Day: January 11, 2020

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Crisis meeting…


London (AFP) – Queen Elizabeth II will host a showdown meeting with Prince Harry on Monday in an attempt to solve the crisis triggered by his bombshell announcement that he and wife Meghan were stepping back from the royal frontline.

Other senior royals including Harry’s father Prince Charles and brother Prince William, with whom he has strained relations, will join the monarch at her private Sandringham estate in eastern England, according to British media.

Meghan will join the meeting via conference call from Canada as they attempt to work out the “next steps” towards a compromise and nip the growing crisis in the bud.

Issues up for debate include how much money the couple will still receive from Charles’s estate, their HRH titles and what commercial deals they can strike, according to the Sunday Times.

Harry, Meghan and son Archie spent Christmas in Canada, with the US former actress returning there this week.

The Queen on Thursday demanded that staff work with the couple to urgently find a “workable solution” that would take into account their demands for more freedom.

Several Canadian media reported Meghan had returned to Vancouver island off the country’s Pacific coast, where the family spent the year-end holidays and where baby Archie had remained with his nanny.

Senior royals were caught off guard by Wednesday’s announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wanted to seek a “progressive new role” and divide their time between Britain and North America.

The Queen’s office issued a terse statement the same evening, saying there were “complicated issues that will take time to work through”.

Harry and Meghan said they intended to continue to “fully support” the queen and “collaborate” with senior royals.

They also want to keep their home on the queen’s Windsor Castle estate as their British base, while aiming to become financially independent.

The younger prince, who has struggled with his role, last year revealed he has been growing apart from his brother, who as second in line to the throne is increasingly pursuing a different path.

Harry has been open about his mental health issues and he and Meghan last year admitted to struggling with the spotlight following their wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and Archie’s birth a year later.

The couple have also lashed out at negative news coverage, some of which Harry says was racist — in light of Meghan’s biracial heritage.



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President's new danger: Witnesses…


President Trump and other Republicans allies sound confident about his impeachment trial, but some key Republican senators plan to push for witnesses, which could result in a new chance for Democrats to sway public opinion.

The big picture: “There’s a growing sense among senators … that there will be some witnesses,” the New York Times reports.

What she’s saying: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), whose willingness to dissent gives her a big voice among Republican senators, told reporters in Maine on Friday that she is working with a “fairly small group” of fellow GOP senators toward a goal of ensuring witnesses can be called, the Bangor Daily News reported.

  • “[W]e should be completely open to calling witnesses,” she said.
  • “I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement on how to proceed with the trial that will allow the opportunity for both the House and the president’s counsel if they choose to do so.”

The bottom line: Absent new information, Trump has zero worries about the Republican-led Senate removing him from office. Witnesses introduce uncertainty into a constitutional exercise where the conclusion looks baked.

Go deeper: Pelosi signals she’ll send impeachment articles to Senate next week



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Last 2020 Dem all in on Medicare for All…



(Roman Genn)

With weeks to go before the caucuses, the race remains unpredictable

Grundy Center, Iowa

One year ago, the conventional wisdom of some political pundits and at least a few (now former) Democratic presidential candidates held that Democratic voters had moved sharply to the left. Only a staunch progressive committed to Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, the thinking went, could win the nomination.

With a few weeks left until the Iowa caucuses, only five candidates have a realistic chance of taking first place: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar. These five are the only candidates who had qualified, as we went to press, for the last Democratic debate scheduled before the Iowa caucuses. Three of them — Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar — oppose Medicare for All, and Elizabeth Warren has backed away from it. Only Bernie Sanders is putting single-payer health care front and center on the campaign trail. 

About halfway through his town-hall event here at the community center in Grundy Center, a small town a half hour outside Waterloo, Sanders asks the crowd of a few hundred to share their experiences with America’s health-care system. Some stories are more sympathetic than others. One woman named Rachel says her family of four spends $1,900 a month on health-insurance premiums for a plan that has a $7,000 deductible. “This is crazy,” she says.

“I assume you’re — what — working-class, middle-class family?” Sanders asks.

“My husband’s a patent attorney,” Rachel replies, not exactly inspiring sympathy for a mass revolution. Patent attorneys of the world, unite!

But a few minutes later a man named Ryan, who says he lost a factory job some years ago and is now buried under a mountain of debt from going to college late in life, talks about his experience lacking insurance and going to the emergency room for chest pain. After basic tests had been performed, Ryan says, he asked to be transferred to a free clinic.

“I did get an appointment, but it’s humiliating, honestly, Bern,” Ryan says. “I felt like when I was a little kid, poor, and I had the different-colored lunch card. And all the rich kids would pick on me then. That’s exactly how I felt.”

After declining an ambulance ride, Ryan says, he called his wife while driving himself to the clinic: “She laughed hysterically when I said, ‘You f***ing tell Bernie — you tell him that your husband died because he couldn’t afford to get fixed because they don’t care if the poor drop.’”

The effect of Ryan’s story, and others like it, is to inspire a sense of solidarity at Sanders’s town halls that you don’t get at the events of other candidates. Sure, at other candidates’ town halls, attendees ask the candidates to address issues affecting the less fortunate, but there is much less talk about the attendees’ own problems.

While Sanders spends about half of his January 4 town hall on Medicare for All, Warren delivers only a few lines about it that same afternoon during her town hall an hour down the road in Manchester. “It is possible to offer full health-care coverage, Medicare for All, for everyone, without costing middle-class families one single dime,” she says. After taking a beating on the issue, she retreated in November by promising not to push for Medicare for All until two years into her presidential term. 

Pundits may have overestimated the number of hard-line progressive primary voters, but all it takes to win a five-way race in Iowa is a plurality. And as the last man standing who is all-in on Medicare for All, Sanders has a good opportunity to consolidate support on the left and win. 

