Noam Chomsky Believes Trump Is “the Worst Criminal in Human History”

[Note:  This item comes from friend Robert Berger.  DLH]

Noam Chomsky Believes Trump Is “the Worst Criminal in Human History”
By Isaac Chotiner
Oct 30 2020
https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/noam-chomsky-believes-trump-is-the-worst-criminal-in-human-history

Noam Chomsky, the American linguist, activist, and political writer, is one of the most famous and harshest critics of American foreign policy. His critiques of Presidential Administrations from Nixon to Obama, and the stridency of his views—comparing 9/11 to Bill Clinton’s bombing of a factory in Khartoum, for example—have made him the target of much ire, as well as a hero of the global left. “Chomsky always refuses to talk about motives in politics,” Larissa MacFarquhar wrote in her Profile of him for The New Yorker, in 2003. “Like many theorists of universal humanness, he often seems baffled, even repelled, by the thought of actual people and their psychologies.”

When I called Chomsky, who is ninety-one, last month for a long-scheduled interview, I had meant to discuss his career and life, and his latest book, “Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal,” written with Robert Pollin and C. J. Polychroniou—but he spent most of the hour-long session railing against the Trump Administration with a vehemence that slightly surprised me. Chomsky has always been extremely pragmatic in his political analysis, diverging from some other leftists in his belief in the necessity of voting for mainstream Democrats against Republicans. But in addition to supporting Joe Biden this year, he told me that Donald Trump is “the worst criminal in human history” and expressed serious concerns about the future of American democracy (although he conceded that it “was never much to write home about”). With perhaps not equal concern, but with the same passion he seems to bring to every topic, he also railed against “cancel culture” and explained why he signed the recent Harper’s letter on free expression. And yet, Chomsky noted that what he most loves to think about are philosophy, science, and language. “To tell you the truth,” he said, “while I’m giving interviews and talking about things, one part of my mind is working on technical problems, which are much more interesting.” Our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, is below.

Over the past four years, have we been in a strange and new period of American history? Or are we seeing a continuation of American history that is pretty much in line with what it has always been?

Of course, it’s the same country. We haven’t undergone a major revolution, but the last four years are very much out of line with the history of Western democracies altogether. By now, it’s becoming almost outlandish. In the three hundred and fifty years of parliamentary democracy, there’s been nothing like what we’re seeing now in Washington. I don’t have to tell you. You read the same newspapers I do. A President who has said if he doesn’t like the outcome of an election, he’ll simply not leave office, and is taken seriously enough that, for example, two high-level, highly respected, retired military officers—one of them very well known, Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl—actually went to the extent of writing an open letter to General [Mark] Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminding him of his constitutional duties to send in the American military to remove the President from office if he refuses to leave.

There’s a long article, which you’ve probably seen, by Barton Gellman, reviewing the strategies that Republican leadership is thinking of to try and undermine the election. There has been plenty of tampering before. We’re not unfamiliar with that. In fact, one case that comes to mind is kind of relevant at the moment: 1960. Richard Nixon had pretty good reason to believe that he had won the election. Nixon, who was not the most delightful person in the history of Presidential politics, decided to put the welfare of the country over his personal ambition. That’s not what we’re seeing now, and that’s only one sign of a very significant change. The executive has been almost totally purged of any critical independent voices—nothing left but sycophants. If they’re not sufficiently loyal to the master, fire them and get someone else. A striking example recently was the firing of the inspectors generalwhen they started looking into the incredible swamp Trump created in Washington. This kind of thing goes on and on.

How do you view the Trump Administration, in terms of America’s role in the world and whether it is new or not?

Well, there are some new things which are not being much discussed. I don’t know if it’s Trump, but the people around him are essentially creating an international alliance of extremely reactionary states, which can be controlled by the White House, which, of course, has shifted way far to the right, tearing up every international agreement, wrecking everything in sight. In the Western Hemisphere, a leading figure would be [Jair] Bolsonaro, in Brazil, kind of a Trump clone, and the Middle East, with Gulf dictatorships, the most reactionary states in the world, and Egypt under [Abdel Fattah El-]Sisi, probably the worst dictatorship in Egypt’s history. Israel has moved very far to the right. The current so-called peace agreements have nothing to do with peace agreements. It’s a very natural Middle East base for the Trump-run reactionary international. In the East, [Narendra] Modi’s India is a prime candidate. He’s smashing Indian secular democracy, trying to impose Hindu nationalist theocracy, crushing Kashmir. They’re an obvious part of it. In Europe, the prime candidate is [Viktor] Orbán’s Hungary. Matteo Salvini’s not yet in power, but Italy’s right behind. There are other pleasant figures around the world, but that’s basically the core of it.

Now, that’s one side of throwing out all international agreements and throwing out any concern whatsoever for the attitudes and priorities of others. It was revealed with typical Trump Administration arrogance in [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo’s announcement that the United Nations’ sanctions are reinstituted against Iran. Why? Because he says so. The United States brought it to the Security Council and could get virtually no support. So therefore we reinstitute the United Nations’ sanctions unilaterally. That’s the Godfather talking. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. The same is true of every international agreement. The arms-control regime has been torn to shreds, with great danger to us as well as everyone else.

You mention a bunch of dictators that the United States has cozied up to—and not respecting arms-control treaties—but those are things you’ve written about in the past. I’m interested that you say that you think the Trump Administration is a break with the past. How do you think it’s different in some way?

Well, having an arms-control regime is different than not having one. That’s a break, and it’s a break on one of the two most significant issues in human history. We’ve been living for seventy-five years under the shadow of possible nuclear destruction. The arms-control regime that’s been slowly built up over the years—Eisenhower’s Open Skies proposal, the Reagan-Gorbachev I.N.F. treaty, and other pieces—has mitigated the dangers. Trump has been tearing every piece of it to shreds. The only thing that’s left is New start. It has to be ratified by next February. If Trump wins the election or refuses to leave office, it will be gone by February.

