Mike Pence Appears To Contradict Trump's Stance On NATO

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The United States would “absolutely” defend its NATO allies, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence told the PBS NewsHour on Thursday, appearing to contradict a statement from Donald Trump a day earlier about how he would treat the obligations of the decades-old military alliance.

“We’ll uphold our treaty obligations, including the mutual defense agreement that is NATO,” Pence said.

Trump told the New York Times on Wednesday that “if we cannot be properly reimbursed for the tremendous cost of our military protecting other countries [then] yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, ‘Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.'”

But in an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, Pence, the governor of Indiana, and Trump’s newly selected running mate, seemed to interpret Trump’s comments differently.

If Trump was elected president, Pence said, “he would absolutely stand by our allies and treaty obligations.”

Pence’s NATO comments came during broad-ranging interview in which he touched on abortion, the future of the Supreme Court, and trade.

“People are tired of being told that this is as good as it gets,” Pence said in an interview at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, one day after accepting his party’s vice presidential nomination. “They hear in Donald Trump someone who says, we can do better.”

Pence, a former congressman and television and radio show host who is staunchly pro-life, also touched on abortion, saying he’s had several “heart-to-heart” conversations with Trump on the issue and felt comfortable with the real estate mogul’s position.

“I’m grateful to Donald Trump’s pro-life views, and I’m grateful that he’s expressed those views so publicly and openly,” Pence said.

Pence also said he felt confident Trump would appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court, something Trump’s Republican opponents questioned in the primaries.

The court currently has one vacant seat, due to the death earlier this year of Justice Antonin Scalia, and could have one or more openings during the next presidency.

The interview with Pence came just hours before Trump’s nomination speech, in which he is expected to focus on national security, terrorism and trade, among other issues.

“We had a field of outstanding candidates, and primaries get a little bit rough,” Pence said. “It takes some time for people to get beyond those things.”

Trump’s speech will cap a four-day convention that has seen its share of staging and technical issues. On Monday night, Melania Trump’s speech stirred controversy after it was discovered that a section echoed Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

On Wednesday night, a temporary power outage shut down the large video scoreboards behind the speaker’s podium, forcing Trump’s son Eric to deliver his primetime address in front of a black backdrop.

Perhaps most significantly, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas received a strong rebuke from delegates on the floor after he gave a speech on Wednesday night at the convention in which he did not endorse Trump.

As Cruz, who finished second in the primaries, neared the end of his remarks, delegates began booing and continued until he left the stage.

The incident underscored the deep divisions that still remain in the party after a bruising primary battle in which Trump beat out several of the GOP’s biggest names, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was a runner-up for vice president.

In the interview with PBS NewsHour, Pence called Cruz a “friend” and downplayed the incident, arguing that conservative voters would coalesce around Trump ahead of the election in November.

This story is from PBS NewsHour.

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Trump To Promise 'Safety Will Be Restored' As He Accepts GOP Nomination

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka test the teleprompters and microphones on stage before the start of the final day of the Republican National Convention.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka test the teleprompters and microphones on stage before the start of the final day of the Republican National Convention. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Donald Trump will promise to protect the country from foreign and domestic threats and by putting “America First” in his address Thursday evening formally accepting the GOP nomination for president.

“Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities,” Trump will say, according to excerpts of prepared remarks. “Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims. I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.”

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The billionaire real estate mogul will also cast himself as a champion for blue-collar workers and the middle class, arguing that by putting presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the White House, economic strife would grow.

“The problems we face now — poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad — will last only as long as we continue relying on the same politicians who created them,” Trump will say.

“As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect. This will all change when I take office,” he will continue. “My message is that things have to change – and they have to change right now. Every day I wake up determined to deliver a better life for the people all across this nation that have been neglected, ignored and abandoned.”

Trump will also double down on his promises to provide tax relief for business and renegotiate trade deals, ushering in more protectionist policies that are not typically hallmarks of the GOP platform — and that his own running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has opposed.

“Middle-income Americans and businesses will experience profound relief, and taxes will be greatly simplified for everyone. America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world,” Trump will continue. “Reducing taxes will cause new companies and new jobs to come roaring back into
our country. Then we are going to deal with the issue of regulation, one of the greatest job-killers of them all.”

