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Open Society Needs Defending - by George Soros

Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of closed societies – from fascist dictatorships to mafia states – are on the rise. Because elected leaders failed to meet voters’ legitimate expectations and aspirations, electorates have become disenchanted with the prevailing versions of democracy and capitalism.

DEC 28, 2016

NEW YORK – Well before Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, I sent a holiday greeting to my friends that read: “These times are not business as usual. Wishing you the best in a troubled world.” Now I feel the need to share this message with the rest of the world. But before I do, I must tell you who I am and what I stand for.

I am an 86-year-old Hungarian Jew who became a US citizen after the end of World War II. I learned at an early age how important it is what kind of political regime prevails. The formative experience of my life was the occupation of Hungary by Hitler’s Germany in 1944. I probably would have perished had my father not understood the gravity of the situation. He arranged false identities for his family and for many other Jews; with his help, most survived.

In 1947, I escaped from Hungary, by then under Communist rule, to England. As a student at the London School of Economics, I came under the influence of the philosopher Karl Popper, and I developed my own philosophy, built on the twin pillars of fallibility and reflexivity. I distinguished between two kinds of political regimes: those in which people elected their leaders, who were then supposed to look after the interests of the electorate, and others where the rulers sought to manipulate their subjects to serve the rulers’ interests. Under Popper’s influence, I called the first kind of society open, the second, closed.

The classification is too simplistic. There are many degrees and variations throughout history, from well-functioning models to failed states, and many different levels of government in any particular situation. Even so, I find the distinction between the two regime types useful. I became an active promoter of the former and opponent of the latter.

I find the current moment in history very painful. Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of closed societies – from fascist dictatorships to mafia states – are on the rise. How could this happen? The only explanation I can find is that elected leaders failed to meet voters’ legitimate expectations and aspirations and that this failure led electorates to become disenchanted with the prevailing versions of democracy and capitalism. Quite simply, many people felt that the elites had stolen their democracy.


The move could box in Donald Trump: Obama imposed sanctions on Russia, the strongest U.S. response

President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia, the strongest U.S. response to foreign hacking. The move could box in Donald Trump.

U.S. Punishes Russia for Election Hacking, Ejecting Operatives

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration struck back at Russia on Thursday for its efforts to influence the 2016 election, ejecting 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and imposing sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services, including four top officers of the military intelligence unit the White House believes ordered the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations.

In a sweeping set of announcements, the United States was also expected to release evidence linking the cyberattacks to computer systems used by Russian intelligence. Taken together, the actions would amount to the strongest American response ever taken to a state-sponsored cyberattack aimed at the United States.

The sanctions were also intended to box in President-elect Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump has consistently cast doubt that the Russian government had anything to do with the hacking of the D.N.C. or other political institutions, saying American intelligence agencies could not be trusted and suggesting that the hacking could have been the work of a “400-pound guy” lying in his bed.

Mr. Trump will now have to decide whether to lift the sanctions on the Russian intelligence agencies when he takes office next month, with Republicans in Congress among those calling for a public investigation into Russia’s actions. Should Mr. Trump do so, it would require him to effectively reject the findings of his intelligence agencies.

Asked on Wednesday night at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., about reports of the impending sanctions, Mr. Trump said: “I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.”


U.S. expels 35 Russian diplomats, closes two compounds: official

Thu Dec 29, 2016 | 2:05pm EST

The United States on Thursday expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to a campaign of harassment by Russia against American diplomats in Moscow, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

The U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the Russian diplomats would be given 72 hours to leave the United States. Access to the two compounds will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on Friday, the official added.

"These actions were taken to respond to Russian harassment of American diplomats and actions by the diplomats that we have assessed to be not consistent with diplomatic practice," the official told Reuters.




President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia, the strongest U.S. response to foreign hacking. The move could box in Donald Trump.


Mahmoud Abbas: I Will Restart Peace Talks if Israel Freezes Settlement Construction

Source: Newsweek

BY JACK MOORE ON 12/29/16 AT 8:22 AM

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that he is willing to restart peace negotiations with Israel if Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government halts all construction of settlements in the West Bank.

His call came after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s final, major speech on the Middle East in which he criticized both sides of the conflict for failures to enhance peace.

Kerry took particular aim at Israel’s settlement enterprise, which consists of more than 500,000 Jewish settlers living in East Jerusalem and West Bank outposts that much of the international community deems illegal under international law.

“The minute the Israeli government agrees to cease all settlement activities... and agrees to implement the signed agreements on the basis of mutual reciprocity, the Palestinian leadership stands ready to resume permanent status negotiations on the basis of international law and relevant international legality resolutions… under a specified time frame,” Abbas said in a statement.

Read more: http://www.newsweek.com/mahmoud-abbas-i-will-restart-peace-talks-if-israel-freezes-settlement-536787

The Looming Nightmare for Women's Health Under Trump

BY NINA BURLEIGH ON 12/29/16 AT 11:46 AM

Donald Trump’s victory in the recent presidential election has been attributed to the many angry, underemployed whites and other voters who long for the days when America was, supposedly, greater than it is now. But he also owes his win to another, much smaller group—a fierce, single-issue cult that has been trying for decades, with increasing success, to limit women’s access to contraception and abortion.

Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans are pro-choice, but Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress now have the power to enable anti-choice states to completely cut off women’s access to abortion, and to apply the power of the federal government to restrict women’s access to contraceptives and low-cost care by shutting down Planned Parenthood clinics, and stacking lower courts and the Supreme Court with judges whose rulings will affect American women of childbearing age for a generation to come.

Based on his promises and the records of his appointees, Trump will enter the White House one day before the 44th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling as possibly the most anti-choice president in 50 years. Meanwhile, the surge of Google searches for DIY abortions indicate that American women in many states are already back in the age of the coat-hanger. Several state legislatures are poised to ban abortion, even in the case of rape and incest, and various bills targeting doctors and researchers are moving through Congress.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, spoke with Newsweek about what’s at stake with this new administration, and what American women can do to prepare.


Charles Manson follower seeks parole 47 years after killings

Source: Associated Press

THURSDAY, DEC 29, 2016 01:00 PM EST

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Patricia Krenwinkel, once a devout follower of cult killer Charles Manson and now the longest-serving female inmate in California, appeared again Thursday before a parole board — 47 years after she helped kill pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six other people.

Krenwinkel, 69, has been denied parole 13 times since her conviction in the 1969 slayings.

She acknowledged during her trial that she chased down and repeatedly stabbed Abigail Ann Folger, the 26-year-old heiress of a coffee fortune, at Tate’s home and helped kill grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, the following night.

Los Angeles County prosecutors say Krenwinkel carved the word “war” into Leno LaBianca’s stomach, then wrote “Helter Skelter” in blood on the couple’s refrigerator.

Read more: http://www.salon.com/2016/12/29/charles-manson-follower-seeks-parole-47-years-after-killings/

Sean Spicer Suggests Trump Might Replace Regular Press Conferences With Twitter, Facebook

Source: Mediaite

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested in an interview with conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt that president-elect Donald Trump might replace regular presidential press conferences with chats on Twitter and Facebook.

“Do you expect him to keep up a regular and as energetic a series of press conferences as previous presidents?” Hewitt asked Thursday. “Do you expect him to be more or less engaged than previous presidents with that setting, that formal East Room setting sort of thing?”

“That’s a good question,” responded Spicer, “because I think the thing that you’ve seen with Donald Trump is that he doesn’t look to the past and say ‘I’ve got to conform to these precedents.’ He figures out what’s the best way. And so maybe we do a series of press conferences, but maybe we do some town hall, you know, Facebook town halls. Maybe we go out and solicit input from Twitter. I don’t– the answer is we’re looking at a lot of things,” he continued.

Spicer did say that Trump wouldn’t do away with press conferences entirely, calling them “part of the fabric of our country” that they “have to sort of do.” But he argued that Trump’s millions of social media followers awarded “some new opportunities we can be utilizing to bring more people into the process and have a conservation with the American people, and not just limit it through the filter of the mainstream media.”


Read more: http://www.mediaite.com/online/sean-spicer-suggests-trump-might-replace-regular-press-conferences-with-twitter-facebook/

Trump tells visitors he's drafting his inaugural speech with Reagan and Kennedy in mind

President-elect Donald Trump privately told several visitors to his winter retreat in Florida on Wednesday that he is writing the first draft of his inaugural speech and is looking to presidents Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy for inspiration, according to three people familiar with the conversation.

Trump told them that Reagan’s “style” and Kennedy’s articulation of grand national ambitions are central to how he thinks through his own speech, which will be given Jan. 20, the people said. And while Trump is working closely with Stephen Miller, his aide and speechwriter, on the text, he confided that in recent days he has become more personally involved in the writing process, the people said.

The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the conversation.

A Trump transition spokesperson was not available for comment.



Jesse Jackson Jr. Divorcing

December 29, 2016By Taegan Goddard

Former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, who is seeking a divorce from ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., “said in court filings this week that he has income of at least $10,250 a month while she is out of work and has been borrowing from friends and selling her belongings to stay afloat,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

“Sandi Jackson filed for divorce in Washington, while her husband filed in Cook County. The former Democratic lawmakers pleaded guilty to felonies in 2013 and later completed staggered terms in federal prison.”



Obama Getting Under Trump's Skin

December 29, 2016
By Taegan Goddard

Politico: “Donald Trump can’t decide whether he thinks the transition of power is going well or not. But he knows he doesn’t like how much attention Barack Obama is getting and is also bothered by what Trump and his closest advisers see as an active effort to poke the president-elect and undermine the incoming administration with last-minute policy changes on his way out of office, according to two people close to the transition.”

“And the relationship is likely to get worse in the three weeks until the inauguration: Obama is scheduled to give a farewell address Jan. 10 that is expected to be a recounting of his successes and an inherent contrast with Trump and the administration is rushing to make public a report on Russian hacking during the election that intelligence officials say was done to help Trump, though the president-elect has disputed that entirely.”


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