MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en You Thought 2016 Politics Were Intense? Watch This Exclusive Clip of the Gore Vidal vs. William F. Buckley Brawl <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><em>Best of Enemies </em></a>co-director Robert Gordon confessed to me a while back that his biggest fear was that "people won't go see this movie because they think it's going to be boring." It isn't. The <a href="" target="_blank">documentary</a>&mdash;which premieres October 3 at 10 p.m. on PBS (Independent Lens)&mdash;chronicles the often fiery debates between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal that ABC aired during the 1968 election cycle in an effort to boost ratings. "It sounds like a dry documentary because people forget how witty these two guys are," Gordon told me.</p> <p>Gordon and co-director Morgan Neville&mdash;whose <em>Twenty Feet From Stardom</em> <a href="" target="_blank">won the 2014 Oscar</a> for best documentary&mdash;skillfully weave archival footage together with interviews with the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Brooke Gladstone, Dick Cavett, and Buckley's brother Neil. The movie climaxes during one of the duo's final debates at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago where, while discussing Vietnam War protesters, Vidal calls Buckley a "crypto-Nazi." The <a href="" target="_blank">latter's response</a>, which could even make Donald Trump blush, was perhaps the first viral sound bite in modern media history. "Now listen, you queer," Buckley retorted, twitching with anger. "Quit calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."</p> <p>Indeed, the televised verbal brawls between these two brilliant intellectuals anticipated the culture wars that would define, for decades to come, America's political struggles&mdash;and how the media would cover them. I sat down with Gordon in San Francisco not long ago to chat about the de-evolution of our political discourse and the challenge of making a film about conversations that took place decades ago.</p> <p><strong>Mother Jones</strong>: How did this project come to pass?</p> <p><strong>Robert Gordon:</strong> In 2010, a friend of mine acquired a bootleg DVD of the debates and shared it with me, and I was like, "Oh my God, this is today's culture wars expressed by these two guys." As a documentarian, you are always looking for that cache of film you can use to build a movie from; there was 2.5 hours of raw debate. It seemed so relevant to the division in the country that I just thought, "Let's get on this immediately."</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> Had you worked with Morgan Neville before?</p> <p><strong>RG:</strong> This is our fifth film together. Between the fourth and fifth, he made <a href="" target="_blank"><em>20 Feet From Stardom</em></a> and got the Academy Award. I called him up and said, "Way to go Morgan! You're really putting the pressure on us now." But it's a big help having that accolade. People who don't know us are more willing to trust us; it's the stamp of legitimacy.</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>Was it challenging to get backers on board with such an unconventional documentary subject?</p> <p><strong>RG:</strong> Yes, it took a while. Most said to us, "This is all very interesting, but why do you see it as relevant today?" And since the movie has been made, the response has been, "I can't believe how relevant to today this footage is."</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/best_of_enemies-makeup.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Gore Vidal (front) and William F. Buckley get primped for their clash. </strong>Independent Lens</div> </div> <p><strong>MJ</strong>: Most of your past work has involved music. What made you want to stray from that subject?</p> <p><strong>RG:</strong> Most everything I've done has been about music, but music as a way to talk about bigger social issues, bigger cultural moments or movements. I don't see it as that big of a leap. The debates are the operatic vignettes that recur, and it's quite musical to me. The important thing to me is that [my documentaries] are about changes in America, and so is this.</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>It was quite a year, 1968. How did you decide what historical and cultural context to include?</p> <p><strong>RG:</strong> There were cultural touchstones that have been investigated over and over and over, and we didn't want to redo those. And there are a lot of them to work with. I mean '68, like you said, it's rife with material, with cultural disagreement, violence, internationally&mdash;it's all there. But we wanted to focus on our guys and what they stood for and where those changes occurred [in relation to them].</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> But you did incorporate some major historical events into the film, like the riots outside of the DNC in Chicago.</p> <p><strong>RG: </strong>Yeah, totally, but only because it was there. It felt like the fighting on the street was being played out by these two guys in front of the glare of the national TV camera.</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> Was there anything that surprised you while researching these two men?