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Monthly Archives: July 2019


It appears that no matter how far forward we go, we are still backpedaling just as far.MA

Lee Moran
HuffPostJuly 31, 2019

Ronald Reagan called United Nations delegates from African countries “monkeys” in a 1971 telephone call with then-President Richard Nixon, according to a newly released recording of the private conversation.
The National Archives released audio of the call between Nixon and Reagan, who was then the GOP governor of California, earlier this month. Nixon, dogged by the Watergate scandal, resigned the presidency in disgrace in 1974. Reagan went on to serve two terms as president in the 1980s.
“To see those, those monkeys from those African countries. Damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes,” Reagan told Nixon, reportedly in reference to members of the Tanzanian delegation dancing in the United Nations’ General Assembly following its vote to recognize the People’s Republic of China.
Reagan also reportedly lobbied Nixon during their exchange to withdraw the U.S. from the U.N. over the other members’ support of China.
In a subsequent telephone call to then-Secretary of State William Rogers, Nixon said Reagan “saw these cannibals on television last night, and he says, ‘Christ, they weren’t even wearing shoes, and here the United States is going to submit its fate to that,’ and so forth and so on.”
The National Archives first released audio of the Reagan-Nixon call, which Nixon had taped in the White House, in 2000, but Reagan’s racist comment was redacted. Reagan died at age 93 in 2004.
Tim Naftali, the director of the Nixon Presidential Library from 2007 to 2011, requested a review of the redaction. The National Archives released the full clip earlier this month, and The Atlantic shared it Tuesday, along with Naftali’s commentary.
“The past month has brought presidential racism back into the headlines,” wrote Naftali, referencing President Donald Trump’s recent racist attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and the city of Baltimore.
“This October 1971 exchange between current and future presidents is a reminder that other presidents have subscribed to the racist belief that Africans or African Americans are somehow inferior,” Naftali added. “The most novel aspect of President Donald Trump’s racist gibes isn’t that he said them, but that he said them in public.”

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By Julia Alexander Aug 15, 2017, 5:00pm EDT

Marvel’s Stan Lee isn’t shy about speaking out against injustices facing society.
Today Lee tweeted a photo of one of his Stan’s Soapbox columns, a monthly piece that ran in Marvel’s Bullpen Bulletins news and information section between 1965-2001, from 1968. Lee’s tweet comes just days after a violent protest organized by white supremacists and neo-Nazis was held in Virginia.

As true today as it was in 1968. Pax et Justitia – Stan pic.twitter.com/VbBtiZzUch
— st

ENTERTAINMENT 11/13/2018 06:19 am ET Updated Nov 13, 2018
Stan Lee’s 1968 Column Denouncing Racism ‘Plaguing The World’ Goes Viral Again
“The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are,” the Marvel Universe pioneer wrote 50 years ago.

By Lee Moran

A column that Marvel Comics visionary Stan Lee penned on racism 50 years ago is again going viral following his death Monday at the age of 95.
In 1968, Lee declared in one of his “Stan’s Soapbox” segments that bigotry and racism were “among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today.” He suggested the only way to destroy them was by revealing them “for the insidious evils they really are”:

Stan Lee leaves behind a complicated legacy. He brought joy to the world while causing pain to the little guy behind-the-scenes. But if we can take something positive from the life he lived, it’s that he made sure to take a public stand when it might’ve cost him.

December 1968: pic.twitter.com/9U5TeTtXLc
— Siddhant Adlakha (@SidizenKane) November 12, 2018
Lee tweeted the column in 2017, following the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Here’s the full text:

“Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater — one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen — people he’s never known — with equal intensity — with equal venom.
“Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God ― a God who calls us ALL ― His children.

stan lee (@TheRealStanLee) August 15, 2017
In the 1968 column, Lee didn’t specify which act of bigotry and hate he was writing about, but it was an important year for the rights movement in America. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was finally enacted and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated just months apart.
It was a time of civil and social unrest and Lee, who lived through the second World War, wrote this piece condemning the hateful views of white supremacy groups.
“Racism and bigotry are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today,” Lee said. “But, unlike a team of costumed supervillains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them, is to expose them — to reveal from the insidious evil they really are.
“It’s totally irrational and patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion.”
Lee, whose full name is Stanley Lieber, is also the son of Jewish parents and served as a soldier during the second World War. During his tenure at Marvel, Lee contributed to many stories, including multiple Captain America comics. Captain America, who was created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, was designed to quite literally defeat Nazis during the rise of Adolf Hitler and the events of World War II.

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Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY Published 5:00 a.m. ET July 26, 2019 | Updated 6:50 a.m. ET July 26, 2019

