10 things you need to know today: December 5, 2016

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


1. Federal government blocks Dakota Access oil pipeline route
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday that it would not approve permits to build the Dakota Access oil pipeline under Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The decision halted construction, a major victory for members of the tribe and other activists who have been protesting for months to block the project. Opponents of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile project say it would threaten the tribe’s water supply and sacred Native American sites. The Army said alternative routes would have to be explored. Protesters said they intended to defy an order to leave their camp by Monday, and authorities said they would not forcibly move anyone.

Source: The New York Times, Reuters

2. Trump taps Ben Carson as HUD secretary
President-elect Donald Trump has picked retired neurosurgeon and former rival presidential candidate Ben Carson to be his secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Trump’s transition team announced early Monday. Trump said in a statement that he was “thrilled to nominate” Carson because he “has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities.” Carson said shortly after the election that he wasn’t sure he had the background for a Cabinet job, but then he reconsidered. Trump also reportedly has broadened his search for a secretary of state, which previously was believed to have narrowed to four contenders — 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, and retired general and former CIA director David Petraeus.

Source: The Associated Press, The New York Times

3. Death toll in Oakland fire rises to 33
The death toll from a massive fire that rushed through a warehouse in Oakland, California, during a concert rose to 33 on Sunday, and authorities said it could still go higher as search crews continued to search the scorched structure. Only about 40 percent of the building had been searched by Sunday afternoon, and crews are moving slowly due to the building’s instability. The fire is already one of the deadliest in modern California history. “The number will go up,” County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ray Kelly said. “Firefighters are tired, exhausted. This is very emotional.”

Source: USA Today, Los Angeles Times

4. Trump threatens tariff to punish firms that move jobs overseas
President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday threatened to slap a 35 percent import tariff on U.S. companies that move production overseas when they try to “sell their product, cars, A.C. units etc., back across the border. Please be forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake!” The comments, which Trump posted on Twitter, marked an escalation of his warning of consequences for American companies that send factory jobs overseas. Trump last week announced a deal with air-conditioning manufacturer Carrier to keep 800 jobs at an Indiana plant instead of moving them to Mexico. The company will get $7 million in tax breaks, while still sending about 1,000 jobs from another plant to Mexico.

Source: The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal

5. Italy’s prime minister to quit after voters reject reforms
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said early Monday that he was resigning after voters rejected constitutional reforms he sought. “I have not managed to reach victory,” Renzi said in an emotional statement after conceding defeat. “My government ends today.” The loss marked the latest in a series of upsets for Europe’s political establishment, still rattled by Britain’s vote to exit the European Union. The reforms were meant to streamline government, but their rejection was interpreted as a vote against the establishment’s embrace of globalization, open borders, and the European Union. Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s Northern League, said the “no” vote was a victory of the “people against the strong powers of three quarters of the world.”

Source: Reuters, The New York Times

6. Austrian anti-immigration candidate loses presidential election
Center-left candidate Alexander Van der Bellen defeated the far-right Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer in Austria’s presidential election on Sunday, winning an unexpectedly clear victory in a rerun of a May vote in which Hofer, an anti-immigrant populist, lost by just 31,000 votes. Van der Bellen’s campaign manager, Lothar Lockl, said the result was evidence of a backlash against a nationalist wave credited with the U.K.’s Brexit vote and President-elect Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S., although the political establishment’s defeat in Italy’s vote on proposed constitutional reforms suggested Europe’s mainstream leaders still have plenty to worry about.

Source: The Washington Post

7. Judge orders Michigan to start recounting presidential votes
A federal judge late Sunday night ordered Michigan to start recounting its 4.8 million presidential votes at noon Monday. President-elect Donald Trump received 10,704 more votes than Hillary Clinton in the state. Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein has demanded recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, swing states where Trump won narrow victories. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Trump campaign filed suits last week trying to block the hand recount. Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled in favor of Stein, who argued that there could be “irreparable harm” if the count is delayed by two days, in accordance with election law, because it would be harder for the state to complete the recount in time to meet a federal Dec. 13 deadline.

Source: The Detroit News, The Associated Press

8. Dylann Roof asks to have his lawyers back for murder trial
Charleston church massacre suspect Dylann Roof on Sunday submitted a handwritten letter to the judge in his murder and hate-crime trial, asking to have his lawyers back after receiving permission last week to represent himself. Roof, 22, asked to have the attorneys represent him during the guilt phase of the trial, scheduled to begin Wednesday, then, if he is found guilty, to let Roof represent himself during the phase when jurors would decide whether to sentence him to death, or life in prison. The self-professed white supremacist is accused of gunning down nine black parishioners at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church last year.

