DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is the Editor-at-Large for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, Ekurd Daily, a multinational Kurdish news portal and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.





A woman wears a burkini in the sea Image FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

France, the birthplace of the bikini, just drew a line in the French Riviera sands – the towns of Nice, Cannes and Villeneuve-Loubet have banned the burkini, the feminine Islamist bathing costume. Other towns have followed suit and a firestorm of arguments pro and con have erupted.

I weigh in with my paltry 2 cents, for whatever that’s worth, for I love a First Amendment separation of church and state kerfuffle.

The burkini “is a swimming costume which covers the whole body with the exception of the face, hands, and feet [and is] suitable for wear by Muslim women”.  It is also a piece of clothing that defies common sense. It is counterintuitive – like getting dressed to take a shower. It reminds me of the loose ankle length, full sleeved chemises that were once in vogue.

The bikini, on the other hand, is a scanty two-piece bathing suit designed in 1946. Named for the Pacific atoll where the atom bomb was tested, it is like the bomb “small and devastating”. It is the real McCoy only if it can “be pulled through a wedding ring”. It leaves little to the imagination, and you can shower quite nicely while wearing one.

Islamic countries have religious laws that mystify non-believers. Pedestrian actions which we take for granted are subject to the death penalty. Adultery, promiscuity and homosexuality - enjoyed with such passion and élan in France - carries a death by stoning sentence in Saudi Arabia. To drink a glass of red wine in public in Teheran is not recommended. Any manner of dress that does not meet the hijab standard is illegal and contrary to law.

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Delivery of United State military aid to Lebanon, Port of Beirut, Lebanon, February, 2015 – photo courtesy al Arabiya – Agence France Presse


Beirut, Lebanon, once the Paris of the Middle East is the apocalyptic poster child for sectarian civil war. Lebanon is the battleground where the proxies for regional and international powers – the United States, the Soviet Union, Iran, Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian Liberation Army, Hezbollah and others –  tear the country to pieces on what seems a regular schedule. The country is in a forever unsettled state of affairs, its future allegiance always up for grabs. Into this cauldron of instability, the United States has just dumped $50 million dollars of military equipment. Are you fucking crazy? 

The present dicey situation goes back to the 1975 Lebanese civil war, a war between a Christian coalition and the PLO, Druze and Muslim militia alliance. Syria intervened with the Syrian Arab Deterrent Force in 1976. Followed by years of Israeli raids and incursions. By 1982 a multinational military expedition force made up of American, British, French and Italian units were in place occupying Lebanon. The civil war ground on until 1989 when a Saudi-Algerian-Moroccan led peace initiative resulted in the Taif Agreement which provided for a cease fire and withdrawal of foreign forces, still not fully implemented to this day.

But peace was not to be. Civilian coalition governments formed and collapsed; military actions, assassinations and suicide bombings continued.  Israel, the PLO and Hezbollah made Lebanon a contested war zone. “A report leaked by the Al-Akhbar newspaper in November 2010 stated that Hezbollah ha[d] drafted plans for a takeover of the country…” By 2013 the Syrian civil war had spilled across the border with 700,000 refugees in camps within Lebanon’s national borders. The surge of refugees continues unabated suggesting that “the country’s sectarian based political system is being undermined” and is at risk.

Whichever way you look Beirut, Lebanon is just a stone’s throw from the Middle East’s most volatile flashpoints. From geopolitical point of view Beirut is only 114 kilometers [70 miles] away from Syria’s capital Damascus, home of embattled President Bashar al-Assad who is waging a human rights violations war against his own people. Aleppo the city that he has laid siege to for so many months and that is making the nightly news daily is only 350 kilometers [217 miles] away.  

As the crow flies Nablus and the Palestinian West Bank are 186 kilometers [116 miles] away and Gaza by road is a mere 283 kilometers [285 miles]; Tel Aviv and Haifa, Israel are much closer. Amman, Jordan is 220 kilometers [137 miles]. ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s temporal power starts at Ar Rutba on the Iraqi border 363 kilometers [226 miles] away. To make my point, I drove from New York to Washington DC yesterday in less than 4 hours, a distance of 340 kilometers [211 miles].

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Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump, G. B. Trudeau Image courtesy Andrew McMeel Publishing.



Donald Trump may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but he is sharp enough. Business-wise he is savvy enough to have weathered a number of bankruptcies, disastrous business setbacks, more than 3,500 lawsuits and still maintain an enviable life style. He survived two scandalous marriages without breaking emotional stride. Do not judge his erratic and outrageous political pronouncements as delusional. They are part of a well thought out campaign strategy to ultimately lose the 2016 presidential election.     

Some have diagnosed him as a megalomaniac with a mental illness “characterized by delusions of grandeur, power, wealth, affluence and a taste or craving for power”. Others insist that his diagnosis is that of a textbook narcissitic personality disorder manifesting “an inordinate fascination with oneself, excessive self-love, vanity … [and] … erotic gratification derived from admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development”. Maybe so, but he remains functional.

He announced his run for President in June, 2015 in a less than grand setting – the lobby of his aging mid-town office building with a stainless steel escalator that he forgot to shut off in the background. Donald Trump was then a wannabe whose dreams never made the big time and who had been sidelined by the big guys, made to play on the sidelines “for nickels and dimes”.

Let me quantify his 2015 nadir. His companies had sought bankruptcy protection in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009. He had been forced to sell his interest in the General Motors building. He had bought the Plaza Hotel but it was failing, the mortgage payments in arrears forcing him into a prepackaged bankruptcy. Trump’s Atlantic City Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino had been lost with $3.4 billion in debt.

