by Vijaya Chandrasoma
Mary Trump is Donald Trump’s only niece, the daughter of Trump’s alcoholic older brother, who died of a heart attack in 1981 when he was 43 years of age. Dr. Trump has painted a convincing portrait of the president of the United States and the toxic family that has made him “a man who threatens the world’s health, economic security and social fabric.”
Her book, already a New York Times bestseller, has sold over a million copies on the first day of its release on July 14.
Donald Trump tried unsuccessfully to stop the publication of Dr. Trump’s book on the basis of a Non-Disclosure Agreement in the litigation of his father’s will, which he says prevents her from disclosing anything regarding the family. However, the Courts ruled that she has not violated the NDA and permitted its release.
Trump has derided the book, saying that “she’s a seldom seen niece who knows little about me, and says untruthful things about my parents, who couldn’t stand her….She’s a mess!”
However, Dr. Trump has made it very clear, by her narrative of some very interesting anecdotes, that she was very much a part of this family till the death of her grandfather in 1999. She says that Donald’s father was oftentimes aloof, and only had time for Donald, his favourite son whom he groomed to be his heir; but she and her grandmother, Mary Anne shared a deep love for each other. She confirms she’s had very little contact with her family after the disputed litigation of her grandfather’s will in 2001.
Dr. Trump gives a vivid description of the toxic influence of Donald’s father, Fred Trump, had on the entire family. Fred built up the family fortune by investing in real estate with the wealth left to him by his father, who had died during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. He concentrated initially in developing properties in Queens, New York, but later extended his activities to Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Fred “had always been vain about his appearance and bemoaned his receding hairline”, which he chose to camouflage with a wig. The “cheap drugstore dye” he used for the wig turned it to a “jarring shade of magenta”. Mary remembers Fred offering her $100 for her hair when she was a teenager. She writes “I laughed” and said “Sorry, Grandpa, I need to hang on to it.” Donald’s obsession with his own blonde hair-weave shows that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Fred died in 1999, aged 93, leaving a fortune of approximately $300 million, the bulk of which went to Donald. Fred Trump had suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease during the last six years of his life. At his funeral, all his children gave eulogies, where the emphasis “was on my grandfather’s material success and his killer instinct …. Donald was the only one to deviate from the script. In a cringe-inducing turn, his eulogy devolved into a paean of his own greatness.” Sound familiar?
She writes very tenderly about her own father, Freddie, Fred’s oldest son, who was a more accomplished, though flawed, man than Donald. Freddie worked for the family business for a time, but got bored with real estate development, boredom his dominant father considered a weakness. He left to get his commercial pilots’ licence and worked for TWA, one of the most prestigious airlines at that time. However, alcoholism severely impacted his life. According to a New York Times article, “He got divorced, quit flying because he knew his drinking presented a danger and failed at commercial fishing in Florida.” By the late 1970s, he was living back in his parents’ house in Queens. Mary makes little reference to her mother, Linda, who was settled with a modest allowance after her divorce and was generally ostracized by the rest of the clan.
Strangely, she has at times turned Donald into a figure deserving of sympathy, being the victim of an abusive father. She says that “Fred destroyed Donald, by short-circuiting his ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotions. By limiting Donald’s access to his own feelings and rendering many of them unacceptable, Fred perverted his son’s perception of the world and damaged his ability to live in it.”
When Donald was seven years old, his brother, Freddie, the writer’s father, then 15, dumped a bowl of mashed potatoes on Trump’s head at a family dinner. The laughter which ensued caused Trump severe humiliation, which showed even six decades later; during a toast at a party in the White House in 2017, Donald’s older sister, Maryanne, laughingly recalled this incident, which had become a part of family lore. Trump was deeply humiliated at being the brunt of the joke. He has since learned “to use humiliation as a weapon; from then on, he would use the weapon, never be at the sharp end of it.”
Which immediately brings to mind President Obama’s speech at the 2016 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, when he destroyed Trump with contemptuous comments which also drew much laughter, derision and applause from the stellar audience. The humiliation caused by this speech is, we are told, the main reason Trump decided to run for the Presidency in 2016. So maybe Trump is right, maybe the mess the country is in today is really Obama’s fault.
