The Queen of ‘Alternative Facts’ Kellyanne Conway Caught in Brazen Lie!

Kellyanne Conway. Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

Dear Commons Community,

The queen of “alternative facts” Kellyanne Conway was accused of spreading lies once again with her commentary on Donald Trump’s visit to a church in Detroit over the weekend.

“You got Donald Trump in Detroit talking to 8,000 people at a Black church,” Conway boasted yesterday to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo.

Conway managed Trump’s 2016 campaign and later served as his White House counselor. She was seeking to highlight what she claimed is a vast difference in support for the presumptive GOP nominee over President Joe Biden in the upcoming 2024 election.

But videos from the event at 180 Church that were shared online showed the audience was perhaps only in the hundreds.

And as Reuters noted: “While some fervent, MAGA cap-adorned supporters waited for hours to get in, the line numbered in the hundreds, not thousands, and some attendees said they had just happened upon the scene by chance. As the event began, the church was not at capacity.”

MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin, meanwhile, was among those to note how “most people who showed up to the event were not Black.”

Conway’s “8,000 people” claim is the latest in a long line of her reality-denying defenses of Trump, following her “alternative facts” response to his inauguration crowd-size falsehoods and reference to the “Bowling Green massacre” that never actually happened.

Conway is a pathological liar just like her former boss.  She should get some truth serum from her ex-husband, George Conway, who has carved out a presence on cable news programs about Republican politics and Trump.

Tony

Michelle Goldberg on:  The Chilling Reason You May Never See, “The Apprentice”, the New Trump Movie

From the movie “The Apprentice” starring Jeremy Strong as Roy Cohn and Sebastian Stan as Donald  Trump.  Credit…Scythia Films.

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg,  had a piece yesterday entitled, The Chilling Reason You May Never See the New Trump Movie.  It is all about a film called The Apprentice and focuses on the relationship between Roy Cohn and Donald Trump.  Essentially the movie chronicles how Trump first learned from and later surpassed his brutal, Machiavellian fixer. Here is an excerpt:

“This week I finally got to see “The Apprentice,” an absorbing, disturbing movie about the relationship between the red-baiting mob lawyer Roy Cohn and a young Donald Trump. The film, which was received with an extended standing ovation and mostly appreciative reviews when it premiered at Cannes last month, is a classic story of a mentor and his protégé, chronicling how Trump first learned from and later surpassed his brutal, Machiavellian fixer.

Its performances are extraordinary. The “Succession” star Jeremy Strong captures both Cohn’s reptilian menace and, eventually, his pathos, as he’s wasted by AIDS but, closeted to the end, refuses to admit it. Just as impressive is Sebastian Stan, who makes Trump legible as a human being rather than the grotesque hyperobject we all know today.

It’s not a sympathetic portrayal, exactly; this is, after all, a movie that depicts Trump raping his first wife, Ivana. (The scene is based on a claim Ivana Trump made in a divorce deposition but later recanted, saying she felt “violated” but didn’t want her “words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”)

But “The Apprentice” also gives you a sense of the audacious glamour Trump projected before he became a caricature, and it makes his decision to pursue Manhattan’s Commodore Hotel in the 1970s, when Midtown was a sleazy wasteland, seem visionary. It offers a fresh way of understanding how Trump — under the tutelage of Cohn, who once served as chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy — evolved from an almost charming Queens striver into the lawless predator now bestriding American politics. I wish you could see it.

Unfortunately, you may not get a chance to see it anytime soon, at least in the United States. Distributors have bought the rights to “The Apprentice” in Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and many other countries. But the filmmakers have yet to secure a deal to release it here, either in theaters or on streaming services.

Negotiations are ongoing, and domestic distribution could still come together. Yet the possibility that American audiences won’t be able to see “The Apprentice” isn’t just frustrating. It’s frightening, because it suggests that Trump and his supporters have already intimidated some media companies, which seem to be pre-emptively capitulating to him.”

