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Puerto Ricans might be drinking Superfund-polluted water, the EPA says.

In a memo leaked last week, Department of Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert recommended White House staff pivot to a “theme of stabilizing” with regard to messaging around the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

President Trump, however, appears to have missed that particular update. On Thursday morning, he threatened to pull federal relief workers from the devastated island just three weeks after Maria made landfall.

Meanwhile, most of Puerto Rico is still without power, hospitals are running out of medical supplies, and clean water remains scarce.

Trump isn’t the only prominent Republican refusing to recognize the severity of the crisis. In an interview with CNN on Thursday morning, Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, accused host Chris Cuomo of fabricating reports of the severity of the disaster.

“Mr. Cuomo, you’re simply just making this stuff up,” Perry said. “If half the country didn’t have food or water, those people would be dying, and they’re not.”

45 Puerto Rican deaths have been officially confirmed so far, and reports from the ground indicate the unofficial number of deaths due to the storm is higher.

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Puerto Ricans might be drinking Superfund-polluted water, the EPA says.

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Trump’s proposed cuts to weather research could make it much harder to prepare for storms

This story was originally published by Newsweek and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Hurricane Harvey is strengthening as it approaches the Texas coast, and the massive storm is underscoring another big disturbance on the way: the battle over President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the National Weather Service.

Charged with providing weather forecasts and warnings, the National Weather Service also makes its data available to hundreds of companies that use it for everything from smartphone applications to agricultural equipment. Trump earlier this year proposed cutting its budget by 6 percent and that of its parent agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), by a mammoth 16 percent. It was an unprecedented proposal in the National Weather Service’s storied history, which extends back to 1890, when it was founded as the U.S. Weather Bureau.

Trump also proposed huge subcuts for programs that engage in computer modeling of storms, as well as observation of storms and dissemination of data. Tsunami research and prediction would be cut, along with supercomputing investments and a program to extend more accurate modeling to 30 days from 16, which could have huge benefits for everything from the insurance to the transportation industries.

The Trump proposal “is opposite to the ‘leave it better than you found it’ philosophy. This is take the money while you can, and let someone else in the future put Humpty Dumpty (aka NOAA) together again,” David Titley, director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State and a retired Navy rear admiral, told Climate Central, a consortium.

Already, the U.S. is behind Europe in its forecast accuracy, and further cuts to research would likely leave the country farther behind in what’s been called “climate intelligence.” The National Weather Service’s main forecasting model, the Global Forecasting System, has seen a major drop-off in accuracy. The White House’s budget proposal would only make it worse. It seeks to cut 26 percent from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, which supports data collection, climate and science, as well as research into more accurate weather forecasting models. The budget blueprint also would cut $513 million from NOAA’s satellite division, the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, a 22 percent reduction.

Such cuts would cripple NOAA’s ability to keep afloat its satellites and data-gathering activities. That would not only affect the military but any business that relies on data and governments that have to plan how to handle snowstorms and hurricanes.

Scientists and meteorologists have worried that the cuts, and much more devastating reductions in climate change programs at NASA and other agencies, would harm the agency’s ability to forecast storms. In recent decades, the improvement in forecasting technologies has saved hundreds of lives, especially when it comes to tornadoes. The National Weather Service notes that hundreds used to die from pop up tornadoes like the ones that blew through Oklahoma in the mid-1970s, and that deaths are way down due to accurate predictions.

Harvey, which was just upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane, the first of that strength in more than 11 years, illustrates the point. The deadliest hurricane in U.S. history, which hit Galveston, Texas, in the year 1900, led to 6,000 to 12,000 deaths. By contrast, 72 deaths were associated with Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and fewer than 2,000 with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

James Franklin, who headed the hurricane forecast team at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, a part of the National Weather Service, laments the budget cuts that are being proposed, including to the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program that was launched in 2009. “It’s hanging on really by a thread in terms of funding,” said Franklin.

Trump has yet to nominate an administrator to lead NOAA. By contrast, President Barack Obama had named his pick before his 2009 swearing in. Speculation has centered on Barry Myers, the CEO of Accuweather — a weather business — but he is not a scientist.

A Senate panel passed smaller cuts to NOAA; the cuts by the House panel were significantly closer to President Trump’s proposed reductions. By the time a new budget is due in October, the country will be deep into hurricane season — as well as the fiscal budget storm.

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Trump’s proposed cuts to weather research could make it much harder to prepare for storms

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6 Must-Try Natural Cleaning Shortcuts

As much as I dislike the process of cleaning, I appreciateit when things are clean(and so do our guests).