Another time, Trump saw the author in a bikini at Mar-a-Lago, and exclaimed: “Holy shit, Mary, you’re stacked.” This tasteless remark to a niece indicates that his predilection for incest is not only confined to his sick feelings for his daughter, Ivanka, whom he has at various times groped in public, and described as having a “very hot body” and, if he weren’t married, he’d be dating her.
His own daughter. Think about that. Take your time.
Dr. Trump says that she didn’t write the book with any desire for money or revenge. She says she was reluctant to speak up during the 2016 election as she may have been dismissed as a disgruntled, estranged family member. She also thought there would be competent people in his administration who understood how government worked and would be able to curb his worst impulses. “Clearly I was wrong to make that assumption…. The events of the last three years, however, forced my hand, and I can no longer remain silent. By the time this book is published, hundreds of thousands of American lives will have been sacrificed on the altar of Donald’s hubris and willful ignorance. If he is afforded a second term, it would be the end of American democracy.”
She added that the last straw of so many straws was “the horrors at the border, separating children from their parents, the torture, the kidnapping and incarceration of them in cages was unthinkable, unbearable. When an opportunity presented itself to write this book as a warning, I needed to take the leap.”
A clinical psychologist, Dr. Trump writes, “Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a battery of neuropsychological tests that he’ll never sit for.” She says that “a large minority of people still confuse his arrogance for strength, his false bravado for accomplishment and his superficial interest in them for charisma.” Sadly, “at a very deep level, his bragging and false bravado are not directed at the audience in front of him but at his audience of one: his long-dead father.”
What makes Dr. Trump’s book so credible is that she reveals, with realistic anecdotes, characteristics we have already seen for ourselves in the behaviour of this petty little man during the past three years: his plantation mentality, his narcissistic insecurity, his ignorant incompetence, his contempt for decency, ethics and the rule of law, his apathy for the welfare of everyone but himself, have all made a mockery of the greatest office in the land. He has reduced America from the greatest superpower of three short years ago to be the laughing stock of the world.
At a recent interview with liberal TV commentator Rachel Maddow, she said: “I want people to understand what a failure of leadership this is, and the reason he’s failing at it is because he’s incapable of succeeding at it. It (Leadership) would have required taking responsibility – which would, in his mind, have meant admitting a mistake, which in my family was essentially punishable by the death penalty, symbolic or otherwise. She says she has heard and deplores the racial slurs he constantly uses against African Americans, including the n….. word, his anti-Semitic and misogynistic slurs, and being a lesbian herself, his derogatory comments against the LGBTQ community.
The author opens her book with a quotation from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables:
If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.
When asked by Chris Cuomo of CNN what she meant by this quotation, she said that when Donald was growing up, his grandfather provided the darkness, with his personality and his wealth, under which Donald committed his immoral and fraudulent sins. When he became president of the United States, she hoped that the “best people” he promised to employ in his administration would help him to get out of this darkness into the light of good governance.
Unfortunately, by demanding total loyalty from everyone who worked for him and getting rid of anyone who disagreed with him, Trump has now surrounded himself with a bunch of sycophantic enablers who continue to provide the darkness under which he has openly committed the most egregious of crimes, up to and including treason. Paradoxically, he is committing these crimes right in front of our eyes, obvious to everyone except his enablers (and his storied “base”) who have chosen to remain under the cover of this darkness, to achieve their own racist, political and financial ambitions. “To this day”, she writes, “the lies, misrepresentations, and fabrications that are the sum total of who my uncle is, are perpetuated by the Republican Party and white evangelical Christians…. The lies may become true in his mind as soon as he utters them, but they are still lies. It’s just another way for him to see what he can get away with. And so far, he’s gotten away with everything.”
“The atmosphere of division my grandfather created in the Trump family is the water in which Donald has always swum, and division continues to benefit him at the expense of everyone else. It’s wearing the country down…. changing us even as it leaves Donald unaltered.” The polarization of the country today is evidence of the success of Trump’s strategies of self-serving deception and distraction. “What I think we need to grapple with now is why so many people are continuing to allow it.”