The entire column is below. Important reading!

Tony

———————————————————————————————–

 The New York Times

The Chilling Reason You May Never See the New Trump Movie

June 14, 2024

By Michelle Goldberg

Opinion Columnist

This week I finally got to see “The Apprentice,” an absorbing, disturbing movie about the relationship between the red-baiting mob lawyer Roy Cohn and a young Donald Trump. The film, which was received with an extended standing ovation and mostly appreciative reviews when it premiered at Cannes last month, is a classic story of a mentor and his protégé, chronicling how Trump first learned from and later surpassed his brutal, Machiavellian fixer.

Its performances are extraordinary. The “Succession” star Jeremy Strong captures both Cohn’s reptilian menace and, eventually, his pathos, as he’s wasted by AIDS but, closeted to the end, refuses to admit it. Just as impressive is Sebastian Stan, who makes Trump legible as a human being rather than the grotesque hyperobject we all know today.

It’s not a sympathetic portrayal, exactly; this is, after all, a movie that depicts Trump raping his first wife, Ivana. (The scene is based on a claim Ivana Trump made in a divorce deposition but later recanted, saying she felt “violated” but didn’t want her “words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”)

But “The Apprentice” also gives you a sense of the audacious glamour Trump projected before he became a caricature, and it makes his decision to pursue Manhattan’s Commodore Hotel in the 1970s, when Midtown was a sleazy wasteland, seem visionary. It offers a fresh way of understanding how Trump — under the tutelage of Cohn, who once served as chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy — evolved from an almost charming Queens striver into the lawless predator now bestriding American politics. I wish you could see it.

Unfortunately, you may not get a chance to anytime soon, at least in the United States. Distributors have bought the rights to “The Apprentice” in Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and many other countries. But the filmmakers have yet to secure a deal to release it here, either in theaters or on streaming services.

Negotiations are ongoing, and domestic distribution could still come together. Yet the possibility that American audiences won’t be able to see “The Apprentice” isn’t just frustrating. It’s frightening, because it suggests that Trump and his supporters have already intimidated some media companies, which seem to be pre-emptively capitulating to him.

Some established distributors might simply be reluctant to take on “The Apprentice” because they think political films are money losers; as The Hollywood Reporter pointed out, Adam McKay’s 2018 Dick Cheney biopic, “Vice,” was considered a “major flop.” But “The Apprentice” is a far buzzier film than “Vice,” and it appears from industry reporting that the movie industry is less worried about finding an audience than about poking the MAGA bear.

As Puck’s Matthew Belloni wrote after talking to potential buyers, “several that really liked the film are still out on ‘The Apprentice,’ in part because of the politics of the moment — which is to say fear of the politics of the moment.” Emanuel Nuñez, president of the production company Kinematics, one of the film’s investors, told me, “Trump attacked the film and, unfortunately, it appears that Hollywood right now doesn’t have the stomach to release this film and take him on.”

The fear seems to be twofold. Few want to end up in the MAGA movement’s cross hairs the way Bud Light and Disney did. And as one distribution executive told Variety, any company that wants to be sold or to merge with or buy another company would be hesitant to touch “The Apprentice” because of the possibility that, should Trump be re-elected, his “regulators will be punitive.”

After all, when Trump was president, his Department of Justice tried to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, the company that owned CNN. As The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported, the government’s opposition to the deal was widely seen as retaliation for CNN coverage that displeased Trump.

In a second Trump term, the Department of Justice is expected to be far more aggressive in persecuting Trump’s perceived enemies. Kash Patel, a former Trump administration official who has been floated as a possible acting attorney general in a Trump restoration, boasted to Steve Bannon of plans to target journalists for rejecting Trump’s lies about a stolen 2020 election: “We’re going to come after you, whether it’s criminally or civilly,” Patel said.

