jueves, 30 de noviembre de 2017

Officials: Trump mulls calling Jerusalem Israel’s capital

FILE - In this March 17, 2003, file photo, an Israeli border policemen guards the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv as other Israelis line up for U.S. visas. U.S. officials say President Donald Trump is poised to again delay his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But they say he’ll likely temper the blow to his supporters by declaring the holy city as Israel’s capital. (Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi, File/Associated Press)

President Donald Trump is considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a highly charged declaration that risks inflaming tensions across the Middle East, officials said Thursday. The announcement would be a way to offset a likely decision delaying his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.

Trump’s announcement is expected next week and follows months of internal deliberations that grew particularly intense in recent days, according to officials familiar with the talks. They described the president as intent on fulfilling his pledge to move the embassy but also mindful that doing so could set back his aim of forging a long-elusive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim part of Jerusalem as the capital of an eventual state.

The officials, who weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the outlines of Trump’s plan emerged from a meeting of his top national security advisers at the White House on Monday. Trump himself was expected to drop by the meeting for 15 or 20 minutes. He ended up staying for at least an hour and grew increasingly animated during the session, according to two officials briefed on what happened.

Trump is likely to issue a waiver on moving the embassy by Monday, officials said, though they cautioned that the president could always decide otherwise.

The White House also is considering a possible presidential speech or statement on Jerusalem by Wednesday, according to the officials and an outside administration adviser. Another possibility involves Vice President Mike Pence, who is set to travel to Israel in mid-December, making the Jerusalem announcement during his trip, one official said. Pence said Tuesday that Trump is “actively considering when and how” to move the embassy.

The Trump administration insisted the president hasn’t made any decisions on the embassy.

“No decision on this matter has been made yet,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday.

White House spokesman Sarah Sanders on Wednesday called an earlier report saying Trump would order an embassy move as “premature.”

Moving the embassy is a step that could spark widespread protest across the Middle East and undermine an Arab-Israeli peace push led by president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Trump’s campaign season promises won him the support of powerful pro-Israel voices in the Republican Party. But as president, he has faced equally forceful lobbying from close U.S. allies such as King Abdullah II of Jordan, who have impressed on him the dangers in abandoning America’s carefully balanced position on the holy city.

Under U.S. law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, the U.S. must relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unless the president waives the requirement on national security grounds, something required every six months. If the waiver isn’t signed and the embassy doesn’t move, the State Department would lose half its funding for its facilities and their security around the world. Republicans have championed embassy security since a 2012 attack on American compounds in Benghazi, Libya.

All presidents since Clinton have issued the waiver, saying Jerusalem’s status is a matter for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate. Trump signed the waiver at the last deadline in June, but the White House made clear he still intended to move the embassy.

Trump’s approach appears to thread a fine needle, much like he did with the Iran nuclear deal. After vowing to pull out, Trump in October decertified the agreement as no longer serving America’s national interests. But he didn’t announce new sanctions or take any other step to immediately revoke the accord.

Now, as then, he faced significant resistance from his top national security advisers.

At Monday’s White House meeting, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the case that moving the embassy in Israel would pose a grave danger to American diplomats and troops stationed in the Middle East and Muslim nations, the U.S. officials said.

King Abdullah II, who met Pence and Tillerson this week in Washington, made the same argument, telling the vice president and others that any change to the embassy in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would create unrest and instability throughout the region and drive up anti-American sentiment, according to the officials.

After a lengthy back and forth at the White House meeting, Trump and his inner circle appeared to accept those concerns but insisted that the president had to demonstrate his stated commitment to move the embassy, the officials said. The discussion then turned toward waiving the embassy move for another six months but combining it with recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital, which the Israelis have long sought.

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Any change in U.S. position is delicate.

The State Department recently advised American diplomatic posts in predominantly Muslim nations that an announcement about the embassy and Jerusalem’s status is possible next week, and advised them to be vigilant about possible protests, officials said.

Inside the Trump administration, officials said debate now centers on how to make a Jerusalem announcement without affecting Israeli-Palestinian “final status” negotiations. One option under consideration is to include in any such statement a nod to Palestinian aspirations for their capital to be in east Jerusalem.

The U.S. also faces legal constraints. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without a peace deal could run afoul of U.N. Security Council resolutions that don’t recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city. Washington has a veto on the council and could block any effort to declare the U.S. in violation, but any such vote risks being an embarrassment and driving a wedge between the United States and many of its closest allies.

lunes, 27 de noviembre de 2017

In the battle against fake news, the bots may be winning

Bot or not ... senators show a social media post for a supposed 'Miners for Trump' rally.

Explore the latest strategic trends, research and analysis

Lawyers from top tech companies were recently asked about the role their firms played in the 2016 United States presidential election, during three Congress hearings.

Propaganda, disinformation and misinformation messages on Facebook and Instagram reached approximately 146 million American citizens – almost half the population – Facebook revealed in a prepared testimony.

Twitter accounts linked to Russia "generated approximately 1.4 million automated, election-related tweets, which collectively received approximately 288 million impressions" between September 1 to November 15 2016, according to company executives.

These revelations echo my own research during November 2016. The then Republican candidate Donald Trump’s Instagram account was amassing a good deal of followers, but significant tranches of them were bots and Russians – even if there was no clear evidence of direct involvement by the Russian government.

Hatred, confusion and disarray

These figures give rise to many urgent questions, such as whether these social media activities influenced the outcome of the election. In a wider context, consider how the use of social media tools has changed since their inception. The same media that gained traction by promoting freedom and democracy around the world – during the 2011 Arab Spring, for example – now seem ideal tools to manipulate opinions and spread hatred, confusion and disarray. Public perception of social media has shifted accordingly in recent months.

US law-makers, academics and tech experts are pressuring Facebook, Twitter and Google to prevent such digital propaganda and disinformation campaigns, and rightly so. But there are two significant issues. Firstly, from a technical standpoint, it is difficult to stop these “botnets” – the large number of fake accounts run by specific software which swamp user newsfeeds and timelines with fake news or deceptive posts.

Secondly, the value of social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is based on the volume of their active users. Therefore, the primary and constant goal of these tech companies is to expand their user base. (This is why Facebook is so eager to enter the Chinese market.)

These networks want to give access to those living under repressive governments who censor the internet. So they enable techniques which circumvent national surveillance systems, such as proxy, VPN and others.

This makes life very easy for botnet creators, who are developing sophisticated software to imitate real users. For example, in order to bypass the phone verification typically required by social media platforms, botnet owners use virtual phone numbers and private IP proxies. Also, thanks to the work of some tech experts who reverse-engineer apps to find out how their deepest processes work, these ‘smart’ bots are quickly able to evade any security system. Such operations are cheap to run and available to any organisation or government.

How to spot a bot

Particularly on Facebook, these propaganda or disinformation campaigns run on pages either professing support for a social cause or simply offering generic entertainment news. How are users to decipher a genuine page from a fake one? Does this power lie only with Facebook engineers?

A potential answer may be the appearance of the post, such as its format and featured links. By applying data analysis and open-source intelligence, experts could have understood in advance what was actually happening. Facebook could simply have used common sense when accepting Russian rubles for sponsored, politically motivated posts.

On a technical level, the digital propaganda strategies in question mostly rely on botnets and exploiting online communities, using paid content and sharing to disseminate material. In response, social media companies are planning new measures to better manage paid content on their platforms.

An upcoming bipartisan bill is focused on tightening rules for political advertising. However, as respected tech journalists such as Anthony de Rosa have noted, the real problem is that people continue to share links, posts and spam on Facebook pages with a high number of followers.

Dangers of digital propaganda

This is a problem which independent research projects could help with, if the internet giants were only willing to share their internal data. In recent years, it is independent researchers who have shed light on previously unknown issues affecting social media users, such as software bugs, counterfeit item trafficking, phishing campaigns and malware dissemination.

More generally, we are also facing a cultural problem. Broadsheet newspapers, research papers, government inquiries, Congressional hearings, and tech companies have all underscored the dangers of digital propaganda in recent weeks. But some public sources still tend to minimise or dismiss this phenomenon.

Nobody could seriously “believe that a post on FB could ever swing an election”, suggested a well-known commentator at the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Twitter recently. Such glib comments miss the point. Digital propaganda strategies take aim at real issues, such as immigration, economic crisis, terrorism and social inequality, in order to push millions of people surreptitiously towards a particular political agenda or viewpoint.

The revelations from the US 2016 election pertain to other countries. Italy, for example, has its own general election coming up. It has 30 million Facebook users, and 35% of its adult population get their daily news from that platform (only 14% still rely on newspapers).

Some organised networks have already launched their social media election strategy to influence voters, using propaganda and fake news campaigns. Media pundits are on high alert for what promises to be another challenging situation worthy of global attention.

Rubén Weinsteiner

sábado, 25 de noviembre de 2017

How countries around the world view democracy, military rule and other political systems


Rubén Weinsteiner

A 38-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted this spring found reasons for optimism as well as concern about the future of democracy around the world. In every nation polled, more than half said representative democracy is a very or somewhat good way to run their country. But the survey also found openness, to varying degrees, to some nondemocratic forms of government.