Source: New York Daily News

9. Man arrested for gunfire at D.C. pizza place spotlighted in fake anti-Clinton reports
Police arrested a North Carolina man on Sunday after he allegedly fired at least one shot with an assault-style rifle inside a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant that was linked to an election-season conspiracy theory about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Nobody was hurt in the shooting. Fake news websites circulated bogus reports claiming that Clinton and her campaign chief ran a child sex ring out of the back room of the restaurant, Comet Ping Pong. The suspect, 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, reportedly told police he had gone to the restaurant to “self-investigate” the story. Restaurant owner James Alefantis, who had received threats over social media, said the incident “demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences.”

Source: The Washington Post

10. Japan’s prime minister to make historic Pearl Harbor visit
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that he would make a symbolic visit to Pearl Harbor this month. Abe will be the first sitting Japanese leader to go to the American naval base targeted in the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack that pulled the U.S. into World War II 75 years ago. Abe will visit the site with President Obama during a last summit in Hawaii. Abe said his visit was to “pay tribute” to those who died in the war, and demonstrate the strength of the reconciliation between Japan and the U.S. President Obama in May visited Hiroshima, becoming the first American leader to visit the Japanese city where the U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb to end Japan’s participation in the war.

Source: The New York Times, The Washington Post

Austria just decisively rejected the far-right’s presidential candidate

Image result for Norbert Hofer

(Alex Domanski/Getty Images)


The results aren’t even fully counted in Austria’s presidential election. Yet the far-right Freedom Party’s candidate, Norbert Hofer, has already conceded defeat due to crushing early returns — a result that stunned political observers and gives hope that the far-right wave sweeping the West can be stopped.

The polls closed at 5 p.m. Vienna time (11 a.m. EST) on Sunday. Projections based on early returns showed Hofer’s opponent — the left-wing independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen — with a seven point lead (53.6 percent to 46.4p percent). While the exact numbers are liable to change after each vote is counted, Van der Bellen ‘s lead is so wide that Hofer cannot hope to overcome it (the margin of error on the early projections is 1.6 percent).

“You have supported me so magnificently and I am infinitely sad that it did not work out,” Hofer wrote in a short Facebook message to his supporters. “I congratulate Alexander Van der Bellen on his success.”

Austrian polls completely missed this. Virtually all of them predicted a close election, with many showing a narrow Hofer victory. Van der Bellen’s surprise landslide suggests that polls aren’t systematically understating the far-right’s chances, a la Brexit and Trump — rather, it’s that polls can miss in both directions.

“WOW!,” Cas Mudde, an expert on far-right politics at the University of Georgia, tweeted after the results came in. “First time I love to be wrong in 2016!”

More importantly, Austria’s decisive rejection of Hofer shows that divisive, race-baiting politics isn’t guaranteed to triumph in the modern West. Austrians rejected the candidate who declared that “Islam has no place in Austria” in favor of a candidate who asked them to allow “reason rather than extremism to lead our decisions.”

There might be some hope for the West after all.

Hofer’s party is legitimately radical

Norbert Hofer Holds Final Presidential Election Campaign Rally
Norbert Hofer | (Alex Domanski/Getty Images)

To understand why this election mattered so much, you have to understand what Hofer and the Freedom Party (FPÖ) actually stood for.

Founded in 1956, in large part by former Nazis seeking a legitimate vehicle to participate in Austrian democracy, the party was irrelevant in mainstream Austrian politics for decades. But in 1986, the party was taken over by firebrand Jörg Haider.

Haider reoriented the party around one central element: fear of immigrants. He warned that mainstream politicians encouraged “foreign infiltration” of Austria and that Islam was “incompatible” with “human rights and democracy.” At the same time, he praised the Nazis, saying that Hitler had a “proper employment policy.”

Haider was remarkably successful. In 1999, the FPÖ won 26.9 percent of the national vote, securing the party a place in the Austrian government as a junior coalition partner. However, it was unable to end immigration to Austria: By 2003, 12.5 percent of Austrian residents were foreign-born.

Haider died in 2008, by which time the party’s popularity had fallen; it won just 11 percent of the vote that year. But under the leadership of Hofer and Strache, the Freedom Party has made a comeback in recent years.

“The [Freedom Party’s] support is steadily growing: for more than a year it has topped every representative poll, being consistently backed by around 30 per cent of the respondents,” political scientists Philip Rathgeb and Fabio Wolkenstein write at the London School of Economics‘ Europe blog.

