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Reports from the World Health Organization have shown that Americans are among the most anxious, depressed people in the world—and that was before a reality television star settled into the White House, bringing with him a percussive beat of mean-spirited executive orders, obnoxious presidential tweets and bare-knuckled attacks on civil society as we know it.
Marketers are experts at monetizing disquiet. In liberal hubs, where the affluent work and play, Trump anxiety is providing a boost in certain sectors as businesses cater to those hoping to reclaim a sense of sanity and wellbeing. Addled urbanites are heading to therapy in droves. Mental health practitioners report that distressed clients are willing to pay large sums just to talk about their political angst, citing everything from gastrointestinal symptoms to overwhelming feelings of powerlessness.
Others seek sanctuaries from the storm. “Nesting at home is the new going out,” proclaims one trend-watching website. High-end stores are offering “orglamic” designs that make the buyer feel trendily sustainable by purchasing luxury items for the home. Elle Décor advises readers that 2017 will go down as “a bright year filled with cheery colors, mixed patterns, and happy motifs—plus a few unexpected twists.” (You can say that again!) A shade called Greenery is the 2017 Pantone Paint Color of the Year, touted as just the cure for “a complex political and social environment.” Butterfly motifs, with their “buoyant, happy” vibe are also trending.
Having tense political discussions with your spouse? Separate master bedrooms are a new trend in upscale homes. Feeling nutritionally depleted? High-tech indoor gardening equipment, such as Urban Cultivator (priced at $2,500), allows you to cultivate artisanal greens without leaving your newly remodeled kitchen. Added bonus: you get to brag to dinner party guests who ask where the salad is “sourced.” Just don’t let them bring up politics.
Contemporary liberals are known for their ability to transform existential angst and hard-to-define guilt into a variety of discrete symptoms, from phantom food allergies to strange new trepidations such as “natural environment phobia,” a fear of engaging with nature. Now that the gluten-free trend has taken a beating, marketers turn their attention to other buzzwords that can be profitably worked into the American health vocabulary. Food brands touting inflammation-fighting benefits are on the rise, as well as medicinal beverages and superfood herbal libations promising cosmic calm.
An explosion of wellness coaches, personal training apps and wearable technology allows you to focus 24/7 on body/mind optimization. Getting drunk to kill the blues is very last year, say the marketers, so now some Angelinos and New Yorkers are offered alcohol-free party popups like “The Softer Image,” which features a “high vibe bar” with “rotating herbalists and chefs” to provide healing energy and nourishment that will not produce hangovers. The goal of the gatherings, say the advertisers, is simple: bliss. In Los Angeles, Integral Fitness offers a monthly Conscious Family Dinner in which alcohol is verboten, but “transformation, healing and empowerment” are happily on the menu.
Fitness cults are a tried and true way to tame the stress devil, and the focus now is on exercise not merely as a health-maintenance activity, but a cure for isolation. Instead of hitting the nightclub on a Friday night, city-dwellers can enjoy a “heart-pumping happy hour” at Barry’s Bootcamp, complete with a DJ to “drown out the pain.” Regulars refer to the sessions as “church.”
The WOOM Center, a “multi-sensory” yoga/meditation studio and café in downtown Manhattan, fosters a sense of community and womb-like bliss—at least that’s the theory. On a recent weekend, I tried it out for myself, assuming strenuous yoga poses in an overheated room as rainbow-colored digital bubbles pulsated on the walls, all the while ducking streams of sweat produced from the yogi beside me. This was followed by a lavender spritz and complimentary beet-juice tonic. Overall result: more nausea than nirvana.
Meditation is the hottest trend in self-soothing—it doesn’t require turning yourself into a pretzel and nobody will projectile sweat on you. Back in the day, you could drop a couple of bucks in the donation box at your local Dharma center and do your thing. But now meditation “consumers” can take their pick of high-end settings, lavish accoutrements and scientifically based programming. In New York, young professionals don athleisure wear for meditation classes at the trendy Standard Hotel in the East Village. Classes are hosted by a company called The Path, which (for $600 a year) promises you elite training with master teachers, fun social events and opulent settings for your journey inward. Mndfl, touted by Vogue as Manhattan’s “must-visit meditation center,” claims it simply “exists to make humans feel good.” I stopped by for a drop-in session and was greeted by an enthusiastic young woman who chirped about the books from various gurus available for purchase and proudly showed me a wall covered in actual living moss and lichen. I dutifully crouched on a zafu cushion in a somewhat cramped room as a guide offered pleasant banalities on “letting go” and mentally rowing myself in a visionary canoe. Unfortunately, just as I was getting there, the fart of a fellow traveler jolted me back to reality.
