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DAVOS 2018: Trump to Promote his “America First Agenda”



President Trump arrived in Switzerland Thursday with a goal of pushing his “America First” brand of economic nationalism in the mecca of globalization — the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

The president will also be meeting with the head of the African Union, two weeks after he allegedly denigrated African nations in disparaging and obscene terms.

President Trump arrived at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday morning.  (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images).

“The president believes we can have truly win-win agreements. America First is not America alone,” Gary Cohn, director of Trump’s National Economic Council said. “He’s going to talk to world leaders about making sure we all respect each other,” he added.

Trump will deliver a speech to the gathered leaders on Friday in which he is expected to tout his economic agenda of tax cuts and deregulation.

Trump is the first sitting U.S. president to attend the Davos summit since Bill Clinton went in 2000.  Some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world are currently traveling to the World Economic Forum, which officially began on Tuesday in Davos.

For anyone unaware of what happens at the World Economic Forum, they may beg the question “What is the purpose of this annual elite get-together in the snow-bound Swiss mountains?”  Others may inquire about what actually goes on there? Does it really do any good? And more significant to American’s, “What will Donald Trump push as his agenda?

What is Davos?

The concept of Davos initially began as a small conference on management in 1971. The founder, Klaus Schwab, conceived upon the modest goal of introducing American management techniques to underperforming European firms.

The resort of Davos is where delegates listen to speeches, panel discussions and take part in seminars. There is also a large unofficial and informal event that takes place around the WEF in the resort’s various luxury hotels, principally the Steigenberger Belvedere, and various bars where elites are joined by hordes of lobbyists, public relations supremos and journalists.

Klaus Schwab, Founder, and Executive Chairman speak during the opening of the 48th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland on 22 January 2018. EPA

Who Attends The World Economic Forum?

The world’s most powerful politicians attend the World Economic Forum. This year the WEF hosts, among many others, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Isreal Benjamin Netanyahu, President of Argentina Mauricio Macri, President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa, and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.

Traditionally, American presidents don’t attend, but this year Donald Trump, decided to attend, despite winning the 2016 U. S. presidential election on a ticket reviling the kind of corrosive “globalism” that Davos allegedly represents. Analysts expect Trump to outline his customary “America First” theme, and perhaps to try and make the rest of the delegates uncomfortable, with a view to pleasing his domestic political base.

Many of the heads of the world’s largest companies will also be in attendance, this year including (again among countless others) Marc Benioff of Salesforce, Carlos Ghosn of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP. It is these business delegates who mostly pay for the conference, with annual corporate membership and partnerships fees ranging between 60,000 and 600,000 Swiss francs ($45,000 to $450,000).

Senior leaders of bodies such as the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations also attend, as do the bosses of national central banks, such as Mark Carney of the Bank of England.

The WEF also invites heads of charities, trade unions, academics and non-governmental organizations, to counter the accusation that Davos is simply about plutocratic elites talking to other elites.

Every year a few celebrities from the world of entertainment are also invited by the WEF, guaranteeing some glamour for the media. This year Cate Blanchett and Elton John will be attending. In 2016 one of the celebrity guests of honor was Kevin Spacey.

What happens at Davos?

A significant amount of earnest discussion on recurrent themes such as inequality, poverty, innovation, technological change, the environment, and corporate social responsibility. The official “theme” of this year’s meeting is: “Creating a shared future in a fractured world.

The reality is that many CEOs are ‘not’ there for talks on “inclusivity” or “mindfulness” but because it is a golden networking opportunity. A great deal of that networking takes place in private meeting rooms in the main conference center and in parties and hotel rooms of the luxury hotels in the resort.

Ego is another incentive. Some of the less-secure executives feel it is important to be seen at the resort every year since it underlines their status.

Some politicians come for ego-related reasons, but also because it is an opportunity to make pitches for inward investment to an unrivaled concentration of private sector players from around the world. It’s also a chance for leaders to try to transmit their preferred message across to the global media, which always descends on Davos in force.

Geopolitical deals have also, on occasion, actually been forged up there in the mountains, most notably when Greece and Turkey signed a “Davos Declaration” in 1998, which helped the two states avoid war.

How Does the World Economic Forum Help?

To its advocates, the WEF, while it doesn’t save the world, helps influential and intelligent people of good intent devise solutions to the world’s intractable social, economic and political problems.