WASHINGTON – As Mike Pence headed to the airport on his way to test his chemistry with Donald Trump in July 2016, he questioned the wisdom of auditioning to be Trump’s running mate.
Pence anxiously called Kellyanne Conway, the pollster he shared with Trump, to express his concerns, according to a new book.
Conway told him there was no going back.
“You crossed the Rubicon,” she said, according to Tim Alberta’s “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War.”
The book, which came out this month, tells the story of Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party at the end of a decade-long GOP civil war. One of the main plot lines is Pence’s transformation as well.
Alberta, chief political correspondent for Politico Magazine, describes Pence as mutating from one of “the most intellectually sovereign voices in all of Washington” to a No. 2 so servile that “some of his longtime friends were left to wonder (only half-jokingly) whether the president had blackmail on him.” Capitol Hill Republicans dubbed him “the Bobblehead” for his bootlicking and solemn nodding routine whenever Trump talked. “Nobody expected Pence to make a show of publicly rebelling against the president,” Alberta wrote. “What they did expect was a token of intellectual and ideological consistency rather than unabashed allegiance to all things Trump. ”Pence’s reward for his “deal with the devil”? Alberta credits him with pulling the levers in the early months of the administration, including figuring prominently in the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, convincing Trump to take specific actions against abortion and for “religious liberty,” and stocking federal agencies with longtime allies and kindred spirits.
Waiting in the wings
Pence is also waiting patiently in the wings for his turn to lead the GOP, “certain that his dutiful subservience will be rewarded,” Alberta wrote.
In a public discussion of his book at the National Press Club Wednesday, Alberta said he came away with more sympathy for Sen. Ted Cruz than he expected – and less for Pence.
After battling Trump in the 2016 primary, Cruz did not endorse him at the GOP convention. Instead, he urged Republicans to “vote your conscience” – as the arena exploded in boos.
As for Pence, while any number of Republicans have made accommodations to survive, Alberta said, Pence’s contortions have been “so far beyond what others have done.”
Pence’s spokeswoman declined to comment.
2020 ticket: Trump says Mike Pence is his 2020 running mate ‘100%’
Alberta’s criticisms of Pence cut even deeper when compared with how he writes about Mitch Daniels, the Republican who preceded Pence as Indiana’s governor and who once had presidential aspirations of his own.
Daniels, Alberta wrote, had been “arguably the most effective governor in the country,” while Pence struggled during his one term. Alberta also calls Daniels’ 2011 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference “one of the more compelling speeches by a Republican in the twenty-first century.” Daniels’ vision, he wrote, was grounded in “realism and reasonableness” and elevated common purpose over cultural warfare.
“But few chose to see it,” Alberta wrote. “Trump’s alternative, a loud, swaggering, confrontational bravado, was a better fit for the Republican base.”
It was not, however, a good fit for Pence – at least initially.
Alberta flashes back to Pence’s Capitol Hill days, where as a leader of House conservatives he opposed the 2008 financial industry bailout “because free-market principles meant nothing if they could be jettisoned at the first sign of a crisis.”
As the 2016 campaign got under way in early 2015, Alberta describes Pence as opposed to “the nakedly nativist instincts of some on the right who called themselves Christians while showing no compassion for some of the most vulnerable among us.”
True believer
Even as Trump was about to clinch the GOP nomination in 2016 by winning Indiana’s May primary, Pence “loathed Trump, his longtime friends and allies whispered at the time.” Pence, a true believer who “approached politics with a zealot’s sincerity,” thought Trump’s personal indiscretions and campaign rhetoric hurt the conservative cause.

But Pence also saw Trump “channeling voters’ anxieties in a way he had never witnessed.” And, the longer Pence watched Trump, Alberta wrote, “the more he gravitated toward this sense of power.”
Still, Pence sought reassurance that it wouldn’t be career suicide to merge with Trump. Former Rep. David McIntosh, who had preceded Pence in his congressional district and now heads the free-market Club for Growth, assured his longtime friend that “you’re still going to be Mike Pence.”
(After the election, however, when Pence defended a package of tax breaks and incentives to keep some jobs at a Carrier Corp. factory in Indiana from moving to Mexico, McIntosh began to question whether Pence would be “true north in the administration,” according to Alberta.)

Donald Trump and Mike Pence on stage at the conclusion of the 2016 Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on July 21, 2016. (Photo: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY)

Pence’s bigger test was, of course, the release during the campaign of the Access Hollywood recording in which Trump had bragged about grabbing women’s genitals.
Pence’s wife, Karen, threatened to no longer appear in public if her husband stayed on the ticket, Alberta wrote.
Letter to Trump
Initially inconsolable, Pence was persuaded by advisers that sticking with Trump was his only option, according to the book. Pence did write Trump a letter, describing the impact of the tape on him and Karen.
“He took a little time. It’s okay. I understand. Many people did,” Trump told Alberta about Pence’s brief withdrawal from the campaign trail. “You know, a couple of days off, it didn’t make an impact on me. Because I had people who took a whole lifetime off.”
Mike Pence: Why his role as Trump’s evangelical ambassador is facing new pushback

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence arrive at a rally for President Trump. (Photo: Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images)

Pence convinced himself that Trump had changed since the 2005 recording, was genuinely contrite and had become a follower of Christ. But Alberta didn’t buy it.
“This is when the BS dictator starts to beep,” he wrote. “Nobody who has spent time with Trump has ever walked away believing him to be a Christian.”
When Trump won, however, Pence “felt a certain absolution” after having projected his unfaltering belief that Trump was destined to be a pivotal character in the American story.
‘Eyes and ears’ across government
Pence, for his part, became “cunningly effective” in stealthily making his mark. While loyalists expected to get jobs in Pence’s immediate orbit, for example, Pence wanted them sprinkled throughout the executive branch so he could have “eyes and ears across the government.”
In one scene in the book, Cruz’s campaign manager laughs with Jared Kushner about Trump tapping Mike Pompeo to be CIA director despite Pompeo’s having accused Trump, during the primary, of being immoral and possessing dictator-like qualities.
“No! That was him? We’ve got to take it back!” Trump cried. “This is what I get for letting Pence pick everyone.”
Pence’s strategy of quietly working behind the scenes while assigning all credit to Trump paid off – even as his staff constantly worried about not offending Trump.
“Trump quickly came to trust his second in command above all others, prizing Pence’s unwavering fidelity and discretion,” Alberta wrote.
As examples of his sway, Alberta wrote that Pence coaxed Trump not to move on, but to try again, after the House initially rejected a bill to repeal Obamacare. After Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican who killed the health care bill in the Senate, died last year, Trump agreed to lower the White House flag to half-staff only after “spirited lobbying” from Pence and then-chief-of-staff John Kelly.
Different paths
Alberta contrasts Pence’s merger with Trump with the opposite path taking by former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Pence’s close friend who had shared both an ideology as well as a standard of personal decency in their treatment of others. Finding himself out of step with the Trump-dominated GOP, Flake decided not to seek re-election in 2018 – and Democrats picked up his seat.
While Trump has bragged about having “retired” Flake, the Arizona Republican does not condemn his former compadre for teaming up with Trump.
“We’ve taken different paths, but I’m not trying to suggest that mine is a more virtuous path than his. He’s in a position with considerably more power than I have, and there’s something to be said for that,” Flake told Alberta. “If he can influence the president in a positive direction, then maybe that was a wise choice.”