“With these new economic policies, trillions of dollars will start flowing into
our country,” the newly minted Republican nominee will promise. “This new wealth will improve the quality of life for all Americans. We will build the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, and the railways of tomorrow.”

Trump will end his speech with an emotional appeal to parents, casting himself as the champion of future generations. He will be introduced to give his acceptance speech by his daughter, Ivanka, and all of his other children, except for his 10 year-old son Barron, have also spoken at the convention.

“So to every parent who dreams for their child, and every child who dreams
for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I’m with you, I will fight for you, and I will win for you.”

The billionaire businessman’s address comes after three days of a chaotic Republican National Convention to officially launch his general election, where he trails rival Hillary Clinton in polls. On day 1, anti-Trump delegates caused commotion when they tried to force a roll call vote to try and unbind delegates. And on Wednesday, Trump’s former rival Ted Cruz took the stage, only to be booed off after the Texas senator still declined to endorse Trump.

And the nation still remains on edge after police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, along with the deaths of young black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.

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Managing Your News Intake In The Age Of Endless Phone Notifications

A user holding a smartphone

Oliver Byunggyu Woo/Getty Images/EyeEm Premium

Lately, it has felt like the terrible news just won’t stop. As soon as you’ve wrapped your head around one story, you’re pummeled by another — and then another.

Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor at the University of California Irvine, researched stress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. People felt “ruminations, nightmares, feelings of anxiety, repetition of images that one might have seen,” she says. “With increasing exposure to television after the [attacks], we saw ongoing physical and psychological symptoms over the next 2 to 3 years.”

More recently, the rise of social media and frequent news notifications on our smartphones have raised the anxiety level even more.

Speaking with NPR’s Audie Cornish, Claire Wardle, the research director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, offers advice for dealing with the barrage of news updates flowing to our screens.


Interview Highlights

On whether this summer is exceptional, or whether it’s just that our access to the news has changed

I think it is exceptional. We are seeing more graphic events, we’re seeing more troubling and tragic news. But at the same time, that is happening in an era where now we’re hooked to our small screens and we’re networked and talking to one another about these events. So you’re seeing many people talk about I knew somebody who was there, or I previously visited that place or last week this happened to me, while simultaneously seeing this very graphic unedited footage. I think all of those factors are coming together to make this year particularly difficult to handle.

On how the experience of tragedy has changed with social media

I think what’s so interesting is watching television, you sit down and you’re prepared to watch the news. And I think what’s different now, is that ultimately we’re just scrolling through our phones and we’re seeing updates from friends about their pets or the fact that they’re expecting a baby and all of a sudden you have an auto-played video of something incredibly graphic. I think this element of surprise is what can lead to more symptoms. So I think we have enough research from the impacts of television to know even at this stage, we are going to see more impacts from social media.

On what responsibilities news organizations have in pushing out content in the age of unfiltered access

As somebody who’s studied user-generated content or eye witness media for almost a decade now, we’ve seen a real shift as news organizations become increasingly reliant on those first images that come from a scene. Previously you’d have cameramen and women at a scene and they’d think I’m not going to video this, I’m not going to capture this because no news organization is going to put out this footage — it’s too graphic. But actually now we have people with their smartphones capturing the very first moments after an explosion or a terror attack and they’re … just capturing this footage. And what that means is news organizations have these incredible images and it’s very tempting for them to say, well, we should use that because ultimately, the audience can see it themselves.

They can see it on Facebook, they can see it on Twitter. And I think, for example, the Philando Castile Facebook Live video, where you essentially see a man die. That’s something that a few years ago, the moment of death, that would be something journalists would really think twice about showing. But now there’s a sense of, well, everybody’s seen that video, we should include that in our broadcast or our output online.

