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July 26, 2011

D.C.'s deadlock over the issue of raising the debt ceiling has had one positive effect: It's united Americans in their fury at what Jeff Mason at Reuters calls an "unprecedented level of dysfunction among Democratic and Republican politicians alike." Newly relevant: Post-partisan sentiments like that expressed on the back of this Pissed-Off T-Shirt ($20). The Week Staff

12:52 p.m. ET
Scott Gries/Getty Images

President Trump reportedly sought information about former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s with the ambition of single-handedly ending the Cold War, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Bernard Lown told The Hollywood Reporter. Lown, 95, shared the 1985 Peace Prize with a Soviet physician for the pair's denuclearization efforts. He told The Hollywood Reporter that Trump sought a meeting with him shortly after Lown returned from the USSR in 1986, and that Trump expressed his goal of being posted to Moscow by Ronald Reagan.

"He said to me, 'I hear you met with Gorbachev, and you had a long interview with him, and you're a doctor, so you have a good assessment of who he is,'" Lown said. "So I asked, 'Why would you want to know?' And he responded, 'I intend to call my good friend Ronnie,' meaning Reagan, 'to make me a plenipotentiary ambassador for the United States with Gorbachev.' Those are the words he used. And he said he would go to Moscow and he'd sit down with Gorbachev, and then he took his thumb and he hit the desk and he said, 'And within one hour the Cold War would be over!' I sat there dumbfounded. 'Who is this self-inflated individual? Is he sane or what?'"

Trump's desire to end the Cold War with his real estate deal-making abilities was well-known and often widely mocked. "The idea that he would ever be allowed to go into a room alone and negotiate for the United States, let alone be successful in disarming the world, seems the naive musing of an optimistic, deluded young man who has never lost at anything he has tried," The New York Times wrote in 1984.

But as much as he was mocked at home, Trump did eventually get his audience with Gorbachev:

It wasn't long after the Trump-Lown meeting in 1986 that Trump made his first trip to the Soviet Union: In July 1987, he traveled to Moscow and met with Gorbachev. "The ostensible subject of their meeting was the possible development of luxury hotels in the Soviet Union by Mr. Trump," The New York Times wrote at the time. "But Mr. Trump's calls for nuclear disarmament were also well known to the Russians." (Trump told Playboy three years later, "Generally, these guys are much tougher and smarter than our representatives.") [The Hollywood Reporter]

Read the full story at The Hollywood Reporter.
Jeva Lange

12:10 p.m. ET

President Trump wished "all Muslims a joyful Ramadan" in a statement on Friday that quickly veered into a rant about terrorism, violence, and "perverted ideology."

"This year, the holiday begins as the world mourns the innocent victims of barbaric terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom and Egypt, acts of depravity that are directly contrary to the spirit of Ramadan," Trump wrote. "Such acts only steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology."

Ramadan, which begins Friday night and lasts until the end of June, is a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and charity. Trump added: "I reiterate my message delivered in Riyadh: America will always stand with our partners against terrorism and the ideology that fuels it. During this month of Ramadan, let us be resolved to spare no measure so that we may ensure that future generations will be free of this scourge and able to worship and commune in peace."

Trump's statement comes a day after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld a nationwide block of the ban on travel from six majority-Muslim countries, with the court claiming Trump's order "speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination." The Justice Department announced it would ask the Supreme Court to review the court order. Jeva Lange

11:54 a.m. ET

New findings released this week by NASA revealed how much we still have to learn about Jupiter. The results thus far from NASA's Juno mission, which launched in August 2011 but just reached Jupiter in July, uncovered an array of astonishing and unexpected facts about the solar system's largest planet:

  • Jupiter's top and bottom poles are enveloped in massive cyclones, some spanning 870 miles across.

  • Jupiter's equatorial region houses pools of ammonia rising from deep within the planet's atmosphere. The Juno mission's principal investigator, Scott Bolton, called this "the most startling feature that was brand-new and unexpected."
  • Jupiter boasts a magnetic field that "is nearly 50 percent stronger than previously suspected in some place," Science magazine reported. To put it into perspective, Jupiter's magnetic field could be 10 times stronger than Earth's strongest magnetic field.

  • Unlike Earth's polar auroras, which Science magazine explains are "fueled by particles streaming in from space," Jupiter's auroras are powered by electrons from "deep within the planet's atmosphere."

Needless to say, it's a far cry from researchers' initial expectation of fairly humdrum findings. "There is so much going on here that we didn't expect that we have had to take a step back and begin to rethink of this as a whole new Jupiter," Bolton said.