So, I do my bestto clean smarter instead of harder.

With a little planning and a well-stocked pantry, you can make it easier to clean your home in a safe and eco-friendly manner.

Keep reading for some natural cleaning tips that will save you time and protect your health!

Why Natural Cleaning?

The products with which you choose to clean your home can have a tremendous impact on your health. According to studies conducted by The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times and occasionally more than 100 times higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors.”

What causes indoor air pollution? Chemical-based household cleaners top the list, which also includes new carpet, paint, adhesives and certain types of upholstery.

Related: 7 Sources Of Indoor Air Pollution

By simply trading these toxic cleaning agents for naturally-made (but equally effective) products, you can drastically improve your indoor air quality. Ready to get started? Here are some of the basic building blocks of natural cleaning you’ll want to keep on hand.

Natural Ingredients & Supplies For Green Cleaning

Ingredients:

White Vinegar
Baking Soda
Castile Soap
Soap Nuts
Essential Oils (Lemon, Tea Tree Oil, Lavender, etc)
Borax
Olive Oil
Flour
Corn Starch
Kosher Salt
Hydrogen Peroxide

Supplies:

Newspaper
Old Socks, T-Shirts, Pillowcases, etc (to be used as cleaning cloths)
Mesh Produce Bags (for DIY pot scrubbers)
Old Toothbrushes
Empty Spray Bottles

6 Natural Cleaning Tips & Shortcuts

Once you’ve collected your natural cleaning ingredients and supplies, it’s time to put them to work in your home. It might surprise you to learn that nearly every conventional cleaning product (from glass cleaner to fabric softener) can be recreated, naturally, right in your own kitchen and at a fraction of the price.

Dirty Oven?

Make this paste out of water and baking soda, and spread all over the walls and bottomof your crusty oven (be careful not to get it on the heating elements, though!). Leave it overnight. In the morning, simply use a damp cloth to remove the paste, taking all that grime with it!

Dirty Toilet?

“Toss afull cupof baking soda right into the bowl and leave it for an hour. Then pour in a cup of white vinegar, let it sit for a few minutes and flush,” writes Chris Sosa for Care2.

Dirty Surfaces?

Use distilled water, vinegar, essential oils and some upcycled washcloths to make your ownDIY disinfectingwipes! Simply roll, stuff and soak in a glass jar that lives on your kitchen counter. Then, whenever there’s a mess that needs cleaning up, you’ve got a reusable, non-toxic wipe at your fingertips. Bonus! They can also be used in place of Swiffer pads.

Dirty Windows?

Screw a spray bottle nozzle directly onto a bottle of club soda. Instant streak-free window cleaner! (Add a little white vinegar if your windows are particularly grimy.)

Dirty Sponges?

Without proper, regular cleaning, your kitchen sponges can become horrifying breeding grounds for bacteria.Throw sponges in the microwave for 2 minutes or add them to your dishwasher’s “sterilize” cycle to kill 99 percent of the stuff hiding in there.

Dirty Ceiling Fan?

“Spritz the inside of an old pillowcase with a vinegar and water solution,” recommends A Part of Life. Place the pillowcase around each fan blade, gently wiping toward the outer end of the blade, trapping the dust inside. Rotate the pillowcase so you have a clean piece of cloth for each blade.

What’s your favorite natural cleaning tip or shortcut? Tell us in the comments!

Related:
10 DIY Green Cleaning Recipes
51 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda
8’Shower Plants’ That Want to Live in Your Bathroom

Images via Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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6 Must-Try Natural Cleaning Shortcuts

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EPA science adviser says clearing board of experts leaves “huge void.”

The nation’s largest privately owned coal company, Murray Energy, just filed a lawsuit against the Last Week Tonight host over the show’s recent segment. Oliver had criticized the company’s CEO, Robert Murray, for acting carelessly toward miners’ safety.

Murray Energy’s complaint stated that the segment was a “meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character and reputation” of Murray by broadcasting “false, injurious, and defamatory comments.”

Oliver shouldn’t be too concerned, according to Ken White, a First Amendment litigator at Los Angeles firm, who told the Daily Beast that the complaint was “frivolous and vexatious.”

The lawsuit is hardly a shocking development. Before the show aired, Oliver received a cease-and-desist letter from the company. He noted that Murray has a history of filing defamation suits against news outlets (most recently, the New York Times).

Oliver said in the episode, “I know that you are probably going to sue me, but you know what, I stand by everything I said.”

