February 2, 2017 Last Updated 10:03 am

Life lessons: Don’t make phone calls to world leaders when you are tired, don’t tweet first thing in the morning before breakfast

Morning Brief: Oceania US was at war with Eastasia Australia: Oceania US had always been at war with Eastasia Australia

Happy Groundhog Dog, the day we awake to discover that, just like previous days, we are caught in a continuous loop of depressing political news. I feel like I wrote that somewhere else before, but no matter. Happy Groundhog Day.

We start the day in the knowledge that we, here in the States, are in conflict with Australia. That is quite an accomplishment. Apparently the new president lost his patience with the prime minister of Australia when Malcolm Turnbull attempted to confirm that the US would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center, rather than talk about his “huge” electoral college victory. The nerve of the man. So, Trump hung up.

Australian media interview PM Malcolm Turnbull on Trump call

It came after a day in which national security adviser ­Michael Flynn took to the podium in the White House room to say “we are officially putting Iran on notice” – whatever the hell that means. Is that like Double Secret Probation?

In the morning today we awoke to the president putting UC Berkeley on notice, tweeting that he would consider pulling funding for the university over the cancellation of a speech by Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos.

The violence at Berkeley quickly revealed the split in opinion among liberals, many of whom saw the cancellation as an attack on free speech. I would remind those, however, that Milo Yiannopoulos’s anti-Muslim speech is not being suppressed, it is being subsidized – to the tune of a quarter million dollars, and turned into a profit center by Simon & Schuster.

The Washington Post, Greg Miller and Philip Rucker:

No ‘G’day, mate’: On call with Australian prime minister, Trump badgers and brags

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, James Massola:

‘Do you believe it?’: Trump vents on Twitter after Turnbull call

Australia’s relationship with the United States, its closest ally, has been rocked by the leaking of a fiery telephone conversation between Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump over the proposed refugee resettlement deal.

Relations between the nations were plunged into confusion on Thursday after a bombshell report in The Washington Post detailed that President Trump had called the arrangement the “worst deal ever”, called the Saturday phone call “the worst call by far” he had had with a world leader and that the President had hung up on Mr Turnbull after just 25 minutes when the two men spoke.



It is unlikely that cities such as New York, San Francisco, LA or Boston will concern themselves too much about the president’s threat to cut off federal funding over their status as so-called sanctuary cities. But what about a place like Austin, stuck in one of the reddest states in America.

It turns out that their concern will not be Donald Trump, but their own governor.

Gov. Abbott said he would take money away from Travis County, home to Austin – which is, incidentally, the state capitol. That might set up an interesting conflict when the city and county consider services it renders the state government… you know, like water and other utilities and services.

The Texas Tribune, Patrick Svitek:

In “sanctuary” fight, Abbott cuts off funding to Travis County

Gov. Greg Abbott has followed through on his threat to cut off state funding for Travis County over its new “sanctuary” policy.

Abbott’s office said Wednesday it has canceled criminal justice grants it usually administers to the county, whose sheriff, Sally Hernandez, recently announced her department would reduce its cooperation with federal immigration authorities when they request an inmate be flagged for possible deportation. The policy was set to go into effect Wednesday.

The move appears to target about $1.5 million Travis County was due to receive this year from the criminal justice division of the governor’s office. The division doled out $1.8 million to the county last year and has already paid out roughly $300,000 in 2017.



There is so much, too much news in the States that it will be hard for the media to report on what is going outside our own borders (unless we are starting a war with a country such as, I don’t know Australia, for instance). But 2017 is hardly a light year for news in Europe, what with the UK parliament voting in favor of starting the Brexit process. Then there is the upcoming election in France, which is becoming more fascinating by the day, what with the leading conservative candidate imploding over payment scandals.

Then there is Catalonia, which still is looking to vote in a binding referendum on independence, and Spain threatening force if it does so. War? In Spain? Jesus, this really is Groundhog Day, with the world stuck in the 1930’s.

Euro Intelligence:

Will it come to the use of force in Catalonia?

El Mundo leads today with the headline “Rajoy ready to prevent the referendum by force”. The story is that the Spanish government has warned the separatist Catalan regional government of the possibility of “drastic or coercive” measures. Sources within the Prime Minister’s office tell El Mundo that this means invoking Article 155 of the Spanish constitution which allows the Spanish government to “force” a regional government to meet its constitutional obligations by directly instructing regional officials…

…How did it come to this? At the weekend the radical left separatist CUP finally agreed to support the regional government’s budget for 2017, on condition that a referendum is held by September. They threaten to let the Catalan government fall otherwise. And this week there have been reports that the regional government is considering to bring the referendum forward to before the summer, which has alarmed Spanish centralists who want to avoid a vote at all cost.



Many years ago, the CEO of a newspaper chain thought it a great idea to make me a circulation manager. It was an odd thing to do, but this newspaper executive wanted to make me a general manager of one of the newspaper in the chain, knew I had both editorial and advertising experience, but felt it would be a good idea for me to also have circulation experience.

What a concept, right?

Well, I was a circulation manager for six months, and when I had to order my own new business cards I put the title Circulation Director on them just to piss off some of the other managers in the company who thought I was nuts to agree to move from ad director to circulation. It was a great six months, one where I learned a ton.

One thing I learned was that newspapers simply are not aggressive enough in selling themselves. They rely on independent contractors to throw papers out their car windows, but who do not go door to door like paper boys used to do, to sell subscriptions. Some papers won’t deliver to “tough” neighborhoods, or change the number of papers in racks when one rack sells out, but the other doesn’t sell any.

I’m proud to say that in my short time as circ manager I increased single copy sales by 20 percent and overall circulation by nearly 10 percent simply by being more aggressive.

Today, however, it is actually becoming hard to buy a paper on the streets of many cities. Newsstands are disappearing, and racks being pulled up.

Photo: Seattle Newsstand by Bill Ward used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

WESA 90.5, Marcus Charleston:

As Newspapers Go Digital-Only, Newsracks Disappear From The Streets

A lone Pittsburgh Tribune-Review vending machine, on the corner of Broad Street and Highland Avenue in East Liberty, is one of the few remnants of Pittsburgh’s once-thriving print newspaper industry.

“We’re trying to get them all picked up but there may be a few out there we’ll have to get later,” said Alan Bowlby, distribution manager for Trib Total Media…

…The dwindling numbers of vending machines, also known as coin racks, honor boxes and newsracks, from the landscape isn’t unique to Pittsburgh.

They’re a casualty of the nationwide decline of the newspaper industry and transition to online-only content.

At one time, more than 250 Tribune-Review newsracks peppered the city. Most have been collected and taken to the paper’s Newsworks facility in Warrendale.

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