der Zwaan was hired by Manafort years ago to draft a report justifying the incarceration of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko.

According to the criminal charges against Van Der Zwaan, he “deleted and did not otherwise produce emails sought by the Special Counsel’s Office.” He was accused of secretly recording a September 2016 call with an unidentified person and destroying a follow-up email that same month. Van Der Zwaan was also accused of lying to FBI and special counsel investigators about his last conversation with Gates, in mid-August 2016.

In October 2017, Gates and Manafort were indicted on 12 counts, including money laundering, acting as unregistered agents of the Ukrainian government, and tax fraud. With his recent guilty plea, Van Der Zwaan is expected to work with law enforcement officials against his former associates.

Last year, Van Der Zwaan married the daughter of a Ukrainian-Russian energy oligarch, German Khan, who Forbes ranks 138th on its list of billionaires, with a net worth of $ 9.3 billion. Khan is suing BuzzFeed and the private investigation firm Fusion GPS over BuzzFeed’s publication of Christopher Steele’s notorious dossier, which contains a mix of accurate, inaccurate, and unverified claims linking President Donald Trump to Russia. The dossier notes that Khan is a principal owner of Alfa Bank, which allegedly has close ties to Vladimir Putin and assisted Russia’s 2016 election influence scheme against the U.S.

A few hours before Van Der Zwaan’s guilty plea on Tuesday, Rep. Ted Lieu of California tweeted, “Expected guilty plea by Alex Van Der Zwaan tells us at least 3 things:

  • Mueller knows a lot that we don’t know
  • Mueller will indict for lying to @FBI (should scare any Trump official who was interviewed)
  • Basically locks in that Gates will plea, which pressures Manafort to flip”

The post Attorney linked to Trump campaign pleads guilty to lying to investigators appeared first on NationofChange.


Feb 21

Florida shooting: students walk out of schools to call for gun control – video

Students across the US are walking out of their schools to protest against gun violence and demand stricter gun laws after last week’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. They’re marching in solidarity with the survivors of the second deadliest public school shooting in US history to call for a ban on the sale of assault rifles of the sort used to kill 17 students and educators last week 

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US politics | The Guardian