Trump Tweets about Non-White Lawmakers Prompt Fresh Outrage

In a series of Sunday morning tweets quickly deemed racist and xenophobic by critics, U.S. President Donald Trump has provoked fresh controversy with taunts at several new members of Congress.

Trump on Twitter, targeted Progressive Democratic Congresswomen, telling them to “go back” and help fix the “crime infested” countries from which they came.

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

Of the four apparently targeted, only one — Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a native of Somalia — is foreign born. The other three are native Americans: Ayana Pressley (who is a representative from Massachusetts) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a native New Yorker (and represents the eastern part of the Bronx and a portion of north-central Queens), and Rashid Tlaib, of Michigan, was born in Detroit.

FILE – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Jan. 16, 2019.

The White House has not responded to a request from VOA on whether the president was aware prior to sending the tweets that three of the four are citizens by birth.

The progressives have been squabbling with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over immigration policy and other issues.

The dispute has attracted Trump’s attention in recent days, even prompting him to utter rare public support for Pelosi – at least when it comes to her attempt to rein in the newly elected foursome.

Trump’s tweets about the minority novice female members of Congress, known as ‘the squad,’ came about 20 minutes after a segment about them on the Fox News Channel. The president frequently reacts quickly on social media to what he sees on Fox.

FILE – Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks at the 2019 Essence Festival at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, July 6, 2019.

Omar, in particular, has been a frequent topic of critical coverage on the cable television channel, in part due to her frequent criticism of Israel and comments perceived as anti-Semitic.

Omar and Tlaib are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress.

In a Twitter response to Trump on Sunday, Omar reminded him that the United States is the only country to which members of Congress swear an oath.

“Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen,” added the Minnesotan.

Mr. President,

As Members of Congress, the only country we swear an oath to is the United States.

Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen.

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) July 14, 2019

Many on social media are condemning Trump’s tweet — which even by his provocative norms are viewed as crossing a new line.

Among the most prominent is Pelosi, who terms Trump’s remark xenophobic, “meant to divide our nation” and “reaffirm his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making American white again.”

When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making America white again.

Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 14, 2019

Trump made the series of tweets prior to emerging from the North Portico of the White House clad in dark pants, a white short-sleeved shirt and a red “Make America Great Again” ball cap.

U.S. President Donald Trump, in golf attire, departs the White House for the drive to his Trump National Gold Club in Sterling, Virginia, in Washington, July 14, 2019.

As his motorcade traveled to one of his private golf courses in northern Virginia, Trump took to Twitter again to refute what reporters described who had accompanied Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to two detention centers for migrants in Texas.

“Great Reviews!” declared Trump of the tour by politicians and media to the facility for children. He characterized the pen holding adult men as “clean but crowded.”

Friday’s tour showed vividly, to politicians and the media, how well run and clean the children’s detention centers are. Great reviews! Failing @nytimes story was FAKE! The adult single men areas were clean but crowded – also loaded up with a big percentage of criminals……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, who filed the collective print report from the scene, described a guarded area where nearly 400 men were crammed behind caged fences with not enough room for all of them to lie down on the concrete floor.

“A stench from body odor hung stale in the air,” wrote Dawsey, who said some of the men screamed they had been held for more than 40 days.

At the location, Pence had commented “this is tough stuff” as a group of detainees shouted, “no showers.”

Trump has repeatedly warned that if he is unseated by a Democrat in next year’s presidential campaign that the opposition party would turn the United States into a socialist country and open its borders to dangerous immigrants.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of voters released on Sunday shows Trump trailing the top four Democratic Party contenders in a hypothetical matchup.

Trump defied the polls in 2016 to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the presidency.


From: MeNeedIt

Heavy Rain Leaves Scores Dead in Nepal, India, Bangladesh

Flooding and landslides triggered by heavy rainfall have killed at least 50 people in Nepal in the past few days, with more deaths reported across the border in India and Bangladesh, officials said Sunday.

