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Feb. 26 2017 2:27 PM

North Korean Leader’s Half Brother Died After “Very Painful” 20 Minutes

The half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was attacked with such a high dose of a toxic nerve agent that he was dead within 20 minutes. “VX only requires 10 milligrams to be absorbed into the system to be lethal, so I presume that the amount of dose that went in is more than that,” Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said at a news conference. “The doses were so high and it did it so fast and all over the body, so it would have affected his heart, it would have affected his lungs, it would have affected everything.” The huge amount of VX, which is classified as a weapon of mass destruction, meant that symptoms appeared “within a few minutes” and he suffered a “very painful death” within 15 to 20 minutes.

Kim Jong Nam, the estranged older brother of the autocratic North Korean leader, was attacked by two women at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13 who wiped a substance on his face and eyes. Malaysian authorities have revealed that substance was VX, which is banned under an international convention that North Korea has not signed. Security camera footage had already suggested the whole thing was rather qick considering Kim Jong Nam asked for medical help immediately after the attack. Authorities said he complained of dizziness and then died on the way to the hospital.


Although Malaysia hasn’t directly pointed the finger at North Korea for the killing, authorities have said that four North Korean men gave the two women the poison to carry out the attack. The men escaped while the two women, one from Indonesia, the other from Vietnam, were arrested. The women, aged 25 and 28, have told officials from their respective embassies that they thought the whole thing was a prank for a reality show, a contention authorities reject, claiming the women were trained to wash their hands immediately after the attack. One of the women said she was paid the equivalent of $90 to carry out what she thought was a prank.  

Malaysian officials said Sunday that they finished a sweep of the airport and didn’t find any traces of hazardous material.

This combo shows a file photo (L) taken on May 4, 2001 of a man believed to be Kim Jong-Nam, son of the late-North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, getting off a bus to board an All Nippon Airways plane at Narita airport near Tokyo and a file photo (R) of his half-brother, current North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, on a balcony of the Grand People's Study House following a mass parade in Pyongyang on May 10, 2016.


Feb. 26 2017 12:59 PM

You’ll Never Guess Where Trump Had First Dinner Out in D.C.: His Own Hotel

President Donald Trump chose a familiar venue for his first dinner out in Washington, D.C. since becoming president. The commander in chief surprised patrons when his motorcade arrived at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday and he proceeded to have dinner with his daughter Ivanka, her husband and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage.

Coming mere hours after Trump had said he was skipping the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the president made clear how little he thinks of the press by forcing the press pool to stay outside of the hotel. The only reason why we know who Trump was eating with was due to a tweet by Benny Johnson, a reporter for Independent Journal Review who happened to be at the Trump International Hotel.


Farage also posted a photo of the dinner on Twitter under the heading “Dinner with The Donald.”

Showing how the hotel is becoming a preferred spot for D.C. power players, Johnson said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was also having dinner with his wife there.

Beyond keeping the press in the dark, the dinner once again brings into focus how the commander in chief is a walking conflict of interest, and he doesn’t appear to have much interest in even trying to hide it. Trump’s D.C. hotel is in the Old Post Office, which was leased from the federal government. Under the terms of the lease: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”

Even some Republican lawmakers have expressed possible concern about the terms of the lease. "His being both the landlord and the tenant is something that we're curious what the GSA's opinion of that is," House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told reporters earlier this month.

Trump refusing to divest from the hotel was one thing but now having dinner there opens him up to a host of new conflict of interest questions as it’d be difficult to argue that the chance of a glimpse at the commander in chief won’t help the hotel’s bottom line.

Feb. 26 2017 11:52 AM

Trump Is First President to Begin Tenure With Net Negative Approval Rating

A mere 44 percent of Americans approve of the job President Donald Trump is doing as a newly inaugurated commander in chief. In contrast, 48 percent of Americans say they disapprove of Trump’s performance, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted Feb. 18-22.

Two days before Trump is set to address a joint session of Congress, the poll makes clear Trump is way less popular than any of his predecessors. In fact, Trump is the first president in the history of modern political polling to have a net negative approval rating at the beginning of his first term, a sharp contrast to his predecessors that enjoyed broad support when they started their tenures. Barack Obama, for example, had a net positive rating of 34 percent in his first month, which was similar to the approval rating that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton enjoyed. George H.W. Bush had an even higher net positive rating of 45 percent.