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“This presidential seal does not look like the others”

Charles Leazott hadn’t thought about the seal in months.
The 46-year-old graphic designer threw it together after the 2016 presidential election — it was one part joke, one part catharsis. He used to be a proud Republican. He voted for George W. Bush. Twice.
But Donald J. Trump’s GOP was no longer his party. So he created a mock presidential seal to prove his point.
He substituted the arrows in the eagle’s claw for a set of golf clubs — a nod to the new president’s favorite pastime. In the other set of talons, he swapped the olive branch for a wad of cash and replaced the United States’ Latin motto with a Spanish insult. Then, his coup de grace: a two-headed imperial bird lifted straight from the Russian coat of arms, an homage to the president’s checkered history with the adversarial country.

“This is the most petty piece of art I have ever created,” the Richmond resident said in an interview with The Washington Post.
The seal wasn’t meant for a wide audience. But then, years later, it wound up stretched across a jumbo-tron screen behind an unwitting President Trump as he spoke to a conference packed with hundreds of his young supporters.
That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, The Post was the first to report that the seal was fake — and that neither the White House, nor Turning Point USA, the organizers of the star-studded Teen Student Action Summit, knew how it got there or where it came from. Leazott woke up Thursday and saw the news in a Reddit post as he drank his morning coffee. Then, a torrent of messages.
“It’s been chaos,” he said. “This is not what I expected when I woke up today.”
No one expected it. A Turning Point spokesman said Wednesday the conservative group wasn’t even aware of the phony seal until The Post called him. He spent that night trying track down the culprit and determine whether it was an intentional act by a rogue staffer, or just an honest mistake.
The faux seal was on-screen for at least 80 seconds, in plain sight but largely ignored as hundreds in the room at the Washington Marriott Marquis trained their attention on Trump.
But the modified symbol was loaded with jabs at the president — subtle and overt. The Russian eagle, an allusion to accusations that he embraced the Kremlin, and the Spanish script, a reference to Trump’s controversial border policies and his denigration of Latin American immigrants. Instead of E pluribus unum — “out of many, one” — Leazott wrote “45 es un títere,” or “45 is a puppet,” a callback to a viral exchange between Trump and Hillary Clinton in a 2016 debate.
“I’m a graphic designer, it’s just something I tossed together,” he said. “This was just a goofy thing for some people I knew. I had no idea it would blow up like this.”

By Thursday morning, the Turning Point spokesman said the group had identified the staffer responsible for turning Leazott’s design into a trending topic. He called the incident a last-minute oversight, the result of a quick online search to find a second high-resolution photo of the presidential seal to place behind Trump. He said the mistake was “unacceptable.”
“We did let the individual go,” the spokesman said. “I don’t think it was malicious intent, but nevertheless.”
Leazott doesn’t buy it. He thinks whoever was responsible had to know exactly what they were looking for. He believes the person dug up the image he created and used it intentionally.
“That’s a load of crap,” he said in response to Turning Point’s explanation. “You have to look for this. There’s no way this was an accident is all I’m saying.”
After The Post story published, Internet sleuths went looking, too. They found the image’s origin, tracing it back to an online marketplace Leazott set up to sell shirts and stickers sporting the seal, along with other jokey “resistance” apparel. And the citizens of the Web wanted to buy his stuff.
In one fell news cycle, Leazott began making money and fielding calls from papers and TV stations from across the country. People wanted to support him. But the trolls came, too.
“The worst has been Facebook,” he said, which he hadn’t checked “in like a year.”
“Holy crap at the amount of vile, hateful Facebook messages,” he said. “It’s apparently a personal affront to some people.”
But, Leazott said, it’s him who gets the last laugh. A photo of Trump in front of his seal is now his computer background, and the person who used it at the event is “either wildly incompetent or the best troll ever — either way, I love them.”
As of Thursday afternoon, Leazott’s shirts were sold out. He said he had to start working with a fulfillment center just to meet the demand. He also revived the primary website for his brand, OneTermDonnie, which includes a paean to the American Civil Liberties Union, where the site says 10 percent of all sales will be directed.
“It’s cool people are buying this, that’s great and all,” he said. “But I’ve got to be honest, I am so tickled in the most petty way possible that the president of the United States, who I despise, stood up and gave a talk in front of this graphic. Whoever put that up is my absolute hero.”

