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Daily Archives: February 3rd, 2020



Associated Press

After NPR dust-up, Pompeo defends press freedom abroad

By MATTHEW LEE, AP Diplomatic Writer 4 hrs ago

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) — For the past four days, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been calling for authoritarian governments in eastern Europe and Central Asia to ease restrictions on press freedom despite criticism for his own treatment of journalists at home.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint news conference with Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov following the talks in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. (AP Photo)

In Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan over the weekend and again on Monday, Pompeo raised human rights issues, including freedom of the press, with his interlocutors and denied any double-standard was at play.

Pompeo defended his unhappiness with a National Public Radio interviewer who asked him last month about the ouster of the former ambassador to Ukraine. Further, he said his conduct, which the journalist said included berating her with profanities once the interview was over, did not demonstrate a lack of respect for a free press.

Pompeo responded in an official statement that the interviewer had “lied” to him, and he called her conduct “shameful.” He said the incident was “another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt” President Donald Trump and his administration. NPR said it stood by its journalist’s reporting.

Pompeo has complained about NPR’s reporting in the past, notably over its coverage of the negotiations that led to the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.

NPR later said another of its reporters was removed from the pool of journalists traveling with Pompeo on his current trip. That led to a second flurry of criticism from commentators, including former U.S. officials and diplomats, who said Pompeo had lost credibility to push foreign governments to respect press freedoms.

Yet, in Tashkent on Monday, Pompeo praised the Uzbek government for “loosening restriction on the media” and said the U.S. “looks forward to further progress” in the area.

And, in Belarus on Saturday, he said the U.S. prioritizes respect for human rights, a strong civil society, and freedom of the press in every corner of the world” and that the country had more work to do on those issues before American sanctions could be lifted.

On Sunday, an interviewer from Radio Azattyq in Kazakhstan asked Pompeo “what kind of message” the NPR incident sends to countries whose governments “routinely suppress press freedom.” The station is an affiliate of U.S.-funded Radio Free Liberty/Radio Liberty.

Pompeo denied that the NPR interview was any more “confrontational” that any other interview he has given and said that journalists are allowed to ask him anything they want.

“In America that’s the greatness of our nation: Reporters like yourself get to ask me any question and all questions,” he said. “We talk openly. We express our view; they ask their questions. That’s how we proceed in America.”

He said the issue of which reporters are allowed to travel on his plane depends on “certain sets of behaviors” that involve honesty and telling the truth. “When they’ll do that, they get to participate, and if they don’t, it’s just not appropriate, frankly, it’s not fair to the rest of the journalists who are participating alongside of them.”

Pompeo said that sends a “perfect message.”

“It’s a perfect message about press freedoms. They’re free to ask questions,” he said, noting that a third NPR reporter attended his news conference in Ukraine on Friday. “It’s wide open in America. I love it. I hope the rest of the world will follow our press freedoms and the great things we do in the United States.”


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This sounds like a Trump Move like rolling back EPA regulations on air and water polution.MA

Brendon Hong
Betsy Joles

HONG KONG—The new coronavirus that has spread consternation around the world over the last few weeks has now killed more people in China than the SARS epidemic of 2002-2003. China’s health commission reported on Sunday that there were 361 deaths nationwide. During the SARS outbreak, 349 people died in mainland China and 774 altogether around the world. The Chinese stock markets took major hits on Monday, and the whole nation feels its growing isolation.

Three New Cases of Coronavirus Confirmed in California

Yet last December—before people all over China were falling sick with pneumonia-like symptoms, before people around the world grew alarmed about a disease leaping from captured wild animals to human shoppers in dense Chinese food markets, and before coronavirus reached new shores after being carried onto planes by human hosts, forcing the World Health Organization to declare a global emergency—eight people discussed how several patients in Wuhan were experiencing severe, rapid breakdowns in their respiratory systems.

They were part of a medical school’s alumni group on WeChat, a popular social network in China, and they were concerned that SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, was back.

It wasn’t long before police detained them. The authorities said these eight doctors and medical technicians were “misinforming” the public, that there was no SARS, that the information was obviously wrong, and that everyone in the city must remain calm. On the first day of 2020, Wuhan police said they had “taken legal measures” against the eight individuals who had “spread rumors.”

Since then, the phenomenal spread of the virus has created cracks even within the normally united front of the Chinese Communist Party. “It might have been fortunate if the public had believed the ‘rumor’ and started to wear masks, carry out sanitization measures, and avoid the wild animal market,” a judge of China’s Supreme People’s Court wrote online last Tuesday.

