Category: New Posts


Wynn's Ex-Wife Mounted Smear Campaign Against Him, Witness Says…

Wynn's Ex-Wife Mounted Smear Campaign Against Him, Witness Says...

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Bezos Pays Out Big Bucks To End Woody Allen Lawsuit…

 With a new film picking up box office steam overseas, Woody Allen has ended his $68 million lawsuit against Amazon.

The Jeff Bezos-founded studio and the Oscar-winning director filed paperwork late last night ending the nearly year-old legal action. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but sources close to the situation tell me, “there were no winners in this in the end.”

The breach-of-contract suit stemmed from Amazon’s cancellation of Allen’s four-picture deal in the heart of the #MeToo movement. Allen sued in February, claiming Amazon unilaterally backed out of the deal because of allegations by his estranged daughter, Dylan Farrow, that he had molested her when she was seven-years-old. Allen has long denied the charges and has faced no criminal actions stemming from investigations of her claim.

The Allen lawsuit claimed Amazon knew of the allegations and owed him $68 million in guaranteed payments. The studio cancelled the release of his 2018 film, A Rainy Day in New York, and dropped plans for three more.

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Rallies supporters…

São Bernardo do Campo (Brazil) (AFP) – Brazil’s left-wing leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva returned to his trade union stronghold on Saturday, delivering a fiery speech to throngs of celebrating supporters a day after walking free from jail.

Reveling in the adoration of his followers at the metalworkers’ union he once led, Lula attacked his arch-nemesis President Jair Bolsonaro, who hours earlier had called him a “scoundrel,” and those who jailed him last year for corruption.

“He (Bolsonaro) was elected to govern for the Brazilian people and not to govern for the militias in Rio de Janeiro,” said Lula, his face flushed as he ranted for nearly an hour in the heat.

Lula was mobbed when he arrived at the union in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Brazil’s biggest city of Sao Paulo, as people jostled to hug and shake hands with the former shoeshine boy who rose to become one of Brazil’s most popular presidents.

The compound was decorated with a huge banner of Lula’s image and surrounded by a sea of supporters wearing red T-shirts and waving “Free Lula” flags.

“I am grateful that they released him from an unjust imprisonment, from a fraud,” Roque Enrique, 24, told AFP as she stood for hours waiting for Lula to arrive.

Tamara Blanco, 38, said Lula was the “best president Brazil has had… I always believed he would get out (of jail).”

Lula’s release came after a politically sensitive Supreme Court ruling on Thursday that could free thousands of convicts.

A 6-5 decision overturned a rule requiring convicted criminals to go to jail after losing their first appeal.

Those convicts would remain free until they had exhausted their rights to appeal — a process critics say could take years in cases involving people able to afford expensive lawyers.

Bolsonaro, who said on last year’s election campaign trail that he hoped Lula would “rot in prison,” told his Twitter followers Saturday that Lula was “momentarily free, but guilty.”

The Supreme Court’s decision and Lula’s release provoked thousands of pro-government protesters to take to the streets in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo on Saturday in opposition of the court’s ruling.

– A reinvigorated left? –

Lula’s criminal record prevents him from running for political office, at least for now.

But his freedom is likely to reinvigorate the rudderless left that has floundered since the charismatic 74-year-old was jailed in April 2018.

It also threatens to deepen political divisions in the country as the tough-talking Bolsonaro, who was swept to power last year on a wave of anti-left sentiment, goes on the offensive.

The court decision undermines a sprawling corruption investigation called Car Wash that has put dozens of political and business leaders behind bars, including Lula — a probe supported by many ordinary Brazilians fed up with white-collar crime.

In an impassioned address on Friday to hundreds of supporters who greeted him as he walked out of the federal police headquarters in the southern city of Curitiba, Lula vowed to keep fighting for poor people.

The former trade union leader who helped found the Workers Party (PT) denounced the economic policies of Bolsonaro.

“People are hungrier, they have no jobs, people work for Uber or delivering pizzas on a bike,” Lula said in remarks sometimes drowned out by cheers from the crowd and fireworks overhead.

– Popular support –

Lula led Brazil through a historic boom from 2003 to 2010, earning the gratitude of millions of Brazilians for redistributing wealth to haul them out of poverty.