Beyond the broad disapproval, a whopping 32 percent of respondents said Trump’s first month in office showed he isn’t up to the job of commander in chief. Despite this lack of popularity, the poll does show that Republicans continue to broadly approve Trump’s performance and the views are remaining relatively stable. Plus there appears to be a key group of voters who dislike Trump but like at least some of what he stands for. While only 43 percent said they have a positive view of Trump and 59 percent said they don’t like him personally, 86 percent agreed with the president’s claim during his inaugural speech that a group of insiders was getting rich off the little guy. Americans, however, are more divided on other issues, such as Trump’s travel ban for people from seven majority-Muslim countries, which appears to split people pretty much down the middle.

Even if some of his policy proposals do have support, Americans appear to be seeing potential for long-term woes with his administration as 52 percent said the problems Trump has encountered are “unique to this administration and suggest real problems” while 43 percent described them as “growing pains.” Yet a majority of Americans do agree with Trump that journalists have it in for him as 51 percent say the news media has been too hard on the new administration.

The poll surveyed 1,000 people and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

Feb. 26 2017 10:49 AM

Fox News Interviews Fake Expert on Sweden to Warn About Immigration Threat

Swedes were left scratching their heads for the second time in less than a week as their country continues to enjoy an unlikely turn at the national spotlight. The latest culprit? A man interviewed by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News on Thursday identified as a “Swedish Defense and National Security Advisor” who turns out to be completely unknown to pretty much anybody in the country’s security or defense circles.

The supposed expert, Nils Bildt, was part of a segment on the O’Reilly Factor in which two guests debated claims about whether recent immigration had made Sweden more dangerous. This, of course, came mere days after President Donald Trump was inspired by a Fox News segment to make a reference to “what’s happening last night in Sweden” during a Feb. 18 Florida rally. One of the guests was a Swedish journalist who countered the portrayal of Sweden as a dangerous country. Bildt, however, disagreed and criticized Swedes for failing to recognize the downside to accepting immigrants.


After his appearance on Fox News, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that Bildt left Sweden in 1994 and no one has heard about him. “He is in not in any way a known quantity in Sweden and has never been part of the Swedish debate,” Swedish Defense University leadership professor Robert Egnell told the Associated Press. Even his last name, which is well known in Swedish politics because of former prime minister Carl Bildt, appears to be a mystery. The supposed expert’s father, Sven Tolling, is “well known in Swedish equestrian circles,” but he changes his name to Bildt nine years after emigrating from Sweden. Carl Bildt even suggested the so-called expert was “trying to use the name to gain favors.”

Dagens Nyheter also reported Bildt had been convicted of a violent offense in Virginia and was given a one-year prison sentence in 2014. Bildt denied he had spent any time in prison.

Nils Bildt, who is a founding partner of a consulting company that has offices in Washington, Brussels, and Tokyo, insists Fox News was the one that chose how to label him on the show and he only identifies himself as an independent analyst. The executive producer of the Fox News show said several people recommended Bildt. “Our booker made numerous inquiries and spoke to people who recommended Nils Bildt and after pre-interviewing him and reviewing his bio, we agreed that he would make a good guest for the topic that evening,” David Tabacoff said in a statement.

O’Reilly will apparently address the issue on his show on Monday. Echoing what happened after Trump’s comments on Sweden, many took to Twitter to mock Fox News for its choice of “expert.”

Feb. 26 2017 9:06 AM

Drunk Driver Plows Into New Orleans Mardi Gras Crowd, Injures 28

A suspected drunken driver rammed his pickup truck into a crowd of spectators who were enjoying the Krewe of Endymion parade on Saturday night in New Orleans and injured at least 28 people. A total of 21 people were taken to area hospitals, including a kid and a cop, and five were in critical condition. Mayor Mitch Landrieu wrote on Twitter that none of the injuries were life-threatening. The driver was quickly arrested and officials said there was no evidence to suggest it could have been terrorism.

Spectators could only watch as they suddenly saw a gray pickup truck going at high speed and slamming into two vehicles and then starting to hit people. “I saw him coming and I was like, oh my God, it's going to be a catastrophe,” a witness tells the New Orleans Advocate. “He sped up and he just went flying, hit those cars.” Others agreed the driver appeared to speed up as he got close to the spectators. “It seemed like he got pissed off because all of a sudden he slammed the gas and his back tires started and it seemed like his foot never left the gas pedal,” a witness tells the New Orleans Times Picayune. “There were bodies flying off the hood while he was still driving.”  