Use our interactive feature below to compare views of political systems in each nation surveyed. It’s followed by six findings the Center found especially striking.

Explore global opinions on political systems by country

Select a country to see how its people responded.
United States

% in the United States saying each of the following systems of government would be a good or bad way to govern the country.

TOTAL Very bad Somewhat bad Somewhat good Very good TOTAL
Representative democracy 13%

Direct democracy 31%

Rule by experts 58%

Rule by a strong leader 76%

Rule by military 83%


In the United States:

trust the national government to do what is right for the United States.

are satisfied with the way democracy is working in the United States.

Representative democracy
A democratic system where representatives elected by citizens decide what becomes law.
Direct democracy
A democratic system where citizens, not elected officials, vote directly on major national issues to decide what becomes law.
Rule by experts
Experts, not elected officials, make decisions according to what they think is best for the country.
Rule by a strong leader
A system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts.
Rule by military
The military rules the country.

Note: For more information about specific question wording and results, see the topline questionnaire.
Embed </>ReportData © Pew Research Center

Here are six key findings:

1About nine-in-ten Swedes (92%) say representative democracy is a good way of governing their country, the highest share of any country in the survey. A majority of Swedes (57%) also say direct democracy – in which citizens, not elected officials, vote directly on major issues – is a good way to govern. People in Sweden are among the most likely of any in the survey to say they are satisfied with the way democracy is working in their country: About eight-in-ten Swedes (79%) hold this view, the same share as in India and Tanzania.

2Germans are overwhelmingly opposed to rule by the military or by a strong leader. More than nine-in-ten are opposed to military rule (95%) or rule by a strong leader who can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts (93%). Even among those on the ideological right and those with less education – two groups who tend to voice more support for military or autocratic rule in other countries – there is little backing for these two forms of government in Germany. Just 13% of Germans on the ideological right say a political system with an unchecked leader is a good way to govern, and just 4% of those with less education see military rule as a good form of government.

3People in Vietnam are the most likely to support military rule among the countries surveyed. Seven-in-ten Vietnamese say rule by the military would be a good way to govern. But a larger majority (87%) of Vietnamese people express support for representative democracy, while another big majority (73%) supports direct democracy and 67% back a system in which experts, not elected officials, make decisions according to what they think is best for the country. Of the five different forms of governance tested by the survey, only one – rule by a strong leader without judicial or parliamentary interference – draws more opposition (47%) than support (42%) in Vietnam.

4Support for a strong leader who is unchecked by the judiciary or parliament is highest in India. While 55% of people in India view rule by a strong leader as a good way to govern, this form of governance remains less popular than direct democracy (viewed favorably by 76% of respondents), representative democracy (75%) and rule by experts (65%).

5Just 6% of people in Mexico are satisfied with the way democracy is working in their country, the smallest share of any country surveyed. That compares with a median of 46% among all countries surveyed. Roughly nine-in-ten Mexicans (93%) say they are not satisfied with the way their democracy is working.

Despite their pessimism about democracy in practice, majorities of Mexicans still view direct democracy and representative democracy as good ways to govern (62% and 58%, respectively). About half (53%) say the same about rule by experts, while most Mexicans (67%) have a negative view of rule by a strong leader. When it comes to military rule, more Mexicans oppose than support the idea (52% versus 42%).

6Trust in the national government is highest in Tanzania. About nine-in-ten people in Tanzania (89%) trust their government to do what is right for their country, including 48% who say they have “a lot” of trust. Globally, a median of just 14% express “a lot” of trust in their national government to do what is right. And in 10 countries – Chile, Spain, Peru, France, Brazil, Lebanon, Mexico, South Korea, Greece and Italy – 5% or less of respondents express this level of confidence in their national government.

Rubén Weinsteiner

miércoles, 22 de noviembre de 2017

Chomsky on Edward Bernays Father of Propaganda

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domingo, 19 de noviembre de 2017

How the U.S. Hispanic population is changing

Rubén Weinsteiner

The Latino population in the United States has reached nearly 58 million in 2016 and has been the principal driver of U.S. demographic growth, accounting for half of national population growth since 2000. The Latino population itself has evolved during this time, with changes in immigration, education and other characteristics.

This summary draws on a statistical portrait of the nation’s Hispanic population, which includes trends going back to 1980. Here are some key facts about the nation’s Latino population.

The Hispanic population has reached a new high, but growth has slowed. In 2016, Hispanics accounted for 18% of the nation’s population and were the second-largest racial or ethnic group behind whites. (All racial groups are single race non-Hispanic.)

View interactive charts and detailed tables on U.S. Hispanics.

They are also the nation’s second-fastest-growing racial or ethnic group, with a 2.0% growth rate between 2015 and 2016 compared with a 3.0% rate for Asians. The slowing of Hispanic population growth is occurring as immigration to the U.S. from Mexico levels off and the fertility rate among Hispanic women declines.

The U.S. Hispanic population is drawn from an increasingly diverse mix of countries. Hispanics of Mexican origin account for 63.3% (36 million) of the nation’s Hispanic population in 2015, by far the largest share of any origin group, but down from a recent peak of 65.7 in 2008. But this share has declined in recent years as fewer migrants from Mexico arrive in the U.S. and the number leaving the country rises. Meanwhile, the share among non-Mexican origin groups (36.7% in 2015, up from 34.3% in 2008) has grown as migration from elsewhere in Latin America has increased.

Hispanic origin profiles, 2015

The 14 largest U.S. Hispanic groups by origin (based on self-described race or ethnicity)
Rankings Characteristics

U.S. Hispanic population -- 56,477,000

Foreign born
Median age
High School











Puerto Ricans



Rounded to the nearest thousand

Source: Pew Research Center tabulations of the 2015 American Community Survey (1% IPUMS).
Embed </>Report © Pew Research Center

The population of Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin, the second-largest origin group, stands at 5.4 million in 2015 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia (an additional 3.4 million people live in Puerto Rico). The migration of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland over the past decade has helped drive up this number from 3.8 million in 2005. Five other Hispanic origin groups have populations of more than 1 million – Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans and Colombians – and each has also seen its population increase over the past decade.

The foreign-born share has declined among U.S. Latinos. Today, 34.4% of Latinos are immigrants, down from a peak of 40.1% in 2000. And the share that is U.S. born has grown to 65.6% in 2015, up from 59.9% in 2000. This decline in the foreign-born share extends across the largest Latino origin groups. The foreign-born share among Guatemalans (61.3% in 2015) fell by 17.2 percentage points during this time, the largest percentage-point decline of the six largest Hispanic origin groups. Salvadorans’ foreign-born share (58.8% in 2015) also had a significant drop, declining 16.9 percentage points. Meanwhile, the Mexican foreign born share (32.2% in 2015), had a smaller decline – 9.3 points.

U.S. Hispanics are the youngest of the nation’s largest racial and ethnic groups. But like the rest of the country, the Hispanic population overall has grown older. Hispanics had a median age of 28 in 2015, up from 25 in 2000. Whites had the highest median age – of 43 in 2015 – followed by Asians (36) and blacks (34). Among Hispanics, those born in the U.S. and those born in another country differ widely in age. The median age of U.S.-born Hispanics was 19 in 2015, up from 18 years in 2000. Meanwhile, foreign-born Hispanics have a median age of 42 years, up from 33 in 2000.

A growing share of Hispanics have gone to college. Almost 40% of Hispanics ages 25 and older had any college experience in 2015, up from 30% in 2000. Among U.S.-born Hispanics, 52% reported they had gone to college, an increase from 41% in 2000. By comparison, 27% of foreign-born Hispanics reported some college experience, up from 22% in 2000.

The number of Hispanics who speak Spanish at home is at an all-time high, though growth is slowing. A record 37 million Hispanics ages 5 and older speak Spanish at home, up from 25 million in 2000. However, between 2010 and 2015, this number grew at an annual average of 1.8%, down from an annual average of 3.4% between 2000 and 2010.

At the same time, a record 35 million Hispanics ages 5 and older say they are English-proficient, up from 19 million in 2000. Among this group, 14 million Hispanics speak only English at home in 2015, up from 7 million in 2000.

California continues to have the largest Latino population among states, but Texas is seeing a faster growth rate. In 2015, 15.2 million Hispanics lived in California, a 39% increase from 10.9 million in 2000. Yet Texas has had even faster growth, with its Hispanic population increasing 60% over the same period, from 6.7 million in 2000 to 10.7 million in 2015. Meanwhile, Georgia’s Hispanic population has more than doubled since 2000, the fastest growth among the 10 states with the largest Hispanic populations.

Rubén Weinsteiner

Most think the ‘American dream’ is within reach for them

Despite persistently low levels of public satisfaction with the state of the nation, most Americans say they have achieved the “American dream” or are on their way to achieving it. Only about one-in-five (17%) say the American dream is “out of reach” for their family.

The American dream means different things to different people, however. Far fewer Americans say “becoming wealthy” is essential to the American dream than say the same about personal freedom and a good family life.

