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India has 30 million stray dogs. One state is pushing vigilantes to kill them

By Rama Lakshmi
India has 30 million stray dogs. One state is pushing vigilantes to kill them
Seven-year old Ayoos Sajimon is slowly recovering from multiple surgeries after a dog bite. Two months ago, a street dog pounced on him, pressed its paws on his chest and bit his face and eye. The dog was killed by neighbors the week after. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Rama Lakshmi

KOCHI, India - The dog catcher tiptoes into a narrow lane carrying a metal wire noose. Someone had spotted a stray dog amid rows of coconut trees a few minutes ago.

"Finish that dog today," one woman calls out from her porch. Another says the dog killed half the ducks in his farm. A third complains the dog has been growling at his 10-year-old son all week.

When he corners the skinny brown dog and tightens the wire around its neck, residents cheer and turn on their cellphone cameras. A few minutes later, he pulls out five puppies from under a log pile and stuffs them into a tight plastic bag. All the animals will eventually be killed.

In recent months, people in the southern Indian state of Kerala have declared a war on dogs.

Hundreds of street dogs have been killed in the past year across a state that calls itself "God's own country," and is a tourist magnet. Mobs routinely beat dogs to death or hire professional catchers to do the job. Recently a group of men killed several dogs and paraded through the streets with carcasses strung on a pole, dumping them in front of a public building.

The bitter man-canine conflict here has alarmed animal lovers across India and drawn sharp criticism from the country's Supreme Court, which said this month that although dogs cannot become a "menace to society," widespread killing was unacceptable.

"We want Kerala's streets to be free of stray dogs," said Jose Maveli, who runs a home for street children and is founder of the Stray Dogs Eradication Society in the state. A key patron of the anti-street dog drive here, he pays for 10 dog catchers in the city, who killed 300 dogs last year. He thinks that the roaming strays - about 250,000 in the state, according to estimates - endanger public safety and hurt the economy.

"Look at the Western countries, are there dogs roaming so freely on the street?" he said. "Every day young children and elderly people are getting bitten."

Street dogs are a common nuisance all over India, with many who feed them but do not adopt them as pets. Public sterilization programs exist, but many are underfunded, and India's laws do not allow for humane euthanasia for dogs. India has about 30 million stray dogs, and reported about 20,000 human deaths from rabies - mostly of poor people and children - in 2014.

In Kerala, more than 100,000 incidents of dog bites were reported last year, up from 88,000 the previous year. The state reported less than a dozen rabies deaths, and it does not have more street dogs than other Indian states. But this is lost in the emotionally charged atmosphere.

Giant billboards around the city paid for by anti-dog activists show snarling canines and gruesome images of people with bite wounds. Local newspapers chronicle seemingly every dog bite, and run alarmist cartoons depicting blood dripping fromthe mouths of dogs. In the municipal elections this year in Kerala, voters were urged to elect candidates who promised to kill street dogs. Last week, some school children in Kochi took a pledge to eradicate stray dogs.

The killing drive in Kerala intensified two months ago when an elderly woman died in a coastal town after being attacked by a pack of stray dogs on the beach.

"The politicians, the media and the vigilante groups - they have all got Kerala into a panic mode," said Latha Indira, an activist with People For Animals in the state. "There is no room for reason or restraint. Animal lovers are on the defensive right now."

One activist, Aishwarya Prem, said she was pushed to the ground and kicked by an angry mob when she was trying to rescue street dogs late last year.

"When I hear that people are killing a dog, I rush there and take the dog in my arms and ask, 'Does this really look like an aggressive dog to you?' " Prem said.

Unlike other Indian states, Kerala did not implement neutering programs for street dogs with much conviction after 2001, when a national law mandating sterilization was passed. The government sets aside an average of $11 per dog on neutering, which officials in other states say is inadequate. Experts say that poor collection of garbage in the cities is the main reason that India has a street dog problem.

In recent years, more and more middle-class Indian families are acquiring pet dogs, but many prefer foreign pedigree dogs instead of Indian street dogs. Residents routinely complain to their municipal corporations about street dogs in their neighborhoods. In a recent video that went viral, a medical student flings a stray puppy off the roof; in another, men are shown burning dogs.

"Dogs in Kerala are in an absolute state of fright because of the killings," said Sumitha Suseelan, who runs a weekly adoption drive for stray dogs. "They have developed a suspicion of human beings."

In a Kochi suburb, 7-year old Ayoos Sajimon is slowly recovering from multiple surgeries after a dog bite. Two months ago, a street dog pounced on him, pressed its paws on his chest and bit his face and eye. The dog was killed by neighbors the week after.

"My son is so traumatized that he now runs inside the house every time he hears a dog bark somewhere," his mother, Bismi, said.

The Supreme Court ordered Kerala to sterilize the street dogs. Kerala residents say they do not have the patience for that.

"People are shouting, 'Kill them, kill them, kill them,' but even if you keep killing daily, you can never achieve the zero number," said Kishore Janardhanan, a veterinary surgeon at a government-run dog birth control hospital in Kochi. "There is no easy, magic solution to the dog menace. The only scientific thing to do is sterilization. But in all this paranoia, our work has been discredited as a soft measure."

