EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

12.26.18

Links 26/12/2018: 4MLinux 28.0 Beta and LibreOffice 6.2 RC1

Posted in News Roundup at 3:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Best of 2018: 5 Open Source SIEM Tools Worth Checking Out

    Security information and event management (SIEM) is the cornerstone of IT security. All other network solutions are merely data flows that feed into an organization’s SIEM. Not all SIEMs are created equal, and their capabilities can vary wildly. Choosing the right one for your needs can mean the difference between detecting a security weakness and becoming just another statistic.

    A SIEM solution is a combination of a security event management (SEM) system and a security information management (SIM) system. SEMs monitor servers and networks in real time, while SIMs store the data.

  • LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice 6.2 RC1 ready for testing

      The LibreOffice Quality Assurance ( QA ) Team is happy to announce LibreOffice 6.2 RC1 is ready for testing!

      LibreOffice 6.2 will be released as final at the beginning of February, 2019, being LibreOffice 6.2 RC1 the third pre-release since the development of version 6.2 started in mid May, 2018. See the release plan. Check the release notes to find the new features included in this version of LibreOffice.

      LibreOffice 6.2 RC1 can be downloaded from here, and it’s available for Linux, MacOS and Windows.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

      • Europe Speeds Ahead on Open Access: 2018 in Review

        Open access is the common-sense idea that scientific research (especially scientific research funded by the government or philanthropic foundations) should be available to the public—ideally with no legal or technical barriers to access and reuse. EFF is a longtime supporter of the open access movement: we think that promoting broad access to knowledge and information helps to ensure that everyone can speak out and participate in society.

        For over five years now, EFF and our allies in the open access world have been campaigning for the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR, S. 1701, H.R. 3427). Despite broad support from both parties and barely any opposition from anyone besides major publishers, Congress continues to snooze on FASTR year after year.

        While Congress dragged its feet on important legislative fixes, the most exciting changes came in Europe and at the state level.

        This year, though, something changed. Europe soared ahead of the United States with the Plan S initiative, a plan to require government-funded research to be made available to the public on the date of publication by the year 2020. Thirteen government agencies that fund research have endorsed Plan S, as well as a few foundations.

  • Programming/Development

Leftovers

  • US Corporations Are Micromanaging Curricula to Miseducate Students

    Over the past year, the Trump administration’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational program garnered $300 million in pledges from big tech companies. Implicit in this push is the commonly accepted though questionable notion that millions of cutting-edge STEM jobs await US workers but go unfilled because public schools have failed to prepare students for them. The STEM bandwagon rolls on at the expense of social studies, art, history and literature — all deemed “irrelevant” to career success and to education as a commodity — while promoting often biased and inaccurate corporate curricula.

    Open inquiry scarcely figures in corporate-funded curricula, according to Gerald Coles’s recently published book, Miseducating for the Global Economy. Coles points to materials developed by the Bill of Rights Institute (an organization created by the billionaire Koch brothers) as an example of the ideological distortions present in corporate-funded educational materials. For example, the curriculum developed by the institute teaches students that “the Occupy movement violated the rights of others.”

    Though Occupy protested abuses of the richest 1 percent, the Bill of Rights Institute curriculum is not concerned with this. Instead, according to Coles, it asks whether the police crackdown on Occupy was justified — and answers “yes,” because the New York Occupy demonstrators had purportedly damaged both the park and adjacent neighborhood. Somehow this was construed as a First Amendment violation and “consequently the government had a right to inflict pain (with pepper spray, for example) on the Bill of Rights abusers.” Occupy protesters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, engaged in similar malfeasance, according to the lessons.

    Coles reports that the institute has also developed curricula for North Carolina, in accordance with the state legislature’s 2011 Founding Principles Act, a bill based on model legislation provided by the American Legislative Exchange Council – a conservative group also funded by the Koch brothers.

  • Science

    • Indoor Plumbing Arrived in the U.S. in the 1840s. This Town Got Tired of Waiting

      For a little over 10 years, Zenobia Washington owned a home with a bathroom and hot and cold running water. Before that, she lived in a rental home. And growing up, Washington, who was raised in Exmore, Virginia, lived in a home with no bathroom and only cold water. Washington said her family heated up water on the stove.

      The Washingtons lived in New Road, a historically Black section of Exmore that was often ignored by city officials. But Washington was part of a dedicated group of community members who took matters into their own hands and improved what were long accepted conditions. She was enthusiastic about continuing that work, but she passed away shortly after speaking to YES! for this story.

      While much of New Road didn’t have sewers or septic systems, other parts of Exmore did, according to a case study from New York University’s Wagner Research Center for Leadership in Action.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • 25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System Is Better Than Obamacare

      Costly complexity is baked into Obamacare. No health insurance system is without problems but Canadian-style single-payer— full Medicare for all— is simple, affordable, comprehensive and universal.

      In the early 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson enrolled 20 million elderly Americans into Medicare in six months. There were no websites. They did it with index cards!

      Below please find 25 ways the Canadian health care system is better than the chaotic U.S. system.

      Replace it with the much more efficient Medicare-for-all: everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital. It will produce far less anxiety, dread, and fear.

    • To See Who Stands With People Over Lobbyists, Progressive Campaign Pressures Democrats to Quickly Hold Vote on Medicare for All

      In a petition circulated this week, the grassroots advocacy group Progressive Change Campaign Commitee (PCCC) is calling on the new House Democratic majority to advance toward a vote on Medicare for All legislation as soon as possible.

      “Big corporation lobbyists are spending millions trying to override the will of the people and kill Medicare for All before the fight even starts. That’s why it’s imperative that Congress sees that Americans haven’t forgotten about Medicare For All now that the election is over. This fight is just beginning,” PCCC declared in an email to supporters.

      “If Congress brings Medicare For All for a vote, we will see who stands with over 70 percent of Americans, and who stands with the lobbyists. Then we’ll know who needs persuasion—and who needs a primary,” the group continued. “Together, we’ll deliver this message to House Democratic leadership so they know where the public stands.”

    • The GMO Issue Reaches Boiling Point in India: Interview with Aruna Rodrigues

      In a recent article published on the India-based News18 site (CNN), prominent US biologist Nina Federoff was reported as saying it is time for India to grant farmers access to genetically modified (GM) crops. In an interview with the site, she says there is no evidence that GM crops are dangerous when consumed either by people in food or by animals in feed. Federoff says that the commercial release of various GM crops in India has been halted by the Indian government due to opposition from environmental activists.

      She adds that we are rapidly moving out of the climate regime in which our primary crops were domesticated, arguing that that they do increasingly worse and will yield less as temperature extremes become common and pest and pathogen populations change. She says GM will become more or less essential in an era of climate change.

      In recent weeks, aside from Federoff’s intervention, GM has been a hot topic in India. In late November, a paper appeared in the journal Current Science which argues that India doesn’t need GM crops and that the track record of GM agriculture is highly questionable. The paper is notable not just because of what it says but because of who is saying it: distinguished scientist P.C. Kesavan and M.S. Swaminathan, renowned agricultural scientist and geneticist and widely regarded as the father of the Green Revolution in India.

      I recently spoke with prominent campaigner Aruna Rodrigues about developments surrounding the GM issue in India, particularly the views of Federoff. Rodrigues is lead petitioner in a case before India’s Supreme Court that is seeking a moratorium on GM crops and selective bans.

      CT: What do you make of Nina Federoff’s recent comments advocating for GM in India?

    • Do You Have a Heart? On Organ Donation, Poverty, and For-Profit Healthcare

      Despite the efforts encouraging Americans to be organ donors and to “Give the Gift of Life,” we rarely hear about those who don’t meet the financial criteria. However, the reality is, that the “Gift of Life” is a privilege reserved for those who can pay—and the expenses are staggering. The average liver transplant costs $813,000; the average heart transplant, 1.4 million, with anti-rejection drugs totaling approximately $30,000 to $40,000 per year for the rest of a transplant recipient’s life.

      Is it ethical that a healthy person can always be an organ donor, if they were to die in the “right” way, but this same individual might not have been able to receive, if the situation had been reversed? It’s unthinkable, and yet this is the graphic reality in our for-profit US healthcare model; it is estimated that 25% of donated organs come from folks of modest means.

    • 5 Ways Nixing The Affordable Care Act Could Upend The Entire Health System

      If Friday night’s district court ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional were to be upheld, far more than the law’s most high-profile provisions would be at stake.

      In fact, canceling the law in full — as Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, ordered in his 55-page decision — could thrust the entire health care system into chaos.

      “To erase a law that is so interwoven into the health care system blows up every part of it,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health. “In law they have names for these — they are called super statutes,” she said. “And [the ACA] is a super statute. It has changed everything about how we get health care.” That concept was developed by Abbe Gluck, a professor at Yale Law School.

      The decision is a long way from implementation. O’Connor still must rule on several other aspects of the suit brought by 18 Republican attorneys general and two GOP governors. And a group of state Democratic attorneys general has promised to appeal O’Connor’s decision, which would send it to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and, possibly, the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court has rejected two previous efforts, in 2012 and 2015, to find the law unconstitutional.

    • How a Plant-Based Diet Could Finally Take Root

      In 1946, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company launched a major ad campaign with the centerpiece slogan, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarettes.” Print and TV spots featured capable, kindly doctors in white coats puffing on their Camels. In the early 1940s, Reynolds created a “Medical Relations Division”—which was actually part of the company’s advertising firm—that directly recruited the help of physicians and researchers to support the faux health claims made in Camel ads.

      It wasn’t hard to do. During the American Medical Association convention in 1947, doctors in the hundreds lined up for free cigarettes.

      Many people believed that the dangers of smoking were dependent on the individual. That myth was very useful to the tobacco industry. As long as the public was convinced that some people could smoke without damaging their health, while unlucky others—for whatever reason—would suffer ill effects, then anti-smoking measures would remain on a private level.

      But despite powerful marketing forces, science began to fracture the façade. The first major study to link smoking and lung cancer was published in 1950. It was the first rock in an avalanche of scientific literature warning against tobacco use.

      Fourteen years later, in 1964, the US Surgeon General released the first federal report, based on over 7,000 medical studies, cautioning the American public of the significant connection between smoking, lung cancer, and heart disease.

    • ‘A Disaster’: Critics Pounce on Trump USDA’s New GMO Labeling Rule

      Food safety advocates are expressing sharp disappointment with the final federal GMO labeling rule, released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

      While industry-friendly Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asserted in a press statement that the new standard for foods produced using genetic engineering (GE or GMO) would boost “the transparency of our nation’s food system” and ensure “clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food,” groups like the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)—and even food giants like Nestlé—say it does nothing of the sort.

      “It is obvious that this rule is intended to hide, not disclose, information about genetically modified foods,” said IATP senior attorney Sharon Treat.

    • Legal Hemp In The USA: What The 2018 Farm Bill Means For US Hemp & Agriculture

      Pres. Donald Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the 2018 Farm Bill, earlier today. This omnibus bill includes numerous programs and policy changes, not all of which are related to agriculture. For hemp supporters and industry professionals, it’s a cause for celebration. Hemp is now out of reach of the Drug Enforcement Administration and, with a few notable exceptions, closer to being treated like any other crop.

      “It’s been a long time coming and a lot of people have put a lot of effort in to get [legal hemp] to happen,” said Courtney Moran, founding principle of Earth Law, LLC, a firm that specializes in hemp law.

      Spearheaded this year by Sen. Mitch McConnell, the hemp legalization amendment was inspired by previous efforts from Rep. James Comer, and decades of advocacy work by hemp supporters nationwide. Legalizing hemp had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Legislators softened the most problematic clause in the amendment, which bans some people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry, during negotiations between the two chambers.

    • Agribusiness Invasion Threatens Indigenous of Paraguay’s Chaco Region

      The Paraguayan Chaco region has been home to various groups of Indigenous peoples for millennia. But over the past few years, the land has been invaded by agribusinesses for the purpose of unsustainable livestock production.

      As a result, the Chaco is losing forests at a rate of 240,000 hectares per year. At the current rate of deforestation, in 24 years, all Chaco forest cover would all be gone, and the effects will be mostly irreversible. To make matters even worse, the land is increasingly being covered in genetically modified soy and the toxic agrochemicals that go hand-in-hand with it. The soy is primarily produced as feedstock for factory farms in Europe and other parts of the world. Cattle ranchers and soy planters have stolen Indigenous land in the Chaco and forced its people into slave labor.

    • Dairy Farming is Dying. After 40 Years, I’m Done.

      After 40 years of dairy farming, I sold my herd of cows this summer. The herd had been in my family since 1904; I know all 45 cows by name. I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to take over our farm — who would? Dairy farming is little more than hard work and possible economic suicide.

      A grass-based organic dairy farm bought my cows. I couldn’t watch them go. In June, I milked them for the last time, left the barn and let the truckers load them. A cop-out on my part? Perhaps, but being able to remember them as I last saw them, in my barn, chewing their cuds and waiting for pasture, is all I have left.

      My retirement was mostly voluntary. Premature, but there is some solace in having a choice. Unlike many dairy farmers, I didn’t retire bankrupt. But for my wife and me, having to sell our herd was a sign — of the economic death not just of rural America but also of a way of life. It is nothing short of heartbreaking to walk through our barn and know that those stalls will remain empty. Knowing that our losses reflect the greater damage inflicted on entire regions is worse.

    • 2018 Was Hostile Year for Reproductive Rights. Will 2019 Bring More of the Same?

      Despite the 80 proactive reproductive justice measures passed while state legislatures were in session this year, the overall trend from 2018 continues to be harmful measures designed to reduce or eliminate access to federal and state-funded family planning services while further restricting abortion care.

      Reproductive health research nonprofit the Guttmacher Institute has designated 22 states as “hostile” or “very hostile” to abortion rights heading into 2019. In 2000, only 7 percent of women aged 13-44 (those deemed to be of reproductive age) lived in states considered hostile or very hostile to abortion. In contrast, nearly half — 46 percent, or 31 million — live in hostile or very hostile states heading into 2019.

      The currently hostile state of Ohio has sent yet another “heartbeat bill” — which would ban abortion at six weeks (before many people even know they’re pregnant) — to the governor’s desk, where it awaits his signature. Should he sign, Ohio would be the last state this year to move its designation from “hostile” to “very hostile.”

    • ‘Shame on this President:’ With Shutdown, Trump Cuts Off Funds for ‘Vital Services and Protections’ for Women Who Face Abuse

      Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) was among those condemning the government shutdown’s impacts on the safety of women and families, as funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expired at midnight on Friday as the shutdown went into effect.

      Along with nearly 400,000 federal employees who face a furlough thanks to President Donald Trump’s decision to shut down the federal government, programs that support women who have survived violence may now face funding shortages due to the turmoil on Capitol Hill. Congress’s failure to negotiate a spending bill over the weekend left programs that rely on the law without federal funding until at least Thursday, when lawmakers reconvene.

      “Because of the Trump Shutdown, millions of survivors who rely on programs funded by the Violence Against Women Act will not have the resources they need to stay safe right before the holidays,” Lee tweeted over the weekend as it became clear that the government would not reopen Monday. “Shame on this President.”

    • Warren-Schakowsky Bill Is a Huge Step Toward Bringing Drug Costs Down

      Martin Shkreli managed to make himself a household name a few years back. His claim to fame stemmed from the decision by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a company he founded and controlled, to acquire the rights to produce Daraprim. He then raised the price of the drug by 5,000 percent.

      This was very bad news for the people who were dependent on the drug. Daraprim is an anti-parasitic drug that is often taken by people with AIDS to keep them from getting opportunistic infections. People with AIDS who are being successfully treated with Daraprim are not going to want to experiment with alternatives.

      Daraprim was already a 60-year-old drug at the time Turing acquired it and had long been available as a generic. This meant that other manufacturers could in principle come into the market and compete with Turing’s inflated price.

    • Watch: Doc Follows Six Activists Facing Felonies for Exposing Animal Cruelty at Utah Factory Farms

      A documentary published Sunday by The Intercept follows the story of six animal rights activists with the group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) who are facing felony charges—which could result in decades behind bars—for rescuing sickly animals from two factory farms in Utah.

      Those arrested rescued turkeys from a Norbest-owned farm and pigs from Smithfield Farms, a Chinese-owned corporation. The cases have cast a spotlight on the state’s Big Ag-friendly laws.

