Trump To Interview Four Candidates For National Security Job Sunday

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President Donald Trump on Sunday will interview acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg and three other candidates to fill the vacancy left by the firing of Michael Flynn, the White House said on Saturday.

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster and Lieutenant General Robert Caslen are also being interviewed for the top national security position, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Trump, who has been searching for a new national security adviser for about a week, could add a couple more candidates to the list, Spicer said.

Retired general and former CIA chief David Petraeus is no longer a candidate, Spicer said.

The retired four-star general, who resigned as head of the CIA in 2012 after it was revealed he was having an affair with his biographer, had been on a short list for the job after Flynn was let go.

Spicer said Trump’s finalists include Kellogg, Bolton, Caslen, who is the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and McMaster, who holds a senior post with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Former U.S. National Security Agency head Keith Alexander, and former Army chief of staff Ray Odierno were also thought to be in contention for the job.

Flynn, who was Trump’s first national security adviser, stepped down after revelations that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

Finding a replacement has been a challenge for Trump.

Retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, the president’s first choice to take over for Flynn, turned down the offer, citing family and financial reasons.

A source familiar with the matter said Petraeus, like Harward, wanted control over staffing decisions within the NSC, and Trump was reluctant to grant that authority.

Trump is spending the weekend at his properties in Florida.

“Will be having many meetings this weekend at The Southern White House,” he wrote in a tweet on Saturday morning.

The president spent the morning at the Trump International Golf Club before returning to his Mar-a-Lago resort. A White House official said he would be having meetings and might play golf.

The rocky start for the NSC under Trump has had an impact in other areas.

The White House dismissed Craig Deare, the NSC’s senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, after receiving reports that he had criticized the president and top aides, Politico reported. An NSC spokesman declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and John Walcott in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao)

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New U.S. Travel Ban To Spare Green Card Holders: Trump Official

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A new version of a Trump administration travel ban will not stop green card residency holders or travelers already on planes from entering the United States, U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security John Kelly said on Saturday.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s initial attempt to clamp down for security reasons on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and on refugees snarled to a halt amid a judicial backlash and chaos at airports.

“The president is contemplating releasing a tighter, more streamlined version of the first (order). And I will have opportunity to work (on) a rollout plan, in particular to make sure that there’s no one in a sense caught in the system of moving from overseas to our airports,” Kelly said at the Munich Security Conference.

Asked whether green card residency permit holders would be allowed in, Kelly said: “It’s a good assumption and, as far as the visas go, … if they’re in motion from some distant land to the United States, when they arrive they will be allowed in.”

He promised “a short phase-in period to make sure that people on the other end don’t get on airplanes. But if they’re on an airplane and inbound, they’ll be allowed to enter the country.”

Trump’s original order, which he said was meant to head off attacks by Islamist militants, barred people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering for 90 days and excluded all refugees for 120 days, except those from Syria, who were banned indefinitely.

The abrupt implementation of the order last month plunged the immigration system into chaos, sparking a wave of criticism from the countries affected, and from Western allies and some of America’s leading corporations, especially technology firms.

(Reporting By Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Alec Baldwin-Linked '30 Rock' Actor Handed In His Resignation To Donald Trump

Like his “30 Rock” colleague, Alec Baldwin, actor Maulik Pancholy has gone on to join the resistance against President Donald Trump in his own way.

Along with other members of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Pancholy handed in his resignation to the president on Wednesday, citing Trump’s controversial executive orders affecting refugees and immigrants.

President Barack Obama originally appointed Pancholy to the commission, which works with the federal government to serve Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the United States. His appointment was scheduled to last through September 2017.

The resigning members released a joint letter, excerpted below:

We can no longer serve a President whose policies aim to create outcomes that are diametrically opposed to our principles, goals, and charge … Since your Inauguration, the Executive Orders you have issued and policies you have promulgated have greatly impeded the ability of the federal government to serve all who live here.

The actor tweeted about the decision earlier this week and has spent the last few days retweeting various follow-ups. 

