Kushner’s Deal of the Century

By now many of you have read news articles about the Bahrain summit where Kushner is trying to convince Arab countries to contribute $50 billion to implement the financial side of Kushner’s Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Some Arab countries are represented at the meeting but as expected the Palestinians are boycotting the meeting.

According to a meeting David Friedman, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, had yesterday with some prominent Israelis, the Kushner plan asks for the money to come only from Arab countries. No country has agreed to contribute even 1$, including the U.S. Of the $50 billion in requested contributions, $25 billion is supposed to go to Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt and $25 billion to the West Bank. The money paid to the 3 Arab countries is to permanently absorb the millions of Palestinian refugees residing in their countries so they are ineligible to return to either Israel or the West Bank in any eventual peace deal.

The $25 billion in investment allocated to the West Bank will actually be given to Israeli companies to expand their operations in the West Bank to provide employment opportunities to Palestinians. The Israeli minimum wage is the equivalent of $320/month but the deal calls for the Israeli companies not to be bound by any minimum wage. In effect allowing Israeli companies access to even cheaper wages by desperate Palestinians.

There is another dimension to this proposal – in effect a stealth annexation. As Israeli companies start building facilities all across the West Bank, along with some housing for the Jewish managers of these facilities there will be no part of the West Bank that is any longer exclusively Palestinian. Thus along with existing Jewish settlements, the pressure will build in Israel to finalize the annexation since they are in control of most of the territory.

The travel restrictions Israel imposes on Palestinians will remain in place. Thus if Palestinians want to work in the new Israeli facilities that are supposed to be built in the West Bank, the Palestinians will need Israeli permission and travel permits to get to work and back home. The same is true of the new train route between Gaza and the West Bank where travel is restricted to those who can get an Israeli permit to make the trip.

Needless to say, Israel is in favor of this new peace proposal since everything is stacked in their favor and the Palestinians hate it. Kushner’s proposal is a big bag of nothing. It doesn’t look like it will even be unveiled publically since it could prove embarrassing.

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‘The Hills: New Beginnings’ Is a Blast of Mid-Aughts Nostalgia—Mischa Barton and Pamela Anderson Included

Courtesy MTV

We’ve come a long way since The Hills’ Lauren Conrad chose her relationship over a career-advancing trip to Paris in a reality-TV twist on The Devil Wears Prada. The hotly anticipated premiere of The Hills: New Beginnings came and went on Monday night without any of the characters getting drunk, having a screaming match at a club, or pensively gazing at the Pacific Ocean after making a life-altering decision. They are all grown up and honestly, it’s a little bit boring.

The most notable difference between MTV’s reboot of The Hills and the original is the absence of LC and her mascara-soaked tears. And yet, though the rest of the gang is back together (save for Kristin Cavallari and Lo Bosworth), the show barely resembles its predecessor. Production values are higher, highlights are less tacky. Side note: the women of The Hills truly know how to make a television comeback; they all somehow look more radiant than they did ten years ago. Whether the change is due to low-rise jeans going out of style, a decrease in binge-drinking, or an increase in Botox is unclear. Brody Jenner is married. Audrina Patridge is divorced. Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag, who bill themselves as one of the media’s most-hated couples, are living in domestic bliss with their toddler son Gunner.

Monday night’s premiere began promisingly with Audrina, Heidi, and Whitney back together again, nursing glasses of champagne and exchanging parenting advice. It was amusing to watch notorious party girl Heidi lament the anxieties of being a helicopter mom who can’t leave her child alone for a night out. Audrina is the first to cry—seven minutes into the episode—while discussing her divorce from BMX rider Corey Bohan, with whom she shares a child.

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NO SOAP FOR YOU (Cartoon, Column and Video)

The accusation that detention centers holding migrant children are concentration camps doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being compared to Nazi death camps. But, there are definitely some soap Nazis among Customs and Border Protection.

In fact, this week, the Trump administration went to court to argue that migrant children detained at the U.S.-Mexico border do not require basic hygiene products like soap and toothbrushes in order to be held in “safe and sanitary” conditions. Hell, they even argued that forcing minors to sleep on cold concrete floors in crowded cells, CELLS, with low temperatures also fulfilled the “safe and sanitary” requirement.