The hands-down favorite in my deluxe meditation tour was Inscape, a “multi-platform meditation brand” that operates both a gorgeous 5,000-square-foot Manhattan studio space with classes and has its own iOS app. Upon entering, you pass through a self-care-themed gift shop stocked with expensive soy candles and books by mavens of mindfulness like actress Cameron Diaz. As I settled into a natural-fiber beanbag chair sipping cucumber-infused water waiting for my class to begin, I had to admit, I could get very comfortable here. Sessions take place in one of two soothingly decorated rooms, with soft colored lights and macramé designs festooning the ceiling. There are no teachers, just a recorded female voice who guides your journey in soothing Australian-accented cadences. For my “Deep Sound” experience, I lay on a plush mat, supported by pillows as cosmic pulsations vibrated my body. I was sonically swaddled, and I liked it.
Trendsetters like Arianna Huffington have cashed in on all the free-floating anxiety by getting well ahead of the game. Last year, the internet doyenne exited her famous website to found Thrive Global, which delivers corporate training that promises to make America’s employees happy and well-rested. With a little more sleep and meditation, she wagers, workers can forget about job insecurity, our nightmare health care system and fading dreams of retirement. The Thrive Global store offers $200 pajamas and “biologically correct” light bulbs in service to this noble vision.
Human beings, marketers realize, have deep urges to huddle and soothe themselves. Through all the 24/7 Trump-invested cable news and vitriolic social media platforms, people are understandably trying to remember the basics of who they are and what they need. Trying out a fancy meditation studio is surely preferable to regressing into self-destruction via prescription drugs, but self-care doesn’t have to cost bundles; just about anyone can take a walk, listen to music, do deep breathing exercises, or hug somebody.
There’s a danger in turning solipsistically inward and relying on expansions of the market to counter the shrinkage of our social space, the destruction of our institutions and the despoliation of nature. The market ideology of competition, which roots us in crisis and struggle with one another, will not get us through this. No spa or superfood can release us from the grip of a distorted social order. We need something besides adult coloring books to reclaim our lives from alien markets and politicians.
The trend toward activism, for example, can combat feelings of powerlessness, and this doesn’t have to mean something as silly as “dressing for resistance” in a feminist T-shirt, as Vogue suggests. Volunteering can help restore positive social bonding that is more satisfying than relying on high-cost pseudo-communities.
When people are under stress, the default position is us v. them, and perhaps the greatest need is for liberals to stop embubbling themselves and acting as if entire regions of the country and populations of people are evil. Getting out of our small, self-reinforcing groups to listen to those whose lives have been decimated by the current system—like white, working-class Trump voters—will be a key ingredient in any social and economic transformation. Realizing that human beings everywhere are mostly pretty decent people just trying to deal with the vicissitudes of life is an existential tonic.
Liberals need to get a bit out of their comfort zones; otherwise the hucksters of happiness will be only too glad to peddle false cures for pathologies that will never be solved by a soy candle.
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Donald Trump makes a lot of goofs. Yes, he’s seriously mistaken on nearly every aspect of foreign and domestic policy -- all the big, scary and dangerous stuff -- but he also just gets the little things wrong, too. He frequently sends out misspelled tweets. He makes off-the-cuff statements with colleagues that are meant to be self-aggrandizing but instead unintentionally drive home how much he doesn’t know about how things work. He thinks this is how you shake hands, unless he’s in the room with Angela Merkel, in which case he goes into girl-cooties avoidance mode. He’s just kind of a disaster, a butterfingers, a foot-in-mouth gaffetastic flub-machine that doesn’t know much and can’t be bothered to learn. He’s also a raging hypocrite, which makes the whole show even more irritating to watch.
There’ve been a lot of examples of these public screw ups, the most minor are kind of funny. I mean, if you can stave off the tears from recognizing this guy is calling the shots for the next four years. Here are 6 times Donald Trump goofed up the simple stuff.