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Today I met someone who took exception to the idea that TOTUS is not a liar. I was moved to silence because at that moment I realized that this person will always be a staunch Republican no matter what. This person is the type who firmly believes that all conservatives are correct and at the same time wants to deny any wrongdoing in the border crisis but has married an immigrant and experienced all of the work involved in the immigration process so what is it in the human brain that blocks out the wrongdoing of our elected officials? This is a disconnect that TOTUS has used to further his own ends, not the ends and well being of the ALL voters in America and it’s territories. It is easy to stomp on someone else’s beliefs but not as easy to take an informed look at those differing opinions and understand that often the two are not much different in the goals and underlying basis. The many subsets of political wings all seem to have the goal of a better America but on their own terms with no thought as to the effect that will result for all- no matter the political differences. Under the umbrella of TOTUS, his supporters have become pawns of a master manipulator whose policies will have a greater effect on ALL citizens not just the those who oppose those policies. At the end of this administration, we will have been put in a subordinate position on the world stage making it hard to deal with those bad actors with the united front of Nato. meanwhile, the hard-line GOP in the senate and the house have united behind a failed and failing administration that has given us trillion-dollar deficit spending but not much to show for it in benefit for the voters (who have to pay for it). Moving forward we (voters) have one solution and that is to vote these bozo’s out. Forget party line, forget what the candidates and aspirants say in public, simply remember there are falsehoods spread on both sides and their aim is to stay in office and retire rich.

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Imagine twins born out of wedlock and separated at birth.MA

Andrew Feinberg, The Independent 2 hours 35 minutes ago

Dear Downing Street Press:
You woke up on Wednesday to find that Her Majesty’s Government was now led by a bombastic New York-born, straw-haired man from a wealthy family who, nevertheless, made his political bones as a self-styled populist and who is using close relatives as advisers. I know how you feel.
While Boris Johnson has been a prominent figure in British politics for quite some time, you might be wondering how – given his history of dismissing unflattering news stories as fabricated, attacking experts and civil servants when he doesn’t like the facts they’ve presented, and his often-casual relationship with the truth – should reporters cover the prime ministership of such a man?
I have some suggestions.
Who am I to offer you any advice? I’m no expert on British politics or how journalism is practised in the UK, but as a journalist who has spent the past two years and 185 days covering Donald Trump’s White House, I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two from our successes and failures so far. For what it’s worth, here’s what I’d do if I were in your shoes:
Fact check every claim; call lies what they are
Like our current president, your new PM is very media savvy. Trump used to pretend to be his own publicist named John Barron when calling tabloid reporters to offer up some fresh gossip on himself. Back when he was a young journalist just starting out, Johnson actually improved on this by cutting out the middleman and fabricating quotes while serving as a correspondent for The Times. And from what I’ve read, he’s displayed the same lack of fidelity to the truth in his political career.
Unfortunately, this means you need to check out every single thing the man says, and if you find that he’s lied, you need to do two things:
First, you MUST call things what they are – lies are lies.
Once you’ve done that, you need to put the fact that he’s lied front and centre. No repeating the lie in a headline, as in “Johnson Says Moon is Made of Green Cheese.”
Instead, try “Johnson, Without Evidence, Says Moon Is Dairy-Based,” then provide the facts that support the truth.
If you simply amplify the lies, it legitimises them as “facts” coming from the head of your government.
Challenge every lie
It’s not enough to just stand up for the truth in headlines, you need to do it in real time.
Whether it’s during an interview or press conference, there is nothing disrespectful about reacting to a blatant falsehood with the phrase, “that is not true”, and correcting him.
If he repeats it, there’s also nothing wrong with pushing back again: “That’s not true, [insert facts], why do you keep lying about this?”
If you’re worried about angering him or losing your access to inside information, well, you’re in the wrong business.
Call things what they are
Like our own president, Johnson has a documented history of offensive and racist statements.
Don’t dance around it. Such comments are not “racially charged”, or “controversial”, they’re racist, plain and simple. Saying so is not a partisan act, it’s your job, because your job is to tell the truth and inform the public.
Objectivity is not balance
I know the UK has a long tradition of partisan newspapering, but the truth has nothing to do with partisanship. Facts are facts, words have meaning, and people can’t make informed decisions about their own government if they’re not being informed properly.
Many journalists on my side of the pond feel a need to constantly present “both sides” of an issue, because we’ve been bullied for decades into confusing objectivity and balance.
But sometimes there aren’t two sides to an issue. Sometimes there is only what is true and what is false, and you can’t be worried about what someone might call you if you point out the difference between the two, because the fact is, he’s going to attack you anyway.
So if you’re going to get attacked no matter what, you might as well make a point of doing things right.
One last thing – pace yourself. Johnson could be in office for a long time, or for not so long a time. But leaders who utter a constant stream of falsehoods can be exhausting to the folks tasked with covering them. This is by design.
Don’t let him wear you down. Get as much sleep as you can. Take care of yourself.