They could go after anyone involved with “The Apprentice” in the same way. In a cease-and-desist letter to the filmmakers, a lawyer for Trump claimed, absurdly, that the movie is “direct foreign interference in America’s elections,” citing the fact that its director, Ali Abbasi, is Iranian Danish and that the movie received funding from Denmark, Ireland and Canada.

“If you do not immediately cease all publication and marketing of the movie, President Trump will pursue every appropriate legal means to hold you accountable for this gross violation of President Trump and the American people’s rights,” Trump’s lawyer wrote. Should he become president again, he’ll have greatly expanded options for pursuing this vendetta.

It’s common to read about movies that are shown in most of the world but not released in, say, Russia or, more often, China. Should “The Apprentice” end up widely available globally but not, for political reasons, in the United States, it will be a sign of democratic decay, as well as an augur of greater self-censorship to come. After all, if anxiety about enraging Trump is already shaping what you can and cannot watch, it’s probably bound to get even worse if he actually returns to power.

In 2017, when he was frustrated that his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, wasn’t protecting him from the investigation into his Russia ties, Trump exclaimed, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” The uncertain fate of “The Apprentice” demonstrates that he no longer needs to replace the man, because he’s got a whole movement instead.

 

Happy Father’s Day – 2024!

Dear Commons Community,

On this day, we honor our dads.  My dad, Amadeo, was born and raised in Brooklyn, and married my mother, Philomena, in 1935.  They lived most of their entire adult lives in the South Bronx. They had three children: Donald, Peter, and me. He worked in a warehouse just off the docks on West 55th Street in Manhattan for thirty years.  He could have been in a scene in the Marlon Brando movie, On the Waterfront.  When he came home from work at night, he was exhausted, had dinner, and fell asleep on our couch. He never graduated high school but was very smart in many important ways including instilling in my brothers and me the importance of education.

I will always love him!

Tony

Birth of rare white buffalo calf in Yellowstone park fulfills Lakota prophecy!

Erin Braaten, a park visitor, said she took the photos of the white youngster being nuzzled by its brown mother.

Dear Commons Community,

The birth of a rare white buffalo in Yellowstone National Park fulfills a Lakota prophecy that portends better times, according to members of the American Indian tribe who cautioned that it’s also a signal that more must be done to protect the earth and its animals. As reported by The Associated Press.

“The birth of this calf is both a blessing and warning. We must do more,” said Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and the Nakota Oyate in South Dakota, and the 19th keeper of the sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman Pipe and Bundle.

The birth of the sacred calf comes as after a severe winter in 2023 drove thousands of Yellowstone buffalo, also known as bison, to lower elevations. More than 1,500 were killed, sent to slaughter or transferred to tribes seeking to reclaim stewardship over an animal their ancestors lived alongside for millennia.

Erin Braaten of Kalispell took several photos of the calf shortly after it was born on June 4 in the Lamar Valley in the northeastern corner of the park.

Her family was visiting the park when she spotted “something really white” among a herd of bison across the Lamar River.

Traffic ended up stopping while bison crossed the road, so Braaten stuck her camera out the window to take a closer look with her telephoto lens.

“I look and it’s this white bison calf. And I was just totally, totally floored,” she said.

After the bison cleared the roadway, the Braatens turned their vehicle around and found a spot to park. They watched the calf and its mother for 30 to 45 minutes.

“And then she kind of led it through the willows there,” Braaten said. Although Braaten came back each of the next two days, she didn’t see the white calf again.

For the Lakota, the birth of a white buffalo calf with a black nose, eyes and hooves is akin to the second coming of Jesus Christ, Looking Horse said.

Lakota legend says about 2,000 years ago — when nothing was good, food was running out and bison were disappearing — White Buffalo Calf Woman appeared, presented a bowl pipe and a bundle to a tribal member, taught them how to pray and said that the pipe could be used to bring buffalo to the area for food. As she left, she turned into a white buffalo calf.