According to Rathgeb and Wolkenstein, there are a number of reasons for this, including a slow economy and a political stalemate between the two dominant parties that has stymied policymaking. But immigration is by far the most important part of the story.

Austria’s longstanding nativist streak came to the fore in the summer of 2015, when the European refugee crisis became the continent’s dominant political issue. The FPÖ has cast Syrian and other Muslim refugees as a threat to Christian-European civilization. This message has resonated with Austrian voters, a majority of whom think their country is on the wrong track.

Alarmed by FPÖ’s surge in the polls on a wave of anti-refugee sentiment, the Austrian government reversed its pro-refugee policy, closing Austria’s borders to refugees and asylum seekers. But that wasn’t enough to stop the FPÖ’s rise: The party won a plurality in the first round of Austria’s presidential election in April, forcing a runoff between Hofer and Van der Bellen (the candidates from the establishment center-right and center-left parties were eliminated in this first round, showing just how unhappy many Austrians were with the status quo).

The runoff vote was supposed to have been months ago: It was first held in May, with Van der Bellen winning by a tiny 31,000 margin. But an Austrian court nullified the vote, citing irregularities with mail-in ballots. The court rescheduled a redo of the presidential runoff vote for December 4.

Over the course of this extended campaign, Hofer’s radicalism became extremely clear to observers.

Why Hofer’s defeat is such a big deal

Austria Holds Presidential Election(Getty Images)

Traditionally, the Austrian president is mostly a ceremonial figure, with real power wielded by the chancellor (Austria’s equivalent of a prime minister). But, as scholar of Austrian politics Fabio Wolkenstein explains, the Austrian constitution technically grants the president surprisingly unlimited powers to dismiss the chancellor and wield executive power on his or her own.

No Austrian president since 1945 has exercised this power, snuck into the constitution by an anti-democratic chancellor in 1929, for obvious reasons (cough, Hitler, cough). But Hofer had suggested he was open to invoking these so-called “secret” powers, telling Austrians that you “will be surprised about all the things that are possible.”

It’s hard to know whether Hofer actually would have actually been willing to remake the traditional role for the presidency — many observers were skeptical he’d be willing to take such a large risk. But even if Hofer hadn’t exercised the presidency’s full powers, his victory would have been dangerous.

For one thing, Hofer had occasionally signaled that he was open to taking Austria out of the European Union, something he could have pushed from his new high-profile perch.

For another, Hofer, a soft-spoken and telegenic candidate, had a real skill for making the FPÖ seem less radical and more normal. If he continued this trend during the presidency, it could have buoyed the FPÖ’s numbers in Austria’s 2018 presidential elections — potentially helping to fuel a far-right takeover of the country’s entire government.

“A moderate and, so to speak, well-behaved FPÖ president would be a great way of signaling electability to those who are still skeptical,” Wolkenstein writes for the London School of Economics’ Europe blog. “This makes imaginable a comfortable victory of the FPÖ — which consistently has approval ratings higher than those of all other parties — in next general election in 2018.”

Well, not anymore. It turns that, as slick as Hofer might have been, Austrian voters saw through him — and voted in large numbers for his tolerant opponent.

Austria’s election is a break in the far-right wave

Alexander van der Bellen Holds Final Presidential Election Campaign Rally
Van der Bellen.

(Alex Domanski/Getty Images)

Prior to Sunday, far-right populists had been riding a wave of victories.

The far-right, properly understood, is a group of parties around the West united principally around their hostility to mass immigration and mulit-culturalism. These parties — which have strong presences everywhere from the Netherlands to Sweden to Hungary — differ on traditional left/right issues like the size of the welfare state and LGBT rights.

But they all agree that mass immigration, particularly from non-white nations, poses a direct threat to the safety and cultural identity of Western countries. They’ve succeeded as a direct result of dissatisfaction among white voters with cultural change. They win because, not despite, of their racism.

In 2016, this message proved to more effective than almost anyone had thought it would in years prior.

Brexit was, a project of Britain’s far-right United Kingdom Independence Party, was the first shock. Trump, who fits the far-right model to a tee, was an even bigger shock. Just last week, France’s center-right Republican party elected François Fillon — a candidate who adopted the far-right message on immigration — to be its standard bearer in the 2017 presidential election. Fillon is ahead in most general election polls; the runner up is Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National.