[snip]

Why the first US cowboys were black

[Note:  This item comes from friend Ed DeWath.  DLH]

Why the first US cowboys were black
By The Guardian
Oct 29 2020
https://youtu.be/KkmD-vpQ4Qs

Historians estimate that one in four cowboys were African American, though you’d never guess because the conventional Hollywood image of a cowboy is a white man. Black cowboys have been written out of history, along with the original cattle-raising Native Americans and Mexican vaqueros who taught them. So what are the real origins of cowboy culture in the US? And is there more to modern black cowboy culture than Old Town Road and Lil Nas X? Josh Toussaint-Strauss talks to some of the Black riders who are keeping the history of Black cowboy culture alive

[snip]

Video: 7:34 min

The 5G Hocus Pocus

The 5G Hocus Pocus
By Om Malik
Oct 26 2020
https://om.co/2020/10/26/the-5g-hocus-pocus/

The launch of the iPhone 12 has focused our collective attention on “5G,” a collection of fifth-generation wireless technologies that will supersede the fourth generation (4G) wireless — including Long Term Evolution (LTE). The new 5G is supposed to be faster — so fast that people talk as if it might be magical.

I usually turn to network quality monitoring services such as OpenSignal and Ookla test results and data to gauge network performance. But, given the lack of 5G devices (and realizing that this might change in time), I am cautious in believing what they say at present. So, I started to dig in, just to educate myself about the market. I wondered: How real is 5G in the US? Is it worth the money? 

My simple finding is that, as it stands today, in the US, it is decidedly not magical — though, it does involve a bit of hocus pocus. You might be promised gigabit speeds, but what you get will be much slower, especially in the near term. In order to understand, why, let’s look at what is on offer. In the US, what is being packaged, labeled, and sold to consumers as 5G is made up of three different wireless technologies:

• Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) that allows wireless carriers to push 5G signals into the 4G “low band” spectrum. T-Mobile, for instance, uses 600 MHz spectrum, while Verizon is pushing its signals in the 850 MHz spectrum. [You can learn how DSS works on the 5G website.]
• Mobile 5G broadband is available on the mid-band spectrum between 2.5 GHz and 6 GHz and is known as the sub-6 GHz spectrum. T-Mobile (which also owns Sprint) has a big chunk of this spectrum in the 2.5 GHz range. [As an aside, 2.5 to 3.5 GHz was the spectrum that was slotted for WiMAX and mocked by AT&T and Verizon. Looks like T-Mobile and Sprint have the last laugh.]
• High-band 5G broadband, also known as Millimeter Wave and operates above the 24 GHz band, which will soon include the 60 GHz. Verizon calls this “Ultra-Wideband,” and this is what Verizon CEO Hans 

Vestberg waxed eloquent in his most awkward appearance at the Apple iPhone 12 launch. For some of us who have tracked the broadband industry for a few decades, this spectrum was called Fixed Wireless.

At present most of them are imperfect, especially the DSS and high-band technologies. Those who work in the network business are quite aware of the limitations of DSS. Take, for example, the Japanese telecom provider, NTT DoCoMo. This is what they had to say:

“When DSS is employed, the network speed will be limited to a level comparable to LTE, meaning that we may not be able to fully deliver the speeds promised by 5G. If we use the same spectrum band as LTE for 5G when there are still many users on the LTE network, it will result in 5G burdening the LTE capacity. For this reason, we plan to roll out our 5G network as quickly as possible using the sub-6GHz spectrum instead of using DSS. It is very important to have customers understand that this is the authentic approach to building 5G.”

Clearly, DSS is not without problems. There are latency challenges, especially in real-world situations. It also has interference issues. And it is not clear how these technical challenges are being overcome. Such problems were part of the 4G rollout and took some years to solve. So, it would be foolish to assume that DSS will be any different.

Still, DSS is a sneaky way for all three carriers to show the 5G icon on the phone and make you feel like you might have better wireless than LTE. AT&T and Verizon are using this cheap trick. Think of this as the Borat of 5G (except not as quick and not as good). In some places, you could see better speeds — 70 to 80 Mbps on DSS (5G) versus the 20 to 30 Mbps one finds on LTE — but don’t count on it. As one analyst told me, “It’s mostly a gimmick because it doesn’t give you the throughput advantages.”

This is coming from the horse’s mouth. “The experience [between 4G and nationwide 5G] is similar. It’s not radically different,” Verizon VP Bill Stone told Light Reading. The so-called ultra-wideband network that Vestberg boasted about is available in 55 cities. Even when it is available, it is pretty spotty. You can’t really make it work indoors as effectively. You can’t be moving around. This technology is impacted by things like line of sight, foliage, and how far you are from the cell-site.

Many companies used this spectrum for backhaul connectivity and connected cell towers to the central offices. It is based on the spectrum Verizon acquired due to buying XO Communications, Straight Path, and Nextlink. Verizon started building its Verizon Ultra Wideband network in 2018. Even if all goes to plan, a mere 2 million people will have access to it by the end of 2020.

If you think Verizon 5G feels slow and terrible, wait till you learn about AT&T, which is essentially a rebranded 4G as 5G, because all they are doing is using the “DSS” technology. The company bought FiberTower in 2017, and that got the company 39 GHz and since then has acquired 37 GHz and 47 GHz bands, so this gives the company some room to play in the mmWave 5G. However, this is in limited availability and suffers from the same challenges as Verizon.

In comparison, T-Mobile has usable 5G, though it is hard to tell how good. The company has between 30 percent to 40 percent of significant US cities covered with mid-band, according to Chetan Sharma of Chetan Sharma Consulting, a mobile industry consulting group.

The company says that it can offer 25 million people speeds of 100 to 300 Mbps using its 2.5 GHz network. It will hit the 100 million people goal by the end of 2020. It is also starting to lease more spectrum in low-band, which allows it to offer better speeds. Of all the companies, it seems T-Mobile has the cleanest plans to build a real, usable, and mobile 5G network. It is about 25 percent cheaper than AT&T and Verizon, so there is that to think about.

It makes you wonder why Apple decided to go with Verizon, risk its reputation, and instead of working with a carrier that actually has what seems like a 5G network. I wonder how much Verizon paid Apple for that CEO placement?

With all this in mind, the next obvious question: What do reviewers say about the 5G network. Well, read for yourself.