Pancholy also wrote his own separate note to Trump:

On “30 Rock,” Pancholy played the assistant to Alec Baldwin’s character, Jack Donaghey. Donaghey memorably fired Jonathan without any thought to prove a point to Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon.

It must have felt good for Pancholy to tell Trump there would be no “you’re fired” moment, because he’s already quit.

Here’s the relevant “30 Rock” scene:

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HUFFPOST HILL – Trump To Suffer Through Presidential Holiday About Someone Else

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President Trump wondered “what can look so beautiful at 30?” while discussing Air Force One, recalling the time he told Howard Stern that 35 Is “Check-Out Time” for Airbuses. Trump’s approval rating is an abysmal 38 percent, suggesting his campaign strategy dedicated entirely to building a Trump TV audience hasn’t really changed. And Scott Pruitt, a longstanding ally of oil companies, was confirmed as EPA administrator, yet more proof for Jill Stein voters that there’s no difference between Hillary and Trump. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, February 17th, 2017:

Happy holiday weekend, everyone! @realDonaldTrump: The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

YES, A LITERAL DEPORTATION FORCE – As America continues its transformation into a dystopian YA novel. Garance Burke: “The Trump administration considered a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press. Staffers in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said they had been told by colleagues in two DHS departments that the proposal was still being considered as recently as Feb. 10. A DHS official described the document as a very early draft that was not seriously considered and never brought to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly for approval. The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana. The document can be accessed at http://apne.ws/2l1Dj0k” [AP]

Hey, what is reality, anyway: “President Donald Trump’s administration labeled The Associated Press’s reporting on a leak ‘100 percent false’ on Friday morning, only to acknowledge less than an hour later that the story was based on a real document. The administration’s response mimicked Trump’s remark a day earlier that even if leaks coming out of the government are ‘real,’ the news is ‘fake.’ And it also fit into what appears to be a pattern of ignoring reporters’ requests for comment, only to push back quickly after stories are published.” [HuffPost’s Michael Calderone]

SENATE CONFIRMS PRUITT DESPITE DOCUMENT DUMP – Obama appointees, endangered animals both told to clean out desks. Alexander Kaufman: “The Senate narrowly confirmed Scott Pruitt as the new Environmental Protection Agency chief on Friday, despite Democrats’ calls to delay the vote until the release of a new trove of documents detailing the Oklahoma attorney general’s relationship with oil and gas companies. The 52-46 vote divided the Senate along party lines, with just two Democrats ― Sens. Joe Manchin (W.V.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), who are up for re-election in states with big fossil fuel industries ― voting to confirm Pruitt. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) did not vote. Pruitt won the Senate’s approval the day after Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons of the District Court of Oklahoma County ordered his office to turn over more than 2,500 emails and other documents by Tuesday. The watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy, represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit against Pruitt earlier this month, alleging his office had violated Oklahoma’s open records law.” [HuffPost]

THAT MOMENT  WHEN WE EXPAND VISA PROGRAMS TO FIND A NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR –  *area man stares at laundromat corkboard, sees posting for security consulting gig on piece of paper with phone number tear offs.* Jeff Mason: “U.S. President Donald Trump, scrambling to find a new top security aide after firing his first one and being spurned by another candidate, said on Friday he has four people under consideration including acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg…. ‘General Keith Kellogg, who I have known for a long time, is very much in play for NSA – as are three others,’ Trump said on Twitter, without naming the other candidates…. Former CIA chief David Petraeus was previously identified as a candidate by a White House official. Former U.S. National Security Agency head Keith Alexander and former supreme allied commander in Europe James Jones, who held the national security adviser post under former Democratic President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2010, were also thought to be under consideration. Both are retired generals. Two others also thought to be in contention were former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, who holds a senior post with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.” [Reuters]

Like HuffPost Hill? Then order Eliot’s book, The Beltway Bible: A Totally Serious A-Z Guide To Our No-Good, Corrupt, Incompetent, Terrible, Depressing, and Sometimes Hilarious Government