The last four Democrats to take first place in the Iowa caucuses — Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton — went on to win the Democratic nomination. There’s no reason that trend must continue in 2020, but the importance of taking first in Iowa shouldn’t be dismissed. When voters are undecided in a large multicandidate field, nothing is quite so persuasive as early victory.

Yet the race remains unpredictable. The most recent poll of Iowa Democrats showed Sanders, Biden, and Buttigieg tied at 23 percent, with Warren at 16 percent and Klobuchar at 7 percent. And there are different ways to cobble together a plurality.

The poll by YouGov/CBS was conducted almost entirely before a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian Quds Force general Qasem Soleimani. While Sanders has offered a few perfunctory words on the campaign trail highlighting his longstanding opposition to war, Joe Biden is putting foreign policy at the heart of his pitch to voters. 

On the evening of January 4, Biden speaks to an elementary-school gym full of Iowa caucus-goers in Des Moines. The former vice president shows up an hour late to the event, leaving a nervous-looking 22-year-old campaign organizer to entertain the waiting crowd with chants of “Fired up, ready for Joe!” When all else fails, the organizer tries making some disco moves. (What did you expect from a 22-year-old who signed up for the Biden campaign?)

When Biden finally arrives, his remarks about the economy are brief and his performance is uneven. At times, he speaks in his signature mumble-whisper, but he perks up as he discusses Iran.

Soleimani “does have American blood on his hands, so don’t mourn his passing,” Biden tells the crowd. “But the administration has given us no confidence they have any plan or strategy in place for what to do next. None.”

Entering into a conflict with Iran requires the “informed consent of the American people through their Congress,” he insists. “Otherwise, it is an abuse of power. The bottom line is, any further action against Iran requires congressional authorization. This just reinforces the stakes of this election in my view. That’s why it’s so important to elect someone who’s already ready on Day One.”

The Iran issue alone is enough reason for two previously undecided voters I speak to at the town-hall event to make up their mind in support of Biden. A national CNN poll conducted in the fall found that 56 percent of Democrats thought Biden could best handle foreign policy, compared with 13 percent who said the same of Sanders, 11 percent of Warren, and 3 percent of Buttigieg.

Yet concerns about Biden’s gaffes and age are real. “I love Biden, but unfortunately he just seems too frail,” caucus-goer Cindy Ross, of Manchester, who intends to back Warren, tells me. “He reminded me a lot of my dad, and I’m old. . . . [My dad] was 98 when he passed.” 

Those concerns are one reason you shouldn’t sleep on Amy Klobuchar, who has drawn bigger crowds and seen an uptick in fundraising since the December Democratic debate, in which she sparred with Pete Buttigieg.

“The Midwest is not flyover country to me. I really live here,” the Minnesota senator tells the crowd of more than 500 gathered at a town-hall event outside Des Moines on January 2. Electability is the major theme of her stump speech. She talks about the non-celebrity Democrats who won gubernatorial elections in Michigan, Kansas, and Wisconsin in 2018 and touts her record of winning over Republican voters in Minnesota. She notes that she doesn’t support “free college for rich kids” and says the difference between a “plan and a pipedream” is the ability to get something done.

Klobuchar was dogged at the beginning of the campaign by stories about how she was emotionally and sometimes physically abusive toward her Senate staffers, but on the stump she appears winsome and untroubled by the nerves that got to her in earlier debates. 

“Mayor Pete was my favorite, but she’s closed the gap,” caucus-goer Dan Kirkpatrick, of Johnston, tells me after a Klobuchar town hall on January 2. “As a Midwesterner, I like both Pete and Amy. I like their Midwestern sensibility,” he says, but Klobuchar persuaded him she has more experience proving she would know how to “govern effectively.”

If Klobuchar is going to win Iowa on February 3, she doesn’t merely need to do well at the Democratic debate scheduled for January 14. She likely needs to win it. Biden or Buttigieg or possibly both need to slip. Klobuchar is polling right at 7 percent with four weeks to go, but that’s not a terrible place to be. “It’s common that things break at the last minute,” Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer tells me. In 2012, Rick Santorum was polling at 7 percent in Iowa a few weeks before he won the GOP caucus. In 1988, Dick Gephardt was polling at 7 percent a few weeks before he won the Democratic caucus. Whether Klobuchar can pull off the same feat — or one of the four other final candidates will win Iowa in 2020 — remains anyone’s guess.

This article appears as “The Final Five” in the January 27, 2020, print edition of National Review.



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Trudeau doubts explanation…


 

BREAKING NEWS: Justin Trudeau casts doubt on Iran’s claim that shooting down of passenger jet was an ‘accident’ as he demands justice and compensation for families of 57 Canadian victims

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed doubt on Iran’s claim that it accidentally shot down a Urkranian jetliner early Wednesday 
  • Whether the shoot-down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was really an accident was still something that still needs to be determined, he said
  • Trudeau, speaking on Saturday at an update about the crash, which left more than 60 Canadians dead, said he was ‘outraged and furious’
  • Iran claimed that a missile operator opened fire on the Boeing 737 because his communications jammed and he thought he had to take out an incoming missile
  • The missile operator thought he had only seconds to make a decision, a Revolutionary Guards commander has said

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cast doubt on Iran’s claim that it accidentally shot down a Urkranian jetliner on Wednesday. 

Trudea said the shoot-down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 ‘is one of the issues that  we certainly need better answers to,’ during a news conference on Saturday.

 ‘I am, of course, outraged and furious,’ Trudeau said of the crash, adding that whether the tragedy was an accident or not still needs to be determined.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cast doubt on Iran 's claim that it accidentally shot down a Urkranian jetliner on Wednesday

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cast doubt on Iran ‘s claim that it accidentally shot down a Urkranian jetliner on Wednesday

Trudea said the shoot-down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 (pictured) 'is one of the issues that we certainly need better answers to,' during a news conference on Saturday

Trudea said the shoot-down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 (pictured) ‘is one of the issues that we certainly need better answers to,’ during a news conference on Saturday

Rescue workers search the scene where the Ukrainian plane crashed in after taking off from Tehran's international airport early Wednesday

Rescue workers search the scene where the Ukrainian plane crashed in after taking off from Tehran’s international airport early Wednesday

In total, 176 people, of whom 57 Canadians, were killed when Iran blasted the flight out of the sky apparently thinking it was an incoming cruise missile.