Overall, 36% of U.S. adults say their family has achieved the American dream, while another 46% say they are “on their way” to achieving it, according to an August survey by Pew Research Center. (The survey asked people about the “American dream,” as they define it.) People who say they have already achieved the American dream are generally older, more affluent and better-educated than those who say they are on their way to achieving the American dream and those who say it’s out of reach.

Whites (41%) are more likely than blacks (17%) or Hispanics (32%) to say they have achieved the American dream. But more blacks (62%) and Hispanics (51%) than whites (42%) say they are on their way to achieving it. Notably, there are no significant racial or ethnic differences in the shares who say the American dream is out of reach for their families.

The partisan differences in impressions of whether people have reached the American dream are relatively modest: 41% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they have achieved it, compared with 32% of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

Freedom of choice, family widely viewed as essential elements of American dream

While people differ on the meaning of the American dream, very few – just 11% of the public – say “being wealthy” is essential to their own view of it.

By contrast, majorities say “freedom of choice in how to live” (77%), having a good family life (70%) and retiring comfortably (60%) are essential to their view of the American dream.

Smaller shares say making valuable community contributions (48%), owning a home (43%) and having a successful career (also 43%) are essential to their view of the American dream, but relatively few (no more than 9%) say these are not important to the American dream.

However, 40% say being wealthy is not important in their vision of the American dream, by far the highest share among the seven items asked about.

There are modest educational differences in attitudes about what is essential to the American dream. For example, 87% of those with at least a four-year college degree say freedom of choice in how to live is essential, as do 82% of those with some college experience. By comparison, a smaller majority (65%) of those with no more than a high school diploma say this.

And while 15% of those with a high school education or less say becoming wealthy is essential to the American dream, fewer of those with college experience say the same (8% of college graduates and 9% of those with some college experience).

Partisanship is not a major factor in these views. Across all items, there are modest or no partisan differences in views of what is essential to the American dream.

Rubén Weinsteiner

martes, 14 de noviembre de 2017

What’s Next for Robert Mercer, Steve Bannon’s Moneyman?

Far from abandoning the Republican insurgency and stepping away from politics, the GOP megadonor is freeing himself to be more involved.

Zachary Mider and
Joshua Green


When it landed on the morning of Nov. 2, the statement from hedge fund manager and Republican megadonor Robert Mercer read like a goodbye letter. Not only was he stepping down as co-chief executive officer of his New York hedge fund Renaissance Technologies LLC, but he also was selling his stake in Breitbart News and renouncing his support for Milo Yiannopoulos, the alt-right provocateur he’d previously funded. Mercer even seemed to distance himself from the man his political fortunes are most tied to—his longtime adviser, Breitbart Chairman and former White House strategist Steve Bannon. “From time to time, I do discuss politics with him,” Mercer wrote of Bannon. “However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s.”

It was a rare public statement from the famously reticent, 71-year-old computer scientist, one that left Washington and Wall Street buzzing over whether the man who essentially bankrolled the nationalist insurgency that put Donald Trump in the White House was having second thoughts.

Among Mercer’s adversaries, his words were read as a rebuke of Bannon and a break from his nationalist politics. “I think this is a perfect testimony to the toxicity of Steve Bannon and what he’s trying to do to the Republican Party,” says Josh Holmes, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom Bannon has vowed to dethrone by backing outside challengers in Republican primaries next year. An activist group that had been pressuring universities and retirement funds to pull their money from Renaissance to protest Mercer’s political spending also saw the statement as vindication. “It seems like our work is done” pressuring Renaissance investors over Mercer’s role, says a representative of Sleeping Giants, a group of anonymous activists that, since forming after last year’s election, says it has persuaded thousands of companies to stop advertising on Breitbart, arguing the site promotes racism.

A rift with Mercer would certainly complicate Bannon’s latest assault on the GOP establishment. Mercer has been Bannon’s main patron since they first met in 2011. But a split may not be what’s happening. Viewed in a broader context, Mercer’s announcement suggests that, far from abandoning the Republican insurgency and stepping away from politics, he’s freeing himself to be more involved. Two sources familiar with his thinking say his decision to reduce his role at Renaissance is part of a plan to participate more aggressively in Republican Party politics ahead of the pivotal midterm elections. Mercer did not respond to requests for comment.

More than anything, Mercer’s statement is a confirmation of his outsize influence in conservative politics—and the trouble that created for him inside Renaissance. Although the recent campaign to pressure investors to pull money from Renaissance likely hadn’t caused it serious financial harm, it did promise to keep the notoriously secretive trading firm in the spotlight. In recent months, Jim Simons, Renaissance’s 79-year-old founder and a major donor to Democratic causes, urged Mercer to step down, according to two people familiar with the matter. Simons wasn’t as concerned about the financial impact of Mercer’s activities as he was about their effect on the firm’s morale and recruiting efforts. “I appreciated Bob’s willingness to take this step,” Simons said on Nov. 6 while attending a fundraiser for the New York Public Library.

Trump’s election established Mercer and his middle daughter, Rebekah, as the preeminent patrons of the party’s anti-establishment wing. They’ve channeled family money into a series of interlocking causes overseen by Bannon. In addition to Breitbart, there’s the Government Accountability Institute, a research group established in 2012 whose president, Peter Schweizer, wrote the best-selling 2015 book Clinton Cash, which tarnished Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 presidential election. There’s also Cambridge Analytica, a data and analytics firm used by the Trump campaign, and Glittering Steel LLC, the production company run by Rebekah and Bannon that makes movies and political ads. The Mercers even helped install Bannon atop the Trump campaign during its final stretch. In December, surrounded by hundreds of guests at Mercer’s mansion overlooking Long Island Sound, the president-elect thanked the father-daughter duo in person.

Like conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch and liberal investor George Soros, Mercer has become so well-known that opponents use his name as a bludgeon. In early November, a TV ad from the New York State Democratic Committee flashed Robert and Rebekah Mercer’s faces on the screen, noting their donation to a Republican candidate in a county race and describing them as “the same people who bankrolled Trump’s social media bot army and Steve Bannon’s extremist Breitbart News.”

For Renaissance, the notoriety has been unprecedented and unwelcome. In February, one Renaissance partner, David Magerman, went public with his criticism of Mercer. “His views show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do,” Magerman told the Wall Street Journal. He later filed a lawsuit alleging that Mercer had made “racist comments.” Renaissance is contesting the suit, and Mercer in his Nov. 2 statement vehemently denied any racial prejudice.

By stepping down as co-CEO and leaving the firm’s board, Mercer takes the heat off his colleagues, even though he plans to continue working alongside them as a researcher. Selling his Breitbart stake may blunt attacks, too, though the holding will stay in the family—he’s selling it to his three daughters, formalizing an existing arrangement. Rebekah has always taken the lead in dealing with Breitbart. Also, the Mercers have never marched in lockstep with Bannon. Under Bannon’s direction, Breitbart News championed Trump last year, while Mercer bought some $13 million worth of ads for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, switching to Trump only after he’d won the GOP nomination. This year, Mercer contributed the maximum amount to House Speaker Paul Ryan, a frequent target of Breitbart’s venom. And Mercer and his wife have poured more than $1.6 million into Republican Party accounts.

Mercer apparently sat out the Republican Senate primary in Alabama this year, where Bannon’s candidate, Roy Moore, defeated a challenger heavily funded by the party establishment. But in other states, Mercer has backed Bannon’s slate of candidates hostile to McConnell. In Arizona, he gave $300,000 to a PAC supporting Kelli Ward, a hard-right former state senator who was mounting an attack on incumbent Senator Jeff Flake. Rather than face Ward, Flake announced plans to retire at the end of his term. In Mississippi, Mercer put $50,000 behind Chris McDaniel, who calls Senator Roger Wicker one of McConnell’s “merry band of yes men” and is considering challenging him next year.

In November, as part of his effort to spark a revolt against McConnell and his establishment GOP allies, Bannon is giving speeches in Michigan, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. He’s recruiting renegade candidates to challenge every Republican member of the Senate up for election in 2018, save for Cruz. While it’s unclear whether Mercer will continue to put money behind Bannon’s hand-picked candidates, he doesn’t appear to be retreating from electoral battles. “His critics are going to be disappointed because, at the end of the day, Bob is going to continue fighting for what he believes in,” says Brent Bozell, whose conservative Media Research Center is funded by Mercer. “This is a man who could have chosen a long time ago to sail away on his yacht and not worry about a thing.”

Mercer family 2017 political donations

Rob Astorino, incumbent Westchester County executive in New York, who lost on Nov. 7

Republican National Committee

National Republican Senatorial Committee

National Republican Congressional Committee

Kelli Ward, a Bannon-endorsed candidate for Senate in Arizona

Attack ads against Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren

Chris McDaniel, considering a primary run against Republican Senator Roger Wicker in Mississippi
BOTTOM LINE - As publicity-shy Republican megadonor Robert Mercer relinquishes his management role at Renaissance Technologies, questions arise about his political agenda.

sábado, 11 de noviembre de 2017

Why Vietnam Loves Trump

Letter from Hanoi

It’s one of the only countries in the world where the president is popular. Will Trump return the love?