These three results — Britain’s referendum, America’s presidential vote, and France’s center-right primary — had mostly been missed by the polls. They suggested that the far-right was stronger than even its West-wide strong poll numbers had suggested; that we were about to experience a wave of far-right parties

If any party were to benefit from such a wave, it should be the FPÖ — one of Europe’s most established and historically successful far-right parties. Moreover, Austria has been a major way station for migrants since the refugee crisis really took off in 2015 — with over one million migrants entering the country (though mostly not settling there) in the past year. You’d think the stage would be set for a sweeping Hofer victory, one that would prove that the polls yet again missed a far-right wave.

And indeed, the polls did miss Austria’s presidential election — only in the exact opposite direction. Hofer was blown out.

What makes Hofer’s defeat even more important, in a political sense, is the message Van der Bellen ran on. Instead of running on far-right lite policies, as some mainstream European politicians have done, he presented a straight contrast — preaching tolerance and acceptance, and casting Hofer’s anti-immigrant message as a threat to Austrian values.

His most successful campaign video featured an 89 year old Holocaust survivor warning that “it’s not the first time something like this has happened,” calling on Austrians to reject bigotry and embrace Van der Bellen’s more open vision of Austria.

The success of this strategy “should be major wake-up call for defeatist liberal democrats,” Mudde, the UGA expert on the far-right, writes. “Populism can be beaten and it can be beaten without pandering!”

Does this mean the far-right’s momentum has been stopped? No, and it’s kind of a mistake to think in those terms. Each national election is mostly about national issues; it’s not like Americans voted for Trump because the UK voted for Brexit. So it’s not like a defeat for the far-right in Austria means that they’ll lose in Dutch parliamentary or French presidential elections.

It does show, however, that defeating the far-right doesn’t require embracing a version of their message. Though ideals about tolerance and equality have taken a beaten in 2017, Austria’s election shows that they can still win the hearts of Western voters.

Incoming national security adviser’s son spreads fake news about D.C. pizza shop

Michael Flynn Jr. accompanies his father, Michael Flynn, at Trump Tower on Nov. 17, 2016.

Michael Flynn Jr. accompanies his father, Michael Flynn, at Trump Tower on Nov. 17, 2016. | AP 


The son of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser, embraced a baseless conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton on Sunday after a man who claimed to be investigating the hoax fired a rifle inside a pizza parlor in Northwest Washington, D.C., on Sunday.

The man, 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina, entered the restaurant, D.C. police said, to “self-investigate ‘Pizza Gate’ (a fictitious online conspiracy theory).” After firing his gun inside the establishment, he was arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. No one was injured.

The baseless online conspiracy theoryin question, spread by supporters of President-elect Donald Trump, holds that the pizza shop, Comet Ping Pong, is actually a front for a child sex ring led by Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

The conspiracy theory got its start when emails from Comet Ping Pong’s owner James Alefantis were hacked from the Gmail account of Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and released by WikiLeaks.

The New York Times reported: “While Mr. Alefantis has some prominent Democratic friends in Washington and was a supporter of Mrs. Clinton, he has never met her, does not sell or abuse children, and is not being investigated by law enforcement for any of these claims.”

On Sunday, Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., tweeted, “Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many ‘coincidences’ tied to it.”

The younger Flynn, who has served as his father’s adviser, linked to the account of Jack Posobiec, whose Twitter account describes him as the special projects director of a group called Citizens4Trump.

Posobiec said Welch’s actions were a “false flag,” and claimed he was an actor carrying out an elaborate conspiracy to discredit sites that spread the fabricated #PizzaGate accusations.

“Planted Comet Pizza Gunman will be used to push for censorship of independent news sources that are not corporate owned,” he tweeted.

For weeks, Comet Ping Pong has been the victim of false news stories about Clinton trafficking children in the local D.C. restaurant’s back rooms. The stories appeared on Facebook, in addition to such dubious outlets as The New Nationalist and Alex Jones’ Infowars.

Since then, a hashtag, #PizzaGate, has been used to defame the restaurant. The owner and employees of the pizzeria have also been victims of harassment. Scurrilous and defamatory posts continue to appear on Twitter on a daily basis even as D.C. police have said the restaurant is not under investigation.

The restaurant, located near Politics & Prose bookstore on a commercial strip in Washington’s Northwest section, announced last week that there will be visible police or private security presences at music shows hosted there.

“Comet Ping Pong, like any respectable venue, is dedicated to creating a safe and inviting space for all of our concert-goers,” a statement on the restaurant’s Facebook page reads. “There have been no hostile situations at the venue, and we do not anticipate any altercations as much of the harassment has occurred online, but as a precaution we now have security and police present at every show.”