“And some day when the times are hard again,” Looking Horse said in relating the legend, “I shall return and stand upon the earth as a white buffalo calf, black nose, black eyes, black hooves.”

A similar white buffalo calf was born in Wisconsin in 1994 and was named Miracle, he said.

Troy Heinert, the executive director of the South Dakota-based InterTribal Buffalo Council, said the calf in Braaten’s photos looks like a true white buffalo because it has a black nose, black hooves and dark eyes.

“From the pictures I’ve seen, that calf seems to have those traits,” said Heinert, who is Lakota. An albino buffalo would have pink eyes.

A naming ceremony has been held for the Yellowstone calf, Looking Horse said, though he declined to reveal the name. A ceremony celebrating the calf’s birth is set for June 26 at the Buffalo Field Campaign headquarters in West Yellowstone.

Other tribes also revere white buffalo.

“Many tribes have their own story of why the white buffalo is so important,” Heinert said. “All stories go back to them being very sacred.”

Heinert and several members of the Buffalo Field Campaign say they’ve never heard of a white buffalo being born in Yellowstone, which has wild herds. Park officials had not seen the buffalo yet and could not confirm its birth in the park, and they have no record of a white buffalo being born in the park previously.

Jim Matheson, executive director of the National Bison Association, could not quantify how rare the calf is.

“To my knowledge, no one’s ever tracked the occurrence of white buffalo being born throughout history. So I’m not sure how we can make a determination how often it occurs.”

Besides herds of the animals on public lands or overseen by conservation groups, about 80 tribes across the U.S. have more than 20,000 bison, a figure that’s been growing in recent years.

I hope the Lakota prophecy is true!

Tony

Trump calls Milwaukee a “horrible city”

Dear Commons Community,

Donald Trump on Thursday insulted Milwaukee, the site of the Republican National Convention.

“Milwaukee, where we are having our convention, is a horrible city,” Trump told House Republicans during their closed-door meeting, according to PunchBowl News.

The strangest part wasn’t even Trump’s reported insult for the city whose name is a translation of “The Good Land,” as Alice Cooper once helpfully taught us. Rather, it was the apparently contradictory ways that Republicans tried to either deny or clarify Trump’s remark.

“I was in the room. President Trump did not say this,” Rep. Bryan Steil of Wisconsin, wrote on X, quoting PunchBowl reporter Jake Sherman’s initial tweet. “There is no better place than Wisconsin in July.”

Steil later told a local TV station that Trump “wasn’t talking about the city, he was talking about specific issues in the city.”

“We were having broad conversation about the challenges we face in as a country, in particular the challenges we’ve seen in Milwaukee,” Steil said mentioning issues with elections, crime, and public schools.

A spokesperson for Steil later told Business Insider that since no one was taking notes, it was not clear whether or not Trump said “Milwaukee” and “horrible” next to each other.

“He’s not saying Milwaukee itself is horrible,” the spokesperson said. “He was saying the crime and election integrity that the city is facing is what’s horrible.”

A convention spokesperson told a local TV station that Trump was discussing his concerns about the security perimeter for the convention, which has been the subject of GOP frustration related to whether protests can occur in a park close to the main convention arena.

Both parties have historically hosted their conventions in cities or states that may have different politics than their own. This is especially true for Republicans, who have hosted their conventions in cities like New York. Local officials are known for playing nice though in order to garner the big business and spotlight that comes with hosting one of the two major political parties as they formally nominate their presidential candidate.

Trump’s insult quickly landed back in Wisconsin where local reporters jumped on the story. The former president’s campaign disputed the report.

“Wrong. Total bullshit,” spokesperson Steven Cheung wrote on X, quoting Sherman’s initial tweet. “He never said it like how it’s been falsely characterized as. He was talking about how terrible crime and voter fraud are.”

Sherman has stood by his reporting. “Trump absolutely said it – undoubtedly,” he wrote later on X. “People hear what they want. This is familiar to all who have covered Trump or Trump-adjacent stories for the last 10 or so years.”