He was serving eight years and 10 months for corruption and money laundering. He was sentenced to almost 13 years in February in a separate corruption case and still faces another half dozen corruption trials.

Lula has denied all the charges, arguing they were politically motivated to keep him out of the 2018 presidential election that he was tipped to win.

Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who convicted Lula when he was a judge in 2017, said Saturday that while the Supreme Court’s decision must be respected, it could be “altered… by Congress” to allow the jailing of convicted criminals after their first appeal.

“I am back,” Lula declared Saturday in his speech, calling Moro “not a judge, but a villain.”

Moro, who joined Bolsonaro’s cabinet in January, has faced calls for his resignation over leaked chats purportedly showing he worked with Car Wash prosecutors to keep Lula out of last year’s presidential race.

Moro has denied wrongdoing and accused criminals of hacking the messages with the aim of overturning convictions resulting from the investigation.

Lula’s political prospects could change if the Supreme Court were to decide in a separate case that Moro had been biased.

– Still ‘very young’ –

Despite his age, Lula made clear he is not going to sit on the sidelines.

“I’m a very young man. I am 74 from a biological point of view, but I have the energy of a 30-year-old,” he said in a video posted on his official Twitter account Saturday.

That followed a video Friday showing Lula working out in the prison gym, lifting weights and running on a treadmill, to Survivor’s classic hit “Eye of the Tiger.”

“I’m going to Sao Paulo and afterwards the doors of Brazil will be open so that I can travel around this country,” he declared Friday.

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Bolton has book deal…

NEW YORK (AP) — Former national security adviser John Bolton has a book deal, The Associated Press has learned.

The hawkish Bolton departed in September because of numerous foreign policy disagreements with President Donald Trump. He reached a deal over the past few weeks with Simon & Schuster, according to three publishing officials with knowledge of negotiations. The officials were not authorized to discuss the deal publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Two of the officials said the deal was worth about $2 million. Bolton was represented by the Javelin literary agency, whose clients include former FBI Director James Comey and the anonymous Trump administration official whose book, “A Warning,” comes out Nov. 19.

The publishing officials did not know the title or release date. Simon & Schuster declined comment Saturday and Javelin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bolton’s 2007 book, “Surrender is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad,” was published by the conservative Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions.

Bolton’s name has come up often recently during the House impeachment inquiry , which has focused on Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate potential 2020 election rival Joe Biden, the former vice president.

In a transcript of a closed-door interview released Friday, a former national security official described how Bolton had “immediately stiffened” as Ambassador Gordon Sondland “blurted out” that he had worked out a trade — Ukrainians’ probe for an Oval Office welcome for Ukraine’s new president — with Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

Fiona Hill said Bolton later told her that “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up” and asked her to relay that message to a White House lawyer.

Meanwhile, a letter from Bolton’s attorney to the top lawyer for the House alleges that Bolton was “part of many relevant meetings and conversations” pertaining to the House impeachment inquiry of Trump that are not yet public.

The attorney, Charles Cooper, suggests Bolton will appear before Congress only if a judge orders him to do so.

Appointed in April 2018, Bolton was Trump’s third national security adviser and is known for advocating military action abroad, a viewpoint Trump has resisted. In a speech in late September to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, given after he left the administration, Bolton offered a far more aggressive approach to North Korea’s nuclear program than the one advocated by Trump, who has spoken warmly about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Every day that goes by makes North Korea a more dangerous country,” Bolton said. “You don’t like their behavior today, what do you think it will be when they have nuclear weapons that can be delivered to American cities?”

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Trump wants to win even more rural votes in 2020. Dems scrambling to catch up…

Trump wants to win even more rural votes in 2020. Dems scrambling to catch up...

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MSN: Daily presidential tracking poll…

MSN: Daily presidential tracking poll...

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Mercury will pass in front of sun on Monday…

In this composite image provided by NASA, the planet Mercury passes directly between the sun and Earth, which is expected to occur on Nov. 11, 2019.

In this composite image provided by NASA, the planet Mercury passes directly between the sun and Earth, which is expected to occur on Nov. 11, 2019.

Mercury is putting on a rare celestial show next week, parading across the sun in view of most of the world.