On imagery, such as the shooting in Miami of an unarmed man, being shown on a repeating loop

I think in the next few months there’s going to be a lot of conversations at the social networks and within the news industry and with audiences themselves about how do we get this right. They have to think through graphic warnings, are they going to have an age-gate that makes people click through an extra level to say … I’m 18. Many live streams for television have a five second delay. That doesn’t exist at the moment for Facebook Live. Should it? There’s a number of those kind of questions that many people are starting to ask about, how can we be responsible in terms of allowing people to see this imagery if they want to.

On tips for protecting ourselves as we try to understand the news

I think being aware of how much you’ve become addicted to the latest information, thinking about well how many push notifications do you have activated. On your social networks I would advise turning off auto-play so you don’t see a graphic video that you didn’t expect to see. And I think it’s a case of people saying I’m going to go to a website and I’m going to look for the news or I’m going to turn on my radio or television as opposed to the news finding us on our mobile devices.

We’re having a nice conversation with a friend or our child and then our phone buzzes, and you look at it, and you’re like, ‘Oh my goodness. I can’t believe this.’ And I think that uncontrolled nature is what’s really troubling. So I think in terms of self-care it’s about people thinking about their own news habits and thinking about how they can protect themselves and stop these kind of unexpected alerts coming into their lives.

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'Art Of The Deal' Ghostwriter On Why Trump Should Not Be President

Tony Schwartz (left), Ivana Trump, photographer Francesco Scavullo, Donald Trump and unidentified guest celebrate the publication of Donald Trump's 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, which was ghostwritten by Schwartz.

Tony Schwartz (left), Ivana Trump, photographer Francesco Scavullo, Donald Trump and unidentified guest celebrate the publication of Donald Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, which was ghostwritten by Schwartz. Ron Galella/WireImage/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Ron Galella/WireImage/Getty Images

In 1987, the book The Art of the Deal elevated Donald Trump from playboy developer to best-selling author.

From the opening paragraph of Trump’s self-portrait as a shrewd and creative dealmaker:

“I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”

Trump’s name is on the cover of that book. But there’s another one, too — beneath the portrait and the big golden letters spelling out TRUMP — the name of Tony Schwartz, the book’s ghostwriter.

Schwartz did not weigh in on the presidential campaign until this week in a lengthy interview with The New Yorker.

Schwartz tells All Things Considered‘s Robert Siegel that he is speaking out now because he is extremely concerned about what Trump would be like as a president.

He says the portrait that he painted of Trump in The Art of the Deal is not accurate.

“I helped to paint Trump as a vastly more appealing human being than he actually is. And I have no pride about that. … I did it for the money. It’s certainly weighed on me over the years,” Schwartz says. “Now, since he’s … in a position to potentially become president, it makes my decision back then look very different than it did at the time.”

Schwartz spent 18 months on the book, including eight or nine months sitting in Trump’s office virtually every morning to get the information he needed.

“One of the chief things I’m concerned about is the limits of his attention span, which are as severe as any person I think I’ve ever met,” Schwartz says. “No matter what question I asked, he would become impatient with it pretty quickly, and literally, from the very first time I sat down to start interviewing him, after about 10 or 15 minutes, he said, ‘You know, I don’t really wanna talk about this stuff, I’m not interested in it, I mean it’s over, it’s the past, I’m done with it, what else have you got?’ “

The idea of a president in an “incredibly complex and threatening world who can’t pay attention is itself frightening,” Schwartz says.

Add to that the fact that Trump is so easily provoked, that what Schwartz calls Trump’s insecurity “makes him incredibly reactive whenever he feels threatened, which is very, very often.”

As an example, Schwartz says, his interview in The New Yorker came out on Monday. On Tuesday, he received “a long and threatening letter from his lawyer designed, I think, to muzzle me.”

“For 25 years, I think Trump has done a very, very effective job of muzzling anyone who has worked for him or with him by signing very, very strict nondisclosure agreements before they start working with him,” Schwartz says. “It just turns out that I started with him so early that he hadn’t thought of it yet.”

“The reason I’m stepping up is because no one else seems to be free or willing to do so,” Schwartz says. “Believe me, it is not fun.”

Use the audio link above to hear the full conversation.

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Tens Of Thousands Of Alpacas Die In Peruvian Cold Snap

Agustin Mayta Condori shows his sick alpaca that he predicted would die the next day due to sub-freezing temperatures in the the southern Andes in Peru. Thousands of alpacas have died in the region.