A portrait of John Podesta, based entirely on his hacked emails

By Dan Zak
A portrait of John Podesta, based entirely on his hacked emails
Campaign Chair John Podesta listens backstage to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on January 30, 2016; WikiLeaks' release of Podesta's emails reveal s occasionally harsh political assessments along with more domestic concerns. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Melina Mara.

John Podesta is constantly being asked to lunch.

John Podesta receives a cascade of boring news briefs.

John Podesta is a one-man suggestion box for people who have ideas about the campaign.

John Podesta and his wife, Mary, have a typical marriage-on-the-go. We know this because WikiLeaks dumped the contents of his Gmail inbox into the public square this month.

"Happy anniversary. tried calling a couple of times but no pickup."

"CVS called. I assume I should pick up your Rx?"

"should be home around 7:30. Happy to use cabbage to make curry if that grabs you."

"Everything ok?"

"Thinking of you."

Podesta is 67, a raspy-voiced political lifer who worked his way up the establishment to become Bill Clinton's White House chief of staff in 1998. He founded the liberal brain box known as the Center for American Progress, then served as a counselor to Barack Obama, and now he is chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign. He is the Clintons' longtime cleanup guy but now, with this email leak, he's the source of the mess.

What happens if you measure a Washington insider not by his résumé but by his inbox? His correspondence reveals what everyone already knows but is shocked to see confirmed: In private, most of us can be pretty bitchy.

"An everyday American pompous law professor," Podesta wrote about Harvard's Lawrence Lessig.

"Maybe we can rent the Queen Mary for the next 18 months and fill it with [Hillary's] brothers and assorted crazy hangers on," he wrote in May 2015.

Podesta has decried the hack while declining to comment on the authenticity of every email. If you look at them, you will find that John Podesta thinks that his "only real talent" is cooking, that he likes to cook with other people and that his kitchen advice is sought after. One friend referred to him as "Chef Podesta" in an email.

"My . . . dumplings never rise properly," former Obama official Alyssa Mastromonaco wrote to him.

"The risotto, fish and salad were marvelous," law professor Bob Mnookin emailed.

"Why do I use a 1/4 or 1/2 cup of stock at a time?" emailed former Clinton staffer Peter Huffman with the subject line "risotto."

Podesta must be the risotto king of Washington. His response to Huffman: "The slower add process and stirring causes the rice to give up its starch, which gives the risotto its creamy consistency."

A wonderful metaphor for a Clinton whisperer: Get her to give up the starch!

During Bill Clinton's first term, Podesta was tasked with mopping up the Whitewater spill. During his second term, Podesta was in charge of triage during the Monica Lewinsky saga. And on Wednesday night, he had to wave off his own trouble. After the final debate between Donald Trump and Clinton, NBC's Chuck Todd asked Podesta "what should voters take away" from his emails, which show how the campaign sausage is made.

"She's a person who delivers results," Podesta replied, ignoring the uncomfortable truths in his inbox - like his boss' speeches to Wall Street, a campaigner's disparaging comments about religion, and insinuations that the campaign was getting debate questions in advance.

There was also good, old-fashioned spitballing.

"F--- these a--holes," progressive think tanker Neera Tanden wrote July 31 in an email that appears to be about doubters of Hillary's health.

"Needy Latinos" was the subject line of an August email from Podesta regarding former Clinton Cabinet officials Federico Peña and Bill Richardson.

"What an a--hole," Podesta wrote about the dentist who killed Cecil the lion.

When a baffled acquaintance forwarded a ThinkProgress article on Nicki Minaj's fraught relationship with her own butt, Podesta just e-shrugged.

"Gender and racial and booty equity," he wrote.

Podesta has been known for years as a UFO guy, in that he endorses the disclosure of government secrets about skyward phenomena, and his inbox holds scraps of the extraterrestrial. An anonymous man asked him in October 2015 to review videos purporting to show UFOs. The astronaut Edgar Mitchell, now deceased, wanted to Skype with Podesta and Obama about becoming part of the galactic community, and Podesta's assistant didn't exactly brush him off. Jimmy Kimmel "didn't end up asking [Hillary] about UFOs!" wrote Clinton communications guru Kristina Schake to Podesta in November. "She was very disappointed."

Most tantalizing among these emails was Podesta's response to a strategist who wrote an email (subject line "UFOs") about how in the '90s the CIA had stonewalled the Clinton administration's pursuit of The Truth.

"More to come," Podesta wrote.

In this era of leaks, that sounds like a promise.

China's plan to organize its whole society around Big Data: A rating for everyone

By Simon Denyer
China's plan to organize its whole society around Big Data: A rating for everyone
Internet startup employees work on their computers at 3W Coffee in Beijing earlier this year. Mobile device usage and e-commerce are in wide use in China, and now the Communist Party wants to compile a

BEIJING - Imagine a world where an authoritarian government monitors everything you do, amasses huge amounts of data on almost every interaction you make, and awards you a single score that measures how "trustworthy" you are.

In this world, anything from defaulting on a loan to criticizing the ruling party, from running a red light to failing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points.

And in this world, your score becomes the ultimate truth of who you are - determining whether you can borrow money, get your children into the best schools or travel abroad; whether you get a room in a fancy hotel, a seat in a top restaurant - or even just get a date.