After Welch’s arrest, Twitter users pointed to a Nov. 2 tweet by Flynn, in which he tied Clinton to “sex crimes with minors.”

“U decide – NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc…MUST READ!,” Flynn tweeted just days before the Nov. 8 election, linking to an article on the website “True Pundit.”

The article, which does not mention Comet Ping Pong, alleges that sources in the New York City Police Department had found new evidence linking “Clinton herself and associates” to a series of crimes, including: “money laundering, child exploitation, sex crimes with minors (children), perjury, pay to play through Clinton Foundation, obstruction of justice” and other unspecified “felony crimes.”

No such evidence ever surfaced, and the FBI said that its review of the emails found nothing to alter its recommendation that Clinton not be prosecuted.

Days later, on Nov. 4, the retired lieutenant general tweeted the hashtag #spiritcooking, referring to a conspiracy theory tying Podesta to satanic rituals.


Sunday Show Hosts Fail To Hold Trump Surrogates Accountable For His Voter Fraud Lies


Journalists Must Be Better Prepared In The Trump Era

Sunday show hosts failed to sufficiently press Donald Trump’s surrogates on the president-elect’s blatant lies about voter fraud in the 2016 election. Journalists must raise the bar even higher when interviewing Trump and his surrogates, from merely calling out falsehoods to actively putting statements into context and offering facts and data. Failure to aggressively push back on lies and contextualize misleading statements in the “post-truth” era of Trump risks leaving viewers unclear about which party is ultimately correct and tells them only what they don’t know, rather than ensuring they are informed.

On November 27, Trump tweeted, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” In fact, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, is expected to win the popular vote by about 2.5 million votes. Additionally, the Washington Post’s Phillip Bump found just three documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election. Nevertheless, Trump’s surrogates later defended his lie in a conference call with reporters.

On December 4, CBS host John Dickerson interviewed Reince Priebus, who Trump has tapped for White House chief of staff, on Face the Nation and addressed Trump’s claims that he would have won the popular vote if not for mass voter fraud:

While Dickerson did tell Priebus that “there is no evidence” that millions voted illegally, he made a series of missteps. First, he allowed Priebus to cite a Wall Street Journal op-ed that recycled discredited evidence, failing to note that the evidence was flawed and misleading. Second, while Dickerson asked if Trump needs to “tighten up his standards of proof,” he allowed Priebus to redirect the conversation away from Trump’s lies to a discussion of Trump’s penchant for tweeting in general. Finally, Dickerson never mentioned any of the numerous studies that show that claims of widespread voter fraud are false.

CBS compounded the problem by issuing a tweet that merely read “Reince Priebus: ‘It’s possible’ millions voted illegally.” Several media outlets have recently botched their headlines and tweets when reporting on false statements made by Trump, omitting context that would illustrate the inaccuracies.

CBS later deleted the tweet, replacing it with this one:

‘There’s Not a Chance in the World’: Chris Wallace Battles Jill Stein Over Recount Changing Results



Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace engaged in a pretty combative exchange today while discussing Stein’s recount efforts, with Wallace trying to get Stein to admit that there have been no recounts that have switched tens of thousands of votes.

The interview started with Wallace wanting to know why Stein hadn’t requested a recount in New Hampshire even though Hillary Clinton carried that state by a much more narrow margin than the three states she did request recounts in. Stein explained that it was because the deadline had passed for New Hampshire.

After Stein noted that she would look to expand the recounts to other states if they see a systemic issue regarding machine error and hacking, Wallace asked Stein if she knew the highest number of votes that had been switched via a recount.

When she brought up a situation with Toledo in 2004 where 90,000 votes were erroneously marked blank — she has brought this up before — Wallace explained that officially, the biggest change had been roughly 1200 during the 2000 Florida recount in that year’s presidential election.

‘There’s not a chance in the world here, Dr. Stein, that the vote is going to change in those three states,” Wallace exclaimed, pointing out the margin in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

She continued to bring up Ohio and claim that with a hand recount thousands of votes can be counted and change the results in Michigan and Wisconsin.

The conversation eventually switched to the amount of money Stein has raised for her recount efforts with Wallace wanting to know if this was really just a fundraising effort by Stein. She contended that all money raised was specifically for recount efforts and kept in a separate account.

At one point, the two began talking over each other when Stein said she wanted the allow the views of the American voter to be heard and Wallace replied that the views were that Donald Trump was elected. It got more contentious when Wallace asked her about an upcoming press conference she has scheduled at Trump Tower and pressed her to say how many votes she received in the election.