[snip]

Self-Driving Cars Can Also Self-Design A Whole New Traffic Code

Self-Driving Cars Can Also Self-Design A Whole New Traffic Code
By Brad Templeton
Oct 27 2020
https://www.forbes.com/sites/bradtempleton/2020/10/27/self-driving-cars-can-also-self-design-a-whole-new-traffic-code/

There has been much debate about how to regulate safety and the initial operation of self-driving cars, and how to even tell how safe they are. Our current “rules of the road” govern by safety and traffic flow. They have been built by observing all the ways in which human drivers can’t be trusted to be safe and cooperative on the road, then passing laws forbidding those, and sending out police to catch and punish offenders.

There are a billion drivers, each a different entity, so the use of the law makes sense. But there will never be more than a handful of robocar driving systems in any given area, and probably not more than a hundred or so world-wide. Unlike the human drivers, it will be possible to get representatives from each robocar system in a town or nation in one room at the same time. There, it will be possible for them to discuss, with themselves and with regulators, what the right rules are. Once they are agreed upon, they can also be enforced directly with those entities.

Most of the rules of the road break down into these two goals

• Be safe
• Share the road (ie. do not unfairly impede others)

There are a variety of local regulations for specific streets, such as declaring one-way streets and parking zones, though usually these are created in order to support the two goals in special ways on certain streets.

This creates the potential for a vastly simpler vehicle code. One could declare such principles, and then have a sort of court or ruling body that can determine if a particular practice violates them. With a ruling given, all would implement it. If anybody didn’t, it would quickly become apparent, and enforcement could be applied as needed directly with the developer.

Game theory teaches a lesson

There is the potential for even more though, something which can happen largely in the absence of regulators. Today, we must expect that any given individual driving the roads will be be selfish. We can even expect that any given brand of robocar might drive selfishly as well. But for a group, there is a way to stop that, and it comes to us from the field of game theory, and its most famous problem, “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” and its top solution, known as “tit for tat.”

We can effectively strengthen the 2nd principle to include a new concept of “Give, and you will receive more in return.”

If we suppose that we have the developers of all the robocars in an area in the room, they can discuss how they can cooperate. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the problem is that while cooperation is a win for both sides, if one side “defects” they get a bigger win in that particular circumstance, which makes defecting “smart.” If we take turns on the road all the time, everybody wins, but if one person cuts everybody off, they “win” but everybody else loses more. Everybody is better off if you can all agree to cooperate.

Researchers discovered that when you have multiple encounters with the chance to cooperate or not, the overall winning strategy is one named “tit for tat.” It means you cooperate by default, and presume others will, but as soon as somebody doesn’t cooperate, you remember that, and you (and those allied with you) don’t cooperate with the defector again, at least until they learn the lesson.

To do this you examine the best solutions to any problem of how to share the road and find the one that is the best win for everybody. Everybody implements it, but if, while driving, they notice another car that won’t cooperate, they can note what type of car that is and share that record. After that, nobody in the “club” will cooperate any more with the defecting type of car until it cleans up its act. That means that if Tesla TSLA +1%, Cruise, Zoox, Waymo and EvilCar are all driving a city, and an EvilCar cuts off a Cruise in violation of the cooperation agreement, then not just all Cruises but also all the other cars will no longer play nice with EvilCars. That one brief victory for that one EvilCar would be followed by a permanent nightmare of an unfriendly road for all EvilCars. Which means that EvilCar would be crazy to do that and never would. 

Everybody cooperates and takes the optimal path to share the road and improve safety. With no law requiring it. As long as your fleet is not the majority of cars on the road, you are crazy to do anything else.

The renegade humans

Robocars must share the road with human drivers, who still need a vehicle code and aren’t in the room to discuss how to cooperate. While the robocars can’t mete punishment on all human drivers for one human’s selfishness, they can read licence plates. As such, when a human driver does something clearly non-cooperative, or illegal under the human vehicle code, they can be remembered. After a certain number of selfish moves, a fleet could decide to no longer cooperate by default with drivers of that car. It need not even share that with other fleets — losing the good will and cooperation of a single fleet would be enough to make a person regret it.

Not that the robots would do anything illegal. They would just stop being friendly and cooperative. They would stop yielding. Stop making room to let the vehicle in the way cooperators do, knowing they will get room made for them by another cooperator. Learning that this had happened to them, the human driver would go online and promise to be better, and join the group of cooperators. Oh, the human won’t be perfect about it, but if they do a good job and become nice again, others will be nice to them.

None of this requires special radio communication between the cars. It will all be figured out the same way it is today. Each car will look at the situation and perform “golden rule” calculations and do what its programmers would want other cars to do if the situation were reversed, or rather an agreed upon calculated balance. There are a thousand courtesies that can be worked out, then refined and improved at regular meetings. Infractions can be uploaded and examined to see if they were reasonable in the light of more data, or bad intent, and it can be fixed both ways. While the robots will implement the courtesy, it will be humans figuring out what courtesy means.

[snip]

Colleges Slash Budgets in the Pandemic, With ‘Nothing Off-Limits’

Colleges Slash Budgets in the Pandemic, With ‘Nothing Off-Limits’
Liberal arts departments, graduate student aid and even tenured teaching positions are targets as the coronavirus causes shortfalls.
By Shawn Hubler
Oct 26 2020
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/26/us/colleges-coronavirus-budget-cuts.html

Ohio Wesleyan University is eliminating 18 majors. The University of Florida’s trustees this month took the first steps toward letting the school furlough faculty. The University of California, Berkeley, has paused admissions to its Ph.D. programs in anthropology, sociology and art history.

As it resurges across the country, the coronavirus is forcing universities large and small to make deep and possibly lasting cuts to close widening budget shortfalls. By one estimate, the pandemic has cost colleges at least $120 billion, with even Harvard University, despite its $41.9 billion endowment, reporting a $10 million deficit that has prompted belt tightening.

Though many colleges imposed stopgap measures such as hiring freezes and early retirements to save money in the spring, the persistence of the economic downturn is taking a devastating financial toll, pushing many to lay off or furlough employees, delay graduate admissions and even cut or consolidate core programs like liberal arts departments.