Does somebody keep forwarding you this newsletter? Get your own copy. It’s free! Sign up here. Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to eliot@huffingtonpost.com. Follow us on Twitter – @HuffPostHill

SCOTUS TO HEAR THREE CRUCIAL IMMIGRATION CASES – Lawrence Hurley: “The U.S. Supreme Court will decide three cases in coming months that could help or hinder President Donald Trump’s efforts to ramp up border security and accelerate deportations of those in the country illegally…. The most pertinent of the three cases in terms of Republican Trump administration priorities involves whether immigrants in custody for deportation proceedings have the right to a hearing to request their release when their cases are not promptly adjudicated…. The other immigration cases to be decided concern whether U.S. government officials can be sued over mistreatment of non-citizens in two separate contexts. One will decide whether the family of 15-year-old Mexican teenager Sergio Hernandez, who was killed while on Mexican soil by a U.S. agent firing from across the border in Texas, can sue under the U.S. Constitution…. The court hears arguments in that case on Feb. 21. The second is a civil lawsuit brought by immigrants, mainly Muslims, who were detained in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and claim they were mistreated.” [Reuters]

GREAT LEADER WILL NOT BE DISRESPECTED – The president is going to be pretty surprised to learn how many people in the government wrote mean things about him. Maggie Haberman and Yamiche Alcindor:  “A top aide to President Trump’s housing secretary nominee, Ben Carson, was fired and led out of the department’s headquarters by security on Wednesday after writings critical of Mr. Trump surfaced in his vetting, according to two people briefed on the matter. Shermichael Singleton, who was one of the few black conservatives in the Trump administration, had been working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development since Jan. 23 as a senior adviser. He was preparing a cross-country tour for Mr. Carson, who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate this month. But according to the two people briefed, Mr. Singleton’s background check had not been completed. As it was being finished this week, Mr. Trump’s advisers turned up public writings by Mr. Singleton that appeared during the later stages of the campaign in which he was deeply critical of the candidate. ‘My party in particular has allowed itself to be taken over by someone who claims to be a Republican but doesn’t represent any of our values, principles or traditions,’ he wrote in The Hill in October 2016.” [NYT]

SPICEY’S GETTING SOME HELP – Someone’s got to keep the Super Soaker filled up. John Wagner and Philip Rucker: “Mike Dubke, a veteran Republican media strategist, has been hired as the White House communications director, potentially providing some relief for its embattled press secretary, Sean Spicer, who’s been holding down both jobs. With the appointment, which a White House official confirmed Friday, President Trump is reaching outside his circle of trusted campaign aides to try to bolster his messaging operation. Dubke is founder of Crossroads Media, an Alexandria-based firm with political and corporate clients.” [WaPo]

KUSHNER PUTTING PRESSURE ON CNN – How do you keep a straight face while claiming that the network that employs Chris Cuomo is too hard-hitting? Keach Hagey and Damian Paletta: “Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, met with a senior Time Warner Inc. executive in recent weeks and expressed the administration’s deep concerns about CNN’s news coverage, according to a White House official and other people familiar with the matter. In a meeting at the White House, Mr. Kushner complained to Gary Ginsberg, executive vice president of corporate marketing and communications at CNN’s parent Time Warner, about what Mr. Kushner feels is unfair coverage slanted against the president, the people said. The Trump administration’s hostile posture toward the news media, especially CNN, has been evident in the president’s own statements and those of his press secretary and top aides. On Thursday, Mr. Trump lashed into CNN once again at a news conference, calling it ‘very fake news’ with expert commentary that is ‘almost exclusively anti-Trump.’” [WSJ]

TRUMP AT HISTORIC LOWS IN GALLUP TRACKER – America is increasingly sympathetic to Trump U patrons. Sarah Westwood: “President Trump’s approval rating fell to 38 percent on Friday after a week of turmoil that included the departure of his national security adviser and the public airing of tensions between the intelligence community and the West Wing. The Gallup poll found that 56 percent of respondents disapproved of Trump’s performance in office. Trump’s predecessor survived more than two years before his job approval hit such lows. Former President Barack Obama saw his approval rating decline to 38 percent in August and October 2011 amid a bitter debt ceiling fight in Congress that saw the U.S. credit rating downgraded.” [Washington Examiner]