‘Canada and the world still have many questions,’ Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa. ‘Questions that must be answered.’

Trudeau said he contacted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani of Iran to let him know that his country’s admission that its own armed forces unintentionally shot down a flight 752 is an important step towards providing answers for families.

However, the prime minister insisted ‘more steps must be taken.’

‘A full and complete investigation must be conducted,’ he said. ‘We need full clarity on how such a horrific tragedy could have occurred.’

Iran claimed that a missile operator opened fire on the Boeing 737 because his communications jammed, and he thought he had only seconds to take out an incoming cruise missile, a Revolutionary Guards commander has said.

Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the Guards’ aerospace commander, said on Saturday the operator mistakened the Ukrainian jetliner for a US cruise missile responding to Iranian ballistic missile attacks, which is why he made the split second decision on whether or not to open fire.

‘I wish I had died, and I wouldn’t have seen such an incident,’ Hajizadeh said somberly at a press conference. He claimed that a ‘request had been made to clear the sky from civil flights at that time, but it did not happen due to reservations.’

Among the dead were a 23-year-old doctoral student at a California university, who was traveling with her sister and their mother. The family had moved to Canada from Iran about seven years ago.

Sara Sabat, 23, who was enrolled at Alliant International University in San Diego, was visiting family in Iran with her sister and mom when their Boeing 737 went down minutes after take off from Tehran’s international airport early Wednesday.

Her sister Saba, 21, and their mother, Shekoufeh Choupannejad, were from Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.

Sara Sabat, 23, who was enrolled at Alliant International University in San Diego, was among those killed in the crash. She was traveling with her sister and their mother. The family had moved to Canada from Iran about seven years ago.

Sara Sabat, 23, who was enrolled at Alliant International University in San Diego, was among those killed in the crash. She was traveling with her sister and their mother. The family had moved to Canada from Iran about seven years ago.

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On the brink: Swing county tense as Trump tangles with Iran…


MONROE, Mich. (AP) — He flipped anxiously between news stations, bracing for an announcement of bombs falling and troops boarding planes destined for the Middle East. It was a nightmare he hoped he would never see again.

Michael Ingram’s son, Michael Jr., died in Afghanistan in 2010 at age 23. Every day since, Ingram has prayed for American presidents to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring every last soldier home. Instead, it seemed to him this week that the United States was edging perilously close to another one.

The highest-stakes week of President Donald Trump’s administration, when a standoff with Iran pushed the countries to the brink of war, was felt most viscerally by people like Ingram and in places such as Monroe. This blue-collar corner of southeast Michigan has buried young soldiers at a rate higher than in most other places of the country. Here, matters of war and peace are deeply personal.

They may also be politically important come November. Monroe is a swing county in a swing state, part of a cluster of Rust Belt communities along the border of Ohio and Michigan that voted for Democrat Barack Obama but then flipped to help put Trump in the White House in 2016. Its assessment of his performance as commander in chief could decide whether he stays there next year.

Conversations with people here, including many with veterans and military families, reveal how complex that assessment is. Trump’s campaign promise to stop the “endless wars” resonated with many, but so did his pledge to answer aggression with relentless strength. Trump supporters in Monroe say they are not against military action. They just want to win and win quickly. They said they trust Trump will.

A week that began with uncertainty and terror ended with Ingram, and others here, seeming to stand more resolutely behind Trump. Last week, Trump authorized the targeted killing of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. Iran responded by firing more than a dozen missiles at American bases in Iraq in its most aggressive assault since seizing the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

As the bombs rained down, Ingram had been so tense that he remembered the exact moment Trump walked behind a podium to announce a detente that meant America was not going immediately into war: 11:22 a.m. Wednesday.

“I was proud of Trump because I thought it was going to get a lot worse. I thought it was going to be bombing all night long, and I don’t want anyone to die,” Ingram said of the president he voted for three years ago and suspects he will again.

His sentiment was repeated by others in this former union stronghold of about 150,000 people, where American flags fly from poles in lawn after lawn. The median household income nears $60,000, higher than the national average, even as the area has suffered some of the same blows to its manufacturing economy as other Rust Belt counties.

Larry Mortimer, a 36-year-old veteran of the Iraq War, did not vote in 2016. He now considers himself undecided. But this past week pushed him closer to Trump, he said, because the president made America look tough.

“It shows that if you pick on us, we’re not going to let you get away with it,” Mortimer said, “and in turn we’re going to show force, we’re not going to back down.”

Monroe County, population 150,000, has had six military casualties since 2001, putting it above the national per capita averages.

Places such as Monroe that have seen their sons and daughters die overseas at higher rates voted disproportionately for Trump, according to a 2017 study by researchers from Boston University and the University of Minnesota. Even when the authors accounted for other factors that could tilt the scales in Trump’s favor — lower college graduation rates, income level, racial diversity — they found Trump did better than previous Republican candidates in communities that have shouldered a heavier burden for the war.

Doug Kriner, one of the authors of the study, sees the connection as part of Trump’s appeal to the forgotten men and women of America. Much of the country pays scant attention to the wars, while only a small slice of Americans go to fight. The research found those Americans responded to the politician who promised they would no longer be overlooked, Kriner wrote.

Kriner, now a professor at Cornell University, saw a warning for Trump in his research: Trump risks turning off voters who embraced his pledge to avoid “stupid wars” and being viewed as “another politician who overlooks the invisible inequality of military sacrifice.”