</p> <p><strong>RG:</strong> I was surprised at the vigor with which Vidal pursued Buckley and his other enemies. Vidal seemed to thrive on animosity and on feuding, and at the same time could be very charming. You see him on Dick Cavett, and there's a certain charm to him, you like to watch him, you like to see him talk, and I thought, "Well, surely this 'man of ice' was a put-on." But then you read things like <a href="" target="_blank">his obituary on Buckley</a>, and, you know, he <em>is</em> a man of ice.</p> <p><strong>MJ</strong>: So did you feel like you had to hold back your own opinions about Vidal and Buckley?</p> <p><strong>RG:</strong> The film wasn't about our personal views and our personal politics. That would have undermined the film's potential. One of the interesting things I learned in the course of it was Buckley, whose politics I tend not to agree with, was strong enough to publicly change his mind on the Iraq War. He had come out very for it when it began, and over time, when he learned more about it, he changed. And that's a brave position for someone in his situation. I think it's very honorable and admirable.</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> There is that moment after the famous blowup between Buckley and Vidal when you pan through all the interviewees in the documentary sitting in shocked silence. And then Dick Cavett goes, "The network nearly shat." Were those really these people's reactions?</p> <p><strong>RG:</strong> That's taking liberty in the editing room, is what it is. It was Cavett's response that suggests that [those were their real responses], because I asked Cavett about it and you see him turn and think, and he has a long silence, and then he gives that very funny answer, and we thought, "Wow, what if we extend that silence? Because that's kind of musical in a way." And we tested it and it was like, "Ohhh, this is funny." And it never hurts to be funny.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/best_of_enemiesstage.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The showdown </strong>Independent Lens</div> </div> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> Yeah, the film has a lot of funny moments; Vidal and Buckley are very entertaining to watch.</p> <p><strong>RG:</strong> These guy were so smart, and they had a command of so many things: history, philosophy, economics, and, people forget, of humor as well. They were smart, witty guys.</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> I was struck by how intellectual their rhetoric was. It seems ironic that these debates helped inspire the trashy political debate we now see on cable.</p> <p><strong>RG:</strong> Yes, TV is pursued for the lowest common denominator. Networks, which had been civil to a fault up to that point in time, have worked themselves up to the point where all they are is a series of Roman candle explosions. The reason that the audience built for [Buckley and Vidal] is that, in addition to their cattiness, they were offering a lot of ideas and a lot of exchange, and they were humorous, too. It wasn't just that explosive moment that made this what it was. But TV today seems to want to have you come back from a commercial and go right into a fight turned up to 10, and three minutes later go into a commercial&mdash;and that's success! People have been introducing the show in theaters as "delicious," and I think that suggests an appetite for more integrity on television; more intellectual exchange, less vacuous shouting.</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> Yeah, I mean, it's hard to imagine someone citing Pericles on network TV now!</p> <p><strong>RG:</strong> Yeah, I watched [the Vidal-Buckley debates] with a dictionary the first few times because I wanted to learn the words, and they were saying things I didn't know, and what did it mean, and why were they choosing those words, and whom were they quoting? Wouldn't you like to watch a half an hour of political TV and then take your notes and go look up what they were talking about? You glean what you need to glean, and then afterward you can take home more&mdash;it's a prize that comes in the box!</p></body></html> Media Interview Film and TV Top Stories politics Sat, 01 Oct 2016 10:00:25 +0000 Luke Whelan 315231 at The Pentagon Is Reversing Its Long-Standing Policy on Sex Reassignment Surgery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Starting next week, the Pentagon will pay for gender reassignment surgery for eligible soldiers, a change that comes after the military <a href="" target="_blank">lifted</a> its long-standing ban on transgender service members earlier this summer.</p> <p>Soldiers will be eligible for the surgery if they have a medical condition related to their gender identity, such as gender dysphoria, that has hindered their ability to serve, a Defense Department spokesman <a href="" target="_blank">told </a><em><a href="" target="_blank">USA Today</a>. </em>The military will also cover hormone therapy for eligible soldiers.</p> <p>"The Secretary of Defense has made clear that service members with a diagnosis from a military medical provider indicating that gender transition is medically necessary will be provided medical care and treatment for the diagnosed medical condition," Air Force Major Ben Sakrisson, a Pentagon spokesman, <a href="" target="_blank">told </a><em><a href="" target="_blank">Stars and Stripes</a>. </em></p> <p>Out of a total force of about 1.3 million active-duty service members, an estimated 1,320 to 6,630 are transgender, according to a <a href="" target="_blank">recent study</a> by RAND Corp., which analyzed the health care needs of trans soldiers at the request of Defense Secretary Ash Carter. But "only a small portion of service members would likely seek gender transition-related medical treatments that would affect their deployability or health care costs," RAND concluded. It estimated that 25 to 130 active-duty soldiers would have gender reassignment surgery annually, while 30 to 140 soldiers would begin hormone treatment every year. That would translate to an additional annual cost of between $2.4 million and $8.4 million, or a 0.13 percent increase in current spending.