HANOI, Vietnam — Before every shift at a Domino’s Pizza store in central Hanoi, Van Nguyen Hai, 20, puts on a uniform in the colors of the American flag. Then she takes up her position behind the register, in front of a wall decorated with a collection of images that represents milestones in the history of Domino’s: the flag of Panama, where the chain’s 8,000th store opened in 2006; a steaming brownie, in honor of a dessert the chain introduced that same year; and the logo for “The Apprentice,” which held a Domino’s-related challenge in 2005, featuring a tie-clad Donald J. Trump.

“It’s my honor for him to come to Vietnam,” Hai says of President Trump’s upcoming visit on November 10-12. “Trump can change America, and if America changes, the world will have change, and Vietnam will have change.”

In the country where thousands lined the streets to chant “Obama, Obama” in 2016, many Vietnamese like Hai are also eagerly awaiting Trump’s upcoming visit to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Da Nang and meet with President Tran Dai Quang and other Vietnamese officials in Hanoi. In fact, when Trump lands on Friday in Da Nang—at an airport where U.S.-Vietnam teams are still finalizing efforts to clean up dioxin contamination left by American Agent Orange during the Vietnam War—he will enter one of the only countries on earth where he, and the country he leads, are both popular.

According to the Pew Research Center, Vietnam is among seven out of 37 surveyed countries where a majority of the population says they like Trump: 58 percent of Vietnamese told Pew earlier this year that they have “confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs,” compared with the global median of 22 percent. (The other countries with pro-Trump majorities were Israel, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia and Tanzania.)

What does this communist country see in the real estate mogul-TV star who now serves as the 45th president? Trump’s strong support in Vietnam is partially borne of his own policies and personality: His campaign trail tough talk on China resonated with a Vietnamese public deeply suspicious of their northern neighbor’s rise, and Trump’s business experience is appealing to many in a country where break-neck economic growth has recently fueled entrepreneurial dreams. His visit here is eagerly awaited—both by those excited to see a leader they admire, and by those hoping that concerns about Trump’s commitment to Vietnam will be assuaged.

Before he became president, Trump was well-known in Vietnam as a successful businessman. In the three decades since the country began market reforms known as Doi Moi, entrepreneurs have been celebrated as engines of growth; almost 20 percent of the adult population in Vietnam owns their own business, the third-highest rate of 60 countries surveyed by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

Many of Trump’s books, including The Art of the Deal, Never Give Up and Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, have been translated into Vietnamese and found a dedicated following among those seeking business insights from “the great teacher Donald Trump,” as the publishing house Nha Xuat Ban Tre describes him. Miss Universe, which Trump owned at the time, was held in the beach resort town of Nha Trang in 2008 (though Donald Trump Jr. attended in place of his father). And Pham Nhat Vuong, head of the real estate conglomerate Vingroup and Vietnam’s first billionaire, is known as the “Donald Trump of Vietnam.” (A similar admiration for Trump’s business acumen exists among the aspirational classes in Japan, South Korea and China, where Trump has been well-received over the past week.)

The 20-year-old founder of the Vietnamese for Donald Trump Facebook page—15,000 followers and counting—is among those drawn to Trump’s business background. (He requested anonymity because his Trump fan page, which he also describes as “a fan page for American conservatism,” contains some criticism of the government.) To this young man, who calls himself a “Vietnamese deplorable,” Trump represents the best of America—“capitalism, freedom and God,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Ho Chi Minh City.

To be fair, Trump is not as popular as his predecessor in Vietnam: Pew found support for Trump is 13 percentage points lower than it was for Barack Obama. But even among those who are wary of Trump, a positive view of the United States prevails: 84 percent of Vietnamese view America favorably, according to Pew, the highest figure in any country surveyed, and up 6 percentage points from the end of the Obama years. “The relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam has been in a new phase” as war memories are replaced by shared strategic and economic interests, says Tran Le Thuy, founder and director of the Center for Media and Development Initiatives in Hanoi, a nonprofit that conducts research on Vietnamese media. “So the coverage of the U.S. is quite positive. It almost doesn’t matter who the president is.”

Still, there is hope here that Trump’s visit—marking the first time the president of the United States has been to Vietnam two years in a row—will confirm that American interest in Vietnam will outlast the Obama administration. Professor Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, head of the Americas studies division at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi, says expectations are high that Trump’s address at APEC—which the White House has said will outline “the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region”—will clarify the Trump administration’s commitment to Vietnam.

“I think the Vietnamese people and many people in other countries expect more from the U.S. in order to counterbalance the Chinese policy in the region,” she says.

For Vietnam, the United States is an increasingly critical strategic partner as China builds islands and military facilities in the South China Sea. Obama’s 2016 visit confirmed the growing scope of the relationship as the United States lifted the decades-old ban on arms sales to Vietnam. And part of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” strategy relied on pushing forward the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which Vietnam would have been among the biggest beneficiaries.

Trump, of course, withdrew the United States from the pact on his first full day in office. But he has also harshly criticized China for taking American jobs and previously called the country a “currency manipulator” (a charge he later took back). Hoang Phuong, a 37-year-old Hanoian architect and guitarist in an AC/DC cover band, is among those in Vietnam who admire Trump’s harsh rhetoric against China. Phuong was initially puzzled when Trump ran for president; he had read several of Trump’s books in Vietnamese, and knew him as a successful businessman, not a politician. But he was happy when Trump won the White House for one main reason: “He says he doesn’t like China.”

After Trump’s TPP withdrawal, the Vietnamese government issued a polite response pledging to continue to work for regional economic integration. But Le Dang Doanh, a member of the Committee for Development Policy of the United Nations and one of Vietnam’s leading economists, says, “We regret deeply the step of the president of the United States to withdraw from TPP.” Still, Carlyle Thayer, an expert in southeast Asian politics and emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales, says Vietnamese officials have moved on from the disappointment: “They’re pragmatists. It’s done.” The remaining 11 countries have continued negotiations, and Le is among those who hopes those countries will reach a final agreement at the APEC meeting in Da Nang.

The White House visit in May by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the first by a southeast Asian leader, helped quell Vietnamese concerns that Trump would abandon the Obama administration’s concerted efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Vietnam relationship. But uncertainty lingers. As the lovefest between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing earlier this week illustrated, Trump has not displayed a strong interest in countering China in the South China Sea, in part because he needs China’s support in curtailing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

And while some Vietnamese saw Trump’s campaign bravado on China as reassuring, even exciting, others are nervous about his harsh words, his view of international affairs as a zero-sum game and his lack of political experience. “President Trump thinks he can stand up to China. That goes well with ordinary Vietnamese popular opinion,” says Ngo Vinh Long, a professor of history at the University of Maine who studies Vietnam and regional politics. “But this kind of attitude is scary to many people who are well educated or who are in the government because they think that, inadvertently, President Trump might provoke something with China that Vietnam itself cannot contain.”

One reason Trump remains popular despite all that is because he and the United States are covered very carefully by media outlets here, which are strictly controlled by the government. Thuy, the director of MDI, says that the long-term importance of the U.S.-Vietnam relationship leads Vietnamese state-run media to cover Trump positively or neutrally.
While Vietnamese newspapers have published stories about special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible campaign collusion with Russia and the criticism of Trump from Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, for instance, those stories are relatively few. “I think mainstream media [in Vietnam] avoids covering stories about personal issues to avoid insulting the U.S.,” she says. “They don’t want to cause any diplomatic troubles.”

Still, Thuy says she saw more “analysis and a lot more obvious positive expectations” in the coverage ahead of Obama’s 2016 visit, while the reporting on Trump’s trip has been more neutral and fact-based. (According to MDI data, one of the most widely shared stories in Vietnamese media relating to Trump’s visit so far detailed the arrival on October 30 of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport carrying armored limousines for Trump’s entourage; the vehicles got similar coverage under Obama.)

As for how much, or whether, Trump will interact with the Vietnamese people, expectations seem to be lower than for past presidents. Bill Clinton’s visit was a milestone in Vietnam’s international integration. “I remember when Bill Clinton walked around here and went into the shops like a normal person,” Bac Hai, 70, told me recently, sitting by Hoan Kiem Lake, where Clinton strolled in 2000. She preferred Hillary Clinton during the presidential election but has come to think Trump’s business experiences should equip him to appreciate how much Vietnam has developed since market reforms began in 1986.

Last year, Obama ate with Anthony Bourdain at Bun Cha Huong Lien, a small, cheap noodle restaurant. Their meal of Hanoi’s most iconic dish—grilled pork patties served with vermicelli rice noodles and fresh herbs—became the most memorable moment of his visit for locals. And the restaurant—where the walls are decorated with photographs of Obama and staff members, and the menu now offers the Obama combo—has seen a business boom ever since. “When Obama came to eat bun cha, people came to see him, because the most powerful man in the world was acting like a normal person, with no safeguards,” Bac Hai says.

There’s not much hope that Trump, a self-described “germaphobe,” will venture to Bun Cha Huong Lien or a similar restaurant. The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi referred to a White House news release saying only that Trump will meet with President Quang and other senior leaders.