Watch the entire interview above, via Fox News Sunday:


China Warns Trump After His Controversial Call With Taiwan

Petulant manchild? (ks) – David Goldman


China’s foreign minister delivered a stark reminder to President-elect Trump Saturday. There is only one Chinese government to talk to.

The statement from the foreign minister’s office came after reports that Trump violated the “one China” policy and spoke on the phone with Taiwan’s president Friday. It was the only known time in nearly four decades that a a U.S. President has spoken on the phone with the president of Taiwan.

China views Taiwan’s president as an illegitimate leader, because they still view Taiwan as part of China. The U.S. has been delicately balancing that for more than 30 years.

“It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday, according to the Financial Times, which first reported the call between Trump and Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen.

China’s foreign ministry added it “lodged solemn representations with the US.”

It’s still unclear if Trump’s call–in which Taiwan’s president congratulated him–was intended to cause the uproar and signal a new direction in U.S. foreign policy toward China or if Trump had been unaware of the precedent he was toppling.

“We urge the relevant side in the US to adhere to the ‘one China’ policy, abide by the pledges in the three joint China-US communiques, and handle issues related to Taiwan carefully and properly to avoid causing unnecessary interference to the overall China-U.S. relationship,” China’s foreign ministry stated.

Trump tried to rationalize his phone call Friday as it was coming under scrutiny.

“The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you,’ Trump tweeted.

He then later pointed out that the U.S. sells weapons to Taiwan.

Lauren Fox

Army Halts Construction Of Dakota Access Pipeline


Dakota Access Pipeline protesters celebrate as they march back to the Oceti Sakowin campground after they found out the Army Corps of Engineers denied the easement to drill under Lake Oahe on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.



OCETI SAKOWIN CAMPGROUND, N.D. ― Federal authorities have halted construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline amid growing protests that were expected to draw some 2,000 U.S. military veterans.

The Department of the Army has denied the final easement required for the $3.8 billion project to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, it announced Sunday. Instead, it will conduct an Environmental Impact Statement to examine the impacts and explore alternative routes, it said.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternative routes for the pipeline crossing.”


Native American and other activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline at Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The US Army Corps of Engineers announced today that it will not grant an easement to the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under a lake on the Sioux Tribes Standing Rock reservation, ending a months-long standoff.


The 1,172-mile pipeline is being built to carry Bakken oil from North Dakota to an existing oil terminal in Illinois. Most of it is completed, except for a 20-mile section near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The tribe and demonstrators have raised concerns about the threat the pipeline poses to water and sacred Native American sites. The tribe has also argued, in a lawsuit to stop the pipeline’s completion, that the project violates federal laws and its environmental impact has not been fully studied.

In a statement, Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II applauded the news.

We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing,” he said.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country “will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision,” Archambault added. He noted his hope that the incoming Trump administration would respect the decision.

“My hands go up to all the water protectors who have stood up to protect tribal treaty rights and to protect Mother Earth,” National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby said in an emailed statement. “Thank you for Standing For Standing Rock.”


Military veterans place a flag that says ‘one water’ on a hillside above Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota.


Within hours of the announcement, Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association for America’s oil and natural gas industry, called on Trump to “reject the Obama administration’s shameful actions to deny this vital energy project, restore the rule of law in the regulatory process, and make this project’s approval a top priority as he takes office in January.”

Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Philip George, 37, from the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve in Ontario, Canada, was among the demonstrators gathered Sunday at Standing Rock. He described the victory as “bittersweet,” something “due to our people for the hundreds of years of genocide and oppression.”

“This fight is part of what’s going on here for centuries,” he told The Huffington Post. “I’m glad they denied the easement, but I don’t know how long this victory will last with Donald Trump being elected president. I’m not sure if he will respect our people and respect our culture. Money can corrupt a man’s heart.”

George added that he sees this as a small victory in the grand scheme of things and believes there is much more work to do regarding indigenous representation and nation-to-nation relations. “The federal government needs to respect our ability to govern ourselves, our land and who we are,” he said.

Lance King, 44, of Kyle, South Dakota, located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, has traveled to Standing Rock twice to join in the demonstrations. His most recent visit has lasted two weeks.

King said he was “excited” and “happy” about the Army’s decision, which he sees as a “victory for the American people.”

“Everything was up in the air. I don’t think anyone saw this coming,” he told HuffPost. “There was a high rate of excitement and worry, so we didn’t see this ― but we stuck with our prayers.”

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said that in light of Sunday’s decision, the Department of Justice would continue to monitor the situation.