</p> <p>Critics of the new policy worry that too many soldiers will be unqualified for deployment for long periods of time because of gender reassignment surgery. But RAND estimated that only 10 to 130 active-duty service members would have reduced deployability every year, and it described this amount as "negligible" compared with the 50,000 active-duty soldiers in the Army who are nondeployable.</p> <p>For decades, the military had discharged soldiers who received medical treatment for a gender transition. But in June, the Defense Department <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> it would allow openly transgender people to serve, and that soldiers would be allowed to transition genders during their service. "We can't allow barriers unrelated to a person's qualifications to prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission," Carter said. But at the time of the announcement, it <a href="" target="_blank">wasn't clear</a> whether the Pentagon would agree to pay for gender reassignment surgery as a medically necessary procedure, or if it would instead treat the surgery as an elective, cosmetic procedure.</p> <p>In September, the Army agreed to provide gender reassignment surgery to <a href="" target="_blank">Chelsea Manning</a>, a transgender soldier serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified documents. Days later, the Defense Department announced it would begin covering the surgeries for eligible active-duty soldiers, too, starting in October.</p> <p>"I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing," Manning <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> of the Army's decision, which came after she attempted to commit suicide and went on a hunger strike. "I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted&mdash;for them to let me be me."</p></body></html> Politics Health Care Military Sex and Gender Fri, 30 Sep 2016 21:29:13 +0000 Samantha Michaels 315416 at Trump Praised Saudi Arabia's Shariah Law for Making It Easy for Men to Get Divorced <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In order to avoid admitting to cheating on his wife, Donald Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 97 times during his divorce proceedings with Ivana Trump in 1990, the <em>Huffington Post</em> <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> Friday. So it should come as little surprise that Trump had kind words for a system that allows men to divorce their wives without going to court: Saudi Arabia's Shariah law.</p> <p>The Republican presidential candidate praised the Islamic law, or Shariah, system during a 60-second syndicated daily radio commentary called "Trumped!" that he recorded from 2004 to 2008. In a <a href="" target="_blank">January 2008 segment</a>, Trump discussed a news story of a Saudi man who had divorced his wife for watching a television show while alone at home because, in Trump's telling, the husband considered it tantamount to being alone with a strange man.</p> <p>"Men in Saudi Arabia have the authority to divorce their wives without going to the courts," Trump said. "I guess that would also mean they don't need prenuptial agreements. The fact is, no courts, no judges&mdash;Saudi Arabia sounds like a very good place to get a divorce."</p> <p><em>BuzzFeed</em> first <a href="" target="_blank">uncovered</a> the show and its website in March, and the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> <a href="" target="_blank">published</a> some audio and transcripts in July. According to <em>BuzzFeed</em>, stations that still have an archive of the shows cannot release the audio without Trump's permission.</p> <p>When it comes to Trump's beliefs about women, Trump's radio vignettes often mirror his own life and his past treatment of and attitudes toward women that are now haunting his campaign.</p> <p>In recent days, Trump has threatened to begin attacking Hillary Clinton for her husband's infidelities. But it's Trump who has extensive experience with divorce&mdash;and it's no wonder he would have preferred the Saudi system. Before finalizing his divorce from his first wife, Ivana, Trump began seeing Marla Maples, who would become his second wife. The divorce required five depositions, during which he repeatedly took the Fifth.</p> <p>Trump's remarks about Saudi Arabia were not the only commentary from his radio show with relevance to Trump's own marriages. Trump often used the show to discuss the appearance of female celebrities. In one segment from 2005, Trump noted that pop star Britney Spears had disappeared from a list of the sexiest women alive compiled by <em>FHM</em>, a men's magazine. "Angelina [Jolie] took over the crown from Britney Spears, who didn't even make the sexy list this year," Trump said. "She has gone down, there's no question about it. That's what a marriage can do for you."