No snowballs in the Senate this winter, sadly: “Area residents might remember this as the winter without a winter. As we inch closer toward actual spring, February — a month known for its big snowstorms — has a chance to conclude with the longest warm spell in recorded history. And the month is likely to rank among the two warmest.” [WaPo’s Ian Livingston]

PROFILES IN COWARDICE – La la la they can’t hear you. David Weigel: “According to the Town Hall Project, which collates information about public town halls, there are no availabilities in Utah — where every federal officeholder is a Republican — over the coming week. That’s not a fluke. Just 19 Republican members of Congress have scheduled traditional town halls over the week-long recess. Several more, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have listed ticketed events or ‘office hours;’ a few more have announced tele-town halls, which allow constituents to lob questions without risking a ‘YouTube moment.’” [WaPo]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR – Here’s a hedgehog getting a bath.

PRO TIP: DON’T TRUST ANYTHING – That the Trump administration hasn’t already been caught up in some kind of game show-related spycraft is incredible. Oliver Holmes: An Indonesian woman arrested for suspected involvement in the killing of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Malaysia was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank, Indonesia’s national police chief has said, citing information received from Malaysian authorities. Tito Karnavian told reporters in Indonesia’s Aceh province that Siti Aisyah, 25, was paid to be involved in pranks. He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water. ‘Such an action was done three or four times and they were given a few dollars for it, and with the last target, Kim Jong-nam, allegedly there were dangerous materials in the sprayer,’ Karnavian said. ‘She was not aware that it was an assassination attempt by alleged foreign agents.’” [Guardian]

COMFORT FOOD

–  A guy built a robot that can train people to defeat Donald Trump’s handshake.

– Why a convicted cannibal was released from jail.

– That time someone tried to prove that George Washington was descended from Odin.

TWITTERAMA

@libbycwatson: you just know a bunch of the most annoying journalists are gonna put “enemy of the american people” in their bios now

@JGreenDC: We love you too!

@eveewing: Tr*mp complaining about these leaks is like the boyfriend who says the problem isn’t that he cheated, it’s that you looked at his phone

Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffingtonpost.com)

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Source: Huff Politics

State Senator Cracked A Table To Stop A Woman's Pro-Choice Testimony

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On Wednesday, Texas State Senator Charles Schwertner accidentally smashed a glass table with his gavel while attempting to silence an intern from NARAL Pro-Choice Texas during her testimony against an anti-abortion bill. 

Maggie Hennessy, the 24-year-old intern, was testifying against Senate Bill 415 which would limit physicians’ abilities to perform dilation and evacuation procedures (also known as D&E, but referred in the bill as “dismemberment”). This procedure is the safest form of second-trimester abortion and is used in almost all cases. 

“Senate Bill 415 is not designed to protect women’s health and will have the result of harming women in Texas,” Hennessy said in her two-minute testimony. “A vote in favor of this bill is a vote against women’s health… Considering Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the United States ― a rate so high that it is even comparable to rates in countries where abortion is illegal ― I have to ask how, how will this bill do anything but further increase that rate?” 

Hennessy was finishing her testimony ―  a few seconds over the time limit ― with a powerful message: “I urge you all to stop playing with reproductive health care as if it’s your own political puppet.” 

Sen. Schwertner attempted to stop her by thanking her and telling her her time was up.

As Hennessy finished her statement, Sen. Schwertner slammed his gavel so hard he cracked the glass table. The entire room went silent and the Senator gave Hennessy a stern look. 

The smashed glass is not visible in the video of the hearing, but Communications Director of NARAL Texas Alex Garcia-Ditta, who was at the hearing, tweeted a photo of the table.

Sen. Schwertner appeared to reserve his irritation at those going over the allotted testimony time for Hennessy. Other testimonies went over time, but the senator did not use his gavel and even allowed the president of Texas Alliance for Life to extend his statement. 