“For most of the first three years, Trump barked loudly at times, but was quite restrained militarily,” Kriner wrote in an email interview this past week. “But now his saber-rattling has crossed over into a dangerous escalation that risks a wider conflagration. I don’t think voters in these constituencies where Trump made inroads are necessarily anti-war. But he might not seem like a breath of fresh air anymore, but rather more of the same.”

After voting twice for Obama, Monroe County swung hard toward Trump, selecting him by a margin of more than 20 percentage points. His victory here was critical to claiming Michigan and the White House.

Andy Dybala went both times for Obama, embracing the Democrat’s promise of a brighter, more peaceful world. But Dybala grew disheartened, in a large part because of continued military attacks a world away. Now he’s the founder of the Bedford Trump Train, a canvassing group in a township in Monroe County, working to get out the vote for Trump.

“I don’t want any of my fellow Americans to be over there dying, and I don’t want any fellow earthlings to be in situations where they can’t prosper because we’re in war in their country,” he said. “They’re just going to hate us more.”

Dybala said he trusts Trump’s temperament to steer the U.S. away from war. He thinks the president’s bombastic and mercurial personality is mostly show and that Trump is more level-headed than his Twitter account might suggest.

Dybala’s partner in the Bedford Trump Train is married to an immigrant from Ghana, Rita Adler, who had nightmares last week because she doesn’t believe Trump has the disposition to negotiate war and peace. Trump has called foreign leaders names and run roughshod over traditional diplomatic niceties.

“I am so scared of Trump,” she said. “You are the father of the land, you have to respect when you talk, so you don’t offend.”

Some who did not support Trump in the last presidential election said they were surprised to find themselves impressed with how he handled the situation with Iran.

In 2016, for the first time in Terry Van Sickle’s 73 years, he did not vote for president. He’s a Vietnam veteran and found both Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton unpalatable so left his ballot blank. He was stunned as he watched Trump’s address to the nation last week.

“I think that was the first time I ever saw him act like a president,” Van Sickle said.

It might have made him consider voting for Trump but for one thing: Trump included a dig at Obama, alleging the Iranian missiles were paid for by funding unfrozen by Obama’s administration as part of the Iran nuclear deal. Van Sickle found it petty and distasteful for the commander in chief to make a political swipe at such a monumental moment.

But it is that recalcitrance that causes others to support Trump unconditionally.

“I want him to go blow the hell out them, make it a sandbox, call it a day. No more politically correct,” said Karen Orofino, a 67-year-old Trump voter who says there’s nothing Trump could do between now and November to sway her vote away from him. “I know that sounds heartless, but I’m so over the pussyfooting around there. We’ve lost too many American lives.”

A Pew Research Center poll conducted in October 2016 found that Trump supporters were more likely to say that the U.S. should deal with its own problems than help other countries. But they were also more likely to say they were more concerned that military action would not go far enough in stopping Islamic militants. A 2019 Pew poll found at least 8 in 10 Republicans expressed confidence in Trump to use military force wisely and navigate an international crisis.

Matt Vititoe, a Navy veteran of the Persian Gulf War who runs the county’s Democratic Party, worries that the high stakes of America’s conflicts in the Middle East will be lost in partisan political battles and become just one more thing in the daily torrent of Trump news.

“There’s a certain numbness that people feel because it seems like it’s always something,” he said. “I think there’s a bit of Trump fatigue.”

But for some here, the week roused them from political indifference.

Sgt. Michael Ingram’s mother hasn’t voted in years. Politicians kept promising to bring home American troops and no one ever did, Patricia Kitts said.

“When my son passed away, everything went out of me,” she said. “I felt like why vote for somebody that keeps saying they’re going to do something and nothing ever changes?”

She said she doesn’t support war in the Middle East but she supports America’s troops. In her son’s honor, his family started a charity called Mikie’s Minutes that sends calling cards to soldiers so they can phone their families for free. She runs in competitions and carries the American flag, with 39 ribbons bearing names of the dead, each a person she or her son knew personally. It’s so heavy, she said, that it gave her bone spurs on her shoulder, but she continues to run with it anyway because she fears that many might forget their sacrifice, including her son’s. He was goofy, always having fun, she said. She called him Pookie.

This past week was one of the worst for her since his death. She saw videos of troops preparing for battle: marching across a tarmac, climbing the stairs to the airplane and disappearing inside, heading for an uncertain future. She thought of the last time she saw her own son, and that the family of one of these soldiers might have to endure what she has. She felt physically sick; she turned off the television, told her co-workers not to tell her what was happening and deleted Facebook from her phone.

She’s going to vote this time, she said. It will be for whichever candidate convinces her that the ending wars will be the priority.

“Bring our babies back,” she said. “And if you promise to bring our troops home, you better bring them home.”

___

AP Director of Public Opinion Research Emily Swanson and data journalist Angeliki Kastanis contributed to this report.

___

Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly “Ground Game’’ politics podcast



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Judge Judy sets the stage for Bloomberg's anti-Trump rally…


Mike Bloomberg slammed President Trump – as well as his Democratic rivals – Saturday as he kicked off what he called “Day One” of his run for the White House.

“Unlike everyone else in this race, I think what’s important is beating Donald Trump,” he told about 45 supporters at a restaurant in San Antonio.

Protesters toting Trump 2020 and U.S. flags could be spotted through the eatery’s windows.

TV’s Judge Judy Sheindlin introduced Bloomberg with a dig at the left-wing Democrats running for the nomination.

“Those that are touting revolution in this country are wrong,” she said. “It’s the best country on earth … It should have the greatest president.”

In a 13-minute stump speech, Bloomberg touted his efforts to raise teacher salaries and cut carbon emissions during his three terms as New York’s mayor.  

“America is not New York, I understand that,” he acknowledged. “It’s getting things done rather than partisan talking.”