At least 30 other people were missing in Nepal, either swept away by swollen rivers or buried by mudslides since monsoon rains began pounding the region on Friday, Nepal’s National Emergency Operation Center said.
The center said nine key highways remained blocked by floods and mudslides, and attempts were underway to open them up for traffic. Among them is the East-West Highway, which connects Nepal’s southern districts.
Other roads were being cleared by thousands of police and soldiers. Continuing bad weather has grounded helicopter rescue flights. Workers were also repairing fallen communication towers to restore phone lines.
Thirty people have been treated for injuries and more than 1,100 others rescued from flooded areas. More than 10,000 are estimated to have been displaced.
Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology warned of more troubles ahead for the southern region near the main rivers, urging people to keep watch on rising water levels and move to higher ground when needed.
Rain-triggered floods, mudslides and lightning have left a trail of destruction in other parts of South Asia.
In Bangladesh, at least a dozen people, mostly farmers in rural areas, have been killed by lightning since Saturday as monsoon rains continue to batter parts of the low-lying country, according to officials and news reports.
Water Development Board official Rabiul Islam said about 40,000 people have been affected, mostly due to their homes being submerged underwater.
Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 160 million people with more than 130 rivers, is prone to monsoon floods because of overflowing rivers and the heavy onrush of water from upstream India.
Officials in northeastern India said at least 14 people were killed and over a million affected by flooding, state official Kumar Sanjay Krishna said. Six deaths were reported in neighboring Arunachal state.
Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, home to the endangered one-horn rhinoceros, has been flooded.
Floods and mudslides have also hit some other northeast Indian states, including Meghalaya, Sikkim and Mizoram. In Mizoram, floods have submerged about 400 homes in the small town of Tlabung, police said.


From: MeNeedIt

Syria Says Militant Attack Shuts Down Gas Pipeline

Militants targeted a gas pipeline in government-controlled central Syria, putting it out of order Sunday, according to state media.

The SANA news agency didn’t name the attackers. The area in the central Homs province is close to where remnants of the Islamic State group are still holed up after losing all the territory they once held in the country.

SANA said technical teams are working to fix the pipeline, which links the Shaer fields to the Ebla processing plant. It did not elaborate on the extent of the damage or the nature of the attack.

The agency said the pipeline carries about 2.5 million cubic meters of gas to the processing plant and onward to power stations.

Islamic State militants briefly seized the Shaer fields in 2014 and 2016 before pro-government forces recaptured them in heavy fighting. Today much of Syria’s oil fields and infrastructure are held by U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led forces in the east.

In recent weeks, IS militants have increased their attacks against government troops, putting up checkpoints and ambushing convoys. While the government now controls over 60 percent of Syria, there is still a rebel stronghold in the northwest, where the government is waging a limited but stalled offensive. Smaller armed groups in northern, central and eastern Syria have vowed to target government and Kurdish-controlled facilities.


From: MeNeedIt

US Set to Raid Immigrant Homes in Nine Cities

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are set to launch nationwide raids Sunday aimed at arresting immigrants in the country who are facing deportation, so they can be sent back to their homelands.

The campaign, confirmed Friday by President Donald Trump, is expected to focus on hundreds of families in nine major cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

“People are coming into this country illegally, we are taking them out legally,” Trump said.

ICE agents will target mostly immigrants who are considered dangerous. Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence said the immigrants being sought are on an “accelerated docket” of immigration court cases.

Trump’s immigration raids are expected to be well received by voters who voted for him on his repeated promises to crack down on migrants illegally in the U.S. Opposition Democrats have denounced the operation, declaring it is inhumane to target families, many of them from Central America, looking for a better life in the United States.

Trump claimed that a “big percentage of criminals” are already being held at detention centers in Texas, near the southern U.S. border with Mexico, where Vice President Mike Pence visited on Friday.

“Sorry, can’t let them into our Country,” Trump said on Twitter. “If too crowded, tell them not to come to USA, and tell the Dems to fix the Loopholes – Problem Solved!”

…..Sorry, can’t let them into our Country. If too crowded, tell them not to come to USA, and tell the Dems to fix the Loopholes – Problem Solved!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019


He said the Friday tour “showed vividly, to politicians and the media, how well run and clean the children’s detention centers are. Great reviews!”

Friday’s tour showed vividly, to politicians and the media, how well run and clean the children’s detention centers are. Great reviews! Failing @nytimes story was FAKE! The adult single men areas were clean but crowded – also loaded up with a big percentage of criminals……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

Ken Cuccinelli, the Trump-appointed acting director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services office, rejected the suggestion that the raids are a political stunt. He told CNN, “While lots of people in this government were saying it is a manufactured crisis… those people are now coming to the border and realizing we do have a real crisis.”