The solar system’s smallest, innermost planet will resemble a tiny black dot Monday as it passes directly between Earth and the sun. It begins at 7:35 a.m. EST.

The entire 5 ½-hour event will be visible, weather permitting, in the eastern U.S. and Canada, and all Central and South America. The rest of North America, Europe and Africa will catch part of the action. Asia and Australia will miss out.

Unlike its 2016 transit, Mercury will score a near bull’s-eye this time, passing practically dead center in front of our star.

Mercury’s next transit isn’t until 2032, and North America won’t get another viewing opportunity until 2049. Earthlings get treated to just 13 or 14 Mercury transits a century.

You’ll need proper eye protection for Monday’s spectacle: Telescopes or binoculars with solar filters are recommended. There’s no harm in pulling out the eclipse glasses from the total solar eclipse across the U.S. two years ago, but it would take “exceptional vision” to spot minuscule Mercury, said NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young.

Mercury is 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) in diameter, compared with the sun’s 864,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers.)

During its 2012 transit of the sun, larger and closer Venus was barely detectable by Young with his solar-viewing glasses.

“That’s really close to the limit of what you can see,” he said earlier this week. “So Mercury’s going to probably be too small.”

Venus transits are much rarer. The next one isn’t until 2117.

Mercury will cut a diagonal path left to right across the sun on Monday, entering at bottom left (around the 8 hour mark on a clock) and exiting top right (around the 2 hour mark).

Although the trek will appear slow, Mercury will zoom across the sun at roughly 150,000 mph (241,000 kph).

NASA will broadcast the transit as seen from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, with only a brief lag. Scientists will use the transit to fine-tune telescopes, especially those in space that cannot be adjusted by hand, according to Young.

It’s this kind of transit that allows scientists to discover alien worlds. Periodic, fleeting dips of starlight indicate an orbiting planet.

“Transits are a visible demonstration of how the planets move around the sun, and everyone with access to the right equipment should take a look,” Mike Cruise, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said in a statement from England.

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Farm family struggles to recover after rising debt pushes husband to suicide…

PLATTE, S.D. – Amber Dykshorn stood at her kitchen window and watched the storm come in.

It was a very dark Saturday night in the middle of the summer in the middle of a year that is on track to be the wettest in more than a century. The wind blew over the farm, the rain came down and she heard the ominous pings on her roof – pea-sized hail, striking the still-fragile stalks of the only corn her husband, Chris Dykshorn, was able to plant before he took his own life in June.

Did their crop insurance cover hail damage? She had no idea. That was something Chris would have taken care of, if he were here. Instead she was alone, with nearly $300,000 in farm debt, three kids ages 5 to 13 and a host of grief-fueled questions. Why hadn’t she been able to save him? What would happen to them now?

She scrolled through his final texts, rereading his words, leaning on the kitchen counter next to a whiteboard with the kids’ chore list – Kahne: dishwasher, Kalee: dust living room – and a book someone gave her titled “Through a Season of Grief: Devotions for Your Journey from Mourning to Joy.”

Chris had been despondent over the couple’s finances, crippled by surplus grain he couldn’t sell because of the trade war and flooded fields.

“I’m struggling so bad today. I don’t know what to do anymore,” he texted on May 31. “I seriously don’t know how we r gonna make it.”

On June 1: “I just want to sit in the house and cry.”

And then: “What am I supposed to do. I am failing and feel like I’m gonna lose everything I’ve worked for the past how many years.”

She was still asleep the morning of June 13 when he went to the utility room to get his gun.

In farm country, mental health experts say they’re seeing more suicides as families endure the worst period for U.S. agriculture in decades. Farm bankruptcies and loan delinquencies are rising, calamitous weather events are ruining crops, and profits are vanishing during Trump’s global trade disputes.

A 2017 study found that farm owners and workers were three to five times as likely to kill themselves on the job compared with other occupations. Researchers studying more recent data have not yet determined if farmer suicides are increasing, but leaders and social workers in rural America say that, anecdotally, they’re seeing more of these deaths. Calls to suicide hotlines around farm country have risen, prompting new federal and state programs targeting farmers’ mental health, including support groups, public awareness campaigns and funding for counseling.