Law enforcement officials didn’t release information on the driver but witnesses said the young man didn’t look like he knew what he had done when he was quickly apprehended by the police. The Endymion parade, one of the largest in New Orleans, paused for about 10 minutes after the crash and then continued.  

Feb. 25 2017 6:46 PM

Trump Will Skip the White House Correspondents’ Dinner This Year

President Donald Trump took a break from criticizing the media to announce he won’t be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. In a tweet Saturday afternoon, the commander in chief doesn’t give a reason for eschewing tradition and skipping the annual event that is scheduled for April 29.

Trump attended the dinner in the past as a guest and was the butt of jokes by both then-President Barack Obama and comedian Seth Meyers in 2011. Now that he could be the star of the night, the president said he won’t be going a day after he once again railed against the media at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.


The annual dinner has long been criticized by many who say it puts on display how Washington journalists are way too close to the politicians they’re covering. And even though it’s still months away there was already lots of handwringing in the media world about whether to participate in the annual event considering Trump’s adversarial relationship with the press. CNN, for example, was considering skipping the event entirely.

The commander in chief made the decision to not attend as it was becoming clear that the dinner would not be nearly as glitzy of an affair as had become the norm during the Obama presidency. Bloomberg confirmed on Friday it was canceling its famed after party for the dinner after Vanity Fair, its longtime partner in the lavish affair, had already pulled out. The New Yorker had also said it wouldn’t be holding its traditional kickoff party this year. Comedian Samantha Bee, meanwhile, had announced an alternative to the annual dinner under the creative name “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.”

As some of the big media outlets began scaling back their plans for the dinner, others outright called on journalists to skip the event. “Whether Trump himself will show up is an open question anyway; but regardless, news organizations should buy tickets as usual (it's for a good cause) but make other plans that night and if he does attend, let the ratings- and crowd-obsessed narcissist freak address an empty ballroom,” wrote Robert Schlesinger of US News & World Report. Boston Globe columnist Renée Loth recently wrote that it’s about time for a shakeup:

The White House Correspondents’ dinner is a hoary Washington tradition founded in 1921 in which the president, and the reporters entrusted to keep a check on him, engage in an evening of cheer. But the dinner is Exhibit A of the too-cozy relationship between political and media elites that has badly undermined journalism’s most precious asset: its credibility. The obsequious hob-nobbing is why many Americans consider the press to be part of the problem.
Now some news outlets and individual reporters are considering skipping the dinner this April. Trump supporters have seized on the potential boycott as proof of the media’s double standard. Maybe it took the shock of Trump’s election to reacquaint the Washington press corps with its essential watchdog mission, but better late than never: The demise of this unseemly lovefest is long overdue.

Amid rising questions about the event, the White House Correspondents’ Association confirmed earlier this month the event would go on as planned. “This year, as we do every year, we will celebrate the First Amendment and the role an independent press plays in a healthy republic,” the association’s president, Jeff Mason, said in a statement. But it seems those are two things the commander in chief doesn't have much interest in celebrating.

Feb. 25 2017 5:36 PM

Establishment Candidate Tom Perez Wins Election To Lead Democratic Party

The divisions within the Democratic Party were in full view on Saturday, when former Labor Secretary Thomas Perez narrowly defeated Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota to become the new head of the Democratic National Committee. As soon as Perez won 235 votes on the second ballot and became the first Latino chair of the DNC, Ellison’s supporters began chanting: “Party for the people, not big money!” It was the party’s first contested election for the chairmanship in more than three decades, and the balloting in Atlanta on Saturday made it clear the “Democrats have yet to heal the wounds from last year’s presidential primary,” as the New York Times puts it. In a nod to these divisions, Perez quickly called on Ellison to serve as deputy chair.

"We are all in this together," Perez said, as he called on Democrats to unite against “the worst president in the history of the United States.” Ellison accepted the position and said his supporters should unite behind the new leadership: “If you came here supporting me, wearing a Keith t-shirt, or any t-shirt, I’m asking you to give everything you’ve got to support Chairman Perez.”  


Although some in the party said they wanted to avoid a repeat of the primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders that seemed to be inevitable as the contest effectively became a two-man race. Perez was endorsed by several members of former president Barak Obama’s administration while Ellison was backed by the likes of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Ellison had been one of the few members of Congress to publicly back Sanders’ presidential bid.