Democrats and the Biden campaign were quick to defend the largest city in a key swing state. Democrats were originally set to host their convention in Milwaukee in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to switch to a largely virtual event.

“Once he’s settled in with his parole officer, I am certain he will discover that Milwaukee is a wonderful, vibrant and welcoming city full of diverse neighborhoods and a thriving business community,” Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, whose district includes most of Milwaukee, wrote on X.

Biden’s own account chimed in with an old photo of him celebrating the Milwaukee Buck’s 2021 NBA championship at the White House.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson took his own shot at Trump.

“Well, if Donald Trump wants to talk about things that he thinks are horrible, all of us lived through his presidency, so right back at ya, buddy.”

Tony

Trump Suggests Replacing the U.S. Income Tax with Tariffs – Huh!

Dear Commons Community,

While many of his policy pronouncements are strictly shooting from the hip, Trump yesterday raised the prospect of scrapping the U.S. income tax system and replacing it with much higher tariffs on imported goods.

Trump has for some time proposed an across-the-board 10% increase in tariffs for imports, but his comments implied far heavier trade duties that would likely be passed on to consumers. The campaign of President Joe Biden immediately pounced on the idea as hurting U.S. families.

Trump floated the idea while talking to House Republicans near the U.S. Capitol in what was described a pep talk” in his first visit to the Capitol campus since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

“Most intriguing policy idea from the GOP meeting at the Capitol Hill Club this morning: Trump briefly floated the concept of eliminating the income tax and replacing it with tariffs,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) in a social media post.

Citing sources inside the meeting, CNBC also reported Trump had raised the idea of an “all tariff policy.”

The consensus among economists is that tariffs jack up consumer prices because companies would need to charge more for goods and services to make up what they’re paying in tariffs. Economists have also said Trump’s other proposals for new levies would boost inflation in general. Inflation and the price of consumer goods have already become a major talking point ahead of the 2024 election, even as the economy has grown briskly.

Currently, tariffs bring in only a small portion of the $4.4 trillion in revenues the U.S. government brings in every year. According to the Treasury Department, annual Customs duties, which include tariff payments, amounted to $88.3 billion in the 2023 fiscal year. Income taxes, on the other hand, raised more than 20 times as much, $2.2 trillion.

To bring tariff revenues anywhere close to income tax levels would seem to require hefty boosts in tariffs well beyond the 10% Trump initially proposed.

Paul Krugman, the  New York Times columnist and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, gave a quick estimate in a social media post: “I’ll have to write this up in detail, but my first-pass estimate is that this would require an *average* tariff rate of 133 percent.”

A request for comment to the Trump campaign was not immediately answered.

The Biden campaign, which has already hammered at Trump’s 10% across-the-board tariff idea, teed off on the idea, focusing on the regressive nature of it. While the U.S. progressive income tax code means poor families have no or little tax liabilities, tariffs by themselves would likely raise prices without any similar protections.

“The only people who benefit from this regressive, thoughtless policy are Trump’s billionaire donors, who get a windfall at the expense of working class Americans,” said James Singer, spokesperson for the Biden campaign.

“American families get higher costs, Trump’s rich donors get richer,” Singer said.

In one way, Trump’s idea would simply be a return to the past. Prior to the imposition of the income tax in 1913, tariffs were a main source of government revenue. But, according to the Congressional Research Service, they have not accounted for much more than 2% of federal revenues in 70 years.

Trump hinted at that idea by reportedly praising President William McKinley at the meeting Thursday.

Before getting to the White House, McKinley was a member of the House of Representatives and best known for the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890, which boosted tariffs by nearly 50% on imports.

The political blowback from the law was disastrous for McKinley and his fellow Republicans, though. They lost 93 seats in the House in the next election.

I hope Trump keeps proposing the tariff tax!