Agustin Mayta Condori shows his sick alpaca that he predicted would die the next day due to sub-freezing temperatures in the the southern Andes in Peru. Thousands of alpacas have died in the region. Rodrigo Abd/AP hide caption

toggle caption Rodrigo Abd/AP

The government of Peru has declared a state of emergency in the southern Andes after brutally low temperatures killed tens of thousands of alpacas, according to the Associated Press.

The government is promising $3 million in relief to farmers in the region, who live at or around 15,000 feet above sea level and raise the animals, relying on money from selling their lightweight wool.

In early July, Reuters reported crops were ruined and animals were dying of cold and hunger as snow storms moved through the mountains. This week, the temperature has dipped as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit, the AP reports. July is the coldest month of the year in the southern Andes, with an average July temperature over the last 15 years around 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The AP reports alpaca farmers earn so little even in good years, the loss of even one animal can be devastating:

“Peru is the world’s largest producer of alpaca wool, an almost silky natural fiber coveted by the world’s top designers, and has about 4 million of the camelids. But in stark contrast to the high prices charged by the likes of Armani and Gucci is the daily struggle against the elements and poverty by the thousands of shepherds whose livelihood depends on the trade.

“The high-altitude rural hamlets where alpacas have been raised for centuries are among the most-deprived in Peru. The more than 120,000 families that make a living from shearing the soft, featherweight fiber earn as little as $1,200 a year, which works out to less than half of Peru’s minimum wage.”

A skinned alpaca, which died due to sub-freezing temperatures, hangs on a fence above live alpacas in Peru. Alpaca owners are butchering their dead animals to cook for their families. The Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency in the farming regions where alpacas are raised.

A skinned alpaca, which died due to sub-freezing temperatures, hangs on a fence above live alpacas in Peru. Alpaca owners are butchering their dead animals to cook for their families. The Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency in the farming regions where alpacas are raised. Rodrigo Abd/AP hide caption

toggle caption Rodrigo Abd/AP

Alpacas only give birth to one offspring each year, according to the International Alpaca Association, making it difficult for herds to recover from the loss of so many animals.

The cold is also dangerous, even deadly, for people living in the high-altitude farming communities, reports the English-language newspaper The Peruvian Times. The Associated Press reports in the last two months an estimated 14,000 children — most of them in the southern Andes where alpacas are raised — have had respiratory illnesses because of inadequate home heating, according to government figures.

This is not the first cold crisis the region has suffered in recent years. In 2013, the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency after record cold and snowfall killed thousands of livestock, the BBC reported. A 2014 United Nations report warned that climate change would lead to greater fluctuations in temperature in Peru, and more drastic weather events including droughts, which destroy grazing areas and weaken livestock.

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How Ivanka Trump Could Prove To Be Her Father's Most Powerful Weapon

Ivanka Trump is thought to be one of Donald Trump’s most influential advisers, a person who can persuade him to hire or fire someone. She will introduce him Thursday night at the Republican National Convention — perhaps her biggest stage yet.

But in the public eye, she sounds very different from her father. While he is blunt, she is noticeably careful in choosing her words.

She described her father to a reporter from Fortune magazine as someone who is very candid. “I am probably not as likely to say what’s on my mind and I think most people aren’t,” she said. “So I admire his ability to do it, it’s not something I would always want to be doing. That’s why I’m not a politician.”

But Ivanka, 34, has street cred where her father struggles — with women.

Polls show a majority of women have an unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump. The big question is, can Ivanka persuade some female voters to support her father?

Libby Wuller, who recently attended a party hosted by RightNOW Women’s PAC, which works to get Republican women into office, said although she is no fan of Trump and his rhetoric about women, she is impressed with Ivanka.

“She’s intelligent; she’s strong-willed; she has an entrepreneurial spirit. Being a young woman working in the startup space, these are qualities I admire in her,” Wuller said. Despite liking those qualities, however, Wuller said it’s not enough to make her cast her vote for Donald Trump.