The Agriculture Department is setting up the first $1.9 million phase of a farm and ranch stress support network to expand emergency hotlines, training and support groups for farmers and ranchers. In addition, the department started a $450,000 pilot program to train some of its workers in how to help farmers in extreme distress and make mental health referrals for them.

Here in South Dakota, the trade disputes and extreme weather have devastated farmers and ranchers – often isolated in rural areas, with little access to services – said Gov. Kristi Noem, a lifelong rancher who is working to expand the state’s suicide prevention efforts.

Calls to the statewide suicide hotline were up 61% last year, and South Dakota’s largest regional health system, Avera Health, launched a special hotline in January to help farmers and ranchers.

Chris had received counseling through Avera’s farming program and thought of reaching out again before he died. The last Google search on his phone was “farmer crisis hotline.”

– – –

“Did you get hail last night?” a neighbor asked Amber at church the next morning, where everyone was talking about the rain that hadn’t stopped.

Amber had seen the flattened corn on her way into town for the Sunday service with two of her children, Kalee, 13, and Kolbe, 5.

“I just started praying,” Amber said. “Maybe we can save it; I don’t know.”

Platte Christian Reformed Church has a stone tablet featuring the Ten Commandments on the lawn, a parking lot full of white pickup trucks and a young pastor, Drew Hoekema, who struggled with what to say to his congregation after Chris’ suicide. He finally settled on “he’s in God’s hands now.”

Amber has clung to her spirituality since her husband’s death, posting her favorite Bible verses and inspirational quotes on Facebook. She seems serene in her hope that God will provide, even though she made only $18,056 from her part-time job at an insurance company last year and no money from her hobby selling a direct-marketing makeup line.

“There’s no way anybody can walk this walk without faith,” she says. “I don’t know how someone could. There would be no hope. None.”

Even her daughter, Kalee, has asked, “Mom, how is this going to work?”

Pastor Drew chose Bible chapter Ezekiel 34 for that Sunday’s sermon, the one about God as a shepherd to his flock, gathering them back “from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.”

Amber clutched a wad of tissues as a precaution, then tucked it in the pew, blooming like a white origami flower among the Bibles. But there were no tears this day, and when she left the sanctuary, the mauve eye shadow from her makeup line, a color called “Fervent,” was still in place.

“Where’s Kahne?” her friend Corinne Middendorp asked, about Amber’s 10-year-old son.

“Chris took him fishing,” Amber said. Her hands flew to her mouth as she realized her mistake. “I mean, my brother took him fishing.”

“Awww!” Middendorp said at the mention of Chris’s name. She made a sad face and pulled Amber close.

These are the days of meaningful hugs. Amber is virtually surrounded by love – at church, at school, with both sets of grieving parents, siblings, friends and neighbors who come to pork chop fundraisers and bake sales held to benefit her family. She is enveloped by arms and held as tenderly as a baby, encouragement whispered into her blond hair.

“Thoughts and prayers,” everyone says. “Thinking of you.” And from a parent on the first day of school: “The Lord is going to hear your name a lot today.”

Sometimes, it’s a relief just to be a mom again, to change into jeans and a yellow T-shirt that reads “Support Your Local Farmer” and pile the kids into the SUV for the hour-long drive to Walmart for back-to-school shopping.

Their father had been a constant presence in their lives, playing Squeak on family game night, reading books aloud, and rooting for Kalee at track and cheerleading meets. Now freckle-faced Kahne, named after Chris’s favorite racecar driver, has been quiet and clingy. Amber thought Kolbe had grown out of his constant humming that once prompted his preschool teacher to suggest he be tested for autism. Since Chris’ death, Kolbe’s “sound effects” had returned.

Chris and Amber, both 35, met at a barn party while in high school and married in 2004. Chris, the son and grandson of farmers, got a job as a welder but longed to return to the farm. Amber was skeptical at first, but in 2014, Chris began working alongside his dad and took over the operation in 2016.

The transition would prove difficult. Amber missed their life in town and struggled with depression herself. The smell of hogs on Chris’ clothes nauseated her.

American agriculture was booming when Chris joined the business. Global demand stoked high commodity prices, with corn nearly $5 a bushel and soybeans more than $13 a bushel.