The University of South Florida announced this month that its college of education would become a graduate school only, phasing out undergraduate education degrees to help close a $6.8 million budget gap. In Ohio, the University of Akron, citing the coronavirus, successfully invoked a clause in its collective-bargaining agreement in September to supersede tenure rules and lay off 97 unionized faculty members.

“We haven’t seen a budget crisis like this in a generation,” said Robert Kelchen, a Seton Hall University associate professor of higher education who has been tracking the administrative response to the pandemic. “There’s nothing off-limits at this point.”

Even before the pandemic, colleges and universities were grappling with a growing financial crisis, brought on by years of shrinking state support, declining enrollment, and student concerns with skyrocketing tuition and burdensome debt. Now the coronavirus has amplified the financial trouble systemwide, though elite, well-endowed colleges seem sure to weather it with far less pain.

“We have been in aggressive recession management for 12 years — probably more than 12 years,” Daniel Greenstein, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, told his board of governors this month as they voted to forge ahead with a proposal to merge a half-dozen small schools into two academic entities.

Once linchpins of social mobility in the state’s working-class coal towns, the 14 campuses in Pennsylvania’s system have lost roughly a fifth of their enrollment over the past decade. The proposal, long underway but made more urgent by pandemic losses, would merge Clarion, California, and Edinboro universities into one unit and Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities into another to serve a region whose demographics have changed.

Such pressures have reached critical mass throughout the country in the months since the pandemic hit. State governments from Washington to Connecticut, tightening their own belts, have told public universities to expect steep cuts in appropriations. Students and families, facing skyrocketing unemployment, have balked at the prospect of paying full fare for largely online instruction, opting instead for gap years or less expensive schools closer to home.

Costs have also soared as colleges have spent millions on testing, tracing and quarantining students, only to face outbreaks. A New York Times database has confirmed more than 214,000 cases this year at college campuses, with at least 75 deaths, mostly among adults last spring, but also including some studentsmore recently.

Freshman enrollment is down more than 16 percent from last year, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has reported — part of a 4 percent overall drop in undergraduate enrollment that is taking tuition revenue down with it.

In a letter to Congress last week, the American Council on Education and other higher education organizations estimated that the virus would cost institutions more than $120 billion in increased student aid, lost housing fees, forgone sports revenue, public health measures, learning technology and other adjustments.

And because donations to all but the heftiest endowments limit those funds to specific uses, most colleges cannot freely dip into them as emergency reserves. Harvard has the largest endowment in the nation, but its pandemic losses turned a $300 million-plus surplus in 2019 into a $10 million operating loss in 2020, according to an annual report posted last week, forcing the university to freeze hiring, slash capital spending and cut senior managers’ pay.

That has meant months of cutbacks, including abolishing athletic programs, deferring campus construction and laying off administrative staff and cafeteria workers. Scores of graduate programs, including some at elite research universities such as Harvard, Princeton and U.C. Berkeley, have temporarily stopped taking new Ph.D. students — the result of financial aid budgets strained by current doctoral candidates whose research is taking more time because of the pandemic.

A Chronicle of Higher Education database tracking the budgetary triage has documented more than 100 such suspended programs, from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences, which will not take new school-funded doctoral students next fall, to Rice University, which paused admissions to all five of the Ph.D. programs in its school of humanities.

Most of the suspensions are in social sciences and humanities programs where the universities — rather than outside funders such as corporations, foundations and the federal government — typically underwrite the multiyear financial aid packages offered to doctoral students. University officials say the suspensions are necessary to ensure their strapped budgets can continue supporting students already in Ph.D. pipelines.

But Suzanne T. Ortega, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, noted that interrupting that pipeline could also have a lingering impact on the higher education work force, diverting promising students from low-income households, for example, or discouraging candidates who might bring much needed diversity to faculty rosters.

As it is, the pandemic has had an outsize impact on less affluent students: A survey of 292 private, nonprofit schools released this month by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities reported a nearly 8 percent decrease in enrollment among students who receive federal Pell Grants.

“A couple years off is not necessarily the end of the world and may even be a wise thing,” Ms. Ortega said. “But if our universities don’t remain in touch with those students, and connect with them, and encourage them to keep thinking about grad school, we could have our own lost generation of students who get busy with other things and then don’t fulfill their dreams.”

As schools exhaust the possibilities of trims around the margins, what is left, administrators say, is payroll, typically the largest line item in higher education. Since February, when the coronavirus hit, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that colleges and universities have shed more than 300,000 mostly nonfaculty jobs.

“Some of these institutions have redone their budgets three, four, five times,” said Jim Hundrieser, vice president for consulting and business development at the National Association of College and University Business Officers, a professional organization for finance officers in higher education.

“As this next chapter unfolds, what’s left is just staffing. For most, this will be the toughest round.”

[snip]

Foreign students show less zeal for U.S. since Trump took over

Foreign students show less zeal for U.S. since Trump took over
By Sophia Tareen, Associated Press
Oct 26 2020
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/foreign-students-show-less-zeal-for-us-since-trump-took-over

CHICAGO — On a recruiting trip to India’s tech hub of Bangalore, Alan Cramb, the president of a reputable Chicago university, answered questions not just about dorms or tuition but also American work visas.

The session with parents fell in the chaotic first months of Donald Trump’s presidency. After an inaugural address proclaiming “America first,” two travel bans, a suspended refugee program and hints at restricting skilled worker visas widely used by Indians, parents doubted their children’s futures in the U.S.

“Nothing is happening here that isn’t being watched or interpreted around the world,” said Cramb, who leads the Illinois Institute of Technology, where international scholars have been half the student body.

America was considered the premier destination for international students, with the promise of top-notch universities and unrivaled job opportunities. Yet, 2016 marked the start of a steep decline of new enrollees, something expected to continue with fresh rules limiting student visas, competition from other countries and a haphazard coronavirus response. The effect on the workforce will be considerable, experts predict, no matter the outcome of November’s election.

Trump has arguably changed the immigration system more than any U.S. president, thrilling supporters with a nationalist message and infuriating critics who call the approach to his signature issue insular, xenophobic and even racist. Before the election, The Associated Press is examining some of his immigration policies, including restrictions on international students.