News broke this week that there are not enough diapers for the babies currently held by the Trump administration (which would make sense if the big orange baby requires them all). Also, children are being forced to care for toddlers. There are toddlers sitting around in urine-soaked onesies. There is a lack of toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap. Showers and baths are extremely rare for the children detained by Donald Trump.

In addition to all that, the government is doing all it can to prevent the public from discovering what it’s like inside these detention centers. The press and even elected representatives have been barred from entering many of the facilities.

But, we’re not supposed to call them “concentration camps.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the GOP’s current favorite punching bag because she’s liberal, young, smarter than them, female, brown and from New York City, is catching a lot of heat for describing the detention centers as “concentration camps.” She’s not backing down. She shouldn’t.

Not all concentration camps were death camps. During World War II, the term “Internment” was used for the camps holding American citizens of Japanese descent, but they were concentration camps.

Many of Trump’s defenders argue that these detention centers don’t meet the requirement for the tag of “concentration.” They argue that most concentration camps are under dictatorships, meanwhile, Trump threatened to jail a reporter yesterday for taking a picture.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “concentration camp” as “a camp where persons are confined, usually without hearings and typically under harsh conditions, often as a result of their membership in a group the government has identified as dangerous or undesirable.”

If that description doesn’t fit these centers, then I don’t know what does.

The fact is, they are concentration camps. The problem is, most Americans don’t want to live in a country that allows them, so they will never admit they exist. Problem. The United States of America under Donald Trump has concentration camps and they’re full of babies.

For what it’s worth, the Nazis never told their citizens about their concentration camps either. They just handed them the soap.

Watch me draw:

Email Clay Jones at clayjonz@gmail.com

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Stephen Colbert Sounds Off on E. Jean Carroll’s Trump Rape Allegation: ‘Specific, Credible and Terrible’


“Here’s something you did not see discussed on TV a lot this weekend,” Stephen Colbert said nearly 10 minutes into his Late Show monologue Monday night. “The president of the United States was accused of sexual assault—again.” As the audience jeered, the host joked, “Trump is really repeating his 2016 strategy.” 

Colbert was of course referring to the new allegation from author E. Jean Carroll, who alleges in her new memoir that Donald Trump raped her in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-‘90s. 

“These accusations are specific, they are credible and they are terrible,” Colbert said. “And they make Carroll the 22nd woman to step forward. 22 women! That should raise alarms.” 

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Is cutting Central American aid going to help stop the flow of migrants

Some USAID programs seek to help raise living standards for families like this one in Western Honduras.

Carmen Monico, Elon University

President Donald Trump has long made blocking the thousands of Central Americans who head to the southern U.S. border, most of them seeking asylum, from entering and staying in the country a top priority.

His administration is now stepping up its pressure on the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to take steps to curtail the migration of their own citizens by constricting U.S. aid. About US$370 million in aid money for the three countries included in the 2018 budget will be spent on other projects, the State Department said on June 17.

“It is critical that there be sufficient political will in these countries to address the problem at its source,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

I’m a scholar who has researched migration from Central America, especially the arrival of unaccompanied children and teens from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Like many experts, I argue that slashing aid is counterproductive because foreign assistance can address the root causes of migration, such as violence and poverty. I also consider this demand that the region’s governments muster more “political will” to be meaningless, as only sustained human and economic development, along with efforts to combat crime, can make a difference.

Aid flows

U.S. foreign aid to Central America is supposed to improve economic conditions, bolster agriculture, enhance public safety and security and root out government corruption.

But even though the U.S. has spent nearly $16 billion on foreign assistance for Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala since 1946 and supported coordinated regional efforts aimed at deterring migration from the region since 2014, hundreds of thousands of Central Americans, especially the children and teens seeking asylum on their own, are still fleeing “push” factors back home like violence and hunger.

So why hasn’t all of this money make more of a difference?

U.S. foreign policy had many objectives in these countries. Along with aid for stability and development, U.S. assistance has emphasized the fight against drug trafficking and police training.

In addition, decades of intense U.S. intervention laid the groundwork for today’s violence and instability across the region.