This is not the dystopian superstate of Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report," in which all-knowing police stop crime before it happens. But it could be China by 2020.

It is the scenario contained in China's ambitious plans to develop a far-reaching social credit system, a plan that the Communist Party hopes will build a culture of "sincerity" and a "harmonious socialist society" where "keeping trust is glorious."

A high-level policy document released in September listed the sanctions that could be imposed on any person or company deemed to have fallen short. The overriding principle: "If trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere."

A whole range of privileges would be denied, while people and companies breaking social trust would also be subject to expanded daily supervision and random inspections.

The ambition is to collect every scrap of information available online about China's companies and citizens in a single place - and then assign each of them a score based on their political, commercial, social and legal "credit."

The government hasn't announced exactly how the plan will work - for example, how scores will be compiled and different qualities weighted against one another. But the idea is that good behavior will be rewarded and bad behavior punished, with the Communist Party acting as the ultimate judge.

This is what China calls "Internet Plus," but critics call a 21st-century police state.

Harnessing the power of big data and the ubiquity of smartphones, e-commerce and social media in a society where 700 million people live large parts of their lives online, the plan will also vacuum up court, police, banking, tax and employment records. Doctors, teachers, local governments and businesses could additionally be scored by citizens for their professionalism and probity.

"China is moving towards a totalitarian society, where the government controls and affects individuals' private lives," said Beijing-based novelist and social commentator Murong Xuecun. "This is like Big Brother, who has all your information and can harm you in any way he wants."

At the heart of the social credit system is an attempt to control China's vast, anarchic and poorly regulated market economy, to punish companies selling poisoned food or phony medicine, to expose doctors taking bribes and uncover con men preying on the vulnerable.

"Fraud has become ever more common in society," Lian Weiliang, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's main economic planning agency, said in April. "Swindlers have to pay a price."

Yet in Communist China, the plans inevitably take on an authoritarian aspect: This is not just about regulating the economy, but also about creating a new socialist utopia under the Communist Party's benevolent guidance.

"A huge part of Chinese political theater is to claim that there is an idealized future, a utopia to head towards," said Rogier Creemers, a professor of law and governance at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

"Now after half a century of Leninism, and with technological developments that allow for the vast collection and processing of information, there is much less distance between the loftiness of the party's ambition and its hypothetical capability of actually doing something," he said.

But the narrowing of that distance raises expectations, says Creemers, who adds that the party could be biting off more than it can chew.

Assigning all of China's people a social credit rating that weighs up and scores every aspect of their behavior would not only be a gigantic technological challenge but also thoroughly subjective - and could be extremely unpopular.

"From a technological feasibility question to a political feasibility question, to actually get to a score, to roll this out across a population of 1.3 billion, that would be a huge challenge," Creemers said.

The Communist Party may be obsessed with control but it is also sensitive to public opinion, and authorities were forced to backtrack after a pilot project in southern China in 2010 provoked a backlash.

That project, launched in Jiangu province's Suining county in 2010, gave citizens points for good behavior, up to a maximum of 1,000. But a minor violation of traffic rules would cost someone 20 points, and running a red light, driving while drunk or paying a bribe would cost 50.

Some of the penalties showed the party's desire to regulate its citizens' private lives - participating in anything deemed to be a cult or failing to care for elderly relatives incurred a 50-point penalty. Other penalties reflected the party's obsession with maintaining public order and crushing any challenge to its authority - causing a "disturbance" that blocks party or government offices meant 50 points off; using the Internet to falsely accuse others resulted in a 100-point deduction. Winning a "national honor" - such as being classified as a model citizen or worker - added 100 points to someone's score.

On this basis, citizens were classified into four levels: Those given an "A" grade qualified for government support when starting a business and preferential treatment when applying to join the party, government or army; or applying for a promotion.

People with "D" grades were excluded from official support or employment.

The project provoked comparisons with the "good citizen cards" introduced by Japan's occupying army in China in the 1930s. On social media, residents protested that this was "society turned upside down," and it was citizens who should be grading government officials "and not the other way around."

The Suining government later told state media that it had revised the project, still recording social credit scores but abandoning the A-to-D classifications. Officials declined to be interviewed for this article.

Despite the outcry in Suining, the central government seems determined to press ahead with its plans.

Part of the reason is economic. With few people in China owning credit cards or borrowing money from banks, credit information is scarce. There is no national equivalent of the FICO score widely used in the United States to evaluate consumer credit risks.

At the same time the central government aims to police the sort of corporate malfeasance that saw tens of thousands of babies hospitalized after consuming adulterated milk and infant formula in 2008, and millions of children given compromised vaccines this year.

Yet it is also an attempt to use the data to enforce a moral authority as designed by the Communist Party.

The Cyberspace Administration of China wants anyone demonstrating "dishonest" online behavior blacklisted, while a leading academic has argued that a media blacklist of "irresponsible reporting" would encourage greater self-discipline and morality in journalism.

Lester Ross, partner-in-charge of the Beijing office of law firm WilmerHale, says the rules are designed to stop anyone "stepping out of line" and could intimidate lawyers seeking to put forward an aggressive defense of their clients. He sees echoes of the Cultural Revolution, in which Mao Zedong identified "five black categories" of people considered enemies of the revolution, including landlords, rich farmers and rightists, who were singled out for struggle sessions, persecution and re-education.