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EPA science adviser says clearing board of experts leaves “huge void.”

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5 Appliances You Should Be Cleaning (& Helpful Tips for Cleaning Them Efficiently)

Clean my appliances? you may ask. I thought they were supposed to make life easier, not harder!! Well, yes. But occasionally cleaning appliances will not only keep them fresher and cleaner, it will also help them work more efficientlyandlast longer. And its a simple procedure once you know how. Here are a few appliances that are likely getting ignored during spring cleaning chores, but shouldn’t be.

1. Washing Machines

Does your washing machine have a weird, moldy smell?Then it needs a little TLC. Over time,mold and bacteriado tend to collect in washing machines, especially front loaders.

Try one of these fixes (or all of them if the appliance is really smelly):

  1. Wipe around and under the rubber door seals.
  2. Pull out the detergent drawer and give it a good scour.
  3. Pour 1 cup of vinegar into the detergent dispenser. Follow up with a hot water or sanitary wash cycle.

To help prevent odor build-up in a front-loading machine, leave the detergent drawer, as well as the door, open between uses. Make sure small children and pets wont be able to get inside.

2. Dryers

Yes, it’s important to remove the flint from the dryer after every load — but that’s not enough. If you use fabric softener in your wash, you will need to remove the lint screen occasionally and wash it with soap and water. This will remove softener build-up that tends to interfere with the dryers functionality. Let the screen dry completely before replacing it. In addition, once a year, you should have ahandymanclean the lint out of your dryers ductwork to eliminate a potential fire hazard.

3. Stainless Steel Appliances

Don’t let the name fool you. Stainless steel items still need to be cleaned. Heres how to do thatwithout scratching their elegant surface:

  1. Wipe down with warm soapy water, using a soft cloth or a sponge.
  2. Rinse off with clean water. This is especially important for your stainless steel range, which might otherwise develop a permanent soap stain when you heat it.
  3. Buff with a soft, dry cloth.
  4. Never use abrasive cleansers or pads on stainless steel.

DID YOU KNOW? An environmentally safe stainless steel conditioner is great for quick touchups, and prevention of annoying fingermarks and grease stains. It also leaves your appliances nice and shiny. Use a soft cloth and always apply in the direction of the grain.

4. Ovens

Have you ever made a lasagna that overflowed and landed on the oven floor? When that happens, make life easier on yourself; deal with it ASAP. Sprinkle the overflow with salt immediately (it will help loosen the residue) and finish your cooking process. After turning off the oven, take out the casserole dish. Scrub the floor with a damp sponge; be careful to avoid contact with the oven racks, which will still be very hot. Enjoy your dinner!

HELPFUL HINT: The salt trick also works miracles with burned food in the bottom of non-coated metal cooking pans.

5. Dishwashers

Yes, your dishwasher is regularlyexposed to soap and water, but italso dealswith leftover food, grease and soap scum. (Yuck!) Giving it a good cleanse will increase its efficiency. Remove the bottom rack and clear particles out of the drain. Next, place a dishwasher-safe container full of white vinegar (about 1 cup) on the upper rack and run a hot-water cycle to remove grease and odors. If the interior is stained, sprinkle 1 cup ofbaking sodaover the bottom surface. Once again, run a hot-water cycle a short one will be fine this time.

Laura Firszt writes fornetworx.com.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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5 Appliances You Should Be Cleaning (& Helpful Tips for Cleaning Them Efficiently)

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Trump Is Waiving His Own Ethics Rules to Allow Lobbyists to Make Policy

Mother Jones

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It seems clear now why the Trump administration fought so hard to avoid making public the details of the waivers it granted to White House staffers who might otherwise have been in violation of the president’s self-imposed ethics rules. They show that President Donald Trump, who made “drain the swamp” a campaign battle cry, has enlisted numerous swamp-dwellers—former lobbyists, consultants, corporate executives—to staff key positions in his White House and has granted them broad exemptions to work on issues directly related to their former jobs and clients.

After repeatedly slamming DC lobbyists during the campaign, Trump used one of his first executive orders to lay out ethics rules for his new administration. The January 28 order barred Trump officials from working on issues related to their former employers for at least two years, and these rules applied not only to lobbyists, but to anyone who worked for a business or organization potentially affected by federal policy decisions. The prohibitions were not absolute: Waivers would be available in certain cases.