      “I’ve received six felony charges now—six felonies for taking animals to the vet—and that’s, that’s a horrible feeling,” said Paul Picklesimer of DxE. “We know that the reason that we’re being prosecuted is not really for rescuing sick animals—the reason is because we exposed animal cruelty and that shows the power of a legal system and what it can do to repress justice movements in general.”

    • A Soil Microbe Saved My Life

      Chemo left me in a glassy-eyed haze that required a three-hour nap, but when I came out of it I started reading. I learned that the drug is called doxorubicin. More evocatively, it’s also called the red devil — and not just because of its color. Hair loss, mouth sores and nausea are some of its many side effects. It also blisters the skin, so it must be handled carefully. I discovered that the drug was derived from a strain of soil bacteria found in the late 1950s in the dirt outside of a 13th century castle in Italy. Not only that, I learned that the bleomycin I was taking was derived from bacteria, and my vinblastine was isolated from the Madagascar periwinkle.

      I was dumbfounded to find out that biodiversity was saving my life. Maybe I hadn’t paid enough attention in biology class.This blew my mind. I remember learning in school that some medicines, such as aspirin and penicillin, were serendipitously found in nature, but I always thought those were exceptions to the rule. If you had asked me where cancer drugs came from before that day, I would have said they were made by chemists tinkering in the lab, mixing together different compounds. I had spent the previous five years of my life studying environmental science, but I was dumbfounded to find out that biodiversity was saving my life. Maybe I hadn’t paid enough attention in biology class.

      [...]

      The Natural Product Repository at NCI is home to more than 230,000 substances derived from plants, animals and microbes found around the world. Scientists there are developing new methods of understanding the complex chemistry of natural compounds and conserving the samples they have. By mapping the genomes of bacteria and plants, they are gaining information they can use to synthesize new compounds with medicinal potential.

      But even as we rely on nature for fundamental medicines, we’re losing its diversity, and we’re losing it fast. Deforestation and climate change are driving species to extinction 1,000 times faster than you’d expect if no humans lived on Earth.

      I asked Newman if he knew of any sources of medically important natural compounds that have been lost. He remembered one, a tree that researchers at the University of Illinois found on the island of Borneo. They brought a branch back to the lab, where they discovered it contained a molecule that showed promising anti-HIV properties. Later, when they returned to the same spot, the tree had been cut down. Fortunately, researchers eventually were able to find similar trees and continue their studies. But given the rate of loss, we are undoubtedly losing species whose potential as medicines we’ll never know.

      Cancer taught me a lot of things. It taught me to appreciate the time I have on this planet, and it taught me something new about the true value of nature. I hadn’t realized how important biodiversity is for medicine and how much my own health relied on the diversity of plants, microbes and fungi. Protecting the diversity of life on earth is not just important for saving the wild places and animals we love. It’s essential for saving ourselves and the health of our loved ones.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • “Fort Trump” in Poland Is Another Dangerous, Delusional Idea

      Should the United States build a permanent military base in Poland? Dangle a couple billion dollars in front of Donald Trump ― who seems to see himself as America’s premier arms merchant, when he’s not using the presidency to make money for himself and his family ― and you can see his eyes light up. “Fort Trump,” we will call it, suggested Poland’s president Andrzej Duda, who knows how to manipulate an insatiable ego.

      Trump responded positively: “Poland would be paying billions of dollars for a base, and we are looking at that.”

    • Jeremy Scahill’s Top 10 Takeaways on Mattis Exit and Possible US Withdrawal From Syria and Afghanistan

      Journalist Jeremy Scahill—who has built a career reporting on American militarism and imperialism across the globe—turned to Twitter on Friday to weigh in on a few major foreign policy developments over the past 24 hours: the resignation of Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis, and President Donald Trump’s consideration of withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

      Mattis will leave his post at the Pentagon in February, according to his resignation letter circulated Thursday, which highlighted his policy disagreements with the president. The announcement of his imminent departure sent shockwaves throughout the Washington, D.C. foreign policy establishment and corporate media—whose lamenting that a man nicknamed Mad Dog was the last “adult in the room” also triggered an onslaught of criticism.

    • We Never Should Have Had Military Forces in Syria in the First Place

      The collective wisdom seems to be that President Obama blundered when he drew a “red line” over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and then did nothing when Assad’s dictatorship crossed it. I remember things differently. I look at it through the lens of all the things that didn’t happen.

      I remember not reading stories about US helicopter crashes, US prisoners of war, US casualties, regional allies letting us down or any sort of quagmire. As intervention in Syria was never popular, I remember Obama not stepping on a political landmine by spending money in Syria at the expense of domestic priorities. Nobody ever writes about the US lives that are not lost when we avoid entanglements in places like Rwanda and Syria

    • Time to Get Out of Syria

      We will breathe a big sigh of relief if the US deployment actually goes ahead: it will remove a major risk of war with nuclear-armed Russia, whose forces are in Syria at the invitation of the recognized government in Damascus. The US has no strategic interest in Syria and no business at all being militarily involved there. Except perhaps that the war party wants never-ending wars abroad for arms production and promotions.

      Trump’s abrupt pullout from Syria has shocked and mortified Washington’s war party and neocon fifth column. They were hoping reinforced US forces would go on to attack Damascus and move against Iranian forces. It was amusing to watch the anguish of such noted warlike chickenhawks as Sen. Lindsay Graham and the fanatical national security advisor John Bolton as their hopes for a US war against Syria diminished. Israel was equally dismayed: its strategic plan has long been to fragment Syria and gobble up the pieces.

    • Democrats Khanna and Lieu Support Syria Withdrawal—With Caveats

      Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., voiced his support Saturday for President Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria. While hawkish lawmakers criticized the announced withdrawal, Rep. Ro Khanna, another progressive California Democrat, has also voiced support.

      “We should applaud the president’s desire to put an end to these interventions, but should challenge him to assemble a team that does so with better planning and diplomacy,” Khanna wrote in The Washington Post. Khanna said that although Trump’s policy is not perfect, he is right to withdraw troops, and should provide assistance to refugees.

    • Afghanistan: Where Can the Anger Go?

      At a busy four-way intersection in the northwestern part of Kabul, traffic is stuck. There is no traffic signal, and cars are threaded through one another like a woven rug.

      A passenger car is in front of our taxi. The driver, with two children in the car, has managed to wedge into position, perpendicularly blocking three rows of cars. On the other side of his car are vehicles headed in the direction he came from, and another line of cars is trying to cross in front of his. The driver with the children cannot move anywhere.

      Soon, an angry man approaches on foot, placing his hands on the hood of the family vehicle and shouting at the driver. The man walks from the hood to the driver’s side window and back again, shouting. Now the driver cannot move his car forward without hitting the man. He absorbs the verbal abuse without gesticulating or yelling back.

      Twice a traffic police officer walks by, trying to untangle the knot of traffic. The angry man continues to yell in front of the car. Meanwhile, two other drivers step out of their cars and start yelling at the man though they don’t approach closer.

      [...]

      The value in teaching life skills, such as what to do with one’s anger and to share one’s feelings, is in its ripple effect. Through these lessons, Ramzia has a tool to help find a calmer way to respond to a four-year-old child at the kindergarten who is acting out or with a neighbor with whom there’s a disagreement. Others might take a moment to try to understand a situation before acting upon it. The skills can help shift how people engage with one another.

      Still, educational opportunities are few. There is no government school in the IDP camp to serve the 700 families, so instead of attending school, children spend their days playing in the dirt paths or working as child laborers outside the camp. For any who may attend school, life skills classes are not a part of the regular curriculum.

    • How the Second Amendment’s Militia Became Part of Today’s Standing Army

      Most people already have an opinion of what the Second Amendment means, or ought to mean, in contemporary US society. But what did it mean to the people who wrote it? Why did the writers of the US Constitution feel it was necessary to compose the Second Amendment, and what did they hope it would accomplish?

      It turns out there’s a short answer and a long answer to this question. The short answer becomes apparent as soon as we look at the actual text of the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The raison d’être of the Second Amendment is immediately given in the initial dependent clause: a well-regulated militia is critical for national security. Regardless of how we might feel about this statement, we can safely assume that, at the time of writing, the authors of the Constitution believed it to be true.

      Unfortunately, the conciseness of the amendment belies a number of conflicts and concerns about rights and duties, ownership and financial accountability. In order to really understand what the Second Amendment meant to the framers of the Constitution, a little more historical context is necessary.

      [...]

      Historically, the biggest military threat facing the colonists had always been the Native Americans and the French. When the British established colonies in the US, colonists were not accompanied by soldiers. They were forced to form militias to deal with external threats.

      The first federal use of the militia following the Revolutionary War was an attempt by the government to enforce a tax that many farmers felt was unjust.

    • The Meaner Trump Gets, the More Kindness We Feel

      In this difficult and traumatic holiday season it struck me tonight that a remarkable phenomenon is occurring. With desperate migrants on the move around much of the planet and authoritarian forces frantically erecting barricades, both literal and figurative, to turn them back, this country has shown it is not immune to the global dynamic. But the meaner Donald Trump gets, the more kindness the evolved among us seem to feel.

    • The United States Didn’t Lose the Cold War. Racist Plutocrats Won It.

      Watching the way that Vladimir Putin has bent the American government through his agents in the White House and the conservative movement, it is unsurprising that many leading thinkers recoil at the vision of the United States becoming in many ways a client state of Russia. Any patriotic American or (more importantly) anyone concerned with global justice and human rights should be equally revolted.

      But it’s also important to understand how and why this happened so that we can fix what went wrong and avoid similar missteps in the future. Dana Milbank’s latest piece titled “It’s official. We lost the Cold War” does the discourse no favors in this regard. Milbank cites all the ways in which U.S. policy has bent in a manner convenient to Russian interests to suggest that the U.S. lost the nearly century-old struggle with its adversary.

    • How to End the U.S. War on Syria

      The US war against Syria was one that people almost stopped. President Obama was unable to get Congress to authorize the war in 2013, but the Pentagon and foreign policy establishment, who have long wanted to control Syria, pushed forward with war anyway.

    • The Administration isn’t Ending the Wars in Syria or Yemen — It’s Shifting Strategy

      In September, it was revealed that Israel, in cutting its losses, stopped arming and funding rebel groups that reports disclosed they were secretly supporting for years. Like its Zionist ally, the US too has decided to cut its losses and not further rock the boat between itself and Turkey.

      Military failures and excessive expenditures have made direct war campaigns highly unpopular for the US following Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, the US’s strategy post-war on terror has been to pursue more covert strategies.

      These have been carried out through proxy wars, support of Western-backed rebel groups, media censorship and manipulation, and maintaining or increasing support and funding to NATO and GCC allies and Israel.

      The US has supported the YPG in hopes of utilizing the separatist faction as a proxy and reliable alternative to other rebel groups, helping it gain territory and grounding against ISIS in Syria. This has put it in conflict with Turkey, who considers the YPG a “terrorist” group. While the US has more faith and assurance in the group as a reliable and long-term proxy ally, Turkey has long harbored deep antagonisms to the groups separatist ambitions.

      The disagreement has prompted a deal by Turkey demanding that the US withdraw SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) presence, an alliance led by the YPG, from the Manbij by the end of 2018.

      Both the US and Turkey hope that the tides will turn in NATO favor, Turkey plans to launch an operation against the Kurdish group soon, forestalling a complete territorial liberation and victory for Syria, and expected to prolong at least some US military presence in the country.

      The second condition for US presence in the country, aside from the pretext of ISIS activity, is the stronger subtext of countering Iran’s allies.

    • Bring the Troops Home, But Also Stop the Bombing

      As our nation debates the merits of President Donald Trump’s call for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, absent from the debate is the more pernicious aspect of U.S. military involvement overseas: its air wars. Trump’s announcement and General James Mattis’ resignation should unleash a national discussion about U.S. involvement in overseas conflicts, but no evaluation can be meaningful without a clear understanding of the violence that U.S air wars have unleashed on the rest of the world for the past 17 years.

      By our calculations, in this “war on terror,” the U.S. and its allies have dropped a staggering 291,880 bombs and missiles on other countries—and that is just a minimum number of confirmed strikes.

      As we contemplate that overwhelming number, let’s keep in mind that these strikes represent lives snuffed out, people maimed for life, families torn apart, homes and infrastructure demolished, taxpayer money squandered, and resentment that only engenders more violence.

    • Arms Sales to Saudis Leave American Fingerprints on Yemen’s Carnage

      When a Saudi F-15 warplane takes off from King Khalid air base in southern Saudi Arabia for a bombing run over Yemen, it is not just the plane and the bombs that are American.

      American mechanics service the jet and carry out repairs on the ground. American technicians upgrade the targeting software and other classified technology, which Saudis are not allowed to touch. The pilot has likely been trained by the United States Air Force.

      And at a flight operations room in the capital, Riyadh, Saudi commanders sit near American military officials who provide intelligence and tactical advice, mainly aimed at stopping the Saudis from killing Yemeni civilians.

      American fingerprints are all over the air war in Yemen, where errant strikes by the Saudi-led coalition have killed more than 4,600 civilians, according to a monitoring group. In Washington, that toll has stoked impassioned debate about the pitfalls of America’s alliance with Saudi Arabia under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who relies on American support to keep his warplanes in the air.

    • The World According to the “Adults in the Room”

      Leave it to liberals to pin their hopes on the oddest things. In particular, they seemed to find post-Trump solace in the strange combination of the two-year-old Mueller investigation and the good judgment of certain Trump appointees, the proverbial “adults in the room.” Remember that crew? It once included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO, and a trio of active and retired generals — so much for civilian control of the military — including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Until his sudden resignation, Mattis was (just barely) the last man standing. Still, for all these months, many Americans had counted on them to all but save the nation from an unpredictable president. They were the ones supposedly responsible for helming (or perhaps hemming in) the wayward ship of state when it came to foreign and national security policy.

      Too bad it was all such a fantasy. As Donald Trump wraps up his second year in the Oval Office, despite sudden moves in Syria and Afghanistan, the United States remains entrenched in a set of military interventions across significant parts of the world. Worse yet, what those adults guided the president toward was yet more bombing, the establishment of yet more bases, and the funding of yet more oversized Pentagon budgets. And here was the truly odd thing: every time The Donald tweeted negatively about any of those wars or uttered an offhand remark in opposition to the warfare state or the Pentagon budget, that triumvirate of generals and good old Rex went to work steering him back onto the well-worn track of Bush-Obama-style forever wars.

    • Cold War Killer Blow Back

      Nuclear enthusiasts repeat endlessly that nuclear weapons have kept the peace. They should complete their sentence and admit it’s the peace of the dead.

      A new study by University of Arizona economist Keith Meyers caused between 340,000 and 690,000 deaths in the United States between 1951 and 1973.

      Using a newly designed method to trace the radiation in the fallout from the bomb tests, Meyers estimated the radiation doses given to unsuspecting citizens around the country. With a National Cancer Institute (NCI) database produced during its 14-year-long study of fallout published in 1997, “Meyers was able to track the amount of I-131[radioactive iodine] found in local milk and compare this with the number and nature of deaths on a county level,” Matthew Davis reports for BigThink online Dec. 14.

      The 1997 NCI report concluded that radioactive iodine in the fallout from nuclear bomb tests gave thyroid cancer to as many as 75,000 people in the US. Ten percent of the total number of thyroid cancers was expected to be fatal cancers, according the NCI.

      Tim Fernholz, writing Dec. 21 for the online news site Quartz Daily Brief, says, “By comparing [NCI] data with county-level mortality records, Meyers came across a significant finding: ‘Exposure to fallout through milk leads to immediate and sustained increases in the crude death rate.’ What’s more, these results were sustained over time. US nuclear testing likely killed seven to 14 times more people than we had thought, mostly in the Midwest and northeast.”

    • A Point of Holiday Agreement: Stop Wasting Money on the Pentagon

      In this season of (hoped for) peace and goodwill, it’s worth looking for things our divided country can agree on. And since all of us want to be able to trust government to spend wisely, we might find common cause in a surprising place: the Pentagon budget.

      When you think of politicians railing against the Pentagon (if you can think of any) it might be someone on the left, like Senator Bernie Sanders. That’s why I was gratified to see Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley take on the Pentagon budget in a recent op-ed in The New York Times.

      It’s a relatively rare occurrence for a politician of any persuasion to criticize the Pentagon — but especially for a conservative Republican like Grassley. (That said, the late Senator John McCain, when he was in the right mood, could do it with the best of them. And it’s not Grassley’s first rodeo, either.)