Despite the endorsements, Perez’s victory “did not represent a Democratic shift to the right,” notes the Washington Post, which points out that on key issues his platform was uncannily similar to that espoused by Ellison. In the end, several DNC members said that they were convinced Perez was better prepared to give state parties what they needed.

In a statement shortly after Perez’s victory, Sanders called for change in the Democratic Party structure. "It is imperative that Tom understands that the same-old, same-old is not working and that we must open the doors of the party to working people and young people in a way that has never been done before,” Sanders said. “Now, more than ever, the Democratic Party must make it clear that it is prepared to stand up to the 1 percent and lead this country forward in the fight for social, racial, economic and environmental justice.”

Perez is taking over for Donna Brazile, who became the interim chief following Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation after hacked emails appeared to show the DNC had tried to boost Clinton’s candidacy.

Feb. 25 2017 4:06 PM

Oscar-Nominated Syrian Cinematographer Barred From Entering U.S. for Awards

The Department of Homeland Security has blocked a 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer who worked on an Oscar-nominated documentary about the country's civil war, The White Helmets, from entering the country. The Associated Press saw some “internal Trump administration correspondence” in which officials decided to block Khaled Khateeb’s entry into the United States. Khateeb was scheduled to arrive Saturday in Los Angeles via Istanbul, but U.S. official reportedly found “derogatory information” on Khateeb. “Derogatory information is a broad category that can include anything from terror connections to passport irregularities,” reports the AP.

Khateeb had been granted a visa to attend Sunday’s Academy Awards but he was detained by Turkish authorities and now apparently would need a passport waiver to enter the United States. Khateeb countered the claim that he had been detained but refused to elaborate on his situation. On Twitter, Khateeb wrote that he had a visa but "passport not accepted."


A message in the White Helmets' Twitter account noted that Khateen wouldn’t be able to attend the Oscars because he isn’t “allowed to leave Turkey because passport not issued by Damascus.” Asked for comment, the Department of Homeland Security only said that “a valid travel document is required for travel to the United States.”

The White Helmets is a 40-minute Netflix documentary that tells the story of the rescue workers who risk their lives to save Syrians affected by the long civil war. Khateeb is one of three people credited for the documentary’s cinematography.

Shortly after President Donald Trump issued an executive order restricting travel into the United States by citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Syria, Khateeb had pledged he would attend the ceremony. “I plan to travel to L.A. for the Oscars, where the film is nominated for an award. If we win this award, it will show people across Syria that people around the world support them. It will give courage to every volunteer who wakes up every morning to run towards bombs,” he said in a statement.

Khateeb’s eagerness to travel to the United States for the ceremony stood in stark contrast to that of Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian filmmaker who is nominated for the Salesman. Shortly after Trump unveiled his travel ban, Farhadi said he would not travel to the United States for the Academy Awards, even if he were allowed.

On Friday, Farhadi joined his fellow contenders for the Best Foreign Language Film award in issuing a statement decrying the “climate of fanaticism and nationalism” in the United States and other countries. Regardless of who wins, the five filmmakers already preemptively dedicated their award:

Regardless of who wins the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film on Sunday, we refuse to think in terms of borders. We believe there is no best country, best gender, best religion or best color. We want this award to stand as a symbol of the unity between nations and the freedom of the arts.
Human rights are not something you have to apply for. They simply exist—for everybody. For this reason, we dedicate this award to all the people, artists, journalists and activists who are working to foster unity and understanding, and who uphold freedom of expression and human dignity—values whose protection is now more important than ever. By dedicating the Oscar to them, we wish to express to them our deep respect and solidarity.

Feb. 25 2017 3:40 PM

The True Face of Trump Conservatism Can Be Seen In CPAC’s Swag Center

The winner of 2016’s CPAC straw poll was Sen. Ted Cruz. Donald Trump came in third. The result likely came as no surprise to those who gathered to hear Cruz’s speech to the convention last year. He opened with a comment on Trump’s absence—his campaign said in a statement that he was skipping CPAC for a critical rally in Wichita ahead of Kansas’ caucuses. He would lose Kansas by more than 20 points. Cruz won.

“I think somebody told him Megyn Kelly was going to be here,” Cruz said in his opening. The crowd laughed and cheered. “Or even worse, he was told there were conservatives that were going to be here.”