Li Wenliang, a doctor who was among the eight people who tried to sound the alarm before the coronavirus infected many thousands and killed hundreds, has been diagnosed as someone infected with the coronavirus and is being treated at a hospital.

As of 5:00 p.m. on Monday, the official tally of coronavirus damage runs at more than 17,000 confirmed infections, over 21,000 under observation, 361 dead. But the actual numbers must be far higher, possibly by a considerable magnitude, according to estimations by doctors in China and infectious disease experts around the world.

Authorities are still actively censoring social media posts and news articles that are questioning the government response to the outbreak. One local man, Fang Bin, uploaded footage of corpses in a van and a hospital in Wuhan, and was then tracked down and taken into custody. His laptop was confiscated, and he had to pedal for three hours on a bicycle to get home after he was questioned, warned, and released. His coronavirus video went viral.

The Chinese government is eager to project the image that everything is under control. Beijing pushed back the post-Chinese New Year opening of financial markets by a few days, and traders returned to their posts on Monday morning. The Shanghai Composite Index and Shenzhen Composite Index quickly dropped 8.7 percent and 8.6 percent respectively. By lunch time, more than 2,600 stocks had tripped regulator-imposed breakers after losing 10 percent in value. At market closing at 3:00 p.m., the indices were unable to recover from their nosedives.

This was the worst plummet in China’s markets since an equity bubble burst in 2015, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Schools have been closed indefinitely. Flights have been grounded, and domestic travel has been limited or even halted. Office buildings, restaurants, and malls are empty. Public functions have been canceled. Overwhelmingly, white-collar workers across the country are telecommuting. The country, it seems, is a network of ghost towns with wide boulevards and glass towers. Combined with the ongoing swine flu and a new outbreak of avian flu south of Wuhan, the coronavirus is hitting China’s economy on many fronts.

Perhaps the most striking development in China is how borders became tangible. Villages, towns, and cities are physically blocked off from each other, sometimes with local officials posted on roads to stop anyone except emergency relief personnel from passing through. Married couples who hail from different parts of the country have been separated if they chose to travel over the Lunar New Year; as they returned home after the break, local officials in some locations barred one spouse, whoever is an “outlander,” from entering city limits.

The coronavirus is isolating China from the rest of the world, too. Many countries have imposed travel restrictions on Chinese nationals, or even banned visitors who have recently been in mainland China. Over in Hong Kong, medical workers who joined a newly formed union voted to begin a strike on Monday to pressure the city’s officials into sealing the border with mainland China. Clashes have broken out at sites where the government had attempted to set up mass quarantine facilities in Hong Kong.

Coronavirus Has Europe Treating Chinese People Like the Plague

Back in Wuhan, one of two speed-build hospitals began absorbing patients on Monday. It took 10 days to build, has 1,000 beds, and is staffed by 1,400 military doctors who are managing the symptoms of those under their care. The additions are welcome, but people living in Hubei, the province where Wuhan is the capital, have doubts about how effective the facilities will be. There’s a severe shortage of testing kits, and sick people are still being turned away from hospitals. It is common for patients to wander between several emergency rooms before giving up to head home and tough it out.

This outbreak has given new meaning to a well-worn adage: When China sneezes, the world catches a cold. People recall a lack of transparency when SARS was hitting China, even though the WHO has praised Beijing repeatedly for improving its performance this time around. But that may not be enough. Right now, every country in the world is trying to prevent the epidemic from flaring up on its own shores.


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Schnapsidee literally means a “booze idea” and is a term commonly used to indicate that an idea sounds crazy, useless, or completely foolish. However, most of the time Germans use the word even when they know there was no alcohol involved in someone’s outlandish idea.Sep 26, 2016

When I ran across this word and it’s definition this morning it reminded me of the current administration, its actions and activities, which have been aided and abetted by a Neer do well Congress. This idea is further exacerbated by the on going impeachment trial and its long predicted ending (Thanks to “Botch” McConnell et al). If we are to continue as a  world leader and an aspiration to the world leaders (as we have been for years) we need to consider whether we want go through an additional 4 years of extreme government that benefits the ( self serving) wealthy, while beguiling the lower earners with false and misleading statements about their well being that will improve according to the “SCHNAPSIDEEAN” pronouncements and executive orders that will take many years to correct after the damage is done. It is quite possible that some if not all of our close allies view the TOTUS twitter feed as Schnapsidee rather than policy and potentially wonder about cutting their losses rather than support the idiosyncrasies of a child.


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February 2, 2020

by Paul Harvey

The claims: Andrew Johnson then, like Donald Trump now, was unjustly impeached by a group of radicals in the House of Representatives.