      The Pentagon deserves the criticism. Nearly 30 years ago, Congress asked the Pentagon to complete an audit that could show military leaders knew where our money was going. This year, the Pentagon finally delivered a result: After waiting nearly 30 years, the Pentagon failed its first-ever audit.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • US embassies ordering spy equipment? China seeks clarification from Washington

      The government of China has said that it is seeking explanations from its American counterpart after it a leaked database showed that US embassies purchased data forensics software and tactical espionage equipment, said a report in IntelNews. The database was published by anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks of Julian Assange, accused in the US of having breached espionage laws, on December 21. The WikiLeaks has named the database “US Embassy Shopping List” and says it contains over 16,000 procurement requests from various US embassies located across the globe.

    • The uncertain future of Julian Assange

      After more than six years spent seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Julian Assange’s relationship with his host has deteriorated and a diplomatic solution to end his stay could be on the horizon.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Dumb Ways to Die: Welcome to Our Mass Suicide

      The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we’ve got about 12 years to turn this climate change thing around and that’s just to avoid catastrophe, never mind guaranteeing a healthy planet in the future.

    • Ultra-deep life may be ultimate survivor

      Microbiologists have good news for those who fear that runaway global warming could disrupt human civilisation, trigger a sixth great extinction of animal and plant species or even start to wipe out most of life on Earth. Even in the worst case, ultra-deep life forms may ensure that is not the end of life as we now know it.

      New research confirms that far below the continental surface, at depths of 5km or more, and 10kms below the highest ocean waves, there is a huge and diverse community of living things, seemingly isolated from any climatic disruption and oblivious to catastrophic drought or flood, global thermonuclear war or even asteroid impact.

      This community of deep-dwelling single-celled creatures is enormous: bulky and crowded enough to outweigh the mass of the seven billion human beings on the planet by a factor of at least 245, and perhaps as much as 385 times. They have immensely slow life-cycles: they have even been called “zombie” microbes.

      Altogether, the mass of archaea, bacteria and eukarya – the three main stems of the tree of life – to be found in the deep Earth adds up to at least 15 billion and possibly 23 billion tonnes.

    • For Climate Safety, Call in the Engineers

      The diplomatic success at COP24 was remarkable, given relentless lobbying and foot-dragging by the fossil-fuel industry. The diplomats have read the science and know the truth: without a rapid move to a zero-carbon global energy system by mid-century, humanity will be in grave peril. In recent years, millions of people have suffered the hardships of extreme heatwaves, droughts, flood surges, powerful hurricanes, and devastating forest fires, because the Earth’s temperature is already 1.1º Celsius (roughly 2º Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average. If warming exceeds 1.5ºC or 2ºC later this century – temperatures never experienced in the entire 10,000-year history of human civilization – the world will become vastly more dangerous.

      The Paris accord commits national governments to keep temperatures “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and [to pursue] efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” We now have a rulebook for measuring greenhouse-gas emissions, sharing know-how, and measuring financial transfers from rich to poor countries. Yet we still lack the plans for shifting the world energy system to renewable energy by mid-century.

      The diplomats, of course, are not technical experts. The next stage needs the world’s engineering experts on power generation and transmission, electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, artificial intelligence for energy systems management, urban design for energy efficiency and public transport, and related specialists. Diplomats, rather than engineers, have been at the forefront at UN climate summits for the past 24 years. The time for engineers to take center stage has arrived.

    • [Last month] The impact of climate change on language loss

      Images of extreme weather and alarming headlines about climate change have become common. Last month, dire predictions about our warming planet from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were reported as distressing scenes from a devastating tsunami in Sulawesi, Indonesia were still in the news.

      As residents of Sulawesi villages mourn their losses and rebuild their neighbourhoods, scientists and policy makers seek to better understand and prepare for the effects of climate change. Often overlooked are the effects on the world’s languages.

    • Greenland’s Rapid Ice Melt Persists Even in Winter, Study Finds

      In the latest troubling study regarding how the climate crisis is affecting the world’s iciest regions, a new report by the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) found that the second-largest ice sheet in the world is currently melting even in winter.

      The study follows a report released earlier this month showing that Greenland’s ice melt rate is currently faster than it’s been in about 7,000 years. The island’s 650,000 cubic miles of ice is melting 50 percent faster than it did in pre-industrial times.

      “Greenland is a bit like a sleeping giant that is awakening,” Edward Hanna, a climate scientist at the University of Lincoln, told Inside Climate News this week. “Who knows how it will respond to a couple of more degrees of warming? It could lose a lot of mass very quickly.”

    • ‘Openly Declaring Their Illegal Whaling Activities,’ Japan Abandons Global Effort to Protect Whale Population

      After denying for several days reports that they were planning to leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Japanese officials said Wednesday that the country would withdraw from the 89-member panel in order to defy its ban on commercial whaling.

      The move will eliminate the country’s long-held “pretense” of hunting whales only for research purposes, said the conservation group Sea Shepherd, as Japan officially declares itself a “pirate whaling nation.”

      “This means that Japan is now openly declaring their illegal whaling activities,” Paul Watson, founder of the group, told the New York Times.

    • Facing Greta’s Climate Challenge

      Her address of under 4 minutes was a diamond of unadorned clarity, a challenge to all adults worldwide. In an 11 minute address earlier this year, Greta described her own evolution as a climate change activist while still a child, from: learning about the crisis, to spurring herself into solo public advocacy, and now forcefully challenging national and international politicians to act immediately in response.

    • The Green New Deal: Fulcrum for the farm and food justice movement

      Over eight decades ago, the Dust Bowl devastated over 100,000,000 acres of agricultural land and the Great Depression threw 15 million Americans out of work. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted The New Deal with sweeping national programs for work, agriculture, food, and land conservation.

      Today, the plan for a Green New Deal recently announced by congressional representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders is facing down even greater crises.

      Forty years of bipartisan consensus on neoliberal economic policies has produced unsustainable levels of global warming. It’s also polluted our water, destroyed our soils, contaminated our air, and poisoned our bodies. This destruction has gone hand in hand with the rise of unprecedented economic inequality.

    • The Green New Deal: Let’s Get Visionary

      In December alone, we learned that 2018’s global carbon emissions set a record high. NASA detected new glacier melts in Antarctica. There were wildfires. Coral reef bleaching. Ecosystem upheaval in Alaska as the arctic ice melts.

      Meanwhile the Trump administration sent an adviser to the UN climate summit to promote coal and warn against climate “alarmism.”

      So this all sucks. But here’s the thing about climate change: You can either ignore it, get depressed about doomsday scenarios, or believe that no matter how badly we’ve screwed up as a species, we’re also smart and creative enough to fix this.

      If the alternatives are ignorance and despair, I’ll choose hope. Every single time.

      So where can we focus our hope? What can we actually do about climate change?

      I’m excited about the Green New Deal, an idea that’s been kicking around since 2007 but was popularized this fall by Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and the youth-led Sunrise Movement. At least 37 members of Congress have signed on, along with dozens of activist organizations.

    • 2018: The Year of Day Zero and the Mega-Drought

      In 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, one of the wealthiest cities in Africa, faced the prospect of running out of water. This city of four million people was counting down the days to “Day Zero,” when they would turn on the taps and find them dry.

      Ultimately, Cape Town’s water conservation measures helped the city narrowly miss reaching Day Zero (for now).

      However, the experience stands out as a warning of what’s to come for large, developed population centers as climate change puts increasing pressure on the world’s water in unprecedented and unexpected ways, from a mega-drought in the American West to drier soils preventing rivers and lakes from recharging when rain does arrive.

    • Taking Path of a ‘Pirate Whaling Nation,’ Japan Reportedly Set to Resume Commercial Whale-Hunting in Its Waters

      Greenpeace joined a number of Australian wildlife conservation groups in condemning a reported Japanese plan to openly flout three decades of international law banning commercial whaling, saying the country’s expected decision to withdraw from a global commission on the issue and allow the killing of whales in its waters for profit would put it “out of step with the rest of the world.”

      Kyodo News Agency originally reported Thursday that Japan is planning to announce its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) by the end of the year, resuming commercial whaling in its coastal waters.

    • Five (More) Things You Can do Now to Address Climate Change

      Recycle. Eat less meat. Buy electric cars. Have fewer kids. Reduce consumption. Install solar panels on your home.

      These are just a few of the (primarily middle-class oriented) ideas that the media have offered over the last year to help you figure out “what you can do now” to address climate change and to avoid its most devastating impacts.

      Yet, in view of the 24th Annual Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland–a fiasco that produced no binding commitments by nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so as to avoid catastrophic climate change–these actions are clearly not enough.

      They never were enough.

    • Fossil Fuels and Climate Denial Still Reign in Louisiana Despite Scientists’ Dire Warnings for the State

      Louisiana is ground zero for the devastating impacts of climate change. Even though the state is already feeling the costly impacts to life and property due to extreme weather and an eroding coastline linked to a warming planet, its government continues to ignore the primary cause — human use of fossil fuels.

      The impacts to the region, such as worsening floods, heat waves, and sea level rise, will only be intensified as the globe continues warming, warn federal scientists in the latest National Climate Assessment report.

      But instead of heeding scientists’ warnings, Louisiana’s government continues to welcome the prospects of new billion-dollar petrochemical plants, liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, and an oil export hub, all without a mention of their climate change impacts.

      Leading the pack, Gov. John Bel Edwards continues to gush over turning Louisiana into a world leader in natural gas and oil exports.

    • Senators Demand Trump Admin Reveal Marathon Petroleum, Koch Influence on Clean Car Standards Rollback

      Two Senate Democrats this week ordered several Trump administration cabinet members and agency officials to reveal how the oil industry and Koch network have worked behind closed doors to influence the proposed rollback of auto efficiency and emissions standards.

      Senator Tom Carper of Delaware and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer sent a letter to the current heads of the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and others in the administration to demand information about a “covert lobbying campaign with oil industry groups to support Trump Administration efforts to weaken fuel economy standards and increase demand for oil consumption.”

      Last week, The New York Times reported on this covert campaign, exposing in particular the efforts of Marathon Petroleum, the largest oil refiner in the country, and groups connected to Koch Industries and the refinery magnates Charles and David Koch.

    • Coal Ash Dumps Are Contaminating Groundwater in 22 States

      Ten years ago today, the earthen wall of a coal ash impoundment in Kingston, Tennessee, ruptured, sending 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry rushing across the countryside, destroying homes and chocking streams and wetlands with the toxic leftovers from burning coal for electricity. Luckily, no one died in the flood, but more than 30 workers have died after cleaning up the spill. Another 200 workers are now sick or dying from blood cancer and other illnesses linked to heavy metals such as arsenic, selenium and mercury that are found in coal ash. A ceremony and memorial to honor the workers is being held today in Harriman, Tennessee, and a class action lawsuit against an environmental contractor who hired the cleanup workers is winding through the courts.

      The Kingston disaster was the worst coal ash spill in United States history and inspired environmentalists to push for tighter regulations over the past decade, but pollution from coal ash remains a widespread and ongoing problem. Across the country, coal ash, boiler slag and other combustion waste from power plants is stored in open air pits and impoundments, where rainfall creates a toxic slurry full of heavy metals. At least 67 coal ash dumps in 22 states are currently leaking harmful chemicals into groundwater and will require cleanup efforts in the coming year, according to recent data posted by power companies and compiled by environmental groups, who expect that additional leaking pits have yet to be publicly identified.

    • Ecocide as Creative Destruction

      According to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), since 1970 60% of the mammals, birds, fish and reptiles on the planet have been driven to extinction. To the extent that the WWF has it right, climate change accounts for less than 10% of these losses (graph below). As important and logistically complex as resolving climate change is, it is but one of a host of environmental ills in equal or greater need of resolution.

      Habitat degradation and loss and animal exploitation (e.g. trawl-net fishing) explain most of this animal extinction. Habitat loss is primarily due to deforestation to feed factory farm animals. According to the Guardian, these animal losses would require 5 – 7 million years to recover from. But as of today, the causes of extinction continue unabated with no plausible plans being put forward by national governments to address it.

    • Companies Blocked From Using West Coast Ports to Export Fossil Fuels Keep Seeking Workarounds

      A year after Washington state denied key permits for a coal-export terminal in the port city of Longview, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would proceed with its review — essentially ignoring the state’s decision.

      This dispute pits federal authorities against local and state governments. It’s also part of a larger and long-running battle over fossil fuel shipments to foreign countries that stretches up the entire American West Coast.

      We are sociologists who have studied how people respond to news about plans for big energy facilities in their communities. With President Donald Trump pushing hard for more fossil fuel production and exports, we believe it could get significantly harder for local communities to have a say in these important decisions.

    • Global water supply shrinks in rainier world

      Even in a world with more intense rain, communities could begin to run short of water. New research has confirmed that, in a warming world, extremes of drought have begun to diminish the world’s groundwater – and ever more intense rainstorms will do little to make up the loss in the global water supply.

      And a second, separate study delivers support for this seeming paradox: worldwide, there is evidence that rainfall patterns are, increasingly, being disturbed. The number of record-dry months has increased overall. And so has the number of record-breaking rainy months.

      Both studies match predictions in a world of climate change driven by ever-higher ratios of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, from ever-increasing combustion of fossil fuels. But, unlike many climate studies, neither of these is based on computer simulation of predicted change.

    • Looking for a shred of good news on global warming? Consider the explosion of cheaper clean energy

      It’s clear that 2018 was a terrible year for Earth’s climate. California saw the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in its history, the continually thawing Arctic got down to the last 5% of its oldest and thickest ice, and after slowing in recent years, greenhouse gas emissions were once again on the rise. This year was the fourth hottest on record.
      Reports from climate experts were grim as well. A dire report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in October, predicted widespread food shortages, massive coral reef die-offs and more deadly heat waves by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions are not rapidly brought under control. A U.S. government study released last month warned that the country’s agriculture, infrastructure and economy will all suffer stark consequences if global warming is not reined in.

  • Finance

    • Austerity is stupid, and why the powerful don’t like to admit it

      The poet Fernando Pessoa taught us that no stupid idea can gain general acceptance unless some intelligence is mixed in with it. So how can it be that austerity appears to have been generally accepted? Objectively it is a bankrupt policy – the data is clear on this – and yet it continues to be part and parcel of our daily lives.

      It happens that we now know what was already obvious for a while: that austerity is not only inadequate as a policy method to exit economic crises but that its continuation depends almost entirely on the inability of politicians to abandon the political capital thus far invested in advocating for it. It was true in Greece, in Portugal and it is true today everywhere in Europe. While the International Monetary Fund [IMF] now publicly condemns the austerity policies that the Troika of lenders – which incidentally included the IMF – forced down the throat of peripheral Eurozone economies, almost nothing has been done to turn away from them. Instead, we hear our leaders proclaim the end of the crisis as if we live in a black and white world which offers us simple binary options like: crisis/no crisis as if we were able to turn it on and off as we pleased.

      Isn’t today’s tragedy precisely that we are all very well aware of the cost of austerity, but nonetheless cannot bring our liberal establishments to admit that it was plain wrong? The Greek case shows that the political capital spent on pursuing austerity policies is – at least in part – the reason why such political investment cannot be renounced so easily. It would be like admitting that all the work that you’ve done was in fact a lie. And with elections around the corner, we all know that no political figure will admit to such blunders when power is up for grabs.

    • As Trump Claims Workers Support Shutdown for Border Wall, Unpaid Federal Employees Set Record Straight With ‘Shutdown Stories’

      “My husband is furloughed due to the Trump shutdown,” a Twitter user named Nancy wrote on Tuesday. “This is a very stressful time, and believe me, my husband does not want that wall.”

      The hashtag #ShutdownStories quickly went viral as federal workers shared with the world how they have been affected by the partial government shutdown, which reached its fifth day on Wednesday with no end in sight.

      Demanding $5 billion in funding for his racist border wall, Trump has warned the shutdown could last “a very long time.”

      “I’ve been a loyal, dedicated federal employee for almost 30 years. I love my work. I may have to terminate my husband’s caregiver because it’s so expensive, it’ll rip through any savings we have very quickly,” wrote one Twitter user. “I’m beside myself with worry this Christmas.”

    • [Old] Why Co-ops and Community Farms Can’t Close the Racial Wealth Gap

      Residents of one Detroit historic neighborhood have been looking forward to next year’s opening of a food co-op. It will help bring to market produce from a community farm and is part of a larger community development project that will include a health food cafe, an incubator kitchen for food entrepreneurs, and space for events. The project expects to employ 20 people from the mostly low- to moderate-income area.