A spokesperson for Sen. Schwertner told Cosmopolitan that the senator hit the table accidentally because he was simply trying “to run an orderly meeting,” and, “the reality is he’s got a little gavel block, and he hit the glass instead of hitting the sounder.”

In a statement sent to The Huffington Post, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Heather Busby reflected on the hearing and what the three anti-abortion bills, if passed, would mean for women.

Today’s hearing revealed once again that anti-choice politicians continue to rely on ideologues and scare tactics to peddle these baseless measures. The hearing also revealed no regard for the dignity of pregnant Texans or the legal system. All of the bills heard by the Senate today are thinly veiled attempts to ban abortion. Banning the safest methods of abortion does nothing to enhance patients’ health and safety; in fact, banning abortion methods puts people’s lives at risk. There is no room for politicians in the exam room.

“I don’t know why he banged [the gavel] so aggressively,” Hennessy told Cosmo. “He just clearly was rattled by it… I’m not scared by it. It encourages me to keep fighting this good fight.”

The Huffington Post reached out to Schwertner’s office but did not hear back by the time of publication. 

Watch the full hearing here

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Emma Watson's Dream House Guest Is, Duh, Michelle Obama

This video has all the things we love: Emma Watson, cute kids, a Michelle Obama shoutout, “Harry Potter” goodies. Seriously, the only thing that could make this better is if the former first lady herself appeared carrying a basket full of deplorables puppies. 

Ahead of the release of Disney’s highly anticipated live-action remake of “Beauty and the Best,” Watson sat down to answer some questions from her adoring public, aka children under the age of 10. 

With the help of Entertainment Weekly, the actress fielded a bevy of questions from youngsters inquiring about everything from Belle and Hermione to Darth Vader, but there was one that particularly warmed our hearts. 

When two 20-month-olds named Riley and Addison (thanks to some helpful baby to adult translation) asked Watson if she could have any guest over to her house, the actress had the perfect response. 

“Michelle Obama,” she answered. “Just for a quick chat you know. Just for a quick pep talk. That would be great.” 

Same, Emma. Same. 

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4 Things Reporters Get Terribly Wrong About 'New' Drugs

In recent years, there has been increasing media attention on drugs known as “K2”, “bath salts”, fentanyl, “molly”, and others. Unfortunately, much of the coverage – even by some of the most well-meaning journalists – contains misinformation and inaccurate or misleading terminology. This all serves to perpetuate unfounded myths and unhelpful hysteria about these substances.

The Drug Policy Alliance has created media tip sheets on synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic opioids, synthetic cathinones, and MDMA to help journalists accurately and constructively cover these frequently misrepresented substances. These tip sheets address some of the biggest mistakes made when reporting on these drugs, including:

Casual Use of Incorrect Terminology

Media coverage is littered with colloquial and slang terms for drugs. This is seemingly benign, but incorrect terminology spreads confusion among people who use drugs and the public.

For instance, what is “K2”? Originally, it referred to a specific synthetic cannabinoid product sold legally in bodegas and corner stores across the country. It came in tiny colorful packaging and the brand name was “K2.” Since that particular brand, along with another called “Spice,” became popular, the names stuck, and now they are both used to refer to any synthetic cannabinoid.

“Ecstasy” and “molly” are other examples of this. Both are slang terms for MDMA, but journalists often use them interchangeably. MDMA refers to the actual substance people believe they are taking, while “ecstasy” and “molly” can actually contain any number of different substances due to the lack of legal regulation.

Using these terms sans quotation marks, or any kind of clarification, gives the false impression that “K2,” or “molly” is one specific, consistent substance. In reality, these terms could refer to any number of substances, each with different possible effects – an important fact that is easily obscured. 

Oh, and don’t call synthetic cannabinoids “synthetic marijuana” or “fake pot.” Though synthetic cannabinoids often act on many of the same receptors in the brain as THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – the comparison doesn’t stretch much further than that. Calling synthetic cannabinoids “fake pot” perpetuates the harmful myth that these substances are similar.