Sunday’s raids are also set to occur in Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Houston, Miami and San Francisco.

In the days leading up to the raids, the mostly Democratic mayors who run the cities have reiterated their policies of not cooperating with ICE officials on deportations and also have publicized telephone helplines immigrants can call to understand their rights.

Additionally, Democratic lawmakers and others have been informing immigrants of their rights and advising them not to open their doors for ICE unless the agents show a court-ordered warrant, and not to speak or sign anything without first talking with a lawyer.

Trump has said on Twitter his agents intend to arrest millions of immigrants who have entered the U.S. illegally, while administration officials have said about 2,000 people would be targeted.

Albence said ICE agents will go after entire families who have been ordered to leave the country, but that some families may be separated if some members, but not others, are in the country without the proper documentation.

Trump made the unusual move of announcing the raids ahead of time and said Friday he was not concerned the early notice could help some of the targeted immigrants evade arrest.

Trump’s confirmation of the raids came amid widespread criticism of the overcrowded, unsanitary conditions detained immigrants are allegedly residing in at facilities along the southwestern U.S. border. There also is considerable criticism that border officials are separating children from their parents.

From: MeNeedIt

India to Launch Mission to Land on Moon 

In the early hours of Monday, India is set to launch a mission to an uncharted area of the moon, marking a significant milestone in its steadily expanding ambitions in space.

If successful, India would become the fourth country to land a probe on the moon after the United States, Russia and China and secure its place as a leading space-faring nation.

India’s most powerful rocket launcher is scheduled to carry the Chandrayaan-2, which means “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, from Sriharikota in eastern India. It will have a lunar orbiter, lander and rover.

The real test of the mission will come about 50 days later, around Sept. 6, when the lander will attempt a controlled landing on the lunar surface at the South Pole of the moon, which no country has attempted so far.

This July 2019, photo released by the Indian Space Research Organization shows its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MkIII-M1 being prepared for its July 15 launch in Sriharikota, an island off India’s southeastern coast.

South Pole

“The challenge is to demonstrate our capacity to undertake such a complex mission for the soft and precise moon landing on the South Polar region for the first time,” according to P. Kunhikrishnan, director, UR Rao satellite center at the Indian Space Research Organization.

Space scientists say that the moon’s South Pole is interesting because it holds the promise of water.

The lunar rover will operate for 14 days, mapping the moon’s surface and through experiments look for signs of water and assess its topography and geology.

“From a technological perspective it is very relevant because it will be a leapfrog as far as India’s technology level is concerned,” says Ajay Lele at the Indian Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, pointing out that the orbiter, lander and rover have been indigenously designed. “You want your robotic equipment to function on the surface of the moon.”

The Chandrayaan-2 was originally planned as a collaboration with Russia’s space agency, but Indian scientists went it alone after the tie-up was shelved.

Decade after first mission

Monday’s mission is being launched a decade after India’s first in 2008 placed an unmanned spacecraft in an orbit around the moon. That mission helped confirm the presence of water on the lunar surface.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission comes amid a resurgence of interest in the exploration of the moon both in the United States and in Asia and is seen as a signal that India does not want to be left behind in a growing space race. China made a soft landing on the moon in early January and has announced plans for more missions.

“India has a much smaller space program and has limited capacities when you compare it to the U.S. and so on,” said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. “So the kind of things India is trying to do if it becomes successful one with the Chandrayaan 2 mission, that will be a significant achievement for India.”

An employee playfully hugs a cutout of a crescent moon at the Nehru Planetarium in New Delhi, India, July 11, 2019. India is preparing its second unmanned mission to the moon, this one aimed at landing a rover near the unexplored south pole.

India, which prides itself on its low cost space missions, is spending around $141 million on the mission. Although the country was a relative latecomer to the space race, it has developed a reputation for conducting its space explorations at a fraction of the cost spent by countries like the United States.

Among other goalposts India has set in the coming years is to put a space station in orbit, an astronaut in space by 2022, a robotic mission to Mars and a mission to explore the sun.

From: MeNeedIt

Toll in Migrant Boat Accident off Tunisia Rises to 82

The number of bodies recovered by Tunisia after a ship packed with migrants sank off its coast last week has risen to 82, in one of the worst disasters in recent years, the Tunisian Red Crescent said Saturday.

The boat capsized after setting off for Europe from neighboring Libya. Survivors told the Tunisian coast guard last week that it had been carrying 86 people.