      Twenty jobs may not seem like a lot when unemployment in the approximately 80 percent Black city is 8.7 percent, twice that of state and national rates. But this is what economic progress generally looks like in many Black communities: cooperative ventures such as grocery stores and community farms. More than 150 years ago, Black people emerging from slavery formed cooperatives to grow, sell, and distribute food together because their very survival depended on it.

    • Head of Russia’s ‘anti-extremism’ federal police department resigns, after ex-wife allegedly reveals undeclared real estate in Europe

      On December 26, Russia’s Interior Ministry confirmed what the magazine RBC reported two weeks earlier: Timur Valiulin, the head of the ministry’s ”Center E” Anti-Extremism Department, has resigned. One source told the magazine RBC that Valiulin was forced out after his ex-wife revealed that he owned undeclared real estate in Bulgaria and Italy between 2010 and 2012.

      Valiulin took command of ”Center E” in 2012, after heading Moscow’s organized crime prevention unit and the capital’s anti-extremism department. In April 2018, the U.S. government sanctioned Valiulin and dozens of other prominent Russians in response to “a range of malign activity around the globe” by Moscow. In October 2017, at a meeting of Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council, Valiulin advocated prosecuting parents and teachers whose teenage children and students participate in unsanctioned political protests.

    • Ben Carson Rolls Back Fair Housing Rules, Making Discrimination Easier

      Ben Carson made headlines earlier this year for using government money to purchase a $31,000 office dining set, but the Housing and Urban Development secretary’s expensive taste in furniture isn’t his only quality garnering criticism from housing and civil rights advocates. They’re concerned that under Carson, HUD is not only ignoring, but actively gutting rules aimed at preventing racial discrimination in housing.

      Carson, The Washington Post reported Monday, suspended an Obama-era fair housing rule that required local governments to submit desegregation plans before receiving federal housing funds, claiming, as NBC reported, that it was “suffocating investment in some of our most distressed neighborhoods that need our investment the most.”

      He also bragged during a HUD training about suspending that rule and another holding housing lenders and landlords accountable for policies that resulted in discrimination, even if it was unintended. It was a shock to an audience who had spent their careers fighting housing discrimination. The scene, Post writer Tracy Jan observed, “illustrated the uncomfortable reality for Carson as he nears the end of his second year as HUD secretary. Though he is charged under the law with eliminating discriminatory housing practices, Carson is also a longtime skeptic of using government power to remedy such inequality.”

    • President Assails Fed as the ‘Only Problem Our Economy Has’

      President Donald Trump lashed out at the Federal Reserve on Monday after administration officials spent the weekend trying to assure the public and financial markets that Jerome Powell’s job as Fed chairman was safe.

      “The only problem our economy has is the Fed,” the president tweeted Monday. “They don’t have a feel for the Market, they don’t understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders. The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch — he can’t putt!”

    • No, Donald Trump Is Not Leaving Us Poorly Prepared for the Next Recession

      There is a popular theme in the media these days that the Trump administration is leaving us poorly prepared for the next recession. The basic story is that high deficits and debt will leave us less room to have a large stimulus when the next recession hits. This is wrong, at least if we are talking about the economics.

      Before laying out the argument, let me first say that I do not see a recession as imminent. The recent plunge in the stock market means that the rich have less wealth, not that we will have a recession.

      Okay, I realize that not everyone with money in the stock market is rich, but the impact on spending is going to be barely noticeable to the economy. Furthermore, while middle class people are going to be upset to see their 401(k)s fall by 15 percent, they were fortunate to see the sharp rise the prior two years. Long and short, this is just not a big deal.

      As far as other factors pushing us into a recession, I don’t see it for reasons explained here. So I am not writing this because I think we are about to see a recession, but rather because I am trying to clear the path for when we eventually do.

    • ‘Plunge Protection Team’ Holds Emergency Meeting as Trump Chaos Sparks Fears of Another Financial Crash

      The deeply harmful government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demand for billions in border wall funding continued with no agreement in sight.

      From his vacation spot in Cabo San Lucas, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Sunday sent markets tumbling with a bizarre Twitter statement assuring the public that there is absolutely no reason to believe Wall Street is about to collapse—a move one reporter described as the “financial equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater.”

    • Kids in the Classroom Can Help Single Moms Rise from Poverty

      What are the options when child care suddenly falls through and your next class starts in 15 minutes?

      Take your baby to class with you?

      Kylee Barnes tried that a few years ago when her son was 2 and she was enrolled in community college in Albany, Ore. “We hadn’t been there three minutes when the professor said, ‘I’m sorry that’s not going to work out,” she says.

      Now a graduate student in Oregon State University’s master’s program in applied anthropology, Barnes had the opposite experience when she returned to class in January, two weeks after giving birth to her second child. Not only was her newborn welcomed in all her classes, she also was able to breastfeed her child without having to miss any lessons.

      Eight years ago, one of her professors, Melissa Cheyney, had created a written policy that permits student parents to bring their breastfeeding babies to class on an unlimited basis and their older children on those occasions when child care unexpectedly falls through. Cheyney’s policy has been adopted by educators on her campus and across the country, as well as in Canada.

    • The Megalomaniac and the Stock Market

      Trump doesn’t want the public to think the stock market has tanked because of Trump’s government shutdown, his trade war with China, and the $1.9 trillion increase in the nation’s debt caused by his tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. (Actually, these are the major reasons for the market’s drop.)

      So he’s blaming the Fed and its chair, Jerome Powell, for raising interest rates. And he’s ordered his staff to find a legal rationale for removing Powell. (It’s highly unlikely Trump has legal authority to do this, but like every other illegal thing Trump has tried, it may end up in the federal courts.)

      Which is rattling investors even more, because they worry Trump is trying to turn the Fed into his own political tool.

      All modern economies depend on public confidence that politicians can’t lower interest rates to serve their own purposes – such as getting short-term growth at the expense of long-term inflation and instability. (Which is exactly what Trump wants to do.)

    • How Activists Are Moving the Dial on Student Loan Debt

      Student loan debt has just reached an all-time high of $1.465 trillion. That’s double the $675 billion in loan debt amassed in June 2009, according to a recent report from Bloomberg. With more than 44.5 million people in some type of student loan debt, it’s increasingly becoming part of the platforms of high-profile progressive policymakers.

      The national conversation has come a long way in the years since activists started pushing the issue of student debt during the 2008 recession. Now, incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is vocal about the idea of student loan debt cancellation and Sen. Bernie Sanders talked about making public college tuition-free during his presidential campaign.

      “At first we were regarded as totally unserious as to how the world works,” said Ann Larson, co-founder of the organization Debt Collective. “Yet, less than a decade later, we have Bernie Sanders, some likely presidential candidates, lawmakers, policymakers, scholars and others talking about this.”

      The Debt Collective is the most recent iteration of a few grassroots initiatives aimed at tackling debt. The Strike Debt network attempted to mobilize borrowers to go into default to mandate student loan reform, while Rolling Jubilee used $701,317 in donations to buy up and cancel $31,982,455 of student loan debt. Today the organization is centered around canceling all types of debts by collectivizing the interests of individual borrowers.

    • What School Lunches Have to Do With Fixing Wealth Inequality

      Once a year, Russell Farms in Brackney, Pennsylvania, hosts a harvest celebration, where students from nearby Tioga Central School District in New York state get to visit, talk to farmers and pick apples from the farm’s 12 varieties.

      “It’s a great day because the kids can make the connection and see where their food is grown,” says Julie Raway, a registered dietitian for 15 New York school districts. And they are excited when the same fruit they sampled shows up in their cafeteria at school.

      Russell Farms sells apples to local school districts as part of a Farm to School initiative—a growing national movement that aims to create equity and redistribute wealth in the food system by reinvesting part of it in small, regional farms.

    • How a Consultant Said He Gamed HUD Inspections: Sweep Problems Behind a Wall

      When housing consultant Joe Reynolds arrived at the Chestnut Park apartment complex here in October 2016, he said he quickly came to the conclusion that it would not pass its mandated inspection by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

      The run-down affordable housing complex, which dominates the city’s skyline, had failed an inspection in 2013. It barely passed two years later. A failing score would have required the owner to certify in writing to HUD that it had fixed every problem with the building, and it could have brought enhanced scrutiny from HUD, potentially leading to penalties.

      The Dolben Company, which was then the property manager of Chestnut Park, hired US Housing Consultants, the firm that employs Reynolds, to help it prepare for the inspection.

    • The Postal Worker’s Christmas

      White House Office of Management and Budget recommended selling the public Postal Service to a private, for-profit corporation.

    • Ocasio-Cortez: If US Has $5.7 Billion for Trump’s Border Wall, What About Education, Healthcare, and Green Jobs?

      As President Donald Trump continues to throw a temper tantrum and threaten a government shutdown if he doesn’t get billions of dollars to build his infamous border wall, Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) turned to Twitter on Friday to challenge the GOP trope that the federal government simply doesn’t have the money to implement bold progressive policies such as Medicare for All or a Green New Deal.

      Spending legislation advanced by the Republican-controlled House Thursday night would allocate $5.7 billion to the wall, but that bill—at odds with a Senate-approved measure that lacks wall funding—seems unlikely to get through the upper chamber without Trump’s favored “nuclear option” of changing the Senate rules.

    • Paul Ryan Was a Villain And No One Will Miss Him

      Each New Year’s, my wife and I indulge one of our favorite traditions: the household purge. We scour our closets for stuff that’s just taking up space, quietly draining our home’s energy, and move it along. I can’t recommend it enough.

      This year, America’s doing the same thing — and putting House Speaker Paul Ryan out on the curb.

      For years, the ten-term Wisconsin Republican — who’s retiring as Democrats prepare to take over the House — enjoyed an improbable reputation as a “deficit hawk” and “deep thinker” about fiscal issues.

      Year after year, as House budget chairman, Ryan would roll out his latest “blueprint.” He’d literally roll up his sleeves for the cameras and detail his latest plans to slash rich people’s taxes and scale back public services for everyone else.

      For a while, mainstream liberals greeted Ryan as a serious interlocutor.

      They treated his plans to privatize Medicare, eviscerate Social Security, and shred the safety net as valid viewpoints in the Adult Conversation they wanted politics to be. Even if you didn’t agree with him, they said, you had to admit Ryan “had a plan” to “deal with the debt.”

      That scam propelled Ryan to the House speakership in 2015. Then the long con really took off.

    • Progressives to Nancy Pelosi: Keep Wall Street Democrats Away From Powerful Committee Seats

      Recognizing that merely having a slate of progressive champions on key congressional committees will not be enough if their voices are drowned out by Wall Street Democrats, a coalition of grassroots organizations on Thursday sent a letter calling on presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to significantly limit the number of committee seats given to “members of Congress who have records of working in the service of the corporations.”

    • The Real Resistance: 20 Grassroots Groups That Are Fighting the Good Fight

      Are you frustrated with The Resistance©, still fronting for Hillary Clinton while thousands of kids whose families fled the killing regimes in central America that she enabled are being held in concentration camps? You’re not alone. Here at CounterPunch we get lots of calls from readers this time of year asking: where are the good groups? Where can I send a year-end check and know that the money will be well spent, not recycled into a fat executive salary or an annoying direct mail campaign? There are many such groups out there; indeed, there is a vibrant and thriving grassroots movement across a whole range of issues. Unfortunately, we can’t bring all of them to your attention. But once or twice a year we devote the pages of CounterPunch to a survey of what these organizations are up to. Here’s our end of the year list of good groups, the real resistance, fighting on the frontlines against ICE, the coal companies, the police, the CIA, the warmongers, the banks, the slumlords, big pharma and the child separators. They all deserve your support and, if you can spare it, your money.

    • LA Teachers March Toward the Picket Lines

      Los Angeles public school teachers are preparing for a showdown, with a strike date set for January 10 and a 50,000-strong march on December 15 to show they have the support of students, parents, community organizations and supporting unions.

      In a year highlighted by struggles in red states like West Virginia and Arizona, where teachers organized actions spanning from wildcat walkouts to “sick-outs,” mass rallies and marches, LA teachers are getting ready for the fight of their lives.

      Called by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the “March for Public Education” brought tens of thousands of people to downtown Grand Park. Viewed from above, the march was a seemingly endless sea of red, worn in solidarity with teachers, along with signs, union banners and noisemakers.

      UTLA expected a turnout of 20,000, but that was far surpassed, largely through the efforts of person-to-person organizing at school sites, where teacher-activists were asked to keep count of the number of commitments among the union’s 33,000 members.

      The march, comprised of teachers, students, parents, community organizations and supporting unions, served notice to both Austin Beutner, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) superintendent, and Eli Broad, the billionaire pro-charter school advocate, that when educators go on strike next month, they’ll have plenty of support.

      “If my teacher goes on strike, I’ll definitely be there to support him,” said Manuel, a 15-year-old student from the San Fernando Valley who attended the event with his parents. “[The district] needs to devote more money to the students, because our schools need the help now, not later. I get sick of being in crowded classes, and not always being able to have enough books.”

    • The Wrong Conversation about Trump’s Tariffs

      Agriculture provides a perfect illustration. The New York Times Editorial Board notes in its December 4, 2018 Opinion that the agriculture sector is being hit especially hard, due of the loss of exports to China. But what we need is a broader conversation about the impact of trade rules on jobs and living wages, healthy food systems and the environment. Stating that Trump’s tariffs might hurt agriculture as a sector tells us too little about who is left behind, or harmed, by the administration’s policies.

      In the US today, 90% of US tax-dollar subsidies go to the production of five commodity crops: wheat, cotton, soybean, corn, and rice. These subsidies are distributed in ways that contribute to social inequity and environmental degradation. The top five recipients of subsidies since 2008 each received between $18.6 million and $23.8 million.[1] The Farm Bill passed on Thursday 20 December is no better, awarding millions of dollars to wealthy agribusiness and factory farms through commodity subsidies and crop insurance, reducing conservation and stewardship programs, and offering little to new farmers and ranchers or local markets and promotion.[2]

      These subsidies are handed out in a context where farmland is increasingly owned by financial investors and leased out to farmers, a trend that largely explains why it is so difficult for a new generation of farmers to emerge: the average age of farmers in the US is in the mid-fifties.[3] Meanwhile, according to the most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey by the US Department of Labor, farm workers work 42 hours per week and earn $7.25 per hour on average, but this “average” varies greatly[4]. This level of earnings puts farm workers and their families below the national poverty line. Undocumented farmworkers face even worse circumstances.

    • Can the Working Class Change the World?

      There have been millions of conflicts that reflect the fundamental antagonism between the working class and capital: in workplaces, in politics, in most of the institutions that help make the system tick. Through struggles, workers, sometimes in alliance with peasants, have won markedly better working conditions, protective laws, extensive social welfare provisions, even, in a few cases, sweeping revolutionary transformations. They have fought against racism and sexism and the destruction of Mother Earth. Indeed, the working class has significantly changed the world. And yet, the power of capital has remained intact, and many of the gains made have been rolled back, while the revolutions that offered such promise in Russia and China have either been destroyed or have moved so decisively toward capitalism that for all intents and purposes, they have been rescinded.

      For the working class to truly change the world, workers and peasants, along with their allies, will have to adapt a strategy that aims to overturn every institution that rules them, radically altering the terrain in which they live their lives: the way food is produced, the technology developed, the manner in which politics is conducted, the geographical scale at which economic exchanges are made, the relationships of production, the control of schools and media. In other words, whatever capitalism has wrought must be terminated and the world built anew.

      In this excerpt from the final chapter of my book, Can the Working Class Change the World?, I provide a vision of the world for which workers and the oppressed can fight – one that calls for a movement against and beyond capitalism.