The Trump administration initially balked when the Office of Government Ethics demanded the White House hand over the waivers it had granted. But after a standoff the administration relented late Wednesday and released about 14 waivers covering White House staffers. They make clear that Trump’s ethics rules are remarkably flexible and that his top staffers don’t need to worry too much about staying on the right side of them. On paper, Trump’s rules are similar to those imposed by President Barack Obama, but it appears that Trump is far more willing to hand out exemptions. At this point in the Obama administration, just three White House staffers had been granted ethics waivers. So far, Trump has granted 14, including several that apply to multiple people.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and adviser Kellyanne Conway were both granted waivers to deal with issues involving their previous employers. In the case of Priebus, this narrowly applies to the Republican National Committee. But Conway is now free to work on issues involving her ex-clients from her previous life as an operative and pollster—clients that included political campaigns, nonprofit activist groups, and corporations.

Conway’s relationships with these clients were murky to begin with; she was never required to disclose who she worked for. We do know that she repped virulently anti-immigration and anti-Muslim groups. The names of some of her corporate clients also have trickled out, including Major League Baseball, Hasbro, American Express, and Boeing. The waiver may have been granted to help smooth the way for Conway after evidence emerged that she continued to operate own her polling and consulting company even after she’d gone to work in the White House—a possible violation of conflict-of-interest laws that drew the attention of congressional Democrats who have begun probing her relationship with the company.

Conway’s waiver was not retroactive, but there is another that specifically allows White House employees to communicate freely with former employers and coworkers at media organizations—and applies back to January 20. Trump’s executive order didn’t simply prohibit any of his hires from working on matters relating to a former employer—it specifically covered “any meeting or communication relating to the performance of one’s official duties.” This means at least two of Trump’s top aides, former Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon and his assistant Julia Hahn, would be prohibited from chatting with their former colleagues at Breitbart about anything work-related—a rule that Bannon appears not to have followed. While not named, it seems likely that protecting the Breitbart alums from ethics complaints was the aim.

Another takeaway from Trump’s waivers is that they appear to be far less restrictive than Obama administration waivers. Many Obama waivers (there were only 10 total granted to White House employees during his administration) were very narrowly tailored. For example, James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, was granted a waiver to allow him to introduce Bill Clinton at an event for the Atlantic Council, even though Jones had previously worked for the group. John Brennan, at the time one of Obama’s deputy national security advisers, had previously worked for The Analysis Company, and he was granted a waiver to use the company’s data while investigating the so-called “Underwear Bomber” incident. Brennan was not cleared to talk to any of the company’s employees, however.

Trump’s waivers, on the other hand, are broad.

For instance, Trump granted a waiver to Michael Catanzaro, who is the president’s most senior energy policy aide, allowing him to work freely on “broad policy matters and particular matters of general applicability relating to the Clean Power Plan, the WOTUS Waters of the United States rule, and methane regulations.” Catanzaro worked as a registered lobbyist for several oil and gas companies as recently as January, which made the waiver necessary. On his most recent lobbying disclosure form—filed on behalf of one of his clients, natural gas company Noble Energy—Catanzaro wrote that he was working on “EPA and BLM’s proposed and final regulations covering methane emissions from new and existing oil and gas facilities.” Nearly identical language appears in his most recent lobbying disclosure on behalf of another natural gas company, Encana. In other words, Catanzaro is now making policy on the very issues he was paid by corporations to lobby on. There are no restrictions in Catanzaro’s waiver relating to his previous clients.

Another lobbyist turned Trump aide is Shahira Knight, who was previously employed as vice president of public policy for mutual fund giant Fidelity and now serves as Trump’s special assistant for tax and retirement policy. Her waiver grants her permission to work on “matters of general applicability relating to tax, retirement and financial services issues.” Fidelity’s most recent lobbying report—filed while Knight ran its lobbying shop—lists the main issue areas targeted by the company’s lobbyists: finance, retirement, banking, and taxes.

While the Obama administration reluctantly granted waivers for narrow sets of circumstances, the Trump waivers appear to be written to carefully exempt the previous lobbying work done by White House aides.

And this is just the beginning. The administration released only the waivers granted to White House employees—the release does not include waivers granted to administration officials who work for federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the Treasury Department. The White House will turn those waivers over to the Office of Government Ethics on Thursday, but it’s not clear when they will be made public.

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Trump Is Waiving His Own Ethics Rules to Allow Lobbyists to Make Policy

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Obama Slams Trump’s Withdrawal From Paris Deal

Mother Jones

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As President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement on Thursday, former president Barack Obama released a statement denouncing the move as one that “rejects the future” and reduces American leadership on the international stage.