1. When Melania had to remind him to put his hand on his heart for the national anthem.
At this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll -- which almost didn’t happen because the Trump team is a trickle-down disaster -- video caught Second Lady Melania Trump nudging her husband as the Star Spangled Banner began. It’s interesting that someone who has spent so much time calling himself the “America First” president needed an immigrant to remind him to put his hand over the hole where his heart should be during the national anthem. It’s only slightly less interesting than the deafening hypocrickets from right-wingers who demanded Gabby Douglas apologize and Obama be sent to patriotism prison for doing the same. Trump, who is half-foreign under Republican rules, displays an unnerving unfamiliarity with our ways and customs that suggests someone should ask to see his papers -- the long form version -- stat.
2. When he forgot which country he was bombing.
During an interview in which Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo played the giddy, giggling fangirl to Trump’s great, big strongman, the two discussed the moment the latter decided to strike Syria. (“I will tell you,” Trump told Bartiromo, who sat poised to snap up the next treat the president tossed her way. “Only because you’ve treated me so good for so long.”) Trump went into a spiel about the dessert he was sharing with China President Xi Jinping, a “beautiful piece of chocolate cake” he recalled in detail down the molecular structure. Where the bombs were going, though, had slipped his mind.
“So what happened is, I said [to President Xi], ‘We’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq,’” Trump said.
Bartiromo corrected him and then resumed the lovefest.
3. When he forgot Paul Ryan’s name. Twice.
At an event in Paul Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, Trump attempted to name check the Speaker of the House -- a guy he’d thrown under Jeanine Pirro’s bus just weeks before. Maybe thrown off by the fact that Senator Ron Johnson was also in the room, Trump proceeded to call Ryan the wrong name twice.
“I said, Ron, make sure these [NATO] countries start paying their bills a little bit more,” Trump said, referring to a man whose name is definitely “Paul.”
“They’re way, way behind, Ron,” Trump continued, speaking about the guy whose name is still, without question, “Paul.”
Trump then looked toward the actual Senator Ron Johnson in the audience and added, “I’m going to talk to you about that too, Ron.”
4. When he confused Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Un.
Appearing on “Fox & Friends” (what, you thought he’d go on a real news network?) Trump talked about all the ways his predecessors had been played for suckers by the Supreme Leader of North Korea.
“They've been talking with this gentleman for a long time,” Trump said. “You read Clinton's book, he said, 'Oh, we made such a great peace deal,' and it was a joke. You look at different things over the years, with President Obama. Everybody's been outplayed. They've all been outplayed by this gentleman.”
.@POTUS on tensions between U.S. and North Korea pic.twitter.com/k10z2tUxbH— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) April 18, 2017
”The implication seems to be that Trump isn’t going to fall for more of the same shenanigans from “this gentleman,” which would be more believable if he had any idea what the hell he was talking about. Because from the looks of things, Donald Trump has no idea that there have been three rulers of North Korea since the Clinton administration began negotiations with the country. The first, Kim il-Sung, died suddenly in 1994. His son, Kim Jong-il, ran things for most of the Clinton administration and the entirety of Obama’s first term. The current leader, Kim Jong-un only took over in December 2011. Meaning “that gentleman” was was a tween and high schooler when Trump claims he was “outplaying” America’s presidents.
Trump is no brainiac, obviously, but the overdrafts in his knowledge bank of basic facts are pretty astounding. Although he has claimed to know more than anyone else on the face of the Earth about numerous topics he has never studied or correctly pronounced, Trump has accidentally announced his breadth of ignorance on more than a few occasions. Here’s a list of a few:
Speaking at a dinner for the National Republican Congressional, Trump attempt to share information he has just learned about Abraham Lincoln with the audience: “Most people don't even know he was a Republican,” Trump said, which is absolutely not true. "Right? Does anyone know? A lot of people don't know that. We have to build that up a little bit more.”
At a Black History Month event, Trump decided to applaud some of the civil rights icons he clearly didn’t have an iota of interest in. “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more, I noticed," Trump said, highlighting the recent strides made by a man who’s been dead since 1895.
Given the podium at a women’s empowerment meeting at the White House, Trump actually asked the assembled, “Have you heard of Susan B. Anthony? I’m shocked that you’ve heard of her!”
It’s seriously like the Dunning-Krueger effect sprouted legs, put a bird’s nest on its head, and 63 million people voted for it to “shake up the establishment.