Jumping to Conclusions

In the rush to get a story out, journalists often report speculation as fact before all the evidence has come to light. This can quickly start an endless cycle of misinformation.

In 2012 an especially horrific story out of Miami made headlines; a man had attacked and chewed at the face of another man. At the time, one police officer had speculated that synthetic cathinones (commonly known as “bath salts”) were involved. Based on this speculation, and despite a lack of evidence, outlets readily reported that “bath salts” had caused this man to turn into a “cannibal” and a “flesh-eating zombie.”

A month later, toxicological tests found no trace of synthetic cathinones in the attacker’s system. By that time, however, the damage was done. There was suddenly a frenzy of media attention on alleged cases of synthetic cathinone use – most with bizarre behavior, and many later proven to be unconnected to synthetic cathinones. Regardless, “bath salts” became synonymous with “cannibalism” and “zombies.”

Relying on outlier cases and speculation of witnesses promotes unhelpful hysteria, erodes public trust in reporting, and adds to the misinformation that surrounds these substances. This can be harmful in the long term, especially when there are real risks.

Calling Humans “Zombies,” and Other Dehumanizing Language

Speaking of zombies…

Often, when a wave of drug use affects an area, or a particularly gruesome drug-related incident occurs, the word “zombie” begins to pop up in the news. In fact, going by headlines, one might think that episodes of drug-induced zombie-like behavior are a somewhat regular occurrence here on earth.

This isn’t a recent phenomenon, nor is it particular to any one drug; it is all part of the age-old pattern where media uses overly sensationalized language when reporting on drugs. While this may make for a vivid story, it takes away from its ability to explore underlying social issues. Moreover, this portrayal of people who use drugs can be dehumanizing, and contributes to the prevailing stigmatized image of people who use drugs, all the while fueling unproductive hysteria.

Just this past year, a spate of synthetic cannabinoid (“K2”) related hospitalizations hit parts of Brooklyn and Harlem. Story after story described the situation as a “zombie apocalypse,” and painted a picture of “hordes” of people overrunning the neighborhood. This sort of exaggerated language obscures the fact that these so-called “zombies” are real human beings. Furthermore, a narrow focus on the cases with the most bizarre behavior, combined with over-the-top imagery, frames the issue in a way that fails to explore larger social issues at play or any possible solutions.

Ignoring the Role of Prohibition

“New” drugs come with many risks – but the danger these substances pose are due to prohibition. Just because a substance is illegal doesn’t mean the market for it goes away. Chemists can tweak a formula to make a legal substitute for a popular illicit drug, and without any oversight or regulation, the new substances created can be quite dangerous.

Let’s return to “molly” as an example. The drug MDMA is well-researched and is not that harmful if taken with intentional precautions. A copycat substance, mephedrone, became popular, but also caused far more unpleasant experiences and hospital visits. A main reason mephedrone even entered the market was because there was a shortage of MDMA – one example of prohibition driving invention and substitution.

Reporters also err when they don’t point out that many overdoses could be avoided if currently-illegal substances were made legal, and then regulated. The recent rise in deaths from fentanyl-related overdoses is driven by prohibition in two ways. The potent, cheaper-to-produce fentanyl is cut into heroin in the first place to increase profit margins. Then, because people are buying from an unregulated underground market, they have no way to know if their heroin is adulterated.

Prohibition is also behind people choosing to use riskier drugs simply because they are not illegal yet or because they don’t show up on drug tests. The synthetic cannabinoid market meets a demand created by the ongoing prohibition of marijuana. In fact, people would be much less likely to use synthetic cannabinoid products if legally regulated marijuana were accessible to them.

The media plays an essential role in shaping the public’s understanding and perception of drugs. It is well worth the effort to report on these substances accurately and constructively – and hopefully make these four common mistakes a thing of the past.

Stefanie Jones is the Director of Audience Development at the Drug Policy Alliance. Sara Qureshi is a media consultant for the Drug Policy Alliance. 

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.