He also expressed hope that cities and states would take the lead in the fight against climate change, even without the administration’s support.

“I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack,” Obama said. “But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”

The statement, which was released as Trump was speaking from the White House Rose Garden, was a rare rebuke from the former president, who has largely avoided criticizing his successor.

Trump defended his decision to pull the country out of the historic accord, claiming the treaty was “very unfair to the highest level” to Americans. He said he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Trump’s exit from the Paris accord is his most consequential move so far to undo his predecessor’s legacy in combating global warming. The decision adds the United States to a group of just two countries, Nicaragua and Syria, that have rejected the landmark agreement.

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Obama Slams Trump’s Withdrawal From Paris Deal

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Trump Is Already Guilty of Aiding Putin’s Attack on America

Mother Jones

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The Trump-Russia scandal is the subject of multiple investigations that may or may not unearth new revelations, but this much is already certain: Donald Trump is guilty.

We don’t need additional information about the Russian covert scheme to undermine the 2016 campaign, or about the curious interactions between Team Trump and Russia, or about Trump pressuring and then firing FBI Director James Comey, to reach the judgment that the president of the United States engaged in wrongdoing.

From the start, Trump and his crew have claimed they had nothing to do with the hack-and-leak operation mounted by Russian intelligence to help Trump nab the presidency. They have dismissed the matter as fake news, and they have insisted there is no issue because there has been no proof that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia. In May, for instance, Trump proclaimed, “Believe me, there’s no collusion.” Nothing to see; move along.

Explicit collusion may yet be proved by the FBI investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller or by other ongoing probes. But even if it is not, a harsh verdict can be pronounced: Trump actively and enthusiastically aided and abetted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plot against America. This is the scandal. It already exists—in plain sight.

Did Team Trump conspire with the Kremlin? Here’s a timeline of everything we now know about the attack on the 2016 election.

As soon as the news broke a year ago that the Russians had penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems, Trump launched a campaign of denial and distraction. For months, he refused to acknowledge the Kremlin’s role. He questioned expert and government findings that pinned the blame on Moscow. He refused to condemn Putin. Far from treating these acts of information warfare seriously, he attempted to politicize and delegitimize the evidence. Meanwhile, he and his supporters encouraged more Russian hacking. All told, Trump provided cover for a foreign government’s attempt to undermine American democracy. Through a propaganda campaign of his own, he helped Russia get away with it. As James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, testified to Congress this spring, Trump “helps the Russians by obfuscating who was actually responsible.”

On June 15, 2016, the day after the Washington Post reported that the DNC had been hacked and that cybersecurity experts had identified two groups linked to the Russian government as the perps, Trump’s campaign issued a statement blaming the victim: “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader.” The intent was obvious: to impede somber consideration of the Russian intervention, to have voters and reporters see it as just another silly political hullabaloo.

Help us dig deep on Trump’s ties to Russia. Make a tax-deductible monthly or one-time donation to Mother Jones today.

In the following weeks, Trump continued to claim the Russia story was fiction. After WikiLeaks dumped nearly 20,000 DNC emails—a move that nearly blew up the Democratic convention—Trump tweeted, “The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me.” Two days later, he proclaimed at a news conference, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Trump supporters including Rep. Mike Pompeo, who would become Trump’s CIA director, and Roger Stone, the longtime political dirty trickster, cheered on WikiLeaks.

By midsummer, numerous cyber experts had bolstered the conclusion that Russia was behind the hacks. And President Barack Obama echoed those findings. So anyone paying attention to the facts—say, a presidential candidate and his advisers—would have been aware of this fundamental point. Indeed, in August, during his first intelligence briefing as the Republican presidential nominee, Trump was reportedly told that there were direct links between the hacks and the Russian government.

Still, he didn’t change his tune. During a September 8 interview with RT, the Kremlin-controlled broadcaster that has been accused of disseminating fake news and propaganda, Trump discounted the Russian connection: “I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows, but I think it’s pretty unlikely.” (Yes, he did this on RT.) He repeated a similar line at the first presidential debate at the end of that month, with his famous reference to how the DNC hacker “could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?”

The Spy Who Wrote the Trump-Russia Memos: It Was “Hair-Raising” Stuff

Private experts and US intelligence had already determined that Russia had pulled off this caper. Trump had been told this. Yet he continued to deny Russia’s culpability, actively protecting Moscow.

Many Republicans followed his lead. Trump’s stance—treating a widely shared conclusion as controversial speculation—essentially foreclosed a vigorous and bipartisan response to the Moscow intervention. It is hard to imagine how this did not embolden Russian intelligence and reinforce Putin’s belief that he had backed the right horse.