Tony

 

U.S. Supreme Court Unanimously Rejects Efforts to Restrict Abortion Pill

Dear Commons Community,

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected calls to restrict access to mifepristone, one of the two drugs used in medication abortion, in a  ruling yesterday morning..

The ruling is a small win for abortion-rights groups, who believe the case was brought to the Supreme Court by a politically motivated anti-choice group that had no scientific-based evidence for rolling back access to mifepristone.

The ruling in FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, rejected the plaintiffs on standing. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion. As reported by several news media.

“Several pro-life doctors and associations sued FDA, arguing that FDA’s actions violated the Administrative Procedure Act. But the plaintiffs do not prescribe or use mifepristone. And FDA is not requiring them to do or refrain from doing anything,” Kavanaugh wrote.

“Rather, the plaintiffs want FDA to make mifepristone more difficult for other doctors to prescribe and for pregnant women to obtain,” he continued. “Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff’s desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue. Nor do the plaintiffs’ other standing theories suffice. Therefore, the plaintiffs lack standing to challenge FDA’s actions.”

The ruling is not surprising given what happened during March oral arguments. A majority of the justices, including some conservatives, appeared highly skeptical of whether Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine could even bring the case.

Plaintiffs are required to show they’ve suffered real harm in order to obtain standing to sue, and from the moment arguments began, the justices homed in on whether the group — and specifically, the doctors cited as examples in its briefs — met that bar. Many of the questions asked during arguments suggested that even the court’s most conservative justices saw the alliance’s standing argument as tenuous at best.

Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a collection of five anti-abortion medical groups, had claimed that the Food and Drug Administration overlooked safety issues when it loosened the rules for prescribing the abortion drug in 2016 and again in 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The anti-abortion group wanted to prohibit mifepristone from being sent through the mail or distributed at large pharmacy chains, among other restrictions.

“We recognize that many citizens, including the plaintiff doctors here, have sincere concerns about and objections to others using mifepristone and obtaining abortions,” the ruling states. “But citizens and doctors do not have standing to sue simply because others are allowed to engage in certain activities ― at least without the plaintiffs demonstrating how they would be injured by the government’s alleged underregulation of others.”

Although the ruling is a win for pro-choice groups, the ruling does not outright protect mifepristone. The decision still leaves the door open for future attacks on medication abortion, either through copycat lawsuits or continued litigation in U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s courtroom.

Kacsmaryk, a far-right Donald Trump appointee well-known for his anti-abortion views, is the federal judge who ruled last year that the FDA unlawfully approved mifepristone when it first went to market over two decades ago. After the Supreme Court took the case, Kacsmaryk allowed attorneys general from Idaho, Kansas and Missouri to be added as plaintiffs to the case. Those officials have suggested they will continue litigating the case.

President Joe Biden released a statement in response to the ruling, writing that mifepristone and medication abortion remain available and approved across the country. “Today’s decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues,” Biden wrote. “It does not change the fact that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago, and women lost a fundamental freedom. It does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states.”

The president also committed to calling on Congress to restore federal abortion protections.

Democrats and pro-choice groups were relieved by the court’s decision, but cautioned not to celebrate the ruling as a huge win.

“This decision was based not on the merits but the lack of standing — we are not yet out of the woods. This shouldn’t be a decision women are forced to fear year after year, case after case,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

Nancy Northup, the president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said she is both relieved and angry about the court’s decision because it simply maintains the status quo.

“This case has no basis in fact or law and the lower courts should never have let it go forward. The FDA’s rulings on medication abortion have been based on science,” Northup said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the attacks on abortion pills will not stop here ― the anti-abortion movement sees how critical abortion pills are in this post-Roe world, and they are hell bent on cutting off access. In the end, this ruling is not a ‘win’ for abortion ― it just maintains the status quo, which is a dire public health crisis in which 14 states have criminalized abortion.”

Small wins are better than no wins!