The department remains committed to supporting local law enforcement, defending protestors’ constitutional right to free speech and fostering thoughtful dialogue on the matter,” she said. “We recognize the strong feelings that exist in connection with this issue, but it is imperative that all parties express their views peacefully and join us in support of a deliberate and reasonable process for de-escalation and healing.”

Fireworks fill the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline near the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.


Conservation groups quickly celebrated the news.

“Today, the voices of an indigenous people were heard,” Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh said. “The rights of a sovereign nation were respected.”

Greenpeace spokeswoman Lilian Molina praised the decision, but noted that the incoming Trump administration “must respect today’s decision and recognize the will of the people to stop this disastrous pipeline. The fight doesn’t end today.”

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said he looked forward to further environmental review of the pipeline.

“History has taught us that it is never a question whether a pipeline will spill, but rather a question of when,” he said. “A comprehensive environmental review will show that this dirty and dangerous project will threaten the safety of every community it cuts through.”

Photographer Josh Morgan contributed reporting from North Dakota.

10 things you need to know today: December 4, 2016

Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images


1. Green Party changes recount tactic in Pennsylvania
The Green Party dropped its initial case for a statewide recount in Pennsylvania in court documents released Saturday, but early Sundaythe Green Party nominee spearheading the recount campaign, Jill Stein, said she will instead file suit in federal court demanding a recount on constitutional grounds. “PA’s election law and recount process raise serious questions about due process and whether fundamental democratic rights are protected,” Stein said on Twitter, concluding a series of tweets arguing that a recount process should be accessible and routine. Pennsylvania required a $1 million bond to advance the recount under Stein’s previous strategy.

Source: The Hill, Associated Press

2. At least 9 dead in California warehouse rave fire
At least nine people were killed and 25 more are missing after a massive fire broke out in a warehouse hosting a dance party Friday night in Oakland, California. The fire started around 11:30 p.m. and may be the deadliest blaze in city history. Crowded with a “maze” of artists’ workspaces and illegal dwellings, the building had no sprinkler system and smoke detectors did not activate, firefighters said. “It was too hot, too much smoke, I had to get out of there,” said Bob Mule, a photographer who escaped the fire with minor burns. “I literally felt my skin peeling and my lungs being suffocated by smoke. I couldn’t get the fire extinguisher to work.” Authorities say as many as 40 people may be dead, and investigation is slow going thanks to structural instabilities in the warehouse.

Source: East Bay Times, Reuters

3. Putin: Trump is a ‘clever man’ who will ‘quite quickly understand’ how to be president
President-elect Donald Trump “is already a statesman, he is the head of the United States of America, one of the world’s leading countries,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview aired Sunday. “Because he achieved success in business, it suggests that he is a clever man. And if [he is] a clever man, then he will fully and quite quickly understand another level of responsibility. We assume that he will be acting from these positions,” Putin added. Trump has been accused of undue friendliness toward Putin, particularly considering alleged Russian hacking to influence the U.S. election.

Source: Reuters, TASS

4. Russia seeks negotiations with U.S. for full rebel withdrawal from Aleppo
The rebels who hold the besieged eastern half of Aleppo, Syria, have lost more than half of the territory they once controlled to advancing forces loyal to the Bashar al-Assad regime and its Russian allies. Though the opposition groups have been quietly negotiating with Russia in neighboring Turkey, on Saturday Moscow announced it is ready to deal with the United States, which backs some of the militants fighting Assad, to arrange a full withdrawal of Syrian rebel forces from Aleppo. Rebel leaders in Aleppo have reportedly sworn they will not leave the city, and Washington has yet to respond to Moscow’s invitation to talks.

Source: Reuters, BBC News

5. Fidel Castro’s ashes interred
The ashes of former Cuban President Fidel Castro were interred Sundaymorning in Santiago, Cuba, following nine days of national mourning. “Few in the world believed in [Cuba’s] ability to resist and overcome,” said Fidel’s brother, current Cuban President Raúl Castro, at the interment. “Fidel showed us that it was possible.” Raúl also announced Cuba would not name streets and landmarks after his deceased brother, insisting that the “leader of the revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality and was consistent in that through the last hours of his life.” Cubans who watched a four-day procession of Castro’s casket chanted, “I am Fidel!” as it passed.

Source: The Washington Post, Associated Press

6. Iran promises ‘firm response’ if new U.S. sanctions are enacted
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday urged President Obama to reject a bill extending sanctions on Iran which passed the U.S. Senate on Thursday in a 99-0 vote. “America’s president is obliged to exercise his authority by preventing [the bill’s] approval and particularly its implementation,” Rouhani said in a parliamentary speech, “and if this gross violation is carried out we will firmly respond.” The White House has said it does not believe the sanctions violate the Iran deal, as Rouhani claims, and Obama is expected to sign the bill.