On October 7, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence blew the whistle on Moscow, issuing a statement that the DNC hack and related cyberattacks had been authorized by “Russia’s senior-most officials.” Yet Trump remained on the side of the enemy. That same day, the now notorious grab-them-by-the-pussy video surfaced—and less than an hour after that story broke, WikiLeaks began releasing thousands of stolen emails from John Podesta, the Clinton campaign’s chairman. Trump’s response, at the second presidential debate: “I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say ‘the Russians.’ Well, Hillary Clinton doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking.” The next day at a campaign rally, Trump, citing some of the Podesta emails, exclaimed, “I love WikiLeaks!”

What could be better for Putin? The US government had called him out, yet the GOP presidential candidate was discrediting this conclusion. Trump made it tougher for Obama and the White House to denounce Putin publicly—to do so, they feared, would give Trump cause to argue they were trying to rig the election against him.

At the final debate, Clinton accurately summed up Trump’s position: “It’s pretty clear you won’t admit that the Russians have engaged in cyberattacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people.” Trump replied, “Our country has no idea” who pulled off the hacks.

Read about the disturbing Trump-Russia dossier, whose existence was first reported by MoJo’s David Corn.

After the election, he maintained this stance. “It’s time for the country to move on,” he said in December. Two weeks later, after the US intelligence establishment released a report concluding Putin had implemented this covert op to install Trump in the White House, the president-elect compared the intelligence community to Nazi Germany. Though he did at one point concede Russia was the culprit, Trump continued calling the Russia story a hoax whipped up by Democrats and eventually reverted to form, asserting that the hacks might have been waged by China or others. And he still showed no signs of confronting Putin. At the Russian leader’s request, he jovially hosted the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office—and then disclosed top-secret information to them. Moreover, he did this the day after brazenly ousting Comey, who was overseeing the bureau’s probe of Moscow’s meddling and links between Trump associates and Russia.

It’s been common for political observers to say the Trump-Russia controversy has generated a great deal of smoke, but the amount of fire is yet to be determined. It’s true that the various links tying Trump and his associates to Russia have yet to be fully explained. Many questions remain: Was there any specific coordination? If not, did the Trump camp privately signal to Moscow that Russia would get a better deal if Trump were elected? That alone would have provided encouragement for Putin to attack.

This country needs a thorough and public investigation to sort out how the Russian operation worked, how US intelligence and the Obama administration responded, and how Trump and his associates interacted with Russia and WikiLeaks. But whatever happened out of public view, the existing record is already conclusively shameful. Trump and his crew were active enablers of Putin’s operation to subvert an American election. That is fire, not smoke. That is scandal enough.

See our entire updated Trump-Russia timeline dating back to the 1980s.

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Trump Is Already Guilty of Aiding Putin’s Attack on America

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Why Would a President Schmooze With Vicious Autocrats and Repressive Monarchs?

Mother Jones

A version of this story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

Much outrage has been expressed in recent weeks over President Donald Trump’s White House invitation to Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, whose “war on drugs” has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings. Criticism of Trump was especially intense given his warm public support for other authoritarian rulers, including Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (who visited the Oval Office amid presidential praise weeks earlier), Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who got a congratulatory phone call from Trump on the recent referendum victory that cemented his powers), and Thailand’s Prayuth Chan-ocha (who also received a White House invitation).

But here’s the strange thing: The critics generally ignored the far more substantial and long-standing support US presidents, Democrat and Republican, have offered to dozens of repressive regimes over the decades. These regimes have one striking thing in common: They are all on an autocratic honor role of at least 45 nations and territories hosting scores of US military bases—from tiny outposts to installations the size of a small city. All told, these bases are home to tens of thousands of US troops.

To ensure basing access, American officials regularly collaborate with regimes and militaries that have been implicated in torture, murder, suppression of democratic rights, systematic oppression of women and minorities, and countless other human rights abuses. Never mind Trump. These collaborations have been the status quo for nearly three-quarters of a century. In fact, since World War II, US administrations have often shown a preference for maintaining bases in undemocratic and/or despotic states—Spain under Generalissimo Francisco Franco, South Korea under Park Chung-hee, Bahrain under King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, and Djibouti under four-term President Ismail Omar Guelleh, to name just a few.