However, another young woman, Larissa Martinez, said Ivanka could influence this campaign. “I think she could actually help her father and her father’s operation when it comes to outreach to women because I think there’s a lot of Republican women that identify with some of the balances with family versus professional,” she said. “She’s very eloquent, she speaks very well and I think that she could help mold the way he talks to women.”

At a millennial town hall in Cleveland, a large group of young Republicans agreed that Ivanka is their favorite member of the Trump family.

One of those voters, Gabby Lurrs, said she admires Ivanka’s beauty and poise and that her appeal has nothing to do with political issues.

“She probably keeps her thoughts to herself a little more than her dad does,” Lurrs said. “But I don’t know her views on everything. And I don’t think anyone does, because she kind of keeps it to herself.”

Another woman at the town hall, Isabel Reid, isn’t sure she will vote for Trump, but she does appreciate that Ivanka is one of his close advisers. “She comes off as being intelligent, a smart businesswoman, and someone who’s more informed than her father,” Reid said.

This goodwill for Ivanka may prove to be a powerful political weapon for her father. And while she might not be able to flip votes, she could very well solidify support for him.

Thursday night, when she addresses the Republican convention, Ivanka, more than anyone else, might be the one to humanize her father to skeptical voters.

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Reports: Dozens Of Civilians Killed In U.S-Led Coalition Strike In Syria

Syria’s main opposition group is calling for the U.S.-led coalition to suspend its airstrike campaign against ISIS after reports of dozens of civilian deaths close to the Turkish border.

As NPR’s Alison Meuse told our Newscast unit, reports suggest the strike near the northern town of Manbij is the “largest civilian death toll since the intervention began.” She added that “both the opposition and [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s regime put the death toll above 120 killed.” Here’s more from Alison:

“Exact figures are hard to come by: it’s a war zone and ISIS restricts communications. But I reached a man whose family lives near the area in question. He sent me photos of what appeared to be a mass burial. I counted eight corpses, but he says 73 were laid to rest. The Syrian government and opposition put the toll at over 120. Local U.S.-backed forces say it’s a vast exaggeration.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll from the airstrikes is at least 56, including 11 children.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has promised a “transparent investigation into possible civilian deaths,” as Alison reports. The coalition has said that it carried out airstrikes in the area on Tuesday, the day reports of civilian casualties started to emerge.

It’s not clear whose planes carried out the deadly strikes. The Syrian government blames France in a statement reported on state media, while other sources refer simply to “U.S.-led coalition” planes, without elaborating.

In a statement, the president of the Syrian opposition coalition, Anas Alabdah, said the bloodshed indicates “a major loophole in the current operational rules followed by the international coalition in conducting strikes in populated areas.”

He added: “It is essential that such investigation not only result in revised rules of procedure for future operations, but also inform accountability for those responsible for such major violations.”

Meanwhile, fighting rages in the nearby city of Manbij between U.S- backed fighters and Islamic State militants. A BBC report from Manbij released today shows Kurdish-led fighters backed by U.S. air support encircling the area.

“The Syrian Democratic Forces are advancing into Manbij City from the south, and as you can see here, the fight against the IS group is street by street and house by house,” reporter Feras Kilani said. He added that the Islamic State has used the city as a “key meeting point for its foreign fighters.”

Now, the forces fighting ISIS have given the extremist group a deadline of 48 hours to leave the besieged city, The Associated Press reported.

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European Leaders Urge NATO Solidarity; Trump Sets Conditions, Should He Be Elected

A U.S. military policeman stands in front of Air Force fighter jets that were were part of a NATO show of strength in Romania in April intended to deter Russian intervention in Ukraine.

A U.S. military policeman stands in front of Air Force fighter jets that were were part of a NATO show of strength in Romania in April intended to deter Russian intervention in Ukraine. Andreea Alexandru/AP hide caption

toggle caption Andreea Alexandru/AP

European leaders hailed what they called the wisdom of mutual defense on Thursday after Donald Trump raised doubts about his commitment to America’s NATO obligations if he’s elected president.

The Republican nominee told the New York Times that before he’d intervene to help Baltic members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in a potential crisis with Russia, he’d review whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us … If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.”