Tony

Senate Democrats Launch Probe of Foreign Payments to Jared Kushner’s Firm

Dear Commons Community,

Democrats are increasing their scrutiny of Jared Kushner’s business activities.

Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Kushner’s firm, Affinity Partners, for details about its investors on Wednesday, including the $2 billion it received from the Saudi Arabian government’s Public Investment Fund in 2021.  As reported by The Huffington Post.

“Mr. Kushner’s limited track record as an investor, including his nonexistent experience in private equity or hedge funds, raise questions regarding the investment strategy behind the seeding investments and lucrative compensation that Affinity received from the Saudi PIF and other sovereign wealth funds,” Wyden wrote.

A panel that screens investments for the Saudi sovereign wealth fund warned against investing with Kushner, given his inexperience in finance, but the full board, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, overruled the panel, The New York Times reported in 2022.

Kushner advised Trump on foreign affairs, guided his administration to embrace Saudi Arabia as an ally, and remained in close contact with the crown prince even after he was implicated in the dismembering of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“The Saudi PIF’s decision to invest $2 billion in Affinity so soon after Kushner’s departure from the Trump White House raises concerns that the investment was a reward for official actions Kushner took to benefit the Saudi government, including preventing accountability for the Saudi government ordering the brutal murder of journalist and American citizen Jamal Khashoggi,” Wyden wrote.

Wyden’s letter asked Affinity Partners for details about its seeding investments, the investments made by the firm, as well as the fees it has received, and the amount Kushner has been paid. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment made through its website.

Wyden’s letter represents an escalation of Democratic scrutiny of Kushner’s business activities, which have been controversial from the start. Even House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-Ky.), an aggressive defender of Donald Trump, said last year that he thought Kushner “crossed the line of ethics” with his Saudi deal.

Comer has overseen Republicans’ impeachment inquiry against Joe Biden, which has largely focused on business deals by the president’s son. Republicans have said he improperly traded on his father’s former position as vice president during the Obama administration.

Democrats on Comer’s committee have highlighted the millions Trump’s business received from foreign governments while he was president and also questioned Kushner’s Saudi payday. Unlike Wyden, however, House Democrats don’t have subpoena power because Democrats don’t have a majority in the chamber.

The investigation of Kushner is long overdue!

Tony

Scientists Using AI Publish New Study Suggesting that Every Elephant Has Its Own Name!

Dear Commons Community,

What’s in a name? It’s more than a sound people make to get your attention — it’s a seemingly universal hallmark of human society and language, the specifics of which set us apart from our fellow animals. Now, scientists say they have found evidence with the help of artificial-intelligence-powered tools that elephants call each other by names too.

“They have this ability to individually call specific members of their family with a unique call,” said Mickey Pardo, an acoustic biologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and an author of a study published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Elephants’ trumpeting calls might be their most recognizable sounds, but these “are basically an emotional outburst,” Dr. Pardo said. Lower-pitched rumbles, he said, are more meaningful, as they make up a majority of elephant vocalizations and are used in a wide variety of social situations. “A lot of interesting stuff is going on in the rumbles,” he said.

To decode these rumbles, Dr. Pardo and George Wittemyer, a professor of conservation biology at Colorado State University and chairman of the scientific board for the nonprofit Save the Elephants, analyzed 469 vocalizations made by family groups of adult elephant females and their offspring recorded at Amboseli National Park and the Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves in Kenya.

Elephant rumbles can be difficult for the human ear to differentiate, so the researchers used machine learning analysis: Essentially, they relied on A.I. to break down different elephant calls.

Individual elephants seemed to respond to certain rumbles from other elephants, and the researchers fed those sounds into their A.I. tool. “If the calls have something like a name, you should be able to figure out who the call is addressed to just from the acoustic structure of that call alone,” Dr. Pardo said.

So far, the scientists are not sure precisely which part of a vocalization might be the elephant’s “name.” But they found that their A.I. tool’s ability to identify the intended recipient of a rumble far exceeded what random chance would dictate.