Many of our 45 undemocratic base hosts qualify as fully “authoritarian regimes,” according to a democracy index compiled by the Economist. Which means American installations and the troops stationed there are effectively helping block the spread of democracy in countries like Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kuwait, Niger, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

This support for dictatorship and repression should trouble any American who believes in the principles of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. After all, one of the long-articulated justifications for maintaining US military bases abroad has been that our military presence protects and spreads democracy. Far from it, such bases tend to help legitimize and prop up repressive regimes, while often interfering with genuine efforts toward political and democratic reform. The silencing of the critics of human rights abuses in base nations such as Bahrain, which has violently cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrators since 2011, has left the United States complicit.

During the Cold War, such bases were often justified as the unfortunate but necessary consequence of confronting the “communist menace.” Yet in the quarter-century since the Cold War ended, few of those bases have closed. So today, while White House visits from autocrats generates indignation, the presence of American military installations in the same countries receives little notice.

The 45 nations and territories with little or no democratic rule represent more than half the roughly 80 countries now hosting US bases—countries that often lack the power to ask their “guests” to leave. They are part of a historically unprecedented global network of military installations the United States has built or occupied since World War II.

While there are no foreign bases in the United States, we have around 800 bases in foreign countries—almost certainly a record for any nation or empire in history. More than 70 years after World War II and 64 years after the Korean War, there remain, according to the Pentagon, 181 US “base sites” in Germany, 122 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea. Hundreds more dot the planet from Aruba to Australia, Belgium to Bulgaria, Colombia to Qatar. Hundreds of thousands of troops, civilians, and family members occupy these installations. By my conservative estimate, manning and maintaining these installations costs US taxpayers at least $150 billion annually—which is more than the budget of any government agency other than the Pentagon.

For decades, our leaders in Washington have insisted these foreign bases spread American values and democracy—and that may have been true to some extent in occupied Germany, Japan, and Italy after World War II. But as base expert Catherine Lutz suggests, the subsequent historical record shows that “gaining and maintaining access” for our outposts “has often involved close collaboration with despotic governments.”

Consider the Philippines: The United States has maintained military facilities in the archipelago almost continuously since seizing it from Spain in 1898. America only granted the colony independence in 1946, conditioned on the local government’s agreement that the United States would retain access to more than a dozen military installations there.

After independence, a succession of US administrations supported two decades of Ferdinand Marcos’ autocratic rule in the Philippines, ensuring the continued use of Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, two of our largest overseas bases. The Filipinos finally ousted Marcos in 1986 and ordered the US military to leave in 1991, but five years later, the Pentagon quietly returned. With the help of a “visiting forces agreement” and a growing stream of military exercises and training programs, it began to set up surreptitious, small-scale bases once more. A desire to solidify this renewed base presence, while also checking Chinese influence in the region, may have driven Trump’s White House invitation to Duterte. It came despite the Filipino president’s record of joking about rape, swearing he would be “happy to slaughter” millions of drug addicts just as “Hitler massacred six million Jews,” and bragging, “I don’t care about human rights.”

In Turkey, President Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic rule is only the latest episode in a pattern of military coups and undemocratic regimes interrupting periods of democracy in Turkey. Since 1943, however, US bases have been a constant presence in the country, where they have repeatedly sparked protest—throughout the 1960s and 1970s, prior to the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, and more recently, when US forces began using them to launch attacks in Syria.

Although Egypt has a relatively small US base presence, its military has enjoyed deep and lucrative Pentagon ties since the signing of the Camp David Accords with Israel in 1979. After a 2013 military coup ousted a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, the Obama administration waited months to withhold some forms of military and economic aid, despite more than 1,300 killings by security forces and the arrest of more than 3,500 members of the Brotherhood. According to Human Rights Watch, “Little was said about ongoing abuses,” which have continued to this day.

The United States also has maintained deep connections with the Thai military, which has carried out 12 coups since 1932. Both countries have been able to deny they have a basing relationship of any sort, thanks to a rental agreement between a private contractor and US forces at Thailand’s Utapao Naval Air Base. “Because of contractor Delta Golf Global,” writes journalist Robert Kaplan, “the US military was here, but it was not here. After all, the Thais did no business with the US Air Force. They dealt only with a private contractor.”

In monarchical Bahrain, which has had a US military presence since 1949 and now hosts the Navy’s 5th Fleet, the Obama administration offered only the most tepid criticism of the Bahraini government despite an ongoing, often violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. According to Human Rights Watch and others (including an independent commission of inquiry appointed by the Bahraini king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa), the government has been responsible for widespread abuses, including the arbitrary arrest of protesters, ill treatment during detention, torture-related deaths, and growing restrictions on freedoms of speech, association, and assembly. The Trump administration has already signaled its desire to protect the military ties of the two countries by approving a sale of F-16 fighters to Bahrain without demanding any improvements in its human rights record.