Mutual defense is the bedrock principle of the 28-member Atlantic alliance, created to enable European militaries to fight together during the Cold War in case of an attack by the Soviet Union. NATO’s Article V dictates that an attack on one member is considered an attack on them all.

Trump, however, has faulted many NATO members as what he calls freeloaders, falling short of their obligations to contribute at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product in defense spending. His criticism on that issue is a familiar note of complaint for American secretaries of defense, but his declaration that he’d have to review “obligations” before aiding a NATO member appeared to be a new position.

According to a transcript released by the newspaper, Times Washington correspondent David Sanger asked Trump about the danger Russia poses to the Baltic States following its military seizure of parts of Ukraine. As president, would he come to their aid?

“TRUMP: I don’t want to tell you what I’d do because I don’t want Putin to know what I’d do. I have a serious chance of becoming president and I’m not like Obama, that every time they send some troops into Iraq or anyplace else, he has a news conference to announce it.

“SANGER: They are NATO members, and we are treaty-obligated ——

“TRUMP: We have many NATO members that aren’t paying their bills.

“SANGER: That’s true, but we are treaty-obligated under NATO, forget the bills part.

“TRUMP: You can’t forget the bills. They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that.

“SANGER: My point here is, Can the members of NATO, including the new members in the Baltics, count on the United States to come to their military aid if they were attacked by Russia? And count on us fulfilling our obligations ——

“TRUMP: Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responded carefully on Thursday, not faulting Trump, telling BuzzFeed News that NATO was as good for the U.S. as it is for Europe.

“Solidarity among allies is a key value for NATO,” Stoltenberg said. “This is good for European security and good for US security. We defend one another.”

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves also didn’t allude to Trump by name, but declared on Twitter that his nation met his defense spending obligations and supports all member nations.

“We are equally committed to all our NATO allies, regardless of who they may be,” he wrote. “That’s what makes them allies.”

Ilves pointed out that Estonia responded to the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. – the only time NATO’s Article V has ever been invoked – by joining the international deployments of troops to Afghanistan.

International commentators are sounding alarm bells about what they call Trump’s concessions to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. The two men have praised each other generally in public comments, but Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic contends there’s much more going on in the positions Trump and the GOP are taking.

“I am arguing that Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests; that his critique of American democracy is in accord with the Kremlin’s critique of American democracy; and that he shares numerous ideological and dispositional proclivities with Putin—for one thing, an obsession with the sort of “strength” often associated with dictators,” he wrote.

Russian chessmaster Garry Kasparov, an outspoken critic of Putin and Trump, observed that Trump and allies inside the Republican party changed language in the platform ahead of this week’s convention in Cleveland that weakened the official support for arming Ukraine: “The Trump staff got the language changed to ‘appropriate assistance,’ a meaningfully meaningless phrase that no doubt pleased Putin very much.”

Before his comments on Thursday about NATO’s Article V, however, Trump’s criticism of NATO was a mainstream position within national security circles in Washington. Pentagon officials have griped for years that only a handful of the 28 members in the alliance meet their spending commitments – and that Europe’s wealthiest powers, including France and Germany, do not.

Secretaries of Defense Robert Gates and Leon Panetta also complained about NATO’s bureaucracy and what they call its inability to put its theoretical strength into practical deployments on the battlefield.

In the 2011 Libya intervention, for example, the European air forces found they didn’t have enough bombs.

“The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country — yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference,” Gates charged then in Brussels.

Unless NATO could prove itself, Gates warned, a new generation of Americans and political leaders who grew up after its Cold War heyday would begin to seriously question whether the U.S. should preserve its commitment to the alliance.

“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress — and in the American body politic writ large — to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” he said.

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The Enduring 'AbFab' Picks Up Right Where It Boozily Left Off

Patsy (Joanna Lumley) and Edina (Jennifer Saunders) in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.