Under the social credit plan, the punishments are less severe - prohibitions on riding in "soft sleeper" class on trains or going first-class in planes, for example, or on staying at the finer hotels, traveling abroad, or sending children to the best schools - but nonetheless far-reaching.

Xuecun's criticism of the government won him millions of followers on weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, until the censors swung into action. He fears the new social credit plan could bring more problems for those who dare to speak out.

"My social-media account has been canceled many times, so the government can say I am a dishonest person," he said. "Then I can't go abroad, and can't take the train."

Under government-approved pilot projects, eight private companies have set up credit databases that compile a wide range of online, financial and legal information.

One of the most popular is Sesame Credit, part of the giant Alibaba e-commerce company that runs the world's largest online shopping platform.

Tens of millions of users with high scores have been able to rent cars and bicycles without leaving deposits, company officials say, and can avoid long lines at hospitals by paying fees after leaving with a few taps on a smartphone.

The Baihe online dating site encourages users to display their Sesame Credit scores to attract potential partners; 15 percent of its users do so.

One woman, who works in advertising but declined to be named to protect her privacy, said she had used Baihe for more than two years. Looking for people who display good Sesame Credit scores helps her weed out scammers, she said.

"First I will look at his photo, then I will look at his profile," she said. "He has to use real-name authentication. But I will trust him and talk to him if he has Sesame Credit."

But it is far from clear that the system will be safe from scams.

William Glass, a threat intelligence analyst at cybersecurity expert FireEye, says a centralized system would be both vulnerable and immensely attractive to hackers.

"There is a big market for this stuff, and as soon as this system sets up, there is great incentive for cybercriminals and even state-backed actors to go in, whether to steal information or even to alter it," he said. "This system will be the ground truth of who you are. But considering that all this information is stored digitally, it is certainly not immutable, and people can potentially go in and change it."


The Washington Post's Jin Xin contributed to this report.

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

Why surprise attacks and massive bombing won’t defeat Islamic State

By fareed zakaria
Why surprise attacks and massive bombing won’t defeat Islamic State

NEW YORK -- The battle for Mosul will soon demonstrate that the key to success is not that Washington should have surprised the Islamic State or “bombed the hell” out of it. Around 100,000 coalition forces are involved in helping liberate the city, backed by formidable American air power. They will face up to 5,000 Islamic State fighters. The struggle might be bloody, but the coalition will win. The problem is, a battlefield victory could prove to be irrelevant.

When Donald Trump rails against the Obama administration for having signaled its intent to retake Mosul, he is, as usual, ill-informed. Perhaps he has in his mind a few vivid examples of surprise attacks, like the D-Day invasion at Normandy in 1944. But those are unusual cases. Nazi Germany knew that the allies were going to invade at some point, but since it occupied almost all of Europe, it couldn’t know where the invasion would take place. Britain and the United States worked hard to make the Nazis think they would land in Calais or even enter from the Balkans.

The Islamic State, on the other hand, controls only a handful of towns and one large city in Iraq. From the day it took Mosul, the Islamic State knew that the Iraqi army would try to take it back. Given the desert topography, there are only a few open paths by which to approach the city. This lack of surprise is the norm in warfare. (Think of Operation Desert Storm, when the United States slowly massed half a million troops over months to fight Iraq.) Most of the truly successful examples of surprise involve an unexpected invasion of a country -- like the Nazi blitzkrieg on Poland in 1939.

The real challenge for the coalition is to ensure that in retaking Mosul, it does not set off the same sectarian dynamics that led to the city’s fall in the first place. Remember, Mosul is majority-Sunni. The reason it fell so easily in 2014 was that its residents had been misruled and abused by Iraq’s Shiite government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. As a result, when confronting a choice between Shiite militias and the Islamic State, they either sided with the jihadists or remained passive.

Over the past two years, Iraqi forces -- often Shiite militias -- have “liberated” some Sunni towns like Fallujah and then embarked on a new round of bloodletting. From the perspective of the Shiites, they are engaging in “extreme vetting” to ensure that Islamic State sympathizers are weeded out. But Sunni residents feel they are being rounded up, presumed guilty, and denied entry back into their homes and neighborhoods.

The root cause for the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is political -- the discontent of Sunnis in the region, who see themselves as ruled by two anti-Sunni regimes in Baghdad and Damascus. Some of this is the resentment of a population that believes it should be in power, some of it a response to genuine persecution. In any event, without addressing the discontent, the Islamic State will never stay defeated.

When Mosul fell, many experts, including within the Obama administration, wanted Washington to rush to the aid of the Iraq government. But President Obama resisted these calls because he understood that the underlying problem was sectarian. He insisted that the Iraqi government fundamentally change its attitude towards the Sunnis -- in effect, demanding that Maliki resign. Only when that happened and a new, more conciliatory leader emerged did America agree to militarily support the Baghdad government.

