Putin sternly warns US against putting missiles in Europe
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
Wednesday, February 20
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin sternly warned the United States against deploying new missiles in Europe, saying Wednesday that Russia will retaliate by fielding new weapons that will take just as little time to reach their targets.
While the Russian leader didn’t say what specific new weapons Moscow could deploy, his statement further raised the ante in tense relations with Washington.
Speaking in his state-of-the-nation address, Putin charged that the U.S. has abandoned a key arms control pact to free up its hands to build new missiles and tried to shift the blame for the move to Russia.
“Our American partners should have honestly said it instead of making unfounded accusations against Russia to justify their withdrawal from the treaty,” Putin said.
The U.S. has accused Russia of breaching the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty by deploying a cruise missile that violates its limits — the accusations Moscow has rejected.
The INF treaty banned production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles).
The intermediate-range weapons were seen as particularly destabilizing as they take shorter time to reach their targets compared to the intercontinental ballistic missiles. That would leave practically no time for decision-makers, raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.
Putin reaffirmed that Russia will not be the first to deploy new intermediate-range missiles but warned of a quick retaliation if the U.S. puts such weapons in Europe.
“They will only take 10-12 minutes to reach Moscow,” he said. “It’s a very serious threat to us, and we will have to respond.”
He didn’t directly mention the U.S., but noted that the Russian response will be “asymmetrical” and involve new weapons will reach the enemy’s decision-making centers just as quickly.
“Russia will be forced to create and deploy new types of weapons that could be used not only against the territories where a direct threat to us comes from, but also against the territories where decision-making centers directing the use of missile systems threatening us are located,” he said. “The capability of such weapons, including the time to reach those centers, will be equivalent to the threats against Russia.”
The president didn’t specify which of the prospective Russian weapons will do the job, but he reported a quick progress on an array of new weapons presented a year ago.
The Russian leader said the first batch of Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles will be deployed this year. Putin said the development of a vehicle that the military said is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound was a technological achievement comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite.
He added that the tests of the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile and the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone have been progressing successfully.
Putin said the first submarine equipped to carry the Poseidon will be commissioned later this year. Shortly after Putin’s speech, the Defense Ministry released a brief video showing a test of the Poseidon, which can target coastal areas with a heavy nuclear weapon, causing a devastating tsunami wave.
Putin also announced the coming deployment of the new Zircon hypersonic missile for the Russian navy, saying it’s capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and will have a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).
He said the Zircon program will not be too costly as the missile has been designed to equip Russia’s existing surface ships and submarines.
Putin added that the military will deploy more Kinzhal airborne hypersonic missiles, which entered service last year. The Defense Ministry said Wednesday the Kinzhal has been successfully tested at a range exceeding 1,000 kilometers (more than 620 miles) against both sea and land targets.
Putin urged U.S. officials to take into account the “range and speed of our prospective weapons” before making decisions that will threaten Russia.
“We are only asking about one thing: Do the count first before making decisions that could create new serious threats against our country and would trigger retaliatory measures,” he said.
While issuing a tough warning to the U.S., Putin also claimed that Russia still wants friendly relations with Washington and remains open for arms control talks.
“We don’t want confrontation, particularly with such a global power as the U.S.,” he said.
At the same time, he criticized what he described as “destructive” U.S. policy of targeting Russia with sanctions.
Russia’s relations with the U.S. have sunk to post-Cold War lows over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, its support for the Syrian government in the war in Syria and the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The menacing talk about new weapons and the tough warnings aimed at the U.S. followed a speech that mostly focused on domestic issues.
Putin promised Russians that he would raise welfare payments, improve education and the struggling health care system and remove toxic dump sites from cities. Similar goals have been set before, but the progress has been slow as Russia has been buffeted by economic shocks caused by a drop in oil prices and Western sanctions.
Peter Jackson’s “They Shall Not Grow Old”
What War Films Never Show You
By Mike Ferner | February 20, 2019
Newspapers on the other side of the world are calling it “the biggest U.S. cinema event of all time.”
Critical acclaim has poured in from all corners for the BBC production They Shall Not Grow Old, a technical and emotional masterpiece on the First World War — the war Woodrow Wilson said would “make the world safe for democracy.”
The way the film brings old footage, and therefore the soldiers, to life is almost magical and powerfully moving. But because of how director Peter Jackson defined his film, a critical element is virtually invisible: the wounded.