    • Capitalism in the United States and in Europe

      So today, in a country that is not dependent on mobile capital economically, we see mobile capital has de-industrialized many parts of the country, is damaging companies and communities and the well-being of the working class, and probably of the professional class, and of the national interest and power of the United States, as investment goes toward a new rival in China. So we are seeing both the phenomenon of Donald Trump as President, who is returning, if not in a very constructive way, to a historical relationship of the US to the world economy and to mobile capital, and also a new Socialist movement in the US, in the Democratic Party, which has taken the insight of the Tea Party that you can solve an ancient problem of how to form a new party in the US with its particular electoral system by forming one right inside the larger party. And now socialists are gradually doing the same thing, and with some real success. So that after Bernie Sanders, an old, Jewish socialist from a small rural state got 13 million votes for president, we now have several young women, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the youngest person ever elected to Congress, and tens of thousands joining the Democratic Socialist of America. This is not an accident. The interests of the US as a country, and as a government, and those of finance and of mobile capital increasingly do not coincide anymore, and that means that almost anything could happen. We don’t know what a world looks like in which the US and capital don’t have the same interests, and we don’t know what a Europe united not to do what mobile capital wants, but to finally end the game of mobile capital playing countries off each other as it is still doing looks like. But we may be about to find out and that may be good news for all of us and for the world, and bad news at last for capitalism in both America and Europe, and almost certainly worldwide. So, we may look forward to the day that capital is reduced to being a public utility like water, roads, or electricity, and a servant of human well-being instead of a master of governments and companies and communities.

    • Why Argentina’s New Loans From the IMF Are Spurring Unrest and a Deepening Social and Economic Crisis

      In September, Argentine president Mauricio Macri accepted the 2018 Atlantic Council’s Global Citizen Award. In attendance were many of world’s neoliberal power players and policy makers, among them International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

      Facing the crowd, Macri gleefully admitted that “with Christine, I have to confess we started a great relationship some months ago,” referring to a series of loan agreements with the IMF amounting to $57.1 billion dollars. “I expect that this is going to work very well, and we will end up with the whole country crushing on Christine,” he continued. This dynamic of chasing an improved image with the world’s big banks and the dominant economies in the West is emblematic of Macri’s priority to secure a relationship with the IMF and improve the country’s image with global financial institutions. But it comes at a devastating cost for the majority of the population who will suffer from neoliberal policy prescriptions of structural adjustment and slashed social spending, as well as the resulting growing unemployment and poverty.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Interview with Edward S. Herman: Ideological Hegemony in Contemporary Societies

      Before his passing in November 2017, Edward Herman graciously gave a final interview to various media scholars in the preceding month of October. As the main architect of the Propaganda Model (PM), Herman offers in this exchange some comments on a range of topics and issues presented to him on the PM and its applicability and utility in the 21st Century. The questions and answers cover topics such as social control and inequality, how they are normalized and maintained; the usefulness of the PM in understanding patterns of media behavior in non-US countries; and how the PM positions television and the internet in relation to social and political change. Also addressed are notions of fear as an ideological control mechanism; ways in which media foster indifference, use of the PM to understand media coverage of Donald Trump’s election campaign and first months as President; and academia’s relationship to power structures.

    • We Can’t Wait on a Savior to Remove Trump. We Must Resist En Masse.

      The word complicity comes from the Latin root complicare, meaning to fold or weave together. When scholars talk about the moral complicity of the German people under Adolf Hitler, this Latin root cuts to the heart of the question we must be asking about ourselves: How do good people become folded into a program of genocide?

      As historian Peter Fritzsche says in this interview, “I don’t think the Germans would have voted for the Holocaust, but they accepted the exclusion of people who had previously been considered German citizens.” Acceptance is the key to complicity. Through acceptance and normalization, more and more people become folded into a society that legitimizes a fascist regime capable of greater and greater horrors. The majority of people don’t have to agree with the rhetoric and actions of the regime. They just have to accept it.

      Since the midterms, Trump has doubled down on his attacks on his opponents and the press, sent troops to the border with orders to use lethal force against unarmed migrants, promised to keep expanding tent cities to lock up immigrant children, and continued his climate denial despite the latest dire warnings that we are running out of time. He leads a regime that has locked down a pro-fascist majority on the Supreme Court, imminently threatening the rights of women and LGBTQ people, and has never stopped his white-supremacist scapegoating and demonizing of group after group with hateful and genocidal language.

      A growing number of people, with absolute certainty and little evidence, are predicting the imminent end of the Trump presidency from above. They say the Robert Mueller investigation and the Democratic majority in the House will bring Trump and Vice President Mike Pence down any day.

      Yet this is a regime that remains in power despite numerous outrages that should never have been accepted, all because massive, public displays of opposition are either non-existent or fleeting. Ask yourself: What have you accepted in the last two years? What will you be forced to accept by 2020 if everyone predicting Mueller indictments or Democratic impeachment is wrong?

    • An Undemocratic GOP Enshrines Zombie Laws via Midwest Coups

      In both of these states, where the GOP has ruled all branches of government since 2011, lame-duck Republican governors and lawmakers are fighting to overturn the voters’ choices in the Democratic upsurge on November 6. As apostate conservative author David Frum ruefully explained in his book Trumpocracy, “If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.”

      That repudiation of democracy has been on full display in Wisconsin and Michigan, where Republicans have made last-minute moves to strip away constitutional powers from incoming Democratic governors and attorneys general.

      Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker reached out from his electoral grave to sign lame-duck measures restricting the power of incoming Democratic Governor-Elect Tony Evers to shape economic-development decisions. Michigan Republicans are rejecting the voters’ clear mandate on everything from the minimum wage to paid sick leave to hobbling Michigan’s new commission designed to overcome flagrant gerrymandering. (Gerrymandering continues unabated in Wisconsin, with the Republicans converting 46 percent of the votes for state assembly into 63 of 99 seats.) The situation has led to virtual minority rule in both states.

    • Derangement Syndrome

      I have it. I have a bad case of it. Not yet bad enough that I’m medicating with an antianxiety or antidepressant, however I’m acquainted with people who require drug therapy to treat their Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS).

      The symptoms of TDS include agitation, sleeplessness, sorrow, despair. Each morning, I open my computer and read the news, not knowing if what I’m seeing is real or fake. I’ve come to despise that word, fake. In any context. We’re bombarded with it, with someone’s slinging it. Can anybody hear it and not think immediately of its association with Donald Trump, his supporters, with news?

      Still, I know that what we hear from corporate media and politicians is phony. Fox, CNN, MSNBC, phony. Either political party, phony. Speaking truth is a career-ending death wish.

      Presidents: Regardless of their oratory skills, the velvety smoothness of their vocals, a decision, either calculated or spontaneous, during a crisis to sing an inspirational spiritual, I remain untouched.

      News anchors: Regardless of their analysis and their reportage, I recoil.

    • Could India Have Remained an Undivided Country?

      It would be a silly question indeed to ask why December 25th is celebrated. On the other hand, one could ask why it is a national holiday in Pakistan, for it is not because it’s Christmas. By an unusual coincidence it happens to be the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of the country. Exactly how Pakistan came into being is an interesting story as it also leads to the question whether the dismemberment of the Indian subcontinent — now three countries — could have been averted.

      Jinnah started out as a voice for Hindu-Muslim unity, although wary of majoritarianism and Hindu domination. A highly successful lawyer with patrician tastes, he was averse to mob violence and wanted constitutional independence — the British handing over to an elected Indian government and a constitution safeguarding the rights of minorities.

      The first step was to seek Dominion status in which Indians would run their own affairs although subject to control by the British government. Accordingly a London conference was convened. The Round Table Conference began in grand style on November 30, 1930 with a plenary session at the House of Lords; after which the participants retired to St. James Palace for the talks.

    • Federal officials open investigation into reported abduction and torture of Amnesty International researcher in Ingushetia

      According to the Committee Against Torture, Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee opened a criminal investigation on December 3 into the October abduction of Amnesty International researcher and opposition activist Oleg Kozlovsky, who says Ingush anti-extremist police officers detained him, undressed him, beat him, and threatened him with blackmail and rape, if he refused to cooperate. Kozlovsky says he was even subjected to a ”mock execution” in a field, before he was dumped at a local airport and told to forget what had happened, or else his children would be murdered.

    • St. Petersburg’s lieutenant governor (the same one who once lied about birds damaging the roof of a sports stadium) has resigned

      Another top official in St. Petersburg has resigned. Say goodbye to Igor Albin, the region’s lieutenant governor, who will be remembered by constituents for supervising the construction of the retractable roof Krestovsky Stadium, and for lying in August 2017 about birds damaging the retractable roof and causing leaks.

    • Bolsonaro’s Brazil: Chicago Boy-style Neoliberalism

      On January 1, 2019, Jair Bolsonaro will begin his four-year term as Brazil’s president. Everyone expects his government to follow a neoliberal path. The only question that seems to remain is how far they can actually go.

      When it comes to neoliberal reforms, all eyes are on Paulo Guedes, Brazil’s next minister of the economy, who will head a ‘super-ministry’ that combines finance, industry, trade and planning.

      Guedes is a committed neoliberal. He not only earned his PhD at the University of Chicago where he was taught by the extreme right-wing economist Milton Friedman, but he is also a well-known fan of the Chicago boy economists who managed Chile’s economy during the Pinochet dictatorship, turning Chile into the first experiment in neoliberalism in Latin America.

      During that time Guedes taught economics at the University of Chile, demonstrating he has no moral objections serving under a right-wing authoritarian, be it General Pinochet of Chile or Brazil’s incoming president Jair Bolsonaro. And when it comes to Brazil, Guedes is set on a “Pinochet-style” fix of the economy: “The Chicago boys saved Chile, fixed Chile, fixed the mess”, he stated in a Financial Times interview. Guedes now has set his sights on ‘fixing’ the Brazilian economy in a similar way.

      In the last few weeks, it has become clear that Guedes has surrounded himself with other Chicago graduates. Joaquim Levy, who apparently has no problem shifting his political allegiance in order to get into any position of power, will head the powerful Brazilian Development Bank. Another Chicago graduate, Roberto Castello Branco, will serve as Petrobras chief executive. Several other Chicago trained economists such as Ruben Novaes are also given important positions in finance and trade. Bloomberg refers to this gathering of neoliberal fanatics as “Milton Friedman’s Brazil moment”, and international investors and news outlets such as the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal do not attempt to hide their enthusiasm, because they know what is about to happen.

    • We’re Learning the Truth About Voter Fraud

      For years, Republicans in North Carolina have tried to roll back voter rights in the interest of “preventing fraud.”
      But now, one of their own — Republican Mark Harris in the state’s 9th congressional district — stands credibly accused of paying a consultant who may have stolen or altered absentee ballots cast for his opponent. Officials have refused to certify the vote.
      As we press for accountability, it’s important that we also seek moral and factual clarity about voting more generally.
      In the month after the November elections, claims of so-called “voter fraud” seem to have reached a dizzying new level. Some politicians have even implied that counting votes equates to stealing an election.
      But counting every vote in any election is a legal and moral obligation. On the other hand, any attempt to secretly steal ballots — like in Bladen County, North Carolina, where residents reported strangers coming to their door and demanding their ballots — isn’t just shameless. It’s also illegal.

    • Thomas Friedman Shows Us Why Democracy is Facing Huge Problems

      When the columnist with the longest tenure at the country’s leading newspaper has no clue on the biggest issues facing the world, then it is a good sign that the elites in general have no idea what they are doing. He notes the disaffection of large numbers of middle class people in both Europe and the United States with the status quo.

      Friedman correctly observes that “average work no longer returns an average wage that can sustain an average middle-class lifestyle.” However he absurdly blames this on “rapid accelerations in technology and globalization.”

    • Jared Kushner’s Loyalty to the Patriarchy

      Like many I don’t know much about Jared Kushner, who remains somewhat of a mystery. A quiet, behind-the-scenes guy who has been called extremely loyal to his family, the thing I can say about Kushner as a woman and fellow American is that his decisions display an immaturity, dependency, and complete lack of wisdom.

      Kushner proved his family ‘loyalty’ during the much-discussed criminal prosecution of his father, Charles, who pleaded guilty to 18 charges, including retaliating against family members who testified against him by setting up his sister’s husband in a sex scandal, having it secretly filmed, and then sending the tape to his sister. Kushner defended him publicly and visited every weekend while he was in prison.

      Kushner has experience in defending what is not defendable, and doing it within quite a dysfunctional family. He now exhibits this behavior with his father-in-law, as it seems there is nothing President Trump could do to earn the disapproval of Kushner. Like a good-ol’-boys-club, Kushner’s supposed loyalty to the terrible decisions of his father and father-in-law is a microcosm of loyalty to the destructive patriarchal values that are leading us to the brink of a collapse.

      Part of patriarchal values is the inability to take responsibility for oneself and one’s action, and thus, the inability to make transformational changes. Once considered the attributes of a “real man,” this behavior is now seen by increasing numbers of people as extreme weakness and cowardice, and as a sickness that can barely be described.

    • What does the British government know about Trump and Russia?

      When the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu visited London in 1978, the British government did some serious sucking up. Ceausescu was an egomaniac and possibly crazy. When he went hunting outside Bucharest, his body-guards shot game with machine guns so he could be photographed at the end of the day with a shoulder-high pile of dead animals. He was also said to be a germophobe, sterilising his hand with pure alcohol if it touched a door handle. The French president telephoned the Queen to warn her that when the Ceausescus came to the Élysée, lamps, vases, ashtrays and bathroom taps went missing from their rooms. But Ceausescu got a state visit to Britain, with a knighthood (later revoked) and a stay in Buckingham Palace.

      Western governments are now trying to appease another germophobe with a reputation for narcissistic excess. The US is not Romania, the stories about Donald J. Trump focus on his cheating at golf, not hunting, and if the great developer removes any bathroom taps, it will be to replace them with something gold-plated. Even so, America’s allies worry that President Trump will get out of bed one morning and do something crazy: abolish Nato, declare war on Canada, give Alaska back to the Russians.

      So how might Britain be sucking up to Trump? A Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw, thinks that the government has not always done all it can to assist the Mueller inquiry into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia. Bradshaw was the minister in charge of the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, and has doggedly pursued allegations about Russian meddling in other people’s elections. ‘I’m told that Mueller’s team were over here late last year and they weren’t happy with the level of cooperation they were getting,’ he said. Another source, with links to the ‘intelligence community’, said this was continuing, even after the Skripal poisoning.

    • Orbán’s Latest Dance

      Viktor Orbán of Hungary is not to be hectored to. Arching with fury at the EU’s September motion to sanction Hungary for bad behaviour under the Article 7 process, he was resolved to ratchet things up. The motion, while getting 448 votes concerned about judicial independence, corruption, freedom of expression, academic freedom, the rights and migrants, amongst others did have 197 opponents. (48 abstained.) Spot, as it were, the east-west European divide.

      There was a time when Hungary was know nas the “merriest barracks in the socialist camp” dominated by more tempered form of “goulash communism”. The merriment, not to mention any gastronomic softness, has long soured, substituted by a more patriotic, state-centred sludge. Protesters are now being given the treatment that would not have been unseemly in the times of the Cold War.

      A week-and-a-half of protests against the overtime law passed by the Fidesz majority yielded the police forces fifty arrests. Orbán’s ruling party could not see what the fuss was all about. The law in question increases the number of overtime hours employees can be made to work from 250 to 400, a calculation to be made after three years. Pity for those workers, given the exodus of Hungarian employees to western Europe.

      [...]

      It is convenient, more than anything, to assume that the Hungary that emerged from the Cold War thaw was somehow more liberal, hopeful for a caring state of mind open to consultation and deliberation. Authoritarianism was in retreat; the democrats could finally come out. More on all fours with reality, it always retained an authoritarian default position, one that makes an Orbán figure less incongruous than imagined.

    • What We Learned From Collecting 100,000 Targeted Facebook Ads

      Since we launched our Facebook Political Ad Collector project in fall 2017, more than 16,000 people have participated in it. They all agreed to install a browser plug-in that anonymously sent us the ads they see when they browse Facebook. We used that data to understand and report on how political messaging on Facebook works, and how the system is being gamed to manipulate the public discourse.

      Although the number of users is large, over the summer we noticed a potential snag: We were receiving more ads from Democrats and progressive groups than from Republicans or conservative groups. Our hunch was that this was because we had more liberal participants than conservatives ones.

    • Indian Government Looks For Comments To Amend IT Rules

      Days after the Ministry of Home Affairs let out the order to keep all the computers under surveillance, the Indian Government has now started taking public comments on the same to amend the IT rules.

      The amendment of IT rules is to take place with an aim to cut down the flow of fake and derogatory news in India, mainly via social media sites such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

    • Corporate Democrats Are Already Punching Left Ahead of 2020

      Well-informed public discussion is a major hazard for Democratic Party elites now eager to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the 2020 presidential nomination. A clear focus on key issues can bring to light the big political differences between Sanders and the party’s corporate-friendly candidates. One way to muddy the waters is to condemn people for pointing out facts that make those candidates look bad.