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Source: Huff Politics

House Oversight Committee Investigating Michael Flynn's Russia Speaking Gig

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The two top lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are investigating whether retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn violated the Constitution when he had paid speaking engagements in Russia in 2014 and 2015.

“We are attempting to determine the amount Lieutenant General Flynn received for his appearance, the source of the funding, and whether he may have received payments from any other foreign sources for additional engagements,” Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chair and ranking member of the committee, wrote in a letter on Thursday.

The letter was addressed to Mark French, the CEO of Leading Authorities Inc., which handled Flynn’s speaking gigs.

The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution bars office holders from accepting direct and indirect gifts or payments from foreign governments. Flynn retired from the Army in 2014, but the Department of Defense has said it also applies to retired military officers because they may re-enter service.

Flynn made a number of appearances on RT, the Russia propaganda media outlet. In 2015, he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala in honor of RT in Moscow. Flynn told The Washington Post he was merely a guest at the event and did not ask to sit next to Putin. 

The lawmakers are seeking information about who arranged and funded Flynn’s trip to Moscow, a complete list of his appearances on RT and whom he interacted with at the network, and his speaking contract from Leading Authorities.

The probe follows Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser after reports that he’d discussed sanctions with Russian officials in late December prior to Donald Trump’s inauguration. Flynn’s talk with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., came a day before President Barack Obama’s administration announced sanctions on the Russian government.

Trump on Thursday said he fired Flynn because he did not tell the truth about his discussions with Russian officials, and not because Flynn did anything illegal or improper.

“I didn’t direct him ― but I would have directed him, because that’s his job,” the president said during a press conference at the White House.

”What he did wasn’t wrong,” he added. 

Chaffetz’s interest in investigating Flynn’s ties to Russia is surprising. On Tuesday, the Utah congressman said he would not pursue an investigation because the issue had “taken care of itself” with Flynn’s resignation. He later joined House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte in asking the Department of Justice’s inspector general to open an investigation into the leaks from Trump’s White House.

Read the letter from Chaffetz and Cummings below:

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Source: Huff Politics

How Public Health Officials Can Make The Truth Heard In A 'Post-Fact' World

As reports of fake news ― real or perceived ― and “alternative facts” become more common, so does Americans’ distrust in public officials and institutions.

Respondents to an Edelman survey conducted last year, for example, said they would consider the view of a “person like me” twice as credible as that of a government leader. The public’s trust in businesses, the government, nongovernmental organizations and the media have all declined, the survey found. 

Public health officials appear to be feeling the effects of this, with many saying it has become more difficult to get Americans to believe crucial data and research. 

“Good policies are no longer enough because people no longer trust experts, or scientists, or government regulatory processes, let alone politicians or businesses,” Dr. Claire Hooker, a University of Sydney bioethicist who co-authored a new paper on the subject for the Sax Institute, told The Huffington Post. 

Public health officials might be able to fight against this climate by also fighting against their instincts, suggests the report ― rather than focusing on shutting down false claims, experts should try to meet people where they are by demonstrating care and sensitivity to their concerns.  

Good policies are no longer enough because people no longer trust experts, or scientists, or government regulatory processes, let alone politicians or businesses.
Dr. Claire Hooker

The authors put forth a three-step approach to addressing a skeptical public: expressing care, focusing on action over words and strategically engaging with mainstream and local media.

Actions send strong messages because people want to know what’s being done to minimize risks, according to the paper’s authors. For instance, Australian officials suspended a seasonal flu vaccine program for children under the age of 5 when they observed a slightly elevated rate of convulsions potentially related to fevers.

And when it comes to the media, Hooker emphasized the importance of the “rule of threes” ― the idea that it’s most effective to communicate three pieces of information. She also suggested that public health officials try to reach the public via community-based social media. 

What public health experts can learn from vaccine failures 

The evidence on vaccines is clear: They are safe and do not cause autism. But the spread of misinformation about the shots ― for example, in the form of widespread protests and propaganda like the documentary “Vaxxed” ― has led to such disastrous results as the largest measles epidemic in 20 years

Hooker and her colleagues say doctors could have addressed this by being clear about any areas of uncertainty and working to build trust with skeptical communities. Instead, medical professionals tended to simply repeat the message that vaccines are safe. 