Jackson distilled the stories of 120 veterans who spoke on some 600 hours of BBC audio tape done in the 1960s and ‘70s. His goal was to have “120 men telling a single story…what it was like being a British soldier on the Western Front.” He artfully presents it, using no narration other than the archive of BBC interviews.
But since dead men tell no tales, nor do the severely wounded often live into their 70s and 80s, the film narrows its focus to the camaraderie and adventures of young men growing up with shared experiences of tinned rations, trench life, and rats. The dead flit across the screen in graphic but limited numbers of colorized photos of corpses.
The wounded receive mute witness with brief footage of gas attacks, and a classic photo of seven British troops carrying one wounded comrade through the knee-deep mud of Passchendaele.
Jackson’s team brilliantly turned herky-jerky, silent, monochrome youths into breathing, talking, living color, with compelling stories. But because of his cinematic goal, this assured award-winner misses the depth of feeling and realism it could have projected by giving similar treatment to the agony of the wounded.
Among the neglected images that failed to benefit from Jackson’s alchemy is footage of shell-shock victims filmed at Britain’s Netley Hospital in 1917. The footage would have retained its halting, jerking properties not from erratic frame speeds, but because the young men were tormented with nerve damage.
Nor did Jackson include footage of amputee veterans exiting Queen Mary’s Workshop, dozen upon dozen upon dozen, hobbling in rapid succession.
He might’ve added one or two photos from New Zealand doctor Major Harold Gillies’ groundbreaking book Plastic Surgery of the Face, showing how red-hot shrapnel can carve bone and muscle into monstrous forms.
My own experiences revealed the side of war that Jackson left out.
Ever since nursing GIs returning from Vietnam, I’ve firmly believed that no member of Congress should be allowed to vote on war funding until working for a month in the back ward of a VA hospital.
Let them vote only after emptying urine bags, turning sallow bodies, and daubing the bed sores of formerly healthy youths who will never move on their own again. Or after offloading wounded young people from a passenger jetliner with the seats removed and four vertical rows of stretcher hooks extending all the way down both sides of the aisle.
They Shall Not Grow Old allows the reminiscences of 70-year-old veterans to breathe life into the determined, youthful images Jackson shows us on screen. In so doing, we gain a much greater appreciation of “being a British soldier on the Western Front.”
But it could also have given movie-goers a glimpse into the part of war so rarely seen. It might then have been named, They Shall Suffer Horribly and Die Before Their Time. Hardly a formula for box office success… which is perhaps why war movies never go there, and why the next generation always signs up when their leaders beat the drum.
Mike Ferner, a former president of Veterans for Peace, served as a corpsman on the neurosurgery and psychiatric wards of the Great Lakes Naval Hospital during the Vietnam war. He lives in Toledo. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
Democrats prepare resolution against Trump’s declaration
By ALAN FRAM
Thursday, February 21
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats will file a resolution Friday aimed at blocking the national emergency declaration that President Donald Trump has issued to help finance his wall along the Southwest border, teeing up a clash over billions of dollars, immigration policy and the Constitution’s separation of powers.
Though the effort seems almost certain to ultimately fall short — perhaps to a Trump veto — the votes will let Democrats take a defiant stance against Trump that is sure to please liberal voters. They will also put some Republicans from swing districts and states in a difficult spot.
Formally introducing the measure sets up a vote by the full House likely by mid-March, perhaps as soon as next week, because of a timeline spelled out by law. Initial passage by the Democratic-run House seems assured.
The measure would then move to the Republican-controlled Senate, where there may be enough GOP defections for approval. The law that spells out the rules for emergency declarations seems to require the Senate to address the issue too, but there’s never been a congressional effort to block one and some procedural uncertainties remain.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., seemed to predict approval, telling colleagues in a letter that her chamber will “move swiftly” to pass it and “the resolution will be referred to the Senate and then sent to the President’s desk.”
Should the House and Senate initially approve the measure, Congress seems unlikely to muster the two-thirds majorities in each chamber that would be needed later to override a certain Trump veto.
Even so, Republican senators facing tough 2020 re-election fights in competitive states like Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina would have to take stances that could risk dividing the GOP’s pro-Trump and more moderate voters.
Moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Wednesday she would back a resolution blocking the declaration, making her the first Republican to publicly state her support for the effort to thwart the emergency. With Republicans holding a 53-47 majority, three more GOP senators would need to vote with Democrats for the resolution to win initial approval.