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Apparently, each majority party wants to be the party of the people and do not know how to do it. Listening to the two hearings with Mr. Mueller testifying, it became clear that these two events were no more than political theater. This all concocted by elected officials on both sides. With an election coming, each majority party is entrenched in their political beliefs rather what is good for ALL VOTERS no matter what party they associate themselves with. It is unsustainable to relegate yourself to a party or any particular label as that affiliation only serves to limit your ability to see the larger snapshot of what we as a country should and could be. No matter what errors were made by the founders as far as Race, religion or country of origin, we now have one of the best Countries in the known world. Why are we the best in spite of the past 60 years of  “civil rights, individual rights and states right” being objects of conflict? It is simple, we can voice our objections without fear of being arrested or killed (most of the time). The only issue we currently have is that we have taken our eyes off the political ball and blindly followed the lead (however dubious) of our elected representatives who have their own agendas which obviously is not the same as ours. The Mueller report hearings have shown that neither side cares about the voters just votes and their focus is not broad enough to reach even the least educated of us all so the understanding of the report is clear. The current administration spends more time trash-talking and splitting us up politically and racially rather than really making us great (not again since we were doing fine until the 2016 election). Bottom line: vote for people who are for us and not themselves. Keep in mind that any and all members of Congress who do not or will not openly speak out against the injustices that affect us all is not the persosn we want to represent us.

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Britain now has its own version of TOTUS including tax problems.MA
Shane Croucher , Newsweek
8 hrs ago

Boris Johnson, Britain’s newly-crowned prime minister of the U.K., was born in New York City and only recently relinquished his American passport when the Internal Revenue Service chased him for unpaid taxes.
Johnson, 55, triumphed in the Conservative Party leadership contest against Jeremy Hunt, 52, the current British foreign secretary. It was a race to replace the incumbent Theresa May, who announced in May her resignation as prime minister.
May’s repeated failure to pass her controversial Brexit deal through parliament ended her unpopular premiership as she lost her party’s support. Johnson, a prominent supporter of Brexit, promises Britain will leave the European Union, deal or no deal, by Halloween.
Stanley Johnson, 78, father of the new prime minister, was an economics student at Columbia University in 1964 when his son was born of his first wife Charlotte Fawcett at a hospital in New York City’s Upper East Side.
According to the journalist Sonia Purnell’s biography of Johnson, Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition, the elder Johnson “considered it vital to secure dual US/British citizenship for their son,” so the new parents registered him there.
They lived together for a few months in a “bohemian 60ft-long single-room loft apartment […] opposite the Chelsea Hotel, the crash pad beloved of rock stars such as Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, and Jimi Hendrix, on West 23rd Street,” paid for by the Harkness Fellowship, the book says.
“The bathroom was screened off by abstract paintings, the bath perched on stilts and there was a large yellow piano adorned with a ‘vive la fun’ logo. Above a lively neon-lit café called the Star Bar (where the Beatles’ ‘She Loves You’ blared out on the jukebox until 4 a.m.), it was entertaining though hardly suitable for a newborn.”
More than half a century later, Boris Johnson renounced his American citizenship—for tax reasons. As a dual citizen, the IRS required Johnson to file tax returns on his earnings, even though he lived outside of the U.S., and to pay the relevant taxes.
While Mayor of London, Johnson chastised the U.S. embassy for its millions of dollars in an unpaid city road tax known as the congestion charge, which is designed to tackle emissions.
At the same time, Johnson was outraged when the IRS demanded from him capital gains tax to be paid on the hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit made in the sale of his home in North London.
Asked amid the dispute in 2015 whether he would pay up, Johnson said: “No is the answer. I think it’s absolutely outrageous. Why should I? I haven’t lived in the United States since I was five years old,” BBC News reported at the time.
However, his spokesman later confirmed that the matter was dealt with, and The Financial Times reported that Johnson had paid the amount owed before heading to the U.S. to tour cities in his role as London’s mayor, sparing him any embarrassment at the airport stateside.
The following year, Johnson renounced his American citizenship, U.S. Treasury Department filings show, and, along with it, any chance of becoming the U.S. president once he was done leading the U.K.

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Joel Achenbach, Lenny Bernstein, Robert O’Harrow, Shawn Boburg 7 hrs ago