For colleges that fear dwindling tuition and companies that worry about losing talent, the broader impact is harder to quantify: America seemingly losing its luster on a global stage.

“It’s not as attractive as it once was,” said Dodeye Ewa, who’s finishing high school in Calabar, Nigeria.

Unlike two older siblings who left for U.S. schools, the aspiring pediatrician is focused on Canada. In America, she fears bullying for being an international student and a Black woman.

Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller predicted that after a COVID-19 vaccine, an improving economy would draw talent.

“Our superior economic position is going to mean that the world’s most talented doctors, scientists, technicians, engineers, etc., will all be thinking of the United States as their first country of destination,” Miller told the AP.

Roughly 5.3 million students study outside their home countries, a number that’s more than doubled since 2001. But the U.S. share dropped from 28% in 2001 to 21% last year, according to the Association of International Educators, or NAFSA.

New international students in America have declined for three straight years: a 3% drop in the 2016 school year — the first in about a decade — followed by 7% and 1% dips, according to the Institute of International Education, which releases an annual November report. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s fall snapshot shows a 13.7% drop in undergraduate international students.

The government cites high college costs, but students and school leaders tell another story.

At IIT, a Chicago university known for engineering, computer science and architecture, there was a 25% decline in international students from fall 2016 to fall 2018.

Cramb has noticed a change in tone on campus. More international students want to return home.

The pandemic has only exacerbated things, including a short-lived Trump administration rule requiring international students to leave if their schools held online-only classes. Students panicked, universities protested and lawsuits followed.

The Department of Homeland Security then unveiled draft rules last month imposing fixed student visa terms. Instead of being valid while students are enrolled, visas could be limited to four years, with students from countries including Iran and Syria eligible for two years.

Federal officials say it’s a way to fight fraud and overstaying visas. But colleges call it another barrier.

“Right out of the gate, you had the first travel ban, and that really crystalized for students and scholars what was perceived as rhetoric really would translate into actual policy and create a tremendous amount of uncertainty,” said Rachel Banks, a director at NAFSA. “If I choose to study in the U.S. will I be able to finish?”

There haven’t been many reassurances.

The Trump administration has floated curtailing Optional Practical Training, a popular program allowing international students to work. Roughly 223,000 participated in 2018-19, according to the Institute of International Education.

This month, the administration announced plans to limit H1-B skilled-worker visas, often a path for foreign students. It was pitched as a way to address pandemic-related job losses, following a June order temporarily suspending H1-Bs. It’s prompted a lawsuit.

Democrat Joe Biden has promised to reverse some Trump immigration orders. He’s pitched more skilled-worker visas and giving foreign graduates of U.S. doctoral programs a pathway to citizenship.

Dodeye Ewa’s brother Wofai Ewa, an IIT senior studying mechanical engineering, wants to stay in America but worries about his options. He understands his sister’s doubts.

Trump’s disparaging words on immigrants have irked him, including the tone surrounding a January rule to curb family-based immigration from Nigeria and other countries.

“He made remarks about Nigerian immigrants getting jobs, and that put a weird tension around people who wanted to come here,” he said. “That put us in a bad light.”

Nearly 60% of U.S. colleges reported the social and political environment contributed to the decline of new international students, according a 2019 Institute of International Education survey.

[snip]

Poll: Nearly 7 in 10 US Jews think Republican Party holds anti-Semitic views

Poll: Nearly 7 in 10 US Jews think Republican Party holds anti-Semitic views
American Jewish Committee surveys also find 52% of all Americans think GOP holds anti-Semitic opinions; 82% of US Jews say anti-Semitism on rise in last 5 years
By JTA and TOI STAFF
Oct 26 2020
https://www.timesofisrael.com/69-of-us-jews-52-of-all-americans-republican-party-holds-anti-semitic-views/

More than two-thirds of American Jews, and slightly more than half of all Americans, believe the Republican Party holds a lot or some anti-Semitic views.

That’s one takeaway from two surveys published Monday by the American Jewish Committee, just over a week before the US elections. The surveys asked Jews and the general American public about anti-Semitism in the United States.

The Jewish survey found that an overwhelming majority of Jews — 88% — consider anti-Semitism a problem, and that most see it as a problem on the right and in the Republican Party. Those findings were in line with what the AJC, a nonpartisan advocacy organization, found when it surveyed American Jews last year. A majority of Americans overall also believe that the Republican Party holds anti-Semitic views.

“Results from both surveys indicate more Americans attribute anti-Semitic views to the Republican Party than attribute them to the Democratic Party,” the AJC said. “Majorities of respondents in both surveys say the Republican Party holds a lot or some anti-Semitic views. More than two-thirds of American Jews (69%) and over half of US adults (52%) say the Republican Party holds at least some anti-Semitic views, compared to 37% of American Jews and 42% of the general public who say the same about the Democratic Party.”

In addition, nearly half of Jews (49%) feel the extreme political right poses a very serious anti-Semitic threat. An additional 26% say it poses a moderately serious anti-Semitic threat. By contrast, 16% of Jews say that the extreme left poses a very serious anti-Semitic threat while the same percentage say it poses a moderately serious threat.

The surveys also found that nearly half of Americans don’t know what the phrase “anti-Semitism” means: 21% of Americans overall — more than one in five — say they’ve never even heard of the term. An additional 25% of Americans overall have heard the term but are unsure of what it means.

But nearly half of Americans overall say they have seen antagonism against Jews either online or in person during the past five years, suggesting that respondents may be familiar with the reality of anti-Jewish bigotry but unfamiliar with the term “anti-Semitism.”

Holly Huffnagle, AJC’s US director for combating anti-Semitism, said she believes using the term anti-Semitism is important because it covers a broad historical spectrum of how anti-Jewish discrimination manifests — from conspiracy theories to stereotypes to slurs.

“I think this is an opportunity for education on what anti-Semitism is,” she said. “If someone would have said ‘Jew-hatred, do you know what that is,’ or some other term, I think we would have seen that number a little bit less, but we need the term anti-Semitism to be understood.”

The surveys were taken in September and early October and included 1,010 Americans overall and 1,334 Jews. The margin of error for the general America sample was 3.7% and 4.2% for the Jewish sample.

