The Hidden Bombshell in the Comey-Trump Story

Khalil Bendib / Otherwords.org

How can you tell an authoritarian when you see one? We know the 20th century hallmarks — brown shirts, street rallies, and the like. But there’s an autocratic attitude, some historians suggest, that can easily be traced across the centuries.

To put it simply, New York University professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat told Democracy Now recently, “authoritarians believe that institutions should serve them, and not the other way around.”

Just ask Jim Comey — who, as recently as October, might’ve been Donald Trump’s favorite person.

Less than two weeks before the November vote, the now-former FBI director announced that he was reopening an investigation into one of Trump’s favorite subjects: Hillary Clinton’s emails. For that, Trump praised Comey’s “guts,” while Clinton now blames Comey’s announcement for costing her the election.

Trump seemed happy to accept that help. But in a twist, Comey also found the guts to investigate whether Trump accepted help from the Russians, too. For that, he was fired this month. “This Russia thing” was “a made-up story,” Trump complained by way of explanation.

All that’s explosive enough. Even more so was a subsequent revelation: That Trump had called on Comey to “let go” of an investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser who’d been ousted for lying about his own contacts with the Russians.

That little bombshell is now headline news all over. But buried in the New York Times story about that memo was another, less noticed bomblet: “Alone in the Oval Office,” the paper reported, Trump said “Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information.”

That’s right: In addition to asking Comey to stop investigating his friend Flynn, the president called on the FBI director to arrest journalists who published things Trump found unflattering. Perhaps including stories like this one.

Was this an impulsive request? Not likely. In fact, the administration appears to have been laying the groundwork for this for some time.

Take WikiLeaks. Trump once said he “loved” the group for publishing leaked Clinton campaign emails. But then it earned the White House’s enmity by also publishing details about CIA hacking.

Trump’s CIA director has since described WikiLeaks as “a hostile foreign intelligence service” and warned that “America’s First Amendment freedoms” will not “shield them from justice.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions is now trying to bring a case against the group’s founder, Julian Assange.

While leaking classified information may be a crime, publishing it most certainly isn’t — that’s been protected by the Supreme Court since the early 1970s. In this respect, any charges brought against WikiLeaks could equally be brought against virtually every newspaper and TV station in the country.

Which, by all appearances, is the idea. When CNN asked if the WikiLeaks case could lead to charges against other outlets, Sessions didn’t bother to deny it.

Of course, this is all under the auspices of a candidate who called journalists “lying, disgusting people” and even wondered aloud about whether he’d kill them as president. (He ultimately said no, but seemed reluctant.) And it’s the same White House that wants to sue journalists whose reporting it disputes.

But consider that Michael S. Schmidt, the Times reporter who broke the Comey memo story, happens to be the very same person who reported on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Has anyone benefited more from that reporting than Trump?

It all depends on the headlines that come next, apparently.

They’ve surely been spotty about it, but in a democracy public institutions — from law enforcement to the free press — are supposed to serve the public, not the president. If Trump can’t accept that, maybe he’s the one who should be fired.

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Bittersweet Vanilla: the unsavoury story of vanilla farmers in Madagascar’s Sava Region

Fairfood and CNV Internationaal’s latest report examines the riches that vanilla production delivers, and the abject poverty many vanilla farmers experience. Fairfood and CNV Internationaal’s report `Bittersweet Vanilla. The unsavoury story of vanilla farmers in Madagascar’s Sava Region’ thoroughly investigates these issues in the vanilla market, and identifies a host of interventions that will improve the situation of farmers in Madagascar.

Vanilla is one of the most expensive and widely exported spices in the world, yet the large majority of the 80,000 smallholder vanilla farmers do not see this reflected in their income and are often even unable to provide food for themselves and their families. Indeed, more than 75 per cent of farmers live below the poverty line of $ 1.90 per day.

However, there are a number of concrete changes that can be made to ensure vanilla farmers have the possibility of a brighter future, and some companies are taking initial steps to remedy some of the problems. Fairfood and CNV Internationaal have devised a list of solutions to address these problems including measures to tackle vanilla theft, such as checkpoints, the tattooing of vanilla pods and the establishment of defence groups, as well as capacity training to help vanilla farmers organise and gain vital knowledge on topics such as modern agricultural techniques, financial planning, entrepreneurship. Fairfood has also held constructive dialogues with major multinationals who hold significant power in the value chain. Much of the power to effect change lies with these multinational companies.

Key issues for farmers and proposed interventions

Bittersweet Vanilla-4

Read the report

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The Irony of the CIA’s Russia-Trump Story

cia-russia-foreign-vote

(Image: DonkeyHotey / Flickr)

Even in an election year as shot through with conspiracy theories as this one, it would have been hard to imagine a bigger bombshell than Russia intervening to help Donald Trump. But that’s exactly what the CIA believes happened, or so unnamed “officials brief on the matter” told the Washington Post.

While Russia had long been blamed for hacking email accounts linked to the Clinton campaign, its motives had been shrouded in mystery. According to the Post, though, CIA officials recently presented Congress with a “a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources” that “electing Trump was Russia’s goal.”

Now, the CIA hasn’t made any of its evidence public, and the CIA and FBI are reportedly divided on the subject. Though it’s too soon to draw conclusions, the charges warrant a serious public investigation.