</p> <p>His belief that marriage hurts a woman's appearance wasn't great news for his own marriage to Ivana. As that union unraveled, he made it clear to her that her looks had deteriorated&mdash;and Ivana seemed to internalize that critique and blame herself. "She threw herself into my arms sobbing and crying and saying, 'Donald doesn't want me anymore,'" former <em>New York Daily News</em> columnist Liz Smith recently <a href="" target="_blank">recalled</a>. "'He has told me, he can't be sexually attracted to a woman who has had children.'" In order to entice her husband, Ivana got a face lift and a breast augmentation, Smith said.</p> <p>It didn't work. Trump was seeing a new woman and setting the stage for his future radio commentary about Saudi Arabia.</p></body></html> Politics 2016 Elections Donald Trump Fri, 30 Sep 2016 20:12:20 +0000 Pema Levy 315406 at Shonda Rhimes, Norman Lear, and Common Take Aim at Inequality in This New Documentary Series <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>In "America Divided," a new five-part documentary series premiering <a href="" target="_blank">tonight on Epix</a>, the nation's growing inequality&mdash;in matters economic, racial, and otherwise&mdash;takes center stage.</p> <p>Headed by executive producers Shonda Rhimes, Norman Lear, and Common, the project looks into the ways inequality underlies so many modern crises, profoundly affecting our schools, our housing landscape, and our political discourse. The correspondents are all household names: Actress <a href="" target="_blank">Rosario Dawson</a>, for instance, takes us to Flint, Michigan, to meet families affected by lead poisoning. Actor Jesse Williams returns to the classroom to understand the school-to-prison pipeline. Comedian Amy Poehler grills well-to-do families about their relationships with struggling domestic workers.</p> <p>The actors are invested, and in some cases confrontational. And while it's a little strange to see them so out of context (especially comedians such as Poehler and Zach&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Galifianakis</a>) there's something refreshing about their earnestness. Take Dawson, who displays her humanity when she reaches out to hold the hand of a tearful woman who has been describing the toll Flint's contaminated water has had on her family. The issues the series explores won't be anything new to <em>Mother Jones</em> readers, but they are as timely as ever. So if A-list celebs and high production quality will convince you to think more about America's more entrenched problems, and maybe even to step up and do something, then this series is for you.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Media Video Film and TV Income Inequality Race and Ethnicity Top Stories Fri, 30 Sep 2016 18:58:59 +0000 Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn 315356 at Friday Cat, Squirrel, and Fundraising Blogging - 30 September 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_squirrel_2016_09_30.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Our squirrel made an appearance this morning, hopping from tree to tree and catching the attention of our two furballs&mdash;who were predictably entranced. They both wanted to climb up the nearest tree and go squirrel hunting, but Hilbert could only look up longingly. Hopper, however, could do more than that: she could climb up the tree and look into the neighboring tree longingly. You can see the mighty huntress on the prowl below. For those of you who worry about such things, I can assure you that our squirrel was entirely safe the whole time. I think you'd probably have to break all four of its legs before either of our cats would have a 50-50 chance of catching it.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">In other cat news,</a> a recently completed study has "sequenced DNA from 209 cats that lived between 15,000 and [300] years ago." Researchers discovered that after being domesticated and exalted by the Egyptians, there was a second big wave of cat expansion a couple thousand years ago, "attributed to ancient sea-faring people&nbsp;&mdash; farmers, sailors, and Vikings &mdash; because the cats were likely encouraged to stay on board to keep their rodent problem in check." Response was immediate: "I didn't even know there were Viking cats," Pontus Skoglund, a population geneticist from Harvard Medical School, told <em>Nature</em>.</p> <p>Finally, in fundraising news, our cats urge you once more to sign up as a <em>Mother Jones</em> sustaining donor. We're close to our $30,000 goal, but not quite there yet. You can do it by credit card <a href=";list_source=7H68CK00&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=B" target="_blank">here.</a> If you prefer PayPal, you can give monthly <a href=";hosted_button_id=ZUNJXBSLZM3R6" target="_blank">here</a>&mdash;just be sure to check the box next to your gift amount.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2016_09_30.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 30px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 30 Sep 2016 18:53:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 315411 at Almonds Are Still Sucking Up Lots of California's Water <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Two new data points on the ongoing California drought and its impact on the state's booming and thirsty farms:</p> <p>&bull; In California's agriculture-rich, water-poor San Joaquin Valley, H2O from the state's big irrigation projects has been especially scarce in recent years. As a result, farmers have had to rely heavily on water pumped from underground aquifers&mdash;and they've extracted so much of it that <a href="">since 2013</a>, land has been sinking in large swaths of the region, fouling up canals, bridges, roads, and other vital infrastructure and racking <a href="">up billions of dollars in damage</a>.