The poll of Jews found that 82% say anti-Semitism in the United States has increased during the past five years. The survey numbers for Jews are statistically equivalent to those from an AJC survey taken last year, which found that 88% of Jews saw anti-Semitism as a problem in the US and 84% said it had increased during the past five years.

In this year’s survey, 43% of Jews said the status of Jews in the United States is less secure than it was a year ago, while 52% say it’s about the same and 4% say it’s more secure. Those numbers are also essentially the same as last year’s.

A quarter of Jews say they have been targeted with an anti-Semitic attack in person over the past five years. During the same period, 22% have experienced anti-Semitism online and 3% have been victim to an anti-Semitic physical attack. The poll found that about a quarter of Jews avoid publicly wearing things that identify them as Jewish and that the same percentage avoid identifying as Jews online.

A majority of Jews say that Jewish institutions they’re affiliated with have increased security in the two years since the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Almost 40% say their Jewish institutions have been subject to anti-Semitic graffiti, threats or attacks since the shooting, which occurred in October 2018. Ten percent of Jewish respondents said they’ve avoided visiting Jewish institutions since the shooting.

“What American Jews and the general public are saying in these surveys, for us, is a clarion call for a stepped-up, multi-pronged response to rising antisemitism in the United States,” said AJC CEO David Harris in a statement.

A majority of Americans overall, 62%, consider anti-Semitism a problem in the United States, though while 37% of Jews consider it a very serious problem, only 19% of Americans overall agree. And while the vast majority of Jews believe anti-Semitism has gotten worse over the past five years, only 43% of Americans overall agree.

Most Americans overall also said the opinions of Jewish people and organizations make no difference to them when considering whether a statement or idea is anti-Semitic. A quarter of Americans overall said that Jews considering something anti-Semitic would make them more likely to consider it anti-Semitic, 7% said it would make them less likely to consider it anti-Semitic and 62% of people said it would make no difference.

“It comes down to this whole idea of who defines anti-Semitism,” Huffnagle said. “Is it the Jewish community? Who is the arbiter of what is anti-Semitism? Ideally it should be the Jewish community. Every other minority group gets to define the discrimination against them.”

In terms of extremism in the name of Islam, 27% of Jews say it poses a very serious threat and 26% say it poses a moderately serious threat. This set of questions was not asked of Americans overall.

[snip]

We Were Clerks at the Supreme Court. Its Legitimacy Is Now in Question.

We Were Clerks at the Supreme Court. Its Legitimacy Is Now in Question.
Brazen politics in Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation process threatens the court’s standing with the public.
By Jamie Crooks and Samir Deger-Sen
Oct 25 2020
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/25/opinion/supreme-court-amy-coney-barrett.html

We are lawyers who clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, a lifelong conservative appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan. We urge the Senate not to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett or any nominee until after the presidential election. Rushing through a confirmation with an election underway threatens the very legitimacy of the court.

Those lucky enough to interview for clerkships at the Supreme Court anticipate, or perhaps dread, a spirited debate on difficult jurisprudential issues. But the first question Justice Kennedy asked us both — and, we’d learn, all prospective clerks — had nothing to do with legal doctrine: “So, how are we doing?” It was perplexing at first to realize he cared less about our knowledge of legal particulars than about gauging how the court was perceived beyond its marble walls.

What we’d come to appreciate after a year working alongside him was that, far from just a friendly icebreaker, Justice Kennedy’s question revealed his understanding of a profound but often overlooked truth: The court’s influence extends only as far as its perceived legitimacy. As Alexander Hamilton put it, the judiciary “has no influence over either sword or the purse.” If the court wants the people to obey its rulings, it must depend on “neither force nor will, but merely judgment.” In other words, Supreme Court pronouncements are a dead letter unless the public accepts them as the law.

For his nearly two decades at the court’s center, Justice Kennedy understood this. Though he rejected the label of “swing justice,” it certainly fit: His opinions controlled cases that traversed our country’s deepest divides — on race, abortion, gay rights and campaign finance. Yet the judgments the court rendered during his tenure, while almost always drawing ire from one political faction or another, were accepted as legitimate. Al Gore conceded the day Bush v. Gore was decided. There was no latter day George Wallace blocking couples from the courthouse after the Obergefell decision guaranteed the right to same-sex marriage. For other government officials and the public, these decisions were understood to be final — not because the court is infallible, but because its judgments resulted from a process perceived as legitimate.

That fragile but crucial public acceptance was hard won over decades of compromises within and between each branch of government. But if Senate Republicans hastily confirm Judge Barrett in the middle of an election, when a clear majority of Americans would prefer that Congress focus on the nation’s economic recovery, that earned legitimacy will be put in jeopardy.

With Judge Merrick Garland denied even a hearing by Republicans after his nomination by President Barack Obama, and now the rush by those same Republicans to confirm Judge Barrett, the court’s very composition will be seen as a product of the most brazen kind of politics. We fear its decisions will be seen that way too.

That’s why the Republicans’ strategy of forcing through this nomination is shortsighted and may ultimately be self-defeating. The current court is, despite occasional hand-wringing on the right over a decision or two, the most conservative this nation has had in nearly a century. Yet each time it has delivered significant conservative victories — such as Citizens United, which struck down key campaign finance limits, written by our former boss in 2010 — liberals accepted the outcome as the law of the land.

But it is wrong to think that such acquiescence is guaranteed. Just consider calls among Democrats to increase the size of the court if they win the election.

Now we face a situation that Democrats may understandably find near impossible to swallow: a Supreme Court vacancy being filled the week before a presidential election, by a minority-elected president facing an improbable re-election and a Senate that denied President Obama (who was popularly elected twice) the right to fill a seat in an almost identical situation.

[snip]

How Trump could undermine Fauci and remake the US government

How Trump could undermine Fauci and remake the US government
By Laurie Garrett
Oct 24 2020
https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/24/opinions/trump-executive-order-reclassify-government-employees-schedule-f-garrett/index.html

(CNN) — While many Americans were looking ahead to the final presidential debate earlier this week, President Donald Trump was signing an executive order the likes of which has never been seen in a democracy. It is an edict expected under a dictatorship, a banana republic or a military regime. And it appears to stifle the President’s opponents within the government, posing a particular danger should it affect policymakers who are working tirelessly to fight the Covid-19 epidemic.