To its more vehement critics, like Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, Davos represents a kind of nefarious elite conspiracy against the world’s powerless.

Some take a less extreme, albeit still cynical view, arguing that Davos essentially produces lots of hot air and hypocritical virtue-signaling from the planet’s most privileged individuals.

A scathing verdict on Davos’s corporate attendees from one of the foremost scholars of economic inequality, Branko Milanovic, has caught the attention of many this year: “It is cheaper to place a sticker about fair trade than to give up the use of zero-hour contracts. They are loath to pay a living wage, but they will fund a philharmonic orchestra. They will ban unions, but they will organize a workshop on transparency in government.


Source: The World Economic Forum, The Independent, The Guardian

@LeNoraMillen       01-25-18

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Trump Tweets About an ‘Insecure’ and ‘Biased’ Oprah Winfrey Over Her ’60 Minutes’ Segment



Image result for trump tweets oprah insecure

Oprah Winfrey in a 60 minutes segment with a voter focus group on America’s political divide.  (Photo Courtesy of CBS News).

Donald Trump venting over the FBI and the Russia investigation took to Twitter on Sunday night in a tweetstorm attack on Oprah Winfrey following her “60 Minutes” segment on America’s political divide. Despite his denial of spending time watching television, his response to Winfrey stated otherwise.

“Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes,” tweeted Trump, “The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!”

Winfrey’s report followed up her September segment featuring the same panel of Trump voters and non-Trump voters in the battleground state of Michigan. The goal of the segment was to understand their thoughts on his presidency and direction of the country one year after he took office.

In the wake of Winfrey’s historic #MeToo speech during the Golden Globes in January, an #Oprah2020 movement took root, with many stars – including Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg – calling on Winfrey to consider running. Days later, Trump addressed the speculation, telling the press, “Yeah, I’ll beat Oprah.”

In 1999, Trump thought Winfrey would be a good running mate.  At the time Trump said: “I know her very well. You know, I did one of her last shows. She had Donald Trump – this was before politics – her last week, and she had Donald Trump and my family. It was very nice.”

Oprah Winfrey, despite earlier rumors of a presidential bid, has been clear that she has no intention of running for president.  Making it clear on her intentions she said in a 60 Minutes overtime clip separate from Sunday’s report. “If God actually wanted me to run, wouldn’t God kind of tell me?”

@LeNoraMillen       02-20-18

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Dodge MLK Super Bowl Ad Sparks Controversy



A Dodge Super Bowl ad has attracted criticism for its use of a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. to sell trucks.

The ad featured a section of King’s The Drum Major Instinct sermon delivered February 4, 1968, overtop images of American patriotism, including America’s military and other service jobs like teachers and firefighters.

“If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant,” King is heard saying in the ad. “That’s a new definition of greatness.”

The ad, which ran in support of the Ram Nation volunteer program, also featured images of Dodge trucks. On airing, it began to get immediate blowback.

“The use of MLK to promote Ram trucks strikes many people as crass and inappropriate,” Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University told the Associated Press.

Bernice A. King, the youngest child of the civil rights leader and his wife Coretta Scott King urged people to listen to the sermon “in its entirety.”

“Please listen to/read his speeches, sermons, and writings. Understand his comprehensive teachings and his global perspective. Study his nonviolent philosophy. It’s more than a tactic,” she tweeted, providing a link to the sermon.

A social media user took that message to heart and created a different version of the ad with King’s warning to his congregation from the same sermon that advertisers pressure them to buy more than they can afford, playing on their selfishness and the “drum major instinct” that pushes them to prove that they are better than others.

King said: “They have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love, you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff (…) That’s the way the advertisers do it.”

King said people end up living “their lives trying to outdo the Joneses” rather than building communities around themselves.

The Dodge ad also appeared to some to contradict what King stood for as he famously argued for U.S. military spending to be cut and instead go to programs that served the poorest Americans.

“Are MLK’s words really being used right now to sell cars?” wrote Nicholas Thompson, the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine in response to the ad on Twitter.

The King Center distanced itself from the ad, pointing out it was not responsible for approving the use of King’s image and words,

Fiat Chrysler said it worked with King’s estate on the ad, which licenses King’s image and speeches, and is run by King’s son Dexter Scott King. The estate’s managing director, Eric D. Tidwell, said in a statement early Monday: “We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others. Thus we decided to be a part of Ram’s ‘Built To Serve’ Super Bowl program.”