Back at Domino’s, Van Nguyen Hai and her co-workers recently debated Trump as the image of his face gazed down from the wall. Tran Tran Pham, 19, said Trump seemed unkind, imperious and unwilling to work with other countries. Hai agreed partly, but she still said she preferred Trump to Obama because of the power he projects. She said she was a little surprised he is coming to Hanoi, given the length of his Asia trip, but has high hopes.

“When Obama came out of the bun cha restaurant, he shook hands and smiled,” Hai said. “Everyone wanted to see the president of the United States. I really regret that I didn’t go see him. So, I hope that this time, with Trump, I hope I can see him.”

Jerry Brown, President of the Independent Republic of California

As he crusades across Europe, the governor is acting like the leader of a sovereign country—an alternative to the United States in the Trump era.


VATICAN CITY—On his way to the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, this week, Jerry Brown stopped over at the Vatican, where a doleful group of climate scientists, politicians and public health officials had convened to discuss calamities that might befall a warming world. The prospects were so dire—floods and fires, but also forced migration, famine and war—that some of the participants acknowledged difficulty staving off despair.

California’s doomsayer governor did not express much optimism either. Seated between an economist and an Argentine bishop at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Brown leaned into his microphone and said, “It is despairing. Ending the world, ending all mammalian life. This is bad stuff.”

“There’s nothing that I see out there that gives me any ground for optimism,” he went on. Still, he promised action: “I’m extremely excited about doing something about it."

Even though President Donald Trump has abandoned the Paris climate agreement and called climate change a “hoax,” and even though he is proceeding to scrap the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and promoting the production of coal, Brown insisted to his audience at the Vatican that these policies do not reflect the true sensibilities of the United States.

“This is not just a top-down structure that we have in the United States,” the governor said. The small crowd burst into applause when he added, “Over time, given the commitments that we’re seeing in this room today, and what we’re seeing around the world, the Trump factor is very small, very small indeed.”

In the raw balance of power between a governor and a president, Brown has almost no standing abroad. What he does have is a platform, and a proposition: Crusading across Europe in his Fitbit and his dark, boxy suit, Brown advances California and its policies almost as an alternative to the United States—and his waning governorship, after a lifetime in politics, as a quixotic rejection of the provincial limits of the American governor. In the growing chasm between Trump’s Washington and California—principally on climate change, but also taxes, health care, gun control and immigration—Brown is functioning as the head of something closer to a country than a state.

In his final term, Brown has lobbied other states and regions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, while augmenting California’s already expansive suite of climate change programs. But Trump’s election—and the specter of Brown’s own retirement—have lately set the governor on a tear. In a rush of climate diplomacy this year, Brown traveled to China to meet with President Xi Jinping, then to Russia to participate in an international economic forum. This past week saw him address lawmakers in Brussels and Stuttgart, Germany, and he was preparing for roundtable meetings with scientists in Oslo before arriving in Bonn for a climate conference, where Brown will serve as special adviser for states and regions. And he is preparing for California to host an international climate summit of its own next year in San Francisco.

In one sense, Brown’s fixation on climate change would seem unremarkable, the predictable conclusion of a career steeped in the ecological and environmental movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, early Earth Day rallies and the Stockholm conference on the environment weighed heavily on the public consciousness when Brown was starting out in politics, and observers of a certain age will still recall him mystifying audiences with pronouncements about “planetary realism” and the “spaceship Earth.” He was still talking about the need for a fundamental shift in lifestyle when he said at the Vatican that confronting climate change will require “a transformation of the relationship of human beings to all the mysterious network of things.”

“It’s not just a light rinse,” Brown said. “We need a total, I might say, brainwashing. We need to wash our brains out and see a very different kind of world.”

But in his climate diplomacy today, Brown is performing a more urgent, final act. For nearly all his public life—from secretary of state to governor, to mayor of Oakland and state attorney general before becoming governor once again, at age 72—Brown’s near-constant state was to run for public office. Now, for the first time, he is not. Term limits will chase Brown from the state Capitol in January 2019, and today he calls climate change his “campaign,” dismissing the idea that after running unsuccessfully for president three times, he might try again in 2020. “I’ve thought because people like you ask me,” he said in an interview before leaving for Europe. “But no, I’m not running.”

Now, Brown’s future rests on a family ranch in Northern California, where he is nearly finished building a remote, off-the-grid home. These days, he talks more about rattlesnakes and wild boar than the presidential election, and he has turned his focus from electoral politics to more existential concerns.

“I find a lot of what is included in politics doesn’t count that much, at least for my salvation or my peace of mind or my interest in life,” Brown said. The climate, he went on, “is fundamental. It’s not like dietary requirements. It’s not like a tax measure, or a school curriculum, or many of the issues, even a crime bill. It goes to the essence of being alive, living things. Whether it’s humans or fauna, flora, the basis of life is embedded in this chemical structure, biological structure. And it’s threatened.”

Sitting in the back of a Ford Crown Victoria on a tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport, Brown added, “This, to me, seems worthwhile.”


Brown often borrows from the writer Carey McWilliams’ description of California as “the great exception,” a colossus that McWilliams said, “always occupied, in relation to other regions, much the same relation that America has occupied toward Europe: it is the great catch-all, the vortex at the continent’s end into which elements of America’s diverse population have been drawn, whirled around.”

Trump’s election nearly spun that vortex off its axis. In a state where Democrats had already battered Republicans to near-irrelevance, voters last year installed Democratic super-majorities in both houses of the state Legislature. They approved higher taxes and stricter gun controls, legalized marijuana and made certain felons eligible for early parole. They handed Trump the most lopsided loss a Republican presidential nominee has suffered in California in 80 years. Then they slumped in front of their TV sets as the rest of America went the other way.

The morning after the election, the leaders of the state Senate and assembly issued a joint statement in which they said they “woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land.” Brown had joked before the election that if Trump were to become president, “We’d have to build a wall around California to defend ourselves from the rest of this country.”

Now, the state Legislature and a large share of Brown’s constituents expected him to hoist it up—to assert California’s sovereignty in the Trump state. As Trump started dismantling his predecessor’s climate policies, Brown helped organize an alliance of 14 states and the island of Puerto Rico, pledging to meet their share of the U.S. commitment to the Paris climate accord. He redoubled his efforts outside of the United States, expanding on a joint project with the German state of Baden-Württemberg: recruiting nearly 200 mostly subnational governments to sign a nonbinding pact to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, the threshold beyond which many scientists predict environmental catastrophe. On top of that, Brown negotiated legislation extending California’s signature cap-and-trade program for an additional 10 years, then signed an agreement with leaders of Ontario and Quebec to integrate their cap-and-trade systems with California’s.

Trump’s election shook Brown and his home state in other ways, too: California relied on billions of dollars in federal health care funding that Trump threatened to undo, and the president’s hard line on immigration sowed fear among California’s large population of undocumented immigrants. When the Trump administration started conducting immigration sweeps in Los Angeles, protesters strung “No I.C.E” signs from freeway overpasses, and Brown—who had signed legislation granting undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses and access to college financial aid—negotiated state legislation curbing local law enforcement officials’ ability to cooperate with federal immigration agents.

By this fall, California’s feuding with Washington had grown so routine that it barely registered as news when, during the span of seven hours one day last month, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced four separate lawsuits against the Trump administration on issues ranging from health care and education to immigration and oil extraction on public and tribal lands.

Before Trump’s election, Brown existed largely at the margins outside California. When he returned to office in 2011, a fellow Democrat held the White House, and no one had to look West for an expression of leftist causes. In that context, Brown presented as a moderate, taking criticism from environmentalists for his permissiveness of hydraulic fracturing, while others dismissed as insignificant the nonbinding climate agreements he pursued.

But then Trump, less than a month in office, told a national TV audience, “California is in many ways out of control.” Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, addressing California Republicans shortly after Brown signed legislation expanding protections for undocumented immigrants, said that if California kept this up, it would eventually “try to secede from the union.” The governor factored so heavily in the specter of a civil war that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, himself a Californian, slipped in a speech last month in which he rebuked one “President Brown.”

The nation’s most populous state was cleaving from Washington, and Brown was its marshaling force.

“Trump is leaving many vacuums, and I think Jerry Brown has long imagined himself as a kind of global player,” says Orville Schell, who wrote a biography of Brown in 1978 and remains in contact with him. “He does see California, as the sixth-largest economy of the world, as capable of playing more of a nation-state-like role.”

Brown “sort of accidentally has had the world thrust in his lap through the climate issue, which he passionately believes in,” Schell adds. “The opportunity has presented itself, the inclination is there, and he’s sort of ratcheting the state up to rush into that breach that Washington is leaving.”


In the role of a statesman, Brown so far has been met with doting audiences in Europe. When he arrived in Stuttgart for meetings this week, local officials sent a seven-car motorcade to the airport to deliver him to his hotel with lights flashing, an unheard-of accommodation back home. And when Brown spoke in Brussels on Tuesday, before the hemicycle of the European Parliament, the body’s president, Antonio Tajani, said the governor’s presence gave Europeans “some comfort” in the era of Trump. Muhterem Aras, president of the parliament of Baden-Württemberg, told Brown through an interpreter, “You and your work are needed more than ever.” She cast Brown as a warrior “facing a mighty lobby as an adversary.”