Tunisian fishermen rescued four people but one later died in hospital, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said last week.

“After a week of searches, all the 82 bodies who were in the boat that sank last week were recovered,” Mongi Slim, an official of the Tunisian Red Crescent, told Reuters.

Libya’s west coast is a main departure point for African migrants hoping to reach Europe, though numbers have dropped because of an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support Libya’s coast guard.

Sixty-five migrants heading for Europe from Libya drowned in May when their boat capsized off Tunisia.

From: MeNeedIt

Weakened Barry Rolls into Louisiana, Drenches Gulf Coast

Barry rolled into the Louisiana coast Saturday, flooding highways, forcing people to scramble to rooftops and dumping heavy rain that officials had feared could test the levees and pumps that were bolstered after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.

After briefly becoming a Category 1 hurricane, the system weakened to a tropical storm as it made landfall near Intracoastal City, about 160 miles (257km) west of New Orleans, with its winds falling to 70 mph (112km), the National Hurricane Center said.

By early evening, New Orleans had been spared the worst effects, receiving only light showers and gusty winds. But officials warned that Barry could still cause disastrous flooding across a wide stretch of the Gulf Coast and drop up to 20 inches (50 cm) of rain through Sunday across a part of Louisiana that includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

“This is just the beginning,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “It’s going to be a long several days for our state.”

Logan Courvlle walks in front of a flooded business after Hurricane Barry in Mandeville, La., July 13, 2019.

Levees overtopped south of New Orleans

The Coast Guard rescued a dozen people from flooded areas of Terrebonne Parish, south of New Orleans, some of them from rooftops, a spokeswoman said. The people included a 77-year-old man who called for help because he had about 4 feet of water in his home.

None of the main levees on the Mississippi River failed or were breached, Edwards said. But a levee in Terrebonne Parish was overtopped by water, officials said. And video showed water getting over a second levee in Plaquemines Parish, where fingers of land extend deep into the Gulf of Mexico. Terrebonne Parish ordered an evacuation affecting an estimated 400 people.

Nearly all businesses in Morgan City, about 85 miles west of New Orleans, were shuttered with the exception of Meche’s Donuts Shop. Owner Todd Hoffpauir did a brisk business despite the pounding winds and pulsating rain.

While making doughnuts, Hoffpauir said he heard an explosion and a ripping sound and later saw that the wind had peeled off layers of the roof at an adjacent apartment complex.

The sky is cloudy over Lake Pontchartrain on Lakeshore Drive as little flooding is reported in New Orleans, ahead of Tropical Storm Barry making landfall, July 13, 2019.

Still filling sandbags

In some places, residents continued to build defenses against rising water. At the edge of the town of Jean Lafitte just outside New Orleans, volunteers helped several town employees sandbag a 600-foot stretch of the two-lane state highway. The street was already lined with one-ton sandbags, and 30-pound bags were being used to strengthen them.

“I’m here for my family, trying to save their stuff,” volunteer Vinnie Tortorich said. “My cousin’s house is already under.”

In Lafayette, Willie Allen and his 11-year-old grandson, Gavin Coleman, shoveled sand into 20 green bags, joining a group of more than 20 other people doing the same thing during a break in the rain. Wearing a mud-streaked T-shirt and shorts, Allen loaded the bags onto the back of his pickup.

“Everybody is preparing,” he said. “Our biggest concern is the flood.”

Many businesses were also shut down or closed early in Baton Rouge, and winds were strong enough to rock large pickups. Whitecaps were visible on the Mississippi River.

Oil and gas operators evacuated hundreds of platforms and rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly 70% of Gulf oil production and 56% of gas production were turned off Saturday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which compiles the numbers from industry reports.

Vehicles sit in high water after heavy rain in New Orleans, July 10, 2019, in this image obtained from social media.

Barry preceded by deluge 

Barry developed from a disturbance in the Gulf that surprised New Orleans during the Wednesday morning rush with a sudden deluge that flooded streets, homes and businesses. For several days, officials braced for more flooding. But as sunset approached, the city saw only intermittent rain and wind, with occasional glimpses of sunshine.

Elsewhere, more than 120,000 customers in Louisiana and another nearly 6,000 customers in Mississippi and Alabama were without power Saturday, according to

During a storm update through Facebook Live, National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham pointed to a computer screen showing a huge, swirling mess of airborne water.