Every country wants a free ride. Most governments would be happy if the United States would fight their battles for them with no strings attached. In the Arab world in particular, this disease is widespread. Coalitions signed on to fight in Syria but -- with a few exceptions -- very quickly become inactive, leaving all the heavy lifting to America. Some argue that the answer is to publicly shame and harangue allies. That hasn’t worked in the past and is unlikely to in the future. The only strategy that seems effective is for Washington to signal that it will not pick up the slack -- and mean it. It was only when it became clear that the Obama administration really would not help Iraq unless the government changed course that Maliki resigned.

This strategy of forcing others to take action was once described by an Obama official as “leading from behind,” and while the phrase is unfortunate, the idea is exactly right. In this case, it is only the Arabs who can address the sectarian dynamic by engaging in genuine reconciliation and power-sharing. The United States can help in this process, but only if these countries and their leaders actually want to help themselves.

Fareed Zakaria’s email address is

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

In the third debate, Donald Trump erupts

By dana milbank
In the third debate, Donald Trump erupts

LAS VEGAS -- In the middle of the Strip, a few blocks from the hulking Trump International Hotel, the famous Mirage Volcano has been delighting tourists for 27 years with its faux eruptions, spewing fire, smoke and water 100 feet into the air.

A small sign at the volcano’s base announces, “Volcano show eruptions Sunday through Thursday, 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.”

But there were a series of additional eruptions in Las Vegas on Wednesday night at the third and final presidential debate here. Donald Trump erupted at 6:30 p.m. local time. And 6:34. And 6:48. And 6:52. And 6:54. And then, at 7:06, the crater blew off, leaving a gaping caldera where Trump’s presidential campaign once stood.

Fox News’s Chris Wallace, the moderator, asked Trump whether he would “absolutely accept the result of this election.”

“I will look at it at the time,” Trump said, suggesting that “what I’ve seen is so bad” in terms of corruption.

“But sir,” Wallace persisted, admirably reminding Trump that “one of the prides of this country is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner.” Wallace asked again: “Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?”

“I will tell you at the time,” Trump replied. “I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?”

Suspense? The refusal to accept this bedrock principle of democracy was shocking, even for a candidate who had told audiences about a “rigged” and “stolen” election. And it should pour hot lava on any notion that Trump is going to revive his candidacy in the final 20 days.

Ironically, Trump had tried to keep his magma cool -- and he succeeded for the first half-hour of the debate. Wallace kept the focus firmly on policy, and Trump and Hillary Clinton gave the voters a lot of what they’ve asked for during the campaign: talk about the Second Amendment, abortion policy, immigration, nuclear weapons.

But gradually, with Clinton’s baiting, Trump began to rumble.

On Clinton’s accusation that he’s Vladimir Putin’s puppet: “No puppet. No puppet. You’re the puppet!”

On Clinton generally: “She’s been proven to be a liar in so many different ways, this is just another lie.”

Gradually, the interruptions increased. “Wrong!” he said when Clinton justifiably said he had been cavalier about nuclear weapons. “Wrong!” he said when Clinton correctly noted that he mocked a disabled reporter. When Clinton tried to “translate” something Trump had said, he blurted out: “You can’t!” When Wallace asked a tough question, Trump interrupted to pronounce the moderator “correct.”

But it was when the topic turned to his treatment of women that Trump truly began to spew molten rock.

“Give me a break!” Trump interjected when Clinton mentioned, correctly, that he had called former Miss Universe Alicia Machado “an eating machine.”

He said the nine women who accused him of sexual misconduct were spouting “lies” and “fiction” and trying to get “their 10 minutes of fame.”

He said, without evidence, that the accusers were probably brought out by Clinton “and her sleazy campaign.” Declared Trump, “I didn’t even apologize to my wife, who’s sitting right here, because I didn’t do anything.”

Trump needed to change the race in a big way Wednesday night. Clinton leads Trump nationally by an average of seven points in polls, and The Washington Post’s surveys of 15 battleground states show Clinton with a significant lead in states that together add up to 304 electoral votes, to Trump’s 138. Ed Rollins, the head of the pro-Trump Great America super PAC, told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that it “would take a miracle at this point” for Trump to win the election.

If he is to have any hope of winning, Trump needs to expand his appeal to a broader swath of the electorate. But Trump, rather than taking the race in a new direction, decided to do what he’s done before when his back is to the wall: lash out with fury.

He set the tone for the last debate by inviting President Obama’s half brother, a Trump backer, to the debate, along with the mother who accuses Clinton of murdering her son in Benghazi and a woman who just accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault.

At first -- and probably because Wallace chose to begin the debate with substantive issues of policy -- Trump was uncharacteristically mild, even as Hillary Clinton tried to needle him. Clinton noted that “when I was in the Situation Room, monitoring the raid that brought Osama bin Laden to justice, he was hosting the ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’” When Trump mentioned that he was staying at his “beautiful hotel” in Las Vegas, the Trump International, Clinton shot back: “Made with Chinese steel.”

Clinton mocked Trump’s charitable foundation for buying a “six-foot portrait of Donald. I mean, who does that?”

Clinton gradually got under Trump’s skin, and he returned to his bombastic form: “She’s lied hundreds of times. ... Her crooked campaign. ... She caused the violence.”

“Such a nasty woman!” Trump blurted out in the waning moments of the debate.