Yet in the polished, grip-and-grin world of diplomacy, Brown can also seem out of place. He has sprinted through his trip on a borrowed charter plane with his tiny entourage—a handful of aides, a small protective detail and his wife and adviser, Anne Gust Brown, straightening his collar. He maintains an exasperatingly loose schedule, suffers posing for photographs and sometimes wanders on stage.

Before he strode into the Vatican headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, a 16th century summer residence for Pope Pius IV, Brown darted for a table of coffee and cookies that waiters were starting to clear away.

“You had to eat, didn’t you, love?” his wife asked her husband, who has a sixth sense for free food.

Throughout his trip, Brown has also carried copies of two articles he wrote about the threat of nuclear proliferation, his principal concern other than climate change. The first, “Nuclear Addiction: A Response,” was written in 1984 for a now-defunct Jesuit publication. The second is Brown’s review in the New York Review of Books last year of former defense secretary William Perry’s My Journey at the Nuclear Brink. Leaving a meeting one night in Rome with Arturo Sosa, the superior general of the Jesuits, Brown squinted over his hawk-like nose and said that while “going around enlisting allies … I bring my two little articles and I pass them around.”

Depending on his audience and mood, Brown vacillates between optimism and dread for the future. Signing a government guestbook in Brussels this week, he quoted Virgil: “Ad astra per aspera”—to the stars through difficulties. Later, when the elevator taking Brown from a meeting went up instead of down, he first complained, half-joking—“Mistake!”—and then said, “That can happen with missile launches, too.”

As frequently as Brown is asked about Trump, Brown has mentioned the president only sparingly on his European tour. Although he has called Trump the “null hypothesis” for climate change, a politician who by “making his case of denial so preposterous, helps the other side,” he insists the problem of climate change is bigger than one leader, and has acknowledged he is trying to make “lemonade out of a lemon.”

A year ago, it appeared that Brown might not be able even to do that. Two nights before the election, he was eating chips and salsa at an airport bar in Durango, Colorado, where he had spent the day campaigning for Hillary Clinton. If Trump took the White House, he said in an interview, it would be “game over” for climate change. “Game over,” he said again.

Asked about it recently, on the tarmac in Los Angeles, Brown said, “I say a lot of things while waiting for a drink in bars across America.”

“We’re fighting,” he added. “The game is over in Washington for the moment … But not in the world.”

Later, at the Vatican, he put it this way: “You should despair, but that won’t help. So be optimistic, and do whatever you can.”


Brown said he has met Trump once, when he was mayor of Oakland in the 2000s and considered bringing a casino to the city. The two flew together in Trump’s plane to Oakland from Palm Springs. The governor recalled being impressed with a Renoir that Trump had hung on a wall in the plane. “I don’t know whether it was real or not,” Brown said last year. “But I thought it was. I thought it was a hell of a statement.”

Brown, more than many politicians, could appreciate the populist appeal that swept Trump into the White House—and that Brown sought to capture in his own three presidential campaigns. In 1976, he called for an “era of limits,” then campaigned against the North American Free Trade Agreement and the influence of corporate money in politics in his 1992 campaign. He refused campaign contributions greater than $100 and, in rhetoric reminiscent of Trump’s “drain the swamp,” criticized “the basic fact of unchecked power and privilege.”

Pat Caddell, the veteran pollster and political analyst who gave advice to Brown in 1992 and Trump in 2016, says, “Brown was way ahead of his time, really … I think if Jerry had run in ’16, he could have won the Democratic nomination.”

Today, Brown’s mind is elsewhere. He deflects questions about his legacy, arguing, “Everything we’re doing can be framed as either a model for everybody else or building my legacy that I’m going to be reviewing in my dotage.” Yet the issues that consume him—climate change and nuclear proliferation—are legacy concerns of humankind.

“Human civilization is on the chopping block,” Brown told an auditorium full of lawmakers and students this week in Stuttgart, his voice rising almost to a yell. “We have to wake up the world. We have to wake up Europe, wake up America, wake up the whole world to realize that we have a common destiny.”

While climate change has afforded Brown a degree of notoriety outside California, he believes that history is not kind to governors and a politician’s relevance quickly fades. “It’s just a matter of time before your irrelevance engulfs your total being,” he said in Los Angeles, chuckling. “I’m pretty focused on today.”

He is at least thinking a little about the near future. Dna Hoover, who is building the Browns’ ranch house, said Anne Gust Brown called recently to ask about stucco samples and a generator, and the couple ran a herd of goats through the property, where the Browns have planted olive trees, to chew down grass to prevent fire. “He’s ready,” Hoover says. “He’s really so connected with that place and is ready to get up there full-time.”

Brown has even discussed the possibility of creating some kind of meeting space on the ranch. Before he was to arrive in Bonn on Saturday, he left his aides behind and swung south to Bremen, Germany, to visit with Silja Samerski, who had once helped him organize a salon he called the “Oakland Table,” attracting intellectuals such as the late social critic Ivan Illich. “We’re going to talk about unfinished issues from the Oakland Table,” Brown said of his visit with Samerski. “The good life, and how are we supposed to lead it. What are we doing? So, that’s getting ready for the Colusa Institute,” he explained, laughing a bit. Colusa is the name of the county where he is building his ranch.

Brown is also contemplating writing when he leaves office, something he tried, but largely gave up, after his first two terms as governor. His work at the time, he says, “didn’t rise to the quality that met my standards.”

Decades later, Brown says, “I have much more to say.”

At an event held alongside the Democratic National Convention last year, Brown had compared his retirement to that of a Roman statesman, “a fellow named Cincinnatus who saved the Republic, and then he went back to the plow.”

Reminded of that comparison recently, Brown smiled and said, “I like to be on my plow.” But he added, “Maybe I’ll be sending out pronouncements from the plow.”

domingo, 5 de noviembre de 2017

Twitter: “human error” behind temporary Trump deactivation

Twitter signage is draped on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Mark Lennihan / AP

Twitter released a statement Thursday evening saying an employee had "inadvertently deactivated" President Trump's personal twitter account. The removal of Trump's account caused an immediate reaction among Twitter users, until the account reappeared minutes later.

"Earlier today @realdonaldtrump's account was inadvertently deactivated due to human error by a Twitter employee. The account was down for 11 minutes, and has since been restored. We are continuing to investigate and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again."

Update: Twitter said its preliminary investigation shows Trump's account was deactivated by a customer support representative on their last day of work at Twitter.

Covering President Trump in a Polarized Media Environment

During the early days of the administration, similar storylines covered across outlets, but types of sources heard from and the assessments of Trump’s actions differed

By Amy Mitchell, Jeffrey Gottfried, Galen Stocking, Katerina Eva Matsa and Elizabeth Grieco

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Overview updated October 2017 with new chart

In an era when Americans’ choices about whom to turn to and trust for news are often divided along political lines, a new Pew Research Center study of media coverage of the early days of the Trump administration finds those preferences can be significant.

News outlets whose audience leans to the left politically, those whose audience leans to the right and those appealing to a more mixed audience covered a similar news agenda and mostly framed their coverage around character and leadership rather than policy. But the types of sources included in the stories and the assessments of the administration’s words and actions often differed, according to this study of more than 3,000 news stories during the first 100 days of the Trump presidency across 24 media outlets with content from television, radio and the web.

Specifically, outlets with a right-leaning audience cited fewer types of sources in their reporting, offered more positive and fewer negative evaluations of President Donald Trump and his administration, and had reporters who were less likely to challenge something the president said than outlets whose audience leans to the left or those with a more evenly distributed audience.

Seven-in-ten stories from outlets with a left-leaning audience and 62% from those with a more mixed audience included at least two of nine types of sources evaluated, such as a member of the administration, a member of Congress, or an outside expert. That was true, however, of less than half the stories (44%) from outlets with a right-leaning audience. In particular, outlets whose audience leans right of center were less likely to include Trump and his administration, outside experts or interest groups as sources. They were also about half as likely to include voices from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress (7% of stories vs. 14% for outlets with a left-leaning audience and 15% for outlets with a more mixed audience).

Within a news story, the statements from the sources cited – and what reporters choose to quote from them – as well as the reporter’s own language formulate the overall assessment of the Trump administration. During the time period studied, stories from outlets with a right-leaning audience were at least five times more likely to carry an overall positive evaluation of Trump’s words or actions (defined as stories that contained at least twice as many positive statements as negative ones) than stories from outlets with a left-of-center or more mixed audience (31% vs. 5% and 6%, respectively). They were also at least three times less likely to carry negative assessments (14% vs. 56% and 47%, respectively). Still, most stories from outlets with a right-leaning audience (55%) carried neither a positive nor negative assessment of the president.