“That is just an amazing amount of moisture,” he said. “That is off the chart.”

A man walks through rain in the French Quarter caused by Hurricane Barry in New Orleans, July 13, 2019.

Weekend of heavy rain

Barry was moving so slowly that heavy rain was expected to continue all weekend. Forecasts showed the storm on a path toward Chicago that would swell the Mississippi River basin with water that must eventually flow south again.

For a few hours, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), just above the 74 mph (120 kph) threshold to be a hurricane. Barry was expected to continue weakening and become a tropical depression Sunday.

Downpours also lashed coastal Alabama and Mississippi. Parts of Dauphin Island, a barrier island in Alabama, were flooded both by rain and surging water from the Gulf, said Mayor Jeff Collier, who drove around in a Humvee to survey damage. He said wind damage was minimal.

Flooding closed some roads in low-lying areas of Mobile County in Alabama, and heavy rains contributed to accidents, said John Kilcullen, director of plans and operations for Mobile County Emergency Management Agency.

A flood gate is closed as Tropical Storm Barry approaches land in New Orleans, July 13, 2019.

Governors declared emergencies in Louisiana and Mississippi, and authorities closed floodgates and raised water barriers around New Orleans. It was the first time since Katrina that all floodgates in the New Orleans area had been sealed.

Still, Edwards said he did not expect the Mississippi to spill over the levees despite water levels already running high from spring rains and melting snow upstream. The barriers range in height from about 20 feet to 25 feet (6 meters to 7.5 meters).

Authorities told at least 10,000 people in exposed, low-lying areas along the Gulf Coast to leave, but no evacuations were ordered in New Orleans, where officials urged residents to “shelter in place.”

Despite the apparent calm in her city, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell cautioned that the storm continued to pose a threat.

“The slow pace pushed the timing of expected impacts further into today, tonight and Sunday,” Cantrell said. “This means that New Orleans residents are not out of the woods with this system.”

From: MeNeedIt

NYC Power Outage Hits Subways, Businesses, Elevators

NEW YORK — Authorities said a widespread power shortage in Manhattan on Saturday evening left businesses without electricity, elevators stuck and subway cars stalled. 
Power reportedly went out at much of Rockefeller Center, and the outage reached the city’s Upper West Side. The full extent of the outage, however, wasn’t clear. 
A diner on Broadway at West 69th Street lost its lights, as did other surrounding businesses. 
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority tweeted that there were outages at various underground stations. The MTA was working with Con Edison to determine the cause.   
Con Edison did not immediately respond to phone messages. 

From: MeNeedIt

Israeli Education Minister Backs Gay ‘Conversion Therapy’

JERUSALEM — Israel’s education minister voiced support Saturday for so-called gay “conversion therapy,” drawing a disavowal from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government’s religious-rightist tilt has worried liberals at home and backers abroad. 

Conversion therapy, an attempt to alter sexual orientation or gender identity through psychological, spiritual and, in extreme cases, physical means, has been widely discredited in the West and condemned by professional health associations such as the American Medical Association as potentially harmful. 

Rafael Peretz, an Orthodox rabbi and head of the ultranationalist United Right party who assumed the education portfolio in the Netanyahu-led coalition last month, said in a television interview he believed conversion therapy can work. 

“I have a very deep familiarity with the issue of education, and I have also done this,” he told Israel’s Channel 12 TV. 

‘Let’s think’

Giving an example of a gay person he said he had tended to, Peretz said: “First of all, I embraced him. I said very warm things to him. I told him, ‘Let’s think. Let’s study. And let’s contemplate.’ The objective is first of all for him to know himself well … and then he will decide.” 

The remarks sparked furor in Israel’s center-left opposition, which ahead of a September election has sought to cast Netanyahu as enabling Orthodox indoctrination in a country whose majority Jews mostly identify as secular or of less stringent religious observance. 

Israel’s LGBT Task Force, an advocacy group, demanded Peretz be fired, saying in a statement his views were “benighted.” 

Shortly after the interview aired at the end of the Jewish Sabbath, Netanyahu said he spoke to Peretz for “clarification.” 

“The education minister’s remarks regarding the pride community are unacceptable to me and do not reflect the position of the government that I head,” the premier said in a statement. 