On November 3, voters of America will have the choice to throw light on this darkness, to bring back democracy into a country whose national pride has been, since the drafting of the Constitution, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. National pride which has lost its way.
If voters continue to keep their eyes closed to the evil and the cruelty of this darkness in November, then Democracy would indeed have died in Darkness.
How Hamas built a force to attack Israel on 7 October
Five armed Palestinian groups joined Hamas in the deadly 7 October attack on Israel after training together in military-style exercises from 2020 onwards, BBC News analysis shows.
The groups carried out joint drills in Gaza which closely resembled the tactics used during the deadly assault – including at a site less than 1km (0.6 miles) from the barrier with Israel – and posted them on social media.
They practised hostage-taking, raiding compounds and breaching Israel’s defences during these exercises, the last of which was held just 25 days before the attack.
BBC Arabic and BBC Verify have collated evidence which shows how Hamas brought together Gaza’s factions to hone their combat methods – and ultimately execute a raid into Israel which has plunged the region into war.
‘A sign of unity’
On 29 December 2020, Hamas’s overall leader Ismail Haniyeh declared the first of four drills codenamed Strong Pillar a “strong message and a sign of unity” between Gaza’s various armed factions.
As the most powerful of Gaza’s armed groups, Hamas was the dominant force in a coalition which brought together 10 other Palestinian factions in a war games-style exercise overseen by a “joint operation room”.
Prior to 2018, Hamas had formally coordinated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Gaza’s second largest armed faction and – like Hamas – a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK and other countries.
Hamas had also fought alongside other groups in previous conflicts, but the 2020 drill was billed in propaganda as evidence a wider array of groups were being unified.
Hamas’s leader said the first drill reflected the “permanent readiness” of the armed factions.
The 2020 exercise was the first of four joint drills held over three years, each of which was documented in polished videos posted on public social media channels.
The BBC has visually identified 10 groups, including PIJ, by their distinctive headbands and emblems training alongside Hamas during the Strong Pillar drills in footage posted on the messaging app Telegram.
Following the 7 October attack, five of the groups went on to post videos claiming to show them taking part in the assault. Three others issued written statements on Telegram claiming to have participated.
The role of these groups has come into sharp focus as pressure builds on Hamas to find dozens of women and children believed to have been taken as captives from Israel into Gaza by other factions on 7 October. Three groups – PIJ, the Mujahideen Brigades and Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades – claim to have seized Israeli hostages on that day.
Efforts to extend the temporary truce in Gaza were said to be hinging on Hamas locating those hostages. The structure was set up in 2018 to coordinate Gaza’s armed factions under a central command.
While these groups are drawn from a broad ideological spectrum ranging from hard-line Islamist to relatively secular, all shared a willingness to use violence against Israel.
Hamas statements repeatedly stressed the theme of unity between Gaza’s disparate armed groups. The group suggested they were equal partners in the joint drills, whilst it continued to play a leading role in the plans to attack Israel. Footage from the first drill shows masked commanders in a bunker appearing to conduct the exercise, and begins with a volley of rocket fire.
It cuts to heavily armed fighters overrunning a mocked-up tank marked with an Israeli flag, detaining a crew member and dragging him away as a prisoner, as well as raiding buildings.
We know from videos and harrowing witness statements that both tactics were used to capture soldiers and target civilians on 7 October, when around 1,200 people were killed and an estimated 240 hostages were taken.
Telling the world
The second Strong Pillar drill was held almost exactly one year later.
Ayman Nofal, a commander in the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades – the official name for Hamas’s armed wing – said the aim of the exercise on 26 December 2021 was to “affirm the unity of the resistance factions”.
He said the drills would “tell the enemy that the walls and engineering measures on the borders of Gaza will not protect them”.
Another Hamas statement said the “joint military manoeuvres” were designed to “simulate the liberation of settlements near Gaza” – which is how the group refers to Israeli communities.
The exercise was repeated on 28 December 2022, and propaganda images of fighters practising clearing buildings and overrunning tanks in what appears to be a replica of a military base were published to mark the event.