Another area of difference is the degree to which the reporter of a story directly refuted or corrected a statement by President Trump or a member of the administration. Overall, this occurred in one-in-ten stories, but it was about seven times as common in stories from outlets with a left-leaning audience (15%) than right-l

eaning ones (2%), while outlets with a more mixed audience fell in the middle (10%).

For this study, researchers categorized 24 news outlets into three groups by the political makeup of their audiences: Outlets whose audience – as measured using Pew Research Center surveys – consists of two-thirds more members who are right of center politically than left, two-thirds who are more left of center than right, and outlets with a more evenly distributed audience base. (For more details on the outlet selection process and groupings see the box below or the methodology.)

The selection and grouping of news outlets

Researchers selected outlets for inclusion in the study based on audience reach. For all online outlets, researchers selected sites with at least 20 million average unique monthly visitors during November and December of 2016 and at least 15 million from the first quarter of 2017, according to comScore data. From that list, researchers excluded sites that did not largely focus on political or general news. For newspaper websites, five top tier newspapers – based on total circulation according to the Alliance for Audited Media – that offer daily coverage of national affairs and met the same website traffic thresholds were included. For cable, four evening programs from each of the three networks (CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) were selected. Broadcast television includes the nightly news from all three networks plus PBS. Within radio, researchers selected the top two talk radio shows by ratings, according to Talkers.com, as well as the morning and afternoon news programs from NPR. Websites for TV and radio outlets were also included if they met the same threshold as digital-native outlets. The volume of content sampled for each outlet was based on factors such as audience reach and the amount of news content produced on a daily basis.

To be included in the sample, stories needed to be at least 50% about the president and his administration and more than 100 words or at least 30 seconds long. Digital stories were selected based on their prominence and position on the home page. For television and radio, every third qualifying story during the first half hour of a program was studied. Specified editorial or opinion sections or segments were not included, but individual opinion stories not set apart in a designated opinion section were included.

Each news outlet was placed in one of three groups based on the profile of its audience: outlets whose audience leans to the left politically, outlets whose audience leans to the right politically, and outlets appealing to a more mixed audience. The audience data came from one of two recent Pew Research Center surveys in which U.S. adults were asked if they regularly got news about the election or politics from each outlet. An outlet was classified as left-leaning if its audience included at least two-thirds more liberal Democrats than conservative Republicans. Conversely, if the audience had two-thirds more conservative Republicans than liberal Democrats, the outlet was categorized as right-leaning. If neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans made up at least two-thirds more of the audience than the other, the outlet was included in the mixed-audience group. This resulted in 12 outlets with a left-leaning audience, five with a right-leaning audience and seven with a more mixed audience.

Details on the inclusion process, content sampled and the full list of outlets can be found in the methodology.
Overall, five specific topics dominated coverage about Trump and the administration

Looking at the total coverage across all 24 outlets, five topics accounted for two-thirds of the coverage during this time period (Jan. 21-April 30): stories about the president’s political skills (17%), immigration (14%), presidential appointments and nominations (13%), U.S.-Russia relations (13%), and health care (9%). None of the remaining 39 topics accounted for more than 4% of stories.

Stories of the president’s political skills spanned a wide range of issues and events, such as the delivery of his first speech to a joint session of Congress and his management of White House staff. The president’s executive order limiting the entry of travelers from certain countries and the legal challenges to it constituted a large portion of stories about immigration.

Allegations about Russia and the 2016 election tied to Trump and his administration, as well as the White House’s relationship with Moscow, dominated stories on U.S.-Russia relations. Appointments and nominations included stories about various cabinet members and Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Health care coverage often addressed efforts by Trump and the Republicans to move health care legislation through Congress. A more detailed look at coverage of these most prominent topics occurs below.

When reporting on any event, a reporter can choose any number of ways to orient the storyline. This study classified stories into one of two main frames: the president’s leadership and character or his core ideology and policy agenda. Overall, journalists structured their narratives far more around President Trump’s leadership and character than his policy agenda (74% vs. 26%, respectively).

What’s more, only about one-in-ten stories (11%) delivered an overall positive assessment of the administration’s words or actions. Four times as many (44%) offered a negative assessment, while the remaining 45% were neither positive nor negative.

The study also found that, overall, Trump and his administration played a large role in the stories that ended up getting reported on each day. Nearly half the time (45% of all stories) the reporter produced the piece in response to something the president or his staff said or did. The news media itself spurred 19% of stories, either through self-initiated investigative reporting or through an action or statement by a member of the news media.

When choosing who to include as voices in a story, journalists cited the president or a member of his administration more frequently than any other source type. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of all stories included at least one source from the administration. The next most common type of source, though occurring about half as frequently, was another news organization or journalist (35%), followed by Republican and Democratic members of Congress (26% and 21%, respectively). Sources outside of government and media were less common, with experts cited in 16% of stories, interest groups in 13% and citizens in just 5%.

Overall, a majority of coverage (62%) included at least two of the nine types of sources studied, but just 29% included three or more.

Another nuance in the findings highlights the relationship between the number of different source types included in a story and the assessment of the administration. Overall, stories with two or more source types were more likely than stories with fewer source types to have an overall negative assessment – about half (51%) of stories with two or more source types, compared with about a third (34%) of those that had zero or one source type. In other words, stories with a greater mix of voices were more likely to have an overall negative sense of the president’s actions or statements.

Finally, amid America’s experience with a president who regularly uses Twitter as a way of communicating directly with the public, roughly one-in-six stories (16%) contained a direct tweet from President Trump.
Compared with past administrations, coverage of Trump’s early days focused less on policy and was more negative overall

The Center has also conducted similar analyses for the early months of the three prior administrations: those of Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. But for each succeeding president, the media universe has expanded dramatically. While today, for example, about nine-in-ten U.S. adults (89%) get at least some news online, just 14% of Americans even reported using the internet in 1995 during Clinton’s first term. Thus, in addition to the examination of how the broad news media landscape covered and assessed the first 100 days of the Trump administration, the study also looked for historical comparisons of coverage of the first 60 days across a smaller universe of outlets that existed during all four time points, representing a mix of print publications and network evening news.

Compared with the three prior presidencies, coverage of Trump’s early days in office moved further away from a focus on the policy agenda (31% of stories, compared with 50% for Obama, 65% for Bush and 58% for Clinton) and toward character and leadership. And the evaluations of President Trump were far more negative and less positive than those of his predecessors.
Elements of coverage studied

This study examined how the news media covered the first 100 days of President Trump and his administration from Jan. 21 through April 30, 2017. Researchers coded stories from the 24 news outlets – with content pulled from more than 40 specific programs or websites – for a number of measures:

Trigger: This measure identifies the actor responsible for the action, event or editorial decision that initiated a story’s production. For instance, a story about health care may have been triggered by a speech by the president or a new bill written by a Republican member of Congress. In the first case, the trigger would be the Trump administration, while in the second it would be congressional Republicans. There were 12 different types of triggers identified in this study.

Topic: News stories were first coded as being about one of 44 specific topics or storylines (the most prominent topic within each story was coded as the story’s overall topic), which then were grouped into three broad topic categories: 1) Domestic issues 2) foreign affairs and 3) the president’s management and political approach.

Frame: When reporting a story about a specific topic, there are various frames that journalists can use to orient the narrative. This study classified stories into one of two main frames (whichever accounted for more than 50% of the story): 1) the president’s leadership and character or 2) his core ideology and policy agenda. For example, an article or segment about health care could be framed around the legislative differences in what the administration is proposing versus members of Congress (thus coded as core ideology and policy agenda). Or, such a story could be framed around the evaluation of the president in terms of his outreach to and relationship with members of Congress, which would then be coded as leadership and character.

Source types: The study also measured nine different types of sources that might be cited in a story: 1) Trump or a member of the administration, 2) the Trump organization or a family member (not in the administration), 3) a congressional Democrat, 4) a congressional Republican, 5) an issue-based group or interest group, 6) an expert, 7) a poll, 8) a journalist (other than the reporter or anchor of the story) or news organization, and 9) a citizen. This measure identifies the presence of a type of source in any given article, not the total number of individual sources. There could be more than one source within any source category, such as quotes from two members of the administration. There may also have been sources used outside the types listed above that were not captured in this study.

Assessment of the Trump administration: In this analysis, each statement in a story (made by a source or the reporter him or herself) was analyzed to determine how, if at all, it assessed President Trump and his administration’s actions or words. Within a story, there needed to be at least twice as many positive as negative statements for a story to be considered positive and vice versa to be considered negative. If this threshold was not met, stories were coded as neither positive nor negative.

Refutations: The news media can play a fact checking role in its coverage of politics and, in the course of that fact checking, can sometimes indicate that a statement is inaccurate or a misrepresentation. Accordingly, this measure identifies any instance in which the journalist directly challenges a statement made by Trump or a member of his administration, by saying it is incorrect.

Trump tweets: This measure identifies whether a story included a direct tweet from President Trump, either cited in text or repeated verbally.