The votes could also cause discomfort for other Republicans who’ve opposed the declaration. Many have expressed concerns that Trump’s declaration sets a precedent for future Democratic presidents to declare emergencies to help their own favored issues, like global warming or gun control.
The battle is over an emergency declaration Trump has issued to access billions of dollars beyond what Congress has authorized to start erecting border barriers. Building the wall was the most visible trademark of his presidential campaign.
Congress approved a vast spending bill last week providing nearly $1.4 billion to build 55 miles of border barriers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley while preventing a renewed government shutdown. That measure represented a rejection of Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to construct more than 200 miles.
Besides signing the bill, Trump also declared a national emergency and used other authorities that he says gives him access to an additional $6.6 billion for wall building. That money would be transferred from a federal asset forfeiture fund, Defense Department anti-drug efforts and a military construction fund. Federal officials have yet to identify specifically which projects would be affected.
Pelosi and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, circulated separate letters Wednesday to lawmakers seeking co-sponsors to his one-sentence resolution. A Castro aide said there were already 102 co-sponsors, all Democrats. Both letters targeted Friday for the measure’s introduction.
While Congress is in recess this week, the House has a brief “pro forma” session Friday for bill introductions but no votes.
Castro’s measure says Trump’s emergency declaration “is hereby terminated.” He chairs the 38-member Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“The President’s decision to go outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process violates the Constitution and must be terminated,” Pelosi wrote.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement last week that lawmakers will use “every remedy available” to defend Congress’ powers, including in the courts.
Democratic aides said Wednesday that leaders were still deciding exactly what legal action to take, and when.
Outside activists said they understood from conversations with congressional staff that Democrats were likely to file their own lawsuit, rather than simply joining other actions that 16 state attorneys general and liberal, environmental and other organizations have commenced separately.
It remained unclear whether Democrats would wait for congressional action to play out before going to the courts.
Speaking Tuesday about the attorneys general suit, Trump said he expected to do “very well” in the case and said he had an “absolute right” to make the declaration.
Democrats and some Republicans say there is no emergency at the border. They say Trump is improperly declaring one to work around Congress’ rejection of the higher amounts.
Once a resolution of disapproval is introduced, the national emergency law says it must be assigned to a committee, which has 15 calendar days to send it to the full chamber. The House parliamentarian has assigned Castro’s measure to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
That chamber then has three calendar days to vote on it. The timing could be shortened, which is why a vote could occur more quickly.
The same procedure is then repeated in the second chamber. The law requires those timetables unless either chamber votes to do otherwise. If McConnell tries using that provision to delay the vote on the resolution, the vote on slowing the measure will become the key showdown.
A spokesman for McConnell declined to comment on what the leader will do.
Take It From Me: Addiction Doesn’t Start at the Border
For decades the U.S. has tried to stop drug traffic and made the problem worse. We should treat the root causes of addiction instead.
By Jill Richardson | February 20, 2019
As the sister of a brother lost to an opioid overdose, Trump’s claim that we need a border wall in order to keep drugs out is offensive to me on multiple levels. Fact checkers also report that his claims are not true — a border wall would not keep drugs out of our country.
After the death of my brother a decade ago, I went looking for answers about drugs and addiction. Gabor Mate, a medical doctor who treated addicts in Vancouver, found that his patients had all suffered severe trauma before succumbing to addiction. He wrote a book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, explaining how trauma makes the brain more susceptible to addiction.
That was also the finding of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study. The study surveyed patients about whether they experienced 10 different types of stressful or traumatic experiences (called ACEs for short) in childhood: various types of abuse, parents divorcing, a parent going to prison, or a parent suffering addiction or mental illness. Then it correlated their scores with a number of illnesses.
The higher your ACE score, the more likely you are to suffer alcoholism, drug addiction, or a host of other health problems.
My brother and I both experienced childhood trauma. I ended up suffering anxiety, depression, and chronic migraines. He developed panic attacks and coped with his pain by binge eating and using drugs. I’m told the day he overdosed was only the third time he’d ever used heroin. He was alone in his apartment, age 23.
Through random chance, I was luckier than he was. Life dealt us both severe pain, but for me the pain took a form that was less deadly and more conducive to getting help. His death was my catalyst to get therapy. It’s taken a decade, but I finally feel like my life has turned around.
When just getting through everyday life hurts so very much, drugs present a welcome relief. I don’t think I’m a better person than he was; I was just luckier. Trauma left him susceptible to addiction, and for some reason it just landed me with 20 years of migraines.