6. When he quoted an Irish proverb that is actually Nigerian.
While with Irish prime minister Enda Kenny on St. Patrick’s day, Trump recited the first thing that came up when some lazy staffer Googled “Irish proverbs.”
"As we stand together with our Irish friends, I'm reminded of that proverb -- and this is a good one,” Trump said. “This is one I like. I've heard it for many, many years and I love it. 'Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue. But never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.'"
Except that proverb is very likely the work of a Nigerian poet, which Steve Bannon and the alt-righties that love him were probably psyched to learn.
It was all worth it to hear reactions from actual Irish people, like this one, which really says it all.
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What is it with President Trump and anti-Semitism? He kicked off his inauguration with a sermon by pastor Robert Jeffress, who has declared that Jews are going to hell. Just one week in, the administration marked Holocaust Remembrance Day without once mentioning Jews. He is harboring Sebastian Gorka – a frequent associate of Hungary’s anti-Semitic far right – on his national security staff. And who could forget Sean Spicer's claim – during Passover no less – that Hitler never used "gas on his own people" like Syrian President Assad had?
In response, Trump has pointed to his Jewish daughter and son-in-law to assure the nation that he's "the least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen in your entire life," but that hardly put the issue to rest.
Let's put aside the president's trademark bluster and take him at his word – he loves his daughter, and he has a handful of individual Jews in his life that he cares about. But the issue isn’t what Trump believes in his heart of hearts. What really counts are his actions and the company he keeps – including once fringe figures like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka. In that sense, tragically, he has been a godsend to anti-Semitic movements and ideologies once relegated to the margins of society.
All the while, alt-right trolls, white nationalist activists and conspiracy theorists have cheered on President Trump from the virtual sidelines. They're cheering because this administration has carried the stain of anti-Semitism from the campaign into the White House and federal government. Sadly, the longstanding taboo in the GOP against overt anti-Semitism has begun to fall, and ties to anti-Semitic figures and thought – once considered to be automatically disqualifying by the Republican mainstream – are no longer an impediment to serving in the executive branch.
But across the GOP and among too many establishment Jewish organizations, no one wants to name the depth and breadth of this pattern. Top administration officials like Jeff Sessions, Sebastian Gorka, Steve Bannon, Michael Anton, Rick Perry and, until recently, Mike Flynn, have deep ties to fringe elements of the extreme Christian Right, the white nationalist alt-right, the European far right and the anti-immigration movement. (Don't miss the detailed chart at the bottom of this article detailing the ties of the Trump Administration to anti-Semites)These ties have played a key role in normalizing anti-Semitic bigotry and advancing political alliances with those who promote or are sympathetic to anti-Semitism. This is dangerous for the Jewish community but it is also perilous for immigrant communities, communities of color, and all religious minorities whose safety is jeopardized by white nationalism.
Look no further than Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a close ally of the president and the first senator to endorse him. Sessions has longstanding and deep connections to groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which tout anti-Semitic figures and leaders. FAIR was founded by John Tanton, who still sits on the group's national advisory board. Tanton practically worshipped the architect of the Immigration Act of 1924, John B. Trevor Sr., a rabid anti-Semite whose pro-Nazi group was later indicted for sedition. He also recommended the work of a radical anti-Semite – Kevin MacDonald – to a major donor and suggested that FAIR’s board discuss MacDonald’s anti-Semitic theories regarding Jews and immigration.
Sessions has also worked closely with two other anti-immigrant groups affiliated with Tanton, NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). The president of NumbersUSA has appeared on the radio show of notorious anti-Semite Jeff Rense, who hosts neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers and promotes conspiracy theories about "Jewish control of the world." Meanwhile CIS staff have circulated articles by anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers and appeared on anti-Semitic programs and in anti-Semitic publications. One former CIS Analyst, Jon Feere, provided quotes to an anti-Semitic publication, the American Free Press, in 2012. Notably, Feere was hired by the Trump administration as an advisor to the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Like Sessions, Mike Flynn, who briefly served as Trump's National Security Advisor, helped mainstream extremists during his time as a campaign advisor, transition team member and administration official. Flynn’s frequent Twitter interactions with white nationalists and anti-Semites have been thoroughly covered, including the infamous "not anymore, Jews" retweet. He also called former Breitbart News technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos “one of the most brave people I know.” Yiannopoulos, who has credited Steve Bannon for making him a star, has an anti-Semitic repertoire that includes encouraging people to post swastikas, referring to a reporter as a “Thick-As-Pig Shit Media Jew” and saying that “Jews run everything.”