Patsy (Joanna Lumley) and Edina (Jennifer Saunders) in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation hide caption

toggle caption Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Making an Absolutely Fabulous movie in 2016, over 20 years after the cheerfully vulgar British sitcom became a cult sensation, seems both absurdly late and entirely in keeping with the spirit of the show. After all, Edina “Eddy” Monsoon and Patricia “Patsy” Stone, a pair of unrepentant boozers on the fringes of the fashion world, have never known cultural cachet. It only follows, then, that a big-screen version of their exploits would not be particularly hip or in-demand, but a continuation of the bawdy obliviousness that have made them such a treasure over the years. They are perpetually out of time, which in their case is another way of saying “timeless.”

“Sixty is the new 40,” Eddy declares, bridging the gap between the show’s premiere in late 1992 and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, in which she and Patsy want nothing more than to “keep the party going.” This ungainly, catch-as-catch-can feature isn’t a comfortable expansion of the series, but there’s a brightness and spontaneity to it that forgives its many lapses, because each new scene brings the possibility of a filthy one-liner or a bizarre comic setpiece. Here’s a movie that gives you Jon Hamm, as himself, shuddering over memories of the “English rose” who deflowered him and a club full of drag queens doing a karaoke chorus of “At Seventeen.” Resistance is futile.

Leading a principal cast that has stayed with AbFab from the beginning, creator/star Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley return as Eddy and Patsy, respectively, two women still clinging to a lifestyle they cannot afford. With Eddy’s PR business dwindling to just a few D-list clients — all of whom are angry over her neglect — her credit cards are “broken” and she doesn’t have any cash, which is such a foreign concept to Patsy that she refers to it as “hand money.” Nonetheless, the two wake up hungover every morning, dutifully self-administer Botox injections and liposuction treatments, and head out in search of the next gold mine.

After hearing word that Kate Moss (also appearing, gamely, as herself) is looking for representation, Eddy crashes an exclusive party to corner her perspective client, but winds up bumping her off a balcony and into the Thames. With Britain’s greatest fashion icon missing and presumed dead, Eddy and Patsy endure the indignities of coach class and fly to the French Riviera, simultaneously fleeing justice and gaining new opportunities to pursue a big score. They don’t have a plan. Their thinking seems to be that if they keep rubbing elbows with the elite, something will come up. Perhaps requiring a fake mustache.

Saunders’ script accommodates AbFab veterans like Julia Sawalha as Eddy’s scolding daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha), June Whitfield as her blinkered mother, and Jane Horrocks as the flighty Bubble, who’s introduced wearing an outfit of inflatable hashtags. None of these characters are particularly well-served, given how much Eddy and Patsy are on the move, and Saunders’ approach to screenwriting isn’t all that dissimilar to the merry, improvised bungling that get her characters through life. The increased scale of an Absolutely Fabulous movie allows Saunders and company to trample through scenic locales and roll out cameos by Moss, Hamm, Rebel Wilson, and other recognizable faces, but it mostly sticks to basics.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Saunders and Lumley are a wonderful team — Eddy constantly seeking to improve her status and salve her insecurities, Patsy casually devouring all the pills and champagne she can get — and they have a particular gift for the “ooooooo” laugh, gags that pleasantly shock without crossing the line. Their characters’ refusal to change as the world trends past them is as funny now as it was in the early ’90s; nothing will stop Patsy from smoking cigarettes in public, for example, only now she calls it “vaping.” Twenty years from now, 80 might be the new 60 for Saunders and Lumley’s lovable creations. Little will have changed. The party keeps going.

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Comedy Really Is Hard Among Friends In 'Don't Think Twice'

Tami Sagher (Lindsay), Gillian Jacobs (Samantha), Keegan-Michael Key (Jack), Mike Birbiglia (Miles), Chris Gethard (Bill), Kate Micucci (Allison) in Mike Birbiglia's Don't Think Twice.

Tami Sagher (Lindsay), Gillian Jacobs (Samantha), Keegan-Michael Key (Jack), Mike Birbiglia (Miles), Chris Gethard (Bill), Kate Micucci (Allison) in Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice. Jon Pack/The Film Arcade hide caption

toggle caption Jon Pack/The Film Arcade

There’s a scene in Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice where a character flagrantly breaks a fundamental rule of improv comedy onstage, and it’s devastating. The film does such a good job making us believe in the closeness and the fragility of the group at its center that we have nothing to do but squirm when things go wrong. “Fall, and then figure out what to do on the way down,” as one member quotes improv legend Del Close at the outset as having said. It’s a fitting note to begin on, since so much of the movie — and of the cutthroat world of live comedy — is about the fall.