This was before Trump started his trade wars with China, Mexico and Canada. Before rain gauges in Sioux Falls registered 39.2 inches of rain in 2018, the wettest year on record. Before a freak spring blizzard claimed the lives of three dozen of Chris’ lambs and calves. Before the roads flooded and hemmed in nearly $100,000 worth of corn and soybeans he had been holding onto since last fall, hoping better prices would return.

The week that Chris died, corn was $3.73 a bushel and soybeans $7.50 a bushel at the local grain elevator.

“We owed his dad $16,000 and the Christian school $3,000 for tuition, and our operating loan was maxed out and we still had monthly bills to pay,” Amber said as she drove the kids to shop for school clothes. “We couldn’t haul grain because the roads were too wet. You couldn’t drive a grain truck on ’em; you would sink.”

In the back seat, Kalee was listening intently, while Kolbe began making his anxious humming sounds. “Ummmm, hmmmmmm.”

“Kolbe, be quiet,” Kalee said. Then, to her mom, “Kolbe won’t be quiet.”

“Kolbe, will you quit making sound effects, please?” Amber said.

“Kalee started it,” he said.

“You’re a baby. Stay in preschool, baby,” Kalee said.

These are the times Amber struggles with being an only parent. Discipline is hard.

A song came on the radio by Christian singer Jamie Kimmett, one she has been listening to a lot these days. It’s called “Prize Worth Fighting For.” She turned up the volume and sang along, ignoring her squabbling children.

“For me, the prize worth fighting for is my kids – and eternity,” Amber said. “Because then I’ll see Chris.”

By the time they’d picked out a soft $8 T-shirt for Kalee, neon green and black Nikes for Kahne, and tiny Skechers sneakers for Kolbe, then stopped for dinner and began to make their way home, the sun was sinking behind the gold-washed fields, many with pools of standing water. Over the summer, the ravines became creeks, the creeks became rivers and the ponds became mini-lakes.

Amber took a detour, because the main route to her house was still flooded and blocked by “Road Closed” signs.

As she neared the farm, she looked to the right to try to spot the female deer that had been living with two tiny fawns in the clearing between their straggly corn fields. Seeing the doe – a hard-working single mother like herself – had been a source of comfort to Amber. But she wasn’t there.

When they pulled into the driveway of the modest tan farmhouse, the three-legged family dog, Diesel, once Chris’s shadow, was there to greet them. At night, Amber can hear him howling outside for his lost companion.

– – –

His belt was down to the last hole.

That’s when Amber first realized something was wrong, when he sent her a Snapchat in May to show how much weight he had lost from stress and ask her to pray for it to stop raining. Normally, his Snapchats were full of the joy of country life – the perfect arch of a rainbow at sunrise, newborn lambs, Kahne doing his homework in the combine, goose breasts sizzling in the smoker.

But now his jeans were hanging on his body, he was struggling to get the corn in, and nothing seemed to chase away his gloom, not even a trip to Florida, a gift from Amber’s dad.

Back home, there was no money to pay the electric bill, $700 and counting.

“We’re going to lose everything we have,” he texted Amber. “I can’t sell out, then we’ll have nothing.”

Just stay positive, she told him. God has a plan.

Then he woke up screaming, and she took him to the doctor, who arranged a video session with a farm stress counselor. Chris was admitted to Avera’s Behavioral Health Center in Sioux Falls the following day.

Duane “Bud” Meyerink, a relative who ran the farm equipment shop where Chris had worked, drove him to the hospital. It was a four-hour round-trip journey.

“He was in a really dark place,” Meyerink recalled. “I said, ‘Chris, you need God more than ever,’ and his comment to me was ‘I can’t even pray.’ “

From the hospital, Chris texted, “I’m so bad right now. I’ve been praying for sleep and rest and a clear mind and I get nothing. I am so ready to give up farming and walk away.”

He seemed better after his hospitalization and returned home for a dinner of nachos. The next day, on June 12, he wrapped Amber in his arms and told her he loved her, and when she was out mowing the lawn that evening, she was heartened to see him back on his tractor, tilling the field. He sent her a text message with a thumbs up.

But the work wasn’t going well, and Chris’s mood quickly changed.

“I could see the storm clouds are coming and it was going to start raining, and pretty soon, Chris came walking behind the house and he says, ‘I can’t. I can’t do it anymore,’ ” Amber said.