      National polling shows that the U.S. public strongly favors bold policy proposals that Sanders has been championing for a long time. On issues ranging from climate change to Medicare for All to tuition-free public college to Wall Street power, the party’s base has been moving leftward, largely propelled by an upsurge of engagement from progressive young people. This momentum is a threat to the forces accustomed to dominating the Democratic Party.

      In recent weeks, Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has become a lightning rod in a gathering political storm—largely because of the vast hype about him from mass media and Democratic power brokers. At such times, when spin goes into overdrive, we need incisive factual information. Investigative journalist David Sirota provided it in a deeply researched Dec. 20 article, which The Guardian published under the headline, “Beto O’Rourke Frequently Voted for Republican Legislation, Analysis Reveals.”

      Originating from the nonprofit Capital & Main news organization, the piece reported that “even as O’Rourke represented one of the most solidly Democratic congressional districts in the United States, he has frequently voted against the majority of House Democrats in support of Republican bills and Trump administration priorities.”

    • Israeli Government Falls, Early Elections Called for April

      Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government agreed Monday to hold early elections in April after the ruling coalition appeared to come up short on votes needed to pass a contentious piece of court-ordered legislation.

      Netanyahu said his coalition “unanimously” agreed to disband the government and hold a new election. At a meeting of his Likud faction, he listed his accomplishments in office and said he hoped his current religious, nationalistic coalition would be the “core” of the next one as well.

      “We will ask the voters for a clear mandate to continue leading the state of Israel our way,” he said to applause from party members.

      The Knesset, or parliament, is expected to hold a vote on Wednesday to formally dissolve, setting the stage for a three-month election campaign and a likely vote on April 9.

    • Liberals No Longer Feel Your Pain

      Liberals are supposed to feel other people’s pain. Now they seem more intent on inflicting it.

      I noticed the de-empathification of the Democratic Party during the implementation of Obamacare. I lived in one of many counties with zero or one plan on offer. Low supply and high demand—hell, the ACA required you to buy one or get fined—allowed insurers to gouge patients with sky-high rates. The one plan in my county’s ACA sucked. It charged a $1400-per-month premium with a $10,000-a-year deductible—and featured no doctors within network within a 90-minute drive.

      On Facebook I complained about the paucity of affordable plans in my online health insurance marketplace. “I don’t know what you’re going on about,” one of my friends snarked. “I found an excellent, affordable plan.”

      My friend lives in Manhattan.

      When I pointed out that residents of big cities like New York had far more competition than residents of more sparsely populated areas, he acted as if I hadn’t said anything, continuing to sing the praises of the ACA. “Obamacare is a Godsend for me,” he continued. “So many great options!”

      This conversation-without-communication went on and on like that. It was like a variation of the old book “I’m OK, You’re OK.” Now it’s “I’m OK, You’re—Who Cares About You?”

      People often ask me for political predictions. Many people I know are Democrats of the Third Way/DLC/Clinton variety and so were understandably upset when I told them I was sure Donald Trump would win. “I grew up in Dayton, Ohio,” I explained. “The major swing states in this election are full of hollowed-out depopulated deindustrialized Rust Belt cities like Dayton. Free trade agreements like NAFTA killed those cities and destroyed their residents’ quality of life and crushed their American Dream. Hillary and the Democrats supported that globalization garbage. Trump will win because he’s the only one who talks about their problems, the only one who acknowledges they exist, and Democrats are too obsessed with identitarian symbolism.”

    • The Trump Foundation is shutting down, but the president and his family still could face liability

      The Donald J. Trump Foundation will shut down and distribute the money it has left to charities approved by the New York state attorney general, while the state’s lawsuit against the president and his three oldest children alleging violations of state laws governing charities proceeds.

      Under the deal New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood reached with the foundation two weeks before she will leave her post and be replaced by fellow Democrat Letitia James, the state attorney general’s office will wield veto power over which charities receive the foundation’s remaining US$1.7 million in assets.

      Meanwhile, Underwood’s lawsuit against Donald Trump and three of his children – Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric – will go forward even as the family foundation winds down. Underwood’s lawsuit seeks more than $2.8 million in restitution plus additional penalties from these four members of the Trump family for allegedly misusing charitable assets and to temporarily prohibit them from serving on the board of any nonprofit incorporated or authorized to conduct business or solicit donations in the state.

    • On American Values

      This phrase often grated on me, undoubtedly because I was allowing someone else to define it.

      “What are these values?” I often wondered as a multi-racial woman growing up in the shadow of a ‘War on Terror’ I absolutely did not believe in. I began to associate the values with the lines of a once-popular song: “we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.”

      Were these values equivalent to arrogant confidence that avoided responsibility and did not seek to repair harm done? Did they have to do with treating others with contempt?

      Yet, I now realize that this question remains unanswered; a great battle continues seeking definition – perhaps not of “American” Values, but of the values of the people living on this land. Ancient Indigenous prophesies speak of this battle – spiritual at its core, and we live in the age they saw in those times.

      Countless people have struggled with blood, sweat and tears for life to be honored on this land as it was in their hearts. Many more now join these ranks as America undergoes a profound and welcome soul-searching about what kind of people we want to be, and how we want to live on the earth.

    • Trump 2020 campaign used a shell company to pay ad buyers at the center of alleged illegal coordination scheme with NRA

      The Trump campaign funneled money to ad buyers alleged to have facilitated illegal coordination between the campaign and the NRA by routing funds through a secretive LLC that appears to be little more than a shell company, an investigation by the Center for Responsive Politics has found.

      While the Trump campaign stopped reporting payments to ad buyers alleged to have facilitated illegal coordination between the campaign and the NRA after the 2016 election cycle, Trump’s 2020 campaign has continued to deploy the same individuals working for the firms at the center of the controversy through payments to Harris Sikes Media LLC — a low-profile limited-liability company operating with no website or public-facing facade whatsoever.

      Facing the illegal coordination allegations are National Media, Red Eagle Media Group and American Media & Advocacy Group (AMAG), closely tied consultancies that share staff, resources and adjacent storefronts in Alexandria, Va.

      CRP’s analysis of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) records found that Trump campaign political ad disclosures on file with stations across the country have continued to include signatures and names of individuals working for National Media, despite no mention of National Media or its known affiliates on any FCC or Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosures. Those individual ad buyers’ names have simultaneously continued to be included in ad documents for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and America First, but with the ad buyers’ affiliation listed as National Media or one of its affiliates.

    • Trump’s Policy of Chaos Sends US Spiraling Toward Shutdown

      All this, of course, comes after the White House chief of staff resigned with no successor in place, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to prison at a hearing where the bagman made it clear who gave him the bag, and a federal judge delivered a scalding come-down-the-mountain scolding to Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

    • Updated: The Hidden Money Funding the Midterms

      Allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used a blind spot in campaign finance laws to undercut a candidate from their own party this year — and their fingerprints remained hidden until the primary was already over.

      Super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited sums of money in elections, are supposed to regularly disclose their funders. But in the case of Mountain Families PAC, Republicans managed to spend $1.3 million against Don Blankenship, a mustachioed former coal baron who was a wild-card candidate for a must-win West Virginia Senate seat, in May without revealing who was supplying the cash.

    • Andrew Bacevich on Mattis & Why We Need to End Our Self-Destructive, Mindless Wars in Middle East

      Secretary of Defense James Mattis has announced he will resign at the end of February, in a letter publicly rebuking President Trump’s foreign policy. Mattis resigned one day after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria and on the same day that reports emerged that Trump has ordered the withdrawal of about 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. The New York Times reports Mattis is the first prominent Cabinet member to resign in protest over a national security issue in almost 40 years. Much of the Washington establishment expressed shock over Mattis’s resignation. We speak with Andrew Bacevich, a retired colonel and Vietnam War veteran. He’s the author of several books, including his latest, “Twilight of the American Century.” His other books include “America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History” and “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.” He is professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University.

    • It’s beginning to look like a (very long) shutdown

      The Congress adjourned Friday without reaching a deal on federal spending, closing down parts of the federal government. The press likes to call this a “limited” closure because it’s only 320,000 federal employees that are being furloughed (out of some 2 million workers). Another 400,000 workers are “excepted” and will be required to report for work without pay until a spending bill becomes law.

      But that’s little consolation to those who work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, Housing and Urban Development, or Commerce, the Internal Revenue Service, or the other federal agencies that are now operating without funding from Congress. (The Environmental Protection Agency says it can operate a few more days on existing funds.)

    • Cui Bono? David Leask, Ben Nimmo and the Attack on Ordinary Scottish Nationalists

      We know for certain that the Integrity Initiative targets Scottish Nationalists, because two of its luminaries, otherwise unconnected to each other, David Leask and Ben Nimmo, collaborated on a massive attack piece in the Herald identifying individual SNP supporters as “Russian Bots”.

    • Yellow Vest Protesters Go Global With Their Fight

      Last weekend, the number of people protesting on the streets in Paris appeared to have shrunk considerably compared to demonstrations on previous weekends. The labor movement known by participants’ gilets jaunes (yellow vests) entered its fifth weekend of protest activity after the French government announced plans to raise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. The movement, with no identified leader and no official hierarchy, has drawn supporters around the country concerned about broader issues of economic inequality.

      Though French President Emmanuel Macron made concessions on Dec. 10, including raising the minimum wage by 100 euros ($114) a month and cutting out a planned tax on pensions under 2,000 euros ($2,280) a month, many in Paris feel this is not enough and believe the central issue remains unresolved. They have rejected both the neoliberal agenda supported by some purportedly left-leaning officials—including Macron himself— and the trickle-down theory popular on the right.

    • It’s the Agenda, Stupid! (Inverse Propaganda)

      Thinking about propaganda, I turned to one of the world’s authorities, Hannah Arendt, who wrote, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e. the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e. the standards of thought) no longer exist.” The parallels to our world today are simply frightening. I thought also about the words of the former Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany, Joseph Goebbels, who said, “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth”.

      We are living through a different kind of propaganda in our time. Although Trump and other deniers, like James Inhofe, have repeated many times that climate change is a lie and a Chinese hoax, what we are witnessing today is the suppression of truth—scientific truth. It is almost as if we are inhabiting a new Dark Age in which the observations of science are relegated to the status of superstitions. What we don’t know can hurt us—because we are rendered impotent.

    • We Found 95 New, Undisclosed Trump Appointees

      We have obtained a list of 95 new Trump administration appointees made over the past six months. Following a pattern we’ve detailed before, many of the hires previously worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign or at conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation. In other cases, appointees seem to have little work experience at all.

      We compiled the information from Freedom of Information Act requests and have added the appointees to our Trump Town app, which lets you search the disclosures of nearly 3,000 of them.

    • ‘We Should Expect Them to Keep Developing New Ways to Subvert Public Will’ – CounterSpin interview with Paul Rosenberg on GOP power grabs

      Janine Jackson: One can make too much of political gestures. But when 44 former senators co-sign an op-ed declaring that the country is “entering a dangerous period,” there may be something to see here. The piece, signed by 32 Democrats, ten Republicans and two independents, had reference to investigations of Donald Trump. But the ex-lawmakers’ stated concern about “the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently” could be well-applied in numerous places around the country. Where, as our next guest reports, we are seeing in the wake of the midterms, “a red tide of anti-democratic power grabs—strategies, tactics and rationales designed to deny the will of the voters.”

      Paul Rosenberg is a writer and activist. He’s senior editor for Random Lengths News, as well as a columnist for Al Jazeera English and a contributor at Salon.com. He joins us now by phone from Southern California. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Paul Rosenberg.

    • Communities Without Consequences: Demographics and the Destruction of Democracy

      Even after more than two years, the notion that America elected an ignorant, racist, profane, incompetent, reality show buffoon as President still seems incomprehensible to the rational, reality-based world.

      What is even more inconceivable is that Trump seems to have taken some 40 percent of Americans down his hate-filled, myth-fueled, anti-science rat-hole with him. Worse, the Republican Party is abandoning democracy and a sizable number of citizens seem prepared to join them, with 52 percent of Republicans saying they’d back Trump if he suspended elections in 2020.

      How did hate-speech, white nationalism, and authoritarianism gain so much ground in the “home of the brave and the land of the free?”

      The answer is complex, and there’s a virtual cottage industry forming to explain it. We have to start with understanding that it is mostly non-metropolitan (rural) Americans and white suburban males who support Trump and the Republican fear machine. First let’s examine the usual suspects, then we’ll take a look at a factor that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.

    • 10 Steps to Save American Democracy

      Trump isn’t the only problem. As Big Money floods our political system, and some in power are intent on making it harder for certain people to vote, we need a movement to save our democracy.

    • Ocasio-Cortez Calls for Furlough of Congressional Pay Next Shutdown

      US Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for congressional salaries to be put on hold during the next government shutdown.

      The US government went into a partial shutdown at midnight on Friday after President Trump refused to sign a spending bill that did not include $5 billion for his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He had long claimed that Mexico would pay for the wall.

      “It’s completely unacceptable that members of Congress can force a government shutdown on partisan lines & then have Congressional salaries exempt from that decision,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

      “Have some integrity,” she added, calling for salaries to be furloughed for the next shutdown.

    • Viktor Oban and Scott Walker: “Reconsider It!”

      rotesters poured into the streets of Budapest by the thousands the past few nights with calls for Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, to “reconsider it!” The policy to be reconsidered is what Hungary’s workers are calling the government’s new “slave law” requiring labor to work up to 400 mandatory hours of overtime (think: every Saturday all year at 8 hours a day), with the “promise” of pay 3 years later. Meanwhile, recent weeks saw protestors in Wisconsin marching to their capitol demanding the outgoing Republican Governor, Scott Walker (“butler” to the “black energy” oil and coal baron Koch Brothers), halt plans to restrict the powers of the new incoming Democratic governor. Changes to giveaways to big business through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, among other measures, would be foreclosed, ensuring that public gravy keeps getting ladled out to business interests favored by the Republicans.

      The Soviet Union always declared it was ‘dizzy with success’ on economic performance. They buried (pun intended) their critics in statistics to prove the point. Hungary’s Viktor Oban and Wisconsin’s (Hungary on the Great Lakes) Scott Walker, while not literally burying critics (both bully them), fill and filibuster media space with data declaring their economic victories justify their rule.

      Closer inspection reveals the fraud of these successes. Their chief claim to taking a victory lap in Hungary and Wisconsin is full employment. Both Hungary and Wisconsin possess industrial economies supplying mid-level products to global supply chains along with a mix of legacy industries. Orban and Walker both pursued wage suppression policies in order to attract and/or grow these sectors, where windfall gains would go to business, and go unshared with labor.

      In Hungary, the average salaries (gross) are kept below neighboring industrial competitors of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Wisconsin has done the same, with weekly industrial wages behind all Midwestern states (e.g., IL, MN, OH, IA, MI, IN) and with median household annual incomes over $9000 below neighboring Democratic Party governed Minnesota’s infrastructure-led (human and physical) economic strategy.

    • New Cold War & looming threats

      John Pilger, investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, talks about the U.S.’ aggression in the Asia-Pacific region and the decline of its global dominance and says that a “new Cold War beckons isolation for the U.S. and danger for the rest of us”.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Can the Government Block Me on Twitter?: 2018 Year in Review

      In 2018, federal courts across the country have been asked whether members of the public have a First Amendment right to speak on government social media pages. Three of these cases have been bumped up to appellate courts for review prompting numerous people to write into EFF, their local papers, and request public records asking “Can X official block me on Twitter?”

      Social media has become so pervasive that government institutions all over the world now use Facebook, Twitter, or other social media pages to announce government services, hold community meetings, and answer questions from their citizens. Every member of the U.S. Senate and most of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives have at least one social media page that they use for official business.

      But we keep hearing reports that people are being blocked by their elected officials and by government agencies on social media pages for posting comments that the government disagrees with. California Governor Jerry Brown blocked over 1,500 people from his Twitter and Facebook accounts, until a records request from the First Amendment Coalition convinced him to change the practice. Investigative reporting agency ProPublica has created a guide to help members of the public use transparency laws to see who local government officials are blocking, and one transparency hobbyist now runs a blog detailing her records requests on what accounts government officials and agencies are blocking across the United States.

      So how do traditional speech protections translate to social media pages operated by government officials? The answer depends on the specific facts at issue, but hopefully in 2019 appellate courts will continue the trend of protecting the public’s right to speak to government officials online, in channels created by the government.