The exercises were reported on in Israel, so it’s inconceivable they were not being closely monitored by the country’s extensive intelligence agencies.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have previously carried out air strikes to disrupt Hamas’s training activities. In April 2023, they bombed the site used for the first Strong Pillar drill.
Weeks before the attacks, female surveillance soldiers near the Gaza border reportedly warned of unusually high drone activity and that Hamas was training to take over observation posts with replicas of their positions.
But, according to reports in the Israeli media, they say they were ignored. Brigadier General Amir Avivi, a former IDF deputy commander in Gaza, told the BBC: “There was a lot of intelligence that they were doing this training – after all, the videos are public, and this was happening just hundreds of metres from the fence (with Israel).”
But he said while the military knew about the drills, they “didn’t see what they were training for”.
The IDF said they “eliminated” Nofal on 17 October 2023, the first senior Hamas military leader to be killed during the conflict.
Hiding in plain sight
Hamas went to great lengths to make sure the drills were realistic.
In 2022, fighters practised storming a mock Israeli military base built just 2.6km (1.6 miles) from the Erez crossing, a route between Gaza and Israel controlled by the IDF.
BBC Verify has pinpointed the site in the far north of Gaza, just 800m (0.5 miles) from the barrier, by matching geographic features seen in the training footage to aerial images of the area. As of November 2023, the site was still visible on Bing Maps.
The training camp was within 1.6km (1 mile) of an Israeli observation tower and an elevated observation box, elements in a security barrier Israel has spent hundreds of millions of dollars constructing.
The mock base is on land dug several metres below ground level, so it may not have been immediately visible to any nearby Israeli patrols – but the smoke rising from the explosions surely would have been, and the IDF is known to use aerial surveillance.
Hamas used this site to practise storming buildings, taking hostages at gunpoint and destroying security barriers.
BBC Verify has used publicly available information – including satellite imagery – to locate 14 training sites at nine different locations across Gaza.
They even trained twice at a site less than 1.6 km (1 mile) from the United Nations’ aid agency distribution centre, and which was visible in the background of an official video published by the agency in December 2022.
Land, sea and air
On 10 September 2023, the so-called joint committee room published images on its dedicated Telegram channel of men in military uniforms carrying out surveillance of military installations along the Gaza barrier.
Two days later, the fourth Strong Pillar military exercise was staged, and by 7 October, all the tactics that would be deployed in the unprecedented attack had been rehearsed.
Fighters were filmed riding in the same type of white Toyota pickup trucks which were seen roaming through southern Israel the following month.
The propaganda video shows gunmen raiding mock buildings and firing at dummy targets inside, as well as training to storm a beach using a boat and underwater divers. Israel has said it repelled attempted Hamas boat landings on its shores on 7 October.
However, Hamas did not publicise its training with motorcycles and paragliders as part of the Strong Pillar propaganda.
A training video posted by Hamas three days after 7 October shows fences and barriers being demolished to allow motorcycles to pass through, a tactic they used to reach communities in southern Israel. We have not identified similar earlier videos.
Footage of fighters using paragliding equipment was also not published until the 7 October attack was under way.
In a training video shared on the day of the attack, gunmen are seen landing in a mock kibbutz at an airstrip we have located to a site north of Rafah in southern Gaza.
BBC Verify established it was recorded some time before 25 August 2022, and was stored in a computer file titled Eagle Squadron, the name Hamas uses for its aerial division – suggesting the paragliders plan was in the works for over a year.
The element of surprise
Before 7 October, Hamas was thought to have about 30,000 fighters in the Gaza Strip, according to reports quoting IDF commanders. It was also thought that Hamas could draw on several thousands of fighters from smaller groups.
Hamas is by far the most powerful of the Palestinian armed groups, even without the support of other factions – suggesting its interest in galvanising the factions was driven by an attempt to secure broad support within Gaza at least as much as bolstering its own numbers.
The IDF has previously estimated 1,500 fighters joined the 7 October raids. The Times of Israel reported earlier this month the IDF now believes the number was closer to 3,000.
Whatever the true number, it means only a relatively small fraction of the total number of armed operatives in Gaza took part. It is not possible to verify precise numbers for how many fighters from smaller groups took part in the attack or the Strong Pillar drills.