</p> <p>This year? Here's an <a href="">eye-popping report</a> from the <em>Sacramento Bee</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>[N]ew wells are going in faster and deeper than ever. Farmers dug about 2,500 wells in the San Joaquin Valley last year alone, the highest number on record. That was five times the annual average for the previous 30 years, according to a <em>Sacramento Bee</em> analysis of state and local data</p> </blockquote> <p>Back in 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown reversed a long tradition of Wild West groundwater management in California by signing a <a href="">new law</a> requiring the state's most stressed watersheds to stop drawing down aquifers faster than they're naturally replenished. The catch: The guidelines don't kick in until 2040. In the meantime, San Joaquin Valley growers are embroiled in a "kind of groundwater arms race," the <em>Bee</em> reports.</p> <blockquote> <p>Aquifers don't respect property lines, and in many cases, farmers with older, shallower wells are afraid of losing water to neighbors who are digging deeper wells and lowering the groundwater table. So they invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to drill new wells of their own. All told, farmers are expected to spend $303 million this year alone to pump groundwater, according to UC Davis researchers.</p> </blockquote> <p>&bull; In a <a href="">new study</a> presented last Wednesday at the Geological Society of America, Eastern Kentucky University's Kelly Watson drills down into one of the destinations of all that water extraction: the <a href="" target="_blank">state's massive and growing base of almond groves. </a></p> <p>Using satellite imagery, Watson looked at land conversions in California's Central Valley (made up of two valleys, the&nbsp;San Joaquin and the Sacramento) between 2007 and 2014. She found that land devoted to the delicious (but <a href="" target="_blank">water-intensive</a>) nut had expanded 14 percent over that period&mdash;not surprising, given the <a href="" target="_blank">ongoing almond boom</a>.</p> <p>The interesting finding, though, is that a huge chunk of the new almond territory was converted from fallow, completely un-irrigated land, including grasslands, wetlands, and forests. As for the rest, some of it switched over from less water-intensive crops like corn, cotton, wheat, and tomatoes; and some had been used for even thirstier crops like sugar beets, alfalfa, and clover. The bottom line: Watson calculates the net impact of the expansion was a 27 percent increase in annual irrigation needs for the converted land, putting massive new pressure on those struggling aquifers.</p> <p>Over on <em>Forbes,</em> science writer&nbsp;Mallory Pickett <a href="">notes</a> that the study has yet to be published&mdash;it's currently in peer review&mdash;and that "aerial images can only paint broad brush pictures" of the situation on the ground. But it's not a pretty picture.</p></body></html> Environment Food Fri, 30 Sep 2016 18:38:32 +0000 Tom Philpott 315341 at Should Hillary Clinton Endorse Legalized Pot? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today's chatter is almost exclusively about Donald Trump's implosion over Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe of 1996, which has dragged his entire team of thrice-married surrogates into embarrassing spasms of hypocrisy and is making Trump into even more of a laughingstock than before&mdash;which is quite a feat. I can't really bring myself to write any more about this at the moment, so instead let's turn our attention to legal pot. <a href="" target="_blank"><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Marijuana_Decriminalization.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;"></a>Christopher Ingraham argues that this is Hillary Clinton's <a href="" target="_blank">best hope for attracting millennial support:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There is one thing that younger voters like a lot, and that's legal marijuana....In April, a CBS News survey posed a question that sheds more light on this issue....Most respondents&nbsp;&mdash; 58 percent&nbsp;&mdash; said that a candidate's support for legal marijuana "wouldn't matter" at all. Eighteen percent said they'd be more likely to vote for a pro-weed candidate, while 21 percent said they'd be less likely.</p> <p>But there were some interesting differences by respondents' age. <strong>Among adults ages 18 to 34, 28 percent said support for legal marijuana would make them more likely to vote for a candidate</strong>....These numbers suggest that legal marijuana could give Clinton a boost among younger voters in November.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well...maybe. My guess, however, is that millennials would instantly see this as empty pandering. It might actually make her <em>less</em> popular among young voters, who seem to distrust her more for being calculated than they do for her actual policy positions.</p> <p>Besides, Clinton has already come out in favor of <a href="" target="_blank">reclassifying marijuana</a> from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 and allowing states to continue serving as "laboratories of democracy." That means she's basically endorsed medical marijuana, and it sets her up to endorse recreational marijuana after a suitable period of evolving. Maybe in 2020?