As a comedian, Birbiglia specializes in mining deeply personal and uncomfortable truths for laughs. As a director, he does the opposite, and the ease with which he is able to reverse that flow is something of a marvel. His first film, 2012’s Sleepwalk With Me, was a wistful adaptation of his autobiographical one-man show in which he used his strange, inherently funny sleepwalking disorder to expose his own relationship failures. With producing partner Ira Glass still at his side, Birbiglia has now stepped out of his This American Life-friendly comfort zone for a fictional tale about a group of “yes, and” comics trying to claw their way to stardom. During the improv scenes, his camera freely roams among the performers while they conjure bits from nowhere. It’s alternately hysterical and heartbreaking, comedy by way of John Cassavetes, who gets an appropriate shout-out.

The troupe, The Commune, comprises six members, all in their late thirties — the age when a particular desperation to “make it” begins to set in. Like the groups it’s modeled after (The Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade), The Commune has long been a breeding ground for future stars of an Saturday Night Live-like national TV sketch show, which everyone in the improv world agrees is unfunny and yet which continues to draw eager prospects like flies to a corpse. The irony of this setup is the stuff of great character-based drama. Improv depends on a healthy group to survive, but television encourages ego and self-preservation above all else. Yet where else can a struggling improv performer hope to ascend, except in front of a camera?

Comedy nerds will thrill to the film’s deft deconstruction of these worlds, but they’ll be even more pleased with the casting, which is a murderer’s row of funny people. The red-hot Keegan-Michael Key, of Key & Peele, is Jack, a gifted solo performer who can’t stop hogging the spotlight; Gillian Jacobs (Community) is his girlfriend Sam, who fell into improv by accident and now can’t imagine leaving. Key gets to show off why he’s a virtuoso of sketch comedy, even busting out an Obama impression—but Jacobs had no improv experience in real life, which makes her warm, winning work here all the more impressive. “Has anyone had a particularly bad day?” she asks the audience, and in her voice is an urgent desire to right this wrong.

The other, more peripheral group members are Tami Sagher (a writer on Inside Amy Schumer) as the only performer blessed with wealthy parents; Chris Gethard (The Chris Gethard Show) as a sad-sack type who has a family crisis; Kate Micucci (one-half of Garfunkel and Oates) as a shy presence who’s also a struggling graphic novelist; and Birbiglia himself as the group leader, bitter and resentful after years of watching the comics he trained pass over him on the way to bigger things. The six have an easy rapport even as unspoken rivalries simmer, as though they’ve been letting such tensions build on the same stage together for years.

Soon one member hits it big, though it’s best not to reveal which one. What’s more fascinating is how a sudden jolt of stardom creates rifts in the group, particularly when their old performing home prepares to shut down and the economic infeasibility of what they do stares them square in the face. When bad things happen to these characters, they disappear under the crutch of comedy: silly impressions, joke one-upping, and shade-throwing done under cover of a smile. But comedy can’t heal everything, and when the veneer of laughter drops, it’s downright ugly.

We are oversaturated with media about the hardscrabble lives of humorists, from Louie to 30 Rock to all the new streaming stuff like Difficult People (streaming shows are becoming like digital improv groups for hip comedians: a place for cachet, if not quite fame). If you’re told enough times how miserable a profession is, you start to believe everyone who does it is delusional. But it’s rare to see a movie or TV show grapple so delicately with the costs of success and failure in any profession, in a way that can be both specific and universal. We all want our friends to succeed, but maybe not too much.

Improv exists “in the moment,” as The Commune’s members frequently remind us, and it vanishes as soon as the audience goes home. The triumph of Don’t Think Twice is how it reframes those moments, buries and praises them, and captures a small part of their magic for the rest of us to understand, a little better, why so many give up so much to bring them to life.

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