While Hamas was building cross-faction support in the build-up to the attack, Hisham Jaber, a former Brigadier General in the Lebanese army who is now a security analyst at the Middle East Centre for Studies and Research, said he believed only Hamas was aware of the ultimate plan, and it was “probable they]asked other factions to join on the day”.
Andreas Krieg, a senior lecturer in security studies at Kings College London, told the BBC: “While there was centralised planning, execution was de-centralised, with each squad operationalising the plan as they saw fit.”
He said he had spoken to people inside Hamas who were surprised by the weakness of Israel’s defences, and assessed militants likely bypassed Israel’s surveillance technology by communicating offline.
Hugh Lovatt, a Middle East analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Israel would have been aware of the joint training drills but “reached the wrong conclusion”, assessing they amounted to the “standard” activity of paramilitary groups in the Palestinian territories, rather than being “indicative of a looming large-scale attack”.
Asked about the issues raised in this article, the Israel Defense Forces said it was “currently focused on eliminating the threat from the terrorist organisation Hamas” and questions about any potential failures “will be looked into in a later stage”.
It could be several years until Israel formally reckons with whether it missed opportunities to prevent the 7 October massacre. The ramifications for its military, intelligence services and government could be seismic.
Rebuild trust with people to revive economy
by Jehan Perera
The government is facing an uphill task to rebuild the country which continues to be in a state of economic and moral decline which was evident in parliamentary proceedings last week. The initial hopes of a quick transition from the economic and moral decline that accompanied the pre-Aragalaya period ended with the accession of President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the presidency. The President made skillful use of the security forces, in the first instance, and the parliamentary majority thereafter, to restore the old order, government rule and stabilise the economy, albeit at a much lower level of economic wellbeing. But this won for him and the government the support of those sections of the population who could still live their regular lives and the international community who did not want Sri Lanka to fall prey to rival powers.
The Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe has expressed confidence that Sri Lanka will receive the second tranche of the IMF loan before the end of the year. He has made this prediction despite the failure of the government to meet the basic IMF conditions, which include reducing the gap between revenues and expenditures. The ability to access IMF funds despite not conforming with its conditions is indicative of favoured status. The budget prepared by the government shows a widening of the chasm that are mitigated by optimistic predictions of increased tax revenues. The government has signally failed to deliver on the IMF’s “governance diagnostic” which highlighted the need for much greater efforts to tackle corruption and to be transparent in the signing of new contracts.
If social media reports and personal anecdotes are to be believed, corruption is thriving at all levels. Agreements with international companies continue to be entered into with little being known of the terms and conditions, and even the debt restructuring agreement with China continues to be a secret.
But there continues to be a belief amongst sections of the Sri Lankan population and international community alike that the present unsatisfactory governance needs to be tolerated until the country makes the transition to self-sustaining economic growth. There is concern that any change of government at the present time would jeopardise the economic stability that the country has achieved despite the unconvincing evidence to the contrary. The general population is expressing its lack of confidence in the future by fleeing abroad and giving votes of no-confidence in every public opinion poll they can.
Despite the government’s continued hold on undisputed power, and skillful use of its parliamentary majority and security forces to enforce governmental rule, it is not able to show that it has the backing of the majority of the general population. The government’s policies seem to have the support of the business and upper social classes whose position is that there is no better alternative at present, a view that is echoed in diplomatic circles. But this sentiment is not reflected in public opinion polls that equally consistently reveal that the government and its leadership get less than 20 percent of the support and even much less. This accounts for why the government has resolutely defied calls for the holding of local government and provincial council elections, the latter which are long overdue.
The President’s announcement that presidential and parliamentary elections will be held next year may be a recognition that the government has come to the realization that it cannot continue to justify holding on to power without obtaining a fresh people’s mandate. The proposed budget is an indication of the government’s preparation for those elections. There are efforts in it to provide benefits for different sections of the people, though whether these promises will materialize is another question due to paucity of resources. President Wickremesinghe has pledged to provide tens of thousands of farmer families with free hold title to the land they currently cultivate under state leases. The motivation to obtain the vote of people by providing them with economic benefits is one of the key features of the democratic process not only in Sri Lanka but worldwide.