Fortunately – so the claim continues – enough honest and brave men withstood forces in their own party and voted against convicting Johnson in the Senate. Among those was Sen. Edmund Ross of Kansas, the prototype for the “profile in courage” still recounted on the official website of the U.S. Senate.

These are falsehoods, and they have become a staple of Republican arguments opposing the impeachment of Trump. Regurgitating myths about Johnson and impeachment, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Robert Ray have resurrected for the nation distortions long since buried by the last two generations of historians.

As a historian who for 30 years has researched and taught the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era and Southern history more generally, I’d like to discuss here four misuses of history from Trump’s attorneys.

  1. Andrew Johnson was not railroaded by a radical minority bent on revenge.

“Then as now, a political faction has forced a partisan impeachment through the House in the heat of an argument over a difference in policy,” wrote Pence in an opinion article for the Wall Street Journal.

In the months following the Civil War, Johnson tried to put in place his own vision of Reconstruction – one in which ex-Confederates could easily win their way back to political power through the presidential power of the pardon, and one in which black people would have minimal rights under the draconian “Black Codes” of individual states.

The result was a disaster. Quickly reconstituted Southern state governments tried to recreate systems as close to slavery as possible. White supremacist mobs forcibly repressed black political activity, as seen in major “race riots” – white massacres of black people – in 1866. Meanwhile, Johnson frequently expressed his determination to maintain the United States as a white man’s country.

Congressional Republicans, who had initially thought Johnson might be their ally – since he had been an anti-secessionist senator from Tennessee prior to the war – were shocked. They became determined to regain control of Reconstruction once Congress was back in session in late 1865, and to ensure at least some measure of civil rights for black Americans. During the impeachment hearings, 45 of the 54 senators were Republican.

  1. The ‘Radical Republicans’ were not radical.

The “Radical” Republicans – one particular important faction within the Republican Party as a whole – gained their name from their enemies in the 19th century, who tried to portray them as dangerous to American democracy.

The so-called Radicals pursued some recognition of the basic results of the Civil War and emancipation. This included creating the Freedmen’s Bureau, passing the Civil Rights Bill of 1866 and eventually putting into the Constitution the 14th and 15th Amendments, guaranteeing equality of citizenship and suffrage rights.

Ironically, it was Johnson’s unbending opposition to any measure to recognize black citizenship and civil rights, his incoherent and slanderous rhetoric on the stump, and his attempts to use presidential authority to defy congressional will and federal law that helped unify Republicans around key segments of the “Radical” program.

  1. Edmund G. Ross was not a profile in courage.

In Ray’s arguments, he says that “President Johnson was saved from removal in office by one vote, and thus by one courageous senator.”

However, as numerous historians, including specialists such as David O. Stewart and Deborah Wineapple, have documented, Kansas Sen. Edmund G. Ross was for impeachment before he was against it.

He turned against it in part because he leveraged it to obtain numerous political favors. This included the appointment of his corrupt Kansas sponsor Perry Fuller as chief collector of revenue in New Orleans. (Fuller then used his post to pile up US$3 million for himself.) Ross very possibly received direct cash as well, from a storehouse of cash Johnson’s supporters had raised to dispense such favors, although that cannot be proven beyond a doubt.

Ross was no hero from central casting. That role might better be given to Thaddeus Stevens, one of the House impeachment managers. Stevens lay, quite literally, on his deathbed as he was carted into the Senate during the weeks of the trial, trying to see through his vision of creating a more democratic and less racist American republic.

  1. Andrew Johnson was not impeached just for a technical violation of a congressional act.

Ray also said of Democrats that “they now argue that President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment from over 150 years ago, following the end of the Civil War and during Reconstruction, was not about a violation of the Tenure of Office Act – which after all was the violation of law charged as the principle article of impeachment – but instead rested on his use of power with illegitimate motives.”

There were 11 impeachment articles against Johnson. Several recounted his violation of the Tenure of Office Act, when Johnson tried to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, originally a Lincoln appointee.

But more generally, the articles, particularly the final one, recounted Johnson’s conduct in office, his disgracing of the presidency and his fight to thwart the clear will of Congress in creating the new fundamental legal structure of the American Republic, and of resisting the enforcement of African American rights. In his oration on Monday, Ray mentioned that delving into history was always a “treacherous endeavor for lawyers.” Indeed it is – especially when said lawyers parrot long-discredited myths in defending their present client.


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The Conversation Paul Harvey, Professor of American History, University of Colorado Colorado Springs This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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