Flynn is no longer part of Trump’s National Security Council, but another figure with disturbing links to anti-Semitism remains in a national security role: Sebastian Gorka, a Deputy Assistant to the President on national security matters. Gorka recently jumped to the defense of the president over the Holocaust Remembrance Day controversy, dismissing the criticism of Jewish groups as "asinine."
To say the least, Gorka may not be the most credible messenger on the issue. During his time in his parents’ native Hungary, he was intensely involved with Hungary’s far right, which is rife with anti-Semitism. Beginning in 2006, he wrote a series of articles for Magyar Demokrata, a newspaper known for publishing anti-Semitic writers. In 2007, he founded the short-lived UDK Party with two former members of the far-right Jobbik Party, which has been widely condemned for its virulent anti-Semitism. As a leader of the UDK, Gorka appeared on Hungarian television to voice support for the Hungarian Guard, a far-right, anti-Semitic paramilitary group. He also defended right-wing protesters' use of the Arpad flag, which harks back to the World War II-era pro-Nazi movement in the country. The president of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Hungary described the flag as “a symbol of murder and mass murder.”
Gorka’s fondness for symbols of Hungary’s far right has been noted in the media – most recently his decision to wear the medal of the Order of Vitéz to an Inaugural Ball. His father received the medal from the reconstituted order in exile during the communist era, but it has deeply anti-Semitic connotations. The order was founded in 1920 by the anti-Semitic Horthy regime, which played a key role in the Holocaust in Hungary. During World War II, Jewish real estate was confiscated by the state for distribution to members of the order. Notably, Gorka signed his doctoral dissertation – in which he discusses the role of "the international Jewish elite" in founding Israel – as "Sebestyén L. v. Gorka," with the “v.” referencing the order. When testifying in front of the House Armed Services Committee in June 2011, his official testimony listed his name as “Dr. Sebastian L. v. Gorka,” thus referencing the order under congressional oath. Contemporary leaders of the order say that Gorka is a formal member and has pledged lifelong loyalty to the group.
Back in the U.S., Gorka became entwined with the far right as national security editor for Breitbart News, which Bannon once described as "the platform for the alt-right" – a movement that has been described by former Breitbart staffer Ben Shapiro as "a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism." Like Flynn, Gorka has defended his former colleague Yiannopoulos and promoted his work, including an article that credits the writings of pro-Nazi thinker Julius Evola for helping originate the alt-right. For his part, former Breitbart chief Bannon has cited Evola and has also expressed admiration for Charles Maurras, a notorious French anti-Semitic philosopher who collaborated with the Nazis.
Gorka is ideologically in sync with Michael Anton, another Deputy Assistant to the President focused on national security. Writing as "Publius Decius Mus," Anton ridiculed diversity as a “source of weakness” and has defended the World War II-era America First Committee – which was deeply anti-Semitic – as an "unfairly maligned" organization.
Though the alt-right is a relatively recent public arrival in conservative circles, the extreme Christian right has long been a political ally of the GOP. Now it's a foundational element of Trump's coalition, and its ideological hostility to Jews has come to the fore.
Consider Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who has extensive ties to the American Family Association (AFA), an anti-LGBT hate group with a record of anti-Semitism. AFA's top lobbyist, Sandy Rios, has warned that "powerful Jewish forces" are working to destroy the country and labeled "atheist Jews" as some of the "worst enemies" of America. Bryan Fischer, who hosts a flagship program on AFA's radio network and previously served as the group's policy director and spokesperson, has said that non-Christians don't have First Amendment rights and that “America is a Christian nation and not a Jewish or Muslim one.” He has also blamed LGBT people for the Holocaust. AFA has even published a guide stating that Jews "do not worship the same God" as Christians, offering advice on how to convert them.
AFA was heavily involved in Perry’s “The Response,” a daylong prayer rally that served as an informal launch to his 2012 presidential campaign. The event featured a prayer for the conversion of the Jews to Christianity and was officially endorsed by Mike Bickle, who previously warned that Jews must accept Jesus or face extermination. Bickle and pastor John Hagee, who participated in "The Response" and whose church Perry has visited, have both referred to Hitler as a hunter sent by God. These comments caused John McCain to disavow Hagee in 2008, but Perry has not.