Under the order, which undermines the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act — a law that came into effect in 1883 to ensure government employees were hired based on merit and protected from political retribution — an estimated 100,000 or more will see their jobs reclassified from “competitive service” to “excepted service.”

Under this bureaucratic sleight of hand, a reclassified federal employee engaged, for example, in setting policies for social distancing on public transit systems during the pandemic would have fewer protections from disagreements with the White House. By removing the word “competitive” and replacing it with “excepted,” the order eliminates the employee’s ability to appeal a dismissal and lumps him or her among political appointees — essentially serving at the pleasure of the President.

While the White House claims the “Executive Order on Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service” would allow government to “operate more efficiently,” it would also give a second-term Trump leeway to fire civil servants for being disloyal and fill government positions with his cronies, while giving him more sway on policies ranging from vaccine safety to flight inspection standards.

As Max Stier, president and chief executive of the non-profit, nonpartisan organization Partnership for Public Service, told Stars and Stripes, “The order is highly troubling. It appears to be an effort to remove the career merit protections around a core part of the civil service.”

Stier told CNN that the executive order “not only blurs the line between politics and the neutral competency of the career civil service, it obliterates it.”

Under the executive order, agency heads have 90 days to review which positions should be reclassified, with the deadline falling on January 19 — the day before the presidential inauguration (final determinations would be due in 210 days).

Depending on how quickly the administration implements the order, a defeated Donald Trump could potentially eliminate the jobs of thousands of American government workers as he exits the Oval Office and replace them with Republican loyalists who could then hold on to positions in government and resist Joe Biden. Even if Biden rescinds the order as the incoming president, trying to reverse Trump’s actions will inevitably prove to be a headache. 

Legal experts tell me that any way this order plays out in coming weeks, the federal courts are likely to be engaged, where nearly a quarter of federal judgesowe their appointments to Donald Trump. 
And should Trump win reelection? Make no mistake, the executive order offers the final grounds for a massive remodeling of the United States government by taking aim at what the President views as meddlesome, anti-business administrators and regulators.

The executive order, which applies to career officials involved in “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating” work, ultimately sends an alarming message to the 9 million workers who make up the federal government, most of whom are based outside of Washington, DC.

Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia, attacked the executive order as “an attempt to redefine the civil service as a political arm of the presidency rather than public servants who work for the American people. 

“The stated goal in the text of the order itself weakening union protections and making it easier to fire senior federal employees is to make the federal workforce more loyal to the President. Such open cronyism does not benefit the country, it benefits the President,” Beyer said in a statement issued on his website. “It is particularly noteworthy that President Trump introduced this measure as he publicly feuds with medical and scientific experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci. Trump seeks to blame others for his incompetent failures on the pandemic at every turn, and this order shows the lengths to which those around him are willing to go to appease his Nixonian sense of paranoia.”

Indeed, the executive order explicitly mentions removing federal employees. It states, “Separating employees who cannot or will not meet required performance standards is important, and it is particularly important with regard to employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions.”

Many protected federal employees have provoked the ire of the President, perhaps none more than Fauci, who serves as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is a member of the White House coronavirus task force. In April, Trump retweeted a post that said it was “Time to #FireFauci,” only to say later that day, “Today I walk in, I hear I’m going to fire him. I’m not firing him. I think he is a wonderful guy.” 

After repeated, public disagreements with Fauci over everything from the use of hydroxychloroquine and bleach to treat Covid-19 to school closures and the vaccine approval timeline, a senior administration official acknowledged in Julythat it would be difficult to remove him due to federal employee protections. Trump, who has continued to rail against Fauci, admitted as much during a phone call with campaign staff last week, according to NBC News. Trump labeled him a “disaster,” and said, “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him.” 

A new report from the Earth Institute’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University estimates that 130,000 to 210,000 Covid-19 deaths could have been avoided if the Trump administration had quickly implemented a response. 

Instead, nearly 8.5 million have been infected in the US, more than 224,000 people have died and nearly every state is currently in the thralls of a massive surge of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, with the death toll expected to follow. The President has never needed Fauci’s sage insights more, yet Trump is allergic to the often-inconvenient truths he provides.

The new executive order creates pressure for every single federal employee — from a soldier under fire from Taliban forces in Afghanistan to a postal worker delivering absentee ballots — to march to the tune of a President who increasingly acts like a strongman.

[snip]

The Shrinking of the American Mind

The Shrinking of the American Mind
What wasn’t said at the debates was as telling as what was.
By Roger Cohen
Oct 23 2020
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/23/opinion/Trump-biden-debates.html

Among the words or phrases that were never spoken in the two presidential debates were:

Syria, human rights, drones, democracy, inequality, dictatorship, Israel, Palestine, Middle East, United Nations, World Health Organization, Guantánamo, European Union, Britain, Brexit, France, Italy, Hong Kong, Africa (or any single African state), South America, terrorism, multilateral, authoritarianism, alliance.

That’s a pretty good measure of the shrinking of the American mind.

President Trump never mentioned Afghanistan, where the United States lost more than 2,400 lives and spent some $2 trillion over the past two decades. Joe Biden did, once.

One of the characteristics of a nightmare is that it is all-consuming. Everything beyond it fades into the murk. President Trump, in an extraordinary sustained broadcast of his self-obsession, has managed to corral the world into the shadow of an orange colossus.

Yes, Trump was more civil in the second debate, and Biden, ahead in the polls, did himself no harm. Still, it was an affair of stunning mediocrity and myopia.

Let’s just posit for a moment that the rise of China, the assertiveness of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the resurgence of dictatorships, the fragility of democracies, the challenges of population growth in Africa, the pandemic’s exposure of a global leadership vacuum, rising inequality in Western societies, the frozen inadequacy of the United Nations, social fracture, the spread of the surveillance state, and the hate-multiplying impact of social media platforms may be pivotal issues of the coming decade.

What did we hear on these themes? Essentially nothing.