Source: Newsweek

@LeNoraMillen            02-05-18




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Three Questions About the FISA Court Answered



The E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse houses the FISA court. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci).

On Feb. 2, President Donald Trump allowed the release of the previously classified “Nunes memo.” The memo, written by Republican congressional aides, criticized information used as the basis for a FISA court surveillance application related to the Mueller probe into Russia’s possible involvement in the 2016 election.

But what exactly is the FISA court? And how does it work?

  1. When was the FISA court established?

Congress passed FISA or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978. FISA was originally introduced by Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. The act was largely a response to President Richard Nixon’s misuse of federal resources to investigate U.S. citizens.

Its purpose was to provide oversight for foreign intelligence surveillance activities. These might include tracing telephone and email use, conducting physical searches or accessing business records. FISA lays out guidelines and procedures for these activities.

FISA applies only to “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers.” Basically, this means that FISA is used to gather information about people who work for the governments of other countries. Investigators are typically not allowed to target U.S. citizens under FISA. In fact, if information about a U.S. citizen is accidentally discovered, the law requires those records to be destroyed.

There are some notable exceptions.  One is when the discovered information shows that there is a threat of death or serious harm to another person. Another is that officials can wiretap U.S. citizens while they are overseas. Importantly, FISA warrants can also be requested to monitor U.S. citizens believed to be acting on behalf of a foreign power.

As part of FISA, Congress established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court.

The FISA court is a U.S. federal court whose purpose is to review and rule on search warrant requests made under FISA. Each year, the FISA court is required to provide a report to Congress of its activities. These reports include the number of requests made under FISA, but not the content of those requests. That content is not a matter of public record.

  1. How is FISA court different from other courts?

FISA court is not like a typical criminal court.

First, Department of Justice officials seeking a warrant do not need to show evidence that a crime has occurred or is about to happen. That sort of evidence, also known as probable cause, would be needed to obtain a typical search warrant in criminal court. Instead, officials only need to provide evidence that the target of surveillance is a foreign power or agent of a foreign power.

Second, investigators can conduct surveillance for up to a year without a court order if authorized by the president. For this to occur, the U.S. Attorney General has to certify to the court that there is minimal risk that the investigation will turn up information about U.S. citizens. The U.S. Attorney General must also certify to the court that the target of the investigation is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. These requirements parallel what Department of Justice officials would need to demonstrate in FISA court in order to obtain a FISA court warrant.

Third, the FISA court is closed to the public. Unlike a criminal court, there is no jury and the government is the only party present. In other words, FISA court proceedings do not involve prosecutors and defense attorneys arguing on behalf of clients. The FISA court is simply hearing the requests of officials seeking search warrants. This is very similar to what happens when local law enforcement officials seek a search warrant.

However, FISA court records are not open to the public. In rare cases, some records have been released with redacted information. The U.S. president also has the authority to declassify information at his discretion. This is different from normal police investigations, where search warrants generally become public record unless sealed by a judge.

While many state criminal court judges are electedFISA court judges are appointed by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, currently Justice John Roberts.

The eleven FISA judges are selected from across the U.S. federal circuits. These judges may serve for a maximum of seven years. Since not all judges are required at any one time, FISA court judges perform their duties on a rotating basis. They don’t serve full time on the FISA court.

One similarity to a typical criminal court is that an appeals process is available. If a FISA court judge denies a search request, that judge must explain the reasons for the denial. Then, a panel of three federal judges appointed by the chief justice reviews the search request. This panel is called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. If the request is again denied, the U.S. Supreme Court has the authority to review the decision. There is no option for appeal by the person being investigated because he or she is unaware of the surveillance.

  1. How many cases does the FISA court handle?

In 2016, the FISA court reviewed 1,485 requests for surveillance. While higher than the number of requests reviewed in 2014 (1,379) and 2015 (1,457), the number of requests has remained at 1,200 or higher since 2001.

It is rare for these requests to be denied. Of the requests made in 2016, only 34 were rejected. In most years, no requests were denied.

Since the proceedings of the court are secret, it is unclear why these denials occurred or why so few cases were denied.

It is also unclear how the current controversy over the Nunes memo will affect FISA operations in the future, if at all.

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Pennsylvania State University—Lacey Wallace contributed to this report.  Wallace does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Source: The Conversation

@LeNoraMillen       02-05-18

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