During his first bid for the presidency, Perry was endorsed in 2011 by none other than Robert Jeffress, the same pastor who said Jews are going to hell. A little over five years later, as mentioned above, Jeffress would be given the honor of delivering a sermon to the incoming president on Inauguration Day at historic St. John's Episcopal Church across from the White House. Here we see the not so subtle way that anti-Semitic figures have been given prominent platforms and mainstreamed by this administration.
When all is said and done, what matters most is not what's in the president's heart. He has placed individuals with ties to anti-Semitism into high public office – shattering a hard-won taboo against flagrant anti-Semitism in government. He has invigorated a white nationalist world-view that demonizes Jews, Muslims, and immigrants. He has, intentionally or not, energized white nationalists, neo-Nazis and a legion of alt-right internet trolls. His campaign and early presidency have been marred by anti-Semitic vandalism and threats. President Trump has downplayed these acts while ignoring the pattern he has set in motion. These are not mere coincidences.
The issue of Trump and anti-Semitism keeps coming up because the president has embraced political figures whose conspiratorial and far-right ideologies are highly suspicious of – if not outright hostile to – Jews and Judaism. Regardless of whether President Trump personally holds such views, many people around him do. Short of a major shift in rhetoric and some serious housecleaning at the White House, the stain of anti-Semitism around President Trump will be here to stay.
The Trump Administration, Anti-Semites, and Their Associates
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The words were positively polite, at least for a man convicted of assault and racketeering. It was the implied target of his blackmail threat that was unusual: the president of the United States.
The threat came from Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who partnered with Donald Trump in launching the Trump Soho, a hotel-condominium project in New York City. The building was funded by Sater’s boss, Tevfik Arif, a mogul from Kazakhstan. In 2007, Trump's children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka attended the unveiling ceremony for the 46-story luxury tower in Manhattan.
Trump, Arif and Sater were photographed standing next to one another at that event. Since then, the three men have parted ways in a haze of recriminations, lawsuits and amnesia.
Sater’s attorney came right to the point in a February 2 letter to Arif’s attorney about $3.5 million in disputed legal fees, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
“Clearly, if this matter between Mr. Sater and Mr. Arif escalates to public litigation, the media spotlight will be negatively cast on Mr. Arif and his past relationship with President Trump and the Republic of Kazakhstan,” the attorney wrote.
In the correspondence reviewed by the Journal, Sater warned he might file another lawsuit in which he would allege wrongdoing in Arif’s dealings in the post-Soviet metals business in Kazakhstan. “The headline will be, ‘The Kazakh Gangster and President Trump,’” Sater warned.
The Back Story
Both Arif and Sater know something about the media spotlight.
In October 2010, Turkish news outlets headlined the arrest of Arif and five other men for alleged involvement in a prostitution ring following a raid on a yacht once used by the country’s founder. Police stormed the 136-meter luxury yacht Savarona after a seven-month investigation. They also detained 10 Ukrainian and Russian women.
Arif had rented the yacht at a daily rate of $50,000, according to Turkish news reports. Arif denied all charges, saying he had only been entertaining friends aboard the Savarona. Nine of the women were deported, and Arif was later acquitted.
Also questioned, but not arrested in the raid, according to Israel’s YNet News was Alexander Mashkevich, an Israeli-Kazakh billionaire who, along with two partners, dominates Kazakhstan’s lucrative mineral sector, according to Wikipedia.
Sater’s recent threat implicitly links Arif’s relationship with Mashkevich to his dealings with Trump.
Tevfik and his brother Refik Arif, former Soviet government officials, achieved success after Kazakh independence in 1991 by gaining ownership of a chromium plant. The Arifs became close with Mashkevich and his partners, who operated large-scale mining projects in Kazakhstan, according to the Diplomat news site. The details of Arif's business empire emerged when he tried to buy a share of Milan AC, the storied football franchise.
Felix Sater too has some notoriety. In 1993, Sater was convicted and sent to prison for stabbing a commodities broker in the face with a broken margarita glass. He then became involved in a $40 million stock manipulation scheme run by members of the Gambino and Bonanno organized crime families. In return for his “cooperation” as a government informant, he was allowed to plead guilty and get on with his life. He partnered with Arif, who had developed luxury properties in Turkey, and they joined forces with Trump.
