“It’s About What You Believe”: Qatar Bans Wonder Woman Over Israeli Actress

Wonder_Woman_(2017_film)It appears that Qatari will be left “waiting for Gadot” for some time after the government banned the move “Wonder Women.”  The reason is that lead actress Gal Gadot (who plays Diana Prince) is Israeli.  The government joins Lebanon and Tunisia in banning the film.  The Muslim countries appear to agree with Wonder Woman in saying ” It’s about what you believe.”  Gadot believes in the Torah and that is enough for the Qatar government.  (Of course, Wonder Woman added “And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”) That part is clearly not part of this decision.

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Russians Select Stalin As Greatest Leader Of All Time In New Poll

For those hoping that Russians will gradually reject the authoritarian rule by Vladimir Putin, a new poll will be a disappointment.  Russians have long favored the strongman leader and that taste for authoritarianism has not greatly diminished.  A new poll shows that Russians place Stalin at the top of the list of the greatest historical figures of all time.  Putin tied with poet Alexander Pushkin for second place.  The poll was conducted by the Levada Centre.

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The Immigration Order and the Regaining Objectivity In the Media and the Courts

Supreme CourtBelow is my column in the Hill Newspaper on the Supreme Court order lifting the stay over the Trump immigration order.  With the exception of those with bona fide relationships, the Trump Administration has the authority to enforce its travel limitations.  As discussed earlier, the order could prove not the next but final chapter of the immigration controversy given the 90 day period set under the Trump order.  However, a more immediate issue of concern should be the prior coverage and court decisions leading up to the unanimous order of the Supreme Court.

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The Rise and Fall of H.R. McMaster

H.R._McMaster_ARCIC_2014One of the most damaged individuals from the various controversies surrounding President Donald Trump has been his National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster.  McMaster of course replaced the most damaged individual, General Michael Flynn who is now the subject of multiple investigations.  McMaster was brought in to bring professional and credibility to the position.  He was an excellent choice.  However, the use of McMaster to try (unsuccessfully) to deflect concerns of Trump’s disclosure of highly classified information to the Russians destroyed much of his reputation in Washington.  Now, what remains of that reputation seems to be rapidly evaporating with McMaster’s dismissive “not concerned” response to a high-level advisor (Jared Kushner) reportedly asking the Russians to create a secret, secure communications line  through their embassy or other location.  While that allegation does not appear a criminal violation in and of itself, it would a highly disturbing addition to an already troubling story on the close relations between the Trump officials and the Russians.  The former head of the NSA and CIA under Bush said that such a back channel would be both uncommon and dangerous.

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“They Just Blabbermouth It”: British Police Cut Off Sharing Intelligence With Trump Administration on Manchester Bombing [UPDATED]

loose-lips-sink-shipsWe previously discussed the alarming breach of an intelligence sharing agreement with the U.K. after U.S. officials released details given to them from British intelligence on the Manchester bombing, including the identity of the bomber.  Now, British police have stopped sharing information with U.S. authorities after a series of leaks to American media.  In the meantime, after Trump’s rational odd denial that he mentioned Israel in his giving highly classified intelligence to the Russians, Israel has acknowledged it was indeed their intelligence and they had to implement a “fix” and “clarify” their position with the U.S. on intelligence sharing after Trump’s disclosure. Update:  Trump denounced the leaking of the information.   Some have noted that the statement was rather belated and others have noted that it is equally ironic (given Trump’s personal disclosure of the highly classified Israeli intelligence to the Russians).  Nevertheless, Trump is right to call for the FBI to investigate the leaking of the shared intelligence.

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The Russian Disclosure: Trump’s Game of Truth or Dare

donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedBelow is my column in USA Today on President Donald Trump’s disclosure of highly classified information to the Russians in his controversial meeting after the firing of James Comey.  While the Administration issued a series of categorical denials of the underlying stories as “false,” the next day it appeared to acknowledge that Trump did in fact reveal the information.  As discussed below, it was a wise decision not to repeat the initially misleading statements to Congress.  The intelligence was reportedly generated by Israel, which did not give permission to the President to make the disclosure to the Russians.  Since the New York Times and Washington Post did not say that Trump released “sources and methods,” it now appears that the White House is not claiming that the stories were false.  It is the latest example of denials from the White House which then lead to embarrassing reversals over the course of the coverage.  The only good sign is that the White House saw that the false account was raising serious problems and reversed course the next morning. However, the familiar pattern has taken its toll on the Hill where members were conspicuously absent this time in defending the President.

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Commerce Secretary: Syria Bombing Was Dinner “Entertainment” At Mar-O-Lago

1600px-Jean-Leon_Gerome_Pollice_VersoWilbur_Ross_Official_PortraitThere has been considerable criticism over Trump’s description of the bombing of Syria over a dinner with Chinese President Xi where he seemed to have as much recollection of the chocolate cake as he did the decision itself. (“I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We’re now having dessert.  And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen, and President Xi was enjoying it.”)  That comment now looks decidedly presidential in comparison to the comment made by his dinner mate at Mar-a-Lago, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that the bombing of Syria: “It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment.”  Even as a joke, speaking of acts of war like they are versions of the Roman games is distasteful.  Even missile strikes involve American sailors or soldiers and airman placing themselves into harm’s way.  Having them referred to as “entertainment” at a conference by a wealthy Commerce Secretary to his well-heeled friends is insulting to those who must pay the price of wars.

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