But he stayed far away from his record on crime, after being forced to renounce his signature stop-and-frisk policing policy after being hammered by his fellow Dems.

Instead, he put the spotlight back on Trump.

“When I’m in the Oval Office, no more tweeting,” he promised.

“Actually I can’t spell very well,” he admitted. “So that’s relatively easy to do.”

Bloomberg is making four campaign stops in Texas on Saturday. Back in New York, his campaign is opening a Harlem office with an event helmed by former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Bloomberg’s campaign co-chair.

The billionaire has already spent $200 million of his $50 billion fortune since declaring his candidacy seven weeks ago – and has said he will spend “whatever it takes” to prevent Trump’s re-election.



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Fliers recruiting suicide terrorists for jihad against USA distributed in Iran…


Students at Iran’s Islamic Azad University are being offered a novel new career choice — suicide terrorist.

Leaflets are being distributed at the influential school urging students to sign up for Jihad missions against the United States and Israel to avenge the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

“Registration for volunteers to commit a suicide attack against the United States and Israel,” it blares. “Hard revenge is underway for those criminals who killed Qassem Soleimani.”

The flyer, claiming to quote the words of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, carries additional messages of encouragement, including “kill all infidels.”

Anyone looking to volunteer for the mission is asked to leave their first and last name, birth certificate number, education level, current occupation, phone number and fill in an area marked “tell us about your talents.”

News of the jihadist search was reported by Iranian media. The flyer was republished in full on the website of the Iranian news agency Etedaal, and other Iranian news sources.

A translation of the call to action from Farsi was provided to The Post by escaped Iranian dissident Amir-Abbas Fakhravar. Fakhravar is a longtime pro-Democracy activist currently serving as a chairman of the National Iranian Congress, a quasi-government in exile currently operated out of Washington D.C. He is also an adjunct professor in the Texas state university system.

Media reports in Iran said the forms were being handed out by student cells of Basij, the militia arm of the Iranian revolutionary guard.

“This office is kind of like the gestapo for the regime. They are not fully on the payroll of the regime, but the regime pays them for their projects. When there is a protest somewhere, they are going to crack down on the people and then they get money,” Fakhravar told The Post.

“When I was in medical school in Iran, I had a huge fight with the Basij office. I was ultimately charged with insulting the Supreme Leader,” he said. “For decades they have been recruiting for terrorist attacks for this type of things.”

The Basij commander, Brigadier General Gholamreza Soleimani (no relation to Qassem) was appointed to his post directly by Ayatollah Khamenei, tying the recruitment drives directly to the top leadership of the Iranian regime.



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Why today's young men are terrified of intimacy…


Mason, a former college football player from suburban Milwaukee, was almost 20 years old when he lost his virginity.

It’s a story you don’t hear too often. Boys, we’re told, are having sex younger and more irresponsibly than ever. But as author Peggy Orenstein learned while doing research on her new book, “Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity” (Harper), out now, the reality can be very different.

For Mason, the simple act of kissing was something he largely avoided in high school, afraid that without enough experience he would do it wrong.

“He thought he was just supposed to know,” writes Orenstein.

Even holding hands felt like it came with the risk of humiliation.

When he went to college he met a girl, Jeannie, who invited him back to her dorm room to fool around. He wasn’t able to perform, and blamed it on the weed he’d been smoking all night.

She texted him the next day, inviting him over to try again.

“But the more he thought about it,” Orenstein writes, “the more anxious he became.”

Once again, his attempts at intimacy fizzled.

For Orenstein, who’s spent two decades writing about the sexuality of girls — with bestsellers like “Girls & Sex” and “Don’t Call Me Princess” — Mason’s predicament was difficult to take seriously at first.

Like many of us, she bought into the cultural stereotypes “that all guys are sexually insatiable,” she writes. “Ever ready, incapable of refusal, regret, or injury” — an idea that just reinforced “the most retrograde idea of masculinity.”

Over the span of two years, Orenstein spoke to hundreds of boys across the United States, ranging in age from their early teens to mid-20s and spanning all races, socioeconomic backgrounds, religious beliefs and even sexual orientations. She learned that a surprising number of them don’t live up to gender cliches — meaning they aren’t hormone-driven Frankenstein’s monsters, obsessed with sex and unconcerned with the consequences. In fact, they’re pushing back against cultural expectations, and many are going so far as to avoid sex altogether.

According to the latest data by the General Social Survey, men between the ages of 18 and 29 are having less sex than ever; the number of abstinent men has nearly tripled in the last decade, from 10 percent in 2008 to 28 percent last year.

But as Orenstein discovered, it’s a movement that exists largely in secret. Rather than declare their abstinence, they come up with excuses for their lack of sexual interest — like the college sophomore Orenstein interviewed who frequently faked “whiskey d–k” to avoid hookups, or Mitchell in Los Angeles, who avoided sex with his high-school girlfriend for years because he was terrified that his sexual ability “would just be … sufficient.”

While girls struggle to find the magic middle ground between “prude” and “slut,” boys are “pushed to be as sexually active as possible,” Orenstein writes, “to knock out their firsts regardless of the circumstances or how they felt about their partners.”

David Duchovny in "Californication" plays a womanizing novelist in Los Angeles.
David Duchovny in “Californication” plays a novelist in Los Angeles whose ability to woo any woman is described by one young male subject to author Peggy Orenstein as “convincing.”Jordin Althaus/Showtime

Nate, a high-school junior from the San Francisco area, is terrified of sex because he’s certain the girls in his peer group already have more experience than him. “She’s going to know how to do things and you won’t,” he told Orenstein. “That’s a problem if she tells people you’ve got floppy lips or don’t know how to get her bra off.”

He wants to have a girlfriend someday, but for now, Nate says, “I’m afraid of intimacy.”