They supplemented these analyses with fieldwork conducted by Dr. Pardo and David Lolchuragi, a co-author of the study and a research assistant at Save the Elephants. The researchers played recordings of rumbles to elephants and filmed their responses; they found that the individual elephants reacted more strongly to their “names” than to other calls, perking up their ears and rumbling back.

Another elephant, nicknamed Margaret, calls back quickly when researchers play a recorded sound that may correspond to her name.CreditCredit…Michael Pardo

“I was super excited,” Dr. Pardo said, “especially when we got the playback results, because I think that’s the strongest piece of evidence that the elephants can actually tell, just from hearing the call, if it was intended for them or not, and they respond more strongly to the calls that were originally directed to them.”

Other animals, including dolphins and parrots, have been found to call one another by what scientists have called “names.” But those are imitations of sounds that other individuals frequently make. That’s different from how humans create names — for instance, if your name is John, you probably didn’t get that name because of your tendency to walk around saying “John” repeatedly. But African bush elephants, Dr. Pardo and his colleagues argue, may be the first nonhuman animals shown to call one another by names as humans understand them, based on abstract sounds.

While this finding is preliminary, Dr. Pardo said that elephants calling one another by arbitrary sounds would be significant because humans assign arbitrary sounds to objects in order “to communicate about things that don’t make any imitable sound. It really expands the breadth of things that we can talk about.” It’s too early to say if this means that elephants may have names for other objects, but the way they seem to name one another leaves that open as a possibility.

Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, an acoustic biologist at Harvard Medical School who was not involved with the project, described the study as a “game-changer.”

“It’s only been recently, with A.I. and machine-learning tools, that this kind of analysis is now possible,” Dr. O’Connell-Rodwell said. The study’s argument for such sophisticated communication by elephants “makes perfect sense when you’re trying to spread out to forage and need to have specific contact,” she said.

These insights into elephant communication reveal “how important that social fabric is to the very existence of this animal,” Dr. Wittemyer said. “Social bonding is fundamental to everything about elephants,” he said.

This commonality between elephants and humans could even benefit conservation, Dr. Wittemyer said, because it might “help us recognize ourselves in them, which is the only way that we seem to understand anything.”

The text above was taken from an article that appeared in The New York Times.

Tony

Former GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan Torches Trump in Scathing Fox News Interview:  “He is unfit for office”

Dear Commons Community,

Former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan tore into Donald Trump yesterday, saying he won’t be voting for him and calling out his lack of character and principles.

“If you put yourself above the Constitution, as he has done, I think that makes you unfit for office,” he told Fox News host Neil Cavuto.

Cavuto asked if that was because of “the whole Jan. 6 thing.”

“That’s a part of it,” Ryan said. “I think it really is just character at the end of the day, and the fact that if you’re willing to put yourself above the Constitution ― an oath you swear when you take federal office, whether as president or a member of Congress, you swear an oath to the Constitution ― and you’re willing to suborn it to yourself, I think that makes you unfit for office.”

Ryan also blamed Trump for GOP election losses in recent years.

“He’s cost us a lot of seats,” Ryan said. “He cost us the Senate twice. He cost us the House because he is nominating, he is pushing through the primaries people who cannot win general elections but who pledge fealty to him.”

Ryan, who added that he doesn’t support President Joe Biden either, said voters have been given “terrible choices” for the Nov. 5 election.

“In a country with 350 million people, this is the choice we have?” Ryan said. “I, like the majority of Americans, wish we had a different choice.”

Ryan lamented that former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who dropped out of the Republican presidential primary race in March yet continues to get a sizable protest vote in the later primaries, was not going to be the Republican nominee.

“She’d probably win this thing by 12 points,” he said.

Ryan said he will write in a “conservative Republican” in November but added that he hasn’t selected that person yet.

Tell it like it is, Paul!

Tony