Covering President Trump in a Polarized Media Environment

1. Coverage from news outlets with a right-leaning audience cited fewer source types, featured more positive assessments than coverage from other two groups

By Amy Mitchell, Jeffrey Gottfried, Galen Stocking, Katerina Eva Matsa and Elizabeth Grieco

Americans’ news habits are diversifying, and where people turn for their political news often differs by their own political leanings. This study examines coverage of the Trump administration’s first 100 days and what impact differences in media choices can have on the news Americans may receive.

The 24 news outlets studied here were organized into three groups based on their audiences’ political orientation: outlets with two-thirds more audience members who are right of center than left (according to Pew Research Center surveys), those with two-thirds more left of center than right, and outlets with a more evenly distributed audience base. In these surveys, respondents were asked whether they regularly got news about the 2016 election or about politics from each outlet.

Overall, the study found that Americans tended to hear about a similar mix of topics from the news media, whether or not those outlets had a left-leaning audience or a right-leaning audience. Similarly, a good deal of the coverage across outlets was framed around the president’s leadership and character rather than policy.

But there were also differences across outlets based on the ideological composition of their audiences. In particular, the balance of positive or negative assessments made about the administration’s words or actions varied, as did the voices that were featured in stories. It was primarily the outlets with a right-leaning audience that differed from those with a left-leaning and a more mixed audience, which were more similar to each other.

It is important to note that there are differences in the coverage across the three platforms studied. For example, stories appearing on a digital platform were overall much more likely to name multiple source types than stories from both television and radio. Even so, there are large differences within platforms across the outlet groupings. For number of source types, three-quarters of digital stories from outlets with a left-leaning audience cited multiple sources, 17 percentage points higher than those from outlets with a right-leaning audience (58%). The same pattern holds for both television and radio. This suggests, then, that platform may be a small part of the story, but is not the full story. There are still decisions made within news organizations that impact the content audiences receive.
General topics covered and overarching frames were similar across outlet groups

During the first 100 days of the Trump administration, news outlets covered a very similar mix of topics and were united in framing their stories much more around leadership rather than policy debates. This was true across the three key groupings of news outlets based on the ideological leaning of their audience.

Outlets with a more left-leaning audience, those that lean more to the right and those with a more mixed audience were about as likely to focus the bulk of their coverage on the same five specific topics: the president’s political skills, immigration, appointments and nominations, U.S.-Russia relations and health care. And rolling up all 44 of the topics studied into three broad areas shows similar proportions of coverage around each: domestic issues, president’s management and political approach, and foreign affairs (though outlets with a more mixed audience put slightly greater emphasis on foreign affairs).
Stories from outlets appealing to a right-leaning audience cite fewer source types – including fewer experts, issue groups and the administration

Beyond the similar topic and frame of stories, however, other differences emerge. A majority of stories from outlets with a left-leaning and a more mixed audience included at least two of nine different types of sources assessed (70% and 62%, respectively). That was true, however, of less than half (44%) of stories from outlets appealing to a right-leaning audience.

The specific types of sources cited less frequently by outlets with a right-leaning audience were members of the Trump administration, outside experts and interest or issue groups.

Outlets with a right-leaning audience were roughly one-fourth as likely as outlets with a left-leaning audience to cite at least one outside expert in their stories (5% compared with 22%) and about one-third as likely to do so as outlets with a more mixed audience (16%).

Similarly, statements from issue groups such as the Sierra Club, National Rifle Association or U.S. Travel Association appeared in just 5% of stories from outlets with a right-leaning audience, compared with 16% of those with a left-leaning and 14% of those with a more mixed audience. And while roughly eight-in-ten stories from outlets with a left-leaning (78%) or more mixed audiences (80%) cited Trump or another member of the administration, that was the case for closer to half (55%) of stories from outlets with a right-leaning audience.

Additionally, coverage from outlets appealing to a right-leaning audience was half as likely as coverage from the other two groups to cite both a Democratic and Republican Congress member in the same story – 7%, versus 14% among outlets with left-leaning and 15% among outlets with a more mixed audience.

One area where outlets with a more mixed audience differed from the others was in the use of journalists as sources. While members of the news media were cited in about four-in-ten stories from both outlets with a right- and left-leaning audience (41% and 39%, respectively), they appeared in just a quarter of stories from outlets with a more mixed audience. This is in sync with the lower tendency of this group to produce stories that stemmed from a journalist’s own statement, action or investigative reporting.
Outlets with left-leaning and more mixed audiences offer more negative assessments of Trump and the administration’s words or actions; those with right-leaning offer more positive

The statements made by the sources in a story as well as the reporter him- or herself determine whether a story overall has a positive, negative, or neither positive nor negative evaluation of the subject matter of the story. During the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, the tenor of the assessments of the president and his administration’s words and actions differed markedly in outlets with a right-leaning audience compared with the other two groups.

The tone of coverage from outlets with a left-leaning audience and those with a more mixed audience was far less positive and more negative toward the Trump administration than coverage from those with a right-leaning audience.

In these first two groups – those with a left-leaning audience and those whose audience is more mixed – stories with an overall negative assessment outweighed those with a positive assessment by at least seven-to-one. More than half (56%) of stories from outlets with a left-of-center audience offered a negative evaluation of the president and his administration, compared with just 5% that offered a positive one. Among outlets with a more mixed audience, the balance was 47% negative to 6% positive.

One example of a story with a negative assessment appeared in a Los Angeles Times story about a march in Mexico City demonstrating against Trump and his policies. “‘We are not against the American people. This is about Trump, who is spreading hate and division,’ said Maria Garcia, a former resident of Chicago who carried an unflattering, papier-mache likeness of the U.S. president as she marched through the Mexican capital. ‘The United States and Mexico are natural friends and allies, but Trump is destroying this,’ added Garcia, who later publicly burned the Trump effigy.”

In contrast, among the outlets with a right-leaning audience, about twice as many stories carried a positive assessment of the president (31%) as a negative one (14%). Most (55%) were neither clearly positive nor negative.

In one example from IJR, the journalist praised Trump’s pick of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster for national security adviser: “President Trump is adding a brilliant and capable military man to his staff of national security advisers.”
Assessment across outlet groups by topic

The tendency of outlets with a left-leaning or a more mixed audience to deliver a greater amount of negative coverage than those with a right-leaning audience extended across the five most prominent topic areas covered.

In fact, in outlets appealing to a left-leaning audience and those with a more mixed audience, negative coverage exceeded positive or neutral coverage for four of the five main topic areas: the president’s political skills, immigration, U.S.-Russia relations and health care. The exception was coverage of presidential appointments and nominations, which contained equal portions of stories with neutral and negative assessments. Across all five topics, positive assessments made up no more than 8% of stories.

Among the outlets appealing to a right-leaning audience, on the other hand, the largest portion of stories tended to carry neither a clearly positive nor clearly negative assessment. Furthermore, though never a majority share of coverage, positive assessments were consistently far more prevalent than in other groups.1

As time passed during these first 100 days, the overall assessments of the administration’s words or actions in stories from outlets with a left-leaning audience and those with a more mixed audience became less negative and more neutral, though no more positive; the tone of coverage from those with a right-leaning audience had no consistent pattern over time.
Refutations by journalists most common in outlets with a left-leaning audience, Twitter citations more even

Overall, the reporter or anchor directly refuted something President Trump or his administration said in one-in-ten stories studied. But this was about seven times as likely to occur in coverage from outlets appealing to a left-leaning audience (15%) than a right-leaning audience (2%). This occurred in stories from outlets with a more mixed audience 10% of the time.

Looking more deeply into the outlet groups where this was more common (outlets with a left-leaning or more mixed audience), refutations were most likely to appear around the topic of the president’s political skills (27% and 25% of stories, respectively) than any of the other five prominent topics.

For example, in a CNN piece reviewing the president’s first week in office, the reporter stated that Trump “vowed to pursue a ‘major investigation’ into the massive voter fraud conspiracy he’s peddled as a means of explaining away his loss in the presidential popular vote – even though there is, again, no evidence anything of the sort occurred.”

Additionally, for both of these outlet groups – those with a left-leaning audience and those with a more mixed audience – stories with a refutation were more likely to be negative in tone than those without a refutation.2

In another example, from a segment from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, the host refuted the president’s claim that U.S. intelligence agencies agreed with his position that Russia did not try to influence the 2016 election. Cooper said: “The other pushback from the White House today via Twitter was they said, I’m putting it up, ‘The NSA and FBI tell Congress Russia did not influence electoral process.’ That is not true. The official White House position on this was not true.”

The three outlet groups were similar in the extent to which stories included direct tweets from the president, though those with a more mixed audience were somewhat more likely than those with a right-leaning audience to do so (19% vs. 11%), while those with a left-leaning audience fell in between.
Statements and actions from the administration drove most coverage – though less so among news outlets with a right-leaning audience

What sparked the production of a story in the first place differed in subtle ways across the three outlet groups. Stories produced by outlets with a right-leaning audience were less likely to stem from actions by Trump and the administration – though it was still the most common trigger (37% of stories versus 45% among outlets with a left-leaning audience and 50% among a more mixed audience). Stories from outlets with a more mixed audience, meanwhile, were less likely to be driven by the news media themselves – either by their own investigative work or by a statement or action by a member of the news media.