However, the skillful use of state power to provide economic benefits, utilizing the parliamentary majority to come up with news laws and use of the security forces to enforce those laws are not the only ingredient for success in governance. The general population need to trust those who are in power. This trust comes from consistency in word and deed. One of the features of the present government is that deeds do not follow words. The exemplary anti-corruption legislation is being used to catch those at the lower levels of the hierarchy but those at the higher levels continue to escape. The recent Supreme Court decision that apportions blame for the economic crisis that plunged vast numbers of people into poverty has not been acted upon and there is no indication at the present time that it will be acted upon.
There are two other areas where the government needs to rebuild the trust of the people. First is to convince them that the burden of economic recovery will be apportioned justly and equitably. The restructuring of the EPF and ETF pension funds which affected the poorer sections of the people adversely while the sparing of the banking (and corporate) sector may have been motivated by the fear that the collapse of the banking sector was a real possibility. However, the evidence that is now coming out, as demonstrated in Parliament by the Opposition, that huge amounts of loans taken by companies have been absorbed by the banks is unconscionable. The government needs to promise that it will rectify this and other such inequities as soon as possible, including the tax holidays to favoured companies. The recent parliamentary debates have provided the opportunity for the Opposition to make presentations that highlight the need for consistency.
The second area that needs to be addressed is the ethnic conflict in the country. This is a problem that has receded into the background of the national discourse, due to the overwhelming nature of the economic crisis. However, one of the root causes of the country’s economic crisis is that huge amounts of resources were devoted to fighting a war that need not have taken place if there had been policies that promoted inter-ethnic justice and equity. The security forces continue to extract a large part of the budget. Sri Lanka is not a unique country when it comes to having different ethnic and religious communities. Other countries have them too, but most of those countries, especially those that are economically successful, have found ways to resolve their differences through dialogue and mutual accommodation that benefits the entire society. Provincial council elections have not been held for over five years.
There is a need to convince the ethnic and religious minorities that they are a part and parcel of the polity and treated as equal citizens. The provincial council elections cannot be postponed for another two years. There is no logical basis in the President stating they will be held in the year following the presidential and parliamentary elections. The wrong that was done to the Tamils of recent Indian origin at Independence has still not been rectified. They continue to be the poorest and most neglected community in the country. An issue that is scarring the Tamil and Muslim people at the present time is the takeover of grazing lands in the east by people from outside the area. The residents of those areas have no government to protect them. This is not the way to build trust that will unify the people with the government to uplift the economy.
Christmas and the New Year in the Seychelles…
Although the group Mirage has been relatively quiet, in the local showbiz scene, they will certainly be missed by music lovers, and their fans, during the festive period.
They leave on Sunday, the 3rd of December, for a month long stay in probably the smallest country in Africa – the Seychelles.
The group, comprising Donald Pieries (drums/vocals), Benjy Ranabahu (bass), Thushara Rajarathna (keyboards/vocals), Thilak Perera (guitar/vocals) and Dhanushka Uyanahewa (vocals), will be at the Hilton Seychelles for two major gigs – Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
They will also be entertaining guests throughout their stay at the Hilton.
The group’s male vocalist, the famous Manilal Perera, who is now very much a part of Mirage, is unable to make this trip due to prior commitments, in the local scene, as a solo artiste.
Dhanushka Uyanahewa, who is not a regular member of Mirage, replaces Manilal for this particular assignment.
Since this is their very first trip to the Seychelles, they say they are looking forward, with great excitement, to checking out that part of the world.
The Seychelles is known for its picturesque beaches, ecological diversity, dense tropical forests, and the bright blue ocean that surrounds it, all of which combine to make the archipelago world-famous.
Mirage will be back in early January, 2024, and then, a few weeks later, they will be off to Australia for a Valentine’s Day gig in Melbourne.
The band has been to Australia before but it will be the first time that the present lineup would be operating, Down Under, with Manilal Perera as their frontline vocalist.
Their female vocalist Dhanushka Uyanahewa, who will perform with Mirage in the Seychelles, will not be in the lineup to Australia.
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