TV commentators went through their thing, opining on the significance of Biden looking at his watch, the importance (or not) of gazing directly into the camera, the punch Trump landed (or not) on Hunter Biden. I did not hear any laments on all that Trump’s America, in its America-first inward turn, has relegated to oblivion.

Oh, yes, Syria, where some 80 percent of the survivors of a civil war that left more than 400,000 people dead now live in poverty and 40 percent of people are unemployed. Oh, yes, Hong Kong, and Belarus, where brave protesters have been battling for democracy in struggles that would once have engaged the American imagination. Oh, yes, the Middle East, where so much American treasure and such sustained American diplomacy have been deployed in the pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace, and so many American and Iraqi lives were lost not so long ago in Iraq.

Gone, baby, gone.

The shrinking of the American mind involves a kind of numbness. It has become difficult to think or see beyond the noise emanating from the White House. Indignation fatigue has set in. There he goes again. That plaintive whining voice. Without respect for truth, without respect for science, what debate can there be?

In the end the debates amounted to a portrait of the growing irrelevance to the rest of the world of an insular United States. Two men in their 70s showed an almost complete disregard for the I-want-to-help-change-the-world idealism of Generation Z. This was close to insulting. The exchanges were, on the whole, petty, petulant and predictable.

In them, I saw the reflection of an American society in which constructive debate is near impossible. Trump has governed through fomenting division and violence. He has almost never risen to themes of reconciliation or outreach. As a result, American debate is reduced to rival tribes shrieking contempt for each other. These tribes forget that nobody ever had their mind changed by being made to feel stupid.

It’s worth examining some of the debates’ vanished words for a moment. The protection of human rights must always be a crucial American mission. Democracy is still the best defense of human dignity and freedom. Inequality continues to grow, eating away at the social fabric of societies, compounding injustice, a word mentioned once by Biden in the first debate. Guantánamoremains a stain on America’s conscience. Young men and women in the American military are out in dangerous far-flung places fighting terrorism.

The United Nations, the World Health Organization and the European Union are examples of multilateral organizations Trump’s United States has flouted to its cost. Britain and France are nuclear powers that are critical partners in an alliance (NATO) that has brought peace and stability to Europe. Africa, famously home to “shithole” countries for Trump, is where roughly two-thirds of population growth will occur between 2020 and 2050; its fate is also humanity’s.

[snip]

The Shrinking of the American Mind
What wasn’t said at the debates was as telling as what was.
By Roger Cohen
Oct 23 2020
<https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/23/opinion/Trump-biden-debates.html>

Among the words or phrases that were never spoken in the two presidential debates were:

Syria, human rights, drones, democracy, inequality, dictatorship, Israel, Palestine, Middle East, United Nations, World Health Organization, Guantánamo, European Union, Britain, Brexit, France, Italy, Hong Kong, Africa (or any single African state), South America, terrorism, multilateral, authoritarianism, alliance.

That’s a pretty good measure of the shrinking of the American mind.

President Trump never mentioned Afghanistan, where the United States lost more than 2,400 lives and spent some $2 trillion over the past two decades. Joe Biden did, once.

One of the characteristics of a nightmare is that it is all-consuming. Everything beyond it fades into the murk. President Trump, in an extraordinary sustained broadcast of his self-obsession, has managed to corral the world into the shadow of an orange colossus.

Yes, Trump was more civil in the second debate, and Biden, ahead in the polls, did himself no harm. Still, it was an affair of stunning mediocrity and myopia.

Let’s just posit for a moment that the rise of China, the assertiveness of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the resurgence of dictatorships, the fragility of democracies, the challenges of population growth in Africa, the pandemic’s exposure of a global leadership vacuum, rising inequality in Western societies, the frozen inadequacy of the United Nations, social fracture, the spread of the surveillance state, and the hate-multiplying impact of social media platforms may be pivotal issues of the coming decade.

What did we hear on these themes? Essentially nothing.

TV commentators went through their thing, opining on the significance of Biden looking at his watch, the importance (or not) of gazing directly into the camera, the punch Trump landed (or not) on Hunter Biden. I did not hear any laments on all that Trump’s America, in its America-first inward turn, has relegated to oblivion.

Oh, yes, Syria, where some 80 percent of the survivors of a civil war that left more than 400,000 people dead now live in poverty and 40 percent of people are unemployed. Oh, yes, Hong Kong, and Belarus, where brave protesters have been battling for democracy in struggles that would once have engaged the American imagination. Oh, yes, the Middle East, where so much American treasure and such sustained American diplomacy have been deployed in the pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace, and so many American and Iraqi lives were lost not so long ago in Iraq.

Gone, baby, gone.

The shrinking of the American mind involves a kind of numbness. It has become difficult to think or see beyond the noise emanating from the White House. Indignation fatigue has set in. There he goes again. That plaintive whining voice. Without respect for truth, without respect for science, what debate can there be?

In the end the debates amounted to a portrait of the growing irrelevance to the rest of the world of an insular United States. Two men in their 70s showed an almost complete disregard for the I-want-to-help-change-the-world idealism of Generation Z. This was close to insulting. The exchanges were, on the whole, petty, petulant and predictable.

In them, I saw the reflection of an American society in which constructive debate is near impossible. Trump has governed through fomenting division and violence. He has almost never risen to themes of reconciliation or outreach. As a result, American debate is reduced to rival tribes shrieking contempt for each other. These tribes forget that nobody ever had their mind changed by being made to feel stupid.

It’s worth examining some of the debates’ vanished words for a moment. The protection of human rights must always be a crucial American mission. Democracy is still the best defense of human dignity and freedom. Inequality continues to grow, eating away at the social fabric of societies, compounding injustice, a word mentioned once by Biden in the first debate. Guantánamoremains a stain on America’s conscience. Young men and women in the American military are out in dangerous far-flung places fighting terrorism.

The United Nations, the World Health Organization and the European Union are examples of multilateral organizations Trump’s United States has flouted to its cost. Britain and France are nuclear powers that are critical partners in an alliance (NATO) that has brought peace and stability to Europe. Africa, famously home to “shithole” countries for Trump, is where roughly two-thirds of population growth will occur between 2020 and 2050; its fate is also humanity’s.

[snip]