 
The origin, evolution and astonishing scale of America’s catastrophic opioid epidemic just got a lot clearer. The drug industry — the pill manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers — found it profitable to flood some of the most vulnerable communities in America with billions of painkillers. They continued to move their product, and the medical community and government agencies failed to take effective action, even when it became apparent that these pills were fueling addiction and overdoses and were getting diverted to the streets.
This has been broadly known for years, but this past week, the more precise details became public for the first time in a trove of data released after a legal challenge from The Washington Post and the owner of the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia.
The revelatory data comes from the Drug Enforcement Administration and its Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS). It tracks the movement of every prescription pill in the country, from factory to pharmacy.
“This really shows a relationship between the manufacturers and the distributors: They were all in it together,” said Jim Geldhof, a retired DEA employee who spent his 43-year career working on drug diversion cases and is now a consultant for plaintiffs in a massive lawsuit against the drug industry. “We’re seeing a lot of internal stuff that basically confirms what we already knew. It just reinforces the fact that it was all about greed, and all about money.”
The industry has denied that vigorously, blaming criminal doctors who prescribed opioids as if they were candy and individuals who abused the drugs. The industry also contends that the DEA had all the information it needed to stop diversion of pills into the black market.
“The DEA has been the only entity to have all of this data at their fingertips, and it could have used the information to consistently monitor the supply of opioids and when appropriate, proactively identify bad actors,” said John Parker, spokesman for the Arlington, Va.-based Healthcare Distribution Alliance. “Unlike the DEA, distributors have no authority to stop physicians from writing prescriptions, nor can they take unilateral action to halt pharmacies’ ability to dispense medication.”
The DEA declined to comment this past week, citing pending litigation.
It appears that failures mark every point along the supply chain — from manufacturers to distributors to pharmacies to the doctor all too ready to write a script. The epidemic was not something out of sight, behind closed doors, under a bridge. In full view, it intensified and the companies, health care professionals, law enforcement officials and government regulators were unable or unwilling to stop it.
“We have a tradition of trusting companies, and the [government] is kind of weak here,” said Keith Humphreys, a Stanford professor who served as a drug policy adviser to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “Here it was misplaced trust.”
The data shows a trend in pill distribution that, according to the lawsuit plaintiffs, can’t be passed off as reasonable therapeutic medical treatment.
The industry shipped 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills across the country from 2006 through 2012, the period covered by the ARCOS data released this past week . These pills didn’t flow in a steady stream but were more like a flash flood, spiking from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012. As a point of comparison, doses of morphine, another mainstream treatment for severe pain, averaged slightly more than 500 million a year throughout the ­seven-year period, according to the data.
The industry was supposed to self-regulate. Companies have an obligation, under the Controlled Substances Act, to report suspicious orders of prescription drugs. The plaintiffs suing the drug companies allege that the incentive structures were tilted in favor of moving more product.
For example, in a filing released Friday, the plaintiffs alleged that Ireland-based drug manufacturer Mallinckrodt gave the sales people in charge of generic opioids “key roles” in investigating suspicious orders of drugs. The compensation scheme “was weighted heavily to favor sales over compliance,” the plaintiffs allege, adding that bonuses for the sale of opioids could exceed six figures.
“In contrast, there is nothing in the record indicating that [national account managers] were evaluated based on their compliance responsibilities” or “ever penalized for failing to stop suspicious orders,” the lawsuit claims.
After the release of the ARCOS data, Mallinckrodt said in a statement that the company produced opioids only within a government-controlled quota and sold only to DEA-approved distributors.
As of September 2012, Teva Pharmaceuticals, an Israeli-based manufacturer of generic drugs, didn’t have a suspicious-order monitoring system in place, according to the court filing. The company apparently decided it needed a system, and hired an AmerisourceBergen employee in 2014 to design it. He created a system called “DefOps,” short for “Defensible Operations,” which he admitted in a deposition was designed “to keep Teva out of trouble with the DEA and because it ‘sounded good,’ ” according to the court papers.
From 2013 to 2016, the papers allege, Teva reported only six suspicious orders out of 600,000.
Teva declined to comment Saturday.
The new details have made more nuanced and complex the familiar narrative of the pharmaceutical industry’s role in the drug epidemic. Many Americans knew about the role of Purdue Pharma, which in 1996 introduced the slow-release opioid painkiller OxyContin. The new formulation of oxycodone was heavily marketed by Purdue as being less likely to become addictive because, the company said, it didn’t give patients such a jolt of a high.
Experts trace the epidemic to the appearance of Oxy, its heavy marketing, and its migration into the illicit drug trade along with other opioid painkillers.
The public’s search for accountability has centered on Purdue and its owners, the Sackler family. Protesters gathered last year at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, as well as other institutions that received support from Sackler family members. Earlier this year, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow rejected a demand by activists that the university remove Arthur M. Sackler’s name from a museum collection, saying that the Sackler family had made the donation to the school before the introduction of OxyContin and noting that Sackler himself had passed away by that point.
In an earlier statement, Purdue denied the claims brought in the lawsuit and said they are based on mischaracterizations and without merit.
“We live in an age when assigning blame has become a national obsession, especially when it comes to the horrors of the opioid crisis,” Jillian Sackler, president of the Dame Jillian and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for the Arts, Sciences and Humanities wrote in an op-ed in The Post in April.
Now Purdue is just one character on a crowded stage. During the height of the crisis, from 2006 to 2012, Purdue’s sales represented only 3 percent of the market. It was not even one of the three biggest companies manufacturing the opioids.
At the top were generic drug companies many Americans have never heard of: Actavis, a product of U.S. mergers, and now owned by Teva; Par Pharmaceutical, since acquired by Endo Pharmaceuticals of Ireland; and a generics subsidiary of Mallinckrodt, now known as SpecGx. They manufactured 88 percent of the opioids in those seven years.
Generic drug companies have been on an endless quest for steady profits because the prices of their drugs are unstable and generally declining, said David Amsellem, a managing director at financial firm Piper Jaffray and an expert on specialty pharmaceuticals. He calls these companies “low-market businesses that are looking for pockets of high margins.”
That situation has contributed to constant churn in the business. Companies are routinely bought and sold, divisions spun off, names changed. That’s part of the reason the firms responsible for the vast bulk of sales from 2006 through 2012 are virtually unknown to most of the nation. The generic companies don’t promote drugs on television, like the big-brand pharma companies.
“They’re order-takers,” Amsellem said.
Less obscure are the big distributors: McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen. Also mentioned in the ARCOS data are retailers who distributed drugs. They are some of the most familiar names in America, including Walgreens, CVS and Walmart.
In statements to The Post on Tuesday in response to the release of the DEA database, several drug companies issued broad defenses of their actions during the opioid epidemic, saying they were committed to providing a legal product to legitimate pain patients while combating the diversion of drugs.
The drug epidemic is a case of supply and demand, and the newly released data makes clear that supply was never in doubt. The demand side is a more complex public health issue that brings into play the ongoing challenges of communities where the social fabric has been frayed. The new data shows that pills surged most dramatically into central Appalachia, particularly coal country, and bordering areas where the economy has been depressed.