But Trump did nothing to reduce the likelihood that this “nasty woman” will beat him on Nov. 8 -- whether or not he accepts the results.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Trump treats foreign policy like a game of “Survivor”

By david ignatius
Trump treats foreign policy like a game of “Survivor”

WASHINGTON -- Reality TV is about winning. It doesn’t matter how you manage to be a “survivor,” so long as you stay on the island. That’s the sensibility that Donald Trump, the ultimate reality-television star, brings to foreign policy.

In Trump’s world, winners don’t have to worry about alliances, nuclear proliferation or human rights -- if they come out on top.

Trump’s comments during Wednesday night’s debate in Las Vegas conveyed a values-free approach to foreign policy that would make Machiavelli blush. A generous characterization would be that he voiced an extreme “realism” that focused entirely on U.S. interests. A harsher assessment is that Trump’s amoral approach would alienate long-standing allies and potentially endanger U.S. security.

Trump’s disdain for traditional foreign policy positions was clear in his positive comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even after U.S. intelligence agencies accused Russia of hacking American political parties to destabilize the election, Trump still had good things to say about the Kremlin leader.

Trump seems convinced that he and Putin could achieve a kind of personal detente. “He said nice things about me,” Trump enthused Wednesday night. “If we got along well, that would be good. If the United States and Russia got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good.” It’s hard to argue against greater Russian-American cooperation, but Trump seems oblivious to the possibility that he might be used by a belligerent, autocratic Kremlin leader.

As in the past, Trump seemed to take Putin’s side against President Obama and Hillary Clinton. He suggested that Putin’s military success (achieved through aggressive, destabilizing tactics in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria) shows that he’s a strong leader who’s able to push a weak U.S. around.

“[Putin] has no respect for her. He has no respect for our president,” Trump said. “Putin has outsmarted her and Obama at every single step of the way. Whether it’s Syria, you name it.”

An example of Putin’s supposed outsmarting of the U.S. was the collapse of a Sept. 12 cease-fire in Syria, which led Secretary of State John Kerry to suspend bilateral negotiations: “During the cease-fire, Russia took over vast swatches of land, and then they said we don’t want the cease-fire anymore.” Trump said America had been “outplayed.” Rather than condemning Russian and Syrian military strikes that devastated Aleppo and led the U.S. to suspend talks, Trump said civilians there were dying “because of bad decisions” by the U.S.

Trump’s most astonishing comment about tough guys was his praise of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a leader who has waged a vicious civil war and used chemical weapons against his own people. “He’s just much tougher and much smarter than her [Clinton],” Trump said, adding that if the Syrian opposition should prevail, “you may very well end up with worse than Assad.”

Moderator Chris Wallace eventually got Trump to “condemn” Russia’s hacking of U.S. political parties, but only after the GOP candidate had said “I doubt it, I doubt it” about a statement accusing Russia issued by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on behalf of the 17 spy agencies he oversees. This must be the first time in our political history when a U.S. presidential candidate, after encouraging a foreign adversary to spy on the U.S., challenged the evidence of wrongdoing.

What role do alliances play in Trump’s realpolitik world? Not much, it seems. Trump claimed that Clinton was telling “just another lie” when she accused him of undermining commitments to defend NATO allies in Europe and Asian allies such as Japan and South Korea. But Trump has repeated often what he said in an April 27 speech, that “the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves,” even if that means letting them acquire nuclear weapons.

The big news Wednesday night was Trump’s refusal to promise he will accept the election result if he loses. But why should that be a surprise? People who’ve done business with Trump say he’s famous for holding back his final payment to contractors and negotiating for a better deal, or stiffing them altogether.

Leaving people in suspense about his actions is part of Trump’s self-proclaimed “art of the deal.” Why would he be any less high-handed in dealing with the American public than with his business associates?

For Trump, life is a validation of the cynical aphorism that “might makes right.” The best thing you can say about Clinton’s debate performance was that she took aim at this untethered, overinflated dirigible and kept landing zingers.

David Ignatius’ email address is

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

My vote, explained

By charles krauthammer
My vote, explained

WASHINGTON -- The case against Hillary Clinton could have been written before the recent WikiLeaks and FBI disclosures. But these documents do provide hard textual backup.

The most sensational disclosure was the proposed deal between the State Department and the FBI in which the FBI would declassify a Hillary Clinton email and State would give the FBI more slots in overseas stations. What made it sensational was the rare appearance in an official account of the phrase “quid pro quo,” which is the currently agreed-upon dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable corruption.

This is nonetheless an odd choice for most egregious offense. First, it occurred several layers removed from the campaign and from Clinton. It involved a career State Department official (he occupied the same position under Condoleezza Rice) covering not just for Clinton but for his own department.

Second, it’s not clear which side originally offered the bargain. Third, nothing tangible was supposed to exchange hands. There was no proposed personal enrichment -- a Rolex in return for your soul -- which tends to be our standard for punishable misconduct.

And finally, it never actually happened. The FBI turned down the declassification request.

In sum, a warm gun but nonsmoking. Indeed, if the phrase “quid pro quo” hadn’t appeared, it would have received little attention. Moreover, it obscures the real scandal -- the bottomless cynicism of the campaign and of the candidate.