Next up, on July 11, Juno will take a closer look at Jupiter's Great Red Spot. In the meantime, check out a few more jaw-dropping photos from Juno's first flyby. Becca Stanek

11:34 a.m. ET
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in the Middle East killed at least 35 civilians in airstrikes in eastern Syria on Thursday, the same day the U.S. Central Command admitted to accidentally killing at least 105 Iraqi civilians in Mosul in a March targeting of two snipers.

The eastern Syrian town targeted Thursday is held by ISIS. "Among the dead are at least 26 relatives of [ISIS] fighters, many of them women and children, including Syrians and Moroccans," the head of the Syrian Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, told France 24. "The other nine are Syrian civilians and include five children."

Monitors aren't sure how many civilians have been killed by the U.S.-led coalition, but Airwars, a London-based group of researchers and journalists, puts the number at 366 in Iraq and Syria in April alone. The group "said it had seen civilian fatalities surge since U.S. President Donald Trump came to power and gave greater leeway to battlefield commanders," France 24 writes.

The Syrian Observatory, also based in Britain, estimates 225 civilians were killed in coalition strikes between April 23 and May 23. Before the Thursday report, the United States military had claimed 352 civilians had been "unintentionally" killed since 2014.

"Our condolences go out to all those that were affected," Major General Joe Martin said in a statement following Thursday's report on the Mosul bombing. "The coalition takes every feasible measure to protect civilians from harm." Jeva Lange

11:02 a.m. ET
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration in April debuted a new Department of Homeland Security office and database, DHS VINE, dedicated to providing information on the custody status (as well as personal details) of immigrants accused of crime. The database had a bumpy launch, as immigration attorneys soon noticed it listed sensitive information for immigrant babies and toddlers.

That problem was corrected, but The Guardian reports immigration lawyers have identified another major issue: The database lists immigrants who are victims of crimes and have "sought federal protections as survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault." Federal law says these victims' private information is supposed to be kept secret because their abusers could use it to track them down and inflict further harm. The searchable, online database now makes that information available to the public.

"It has certainly put a very powerful tool in the hands of abusers," said Archi Pyati of the Tahirih Justice Center, which offers pro-bono services to immigrants escaping gender-based violence. The Tahirih Justice Center has called on DHS to edit the VINE database to remove victims' information or to shutter the project entirely. Bonnie Kristian

10:45 a.m. ET

When a handful of NATO leaders' wives took a photograph together at the Royal Castle of Laeken, in Brussels, on Thursday, there was a conspicuous suited figure in their ranks. Gauthier Destenay, the husband of Luxembourg's gay prime minister, Xavier Bettel, had been invited to join the first ladies:

Destenay, who married Bettel in 2015, was flanked by "First Lady of France Brigitte Macron, First Lady of Turkey Emine Gulbaran Erdogan, Queen Mathilde of Belgium, [the Norwegian Secretary General's partner] Ingrid Schulerud, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev's partner Desislava Radeva, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel's partner Amelie Derbaudrenghien, Slovenia's Prime Minister Cerar's wife Mojca Stropnik, First Lady of Iceland Thora Margret Baldvinsdottir," and Melania Trump, The Daily Mail reports. Jeva Lange

10:40 a.m. ET
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images

More than 100 United Nations peacekeepers recruited from the Sri Lankan military were identified as the operators of a child sex ring in Haiti, The Associated Press reported Friday, but none were ever prosecuted or jailed after repatriation.

The U.N. does not have legal jurisdiction over the peacekeepers to bring its own charges, and it has now implemented a stricter screening process for would-be peacekeepers from Sri Lanka intended to better weed out recruits connected to military units that have been accused of war crimes. Still, the U.N. continues to deploy Sri Lankan peacekeepers despite these grave — and still unresolved — allegations.

"This is a pattern repeated around the world," the AP report notes. "Strapped for troops, the U.N. draws recruits from many countries with poor human rights records for its peacekeeping program." "Sometimes the U.N. needs troops," former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the AP. "And they are so desperate that they accept troops that they will normally not accept if they had the choice."

Last month, a broader AP investigation into peacekeeper misconduct counted some 2,000 allegations of sexual assault by U.N. peacekeepers around the world since 2005. About 300 of those cases involved children, but jail time was rare across the board. In Haiti, the nine children who alleged abuse said the peacekeepers baited them with offers of food. One boy estimated he was forced to have sex with about 100 peacekeepers, averaging four daily for several years. Bonnie Kristian

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