In rural Virginia, ‘ground zero’ for America’s opioid crisis
Many people in those areas have endured hardship and job injuries. They need painkillers, including the powerful kind provided by derivatives of the opium poppy. Almost lost in the national controversy over the opioid epidemic is that some people need them badly. In the 1990s, amid extensive drug industry marketing, the medical community seized on a big idea: that freedom from pain was a fundamental human right. As a result, some of the stigma associated with opioid painkillers, which are cousins of street heroin, dissipated.
Within a decade, the pills became their own self-sustaining industry, a black-market and even street-corner product. The painkillers arrived in bulk at small-town pharmacies. That trend is parallel to a rise in the death rates in those communities. Prescription opioid overdoses have claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people in the United States since 1996.
A crackdown on indiscriminate doctors and pharmacists — commonly known as pill mills — as well as tighter prescription guidelines by the medical community have helped drive down the number of overdoses due to prescription drugs. This past week, in a rare drug-statistic bulletin delivering good news, government officials said the overall number of fatal drug overdoses in the country had dropped 5.1 percent from 2017 to 2018, the sharpest decline involving prescription opioids.
But the drug epidemic has hardly abated. Deaths from fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid that is being illicitly manufactured abroad and smuggled into the United States, continue to increase. There has also been a rise in deaths from cocaine and methamphetamine.
Just cutting off the supply of one type of drug, or focusing on treating people with addiction and throwing drug dealers in jail, won’t be enough to solve the underlying problem, said Paula Masters, vice president of population health for Ballad Health, which operates hospitals in some of the hardest-hit areas, including Southwest Virginia.
“All you’re doing is squeezing that balloon. If you only squeeze it one way, all you’re going to do is put the air in the other side,” Masters said.

The accountability question is now being played out in courts across the country. The big event is in Cleveland, where a federal judge is overseeing roughly 2,000 separate lawsuits filed against a rash of drug companies by counties, cities and towns across the country. Opening arguments are supposed to begin this fall in two test cases involving counties in Ohio. Thousands of records remain under seal, but may be released in coming weeks and could include depositions, internal company emails and internal company policies.
The outcome in Cleveland could be a massive, industry-wide settlement along the lines of what happened with the tobacco industry many years ago. But the drug companies have denied wrongdoing. Several executives have testified before a congressional subcommittee under oath that they did not believe their companies contributed to the epidemic.
John Hammergren, then chairman, president and chief executive of McKesson, the nation’s largest drug distributor, testified last year that overprescribing by doctors was the “key driver of the crisis.” He added, “At the same time, there clearly were certain pharmacies in West Virginia that were bad actors that McKesson itself terminated. In hindsight, I would have liked to have seen us move much more quickly to identify the issues with these pharmacies.”
George Barrett, then executive chairman of Cardinal Health, testified: “Pharmaceutical wholesale distributors do not and should not have visibility into the medical judgment or the patients for whom prescriptions are written. However, we can play a role by raising awareness of the dangers of overprescribing, which we are doing.”
The companies have said they remained within established guidelines for opioid distribution. They have argued that state regulators or the DEA should have stepped in if there was a problem.
“The ARCOS data show that distributors have consistently reported sales of opioid-based medications, along with the quantity of the order and the identity of the receiving pharmacy to the DEA. Distributors only recently received access to the full set of data with information about the total shipment of opioid medicines a particular pharmacy received from all distributors,” said Parker, of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance.
The DEA, with limited resources, relied largely on corporate self-regulation.
Some DEA agents and investigators tried to hold the industry accountable, and in 2005 and 2006, as the pill flood was building, they sent letters to drug distributors and manufacturers saying that they needed to comply with federal law and work harder to prevent their pills from being diverted to the black market.
Despite these warnings, diversion continued. The DEA began making cases against some of the biggest drug companies. The industry fought back. Some members of Congress pushed a new, more industry-friendly law, making it harder for the DEA to penalize companies for failing to report suspicious shipments of narcotics.
When companies did face penalties after government investigations, the fines were trivial compared with corporate revenue. The fines were essentially just one cost of doing business.
For example McKesson, the drug distributor, was fined a record $150 million in 2017. Its net income reported that year was $5 billion.
joel.achenbach@washpost.com
leonard.bernstein@washpost.com
robert.oharrow@washpost.com
shawn.boburg@washpost.com
Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham, Steven Rich, Aaron C. Davis and Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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By David MacDonald and Raine Waters & Sam Dunklau • Jul 18, 2019
Illinois Issues

Southern Illinois University Press
The authors have taken a fresh look at the story of Illinois’ first capital city in a new book published by Southern Illinois University Press called “Kaskaskia: The Lost Capital of Illinois.” They’ve put together what they say is a comprehensive account of the town, complete with historical photos, maps, and even tales of a centuries-old curse.

Kaskaskia became the capital of the Illinois Territory and then the first state capital of Illinois in 1818 and the town was home to leading political and economic figures in the early, shaping years of Illinois. Good fortune, however, did not long endure. Natural disasters of unprecedented magnitude plagued the town and robbed its vitality. People came to regard Kaskaskia, once the center and focus of Illinois, as just a quaint and somehow foreign relic.