Among dozens of examples, the Qatari gambit. Qatar, one of the worst actors in the Middle East (having financially supported the Islamic State, for example), offered $1 million as a “birthday” gift to Bill Clinton in return for five minutes of his time. Who offers -- who takes -- $200,000 a minute? We don’t know the “quid” here, but it’s got to be big.

In the final debate, Clinton ran and hid when asked about pay-for-play at the Clinton Foundation. And for good reason. The emails reveal how foundation donors were first in line for favors and contracts.

A governance review by an outside law firm reported that some donors “may have an expectation of quid pro quo benefits in return for gifts.” You need an outside law firm to tell you that? If your Sultanic heart bleeds for Haiti, why not give to Haiti directly? Because if you give through the Clintons, you have a claim on future favors.

The soullessness of this campaign -- all ambition and entitlement -- emerges almost poignantly in the emails, especially when aides keep asking what the campaign is about. In one largely overlooked passage, Clinton complains that her speechwriters have not given her any overall theme or rationale. Isn’t that the candidate’s job? Asked one of her aides, Joel Benenson: “Do we have any sense from her what she believes or wants her core message to be?”

It’s that emptiness at the core that makes every policy and position negotiable and politically calculable. Hence the embarrassing about-face on the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the popular winds swung decisively against free trade.

So too with financial regulation, as in Dodd-Frank. As she told a Goldman Sachs gathering, after the financial collapse there was “a need to do something because, for political reasons ... you can’t sit idly by and do nothing.”

Giving the appearance that something had to be done. That’s not why Elizabeth Warren supported Dodd-Frank. Which is the difference between a conviction politician like Warren and a calculating machine like Clinton.

Of course, we knew all this. But we hadn’t seen it so clearly laid out. Illicit and illegal as is WikiLeaks, it is the camera in the sausage factory. And what it reveals is surpassingly unpretty.

I didn’t need the Wiki files to oppose Hillary Clinton. As a conservative, I have long disagreed with her worldview and the policies that flow from it. As for character, I have watched her long enough to find her deeply flawed, to the point of unfitness. But for those heretofore unpersuaded, the recent disclosures should close the case.

A case so strong that, against any of a dozen possible GOP candidates, voting for her opponent would be a no-brainer. Against Donald Trump, however, it’s a dilemma. I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. But, as I’ve explained in these columns, I could never vote for Donald Trump.

The only question is whose name I’m going to write in. With Albert Schweitzer doubly unavailable (noncitizen, dead), I’m down to Paul Ryan or Ben Sasse. Two weeks to decide.

Charles Krauthammer’s email address is

(c) 2016, The Washington Post Writers Group

The anger and resentment stoked by Trump will persist after Election Day

By esther j. cepeda
The anger and resentment stoked by Trump will persist after Election Day

CHICAGO -- In its trademark satirical style, The Onion nailed it with its stunningly prescient story titled, “Trump Maps Out Plan For First 100 Days Of Not Conceding Election.”

Deliciously, the imagined post-election press release from the floundering Republican presidential candidate detailed: “Within my first 10 days, I will introduce a comprehensive plan for my disgruntled supporters to march on the White House, and by day 30, I will submit a formal petition demanding [Hillary] Clinton’s immediate removal from office.” The spoof concluded by saying that Trump “looks forward to fiercely disputing the legitimacy of a Clinton presidency for the next four years.”

You’d be forgiven for accidentally believing this was a legitimate statement from Trump, who has managed to suck so many people into his reality distortion field that even normally levelheaded people are getting out of whack.

Former presidential candidate John McCain made remarks last week that basically outlined a scenario in which a Clinton win would trigger four years of Republicans blocking any Supreme Court nominee put forward by the incoming president. McCain eventually walked back his strident comments but they give you a good idea where things stand.

For those of us who believe in the strength of a two-party system in which the loser of an election peacefully concedes to the victor and works harder to win next time, things look grim. Trump’s insinuations of rigged elections and his call for his supporters to monitor polls for fraud -- mostly in communities of color, it turns out -- are eroding what little public trust in government is left.

Meanwhile, Americans are reporting election-related anxiety that includes real symptoms like difficulty sleeping, irritability and heart palpitations due to the unprecedented bile of this campaign. The American Psychological Association’s most recent survey found that 52 percent of American adults say the 2016 election “is a very or somewhat significant source of stress.”

Many of these people are looking forward to the relief of the election being over. Unfortunately, a lot of us are even more worried about what happens after Election Day, because the forces that have been unleashed aren’t going to make newly normalized hatred magically go away.

In mid-September, several women were targeted in a series of fire attacks in New York City -- a 14-year-old boy was arrested in one incident, accused of attempting to set a teen girl’s shirt on fire. Other women, some of them in Muslim attire, had their skirts set ablaze with lighters in the same vicinity.

Hispanic children have been bullied and taunted in school about border walls, and adults have been asked for their “papers” by people with zero authority to do so. Women have reported feeling targeted as “pearl-clutchers,” i.e. too sensitive, after revelations of Trump’s degrading remarks about women thrust “locker room talk” into the public discourse. African-Americans have been reduced to stereotypes of victims living in the so-called hell of inner cities, Jews have experienced an uptick in anti-Semitism, and on and on. The “Trump Effect” examples are endless.

And they are pervasive.