Even some Republicans who backed Trump seem to agree. “The Russians are not our friends,” said Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, announcing his support for a congressional probe. It’s “warfare,” added Senator John McCain.

There’s a grim irony to this. The CIA is accusing Russia of interfering in our free and fair elections to install a right-wing candidate it deemed more favorable to its interests. Yet during the Cold War, that’s exactly what the CIA did to the rest of the world.

Most Americans probably don’t know that history. But in much of the world it’s a crucial part of how Washington is viewed even today.

In the post-World War II years, as Moscow and Washington jockeyed for global influence, the two capitals tried to game every foreign election they could get their hands on.

From Europe to Vietnam and Chile to the Philippines, American agents delivered briefcases of cash to hand-picked politicians, launched smear campaigns against their left-leaning rivals, and spread hysterical “fake news” stories like the ones some now accuse Russia of spreading here.

Together, political scientist Dov Levin estimates, Russia and the U.S. interfered in 117 elections this way in the second half the 20th century. Even worse is what happened when the CIA’s chosen candidates lost.

In Iran, when elected leader Mohammad Mossadegh tried to nationalize the country’s BP-held oil reserves, CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt led an operation to oust Mossadegh in favor of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The shah’s secret police tortured dissidents by the thousands, leading directly to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

In Guatemala, when the democratically elected Jacobo Arbez tried to loosen the U.S.-based United Fruit company’s grip on Guatemalan land, the CIA backed a coup against him. In the decades of civil war that followed, U.S.-backed security forces were accused of carrying out a genocide against indigenous Guatemalans.

In Chile, after voters elected the socialist Salvador Allende, the CIA spearheaded a bloody coup to install the right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who went on to torture and disappear tens of thousands of Chileans.

“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people,” U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger purportedly said about the coup he helped orchestrate there.

And those are only the most well-known examples.

I don’t raise any of this history to excuse Russia’s alleged meddling in our election — which, if true, is outrageous. Only to suggest that now, maybe, we know how it feels. We should remember that feeling as Trump, who’s spoken fondly of authoritarian rulers from Russia to Egypt to the Philippines and beyond, comes into office.

Meanwhile, much of the world must be relieved to see the CIA take a break from subverting democracy abroad to protect it at home.

The post The Irony of the CIA’s Russia-Trump Story appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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What This Story of a Pup in a Wheelchair Can Teach Us All About Adopting Pets – One Green Planet


One Green Planet
What This Story of a Pup in a Wheelchair Can Teach Us All About Adopting Pets
One Green Planet
However, similarly to cheap toy production, there are many hidden costs to the industry. Just as sweatshop workers across the globe make many of the toys available to us, the puppies on display at the pet shop didn't just fall out of the sky and arrive

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What This Story of a Pup in a Wheelchair Can Teach Us All About Adopting Pets – One Green Planet


One Green Planet
What This Story of a Pup in a Wheelchair Can Teach Us All About Adopting Pets
One Green Planet
However, similarly to cheap toy production, there are many hidden costs to the industry. Just as sweatshop workers across the globe make many of the toys available to us, the puppies on display at the pet shop didn't just fall out of the sky and arrive

|||||||http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNE7kG6v2iWRiy8bOxLD5vrNOg3omw&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&ei=NN5JV9iYCuiGwgGPlqXoCg&url=http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/pup-in-a-wheelchair-can-teach-us-all-about-adopting-pets/

Hong Kong’s Real-Life Toy Story: Plastic Playthings Go High-Tech – Bloomberg


Bloomberg
Hong Kong's Real-Life Toy Story: Plastic Playthings Go High-Tech
Bloomberg
China cranked out 70 percent of all toys globally, according to researcher IBISWorld. Chinese manufacturers such as Goldlok Toys Holdings Guangdong Co. and Alpha Group are increasingly moving into making interactive toy robots, as well as animation …

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How 4 AP reporters got the story ‘Seafood from Slaves’ – KTTC

How 4 AP reporters got the story 'Seafood from Slaves'
KTTC
Building on earlier reports of forced labor in Southeast Asia's fishing industry, they worked for more than a year to delve into the harvesting and processing of inexpensive shrimp and other seafood sold in the U.S. and elsewhere. Gathering with

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How 4 AP reporters got the story ‘Seafood from Slaves’ – news9.com KWTV

How 4 AP reporters got the story 'Seafood from Slaves'
news9.com KWTV
Building on earlier reports of forced labor in Southeast Asia's fishing industry, they worked for more than a year to delve into the harvesting and processing of inexpensive shrimp and other seafood sold in the U.S. and elsewhere. Gathering with

and more »

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MULTIMEDIA STORY: Winona-area Peace Corps workers reflect on lifelong lessons – Winona Daily News


Winona Daily News
MULTIMEDIA STORY: Winona-area Peace Corps workers reflect on lifelong lessons
Winona Daily News
The two are now retired, John after a career in social work and teaching at Winona State, and Carolyn after raising three kids and working in ESL at Winona Area Public Schools. They said their time in Ethiopia had a profound effect on the rest of their

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Avoid a sad story: Focus on safety – Iowa Farmer Today

Avoid a sad story: Focus on safety
Iowa Farmer Today
HE MADE the risky decision to cross a muddy dam to hay cattle. He had other options, but chose to cross this narrow dam in April of 1993 … My sister and I had lost our father. My mother was left without her soul mate. My child, who we are expecting

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