“It’s easy to talk about making America great again,” Cruz said at one point. “You can even print that on a baseball cap. But the question is: Do you understand the principles that made America great in the first place?”

Few hints remained at this year’s conference that this had ever been an open question. Countless MAGA hats and the glowing reception that greeted the president himself and speakers from the White House—including Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon—suggested a thoroughly pro-Trump crowd.

“I would have come last year,” Trump said in his speech. “But I was worried that I would be—at that time—too controversial.”

What a difference a year and an electoral-college victory make. This time around, the American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp offered unending praise of Trump’s first days in office. What could have changed? Had there been something amiss about Trump’s personal conduct in March 2016? If so, this time around there were few leaders of the party’s faith wing prominently featured to make a fuss about it. This year, nearly all of the speakers at CPAC did their best to make his transformation into the de facto leader of the conservative movement appear seamless—to make the uglier parts of Trumpism and the conservative rhetoric that helped bring it about disappear. They almost succeeded.

One level below the ballroom where Trump and other main-stage speakers made their appearances is the “CPAC Hub,” an area where conservative groups and retailers set up booths to hawk their various causes and wares. There, beneath the rowdy applause and the cameras, signs of a scattered movement were obvious.

“It is a very different atmosphere,” Tiffany Harding of AtheistVoter said of the difference between 2016 and 2017. “A lot of people dropped out because of Trump.” She pointed in the direction of empty space at the other side of the hall and said that many of the Christian and faith groups her group would table beside had stayed away from the convention this year. “Yeah, they’re gone. There are some but not as much as last time.”

Brigham Young University, a major Mormon college, had a sizable presence at the Hub last year, she remembered. “They’re not here. I just did a circuit, and I’m telling you, half of this space—I remember, I picked up a Trump hat in that corner over there. I don’t know; people are bailing.”

So who was there? Ken Bone, for one, posing for photos at a table for the political software company Victory Holdings.

Remember him?

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The NRA brought a massive structure featuring a portrait of National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre gazing down at passers by; at an actual booth elsewhere in the hall they offered digital target practice with replica guns.

The NRA.

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Other usual suspects were there, including the Young Americans for Freedom—not to be confused with the Young Americans for Liberty, who also had a booth. One “Art Therapy Lounge” set up by Red Alert Politics was designed to mock collegiate safe spaces and offered “snowflake” coloring books.

Red Alert Politics.

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A booth offering pamphlets adorned with photos of plants seemed to belong to a lonely environmental group. Upon closer inspection, one learned that the group, called the CO2 Coalition, is aimed at advancing the Republican talking point that high CO2 emissions and climate change will be good for the planet.

The CO2 Coalition.

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A couple of booths were dedicated to groups for criminal-justice reform, remnants of that brief period before Trump’s rise when some pundits insisted that the future of the party belonged to moderate conservative wonks.

Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

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The American Conservative Union’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform.

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But one of the largest booths in the hub, naturally, was a merchandise display for Breitbart, one of the convention’s sponsors. The convention’s organizers may have booted Milo Yiannopoulos from the schedule, but they were happy to have the organization that employed him and others to slander minorities, Islam, and feminism and show off their gear.


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Breitbart, as has been conveniently forgotten by the conservative movement’s bigwigs, was once called “the platform for the alt-right” by its then-head Steve Bannon. Some of the conference’s program was aimed at erasing the ties between the ideas of that movement and the conservative establishment. The American Conservative movement’s Dan Schneider denounced the alt-right early on Thursday with a bemused Richard Spencer sitting in the audience. Shortly afterward, conspiracy theorist Clare Lopez took the main stage to warn that the Muslim Brotherhood was working to recruit young people into radical Islam through Muslim Students Associations on college campuses. This is, of course, precisely the kind of Islamophobia that has constituted a key part of the white-nationalist case for severely restricting immigration; the Muslims are among those seeking to change American society through multiculturalism, they say, and true Americans ought not to let them.

Interestingly enough, pushback against this line of thinking came by way of a panel on international threats featuring Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, whose views on Islam have been closely scrutinized by the press. “There are Muslims across the world who share our values,” Jasser, himself a Muslim said. “We’re a diverse global population with ideas that span from fundamentalist, to orthodox, to liberal, to secular.” Gorka, citing the example of a Muslim Jordanian pilot who had been burned to death in a cage by ISIS a few years ago, agreed. “This idea that we’re at war with Islam is really fallacious,” he said. “Because what’s the religion of the guy in a cage who was burnt alive. He’s not a Baptist. He’s not a Hindu. He’s not an Episcopalian.”