New York Times investigative reporter Michael Luo recently described a woman cursing at him and his family as they were leaving church. “Go back to China. Go back to your [expletive] country,” he said the woman yelled to him.

Luo, in front of his children and his church, was reduced to yelling back, “I was born in this country!”

This is what life feels like for anyone with an ethnic-sounding name or non-white outward appearance in the waning days of our first African-American president’s second term in office.

I (and so many others) have become used to it. Last week I wrote about the six immigrant Nobel laureates and the contributions immigrants make to this country and received emails telling me to “Go back to Mexico where you belong.”

What would be the point of trying to explain my U.S. birth to someone who wants me gone simply because I dared say a few nice things about immigrants?

Before the Trump candidacy, “microaggressions” -- subtle slights of one’s ethnicity or other cultural characteristics -- were the day-to-day concern of the non-white population.

It’s safe to say that for the 40 percent of America that is non-white, microaggressions have given way to plain old aggression from people who are looking to blame “bad hombres” -- the term Trump used at Wednesday night’s debate -- for tarnishing America’s greatness halo.

And we’d better prepare ourselves for the anger and resentment to persist after Nov. 8, regardless of who wins the election.

Esther Cepeda’s email address is Follow her on Twitter, @estherjcepeda.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Trump confirms everyone’s worst fears

By e.j. dionne jr.
Trump confirms everyone’s worst fears

AKRON, Ohio -- It was a two-track debate. At times, it was the setting for a detailed argument over serious issues in which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump offered voters a relatively straightforward clash of progressive and conservative perspectives.

But this is 2016, and eventually the third and final debate on Wednesday reached the fundamental issue of the campaign: whether Trump is fit to be president. Despite her substantial lead in the polls, Clinton did not hang back, as many predicted she would. Instead, she pressed Trump sharply on the entire catalogue of his shortcomings, accusing him of being a “puppet” of Russian President Vladimir Putin and denouncing his treatment of women, his mocking a disabled reporter and his habit of saying that any contest he loses is “rigged” against him.

And she clearly signaled one of the closing themes of her campaign when she declared that Trump had shown “a pattern of divisiveness, of a very dark and ... dangerous vision for our country.” The election, she said, was about “what kind of country are we going to be.”

Trump drew from his own arsenal of favored attacks on Clinton, from the work of the Clinton Foundation to her use of a private email server and her role in the Obama administration’s foreign policy. “She been proven to be a liar,” Trump said.

Had the exchanges come down to an ideological fight and simple tit-for-tat, fire and counterfire, it might have constituted a kind of victory for Trump, given his polling deficit and his gaffes and lies in his earlier debate performances. But as the debate wore on, Trump once again left behind moments that will only reinforce the doubts many voters already have about him.

Repeatedly, he refused to disown Putin, and he once again praised him relative to both Clinton and President Obama. “She doesn’t like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her at every step of the way,” he said.

He did himself no good when he accused the nine women who have said he groped and accosted them of being liars, motivated by a desire for fame.

And again and again, when Clinton repeated things that Trump had actually said, he simply denied saying them, providing fact-checkers with another rich Trumpian trove.

From the start, Chris Wallace, the moderator in Las Vegas, tried to press Clinton and Trump on a series of specific issues -- what sort of justices they would nominate, how they viewed the Constitution, where they stood on abortion rights and gun control. In each case, they stressed themes congenial to their core constituencies.

Clinton strongly endorsed (BEG ITAL)Roe v. Wade(END ITAL), sharply attacked the (BEG ITAL)Citizens United(END ITAL) decision that undercut campaign finance restrictions and stressed that she wanted justices who would stand with ordinary citizens against the wealthy and the powerful.

Trump began with his commitment to the Second Amendment and gun rights and kept coming back to the issue. Although Wallace pressed him repeatedly, Trump refused to say if he wanted (BEG ITAL)Roe (END ITAL)overturned, though he predicted that because his Supreme Court appointees would be “pro-life,” (BEG ITAL)Roe(END ITAL) would fall. Although Trump no doubt pleased opponents of abortion, Clinton showed passion in the exchange, while Trump seemed to be answering by rote.

Oddly for a campaign in which immigration is a central issue, the third debate was the first in which voters were exposed to an extended look at their sharply different approaches.

But since nothing in this campaign is ever destined to look like the Oxford Union or any other stately discussion of public problems, the first track was overwhelmed by the second. Trump’s obvious purpose was to shake voters away from Clinton. And if Clinton was trying to drive up turnout -- her fervor on abortion rights and gun control no doubt helped her with women and liberals -- Trump may have been attempting to drive it down, figuring that in a smaller electorate, his committed voters would give him a better chance of prevailing.

Yet Trump suffered from what he always suffers from: an inability to control his anger or stop himself from interrupting, which only reinforced undecided voters’ worst perceptions of him.

The most important moment of the evening was Trump’s refusal to say that if he lost, he would accept the outcome: “I will look at it at the time,” he said. “I will keep you in suspense.”

Never has a candidate for president challenged the legitimacy of the entire electoral enterprise in which he was engaged. Clinton’s core claim is that Trump is a dangerous man who lacks respect for American institutions and American democracy. On this central issue, Trump chose to prove Clinton right.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

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