The U.S. has tried to solve its drug problem by cutting off the supply of drugs coming through its borders since at least the 1980s. It hasn’t worked. Neither has prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. In fact, these approaches have only made the problem worse, and created many others besides.
If we want to cut down on our drug problem, we need to cut down on the factors that cause addiction in the first place. We must work on reducing the amount of trauma, poverty, and despair Americans experience and offer help to those who’ve suffered so they can overcome it.
We should also reduce demand for illegal drugs by offering safe, legal, and regulated drugs when they can provide health benefits, as medical marijuana has done for me.
Even if a border wall were a cost effective and feasible way to keep drugs from coming over the border (which according to virtually every expert, it isn’t), it would do nothing to address the root causes of addiction in America.
When people are in pain, they’ll find a way to get drugs. So long as there’s a market for illegal drugs, traffickers will find ways to produce them here or bring them in. The real answer to the illegal drug trade is addressing the root causes of addiction.
OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in San Diego. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
Opinion: People and Place — Building Better Transportation Systems
By Enisha Williams
The Catalyst, via InsideSources.com
I recently read an article that summed up the path that some people feel they are on in their lives. This part particularly stood out to me:
“For most of us, childhood is kind of like a river, and we’re kind of like tadpoles. We didn’t choose the river. We just woke up out of nowhere and found ourselves on some path set for us by our parents, by society and by circumstances. We’re told the rules of the river and the way we should swim and what our goals should be. Our job isn’t to think about our path — it’s to succeed on the path we’ve been placed on, based on the way success has been defined for us.”
Of course, not all Americans see themselves as tadpoles limited by the river where they were born. A 2014 Pew Research survey revealed that 57 percent of Americans disagree with the statement: “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control.” And 73 percent responded that it is very important to work hard in life to get ahead.
Working hard is indeed important, but, for many Americans, that is not enough to get ahead. Try as they might, some people, like the tadpole, are not the masters of their own fates.
Like it or not, where a person is born and ultimately lives is a major determinant of successful social and economic outcomes. Economic research shows “place” puts a geographical limitation on opportunity.
Consider the limitations “place” puts on some people born in Dallas. By all measurements, Dallas has one of the strongest economies in the nation. But if you live in some parts of long-neglected southern Dallas, you are unlikely to live near many jobs. Southern Dallas has seen a decline in job growth of 16 percent since 2000, even as the area’s population has grown more than 7 percent.
One clear reason some struggle to get a decent-paying job is they often rely on transportation systems that do not connect enough workers to jobs in a reasonable time period. A University of Texas at Arlington study reports that people who live in the part of the city that is most dependent upon buses and rail lines can only get to about to 4 percent of regional jobs in 45 minutes. (When a family earns $30,000, the median household income for southern Dallas, spending $700 to own a car isn’t viable.)
I grew up in a southern Dallas neighborhood where it can take up to two hours to get to a job located only seven miles away. The neighborhood is within the city limits, but 92 percent of its residents have access to less than 1 percent of the city’s jobs.
The challenges that some Dallas residents face is not unique to their city. Communities have been torn apart to make room for highways in places like Chicago, Denver and Detroit. And finding transportation access to good-paying jobs is a reality residents in a number of American cities face.
In Nashville, according to a new Institute for Transportation & Development Policy report, less than 23 percent of jobs in the city are accessible by a 10-minute walk or bike ride to a transit station. The report finds that “service is either too infrequent and/or not close enough to the greatest concentrations of where people live and work.”
If we are truly interested in making upward mobility a reality for all Americans, cities nationwide should pursue a range of improvements to help their most marginalized communities.
Here are several key changes to consider:
— Provide more transit options and accessibility for commuters. This includes more streets and sidewalks that allow for more biking and walking.
—Expand bus and rail offerings that are attuned to the needs of the residents the transit system serves most.
—Create partnerships to address transit gaps. Lyft is piloting flat rate $2.50 rides to the grocery store for low-income families living in food deserts in Washington. Those are innovative market solutions.
—Create affordable housing closer to better-paying jobs.
—Invest in low-income communities so employers will want to create jobs there.
If we want people to succeed beyond the “rivers” of their birth, we must remove impediments to their progress. Their paths may be littered with the debris of systems that do not serve them well. But innovative solutions that reflect our commitment to compassion and equality will ensure our neighbors have the basic services and opportunities to lift them out of poverty.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Enisha Williams is senior program manager of leadership programs at the George W. Bush Institute. This essay originally appears in “The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute.” This is distributed by InsideSources.com.