“What is not helpful is to try and change the mind of strong anti-vaccine advocates,” Hooker said. “It won’t work and it just upsets people. What we can do is listen carefully and respectfully to the concerns of parents and community members and address those concerns.”

Other experts warn that such a tactic may not be fruitful on its own because the beliefs of many science skeptics are simply impenetrable. Indeed, a 2014 study that investigated various strategies for communicating the safety and importance of vaccines found that none of the tactics worked.  

But that doesn’t mean public health officials should throw in the towel. Instead, research highlights the urgent need for more research on effective communication. 

“I don’t think our results imply that they shouldn’t communicate why vaccines are a good idea,” political scientist Brendan Nyhan, who co-led the 2014 research, told Mother Jones at the time. “But they do suggest that we should be more careful to test the messages that we use, and to question the intuition that countering misinformation is likely to be the most effective strategy.”

Ultimately, Hooker suggests, it’s about finding common ground whenever possible. 

“In a post-truth world, our integrity is the most important asset that we have,” she said. “That means doing the best quality scientific studies even when threatened by people who don’t understand how science works. … But mostly it means constantly putting aside our own outrage in order to find middle ground with people who are well-meaning but worried and uncertain.”

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Source: Huff Politics

To Protest Trump's Travel Ban, Museum Will Temporarily Remove All Work By Immigrant Artists

Museums around the country have responded in big and small ways to President Donald Trump’s highly contested travel ban, which bars immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations and indefinitely blocks Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. 

The Davis Museum at Wellesley College in Massachusetts is just the latest.

On Wednesday, the museum announced that it will be de-installing or shrouding all artwork by immigrants, as well as any art given to the museum by immigrants.

The decision to remove the work is meant “to highlight the invaluable contributions that immigrants from all over the world have made on our society and culture,” the museum wrote in a press statement. Echoing the American Association of Museum Director’s statement on Trump’s executive order, the Davis Museum describes the deinstallation ― dubbed “Art-Less” ― as a “protest” that will take place from Thursday, Feb. 16, until Tuesday, Feb. 21.

The Davis Museum will be taking down or hiding 120 works of art in total, including paintings, bronze and wood sculptures and ceremonial masks from European, American, African, contemporary and modern collections. The initiative will amount to a censoring of 20 percent of the objects on view in the Museum’s permanent collections galleries. The impact of “Art-Less” on the African galleries will be particularly stark ― nearly 80 percent of the galleries’ objects were donated by the Klejman family, who immigrated to the U.S. from Poland after World War II.

“Every permanent collections gallery will be affected by the subtraction of works created by or given to the Museum by an immigrant to the United States,” Claire Whitner, assistant director of curatorial affairs and senior curator of collections, explained in the statement.

The museum will note the removal or obfuscation of works with labels that read “made by an immigrant” or “given by an immigrant.” (Work that cannot be removed will also be draped in black cloth.) In fact, the Davis encourages other “sympathetic institutions” to download the labels in an effort to broaden the “Art-Less” initiative

One of the “subtracted” works will be a recognizable portrait of George Washington that was painted by the Swedish-born artist Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller. Wertmüller immigrated to the U.S. in the 1790s. His oil painting was given to the Davis Museum by the Munn family, who also emigrated from Sweden after World War II. 

The Davis Museum’s “Art-Less” protest comes after the Museum of Modern Art’s decision to hang more art by artists from Muslim-majority nations on its walls. MoMA’s Chief Curator of Drawings and Prints Christophe Cherix described the endeavor as a “clear reaction” to Trump’s travel ban that was meant to express “solidarity with artists from different countries.”

The Museum of the City of New York has similarly taken action, staging an exhibition called “Muslim in New York” that pays tribute to the legacy of Muslim life in the city’s five boroughs.

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Source: Huff Politics