Earlier furor

It was the second flap Peretz had caused in less than a week. Israeli media reported that he had told fellow Cabinet members on Tuesday that the intermarriage of Jews and gentiles in the diaspora amounted to a “second Holocaust.” 

The comparison stirred up anger among U.S. Jews, who are mostly non-Orthodox, and drew a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League, which said such statements cheapened the Holocaust. 

Speaking to Channel 12, Peretz described himself as striving to balance respect for others, no matter their sexual orientation, with his duties as a religious leader. 

“I honor everyone as people. I admit that I, personally — I am a rabbi of Israel. Our Torah tells us other things. But that does not mean that I look about now and give them grades,” he said. 

From: MeNeedIt

Francis Fukuyama on Putin: Even ‘Russia is Liberal in Many Respects’

This story originated in VOA’s Russian Service.

WASHINGTON — Sometimes history has a funny way of confounding its chroniclers.

In a recent Financial Times interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the liberal world order obsolete.

Sitting with reporters at the Kremlin hours before attending the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, where he roundly condemned open-door policies toward migrants, the Russia leader decried “the so-called liberal idea” as a moribund enterprise at odds with “traditional values” of ordinary people the world over.

“Our Western partners have admitted that some elements of the liberal idea, such as multiculturalism, are no longer tenable,” Putin said, criticizing immigration policies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and touting President Donald Trump’s continued push to build a wall as part of a broader crackdown on migrants.

It was 30 years ago this summer, just months before another wall came tumbling down, that a young economist named Francis Fukuyama published his landmark essay, The End of History?, in which he asked whether liberalism had triumphed over competing ideologies.

Because the highest aspiration of all humans is recognition and acceptance of their rights, he argued, liberalism would inevitably triumph.

But as even the Stanford scholar himself now acknowledges, there are competing elements in human nature, and the sometimes predominant human desire for freedom is eclipsed, especially in the face of tumultuous change and uncertainty, by an equally predominant desire for the security of strongman rule.

VOA’s Russian Service sat down with Fukuyama to get his take on Putin’s latest claim.

The following has been edited for brevity and concision.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks as he meets with his Bolivian counterpart at the Kremlin in Moscow, July 11, 2019.

Question: Does Putin’s claim that liberalism has “outlived its purpose” for the majority of the world’s population have any substance?

Francis Fukuyama: Putin is fundamentally wrong about that. In a liberal society, people agree that they’re going to put aside deeply held beliefs, particularly religious beliefs, in the interest of living together. The reason that liberal societies emerged in Europe was that after the Reformation, Protestants and Catholics ended up spending 150 years killing each other. In Germany, a third of the population was killed during the Thirty Years War because people at that time believed that the state had to support a single religious doctrine. I think people should remember that, because today we live in diverse societies with globalization; even if you try to build walls, it’s not really possible to keep people out in the long run. And if you don’t have a society that’s built on a certain degree of tolerance for diversity — religious diversity, ethnic diversity, racial diversity — then you’re going to have a formula for endless conflict.

Those kinds of systems are the ones that have evolved in Western Europe and in North America. In Eastern Europe you had a different situation where, under communism, there was a pretense that you’d achieve this kind of society where religion was not important, where you were open to diverse types of people. But the fact of the matter was that that simply suppressed people’s feelings. When those countries opened up to democracy after 1989 or 1991, there hadn’t been a kind of social acceptance, a kind of tolerance that’s needed to really sustain a liberal society. And so there’s been conflict over refugees, over immigration. These [conflicts over refugees, over immigration] in Eastern Europe tend to be more based on fear rather than any real experience with that kind of diversity. So I think Putin is fundamentally wrong. In fact, I actually think the Russian Federation is liberal in many respects. [Putin] is not imposing Orthodox Christianity as a religion that all members of the Russian Federation have to follow, because a lot of them are Muslim or follow other religious beliefs. So even in his country, liberalism is a key value. And if they don’t observe that kind of tolerance, there’s going to be a lot of conflict within the borders of the Russian Federation. That’s something that people need to keep in mind. That liberalism is really about allowing people to live peacefully while perhaps disagreeing about some of the more fundamental issues raised by religion.

President Donald Trump greets Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, May 13, 2019.

Q: We see a rising tide of nationalism in both the United States and in Europe. Are liberal democracies imperiled? And might it be impossible to balance core values of postwar liberalism with national identities, as Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson recently argued?