The next morning, a neighbor near the pasture where Chris kept cattle went out to feed his dogs and found Chris writhing on the ground next to his car. He had shot himself in the heart with a deer rifle.

He kept saying, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it,” recalled the neighbor, Jim Mudder. Mudder called 911, and by the time Amber arrived, Chris had quit talking. She knelt beside him and grabbed his arm, pleading for him to hold on. There was blood everywhere. Across the flat land, they could see the ambulance that had come to save Chris was stuck in the mud.

It was a while before anyone found the suicide note, in a small notebook propped up on the dashboard of Chris’ car.

“I am so sorry. I can’t go on this way,” he wrote. “Lord forgive me for what I have done. I love Everybody. Thanks for carring [sic] about me. This is the Hardest thing I have ever done. Gonna miss everyone.”

– – –

The first day of school at the Dykshorn household was a flurry of last-minute preparations, as Amber curled Kalee’s hair for band photos and Kolbe kept saying “Let’s go!” It was the first of what would be many firsts for Amber – Kolbe’s first day of kindergarten, then her first wedding anniversary alone, then the first school fundraiser for which Chris wouldn’t craft a wood bench trimmed in vintage tin for the auction.

With the kids in school, Amber would have more time for herself, to make lists in her new organizer with “You Got This” embossed on the cover. The house is tidier, with no more boxer shorts left on the bedroom floor or fuzzy deer blanket on the sofa: Kalee now sleeps with it.

Amber has restarted her makeup tutorials on Facebook Live, her breezy “how-to” patter now sometimes veering to talk of Chris and his death.

Yet she’s haunted by fears that she didn’t do enough to save him. That night he texted her that he was upstairs crying while she was cuddling with the kids and watching “The Bachelorette” – should she have gone to him?

“This was supposed to happen to someone else, not me,” she wrote in a post on Facebook. “Just a few short weeks of sadness for him and I lose it all forever? LIFE IS NOT FAIR.”

As she drove the kids to school through the misty early morning, the sun was out for once and she spotted the doe back in her usual place, standing in a weedy patch with one of her fawns, watching them.

“I feel like it’s Dad telling you guys to have a good day at school,” she said.

On the way in, she stopped to take photos of the kids posed in front of the rock carved with a verse from Proverbs outside the school’s front door, a school tradition. She walked Kolbe to his new classroom and headed to the gym, where the kids, their parents and teachers would gather for an opening assembly.

It was empty except for a small ensemble of musicians with keyboards and an electric guitar practicing the morning’s song program, a Christian pop song called “Reckless Love.” She sat down alone under gold and black sports banners, alone in the bleachers, and shut her eyes, letting the music wash over her.

Then she started to cry, her shoulders shaking as she tried to hold back powerful sobs.

– – –

The Washington Post’s Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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On Wall anniversary, Germany urges USA to reject 'egoism'…

Berlin (AFP) – German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the United States to be a “mutually respectful partner” and reject nationalism, in a clear salvo aimed at US leader Donald Trump as Germany on Saturday marked 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Recalling the United States’ key role in helping to bring down the hated Wall separating communist East Germany from the capitalist West, Steinmeier said he still hears the late American president Ronald Reagan’s cry of “tear down this wall” at the iconic Brandenburg Gate.

But in a swipe at Trump’s America First policy and his insistence on building a wall on the southern border with Mexico, Steinmeier voiced a yearning for a return of the transatlantic partner of the past.

“This America as a mutually respectful partner, as a partner for democracy and freedom, against national egoism — that is what I hope for in the future too,” said Steinmeier.

The German president’s sharp words, as he opened festivities at the spot where Reagan once stood, underlined growing tensions between the traditional allies.

Germany has been deeply rattled by Trump’s go-it-alone attitude on issues ranging from Iranian nuclear policy to trade with Europe and climate change.

From Washington, Trump sent a message of congratulations for the commemoration, adding that the US “will continue working with Germany, one of our most treasured allies, to ensure that the flames of freedom burn as a beacon of hope and opportunity for the entire world to see.”

But unlike the optimism at previous commemorations of the epochal event on November 9, 1989 that brought the communist regime crashing down, three decades on, the mood has soured as the Western alliance that helped secure the liberal democracy is riddled with divisions.