This paralyzing fear of sexual inadequacy begins for many boys with online pornography. Sexually explicit videos have never been so easy to find — a 2018 Bitdefender study found that 22 percent of online porn is watched by kids under the age of 10 — and it’s warping their formative ideas about sex.

Mason has been watching porn since he was 14, and he claims it convinced him that a “hot woman” would just magically appear and offer herself up to him.

“That was my whole perception of how it was supposed to go,” he said.

While the boys who spoke to Orenstein admit that porn “is about as authentic as pro-wrestling,” a 2016 study from London-based Middlesex University found that 53 percent of teen boys believe that the sex acts featured in porn are mostly realistic.

“Everyone watches porn and then gets super nervous about their [penis] size,” a college sophomore from Chicago told Orenstein. “I mean, it’s brutal. Like if you’re in the locker room, you’re going to turn around and try to hide yourself, or you’re not going to change in front of other guys.”

But it’s not always porn doing the most damage. Porn may offer the most ridiculous representations of sex, but mainstream media can spread just as much misinformation, and it’s more difficult for younger audiences to separate fact from fiction.

Mason had recently been watching the David Duchovny TV comedy “Californication,” about a womanizing novelist in Los Angeles. The sexual exploits are “just slightly unrealistic,” Mason says. “Like, the main character has sex with everyone wherever he goes. They made it seem so convincing. Whereas if you were to watch a porn video where a dude comes in with his [sexual organ] in a pizza box, it’s like, ‘All right, obviously that isn’t going to happen in real life.’ ”

Everyone watches porn and then gets super nervous about their size.

 – college sophomore

Dylan, 17, is a high-school junior in Northern California. He’s handsome, athletic, a straight-A student, and captain of the soccer team.

He was also, until recently, a virgin.

He had drank too much at a friend’s party and passed out on a couch. That’s where his friend Julia, who was sober, found him. She dragged Dylan, stumbling, to the bathroom and had sex with him on the floor.

The next morning, Dylan was horrified and asked Julia why she forced herself on him. “I didn’t want to do that,” he told her, insisting that he wanted his first time to be special.

“Oh, please,” she shot back. “Don’t give me that. All guys want it.”

It was a bias that even Orenstein admits to having. She was shocked by how often the boys shared stories of being on the receiving end of unwanted sex, “in which girls didn’t hear or didn’t respect ‘no,’ ” Orenstein writes.

Was it rape? The boys she interviewed weren’t sure. She recalls a college sophomore who told her of losing his virginity at 14 to a 17-year-old girl at his first high-school party.

He didn’t want to do it, he says, but was too drunk and too worried about rumors she might spread to leave.

“Like, if it’s the guy who didn’t consent,” he asked Orenstein, “what do you call that?”

According to a 2017 study at Columbia University, 80 percent of victims of sexual assault were women, but men were also being increasingly targeted, with one in eight male students reporting being coerced into non-consensual sex.

And in a 2017 study at New York University, sociologist Jessie Ford interviewed 40 straight male and female college students about their sexual experiences. Most men admitted that they would have sex even if they didn’t want to, because guys should always be “down to f–k.” Rejecting an invitation to sex was considered unmanly or “gay.”

"Boys & Sex"

When young men have sex forced upon them, it sends mixed signals — and makes it harder for them to understand the concept of consent altogether.

“If they can’t say no,” Orenstein writes, “how are they supposed to hear it?”

The solution for all this isn’t what most parents want to hear: They need to have a straightforward talk with their sons about sex.

“I know it’s awkward, I know it’s excruciating. I know it’s unclear where to begin,” Orenstein writes. “But this is your chance to do better.”

Mason agrees, and he can remember the exact moment where some parental intervention would’ve made a difference.

He was a teenager, sitting on the basement couch of his family’s home and browsing porn on his school-supplied iPad. His father walked in and saw what he was doing. “You shouldn’t be watching that,” his dad scolded him. “It’s bad for you.”

Mason was well aware that his father had a trove of bookmarked porn on his own computer, so he snapped back, “Don’t be a hypocrite. I’ve seen all the stuff you watch.”

His father didn’t say another word. He just turned on the TV, watched it silently with his son, and then went to bed.

“I feel he sort of failed me,” Mason told Orenstein. If he had used the opportunity to start a conversation, to tell his son, “This will skew the way you view women . . . it’s only going to keep you from interacting with girls in a healthy manner,” Mason thinks it could’ve made all the difference for him.

“But my parents were too fearful to actually deal with any of it,” he says.

Real conversations about what’s actually involved in a healthy sexual relationship can make all the difference. For Mason, it finally happened with his girlfriend Jeannie, who repeatedly tried (and failed) to seduce him.

After their third date together, in which Mason declined to have sex with her yet again, she asked him pointed questions about his anxiety, and why sex felt so scary to him.

“It felt like a storybook moment,” Mason recalled. Her openness to his insecurity and lack of sexual confidence allowed him to let his guard down. “Whatever nerves had affected me the previous times disappeared. And I realized: If I can’t be fully vulnerable, mentally and emotionally, it stops me from being able to be vulnerable physically.

“Because the naked body,” he adds, like an epiphany that’s taken his entire childhood to realize, “that’s a very vulnerable thing, you know?”



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'DEATH TO LIARS'


Iranians have gathered in the streets of Tehran to demand the resignation of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei after the regime admitted it had mistakenly shot down a passenger plane.

Angry crowds gathered on Saturday night in at least four locations in Tehran, chanting ‘death to liars’ and calling for the country’s supreme leader to step down over the tragic military blunder, video from the scene shows.

What began as mournful vigils for Iranian lives lost on the flight quickly turned to outrage and protest against the regime, and riot police quickly cracked down, firing tear gas into the crowd. 

‘Death to the Islamic Republic’ protesters chanted, as the regime’s paramilitary security force allegedly used ambulances to sneak heavily armed paramilitary police into the middle of crowds to disperse the demonstration.

Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 was carrying 176 people, at least 130 of them Iranian citizens, when it was shot down by hapless Iranian Revolutionary Guard air defense forces shortly after taking off from Tehran on January 8. 

Iranians protest against the government after a vigil held for the victims of Flight 752 turned into an anti-government protest outside Amirkabir University in Tehran, Iran

Iranians protest against the government after a vigil held for the victims of Flight 752 turned into an anti-government protest outside Amirkabir University in Tehran, Iran

Protesters outside Amirkabir University in Tehran demanded the Ayatollah's resignation over the military disaster

Protesters outside Amirkabir University in Tehran demanded the Ayatollah’s resignation over the military disaster

Thousands gather outside Amir Kabir University on Saturday screaming 'Death to the Dictator'

Thousands gather outside Amir Kabir University on Saturday screaming ‘Death to the Dictator’

Iranians shout slogans against the government in protests in Tehran Saturday night

Iranians shout slogans against the government in protests in Tehran Saturday night

Iran for days claimed that a technical failure caused the crash, before admitting on Saturday that its own surface-to-air missiles brought the plane down.

Iran was on high alert at the time, hours after launching ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq in a strike that caused no casualties. That missile strike was in retaliation for a U.S. operation that killed powerful Iranian General Qassem Soleimani  

On Saturday afternoon, candlelight vigils at universities in Tehran for the victims of Flight 752 began to turn to protests against the regime.

Large protests were reported at the universities of Tehran, Sharif Industrial, Amir Kabir, and Allameh. 

At Amirkabir University, protesters chanted ‘Down with the dictator’ and ‘shame on IRGC [Revolutionary Guard], let the country go.’ 

At Sharif University, crowds of outraged Iranians chanted ‘commander in chief, resign!’ The Ayatollah is Iran’s commander in chief.

‘Our enemy is right here; They lie when they say it’s the US’ protesters were heard chanting in one video. 

‘I now believe the word of the Great Satan,’ one protester wrote in Persian on Twitter, apparently referring to the U.S. 

A picture is seen on Saturday next to candles lit by people and families of the victims of the crash of Flight 752

A picture is seen on Saturday next to candles lit by people and families of the victims of the crash of Flight 752

Riot police with shields and batons massed to disrupt the anti-government protests on Saturday night

Riot police with shields and batons massed to disrupt the anti-government protests on Saturday night

The regime quickly cracked down on the protests with tear gas and water cannons

The regime quickly cracked down on the protests with tear gas and water cannons

A woman gestures during a protest against the government outside Amirkabir University in Tehran, Iran on Saturday

A woman gestures during a protest against the government outside Amirkabir University in Tehran, Iran on Saturday

Iranians shout slogans against the government after a vigil held for the victims of the airplane of Ukrainian International Airlines that crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport turned into an anti-government protest outside Amirkabir University

Iranians shout slogans against the government after a vigil held for the victims of the airplane of Ukrainian International Airlines that crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport turned into an anti-government protest outside Amirkabir University

Protesters demanded that those responsible for shooting down the civilian plane be publicly tried and held accountable.

The crowd also condemned the Islamic Republic’s paramilitary internal security force, chanting ‘Death to Basij.’ 

As night fell, riot police attempted to break up the protests with tear gas.

Cops armed with shields and batons tried to disperse the crowds, and police fired water canons into the crowds of protesters. 

Anti-regime factions said that the protests reflected the frustrations of Iranian citizens with the government corruption and oppression. 

‘The protest by thousands of Iranians in Tehran burst the propaganda balloon of the regime regarding Qassem Soleimani’s elimination,’ said Shahin Gobadi, spokesman of the anti-regime group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, in a statement to DailyMail.com. 

Gobadi said that the protests ‘showed the true sentiments of the Iranians and once again clearly proved that Iran is a powder keg and the Iranian people will not stop until the regime change.’

Iranians light candles and hang flowers for victims of Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 during a protest in front of the Amir Kabir University. What began as a vigil for the dead turned to anti-government protests

Iranians light candles and hang flowers for victims of Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 during a protest in front of the Amir Kabir University. What began as a vigil for the dead turned to anti-government protests

Iranians protest against the government outside Amirkabir University in Tehran, Iran on Saturday

Iranians protest against the government outside Amirkabir University in Tehran, Iran on Saturday

People gather for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the Ukraine plane crash, at the gate of Amri Kabir University that some of the victims of the crash were former students of, in Tehran, Iran on Saturday

People gather for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the Ukraine plane crash, at the gate of Amri Kabir University that some of the victims of the crash were former students of, in Tehran, Iran on Saturday

At Amirkabir University, protesters chanted 'Down with the dictator' and 'shame on [Revolutionary Guard], let the country go'

At Amirkabir University, protesters chanted ‘Down with the dictator’ and ‘shame on [Revolutionary Guard], let the country go’

Iranian Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the Guards’ aerospace commander, said on Saturday a surface-to-air missile operator had mistaken the Boeing 737 for a U.S. cruise missile responding to Iranian ballistic missile attacks, and only had ten seconds to decide whether or not to open fire.

‘I wish I had died, and I wouldn’t have seen such an incident,’ Hajizadeh said somberly at a press conference. He claimed that a ‘request had been made to clear the sky from civil flights at that time, but it did not happen due to reservations.’

For days, Iran vehemently denied that it was responsible for downing Flight 752 from Tehran to Kyiv on January 8, accusing the U.S. of spreading malicious propaganda and lies for suggesting such a scenario. 

Hajizadeh claimed that the country’s top military leaders were not initially aware that their own air defense system had shot the plan down, leading to confusion. Now the country has come clean, but still blames ‘US adventurism’ for the fatal ‘error’. 

‘The delay in releasing information was not aimed at hiding the issue but it is the routine drill that the General Staff should study the case (first); and all information was collected on Friday morning after studies and what had happened became clear then,’ Hajizadeh said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani extended condolences to the families of those killed in the incident, and promised that those responsible would be prosecuted.