    • IT specialists find some of the same privacy violations on the website of Russia’s media censor that got Alexey Navalny’s voting project blocked

      Earlier this week, a court in Moscow sided with Russia’s media censor and blocked a website operated by opposition politician Alexey Navalny, ruling that 2019.vote violated Russia’s privacy regulations and abused Google Analytics and Yandex Metrics. Officials say Navalny’s team should have notified users when collecting any personal information, obtained their consent, and provided them with a “published document that states a privacy policy.” Moscow Tagansky District Court judge Olga Sinelnikova ruled that user data legally needs to be stored on servers in Russia, and determined that “Smart Vote” prompts users to share their bank account information to purchase merchandise without disclosing how it handles the information.

      A day later, cybersecurity expert Alexander Litreev asked the federal censor (Roskomnadzor) to block the websites of the State Duma, the political party United Russia, and the news outlet Vesti.ru (a joint project by the state television networks Rossiya 1 and Rossiya 24), arguing that the three websites violate some of the same privacy rules that did in Navalny’s “Smart Vote” project.

    • Bloggers and Technologists Whose Voices Are Offline: 2018 in Review

      This year, we refocused our attention on Offline, our project that seeks to raise awareness of and provide actions readers can take to support imprisoned bloggers, digital activists, and technologists. Originally launched in 2015, Offline currently features six individuals from four countries whose critical voices have been silenced by their governments.

      Take Eman Al-Nafjan, the Saudi Arabian blogger and women’s rights activist who has long been critical of her government’s human rights abuses while living in the country. In May, Al-Nafjan was arrested along with several other women while filming a woman driving a car—just one month before the ban on women driving was officially lifted. A report from Human Rights Watch has found that a number of the women imprisoned in the crackdown have faced torture and sexual harassment in prison.

      Although Saudi Arabia has always been restrictive of speech, this year has proven truly frightening for human rights defenders. While liberal pundits in the Western media were busy praising Crown Prince Mohammad Al Salman as a reformist, the de facto ruler of the country was busy consolidating power. And now, following reports of torture and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, we are particularly fearful for the fate of Al-Nafjan and her compatriots.

    • Dangerous Court Ruling Says Colleges May Be Required To Block Access To Certain Websites

      Over the past few years, there have been a number of debates and legal fights concerning questions around Title IX and due process. Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is supposed to protect people in educational settings from sex discrimination. It has been interpreted in some questionable ways, lately, with regards to the due process of anyone accused. But, now it’s also impacting some other areas as well. The folks at FIRE highlight a fairly horrific appeals court ruling in the 4th Circuit, overturning a lower court ruling (that had dismissed the case), saying that a university might be required to ban access to certain websites under Title IX.

    • When Portland Tried to Dictate Favorable News Coverage of Its Protest Crackdowns

      Journalists rightfully turned down an offer by Portland police to observe the command center during a protest. They had at least three good reasons.
      After months of facing criticism for how Portland has been policing protests, the city’s mayor and police bureau recently invited select reporters to the bureau’s command center to watch their policing in action. The only catch? Well, there were at least three.

      But first, some background: The Portland Police Bureau’s harsh crackdown on a recent wave of anti-Trump and anti-racist protests has been biased and almost certainly unconstitutional, with frequent use of explosives, pepper spray, and tear gas on demonstrators, as well as mass detentions and arrests.

      And yet, downtown business owners and far-right groups still complained that the city wasn’t doing enough to stop protests in Portland. In response, Mayor Ted Wheeler proposed an unconstitutional emergency ordinance that would have limited when and where protesters could gather and given the police even more authority to stifle free speech. Fortunately, the Portland City Council rejected it.

    • Jonathan McDowell on censorship

      Paragraph 1 is the one we trot out. Paragraph 2 doesn’t get so much airtime. The right to freedom of expression is not unqualified (compare Article 3 which prohibits torture and is short and succinct). There are recognised needs to curtail the freedom of expression. Even if you ignore state decisions such as “national security” or “protection of morals” it is still necessary to respect the right of others. The common tension is between the right to Freedom of Expression and the Right to respect for private and family life (Article 8), but prevention of disclosure of information received in confidence is also explicitly called out.

      These qualifications on the right to freedom of expression shouldn’t seem surprising. Society is all about balancing the needs of everyone to try and achieve some sort of harmony. We can be generally in favour of a free press while also accepting that there need to be some limits on how much they can intrude into people’s personal lives. Equally just because one finds doxxing despicable doesn’t mean one is against freedom of expression. We need to stop the black and white view that any attempt to curtail freedom of expression, no matter what the context, is a violation of an unqualified fundamental right. Too much simplification of the details takes place.

    • Sochi journalist sentenced to six years in prison for allegedly blackmailing federal lawmaker

      A year after police arrested journalist Alexander Valov, a court in Sochi has sentenced him to six years in prison for allegedly blackmailing State Duma deputy Yuri Napso. Prosecutors say Valov demanded in June 2016 that the federal lawmaker pay him 300,000 rubles ($4,325) immediately and as much as 20,000 rubles ($285) every month afterwards to stop him from publishing negative stories on his website, BlogSochi.

      The case evidence against Valov revealed that federal agents were monitoring his phone conversations as a political oppositionist for roughly two years before his arrest.

    • Expression on the Corporate Web: 2018 Year in Review

      The passing of SESTA/FOSTA in early 2018 ushered in a new threat to free expression online, and pushed companies to take sweeping action against certain speech. Although not every instance of policy changes can be directly attributed to the law, it’s hard not to see its influence. From Tumblr’s early December to Facebook’s blunt new policy on sexual solicitation, it’s clear that we’re seeing a chilling effect.

      Additionally, measures presumably intended to minimize takedowns—such as demonetization on YouTube—are appearing to have an outsized impact on users whose work deals with sex, such as sexual health educators and LGBTQ+ YouTubers. All in all, the window for sexual expression on the corporate Web narrowed in 2018.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Connected Cars Accelerate Down Data-Collection Highway

      That holiday trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house could turn into a nice little gift for automakers as they increasingly collect oodles and oodles of data about the driver.

      Automakers are collecting valuable pieces of information thanks to the internet connections, cameras and sensors built into most vehicles in recent years. The online access makes it possible for cars to be unlocked remotely if the keys are lost. It’s how safety features can be upgraded wirelessly and maintenance schedules adjusted based on performance.

      But these digital peepholes are also offering a windshield-size view of people’s lives. That’s creating the potential for intrusive marketing pitches and government surveillance.

      No serious incidents have occurred in the United States, Europe and Japan, but a red flag has already been raised in China, where automakers have been sharing location details of connected cars with the government.

      “We are not that far away from when 100 percent of all new cars will come equipped with data modems,” Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid predicted. “Having the potential to collect more data about people in their cars means there is going to be potential for abuses, too.”

    • Using Technology to Protect Online Privacy: 2018 Year in Review

      On a positive note, we added a ton of new features to Privacy Badger, EFF’s anti-tracking browser extension for Firefox and Chrome. We started by revamping the experience for new users and ensuring Privacy Badger is effective right out of the box with pre-training. Unlike most tracker-blockers, Privacy Badger learns as you browse, and it doesn’t send any information about your browsing activity back to EFF. This means that, in the past, Privacy Badger wouldn’t begin blocking trackers for new users until after they’d browsed the web for a while. Now, thanks to a new learning regimen, fresh installs of Privacy Badger block most common trackers from the very start. Furthermore, Privacy Badger installations can now be preconfigured using managed storage, allowing administrators to set global defaults for their organizations.

      Privacy Badger has also learned to block new kinds of tracking as well, including link tracking on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Link tracking occurs when a first-party website, like Google, modifies the outgoing links from its site so that they report back to the company when you click to leave the page. This can be achieved with asynchronous requests made with Javascript, or with “link shims” that redirect you through a Google domain before sending you to your final destination. Privacy Badger also now rewrites URLs on Facebook to remove the company’s new “fbclid” tracking parameters.

    • Big Wins for Privacy and Free Speech: 2018 in Review

      As 2018 draws to a close, we’ve gathered together some of EFF’s key legal wins this year. Some of these wins are only stops along the way to a larger goal, but each is hard fought, whether we’re serving as counsel or amicus curiae. Every one of these victories helped move the needle of law in the direction of protecting your privacy and freedom of expression.

    • Lawmakers grow impatient with Facebook

      The company endured a rough week in Washington, where lawmakers questioned if CEO Mark Zuckerberg had lied before Congress and ramped up calls for a comprehensive data privacy bill to rein in Silicon Valley.

    • Evan Spiegel’s Imperious Style Made Snapchat a Success—Until Users Fled

      Earlier this year, Snap Inc. chief Evan Spiegel was pressing his team to launch a redesign of the company’s Snapchat app. The executives and designers repeatedly responded with an urgent message: We need more time.

    • Zuckerberg Again Tried To Buy Snapchat Before It Went Public: Report

      Snapchat’s parent company Snap went public in March 2017 with a valuation of $24 billion. This Friday, Snap’s stock closed at its lowest ever value — less than $5 for the first time.

      A new report from The Wall Street Journal has shed some more light on the current situation of Snapchat. One of the major highlights of the report is the fact that Mark Zuckerberg approached Snap in mid-2016 with the intentions of buying it; Snap CEO Evan Speigel turned down the offer.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Statement Responding to Another Child’s Death in Custody of Customs and Border Protection

      “On this day that many of us are grateful to spend with loved ones, it is heartbreaking to learn of the tragic death of another child in custody of Customs and Border Patrol. Both the death of this young boy and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal must be thoroughly and independently investigated, and the Trump Administration’s policies of cruelty toward migrants and asylum-seekers at the border must cease immediately before any more children are harmed.

    • As CBP Orders Medical Checks for Minors in US Custody After Two Deaths, Critics Ask, ‘Why Are They Jailing Children’ In the First Place?

      As Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it would order medical checks for all minors in its custody following the deaths of at least two children in recent weeks, critics expressed alarm at the neglect that children have faced in immigrant detention centers thus far—and issued reminders that they shouldn’t be detained, especially for long periods of time, in the first place.

      The CBP’s announcement came a day after the death of an eight-year-old boy, Felipe Gómez Alonzo, was announced on Christmas. Felipe had been held for a week after being apprehended with his father by the agency. The pair had been transferred a number of times as the Trump administration sought to deport them, and the boy grew increasingly ill during the detention, developing a 103 degree fever at one point, but his symptoms were diagnosed as the common cold.

      The agency is now “considering options for surge medical assistance” to care for the tens of thousands of children who have been held in U.S. custody this year after crossing the border—but critics pointed out that the overarching concern is that children shouldn’t be held by the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services (HHS) for days, weeks, and months at a time.

    • 8-Year-Old Guatemalan Boy Dies in Border Patrol Custody Days After High Court Rejects Asylum Ban

      For the second time this month, a Guatemalan child has died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Eight-year-old Felix Gomez Alonzo died in New Mexico on Christmas Eve, after being detained since December 18. This follows the death of a 7-year-old indigenous Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquín, who died on December 8, two days after she and her father presented themselves at the border in a bid for asylum. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has rejected President Trump’s asylum ban, which attempted to deny asylum to anyone entering the country from outside of a legal port of entry. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal wing of the court in the 5-4 vote. We speak to Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which helped file the lawsuit.

    • Salvadoran Girl Whose Cries Helped End Family Separation Policy Embraces New Life

      After she was separated from her mother at the border, 6-year-old Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid was recorded begging to make a phone call over the sobs of other children. A video shows how she and her mom are coping with their life in Texas.

    • When a child is taken from a parent

      More than 2,600 kids were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy. What happened to those children? Reveal’s investigative reporting team looked at facilities across the country to answer that question.

      After being separated from their parents at the border, some of the children were held in office buildings operated by a company without a child care license. This is the story of a child who stayed in those offices.

    • ‘He’s Actually a Good Guy’: CBP Commissioner’s Wife Confronts Activists Projecting Images of Immigrants Killed in US Custody

      Following the “horrific” death last week of Jakelin Caal, the 7-year-old refugee from Guatemala who died while detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Texas, human rights activist on Thursday night were confronted outside the home of CBP’s Commissioner Kevin McAleenan in Virginia as they projected pictures onto the house of Caal and other immigrants who have recently died or been killed while in U.S. custody.

      While they projected images of Caal, Roxsana Hernandez and Claudia Gomez Gonzalez alongside a call for the commissioner to resign, McAleenan’s wife confronted the activists—members of the advocacy group CREDO Action—to defend her husband’s work for the Trump administration.

    • Normalization of Racist “Academia” Threatens Students of Color

      Like fashion house Prada’s recent so-called apology for selling racist trinkets, universities and other institutions often only pay lip service to the intent of dismantling harmful structures and tropes that feed racial inequality while their actions reveal their true priorities.

      Take Northwestern University, where astute students writing for the student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, revealed Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, is working and thriving on Northwestern’s campus as a visiting researcher in the psychology department. He is widely known as the author of the 2011 Psychology Today piece (now removed and replaced with an editor’s apology), “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” — an article that has since been roundly rejected by both the scientific and broader educational communities.

      The piece was crafted on poor methodology, and one must also wonder what scientific ideal was being pursued that would justify what amounts to well-worn racist beliefs that linger on without context?

      Calling himself a “purist,” Kanazawa has said it is his job, as a scientist, to offend. This is a high-minded way marginalized people like the Black women he targets tend to experience socially acceptable racists embedded throughout US institutions.

      We navigate at our own peril.

    • Canada’s Huawei arrest lending support to rogue U.S. behaviour

      The phrase “rule of law” has a nice, lofty ring to it, so it’s not surprising that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is invoking it to defend Canada’s detention of a Chinese business executive.

      But while one can imagine many reasons why Canada decided to co-operate with the U.S. request to extradite Meng Wanzhou, it’s doubtful that the desire to uphold the “rule of law” was one of them.

    • Myanmar debates women’s rights amid evidence of pervasive sexual and domestic violence

      For years, feminists in Myanmar have been fighting to gain even the most basic legal rights for women.

      Spousal abuse is still legal in the isolated country formerly known as Burma. Even criminal sexual assault is rarely punished.

      Activists’ patient efforts to change that are starting to pay off.

      In late November, officials announced that the Prevention and Protection of Violence Against Women Act, long stalled in Parliament, may finally be passed in 2019. The bill would protect women from domestic violence, marital rape, sexual violence and workplace harassment, and provide legal and medical support to survivors.

    • The Crisis of Violence Against Women in Puerto Rico

      In Puerto Rico a woman is murdered every 14 days. Twenty-four women were murdered at the hands of their intimate partners or exes in Puerto Rico in 2018 alone.

    • In Defeat for Trump’s Xenophobic Agenda, Supreme Court Rejects ‘Immoral’ Anti-Asylum Policy

      In what immigrant rights groups celebrated as a significant victory over President Donald Trump’s xenophobic agenda, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the White House cannot automatically deny asylum to those who don’t enter the country through an “official” border crossing.

      “The Trump administration can no longer discriminate against asylum-seekers based on how they entered the country,” RAICES, the largest immigration legal services non-profit in Texas, wrote on Twitter. “This government’s policy of clogging ports of entry and then punishing those who cross outside is immoral. We’re glad it’s beginning to crumble.”

    • The Invidious Theft of What Was His: Wrestling While Black

      Yet another small, cruel, cutting indignity: A black high school wrestler in New Jersey, faced with an inexplicable ultimatum by a racist ref to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a key match, stood pained and still as a white female trainer hacked away his hair and identity in a video that’s now gone viral. The affront to Andrew Johnson, a varsity wrestler for Buena Regional High School, came on the order of white referee Alan Maloney, who a couple of years ago was embroiled in a racist confrontation with a black coach. He issued last week’s threat even though Johnson had wrestled all season without incident, and was wearing a head covering as stipulated by wrestling rules – though evidently not Maloney’s own murky rules. Johnson’s coaches briefly debated the standoff, but when Maloney started a penalty clock a distraught Johnson gave in on behalf of his teammates.

    • Recidivism Risk Assessments Won’t Fix the Criminal Justice System

      The criminal justice reform law has been widely hailed as long overdue, and rightly so. But as we turn to its implementation, we urge policymakers to take care with the central provision of the bill that calls for the development of a risk assessment system for inmates.

      Ostensibly intended to ease mandatory minimum sentences for some drug-related crimes, the centerpiece of First Step gives the Attorney General just seven months to develop and publish a risk and needs assessment system to determine how likely each inmate is to commit another crime or engage in “violent or serious misconduct.” The risk assessment system will then be used to classify inmates as minimum, low, medium, or high risk of committing another crime in the future.