The Eisenhower administration, for instance, orchestrated the ousting of Guatemala’s democratically elected government in 1954 that ushered in a prolonged civil war. In the early 1980s, the Reagan administration supported the brutal Guatemalan strongman José Efraín Ríos Montt, who was later convicted of committing genocide. President Ronald Reagan also backed El Salvador’s violent government during a civil war that killed 75,000 people and left the country vulnerable to decades of instability. In addition, his administration turned Honduras into a staging ground for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels it financed, militarizing that country and increasing levels of political violence that have never subsided.

Plans vs. reality

In 2015, the Obama administration drafted a plan to boost Central American aid that was intended to discourage migrants from making the trip north. In 2016, the White House detailed multiyear aid levels that would remain much higher than before the surge in asylum-seekers began, as long as the three countries made progress on “border security” and other goals.

Instead, the total amount of money Congress obligated – or approved for current and future aid spending – in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, has fallen by more than two-thirds, slipping from $604 million in 2015 to $182 million in 2019. A large share of those obligated funds have not been spent. Now, with this announcement, it seems they never will be.

Disbursements, the money actually spent, declined by about one-third from $328 million in 2015 to $217 million in 2019. U.S. nonprofits and consulting firms have spent most of this money through local civil society groups and international agencies.

The State Department is also saying that the U.S. will not authorize any new funding for Central American aid. Because Congress has blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to slash aid before, it’s not clear how successful this new effort will prove.

Questions about effectiveness

Many economists argue over the question of whether foreign aid works. Scholars have not determined that it quells the kind of violence behind Central America’s mass migration.

Some aid experts find that it only makes the countries that get it dependent on the nations that donate it, rather than making a lasting difference for the people it’s supposed to help.

Others hold that the problem is how aid is allocated: often in increments that are too small and sporadic and without a proven strategy.

One problem in terms of proving aid effectiveness is choosing the right metrics. One program might not raise local living standards, stop drug trafficking and reduce the number of people who emigrate, but it might achieve one or more of those goals.

And although some critics suspect that aid money is given as blank checks, that concern overlooks the fact that through the U.S. Agency for International Development and its contractors, the U.S. government does try to improve the effectiveness of its programs, develop pilots and follow up on promising and targeted approaches.

While conducting Fulbright research in Guatemala, I learned about one such evaluation of a USAID crime and violence prevention project underway throughout Central America.

The impact evaluation involved 29,000 survey respondents, 848 interviews and 44 focus groups. It found that murders, extortion, drug sales, gang recruitment and fights had declined and there was greater satisfaction with local leadership. The main reason for this program’s success, I believe after interviewing some of the project’s staff, is how well it engaged members of the local community – empowering them to define its priorities.

The assessment of that project did not look into its impact on migration. But the research I conducted on educational opportunities for at-risk youth in Guatemala strongly suggests that when efforts to stave off violence succeed, opportunities to create small businesses arise and access to a decent education increases, there is much less interest in emigration.

In my past international development work, I have also encountered international assistance efforts that were less effective. Aid that does little more than reflect the donor country’s good intentions doesn’t solve anything. Oversight is necessary, such as ongoing reviews by Congress and civil society groups of Central American aid.

While working as a World Bank consultant reviewing development projects around the world, I came to the conclusion that cutting aid prematurely to any project could undercut efforts that might succeed later.

That is why I believe that it doesn’t make sense to cut aid to Central America to punish governments for failing to stop migration. Restricting aid and re-routing assistance to other programs will do nothing about the underlying problems that are causing hundreds of thousands of people to risk their lives every year. For only when it becomes possible for people to pursue a better life in their home countries and there are no longer compelling reasons to flee for their lives will the pace of Central American migration subside.The Conversation

Carmen Monico, Assistant Professor of Human Service Studies, Elon University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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GOP Rep: Trump Hatred Could Be Driving Reports of Awful Conditions at Detention Centers


Amid reports of migrant children suffering in inhumane and squalid conditions at Texas border detention centers, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) suggested on Monday night the reports could be untrue because of the hatred many feel for the president.

Appearing on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, the Texas lawmaker was asked by host Chris Hayes whether he agreed that “these kinds of conditions are appalling and unacceptable,” something Burgess was unwilling to fully concede.

Noting that “it’s always been tough” at a number of facilities at the border, Burgess went on to describe the Custom and Border Patrol agents as heroes, insisting that they don’t get enough credit for the humane work they do. 

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