By 2007, Sater had an office on the 24th floor of Trump Tower, according to the Washington Post. In sworn testimony reviewed by the Post, Sater said he popped into Trump’s office frequently over a six-year period to talk business. He recalled flying to Colorado with Trump and said Trump once asked him to escort Donald Jr. and Ivanka around Moscow.
At the time, Arif also extolled Trump.
"He's been very helpful to us from the beginning and he's been very helpful in opening some doors," he told Real Estate Weekly.
Donald Trump would prefer to forget such matters. In a 2013 deposition for a court case related to Trump Soho, Trump claimed he only met Sater a couple of times and would not recognize him.
Sater seems to feel the relationship is closer. In February, he and Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen prepared a Ukraine peace proposal for the president, although it's not clear it ever reached the Oval Office.
The Washington vocabulary of scandal, corruption and sleaze does not quite do justice to the state of affairs that exists when the White House receives a foreign policy proposal from a felon who threatens to blackmail a former business partner (once detained in a prostitution investigation) of the president.
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The jobs reports would have us believe our rebound from the recession is almost complete. The reality is very different. The Economist has some fancy words for it: "Job polarization," in which middle-skill jobs decline while low-skill and high-skill jobs increase and the workforce "bifurcates" into two extremes of income.
Optimists like to bring up the Industrial Revolution, and the return to better jobs afterwards. But it took 60 years. And job polarization makes the present day very different from two centuries ago, when only the bodies of workers, and not their brains, were superseded by machines.
Most Workers Today Are Underpaid
Most of our new jobs are in service industries, including retail and health care and personal care and food service. Those industries generally don't pay a living wage. In 2014, over half of American workers made less than $15 per hour, with some of the top employment sectors in the U.S. paying $12 an hour or less.
Worse, most underpaid workers are deprived of the benefits higher-income employees take for granted. A Princeton study concluded that a stunning 94 percent of the nine million new jobs created in the past decade were temporary or contract-based, rather than traditional full-time positions.
Even at high-flying Google, where privileged employees can make six-figure salaries plus thousands more in stock and cash bonuses, about half of the workforce is made up of temps, contractors and vendors.
Just program a few Java applets and make $100,000. How many of us can do that? The demand is there, though, for statistical analysts, data mining specialists, internet security specialists, and a variety of other specialized positions that explain the availability of 10 computing jobs for every computer science graduate.
Others Are Becoming Unpaid
That would be the people replaced by machines.
Corporations could be training workers in new technologies, but instead they blame our underfunded educational system for worker deficiencies. Said an Apple executive, "The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need." Another CEO, oblivious to the lack of jobs at anything other than a high-tech level, blustered, "The jobs are there, but the skills are not."
The Wall Street Journal chimed in: "Many workers who were laid off in recent decades...don’t have the skills to do today’s jobs."
Meanwhile, the robots proliferate, expanding into once-unimagined areas: robot surgeons, robot chefs, robot security guards, robot news writers, robot teachers that interact with children, robotic nurses that will lift patients and bring them medicine.
Some of the robots are getting more humanlike, sensing the emotions of drivers, for example, and encouraging them to calm down at signs of stress or anger and to stay awake when their eyelids are drooping. The European Parliament is even considering the granting of legal status to robots as "electronic persons."
So what are the living-wage jobs of the future? Alternative energy and infrastructure repair, certainly, if the politicians of the future care about the needs of human beings, and about the preservation of the earth itself. Solar and wind and other alternative sources are already providing nearly two-thirds of new electricity generation, and many of the jobs in the industry are labor-intensive, offering opportunities for mid-level workers formerly in manufacturing and transportation.
But going beyond that, on a wider plane, and to a level profit-seekers and neoliberals seem incapable of understanding, the elimination of traditional jobs should lead to the opportunity for "higher-value activities" that focus on human interaction. Indeed that is happening now, with the health care industry growing faster than any other industry, and with service-providing sectors projected to capture 94.6 percent of all the jobs added in the next decade. The Economist calls them "caring" jobs.
These are the jobs that deserve higher pay as our population ages. These are the jobs that show the need for cooperation rather than self-serving individualism. These are the jobs that should command respect, now and in the future.
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