The Mississippi River, so long Kaskaskia’s highway and source of its prosperity, turned on the town, washing away the buildings and even the very ground on which it was built. The changing course of the Mississippi was merely the coup de grâce, the finishing blow, the last of the disasters that led even reasonable people to wonder whether Kaskaskia had been cursed.
In the beginning
The Kaskaskia Indians and the Jesuit missionaries who accompanied them settled in 1703 at what became the town of Kaskaskia. In 1719, Kaskaskia divided into two communities, French Kaskaskia and, about three miles north, Indian Kaskaskia. The Jesuits felt the Indians would be less exposed to corrupting influences from rough voyageurs (boat men) and coureurs de bois (literally, “woods runners,” a term for Indian traders and trappers, often operating illegally). Then, the French regime ended in 1765. The inhabitants of Kaskaskia in this era enjoyed relative prosperity despite the hostility of the Fox and Chickasaw tribes.
Kaskaskia went through difficult years of corrupt British rule, the conquest of the Illinois country by George Rogers Clark in 1778, and early years of neglect and inept rule by the United States. Repeated crop failures and the great flood of 1785 also plagued Kaskaskia at this time.
The town revived in the 1790s and again became the political and economic center of Illinois, serving as the territorial capital and then in 1818 the first state capital of Illinois. The town, however, was also beset by disasters during this period: some natural, some man-made like the loss of the capital to Vandalia in a corrupt political deal.
A disastrous year
In 1809, the federal government created the Illinois Territory, which included the area that became Wisconsin. Kaskaskia was the territorial capital, the residence of the governor and secretary, and the meeting place of the territorial legislature, all symbolic of Kaskaskia’s general revival, but progress was temporarily checked in the disastrous year of 1811.
The Great Comet of 1811, large, bright, and long-lasting, was widely believed to have foretold the disasters that subsequently engulfed Kaskaskia that year: a flood ravaged crops, a tornado leveled part of the town, and then, in late 1811 and early 1812, the fearsome New Madrid earthquakes damaged much of what was left.
Between 1820 and 1881, Kaskaskia suffered a long decline. There were bright spots, such as the visit of the Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette in 1825, but also disasters, such as the destructive flood of 1844 and an epidemic that followed the flood. In the late 1860s, the Mississippi began to change course, and during the 1870s the river steadily ate away at the neck of land that separated it from the Kaskaskia River. The first break through occurred in the spring of 1881.
A changing river
In the mid-1860s, a silent change presaged the destruction of Kaskaskia: the Mississippi River began to shift its bed. In the thousands of years since the last ice age, the Mississippi had often changed course, but in the 19th century, human activity greatly magnified the power of the Mississippi to alter the landscape quickly. Prior to the 19th century, the banks of the Mississippi and the other large rivers of Illinois were lined with mixed deciduous trees and a thick undergrowth of brush and vines. The tangled vegetal mass slowed floodwaters, and roots anchored the soil.
The Indian and French populations were small and scarcely changed the riverbank vegetation except in a few small, scattered places. Then, in the 19th century, the population increased greatly. The settlers cut wood for cabins and for heating, fencing, and endeavors such as making salt, which they produced in large quantities on the small Saline River near its confluence with the Mississippi near Kaskaskia.
The side-wheel and stern-wheel steamboats played an even greater role in denuding the banks of the Mississippi. The wood requirements of the steam engines were enormous. Boats of average size burned 25 cords of wood a day, and the largest steamboats of the mid-19th century consumed three times as much.
Woodcutters bought permission from landowners to harvest the trees that lined the riverbanks.
They cut, sized and stacked the logs for sale to passing steamers, and after the wood in one area was exhausted, the woodcutters moved to the next. In Illinois, where the trees were often limited to a belt along the river, the stripping of the riverbanks was particularly severe. Trees and thickets of brush and vines no longer anchored the soil; riverbanks eroded and collapsed. The shape of the river changed, growing wider and shallower. Erosion was particularly severe at bends.
John Howard Burnham witnessed the beginning of the change that would destroy Kaskaskia. He recalled that when, as a member of the Union army he had traveled down the Mississippi in 1863, there was a good steamboat landing at St. Geneviève; but when he passed by on a steamboat in late 1867, “the river channel had then moved away from the town” and his boat grounded in shoaling water. “The current had shifted toward the neck of land that separated the Mississippi from the Kaskaskia River, and in the coming years the Mississippi rapidly ate away the bank north of Kaskaskia.’’

At first the Mississippi only flowed into the Kaskaskia River at flood stage, but the channel gradually grew deeper until the Mississippi took over the lower channel of the Kaskaskia River and began washing the old town of Kaskaskia away. By the end of the 19th century, little remained of the town, and the last substantial home fell into the river in 1907.
New Kaskaskia
Much was salvaged ahead of the ravaging waters, and a new Kaskaskia was built about three miles from the old village. A new church was built of the materials saved from the old church, and within the church is the original altar from 1736 and other items from the French era. Beside the church is a building housing the bell sent by King Louis XV to the Kaskaskia church in 1741.
The courthouse originally erected in old Kaskaskia in 1815 was reconstructed according to the original plan in the new village where it served as a school. New Kaskaskia never grew beyond a small farming town, and repeated flooding over the years discouraged people who moved to more secure locations.
Two tales that first appeared at the end of the 19th and first years of the 20th century claimed that Kaskaskia was destroyed because of a curse, but the accounts are contradictory, one attributing the curse to an angry priest and the other to a murdered Indian. The stories are filled with gross inaccuracies and are revealed as journalistic fictions, although they do incorporate a few folktale elements amidst a forest of modern misrepresentations.
Today, only about 14 people live in the village. There are perhaps 60 more who live in farms in the vicinity. The change in the Mississippi’s course has left new Kaskaskia and the surrounding land on the west side of the river. It is still part of the state of Illinois, but it can only be reached on roads passing through Missouri.
David MacDonald is a retired history professor at Illinois State University. Raine Waters teaches history at Heartland Community College.

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