Source: Bloomberg, Reuters

7. Italians vote in constitutional referendum deciding prime minister’s fate
Italy votes Sunday in a referendum on constitutional reform, and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has sworn he will resign if the reform effort loses. The proposed changes would curb the power of Italy’s upper legislative house and centralize some authority currently held by regional governments. Voter turn-out is expected to be high at 50 to 60 percent, and a “no” vote against the reforms is favored to win. The outcome will be declared sometime after midnight.

Source: Associated Press, Reuters

8. Trump attends ‘heroes and villains’ costume party as himself
President-elect Donald Trump attended a campaign donor’s lavish “heroes and villains” costume party on Long Island Saturday evening, and he dressed as himself. While most other attendees donned obvious costumes — top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway went as Superwoman, for example — when Trump arrived in a suit and tie he told attendees he was dressed as “me.” Conway described Trump as “the ultimate hero” in a tweet from the party and said the crowd was “thrilled” with Trump’s surprise.

Source: The Hill, Politico

9. Penn State wins Big 10 championship
Penn State football won the Big 10 title in an upset game Saturdaynight, coming back from a 21-point deficit for a 38-31 victory. This is the school’s first conference championship in eight years and gives the team a shot at the playoffs, for which picks will be announced late Sunday morning. “What I do know is that we just won the toughest conference in college football,” said Penn State coach James Franklin. “They say you’re allowed to overcome minor setbacks, and we’ve done that. It’s up to you, [playoff] committee.”

Source: USA Today, Big 10

10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer drops, inspires love of Baby Groot
Marvel Studios released the first full trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the sequel to the popular 2014 superhero film starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and the voice acting of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. Stealing the show and much of the screen-time was Baby Groot, the small humanoid tree who is re-growing into the large humanoid tree introduced in the first movie. The trailer also offers a good look at Abilisk, the toothy, tentacled space monster the Guardians will fight. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be released in May.

Source: io9, TechnoBuffalo


Associated Press


Beijing Bristles Over Trump’s Call With Taiwan Leader… ‘China Will Regard This As A Deeply Destabilizing Event… It Reveals The Incoming Presidency To Be Volatile And Unpredictable’… Trump Risks China’s Wrath… Experts Fear Rising Tension And Emboldened China… ‘Third Rail Of U.S.-China Relations’… Sets ‘Foundation Of Enduring Mistrust’… Multiple Asian Nations Express Concern To White House… Former U.S. Ambassador: Trump ‘Winging It’… Diplomacy Blunders Pile Up… 

Trump voter regrets vote: He is not draining swamp but filling it with alligators


MSNBC screen-capture


The Trump voter revolt may be starting. Maybe that is why he is starting one of the largest disinforming set of rallies around the country to tell his supporters not to believe their eyes or the crooked media.

A Trump voter who was foreclosed on by a corrupt banker, Steven Mnuchin is upset that he is the pick for Treasury Secretary. The AP reported the following recently.

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Donald Trump named his Treasury secretary, Teena Colebrook felt her heart sink.

She had voted for the president-elect on the belief that he would knock the moneyed elites from their perch in Washington. And she knew Trump’s pick for Treasury — Steven Mnuchin — all too well.

OneWest, a bank formerly owned by a group of investors headed by Mnuchin, had foreclosed on her Los Angeles-area home in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stripping her of the two units she rented as a primary source of income.

“I just wish that I had not voted,” said Colebrook, 59. “I have no faith in our government anymore at all. They all promise you the world at the end of a stick and take it away once they get in.”

Teena Colebrook appeared on Chris Hayes recently and was decidedly adamant that she wants Donald Trump to keep his word. Watch the video here. She said Trump promised to drain the swamp. Teena believed him. She felt the government needed a shake up. Trump hoodwinked her like he is doing to most of his voters.

“We believe Trump would be an outsider for the first time who would work for the people like his campaign promised,” Teena Colebrook said. “He said he would, ah, my only interest he is quoted as saying is to you the American people, not major donors, or parties, or corporations. Now we want him to prove it. He said he was going to drain the swamp. Now he is filling it with alligators like Mnuchin. We want him to prove he will drain the swamp.”

Teena will have a long wait as her prior alligator statement is the reality she must live with. Chris Hayes asked Teena if she felt she was played and hoodwinked. She said in some instances she does.

Let the revolt begin.

By Egberto Willies