This is typical of what the late base expert Chalmers Johnson once called the American “baseworld.” Research by political scientist Kent Calder confirms what’s come to be known as the “dictatorship hypothesis”: that “the United States tends to support dictators in nations where it enjoys basing facilities.” Another large study concluded that autocratic states have been “consistently attractive” as base sites. “Due to the unpredictability of elections,” it added bluntly, democratic states prove “less attractive in terms of sustainability and duration.”

Even within what are technically US borders, democratic rule has regularly proved “less attractive” than preserving colonialism into the 21st century. The presence of scores of bases in Puerto Rico and the Pacific island of Guam has been a major motivation for keeping these and other territories—American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands—in varying degrees of colonial subordination. Conveniently for military leaders, they have neither full independence nor the full democratic rights—voting, representation in Congress—that come with US statehood. Installations in at least five of Europe’s remaining colonies have proved equally attractive, as has the base US troops have forcibly occupied in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since shortly after the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Authoritarian rulers are well aware of the desire of US officials to maintain the status quo when it comes to bases. As a result, they often capitalize on a base presence to extract benefits or help ensure their own political survival.

The Philippines’ Marcos, former South Korean dictator Syngman Rhee, and more recently Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh have been typical in the way they used bases to extract economic assistance from Washington, which they then lavished on political allies to shore up their power. Other autocrats have relied on US bases to bolster their international prestige and legitimacy, or to justify violence against political opponents.

After the 1980 Kwangju massacre—in which the South Korean government killed hundreds, if not thousands, of pro-democracy demonstrators, strongman General Chun Doo-hwan explicitly cited the presence of US bases and troops to suggest that he enjoyed Washington’s support. Whether that was true remains a matter of historical debate. What’s clear, though, is that American leaders have regularly muted their criticism of repressive regimes lest they imperil US basing rights. And the US presence tends to strengthen military, rather than civilian, institutions because of military-to-military ties, arms sales, and training missions that generally accompany the basing agreements.

Opponents of repressive regimes often use the bases to rally nationalist sentiment, anger, and protest against their ruling elites and the United States. In some such cases, fears in Washington that a transition to democracy might lead to base eviction leads to a doubling down on support for the undemocratic ruler. The result can be an escalating cycle of opposition and US-backed repression.

While some analysts defend the presence of US bases in undemocratic countries as necessary to deter bad actors and support American interests (primarily corporate ones), backing dictators and autocrats frequently leads to harm—not just for the citizens of the host nations, but for US citizens as well. The base buildup in the Middle East is the most prominent example. In the wake of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution the same year, the Pentagon has built up scores of bases across the Middle East at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. These bases and the troops stationed in them have been a “major catalyst for anti-Americanism and radicalization,” according to former West Point professor Bradley Bowman, who cites research noting a correlation between the bases and Al Qaeda recruitment.

Outposts in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Afghanistan have helped generate and fuel the radical militancy that has spread throughout the Greater Middle East and led to terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States. The presence of US bases and troops in Muslim holy lands was a major recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, and part of Osama bin Laden’s professed motivation for the 9/11 attacks.

With the Trump administration seeking to entrench the renewed base presence in the Philippines, and the president commending Duterte and similarly authoritarian leaders in Bahrain and Egypt, Turkey and Thailand, human rights violations worldwide are likely to escalate, fueling unknown brutality and baseworld blowback for years to come.

Continued here:

Why Would a President Schmooze With Vicious Autocrats and Repressive Monarchs?

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Trump: Overseas Trip Has Saved “Millions of Jobs”

Mother Jones

Donald Trump claims that his world trip this week has saved millions of jobs. Millions!

A White House official said Trump was not talking just about the Saudi deals but “benefits to trade from the entire trip from Saudi Arabia to the G7.” He noted that “any improvement on trade would save many jobs. Stopping even one bad trade deal can save millions. Changing the infrastructure of global trade to tilt it back toward the U.S. would save and create millions.”

Hmmm. Barack Obama made 52 overseas trips during his presidency, and employment climbed 12 million during the same period. That’s about 200,000 jobs per trip. Trump says he’s responsible for millions just in one trip. That’s pretty remarkable, no? But Trump is a remarkable man.

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Trump: Overseas Trip Has Saved “Millions of Jobs”

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