Trump’s pivot on Syria: When final decisions aren’t final

All the anguished hand-wringing by media and political figures, all the doom-and-gloom predictions about global instability, turn out to be overblown.

President Trump is changing his policy on Syria.

That became clear over the weekend, and it says something about this White House that its sharpest critics fail to understand.

What was pitched at first as an immediate pullout of all U.S. troops from Syria now won’t take place for months, perhaps years.

Now anyone who wants to criticize Trump for an erratic style, for snap decisions, for zig-zagging on policy, be my guest. It’s not the most efficient way to run a railroad.

But here’s the thing: In many cases, Trump’s edict is not the end of the process. It’s the beginning.

And it’s part of the way he disrupts government.

With traditional presidents, there is an elaborate decision-making process, with meetings, memos, inter-agency consultations. White House officials consult congressional leaders, interest groups and, on foreign policy matters, American allies.


And then a careful rollout plan is devised to announce, market and sell the president’s decision.

The idea is to get buy-in from potential supporters and neutralize potential opponents. But even more, it’s to present the POTUS decision as final, measured and carefully considered. For a president to change his mind afterward would be an embarrassment.

Trump doesn’t care about that.

He’ll announce that he wants to withdraw from NAFTA, but that creates enough pressure that he was able to hammer out a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico. During the internal debate on NAFTA, according to Bob Woodward’s book, Trump said: “The only way to get a good deal is to blow up the old deal.”

In my book “Media Madness,” I broke the story of how Reince Priebus had given the president a decision memo on transgender troops in the military, with four options. They spoke on the phone and a White House meeting was slated for that morning. But Trump simply picked the third most-severe option and tweeted his decision.

The kicker is that Jim Mattis slow-walked the thing and, a year and a half later, a transgender ban has yet to take effect.

So it was with Trump’s order to remove the remaining 2,000 troops from Syria — which some conservative commentators, and such Republicans as Lindsey Graham, strongly opposed.

But John Bolton, the former Fox News contributor who is now national security adviser, laid out “conditions for a pullout that could leave American forces there for months or even years,” as The New York Times put it.

Bolton, in Israel, told reporters that American forces would stay in Syria until the last remnants of are defeated and Turkey offers guarantees that it won’t attack Kurdish troops backed by the U.S. The president, of course, had proclaimed that already had been defeated.

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States, at a minimum so they don’t endanger our troops,” said Bolton, who is said to have led a behind-the-scenes effort to slow down the Trump order. The president said last month he’d pull the troops within 30 days.

Trump pushed back yesterday, in a tweet endorsed by Bolton:

“The Failing New York Times has knowingly written a very inaccurate story on my intentions on Syria. No different from my original statements, we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!…..”


Even if the Times story is off to some degree, the process has clearly changed from the original presidential announcement of a month-long withdrawal.

It’s not that these post-decision debates are without cost. The initial Syria announcement alarmed allies and upset much of Congress. And it cost Trump the services of his Defense secretary, although he and Mattis were probably headed for a breakup anyway.

But all the media chatter about Trump losing the “last adult in the room” turned out to be overheated. There are other adults, including Mike Pompeo, who helped persuade the president to essentially drop the idea of an immediate pullout.

Trump goes beyond Yogi Berra. With this president, it’s not over till it’s over — and even then it’s not over.

Many who claim to have food allergy actually don’t: study

About how many people do you know who claim to have food allergies? While some of them might be legitimate, many purported food-allergy claims may be false alarms.

That’s according to new research that finds that 1 in 10 people in the U.S. are afflicted with food allergies, while nearly twice that number mistakenly believe themselves to be food-allergic.

Researchers surveyed more than 40,000 adults living across the country, finding that about 10 percent were allergic to one or more foods.

However, they also discovered that 19 percent of their subjects reported that they were allergic to certain foods, even though they didn’t experience the physical reactions that typically accompany a genuine food allergy. [7 Strange Signs You’re Having an Allergic Reaction]

While there’s no question that food allergies are real — and for some, potentially life-threatening — people who self-diagnose as food allergic without consulting a medical professional may be misinterpreting their symptoms as an allergic reaction, the study authors wrote.

In those cases, what the individuals were experiencing could be a sign of food intolerance” or other food related conditions” rather than a true allergic response, lead study author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Illinois, said in a statement.

Allergic reactions are the immune system’s response to a trigger that is perceived as a threat. Regarding food allergies, when some people eat a certain type of food — such as nuts, shellfish, wheat or dairy — it broadcasts an alarm signal to their immune system, provoking reactions that can vary widely between individuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Symptoms of food allergies can include hives, itching and swelling in the nose and throat, and stomach pain or nausea. In extreme cases, food allergies may lead to anaphylaxis — a state of shock accompanied by low blood pressure and constricted airways — which can be fatal if untreated, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Shellfish is the most common food allergen in the U.S., affecting approximately 7 million adults, according to the study. Milk allergies affect nearly 5 million people, followed closely by peanut allergies, which affect about 5 million people. Other widespread allergens include tree nuts, fish, eggs, wheat, soy and sesame, the scientists reported.

Allergies can be inherited or acquired, sometimes unexpectedly — bites from a type of tick have been linked to the onset of an allergy to meat, and a woman who recently received a lung transplant also acquired her organ donor’s peanut allergy.

In fact, developing food allergies in adulthood happens more frequently than expected, the scientists reported. They learned from the surveys that about 48 percent of the subjects who had food allergies first experienced at least one of them as an adult.

Enormous ‘Pulse of Death’ in Holocaust was worse than feared, researchers find

Nazi Germany’s eradication of European Jews during the Holocaust, one of humanity’s most despicable campaigns of violence, featured a much more ruthlessly efficient “kill rate” than previously understood — according to new research.

During the Holocaust, millions of Jews, along with members of different ethnic groups, gay men, Soviet prisoners of war, and others, were systematically murdered at concentration camps including Auschwitz, Treblinka and Belzec. They arrived at the death camps primarily by train and countless people died inside the cramped boxcars.

“Even though the Holocaust is one of the best-documented genocides in a historical sense, there is surprisingly little quantitative data available,” explains biomathematician Lewi Stone from Tel Aviv University in Israel.

“Because the Nazis destroyed nearly all records of the massacre, it is important to try to uncover what actually happened at the time.”

Operation Reinhard is known as one of the deadliest phases of the Holocaust.

Stone studied what he acknowledges is an “unusual dataset”: railway transportation records that detail the comings and goings of “special trains” on the German National Railway. Stone describes that network as a “critical component of the Nazi’s blueprint for genocide and destruction.”

In the space of around three months – roughly August to October 1942 – the train records reveal what Stone calls a “pulse of death”: an extreme phase of “hyperintense killing” in which the slaughter rate spiked for some 100 days.

During this gruesome time period, the data suggest over 1.47 million Jews – more than a quarter of all the Jews killed during the six years of World War II – were killed by a ramp-up of coordinated train transports and gas chamber executions.

The research suggests that the Nazis killed their victims during this window of time at astonishingly high rates — roughly 15,000 people per day.

Some other researchers have said the study’s death rate estimates are too high.

“The Holocaust stands out as a demonstration of how the efficient machinery of government was turned on people in an unparalleled way,” Stone writes in The Conversation.

“This is the key lesson of the Holocaust that I believe must not be forgotten.”