‘The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake… My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences,’ Rouhani said in a statement on Saturday.

'I wish I had died, and I wouldn't have seen such an incident,' said a somber Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the Guards' aerospace commander, at a press conference. Iran admitted that it shot down Flight 752, thinking the plane was a missile

‘I wish I had died, and I wouldn’t have seen such an incident,’ said a somber Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the Guards’ aerospace commander, at a press conference. Iran admitted that it shot down Flight 752, thinking the plane was a missile

Ukraine International Airlines' Boeing 737-800 plane wreckage is seen in a picture from investigation team released today

Ukraine International Airlines’ Boeing 737-800 plane wreckage is seen in a picture from investigation team released today

Rescue workers at the crash site recovered the bodies of victims on Wednesday (above)

Rescue workers at the crash site recovered the bodies of victims on Wednesday (above)

He said that ‘the terrible catastrophe should be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible for this unforgivable mistake will definitely be identified and prosecuted’.

But the country’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said ‘US adventurism’ was to blame for Iran shooting down the plane, a week after an American drone killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.

Zarif wrote: ‘A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces: Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster.

‘Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.’

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei also offered condolences to the families, as he called for an investigation and ordered the military to address ‘shortcomings’ on Saturday morning. 



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RAGE AT RULERS


* U.S, others said plane was brought down by missile

* Revolutionary Guards belatedly admitted fired in error

* Outcry over plane disaster follows November protests

* Anger may mean more protests, low election turnout

By Parisa Hafezi and Tuqa Khalid

DUBAI, Jan 11 (Reuters) – Iran’s clerical rulers risk a legitimacy crisis as popular anger has boiled up at the way the state handled a passenger plane crash, which the military took three days to admit was caused by an Iranian missile fired in error.

Amid mounting public fury and international criticism, the belated admission of blame by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards has squandered the national unity seen after the killing of the country’s most influential commander in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq on Jan. 3.

Huge crowds had turned out on the streets of Iranian cities to mourn Qassem Soleimani’s death, chanting “Death to America”.

But since the Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed on Wednesday – an incident Canada and the United States said early on was due to an Iranian missile albeit fired by mistake – social media has been ablaze with criticism of the establishment. All 176 people on board the plane, en route from Tehran to Kiev, were killed.

That mood bodes ill for a parliamentary election in February, when Iran’s rulers typically seek a high turnout to show their legitimacy even if the outcome will not change any major policy.

But instead they are now hearing more rumblings of discontent, after anti-government protests in November in which hundreds of people died.

“It is a very sensitive time for the establishment. They face a serious credibility problem. Not only did they conceal the truth, they also mismanaged the situation,” said a senior former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran’s clerics have swept aside challenges to their grip on power. But the kind of distrust between the rulers and the ruled that erupted in protests last year may now have deepened.

“There will be a short-term blow to the regime’s credibility and this will aid the pressure on the regime from the economic and political problems it had before the latest standoff with the U.S.,” said Daniel Byman, senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy.

‘DEATH TO THE DICTATOR’

Video clips on Twitter showed protesters in Tehran on Saturday chanting “Death to the dictator,” a reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Reuters could not independently verify the footage. It followed a welter of criticism in Iran.

Iran’s state news agency confirmed protests had erupted.

The Guards issued an apology for shooting down the plane, saying air defences were fired in error during a state of high alert. Iran had expected U.S reprisals after it retaliated for Soleimani’s killing by firing missiles at Iraqi bases where U.S. troops were stationed.

One hardline official said the mistake should not be turned into a political weapon against the establishment and the Guards, a parallel force to the conventional army that answers directly to Khamenei and is a guardian of the theocratic system.

“Let’s avoid being so harsh. It was a sensitive time and everyone was nervous. You cannot ignore what the Guards have done to protect the nation and this country since the revolution,” the security official told Reuters.

But Khamenei, who has always cited turnout at elections as a sign of the legitimacy of the system of clerical rule, may now find Iranians are not so keen to show their support.

“Why should I vote for this regime. I don’t trust them at all. They lied to us about the plane crash. Why should I trust them when they don’t trust people enough to tell the truth?,” said Hesham Ghanbari, 27, a university student in Tehran.

The government is already struggling to keep the economy afloat under increasingly tough U.S. sanctions, imposed by Washington after it withdrew in 2018 from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Vital oil exports have been slashed.

BEDROCK SUPPORT

“This tragedy will not be forgotten nor is it easy to overcome for the population under sanctions and pressure not just from abroad but also from the state,” said Sanam Vakil, Senior Research Fellow at Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House.

“This incident is a stark reminder of the gaping lack of governance,” said Vakil.

The clerical system has survived more severe challenges in the past, including a crippling eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s.

But its bedrock of support, the poor and lower middle classes who have most benefited from state largesse in the past, were among the first on the street in November in protests sparked by a hike in gasoline prices – a particularly sensitive issue where many rely on cheap fuel.

Protesters’ demands swiftly turned more political, including calls for their rulers to go, before authorities cracked down.

SHOCK TO IRANIANS

Learning that Iranian forces shot down a plane, whether by accident or not, is a further blow. Many of the passengers were dual national Iranians.

Social media was flooded with angry comments from Iranians, many complaining that the authorities had spent more time denying they were to blame for the plane crash than sympathising with victims’ families.

“It has shocked the public. Once more, the regime carelessly kills its own people,” said Ray Takeyh, senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“It punctures the already spurious narrative that the killing of Soleimani has united the Iranian people behind their government,” he said.

Alongside the parliamentary vote, the elections on Feb. 21 will also choose members of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that in future will be responsible for selecting a successor to 80-year-old Khamenei.

Khamenei, who has no term limit, has been in office since the death in 1989 of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi Editing by Edmund Blair and Frances Kerry)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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