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 30 Sep 2016 18:00:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 315396 at Russia Has Killed Almost 10,000 Syrians in the Past Year, Says a New Report <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Russia's military has killed almost 10,000 people, including nearly 4,000 civilians, in Syria over the past year, according to a new report from a London-based group that monitors the Syrian civil war.</p> <p>"The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was able to document the death of 9364 civilians and fighters from the rebel and Islamic Factions, Fath al-Sham Front [formerly the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front] and the 'Islamic state' in the past 12 months," <a href="" target="_blank">the group wrote</a> on its website on Friday. Russian airstrikes have killed more civilians (3,804) than members of ISIS (2,746) or members of rebel and other Islamic groups (2,814), according to SOHR. The civilian death count includes 906 children under the age of 18.</p> <p>The Russian air force started bombing operations in Syria last September in support of the Syrian government's military. While the Russian government claimed the strikes were being <a href="http://%22The%20best%20way%20to%20fight%20international%20terrorists%20%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%A6%20is%20to%20act%20preemptively,%20to%20fight%20and%20eliminate%20militants%20in%20the%20areas%20they%20have%20already%20occupied%20without%20waiting%20for%20them%20to%20enter%20our%20home,%22%20he%20told%20his%20citizens." target="_blank">carried out against ISIS</a>, the air campaign has heavily targeted non-Islamist rebel groups and civilian areas held by rebels. Russian aircraft <a href="" target="_blank">frequently</a> <a href="" target="_blank">strike hospitals</a> and other medical facilities and have been blamed for the <a href="" target="_blank">bombing of a UN aid convoy</a> during a short-lived ceasefire last week.</p> <p>Russian air support has allowed the Syrian regime to consolidate its battlefield gains and <a href="" target="_blank">even advance</a> in some areas, despite being <a href="" target="_blank">short on soldiers</a> and increasingly reliant on allies including Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah.</p></body></html> Politics International Syria Fri, 30 Sep 2016 17:40:29 +0000 Max J. Rosenthal 315386 at Media Forecast: Trump Wins 2nd Debate, Clinton Delivers Brave Comeback in 3rd <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Thoreau delivers his debate forecast:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>My prediction for the narrative, based on every election since 2000, is that <strong>Trump will be deemed to have improved substantially in the second debate, and then Clinton will be seen as pulling off a needed comeback in the third</strong>....In the second debate it is necessary that Trump be seen as redeemed, so if he spends the entire debate ignoring the moderator and yelling about his refusal to pay a bill he&rsquo;ll be called &ldquo;bold and unconventional&rdquo; for doing so. In the third debate, if doesn&rsquo;t matter if Clinton goes into a coma, the narrative demands a comeback, so she&rsquo;ll be seen as &ldquo;incredibly graceful as she soldiered on until medical personnel intervened.&rdquo;</p> <p>I&rsquo;m not drawing an equivalence between the candidates, or arguing that one sort of problem is no worse than another. Rather, I&rsquo;m saying that the media narrative is already decided. This is stage-managed democracy.</p> </blockquote> <p>This sounds so, so plausible. I really want to sign on. But Trump is making it very hard. Can he really deliver even the minimal performance needed to allow the press to rally behind him after the second debate. I just don't know....</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 30 Sep 2016 17:04:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 315391 at New Trump Video Set For Early Release <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">This should be fun:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A video of <strong>Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos</strong> is set to go public as soon as Friday, drawing new attention to those comments just weeks before voters cast their ballots in the presidential race. Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel.</p> <p>"This Court finds that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that any subject video deposition contains scandalous, libelous, or other unduly prejudicial material warranting denial of media access," Holeman wrote. <strong>"The public shall not be held captive by the suggested eventuality of partisan editing in a manner unfavorable to Plaintiff or the deponents."</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I hope it's released late today so it can dominate the entire weekend news cycle. In the past, late Friday was the time to release information that you hoped would fly under the radar and disappear by Monday. These days, however, everyone is super sensitive to late Friday news dumps, so they automatically get more attention on the theory that someone is obviously trying to hide something. Trump 2016!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 30 Sep 2016 15:34:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 315381 at