Then there was the loss of the Trump Plaza Hotel with $550 million in debt closely followed by the Trump Hotel and Casino Resorts bankruptcy with $1.8 billion in debt. That’s where he lost control of his name, his “brand”. He had been forced to sell the Washington-New York-Boston Trump Shuttle that had never made a profit. Trump Steaks, the “world’s greatest” were no longer sold and the Trump Steaks trademark had been cancelled in 2014.

He had lost control and millions in the Riverside South development of the bankrupt Penn Central West Side railyards on Manhattan’s West Side. He had transferred his interest in the Trump Winery, the former Kluge Estate and Vineyard to his son Eric who couldn’t hack it on his own. His daughter Ivanka, the supposed business whiz kid had sold the lease on her Madison Avenue boutique, then shuttered her Mercer Street store and had to move into Daddy’s building on 5th Avenue.

Real estate projects and developments in Mexico, New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Las Vegas and elsewhere had failed or ended in foreclosure.

And there were the failures of Go Trump [travel search engine]; Trump Vodka; Trump Mortgage [mortgage and finance]; Trump University [education]; Trump Magazine; Trump Ice [ice and water]; Tour de Trump [bicycle racing]; New Jersey Generals [professional football]; and Trump on the Ocean [catering at Jones Beach]. 

His candidacy was a shot at reversing this downward spiral with a grandstand play. His candidacy was never intended to succeed but just to give his brand a boost. It was a Hail Mary pass that was never meant reach the end zone.

Winning the Republican Party’s nomination was unexpected. Initially for him it was exhilarating, exciting, mind boggling, but today it is terrifying. He had expected to make waves, burnish his image and bow out of the race gracefully. He won and when the reality of his situation set in – four years in the Oval Office under intense pressure and scrutiny – terror set in.

The obvious solution to his dilemma is to lose the election. He is maneuvering an end game designed to lose the general election in November. He is currently committing political suicide, a pre-packaged political bankruptcy. How else can you explain his actions?  

His early policy positions were off the cuff, seat of the pants rants intended to inflame the masses: building a 2,000 mile wall on the Mexican border, making Mexico pay for it, banning entry of all Muslims, bombing the shit out of ISIS, urging that rogue and friendly nations join the nuclear club, promoting the use of torture and condoning the killing of civilians if need be. It was all part of the Donald persona not to be taken seriously.

Incredible as it may sound the ideas found a receptive audience and he was nominated. Now what? Trump has a choice: drop out of the race or throw the election.

Hints that Donald is keeping the dropping out of the race option open are statements made in the last two days: “I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged. I have to be honest” and “I’m telling you, November 8, we’d better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged … and I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us”. Add to that his demand that the presidential debates be rescheduled under threat of his non participation. For me these are clear signals to a potential exit from the race.

Should he continue to the election his recent statements guarantee defeat in November. He quarreled with the Kahns, the parents of a war hero, suggesting that they were paid shills for the Clinton campaign, that their son’s death was not a sacrifice and that in contrast “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard”. He then twitted “Mr. Kahn, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same – Nice” “Am I not allowed to respond?”

He is reported to have asked a foreign affairs security advisor not once but three times “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?” “If we have them, why can’t we use them?”

As we move into the final leg of the election cycle be prepared for more extreme statements. Remember you read the prediction here.





Taking A Stand – Baton Rouge July 11, 2016 8:15 am – Photo: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

Paying off families of murdered black men is an American custom not replicated in the rest of the world. The payment of “blood money”, million-dollar restitution by states or municipalities for crimes committed in their name by the police shifts the onus and blame from the perpetrators to society at large. The financial burden for this culture of immunity and impunity is never paid by the police departments or individual officers responsible. This should not be allowed.

The reverse side of the coin also fuels the divisive conflict between “us” and “them”. When a white policeman or state trooper is gunned down in cold blood the best that the state or municipality will do, after the media event, the funeral, the moment of silence and other expressions of hypocrisy, is live up to a collective bargaining agreement and pay the widow and survivors meager death benefits.

The formula used to determine monetary damages for wrongful death, the so-called “pecuniary loss” or the “valuation by human capital” rule is nothing more than a simple calculation of “the monetary amount the victim could have provided for surviving family members, based upon income at time of death and average work-life expectancy” and “reasonable compensation for the pain and suffering, while conscious, undergone by the deceased during the period intervening between the time of injury and death”. This leads to a racial and cultural divide that is best understood by applying the case study method.

Case study No. 1: Staten Island resident Eric Garner was a 6’ 3” 350-pound 43-year-old unemployed married African American in poor health. At the time of his death July 17, 2014, he was out on bail for selling untaxed cigarettes, driving without a license, marijuana possession and false impersonation. On July 13, 2015 without the filing a complaint the City of New York reached a settlement valuing his life at $5.9 million dollars.

New York City Police Officer Brian Moore was shot dead while on duty on May 4, 2015 in Jamaica, Queens. He was a 5-year veteran on the force with a salary of some $69,000. His death benefits, that is the value that the City put on his life and was willing to pay was “a New York City-paid pension based on 50% of final average salary” $5,833.33 or $486.11 a month for life to a designated beneficiary supplemented by a New York State special accidental death benefit which I calculate at $325,000.


The $5.9 million paid the Garner family does not reflect the pecuniary loss sustained. It was blood money paid by the City of New York to salve the community’s conscience. The $486.11 per month pension paid the Police Officer Moore’s spouse is an insult and the special accidental death benefit modest. 

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