Yet there was abundant evidence below in the Hub that this view is still contested among many in the conservative movement. One group had a sign on their table asking passers by, “What’s wrong with a Muslim ban?” and offered a flyer titled “The ‘Muslim Ban’ Unconstitutional, Really?”

“It’s a fact that Islam wants all of humanity to be either Muslim or dead,” it read. “This is not a discriminatory call to single out Muslims for some form of ‘religious test,’ but rather for an honest evaluation as to whether Islam conforms to the standard of civility required by our Founders before any ‘religion’ be considered worthy of constitutional protections.”

BookWriters, Inc.

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One visitor to the table who said he was a retired general approved. “Some people say you can be a good Muslim and a good American,” he said. “I don’t.”

“Some of them are good people,” the tabler replied. “But we need to be honest with them.”

“Their founder was a murderer and a pedophile!”


There was much more in the hub for those with similar views. There was a group called the “American Freedom Alliance”—whose self-description as a “movement of concerned Americans advancing the values and ideals of Western Civilization”—that called the white nationalists of the alt-right immediately to mind. Its conferences have featured prominent Islamophobes like Geert Wilders, who has called Islam and freedom incompatible; Pamela Geller, who called Barack Obama “a third worlder and a coward” in the service of “Islamic overlords”; and Robert Spencer, who believes Islam cannot be seen as a religion of peace. “It has an inherently political character that is being brought to the West by immigrants and will cause more trouble in the future,” he said in a 2007 interview. “The jihadists have not hijacked it.”

Spencer’s and Geller’s books were actually offered for sale by at least two vendors in the hub, including in one display alongside a selection of children’s books.

Books by Robert Spencer.

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A book by Pamela Geller.

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One of these vendors said that their selection of titles every year reflects both those invited to speak at the conference and books that have sold well at conferences past. Only the latter criteria can explain one book offered for purchase at this year’s CPAC; sandwiched between Ann Coulter’s anti-immigration screed Adios, America and a Glenn Beck title called It Is About Islam was an anthology of essays on immigration from the white-nationalist site VDare.

A VDare anthology.

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In a lot of ways, the Hub told you more about the state of conservatism under Donald Trump than any of CPAC’s actual speakers.

Feb. 25 2017 3:04 PM

Trump’s National Security Adviser: Avoid Phrase “Radical Islamic Terrorism”

Donald Trump’s new national security adviser appears to have a strikingly different view from many in the administration about the link between terrorists and their religion. In the first full staff meeting since taking his new job, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster told National Security Council staff that the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” wasn’t a helpful label because terrorists are “un-Islamic,” reports the New York Times. McMaster told staff members that the phrase blames “an entire religion” so “he’s not on board,” someone who participated in the meeting told the Guardian.

McMaster’s words are in sharp contrast to the language used by his predecessor, Michael Flynn, and even Trump himself, who frequently criticized President Barack Obama for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” During the campaign, Trump also used it as a talking point against Hillary Clinton. “These are radical Islamic terrorists and she won't even mention the word, and nor will President Obama. He won't use the term ‘radical Islamic terrorism’,” Trump said during the Oct. 9 debate at Washington University in St. Louis. “Now, to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name. She won't say the name and President Obama won't say the name. But the name is there. It's radical Islamic terror.”


Analysts quickly pointed out McMaster’s choice of words has a much deeper meaning. “This is very much a repudiation of his new boss’s lexicon and worldview,” William McCants, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said.

McMaster also appeared to strike a different tone on Russia, telling National Security Council staff “the talk about Moscow being a friend of Washington is over,” reports CNN, citing a source who was present at the meeting.  

Although McMaster’s words could signal a coming clash with the White House, it could also be a sign that he is eager to push the National Security Council away from politics. Before Flynn was fired for misleading the vice president and others about conversations he held with the Russian ambassador numerous reports talked of a demoralized Council as veteran staff were troubled by overt partisanship among the new leadership.

Senators could choose to publicly question McMaster about his differences with the president and his team if the Senate Armed Services Committee holds a confirmation hearing. Although the national security adviser post doesn’t require Senate approval, senators must approve of McMaster's decision to remain a three-star general in his new post.