Within Germany too, a chasm has opened up with the far-right gaining a strong foothold in the former communist east on the back of its nationalist and anti-immigration message.

For Steinmeier, “a new wall has arisen that cuts through our country — a wall of frustration, a wall of anger and hate”.

“Walls that are invisible but which divide. Walls that stand in the way of our cohesion,” he warned, as he called on Germans to “tear down these walls, at long last.”

– ‘Anything but self-evident’ –

Under grey skies earlier Saturday, Steinmeier and presidents of central European countries placed roses in the cracks of a remaining section of the Wall still standing in the north of central Berlin.

At a solemn ceremony in a church standing on the former “death strip” that divided Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, called on Europe to defend democracy and freedom, warning that such gains must not be taken for granted.

The Berlin Wall reminds “us that we have to do our part for freedom and democracy,” said Merkel.

“The values upon which Europe is founded… they are anything but self-evident. And they must always be lived out and defended anew,” she told guests from across the continent.

On November 9, 1989, East German border guards, overwhelmed by large crowds, threw open the gates to West Berlin, allowing free passage for the first time since the Berlin Wall was built.

The momentous event would end up bringing the communist regime crashing down, leading to German reunification a year later and heralding the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But the optimism for liberal democracy has waned in the last years.

Cracks have appeared within the European Union as former eastern bloc countries like Hungary or Poland are accused by Brussels of challenging the rule of law.

Differences are not only resurfacing between the former east or west blocs.

Two days before the anniversary of the epochal change, the leader of Germany’s closest partner, France’s Emmanuel Macron charged that transatlantic partnership NATO was suffering from “brain death”.

Merkel responded with uncharacteristic sharpness, calling such “sweeping judgements” unnecessary.

– ‘Freedom is never guaranteed’ –

The bad-tempered prelude to the festivities stood in sharp contrast to celebrations five years ago, when former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ex-Polish president and freedom icon Lech Walesa were present.

This time, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit ended Friday, while Macron is only planning a flying visit on Sunday.

In a tweet on Saturday, Macron also urged Europeans to uphold the hopes for freedom that drove East Germans in 1989 to bring the Wall down.

“Let us be just as courageous and live up to their expectations.”

Pompeo meanwhile left behind a stark warning: “As we celebrate, we must also recognise that freedom is never guaranteed.”

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Notion I'm not patriot 'dead wrong'…

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon says he does not deserve some of the criticism he’s faced from progressive politicians. 

“Anything that vilifies people, I just don’t like…We shouldn’t vilify people who worked hard to accomplish things,” he told CBS’s “60 Minutes” in an interview set to air late Sunday. 

“I understand that a person in this seat is going to be a target in this day and age by certain politicians, but the notion that I’m not a patriot…that’s just dead wrong,” he added.

Dimon in recent weeks has become a top target of progressives over his criticism of liberal plans that would raise taxes on wealthy Americans like himself.

“It’s really simple: Jamie Dimon and his buddies are successful in part because of the opportunities, workforce, and public services that we all paid for. It’s only fair that he and his billionaire friends chip in to make sure everyone else has a chance to succeed,” Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenCentrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren’s agenda Biden brushes off Bloomberg challenge: ‘I’m pretty far ahead’ Bloomberg officially files to run in Alabama presidential primary MORE (D-Mass.), a top-tier 2020 presidential candidate, said this week. 

“The fact that they’ve reacted so strongly—so angrily!—to being asked to chip in more tells you all you need to know. The system is working great for the wealthy and well-connected, and Jamie Dimon doesn’t want that to change. I’m going to fight to make sure it works for everyone,” she added.

Dimon criticized Warren this week, saying her plans and rhetoric toward billionaires “vilifies people.”

“She uses some pretty harsh words, you know, some would say vilifies successful people,” Dimon told CNBC. “I don’t like vilifying anybody. I think we should applaud successful people.” 

Beyond a wealth tax that would hike taxes for Americans worth over $50 million, Warren has made boosting taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations a centerpiece of her campaign to help pay for several of her more wide-ranging proposals.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions when it comes to policy,” Dimon said earlier this week. “A lot of government programs have been abysmal failures, and we should acknowledge that both problems need to be fixed, and those solutions didn’t work. Let’s try something different.”

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