      The tool may be no more advanced than a simple survey akin to an online quiz. Or it might use machine-learning algorithms to change and adapt as variables within the system are calibrated.

      Risk assessment tools must be evaluated by independent scientific researchers—not the DOJ itself or a private vendor.

    • ‘Barbed wire-plus’: Borders know no love

      During a Thanksgiving Day teleconference with members of the US armed forces, US President Donald Trump took the opportunity to exult over the intensified militarisation of the nation’s southern border in response to the US-bound Central American migrant and refugee caravan:

      “We have the concertina fencing and we have things that people don’t even believe. We took [the] old, broken wall and we wrapped it with barbed wire-plus … We’re fighting for our country. If we don’t have borders, we don’t have a country”.

      Nevermind that the United States’ disregard for other people’s borders is a major cause of Central American migration in the first place, as US political and economic meddling in the region continues to increase poverty and violence.

      A certain ‘Nazi practice’

      Now, the “barbed wire-plus” scheme has resulted in a situation in which thousands of asylum seekers are stuck on the Mexican side of the border waiting to have their cases processed, with black numbers written on their arms as part of an informal tracking system.

    • Congress Touts First Step Act as Criminal Justice Victory—But Critics Fear Bill Makes False Promises

      A major criminal justice reform bill is poised to become law after the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in its favor Thursday. The First Step Act, passed in the Senate earlier this week with an 87-12 vote, would roll back sentences for federal prisoners, including mandatory life terms for third-time offenders and mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug users. The bill is now heading to the desk of President Trump, who has pledged to sign it into law. The bill only affects federal prisoners, who make up less than 10 percent of the more than 2 million U.S. prisoners. It has been endorsed by a wide range of supporters across the political spectrum, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the conservative Koch brothers. But parts of the bill explicitly exclude immigrants, and it has been criticized by groups such as the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 black-led organizations, for encouraging profiteering and making “false promises” about bringing black prisoners home. We speak with Van Jones, president and co-founder of #cut50, a national bipartisan initiative to reduce the U.S.’s incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years. We also speak with Jessica Jackson Sloan, a human rights attorney and co-founder and national director of #cut50.

    • Second Guatemalan Child Dies in U.S. Immigration Custody

      An 8-year-old boy from Guatemala died in government custody in New Mexico early Tuesday, U.S. immigration authorities said, marking the second death of an immigrant child in detention this month.

      U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a news release that the boy died shortly after midnight.

      The death came during an ongoing dispute over border security and with a partial government shutdown underway over President Donald Trump’s request for border wall funding. The White House referred questions to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, CBP’s parent agency. CBP officers and the Border Patrol remain on the job despite the shutdown.

    • ‘This Must End. Now.’: 8-Year-Old Boy Dies in US Border Patrol Custody on Christmas Day

      Caal’s death sparked outrage at home and abroad, and Felipe González Morales—United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants—demanded an independent probe and an immediate halt to the detention of immigrant children.

    • ‘Reckless Disregard for Very Vulnerable People’: Just Before Christmas, ICE Quietly Drops Hundreds of Migrants at Bus Stop With Nowhere to Go

      Annunciation House, an El Paso charitable organization that provides shelter for migrants and the homeless, confirmed on its Facebook page that it was not given notice that hundreds of migrants were being released without anywhere to go for food and shelter.

      “Annunciation House—and our network of partner organizations and volunteers—is providing hospitality to the 200+ refugees who were dropped off by ICE last night at the Greyhound Station with no advanced notice,” the organization wrote in a post asking for volunteers and donations. “This is in addition to our ongoing work with planned refugee releases. Annunciation House has been very grateful for the community’s rapid response in meeting the urgent needs of this vulnerable population.”

      In a statement, Rep.-elect Veronica Escobar (D-Texas)—who is replacing outgoing Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas)—condemned ICE for showing “reckless disregard for very vulnerable people, including children. It is unacceptable.”

    • Documenting Hate in America: What We Found in 2018

      Swastikas drawn on the office of a Jewish Ivy League professor. Latinos harassed for speaking Spanish in public. Hijab-wearing women targeted in road rage incidents. Neo-Nazis bragging online about a murder. These are just some of the incidents that we and our partners have reported in our second year of Documenting Hate, a collaborative project investigating hate with more than 160 newsrooms around the country.

      Since we launched the project in January 2017, victims and witnesses of hate incidents have sent us more than 5,400 reports from all 50 states. We’ve verified nearly 1,200 reports, either via independent reporting or through corroborating news coverage. We’ve also collected thousands of pages of hate crime data and incident reports from hundreds of police departments across the country.

    • Before There Was Christmas, There Was the Solstice, and Hope

      My wife and I eventually got her past this crisis of materialism, but it was remarkable nonetheless. It was as if a virus got passed from kid to kid to kid until they were all infected with an insatiable lust for more stuff.

    • The Language of Neoliberal Education

      Henry Giroux: Neoliberalism has become the dominant ideology of the times and has established itself as a central feature of politics. Not only does it define itself as a political and economic system whose aim was to consolidate power in the hands of a corporate and financial elite, it also wages a war over ideas. In this instance, it has defined itself as a form of commonsense and functions as a mode of public pedagogy that produces a template for structuring not just markets but all of social life. In this sense, it has and continues to function not only through public and higher education to produce and distribute market- based values, identities, and modes of agency, but also in wider cultural apparatuses and platforms to privatize, deregulate, economize, and subject all of the commanding institutions and relations of everyday life to the dictates of privatization, efficiency, deregulation, and commodification.

      Since the 1970s as more and more of the commanding institutions of society come under the control of neoliberal ideology, its notions of common sense – an unchecked individualism, harsh competition, an aggressive attack on the welfare state, the evisceration of public goods, and its attack on all models of sociality at odds with market values – have become the reigning hegemony of capitalist societies. What many on the left have failed to realize is that neoliberalism is about more than economic structures, it is also is a powerful pedagogical force – especially in the era of social media – that engages in full-spectrum dominance at every level of civil society. Its reach extends not only into education but also among an array of digital platforms as well as in the broader sphere of popular culture. Under neoliberal modes of governance, regardless of the institution, every social relation is reduced to an act of commerce. Neoliberalism’s promotion of effectiveness and efficiency gives credence to its ability to willingness and success in making education central to politics. It also offers a warning to progressives, as Pierre Bourdieu has insists that the left has underestimated the symbolic and pedagogical dimensions of struggle and have not always forged appropriate weapons to fight on this front.”

    • Leftists Need Holidays Too. Let’s Imagine Anti-Oppressive Ones.

      ‘Tis the season…for leftist ambivalence toward commercialist and patriarchal holiday traditions.

      It’s no wonder that many leftists have mixed feelings about holiday festivities, given their link to oppressive institutions and crass cooptation by capitalism.

      Celebrating the virgin birth of a male deity who was to become king can be alienating for those who have anti-hierarchal, feminist values, and likewise many anti-Zionist internationalists struggle with ethno-nationalist expressions of the Passover holiday.

      Secular, national holidays like the 4th of July and Thanksgiving are even more offensive, as they enact a false and incomplete narrative of the US’s settler colonial past.

      Nearly every holiday has also become an excuse for marketers to pressure people to shop (Black Friday and Christmas most notoriously), while the temptingly secular New Year’s Eve often feels like a joyless mandate to get drunk and pretend to be having fun.

    • Court Says Justice Ginsburg Up and Working After Surgery

      Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is up and working as she recuperates from cancer surgery.

      A spokeswoman for the court, Kathy Arberg, also says that Ginsburg remained in New York at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on Sunday. No information has been released on when Ginsburg might return home.

    • Showing Up at the Border for Our Shared Humanity

      I can’t help but think what would happen to this migrant family and their brown-skinned baby at our southern border today. This child, Jesus, would likely be torn from his mother’s arms.

      These thoughts passed through my mind as I knelt, praying, at Tijuana Beach, near the border fence that separates Mexico from the United States. Migrant families could see us from the other side; I could see their eyes. “I’m here with you,” I thought, as I looked through the gaps in the fence. “There are people in this country who deeply, deeply care for you, and who are willing to put our bodies on the line to say this is not right.”

      Moments later, I was arrested. Border agents in body armor and helmets zip-tied my wrists and took me away.

    • The Roots of Fascism and the Seeds for Its Defeat

      With the rise of the right internationally, there has never been a more pressing need for clarity about the roots of fascism, its history, and why and how it can be defeated.

      Among the clearest thinkers on this subject is German socialist Clara Zetkin, whose writing on the topic has been republished thanks to the work of Mike Taber, John Riddell and Haymarket Books.

      Fighting Fascism: How to Struggle and How to Win brings to today’s audience Zetkin’s important insights on the character of fascism, its relationship to capitalism, and the most effective way for the socialist movement to defeat it.

      A leading member of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) until 1917, when she participated with Rosa Luxemburg in the founding of what would become the German Communist Party, Zetkin is well-known on the left for her Marxist analysis of women’s oppression and helping to found International Women’s Day in 1910.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • ‘Pressure Reaching Boiling Point’ as Congress Has Just 24 Hours to Save Net Neutrality

      “Pressure is reaching a boiling point as internet users continue sounding the alarm ahead of the deadline for members of Congress to show they support real net neutrality protections by signing on to the discharge petition for the CRA resolution to reverse the FCC’s repeal,” Fight for the Future said in a statement.

      “Time is running out for members of Congress to make decision,” declared the group’s deputy director Evan Greer. “Do they want to go down in history as the corrupt politicians who rubber stamped the repeal of net neutrality? Or will they sign on to the CRA discharge petition and show that they’re willing to put their constituents’ basic rights ahead of their corporate donors?”

    • Maurice Carney on Congo Elections, Timothy Karr on FCC & Net Neutrality

      Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been pushed back; immediate causes cited include an Ebola outbreak and a fire that destroyed thousands of voting machines. For many, though, the face of the crisis of Congo’s democratic process is Joseph Kabila, whose extra-legal 18-year reign has seen tremendous violence and privation. Elite US media, recently granted an audience with Kabila, seemed more interested to learn his favorite movie.

      Also on the show: “What is the Federal Communications Commission hiding?” asked Jessica Rosenworcel, referring to the agency’s refusal to release records related to its system for receiving comments from the public it’s — ahem — supposed to represent, in this case around net neutrality. “Something here is rotten,” Rosenworcel says, and she ought to know, given she’s an FCC commissioner herself. We’ll catch up on net neutrality and the FCC with Timothy Karr, director of strategy and communications at Free Press.

    • The Year Without the Open Internet Order: 2018 Year in Review

      In the waning hours of 2017, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order, ending net neutrality protections for the millions of Americans who support them. The fallout of that decision continued all throughout 2018, with attempts to reverse the FCC in Congress, new state laws and governor executive orders written to secure state-level protections, court cases, and ever-increasing evidence that a world without the Open Internet Order is simply a worse one.

      The story surrounding net neutrality has always been one of the greed of the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) versus the desires of the majority of people, the actual way the Internet is structured, and the ideal of a free and open Internet. Every win this year represented a win by actual people speaking out over big ISP money.

    • Study Says Wireless Retail Workers Could Make Up To 7% Less In Wake Of Sprint, T-Mobile Merger

      As T-Mobile and Sprint attempt to merge (once again), their executives are making all the usual claims ahead of such mergers: that the mega deal will create immeasurable “synergies”, that the reduction of major U.S. wireless competitors from four to three will somehow create competition, that the deal will somehow make it easier for them to deploy next-gen “5G” networks, and that the deal will somehow magically create oodles of new jobs.

      Of course if you’ve studied telecom history or been a part of one of these deals as a mid or low level employee, you probably know these claims are almost always bullshit. Usually what happens is nothing changes for a year, as the buyer tries to sooth employee and media concerns about people being shitcanned. Not long after that, most of the redundant positions start to get eliminated, specifically, in a merger like this one, in middle management, support, and retail. T-Mobile CEO John Legere has repeatedly tried to claim the exact opposite, insisting to anybody who’ll listen that this time is sure to be different:

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • List of complainants over Qualcomm’s conduct keeps growing as LG Electronics joins Korean antitrust action

      While things slow down in Western countries between Christmas and New Year’s Day, “Tis the season” has a different meaning in South Korea. Two years ago at this time of the year, the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) slammed Qualcomm with a fine. And now BusinessKorea reports that LG Electronics has joined the related antitrust lawsuit.

      LG’s decision is important since Samsung withdrew from the case last year following a comprehensive business agreement with Qualcomm involving patents, chipsets, and manufacturing. However, depending on how the FTC v. Qualcomm trial (scheduled to start on Friday, January 4) will go, Qualcomm may have to renegotiate its deal with Samsung anyway.

      According to BusinessKorea, other complainants in Korea include Apple, Intel, MediaTek, and Huawei. MediaTek is mentioned from time to time in connection with Qualcomm’s conduct, and one of my New Year’s resolutions for this blog will be to find out at least a little bit more about the role they play. The fact that the name of this Taiwanese semiconductor company keeps coming up got me curious.

      Meanwhile in Germany, where Qualcomm capitalized on the terrible “defendant’s dilemma” laid out by the court, we may still have to wait a little before we know about a potential stay of enforcement of the injunction. Today is yet another public holiday in Germany (Second Christmas Day). Since the ruling came down on Thursday afternoon, the earliest time when Apple could realistically have filed an appeal and a motion to stay enforcement would have been Friday, December 21 (if they had already prepared an appellate brief in anticipation of what happened). But this is a high-profile case, with major economic implications, so maybe the appellate judges are already looking into this despite the Holiday Season. German judges are free to take case files home (it’s all on paper though some courts, such as the Federal Patent Court, internally work with electronic documents to an increasing extent) and work whenever and wherever they please. The most fundamental question will be whether the appeals court affirms or reverses the lower court’s agnosticism (the court stated in public that there may not even be an infringement).

    • Copyrights

      • Magistrate Judge Says Grande Shouldn’t Be Able To Use The DMCA Safe Harbors Because It Didn’t Really Terminate Infringers

        We’ve written a few times about a key DMCA case in Texas, involving the ISP Grande Communications and Universal Music Group (and, by proxy, the copyright trolling operation Rightscorp). The case has had a lot of up and downs, with the judge tossing UMG’s “vicarious infringement” claims, while letting the “contributory infringement” claims move forward. In October, the court rejected UMG’s attempt to bring back the vicarious infringement claims which had already been dismissed, with some fairly harsh words directed at UMG for attempting that.

        The latest, as first noted by Torrentfreak, is that the magistrate judge has recommended rejecting Grande’s use of the DMCA safe harbor defense. I still have general issues with the idea that the “repeat infringer” part of the DMCA is being accurately described in these cases (specifically: the courts are now applying it to accusations of infringement, rather than actual infringers, which requires a court adjudication). However, the magistrate basically points out that Grande can’t make use of the safe harbors because… it had no repeat infringer policy at all. Or, rather, it did, but in 2010 it stopped using it, and then never had a policy through 2016.

      • Canada Outlaws Settlement Threat Letters Sent Through ISPs

        Somehow, it seems things move quite quickly in the Great White North. It was only in October that we discussed Canadian ISPs making a great deal of noise over the plague that is settlement letters sent to their subscribers over supposed copyright infringement. In the Canadian system, rightsholders pass along a letter to the ISP, which is then supposed to pass those letters along to the subscriber. ISPs began complaining that its own administrative burden was being repurposed as part of the copyright trolling business model, used to extract settlements purely out of fear. In November, ISPs got their wish, with a proposed law that would amend copyright law to outlaw these letters when they include these types of extortion attempts.

        And now, in December, the law has officially passed, bringing an end to threat settlement letters sent to subscribers through their ISPs.

      • Domain Registrar Can be Held Liable for Pirate Site, Court Rules

        The Higher Regional Court of Saarbrücken has confirmed that domain registrars can be held liable for the infringements of pirate sites. Even a single link can require a registrar to take a domain offline. The case in question was filed by Universal Music over Robin Thicke’s album Blurred Lines. It relates to a defunct torrent site, but a similar order has hit The Pirate Bay as well.

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channels: Come and chat with us in real time

New to This Site? Here Are Some Introductory Resources

No

Mono

ODF

Samba logo






We support

End software patents

GPLv3

GNU project

BLAG

EFF bloggers

Comcast is Blocktastic? SavetheInternet.com



Recent Posts