Fukuyama: Nationalism oftentimes takes a dangerous form because it excludes certain people within the nation and oftentimes leads to conflicts with other nations. But I think that national identity is nonetheless important. In fact, it’s kind of necessary if you’re going to sustain a democracy, because people must have a common set of values to believe in the legitimacy of their own institutions. So what’s critical, I think, is avoiding the rise of exclusive forms of nationalism. And this is what’s been going on with many populist leaders. Viktor Orban, for example, says Hungarian national identity is based on Hungarian ethnicity. That is very problematic because not everybody in Hungary is an ethnic Hungarian, and, furthermore, there’s lots of ethnic Hungarians living in all of the surrounding countries and in Europe. So I think that what we want is a form of democratic and open, tolerant national identity, where it’s based on shared democratic values but not necessarily on things like race or religion or ethnicity.

Q: Why have liberal ideas seen such a backlash, and can the trend be reversed? Do you anticipate the rise of more illiberal leaders around the world, even in the Western countries?

Fukuyama: I think that part of [the backlash] is created by globalization and the nature of economic change. In our globalized world, people that live in cosmopolitan cities have a lot of opportunities — they’ve done well economically and a lot of people that don’t live in those places have not done as well. So, in almost every country, people who vote for populists tend to be older, less educated, and living not in the big capital city but in, you know, other places. That sets up a kind of social conflict, and I think it’s important for people that are better educated and do accept globalization to understand that not everybody has profited from the kind of world that’s been created. And so I think governments need to take that into account. On the other hand, populist voters tend to be in the declining parts of the society because people continue to move to cities. People continue to get educated. In the end, [populism] isn’t going to be the dominant force in any society.

A woman walks by a Chinese flag on a street in Belgrade, Serbia, March 1, 2019..

Q: Many argue that countries built on liberal ideals are more economically successful. But what’s your take on, say, economically successful Communist China?

Fukuyama: I think that liberal values are important for a market economy because a market economy depends on the rule of law. It depends on rules that are established, that are clear and transparent and don’t get changed as a result of politics. And that’s not what happens in many of these new populist countries, because the populist takes power, having been voted into office by an election, but then immediately begins to attack the legal bases [or] attack judges. When the law goes against him or her, they try to undermine the law. This has certainly been true of Donald Trump; it’s been true of Orban and many other populist leaders in Europe. In the long run I think that’s a formula for corruption, you know, for a kind of crony capitalism where you don’t have a level playing field for all of the participants. And in the end, I think that is going to hurt economic growth.

And by the way, Hungary looks like it’s doing well economically, but it gets 5 percent of GDP as subsidies from the European Union. And so the performance of that country, if left to its own devices without Europe, would be substantially worse than it is today. And I think that’s what people need to consider when they make the choice of voting for a populist leader.

Q: The Council of Europe, which is based on Western liberal values, recently restored Russia’s voting rights. Some call this an example of Russian successfully undermining Western democratic institutions.

Fukuyama: Russia has been trying to use every means in its power to expand its influence. It’s been very clever at using social media and the internet in order to weaken the confidence of the Western public in itself. And it’s tried to create alliances with these new populists. I think that vote was a big mistake because I don’t think that Russia fundamentally shares the liberal values that are necessary to sustain the Council of Europe.

Q: Putin also told The Financial Times that it seems there are no rules in post-Cold War international order? Are there rules in today’s global order?

Fukuyama: There are plenty of rules, most of them regarding economic interactions. That’s the purpose of the World Trade Organization and the EU and many other trade deals that have been created. What there is not, I think, is a consensus on security issues, because there are fundamental differences between the U.S., Europe, Russia and China. So in that sense we’ve returned to a more multipolar kind of world that existed in the 19th century. That’s not a terrible thing. I think if countries observe certain moderate norms of behavior, that’s the world that can be stable. But I think Russia has been trying to undermine that stability because it feels that it’s one of the weakest of those players and wants to use every means at its disposal to expand its influence.

Q: Parting thoughts?

Fukuyama: The ultimate check on a populist leader is an election, and we’re going to have a very important election in the United States next year when Mr. Trump comes up for a second term. So I think people should pay attention to that, and I think they should also realize that in their own countries elections are important. And if people that support liberal values don’t go out and organize and mobilize and vote, then the populists are going to take over. That’s a lesson all of us need to keep in mind.

From: MeNeedIt